Reverence, even of common practical seriousness ; by nature or habit, undevout both in heart and head ; not only without any Belief, in other than a material sense, but without the possibility of acquiring any, he can be no safe or permanently useful guide in this investigation. We may consider him as having opened the way to future inquirers of a truer spirit; but for his own part, as having engaged in an enterprise, the real nature of which was wellnigh unknown to him; and engaged in it with the issue to be anticipated in such a case; producing chietly confusion, dislocation, destruction, on all hands ; so that the good he achieved is still, in these times, found mixed with an alarming proportion of evil, from which, indeed, men rationally doubt whether much of it will in any time be separable.

We should err widely too, if, in estimating what quantity, altogether overlooking what quality, of intellect Voltaire may have manifested on this occasion, we took the result produced as any measure of the force applied. His task was not one of Affirmation, but of Denial ; not a task of erecting and rearing up, which is slow and laborious; but of destroying and overturning, which in most cases is rapid and far easier. The force necessary for him was nowise a great and noble one; but a small, in some respects a mean one; to be nimbly and seasonably put in use. The Ephesian Temple, which it had employed many wise heads and strong arms for a lifetime to build, could be unbuilt by one madman, in a single hour.

Of such errors, deficiencies and positive misdeeds, it appears to us a just criticism must accuse Voltaire : at the same time, we can nowise join in the condemnatory clamour which so many worthy persons, not without the best intentions, to this day keep up against him. His whole character seems to be plain enough, common enough, had not extraneous influences so perverted our views regarding it: nor, morally speaking, is it a worse character, but considerably a better one, than belongs to the mass of men. Voltaire's aims in opposing the Christian Religion were unhappily of a mixed nature; yet, after all, very nearly such aims as we have often seen directed against it, and often seen directed in its favour: a little love of finding Truth, with a great love of making Proselytes; which last is in itself a natural, universal feeling; and if honest, is, even in the worst cases, a subject for pity, rather than for hatred. As light, careless, courteous Man of the World, he offers no hateful aspect; on the contrary, a kindly, gay, rather amiable one: hundreds of men, with half his worth of disposition, die daily, and their little world laments them. It is time that he too should be judged of by his intrinsic, not by his accidental qualities; that justice should be done to him also ; for injustice can profit no man and no cause.

In fact, Voltaire's chief merits belong to Nature and himself; his chief faults are of his time and country. In that famous era of the Pompadours and Encyclopédies, he forms the main figure ; and was such, we have seen, more by resembling the multitude, than by differing from them. It was a strange age that of Louis XV.; in several points a novel one in the history of mankind. In regard to its luxury and depravity, to the high culture of all merely practical and material faculties, and the entire torpor of all the purely contemplative and spiritual, this era considerably resembles that of the Roman Emperors. There too was external splendour and internal squalor; the highest completeness in all sensual arts, including among these not cookery and its adjuncts alone, but even effect-painting' and effect-writing ;' only the art of virtuous living was a lost one. Instead of Love for Poetry, there was • Taste' for it; refinement in manners, with utmost coarseness in morals : in a word, the strange spectacle of a Social System, embracing large, cultivated portions of the human species, and founded only on Atheism. With the Romans, things went what we should call their natural course: Liberty, public spirit quietly declined into caput-mortuum ; Self-love, Materialism, Baseness even to the disbelief in all possibility of Virtue, stalked more and more imperiously abroad ; till the body-politic, long since deprived of its vital circulating fluids, had now become a putrid carcass, and fell in pieces to be the prey of ravenous wolves. Then was there, under these Attilas and Alarics, a world-spectacle of destruction and despair, compared with which the often-commemorated 'horrors of the French Revolution, and all Napoleon's wars, were but the gay jousting of a tournament to the sack of stormed cities. Our European community has escaped the like dire consummation; and by causes which, as may be hoped, will always secure it from such. Nay, were there no other cause, it may be asserted, that in a commonwealth where the Christian Religion exists, where it once has existed, public and private Virtue, the basis of all Strength, never can become extinct ; but in every new age, and even from the deepest decline, there is a chance, and in the course of ages a certainty of renovation.

That the Christian Religion, or any Religion, continued to exist; that some martyr heroism still lived in the heart of Europe to rise against mailed Tyranny when it rode triumphant, was indeed no merit in the age of Louis XV., but a happy accident which it could not altogether get rid of. For that age too is to be regarded as an experiment, on the great scale, to decide the question, not yet, it would appear, settled to universal satisfaction: With what degree of vigour a political system, grounded on pure Self-interest, never so enlightened, but without a God or any recognition of the godlike in man, can be expected to flourish ; or whether, in such circumstances, a political system can be expected to flourish, or even to subsist at all? It is contended by many mere love of personal Pleasure, or Happiness as it is called, acting on every individual, with such clearness as he

may easily have, will of itself lead him to respect the rights of others, and wisely employ his own; to fulfil, on principle of economy, all the duties of a good patriot ; so

that our

a mere


that, in what respects the State, or the mere social existence of mankind, Belief, beyond the testimony of the senses, and Virtue, beyond the very common Virtue of loving what is pleasant and hating what is painful, are to be considered as supererogatory qualifications, as ornamental, not essential. Many there are, on the other hand, who pause over this doctrine ; cannot discover, in such a universe of conflicting atoms, any principle by which the whole shall cohere ; for if every man's selfishness, infinitely expansive, is to be hemmed-in only by the infinitely-expansive selfishness of every other man, it seems as if we should have a world of mutually repulsive bodies with no centripetal force to bind them together; in which case, it is well known, they would, by and by, diffuse themselves o

space, and constitute markable Chaos, but no habitable Solar or Stellar System.

If the age of Louis XV. was not made an experimentum crucis in regard to this question, one reason may be, that such experiments are too expensive. Nature cannot afford, above once or twice in the thousand years, to destroy a whole world, for purposes of science; but must content herself with destroying one or two kingdoms. The age of Louis XV., so far as it went, seems a highly illustrative experiment. We are to remark also, that its operation was clogged by a very considerable disturbing force ; by a large remnant, namely, of the old faith in Religion, in the invisible, celestial nature of Virtue, which our French Purifiers, by their utmost efforts of lavation, had not been able to wash away. The men did their best, but no man can do more. Their worst enemy, we imagine, will not accuse them of any undue regard to things unseen and spiritual: far from practising this invisible sort of Virtue, they cannot even believe in its possibility. The high exploits and endurances of old ages were no longer virtues, but passions ;' these antique persons had a taste for being heroes, a certain fancy to die for the truth : the more fools they! With our Philosophes, the only virtue of any civilisation was what they call Honour,' the sanctioning deity of which is that wonderful • Force of Public Opinion.' Concerning which virtue of Honour, we must be permitted to say, that she reveals herself too clearly as the daughter and heiress of our old acquaintance Vanity, who indeed has been known enough ever since the foundation of the world, at least since the date of that “Lucifer, son of the Morning ;' but known chiefly in her

proper character of strolling actress, or cast-clothes Abigail; and never, till that new era, had seen her issue set up as Queen and all-sufficient Dictatress of man's whole soul, prescribing with nicest precision what, in all practical and all moral emergencies, he was to do and to forbear. Again, with regard to this same Force of Public Opinion, it is a force well known to all of us; respected, valued as of indispensable utility, but nowise recognised as a final or divine force. We might ask, What divine, what truly great thing had ever been effected by this force ? Was it the Force of Public Opinion that drove Columbus to America ; John Kepler, not to fare sumptuously among Rodolph's Astrologers and Fire-eaters, but to perish of want, discovering the true System of the Stars ? Still more ineffectual do we find it as a basis of public or private Morals. Nay, taken by itself, it may be called a baseless basis : for without some ulterior sanction, common to all minds; without some belief in the necessary, eternal, or which is the same, in the supramundane, divine nature of Virtue, existing in each individual, what could the moral judgment of a thousand or a thousandthousand individuals avail us ? Without some celestial guidance, whencesoever derived, or howsoever named, it appears to us the Force of Public Opinion would, by and by, become an extremely unprofitable one. Enlighten Self-interest !” cries the Philosophe ; " do but sufficiently enlighten it!” We ourselves have seen enlightened Self-interests, ere now; and truly, for most part, their light was only as that of a horn-lantern, sufficient to guide the bearer himself out of various puddles; but to us and the world of comparatively


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