small advantage. And figure the human species, like an endless host, seeking its way onwards through undiscovered Time, in black darkness, save that each had his horn-lantern, and the vanguard some few of glass!

However, we will not dwell on controversial niceties. What we had to remark was, that this era, called of Philosophy, was in itself but a poor era ; that any little morality it had was chiefly borrowed, and from those very ages which it accounted so barbarous. For this “Honour,' this Force of Public Opinion,' is not asserted, on any side, to have much renovating, but only a sustaining or preventive power ; it cannot create new Virtue, but at best may preserve what is already there. Nay, of the age of Louis XV., we may say that its very Power, its material strength, its knowledge, all that it had, was borrowed. It boasted itself to be an age of illumination; and truly illumination there was of its kind : only, except the illuminated windows, almost nothing to be seen thereby. None of those great Doctrines or Institutions that have made man in all points a man;' none even of those Discoveries that have the most subjected external Nature to his purposes, were made in that age. What Plough or Printing-press, what Chivalry or Christianity, nay what Steam-engine, or Quakerism, or Trial by Jury, did these Encyclopedists invent for mankind? They invented simply nothing: not one of man's virtues, not one of man's powers, is due to them; in all these

respects the


of Louis XV. is among the most barren of recorded ages. Indeed, the whole trade of our Philosophes was directly the opposite of invention: it was not to produce, that they stood there ; but to criticise, to quarrel with, to rend in pieces, what bad been already produced ; a quite inferior trade : sometimes a useful, but on the whole a mean trade ; often the fruit, and always the parent, of meanness, in every mind that permanently follows it.

Considering the then position of affairs, it is not singular that the age of Louis XV. should have been what it was: an age without nobleness, without high virtue, or high manifestations of talent ; an age of shallow clearness, of polish, self-conceit, scepticism and all forms of Persiflage. As little does it seem surprising, or peculiarly blamable, that Voltaire, the leading man of that age, should have partaken largely of all its qualities. True his giddy activity took serious effect; the light firebrands, which he so carelessly scattered abroad, kindled fearful conflagrations : but in these there has been good as well as evil ; nor is it just that, even for the latter, he, a limited mortal, should be charged with more than mortal's responsibility. After all, that parched, blighted period, and the period of earthquakes and tornadoes which followed it, have now wellnigh cleared away : they belong to the Past, and for us, and those that come after us, are not without their benefits, and calm historical meaning.

• The thinking heads of all nations,' says a deep observer, 'had in secret come to majority; and in a mistaken feeling of their vocation, rose the more fiercely against antiquated constraint. The Man of Letters is, by instinct, opposed to a Priesthood of old standing : the literary class and the clerical must wage a war of extermination, when they are divided ; for both strive after one place. Such division became more and more perceptible, the nearer we approached the period of European manhood, the epoch of triumphant Learning ; and Knowledge and Faith came into more decided contradiction. In the prevailing Faith, as was thought, lay the reason of the universal degradation ; and by a more and more searching Knowledge men hoped to remove it. On all hands, the Religious feeling suffered, under manifold attacks against its actual manner of existence, against the forms in which hitherto it had embodied itself. The result of that modern way of thought was named Philosophy ; and in this all was included that opposed itself to the ancient way of thought, especially, therefore, all that opposed itself to Religion. The original personal hatred against the Catholic Faith passed, by degrees, into hatred against the Bible, against the Christian Religion, and at last against Religion altogether. Nay more, this hatred of Religion naturally extended itself over all objects of enthusiasm in general ; proscribed Fancy and Feeling, Morality and love of Art, the Future and the Antique ; placed man, with an effort, foremost in the series of natural productions; and changed the infinite, creative music of the Universe into the monotonous clatter of a boundless

Mill, which, turned by the stream of Chance, and swimming thereon, was a Mill of itself, without Architect and Miller, properly a genuine perpetuum mobile, a real self-grinding Mill.

‘One enthusiasm was generously left to poor mankind, and rendered indispensable as a touchstone of the highest culture, for all jobbers in the same : Enthusiasm for this magnanimous Philosophy, and above all, for these its priests and mystagogues. France was so happy as to be the birthplace and dwelling of this new Faith, which had thus, from patches of pure knowledge, been pasted together. Low as Poetry ranked in this new Church, there were some poets among them, who, for effect's sake, made use of the old ornaments and old lights; but in so doing, ran a risk of kindling the new worldsystem by ancient fire. More cunning brethren, however, were at hand to help; and always in season poured cold water on the warming audience. The members of this Church were restlessly employed in clearing Nature, the Earth, the Souls of men, the Sciences, from all Poetry ; obliterating every vestige of the Holy ; disturbing, by sarcasms, the memory of all lofty occurrences and lofty men ; disrobing the world of all its variegated vesture. * * * Pity that Nature continued so wondrous and incomprehensible, so poetical and infinite, all efforts to modernise her notwithstanding ! However, if anywhere an old superstition, of a higher world and the like, came to light, instantly, on all hands, was a springing of rattles; that, if possible, the dangerous spark might be extinguished, by appliances of philosophy and wit: yet Tolerance was the watch word of the cultivated ; and in France, above all, synonymous with Philosophy. Highly remarkable is this history of modern Unbelief; the key to all the vast phenomena of recent times. Not till last century, till the latter half of it, does the novelty begin ; and in a little while, it expands to an immeasurable bulk and variety: a second Reformation, a more comprehensive, and more specific, was unavoidable ; and naturally it first visited that land which was the most modernised, and had the longest Jain in an asthenic state, from want of freedom.

At the present epoch, however, we stand high enough to look back with a friendly smile on those bygone days; and even in those marvellous follies to discern curious crystallisations of historical matter. Thankfully will we stretch out our hands to those Men of Letters and Philosophes : for this delusion too required to be exhausted, and the scientific side of things to have full value given it. More beauteous and many-coloured stands Poesy, like a leafy India, when contrasted with the cold, dead Spitzbergen of that Closet-Logic. That in the middle of the globe, an India, so warm and lordly, might exist, must also a cold motionless sea, dead cliffs, mist instead of the




starry sky, and a long night make both poles uninhabitable. The deep meaning of the laws of Mechanism lay heavy on those anchorites in the deserts of Understanding : the charm of the first glimpse into it overpowered them : the Old avenged itself on them ; to the first feeling of self-consciousness, they sacrificed, with wondrous devotedness, what was holiest and fairest in the world; and were the first that, in practice, again recognised and preached forth the sacredness of Nature, the infinitude of Art, the independence of Knowledge, the worth of the Practical, and the all-presence of the Spirit of History ; and so doing, put an end to a Spectre-dynasty, more potent, universal and terrific than perhaps they themselves were aware of.' 1


How far our readers will accompany Novalis in such highsoaring speculation, is not for us to say. Meanwhile, that the better part of them have already, in their own dialect, united with him, and with us, in candid tolerance, in clear acknowledgment, towards French Philosophy, towards this Voltaire and the spiritual period which bears his name, we do not hesitate to believe. Intolerance, animosity can forward no

cause; and least of all beseems the cause of moral and religious truth. A wise man has well reminded us, that “in any controversy, the instant we feel

angry, we have already ceased striving for Truth, and * begun striving for Ourselves.' Let no man doubt but Voltaire and his disciples, like all men and all things that live and act in God's world, will one day be found to have • worked together for good.' Nay that, with all his evil, he has already accomplished good, must be admitted in the soberest calculation. How much do we include in this little word : He gave the death-stab to modern Superstition ! That horrid incubus, which dwelt in darkness, shunning the light, is passing away; with all its racks, and poison-chalices, and foul sleeping-draughts, is passing away without return. It was a most weighty service. Does not the cry of “ No Popery,” and some vague terror or sham-terror of “Smithfield fires,' still act on certain minds in these very days? He who sees even a little way into the signs of the times, sees well that both the Smithfield fires, and the Edinburgh thumb screws (for these too must be held in remembrance) are things which have long, very long, lain behind us; divided from us by a wall of Centuries, transparent indeed, but more impassable than adamant. For, as we said, Superstition is in its death-lair : the last agonies may endure for decades, or for centuries ; but it carries the iron in its heart, and will not vex the earth any more.

1 Novalis Schriften, i. s. 198.

That, with Superstition, Religion is also passing away, seems to us a still more ungrounded fear. Religion cannot pass away. The burning of a little straw may hide the stars of the sky; but the stars are there, and will re-appear. On the whole, we must repeat the often-repeated saying, that it is unworthy a religious man to view an irreligious one either with alarm or aversion ; or with any other feeling than regret, and hope, and brotherly commiseration. If he seek Truth, is he not our brother, and to be pitied? If he do not seek Truth, is he not still our brother, and to be pitied still more? Old Ludovicus Vives has a story of a clown that killed his ass because it had drunk up the moon, and he thought the world could ill spare that luminary. So he killed his ass, ut lunam redderet. The clown was well-intentioned, but unwise. Let us not imitate him : let us not slay a faithful servant, who has carried us far. He has not drunk the moon ; but only the reflection of the moon, in his own poor water-pail, where too, it may be, he was drinking with purposes the most harmless.

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