« AnteriorContinua »
the character of our populace be accelerated; and we are further persuaded that neither the moderate reformers, (as he is pleased to consider them,) Cochrane and Burdett,' (the familiarity is not ours but the author's,) nor old Cartwright of the old Cartwrights,' nor Brougham of Brougham,' nor Sir Samuel' of Romilly, nor 'the Sheridan of Sheridans' himself (p. cccxxii.) if he were still living, and supporting (which, so far as we know, he never did, when alive) annuality of parliaments, and universality of suffrage' -would have any chance in competition with the Cobbetts and the Hunts, with the Hones and the Woolers,-or with the embryo statesmen of St. Giles's or Field Lane.*
Our author traces, from the earliest dates, the right of the people of England to universal suffrage. Blackstone, indeed, thinks that those in a state of villainage, the majority of the people, were not admitted to the county-court, and consequently had no votes; but it is needless to shew that the authority of Mr. Bentham must be greater with all true reformists than that of 'Mother Blackstone.' The right of the female sex to give their votes and the voting by ballot are justified on the practice of the East India Company. But we confess Mr. Bentham appears to us to sink into something little better than a moderate reformer, when he proposes to apply the corrupt regulations of a monopolizing corporation to the choice of representatives for the sovereign people. Much rather should we have expected him to contend that as all government which is not founded on the rule of three is an usurpation on the rights of the people governed, the suffrages of the people of India ought to be exercised in the choice of directors;-that the balloting-box should be circulated among the various castes in the Indian peninsula.
Of the utter delusiveness and inadequacy of moderate Reform,— not of any one plan of such reform only, but of all such plans put together, and carried at one sweep, our author hesitates not to pronounce his decided conviction—thus
Sec. 16. Moderate Reform-its arrangements-their inadequacy. 'Comprized or comprizable under the denomination of moderate Reform what the arrangements which at different times have been proposed.
The inadequacy and little less than uselessness of them, even on
We must notice an advantage of reform which has escaped the optics of former writers. By the 'democratic ascendancy,' the cultivation of virtue will become unnecessary, since it will be spontaneously produced.'—(note, p. 29.)
Of democracy, it is among the peculiar excellencies, that to good government in this form nothing of virtue, in so far as self-denial is an ingredient in virtue, is necessary. Such is the case where the precious plant stands alone: no Upas-tree, no clump of Manchineal-trees to overhang it. But in the spot in question (in Westminster) still live and flourish in conjunction both these emblems of misrule. Here there was, and still is, and will continue to be, a real demand for virtue; and here has the demand proved, as Adam Smith would say, an effectual one.'
the supposition of their being all of them brought forward together, and comprized in one proposal and carried into effect.
Much more the inadequacy of them taken singly or in any less than the whole.
Such are the sub-topics destined for consideration in the present section.'-p. cclxix.
Unhappily for Mr. Bentham, (though happily enough, perhaps, for the rest of the world,) he finds a great combination of opinions and of interests arrayed against his 'radical' system;-first, the "Tories'-secondly, the Whigs'-thirdly, the People's men'fourthly, the Country Gentlemen' in a body.
Annoying-lamentably annoying-would all these several innovations be to the Tories-little less so, would they be to the Whigs.Sole difference the difference between possession and expectancy.'p. cccxiii.
right-and-left-hand-complimentive-distribution' and 'pretty-general-civility-proposition' principle, Mr. Bentham proceeds, through abundance of pages, to bow out of the ranks of reform all known classes and descriptions of mankind, till he leaves as 'radicals' no greater number than he could himself superintend (with a moderate length of lash to his whip) from the rotatoryround-about' of his own panopticons.
Upon the Tories, however, he wastes few more of his long-tailed compounds; well knowing that the Tories are not likely to be confounded with his flock, and to run away with any of the merit of his theories; but with regard to the Whigs, he thinks it necessary to be more particular, lest some of their sham projects of reform should blind any well-meaning persons to their real, intrinsic character, as renegadoes' and 'hunters of corruption.'
Note,' says this sagacious but unrelenting expositor of whiggism, that from their giving in the first instance the support of their votes to a proposed arrangement of reform, it follows not by any means that Honourable Gentlemen have the smallest liking to it, or any the slightest intention to continue their support of it: even from speeches, nay, even from motions-in support of it neither, can conclusions in affirmance of inward favour and intentions be drawn with any certainty; for by maturer reflection operating upon intervening experience further, and true lights shewing the falsity of the lights by which they had at first been guided-original deviations from the path of consummate wisdom lie at all times open to correction. Witness EARL GREY, and LORD ERSKINE, and MR. TIERNEY, &c. On these occasions, as on all occasions, one object at least, if not the only object, is—to make a display of numbers, and thus strike terror into ministerial bosoms. That object accomplished or abandoned, the expedient has, well or ill, performed its office, and like a sucked orange, is ripe for being cast aside.'-p. cccxx.
In this good company, and amidst these humorous-reflectionexciting' remarks, we willingly take leave of Mr. Bentham ;-observing only, that when he accuses the Whigs in general of sucking' their Reform Orange and throwing it away,' he ought, in candour, to have acknowledged that there are not wanting some among them who have manifested a disposition to pick up their sucked orange, to blow it, if possible, into shape, and to suck it over again for the amusement of the radical reformers. Such an experiment will be highly edifying; and Mr. Bentham will no doubt be thankful for so striking an illustration of his whiggological theories. But enough and more than enough of Mr. Jeremy Benthamto whom we bid farewell, in exceeding good humour with him for the never-to-be-sufficiently-applauded' ridicule, the-altogetherinvoluntarily-absurd' colouring which he has bestowed upon the cause of radical reform. It is with no bad-design-imputing,' no 'bad-motive-imputing,' still less with a bad-character-imputing' intention that we exhort him to proceed in the good works which he has so well begun. We do not indeed promise him to read any more of his productions: for we already know the Reformers pretty well; and should consider the wasting of any more time upon the elucidation of their projects and principles, as what Mr. Bentham emphatically calls a maximizing of barren days.'
Above all things we exhort Mr. Bentham to cultivate diligently the style which he has so judiciously employed in the discussion of these interesting matters,-a style not only appropriately apt,' but individually exclusive.
'Savez-vous pourquoi JEREMIE
Que POMPIGNAN le traduiroit?"
The modern Jeremy, though sufficiently querulous, has not the same ground of apprehension to justify his lament. He may be read, quoted, and admired; but he may defy a whole legion of Pompignans to translate him. Genius delights in recondite analogies; and amidst all his inventions, Mr. Bentham never hit upon a happier one than that of adopting the language of Babel as the proper vehicle for the doctrines of political confusion.
ART. VI. Relation Historique du Voyage de MM. de Humboldt et Bonpland. Tome premier, Seconde Partie, contenant les Feuilles 45 à 81, la Table des Matières et l'Errata. 4to. Paris. 1817.
THE undisguised and candid opinion, which we ventured to pronounce on the blemishes and the excellencies of a small portion of the Baron de Humboldt's literary labours, will have been
taken, we trust, in the light they were meant, by this intelligent traveller. As we always felt, so have we no hesitation to declare, a sincere respect for the talent and various qualifications of M. de Humboldt; at the same time it would be uncandid to conceal our opinion, that, both as a philosopher and a writer, he has his faults; the most prominent of which perhaps are, a too great fondness in the one, for generalization, or of grouping a small number of facts into systems; and, in the other, of mixing up the details and minutiæ of scientific observations with the general narrative.
Having thus narrowed our objections to two points, we cheerfully offer the praise to which he is justly entitled for ardent zeal, determined perseverance, and unwearied research; to these we may add, a warmth of feeling and a force of imagination, which, if education and early habit had not controuled her purpose, and converted the possessor into a philosopher, nature evidently intended to form the poet. No writer knows better than M. de Humboldt how to seize a subject and exhibit it in the most striking points of view; and, by a happy faculty of grouping, or contrasting, the meanest and the most familiar objects, to give to them an interest to which, separately considered, they could have no pretension. He is well acquainted too with the art of keeping, and of giving to his pictures the proper distribution of light and shade; but, at the same time, he is what the artists would call, and what every good artist himself is, a mannerist. His great merit, however, is that of seeing every thing, and leaving nothing unsaid of what he sees;-not a rock nor a thicket, a pool or a rivulet-nay, not a plant nor an insect, from the lofty palm and the ferocious alligator, to the humble lichen and half-animated polypus, escapes his scrutinizing eye; and they all find a place in his book.
It has been remarked, that the books written by old travellers are generally more amusing than those of the moderns. The reason is sufficiently obvious: travellers of the present day have, for the most part, a smattering of science, or are at least acquainted with some branch of physical knowledge. To such writers every new object of discovery will afford matter for description; and if they happen, like M. de Humboldt, to be familiar with every department of science, the narrative of their travels naturally becomes a series of memoirs. But the old traveller, having no science, had no such temptations; he describes only the most striking objects, loosely enough, it must be confessed, but he describes them just as they appeared to him, unfettered by system; and men and manners are painted to the life in the same free and familiar style.
What we now take up is, in the French edition, the concluding part of the first volume of the Personal Narrative,' and will be
the third and fourth volumes of the English translation. In the former part, it may be recollected, we left our travellers, Messrs. de Humboldt and Bonpland, at Cumana; in this now under review, we are conducted to the mountains of New Andalusia; to the missions of the Chaymas Indians; to La Guayra, and thence to the Caraccas; at all of which, and in the various excursions into the mountains and forests, the valleys and caverns, the convents and villages, objects and observations of considerable interest and importance are brought forward, and described with a vigour of language and a glow of eloquence which, unless now and then chastened by the sober severity of a philosophical remark, or a mathematical result, would almost lead the reader to conceive himself transported into the regions of fancy. If, however, as we think we perceive, M. de Humboldt is sometimes more florid than in the former part of his Personal Narrative,' he is certainly less excursive; and, we may add, less disposed to theory: whether this be owing to any new view which he has taken of the subject, or to the expediency of crowding a greater number of facts into a given space, it is at any rate an improvement, which neither the author nor the reader will have occasion to regret.
It was on the 4th of September that our travellers recommenced their tour, and, leaving Cumana, directed their steps towards that group of elevated mountains which crosses the province of New Andalusia:
After a journey of two hours, we reached the foot of the lofty chain of the interior mountains, which runs from east to west, from the Brigantine to the Cerro de San Lorenzo. Here new species of rocks commence, and, with them, a new aspect of vegetation. Every thing here assumes a more majestic and picturesque character. The ground, watered by springs, is intersected in all directions. Trees, of a gigantic height, and covered with creepers, shoot up in the ravines; their bark, blackened and burned by the two-fold action of light and atmospheric oxygen, forms a contrast with the vivid green of the Pothos and Dracontium, the leather-like and glossy leaves of which frequently shoot out to the length of several feet. The parasitical Monocotyledons, between the tropics, may be said to occupy the place of the mosses and the lichens of our northern zone. As we proceeded, the mountains, both by their shape and grouping, brought to our recollection the scenery of Swisserland and the Tyrol. Upon these Alps of America, even at considerable heights, we met with the Heliconia, the Costus, the Maranta, and others of the cane family; while, near the coast, the same plants delight only in low and swampy situations. It is thus, that, by an extraordinary similarity, in the torrid zone, as in the North of Europe, under the influence of an atmosphere continually loaded with fog, as upon a soil moistened by melting snow, the vegetation of mountains presents all the characteristic features of that of marshy places.'--p. 357.