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plunder; not Spain, drinking the life-blood of its colonies, and slowly rotting with the poison it imbibes; not Germany, split into a thousand fragments, and each fragment at sword's point with the others; but England and France and Spain and Italy and Germany are to combine in one grand brotherhood, for the regulation of the affairs of the rest of the world, and the harmonious adjustment of their own.
And this union, Mr. Congreve argues, is not altogether visionary. It was in this sense of a hierarchical co-ordination that feudal Europe had a unity wholly different from that which prevailed under the Roman administration. Supreme over many races and over all governments, the Church was the common bond of nationalities, the object of universal respect. And it was not till the Protestantism of the fifteenth century had broken up Europe into hostile parties, with ever-increasing animosities, that the feeling of unity was lost, and with it the commanding position of the West as a governing body.
It is difficult to deal with generalizations of this sort without a degree of fulness impossible in these limits; for there is such a mixture of truth and error, so many deductions that are false blended with so many facts that are true, that one can neither admit nor deny them absolutely. We shall only remark, therefore, that while the whole current of modern history is against such a position as Mr. Congreve seeks to establish for the West, it may very well be doubted, as a matter of science, whether this superiority of a portion of the white race (for it practically comes to that), really rests upon fact. Yet, perhaps, the American critic, far removed from the sulphurous atmosphere of European politics, may not go much out of the way if he finds in Mr. Congreve's theory an attempt at reconciling two of the most distressing difficulties which, to the English mind, are ever looming up in the future of England, the vast aggression of Russia, not to be disputed, in the East, and the general military and social superiority of France, now clearly recognized at home.
For this readiness to stand by the fact, and to let go for ever an empty pride, we cannot do too much honor to these liberal English thinkers, so much in advance of their nation, in appreciating the tendencies of modern political life. When their generous spirit pervades the English mind, England will have little to fear from Russian aggrandizement or French ambition: and it may then come, perhaps, to admit that America must weigh in the scale of nations by something more than its mass, even by its ideas, which are the true leaders of the civilization of the West; for without their support all coali
tions are in vain, ever ready to be overthrown by the first rocking of restless empires. For it is not, after all, any political system, however elaborately contrived which can govern the world, but the spirit of justice, and the love of law, and the general recognition of other than material ends; and these things do not come of political expedients, but of universal, intellectual, and spiritual illumination.
THE attractive volume of Mr. Howells* contains by far the most interesting, most accurate, and most complete account to be found in our language of the environment and daily life of the inhabitants of modern Venice. Occupying the post of American Consul, richly endowed with the sensibilities of a poet, and with the keen insight and practised tact of a critical observer, Mr. Howells is well entitled to say, "I could not dwell three years in the place without learning to know it differently from those writers who have described it in romances, poems, and hurried books of travel; nor help seeing, from my point of observation, the sham and cheapness with which Venice is usually brought out (if I may so speak) in literature. At the same time, it has never lost to me its claim upon constant surprise and regard, nor the fascination of its excellent beauty, its peerless picturesqueness, its sole and wondrous grandeur." The singular enchantments of the situation, scenery, and art of Venice; the unequalled glory, tragedy, and romance of her history; the dismal squalor, monotony, and mournfulness of her decay; the varied characteristics of the different classes of her population, as illustrated in all the phases of their life, in all the seasons of the year, are depicted by our author with remarkable, force, fidelity, and beauty. The substance of what he says is marked by sound judgment and conscientious impartiality. His manner of saying it is distinguished by a charm of airy grace, and by a deep fund of poetic feeling, relieved by the almost constant presence of quiet humor. We heartily recommend Mr. Howells's "Venetian Life" to the two large classes of readers, those who have themselves visited Venice, and those who have not. The former will be delighted to have their reminiscences enlarged: the latter will be glad to have their deprivation lessened. We close with a single paragraph, as a specimen of our author's quality. He is writing of St. Mark's Place in a snow-storm: "Looked at across the Square,
H. J. W.
* Venetian Life. By William D. Howells. New York: Hurd & Houghton.
the beautiful outline of the Church was perfectly pencilled in the air; and the shifting threads of the snow-fall were woven into a spell of novel enchantment around a structure that always seemed to me too exquisite in its fantastic loveliness to be any thing but the creation of magic. The tender snow had compassionated the beautiful edifice for all the wrongs of time, and so hid the stains and ugliness of decay that it looked as if just from the brain of the architect. The snow lay lightly on the golden globes that tremble, like peacock-crests, above the vast domes, and plumed them with softest white; it robed the saints in ermine; and it danced over all the work as if exulting in its beauty, beauty which filled me with that subtle, selfish regret that yearns to keep such evanescent loveliness for the little-whilelonger of one's whole life. The towers of the island churches loomed faintly and far away in the dimness; the sailors in the rigging of the ships that lay in the Basin wrought like phantoms among the shrouds ; the gondolas stole in and out of the opaque distance, more noislessly and dreamily than ever; and a silence, almost palpable, lay upon the mutest city in the world."
MR. MAURICE's very interesting lectures on the political topics. that just now occupy so much of the English mind and ours offer a text more suggestive than the commentary is satisfactory. He writes never in the clear, "dry light" of science, always in the suffused and mellow light of imagination, sentiment, and conscience. He loves to melt away the edges of our sharp, dogmatic theories; and shows us the thought, as physiologists study the living organism, in solution and in germ. So he is more suggestive than instructive, and piques more curiosity than he satisfies. Always widening the horizon of our vision, he shows the object we view in the flickering, uncertain light, and in the strong refraction, that belong to the dividing-line of sky and earth, His style affects the soft, dim haze that seems to envelop his thought; and the hard, swift, positive habit of mind we are all fallen into is impatient at sentences and chapters written in a sort of unvarying potential mood. And yet his "may" and his "perhaps" and his "doubtful whether" seem in reality to be the veil of strong conviction, only the conviction is rather ethic than
* The Workman and the Franchise. Chapters from English History, on the Representation and Education of the People. By Frederick Denison Maurice. London & New York: Alexander Strahan.
scientific; and it is as if he sought to mark the moral quality of it by a form of speech as far at variance as possible from the dogmatic and scientific handling which we generally give to our political ideas.
These lectures are meant to be, in the strictest sense, practical. They are written in the interest of the "Workingmen's College," to which the copyright of them is presented. They deal with the precise points of representation and suffrage which have made and unmade Administrations within the year, and which now and then threaten to bring England to the very verge of a social revolution. Yet the mind of Mr. Maurice steadily refuses to see them in the light that illuminates them to other eyes. He does not deny the theories of reformers and propagandists. He only pleads with them to show how vain and insufficient those theories, or any thing that is rigid theory, must be. He will shed on them the wide, quiet light of history, which steadily rebukes all dogmatism; the pure sky-light of religion and morality, which dulls the passionate and artificial glare. So the reader is vexed to find no solution offered or attempted to the questions as they are apt to be practically put. Instead of it, he finds ethical meditation, historic example, and Christian exhortation.
And yet we doubt whether he will not carry away, at the end, as strong an impression, and as valuable instruction, as if he had found the answer to the thought that lay nearer the surface. That human society is not a mass or multitude of men, but an organization of them by their sentiments and their interests; that the PEOPLE is the community of freemen, giving each man a direct interest in the welfare of the whole; that a political community, like the Roman aristocracy, jealous of admitting to its privileges those standing outside, must perish of inanition and sure decay; that citizenship means, not so much right or privilege, as it does obligation and trust; that civil freedom is "the contrast rather than the counterpart" of a savage and unsocial independence, - these are truths, not precisely new, but very desirable to be stated with the force of conviction, and freshness of illustration, we find here; while the great lessons of history -traced from the germs of the Roman Republic to the time when the citizen's privilege was no longer jealously withheld, because it had lost all its glory and its worth; from the germs of English liberty to the dissensions and ambitions of to-day — are traced with that curious felicity of insight and intelligent sympathy so characteristic of the writer's mind. Of special illustrations, also, we have been greatly struck with the words said of our late republican President to the working
men of England; with the exhibition of the first Christian communities as centres of living organism in a dissolving society, germs of the grander structures of the future; and with the review of the period of the Holy Alliance," when a style of serious, noble, devout thought, respecting a true statesmanship and a Christian order of society, came into being, with Wordsworth for its chief apostle, relieved against the hard despotisms of the compulsory quiet of that era of peace and restoration. And we see and find in this volume, vague and defective as it may appear, one of the timeliest and finest expositions of the higher morality of a nation's life.
J. H. A.
AMONG the biographies or historical studies that have come to our knowledge, aiming to make the last days of the Roman Republic better known to us, we incline to rate highest the series of sketches included in Boissier's "Cicero and his Friends."* An admirable book, it seems to us, for translation, or perhaps for a recast. It is not a detailed biography; but presents the life of Cicero in a succession of views, each in a sense complete, and making together perhaps the most finished portrait yet attainable. The correspondence of Cicero is, of course, the main authority relied on; but this is supplemented, with curious skill, by the speeches and contemporary documents. One or two of the sketches stand out with peculiar vividness for example, that of "Cœlius, or the Roman Youth;" in which the career of that fast young man, that prodigal son of the aristocracy, is traced through the dissipations and intrigues, the scandals and rivalries, of the life at Baiæ; through the wayward and petulant ambitions of politics, down to the disgraceful close in the miserable conspiracy against Cæsar's too firm and conservative rule. The temper of the sullen aristocracy that murdered Cæsar, the capricious and uncomfortable relations which Cicero maintained with the Dictator, the motives that stirred the men and parties of that evil time, are traced with very great skill and absolute seeming impartiality. In its mastery of facts, its clear historic sense, its wide sympathy, and its freedom from personal or party bias, this volume appears to us a fine example of that new French school of criticism, of which Taine is perhaps the foremost representative.
* Ciceron et ses Amis. Par Gaston Boissier. Paris.