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From the Edinburgh Review.
freely and frankly conmunicates the disCauseries d'un Curieux: Variétés d'Histoire coveries he has made or the information he
et d'art; Tirées d'un Cabinet d'Autographes bas collected; the pièce justificative, or ilet de Dessins. Par F. FEUILLET DE
lustrative document, in the shape of an Conches. Tomes Premier et Second, autograph letter, manuscript, engraving, or 1862; Tome Troisième, 1864: Paris.
portrait, is produced or appealed to; then
come inquiry, comment, amiiable difference, The title of this book is untranslatable. and discussion; till materials are accumuThere is no English equivalent for causerie, lated for a book rivalling the · Curiosities of which is something less formal, continuous, Literature' in erudition, and far surpassing and pretentious than conversation,' -- some
it in accurary, penetration, and suggestivething more intellectual, refined, and culti- ness. Indeed, we have rarely met with one vated than · talk.' An earnest preoccupied which opens so many fruittůl fields of inman may converse;
an over-excited or quiry, supplies so many important topics of coarse-minded man may talk ; but neither speculation, or brings the critical faculty so the one nor the other can causer in the pre- pleasantly and profitably into play: cise French acceptation of the word. Bos- The tendency and utility of such a work well says, “Though his (Johnson's) usual are so obvious, that there was little need of phrase for conversation was talk," yet he the apologetic preface of sixty pages, aumade a distinction; for when he once told dressed to the celebrated advocate and me that he dined the day before at a friend's jurisconsult, M. Chaix d'Est-Ange. Conhouse, with " a very pretty company," and sidering bow chronicles, journals, corresponI asked him if there was good conversation, dence, household-books, news-letters, broad he answered, “No, Sir, we had “talk” but sheets, loose scraps of every kind, have been no conversation; there was nothing dis- ransacked and turned to account by recent cussed.” On another occasion, however, writers of note, - the literary world in genewhen he said there had been good talk, ral, and historians in particular, would seem to Boswell rejoined, · Yes, Sir, you tossed and be sufficiently awake already to the value of gored several persons.' Positiveness, loud- well-authenticated details and contemporary ness, love of argument, and eagerness for evidence, however homely and mir ute. M. display, are fatal to causerie ; which we take Philarête Chasles might sately have been left to consist in the easy, careless, unforced flow unanswered when he exclaimed, “What care and interchange of remarks, fancies, feelings, I, about the patience or scrupulousness of a or thoughts, the results of reading, obser- fower frequenter of the Alexandrian library vation, or reflection ; begun without defined who should have saved for me, in twenty-five objert or formed purpose, and continuing its volumes folio, the billets-doux of Cleopatra course like Wordsworth's river wbich • wind- and the bills of her was herwoman and jeweth at its own sweet will,' or Burns's verses eller Twenty five volumes in folio would when he trusted to the inspiration of acci- be a large order, but can it be doubted that dent
Cleopatra's bills, to say nothing of her billets
doux, would help to throw light on the And how the subject-theme may gang,
habits and manners of the lady, the country, Let time and chance determine;
and the time? Can M. Philarêie Chasles Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
have forgotten the philosophic reflection of Perhaps turn out a sermon.'
Pascal that, if Cleopatra's nose had been
shorter, the whole face of the world might In strictness, therefore, perhaps the title of have been changed ? Minute personal decauseries should only be given to such a tails have been rightly treasured by biograbook as we should call · Table-Talk.' But phers; and we feel grateful to Mr. Forster we are not disposed to quarrel with M. for printing the bill of Goldsmith's tailor, Sainte-Beuve for giving it to his valuable Mr. Filby of Water Lane, although it does collection of familiar essays, critical and not specify the charge for the famous peachbiographical, the justly celebrated Causeries coloured coat which provoked the sarcasm du Lundi;' still less to find fault with M. of Johnson. Feuillet de Conches for bestowing it on a
At the same time we are not sorry that book which, without any extraordinary M. Feuillet de Conches has been seduced stretch of fancy, we can imagine to have into a vindication of his plan ; for, if supergrown out of conversations with persons of fluous, bis preface is the opposite of comcongenial pursuits, the scene varying be- monplace or dull. It comprises a brief and tween the library, the picture-gallery, the rapid but masterly appreciation of the leadmuseum, and the collector's cabinet. Each ing French memoirs; and after illustrating
by instances the advantages of biographical Joseph de Maistre proclaimed the hangman details and private letters in estimating the keystone of the social edifice. He debooks as well as men, it proceeds to give liberately laid down that, in the study of proofs of the serious liability incurred by philosophy, contempt for Locke is the beginauthors who are content with secondhand ning of wisdom; that the Essay on the authority.
Human Understanding is most assuredly,
deny it who may, all that the absolute want When we write a book, it is our reflection, of genius and style can produce most weariour reason, that speak; we express only our some;' that Bacon is a charlatan ; that ideas, soinetimes only the hypocrisy of our ideas. the De Augmentis is “perfectly null and conWhen we write letters, we. more commonly express our sentiments and our passions. Read, temptible ;' and the Novum Organon sim
No writer of for example, the elegant pages in which Sallusť ply worthy of Bedlam.' raises altars to poverty, proclaims the ineffable anything like equal eminence has given sweetness and the eminent dignity of the Stoic expression to so startling an amount of moralists, stigmatises with burning declamation, prejudice, illiberality, and insulting arrowith virtuous anger, the corruption of Rome, gance in his books; whilst his familiar letters the extortion in the provinces. "Is it after read. teem with proofs of a kindly and loving ing this that we shall recognise this Sallust, the nature, of candour, liberality, and Christian corrupter of the domestic hearth, the blood- virtues. stained tribune, the slave of Cæsar, the impu
We are also told to be on our guard dent extortioner, whose famous museum-gardens were built with the gold and the tears of Numi- against drawing too broad an inference from dia ? Incredible power of abstraction ! prodigious some one menorable passage or action with miracle of taste and art! This man, branded which a name has been inextricably and with infamy, talks of virtue like Cató; pen in disadvantageously mixed up. If there are hand he becomes virtuous.
certain cries of the heart which paint the *Shall we believe also in the disinterestedness entire man and betray the secrets of bis of Seneca, in his philosophy, his austerity, his soul, he may let drop ill-considered words clemency, by reading nothing but his moral in an emergency which are in contradiction treatises, from which morals seem to flow rather to his real sentiments, to his whole life. Or, than words. Read his life, and you will avert your looks. Alongside of some real public and to adopt the language of Bruyère, · Je ne private virtues, what shameful weaknesses ! sais s'il est permis de juger des hommes par What infamy and crime! Ile knew how to une faute qui est unique, et si un besoin die : he did not know how to live.'
extrème, ou une violent passion, ou un pre
mier mouvement, tirent à conséquence.' When Seneca wrote his treatise in praise Thus, we are not to believe Barnave a of poverty, he had some millions sterling out Robespierre because, when the death of at usurious interest; and it was the pointed Foulon was announced amidst the indignant saying of South, that when he (Seneca) murmurs in the Constituent Assembly, he recommended people to throw away their exclaimed, • Le sang qui coule, est-il donc si money, it was with the view of picking it pur qu'on ne puisse en repandre quelques up himself.
gouttes?' He lived to make ample reparaAmongst moderns there is the familiar tion for this outrage. Nor will it be forgottale of Rousseau, invoking parental care for ten that the Vicomte de Bonald was honest, infancy and sending his own children to a firm, and high-minded, although, hurried foundling hospital ; and the less kuown con- away by intolerance, he impatiently replied trast between the published sentimentalism to those who objected to making sacrilege a and the private conduct of St. Pierre, the capital crime, . Eh bien! les coupables iront author of Paul and Virginia,' who has been devant leur juge naturel!' handed down to posterity, upon the not In order to inculcate the value of docuquite unimpeachable testimony of his wife, ments, M. Feuillet de Conches has unsparas a man of desolating egotism, violent against ingly exposed celebrated authors who have the feeble, mendacious with the powerful. proceeded on the mon historie esi finie prin• I have gathered from the mouth of an inti- ciple; and be relates an anecdote which mate friend of this worthy woman,' adds M. will be new to most readers. M. de LaFeuillet de Conches, the most startling an- martine meeting M. Alexander Dumas soon ecdotes of this pretended good man.' after the publication of the History of the
Fortunately for poor humanity, there is a Girondins, inquired anxiously of the famous compensating process or principle simulta- romance-writer if he had read it. Oui; neously at work, by aid of which the private c'est superbe ! C'est de l'historie élerée à la characters of authors neutralise the repelling hauteur du roman.' impressions of their works. The Count A friend calling on Archbishop Usher
found him busily engaged in placing his acknowledgment; and in the preface to choirest books and manuscripts under lock Lives of Men of Letters of the Time of and key, a precaution which he explained George III.' edition of 1855, we find, by mentioning that he expected a party of • Besides the letters of Voltaire, communibibliophiles and collectors to dinner.*• What cated by Mr. Stanford, and which were most of all and still afflicts me,' complains given in the former editions, there are some Evelyn, those letters and papers of the of his, and one of Helvetius, now inserted, Queen of Scots, originals and written with which had been given in the French edition, her own hand, which I furnished to Dr. having been kindly communicated by M. Burnet, are pretended to have been lost at Feuillet, a gentleman of great respectathe press.
The rest I lent to his country- bility.' man, the late Duke of Lauderdale, who Another story, well authenticated by refnever returned them; so as by this treach- erences, relates to the Mallebranche correery my collection being broken, I bestowed spondence, purchased at the Millon sale by the remainder on a worthy and curious a collector, and lent to a grand philosophe friend of mine, who is not likely to trust a (not named) who forth with made arrangeScot with anything he values.'
ments for publishing the letters and refused A Scot is not always on the safe side in to return the originals. . these matters. Sir Walter, after mentioning the sepulchral vase of silver sent him · Philosophy, I presume, has privileges which from Athens by Lord Byron, says that simplify the domestic economy of property, and there was a letter sent with this vase more
are denied to vulgar simplicity. "Oh, phys
ics! valuable than the gift itself. "I left it preserve me from metaphysics,” exclaimed naturally in the urn with the bones, but it The poor collector would not give in. He ap
the great Newton every morning of his life. is now missing. As the theft was not of a pealed to the authority of the worthy and loyal nature to be practised by a mere domestic, academician (the witness of the loan). Vain I am compelled to suspect the inhospitality effort ! A common friend, the author of the of some individual of higher station; most excellent edition of Pascal after the originals, gratuitously exercised, certainly, since, after was not more fortunate. Plato hugged his what I have said, no one will choose to prize, his by right divine. boast of possessing this literary curiosity.' Comply with the conditions, ohjected M. F. With such tendencies abroad, M. Feuillet
or restore. He who has bought and
To print in spite of de Conches is quite right in warning collect paid is the lawful owner.
hint in the Journal des Savans, would be the ors against the predatory habits of their violation of his right; for after all, if he brought associates: although, when he comes to par- an action agaiosť vou, what right could you ticulars, his own personal grievances may allege? "My righi,” replied the philosopher, turn out more imaginary than real :
with a vivacity which had at least the merit of
frankness, “ Mly passion is my right.”! "We need not go out of France in search of such adventures. Woe to the too confiding Taking for granted, then, the value of collector who forgets that of King Candaules; original documents and evidences of all apother Gyges might nefariously cut his throat sorts, as well as the rights of property in after robbing him of his treasure! The lords them, to be established by the preface, we of the literary world know full well how to cajole them at need, those poor collectors. proceed to the main body of the work, One while they publish their autographs, in which opens with an attempt to ascertain spite of the owners; one while they borrow what are the oldest manuscripts and likewhat they never return, or they do not even nesses, painted or carved, that are proved deign to cite their names whilst making use of by history or tradition to have once existed; their trea-ures.
how far down they can be traced, and ““ Sicut canis ad Nilum, bibens et fugiens." when they were destroyed or lost sight of. Thus Lord Brougham, to whom, through the The sacred archives come first, and queschannel of an illustrious academician, I had tions arise, what became of the tables which lent letters of the eighternth century for his Moses deposited in an ark ? or of the copies notices, published at Paris, of Voltaire and Rousseau, has profited by my communications, of the law which the successive kings of and has not indicated the source, so that, with Israel were directed to write out? or of out falling into the grasp of the law, I should the title-deeds which, like that of Hananot even gave the right to reprint what belongs meel's field,' were put in earthern vessels to me.'
that they might continue many days'?
The wars of the Jews, their eventual subNo such consequences could ensue, had jugation and dispersion, with the repeated Lord Brougham withheld the required spoliation or destruction of the holy build
ings in which their archives were deposited, was learnedly and conscientiously revived sufficiently account for the disappearance by an ecclesiastical historian of repute in of the originals at an early period; includ- the last century. • But,' remarks M. ing the original of the Septuagint version Feuillet de Conches, knowledge and good of the Bible, made 277 B.C. from a copy, faith are not criticism.' So, spite of this for which, according to Josephus, an enor- testimony, the epistle in question has been mous sum was paid by Ptolemy.
long since relegated to the company of the The persecutions of the early Christians, counterfeits, with the text of the sentence and their scattered state, will equally ac- pronounced by Pontius Pilate, with the count for the rapid disappearance of the letters of Christ which fell from heaven autographs or originals of the Gospels, the after 'his ascension, with the letters of the Acts, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse. Virgin and the verses of the Sibyls, with There is not so much as an authenticated the letters of the Devil (of which facscrap of the bandwriting of any of the similes have been published by Collin de Fathers of the Church. The Greek copy of Plancy), with the letter of the same Ponthe Evangelists, known as the Codex Alexan- tius Pilate on the life of Jesus Christ, and drinus, in the British Museum, is assigned finally that of Publius Lentulus, which to the beginning of the fifth century, anu the gives, from life, the portrait of the Messiah. tradition attributing it to St. Thecla, one of The letter of Lentulus opens a subject St. Paul's virgin converts, is apocryphal at of the deepest and most reverential inbest. The pretended autograph of the terest; but it has been so fully and admiraGospel according to St. Mark is still shown bly treated by Lady Eastlake that a bare at Venice in a dilapidated, fragmentary, and outline of the main argument may suffice utterly illegible state. Such as it is, it was in this place. This fainous document purbrought with great ceremony from a con- ports to be a Report from a Roman provent in Aquileia in 1420, and is held to be consul to the senate, describing from actual nothing more than a devotional compila- observation the form, features, voice, beartion for the use of the nuns. The auto-ing, look and manner of the Messiah, graph of autographs (priceless as the seam- the pure and open brow, the rich wineless coat), could it be recovered, is the coloured (vinei coloris) hair parted in the letter of our Saviour to Abgar, Prince of middle and falling on the shoulders, the Edessa, promising to send a disciple to cure clear blue eyes, the regular features with his leprosy and teach his people the true their grave yet sweet expression ; painting, faith. An Armenian historian of the fourth ( in short, so far as words can paint, the very century, who gives the text of the prince's beau idéal popularly received of the mortal application and the reply, says that Abgar, attributes of the Divine Founder of our alter having been baptised by the Apostle faith. It has been confidently alleged that Thaddeus, wrote to Tiberius to confirm the this letter was extracted by Eutropius from . miraculous life and death of Christ. St. the archives of the senate; that several John of Damascus relates the same incident Fathers of the Church made mention of it; with modifications. Procopius, in the time and that portraits were painted after it by of Justinian, mentions this holy letter, then the command of Constantine the Great. augmented by a postscript promising the To all this, the decisive reply is, that there city of Edessa that it should never fall into was no proconsul named Lentulus in Juthe hands of enemies; and in 940 A.D. the dæa at the period; that no trace of the Roman emperor got possession of it; that letter is discoverable in Eutropius ; that is, he procured from Edessa a document in none of the Fathers (including St. AugusGreek which was there treasured as the tine, who speaks of pretended portraits of original. He had it magnificently framed Christ) make mention of it; and that the in gold and jewels, which probably caused earliest notice of it occurs in the fifteenth its destruction ; for it disappeared for good century, when the famous preacher, Père and all during the revolution of 1185, when Olivier Maillard, produced it in macaronic the people of Constantinople rose and plun- French. dered the imperial palace.
Not content with these strong grounds Copies have been preserved; the oldest for incredulity, M. Feuillet de Conches extant being one in the Escurial, made by a maintains that it would not be difficult to monk in 1435; and the authenticity of the arrive at the source of the forgery to pick epistle was first questioned by a celebrated philologist of the fifteenth century, Lau- * The History of our Lord as Exemplified in rentius Valla, who went so far as to deny Works of Art, &c. Commenced by the fate Mrs. the existence of Abgar. The controversy lake. London: 1864.' We refer to the introduction.
out word by word the elements in the dif- of the Eastern ; varied to infinity by deferent traditional portraits in writing which grees of civilisation, by race, by manners, lie scattered amongst the Fathers or the and by clime. • The Greeks," says Photius, Greek ecclesiastical writers. He proceeds think that He became man after their to proof, and a valuable piece of criticism image; the Romans, that He had the feais the result ; from which we shall simply tures of a Roman ; the Indians, that of an borrow an episodical passage or two on the Indian ; the Ethiopians made him a black.' startling doubt which long vexed and Black Virgins, we need hardly repeat, were divided the Fathers, namely, whether the painted and carved in ebony according to Divine Essence was reflected in the beauty the received tradition, and still abound in of the outward and visible form, or hidden, Catholic countries. for the wisest and best of purposes, under a The extent to which some of the great mean and unattractive exterior.
painters have travestied sacred subjects is The New Testament gave no help to familiar to all students of art; and the either side. The Old Testament inflamed liberties taken by a ruder school are amus the controversy by an apparent diversity: ing by their mingled absurdity and singu• Thou art fairer than the children of men,' | larity : is the inspired language of the Psalmist. • He hath no form nor comeliness,' is the In some of his pictures Rembrandt made similarly inspired prophecy of Isaiah. The Abraham a burgess of his time, and the Mesholy disputants, as was their wont, declined siah a burgomaster of Saardam. In the old any rational explanation or reconciliation of paintings representing the fall of Adam and the texts; and as no reference was made fruit varying with the country or province. In
Eve, it is not uncommon to find the forbidden to the authority of Lentulus, the fair infer- Normandy and Picardy it is the classic apple, ence is that none of them had ever heard one of the riches of the country; in Burgundy of him. St. Justin declared positively for and Champagne, the bunch of grapes; in ugliness: • By appearing under an abject Provence and Portugal, the tig and the orange ; and humiliating exterior, our Saviour did whilst in America it is the guava. The guide but add to what the mystery of the re- to the paintings of Mount Athos prescribes the demption offers of sublime and touching.' fig. The fig tree is under the protection of a Tertullian was strong for the same theory : Greece, then, it is generally the fig which is Ne aspectu quidem honestus.' · Nec
adopted on account of the sweetness and abunhumanæ honestatis fuit corpus ejus.' 'Si dance of the fruit. In Italy it is sometimes the inglorius, si ignobilis, si in honorabilis, meus fig, sometimes the orange, according to the erit Christus.' The pagans, accustomed to province or caprice.' deify beauty, saw their advantage and struck in. “Your Christ is ugly,' exclaimed The Venerable Bede, not content with Celsus with true Epicurean logic, then he giving the names and ages of the Magi or is not God.' The three great divines of wise men of the Epiphany, enters into the Western Church, St. Ambrose, St. minute details of their
appearance Jerome, and St. Augustin, stoutly held out and their respective gifts
. Thus, Melchior, for beauty, and the opposite opinion, dis- a white-haired sage, offers the gold;. Gascredited in Europe, was eventually con- par, beardless and fresh-coloured, the frankfined to the Manichæans and some doctors incense; and Balthasar, dark and fullof the East.
bearded, the myrrh. Bede followed the It may
be collected from these disputes tradition of his age, the seventh century. that no certain image or representation of But what did Cardinal Mazarin follow, or the form and features of Christ has been direct to be followed, when he ordered for handed down by tradition. There is also his gallery an unbroken series of portraits much weight in the remark, that the most of the Popes, beginning with St. Peter. A ancient effigies are stamped with a Greek similar series has been reproduced in moor Roman character, both in physiognomy saic at Rome, and may also be seen in the and costume, without any trace of the schools of theology at the Seminary of St. Arabian or Israelite type. Thus, before the Sulpice; the portraits beirg about on a Byzantine style fixed à la grecque the face par with those of the early Kings of France, and costume of Jesus, the paintings of the beginning with Pharamond, at Versailles, Roman catacombs gave him a Roman face, or those of the Kings of Scotland at Holyand clothed him with the toga and the rood, wbich (as Sir Walter Scott relates) pallium. Dating from these productions, elicited an acute criticism from a Persian there have been two principal types -- the ambassador. Addressing the housekeeper, type of the Western Church and the type who was doing the honours, he asked, You