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Art. I.- Des Classes dangereuses de la Population dans les
Grandes Villes, et des Moyens de les rendre meilleures. Ouvrage récompensé en 1838, par l'Institut de France (Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques). Par H. A. Frégier, Chef de Bureau à la Préfecture de la Seine. Paris. 1840. 2 vols. 8vo., pp. 985. THE THE modern French press has sent forth few works more
interesting than this, or better calculated to do good service, not to France alone, but to the countries around her. To none does it offer more useful instruction than to England, similarly situated as she is in the progress of civilization and in many of the leading features of national character. Despite the difficulties and annoyances, nay the dangers, which surrounded the subject he had to investigate, M. Frégier appears to have made himself accurately master of it in many of its ramifications. To mere literary merit his volumes have little claim : occasionally we meet with passages extremely well expressed; but in general the style is somewhat complicated and redundant; and it is deformed by the perpetual introduction of termes de Palais,' in places where the subject in no degree requires their use. We should say, too, that the pages are tinged with some vulgarisms, were it not that, in the rapid strides which modern French is taking to emancipate itself from the shackles of the Dictionary of the Academy, and the way in which year by year, nay almost day by day, it is separating itself from the language of Pascal, Molière, and Massillon, we may very probably be mistaking elegancies for barbarisms. A more important fault is, that our author, carried away by his great anxiety to conquer all objections to his favourite system of solitary confinement, has been led to falsify all the proportions of his book, by devoting a very undue number of pages to this one branch of his subject.
We cannot but suspect also that M. Frégier's essay in 400 pages, which obtained the prize, may have been a more perfect treatise with reference to its proper and specific theme than the present expanded work. Seventy-fours, cut asunder and length
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ened into nineties, seldom retain their firmness and solidity of structure; and books, when from one trim, compact volume, drawn out into two, have always their weak points; the joinings never hold well together—the materials have no unison and easy play among themselves; and the whole structure is very apt to give way when exposed to the rough sea of criticism. In the present instance the original treatise, in accordance with the terms of the submitted question,* was confined entirely to the dangerous classes among the lower orders of society. In the published work the author has extended his subject, and introduced another class, perfectly distinct in its position and in its nature—the literary dangerous class. However interesting this division of society may be, however great the danger to be apprehended from it, and the necessity therefore of studying it with care, still its connection with the real and direct object of the prescribed work was not such as to have rendered its introduction either necessary or expedient; and it is evident that the propounders of the question were of this opinion. It is less ably treated than the other divisions of the subject ; less philosophically and profoundly understood by the author; and—the natural consequence of this-less fully and clearly brought out to the reader. We think also that some of the other parts of the book where interpolations have taken place-all of which are carefully noted by the author-are, comparatively at least, deficient in interest and importance.
The one great principle, to the illustration of which M. Frégier has addressed himself, is this : that in society, and amongst its lower classes more especially, vice leads to crime, and crime to danger. This subject he treats under a fourfold division. 1st. The statistics of the vicious and dangerous classes. 2nd. Their manners, habits, and modes of life.
3rd. The preservatives against the “invasions of vice.' 4th. The remedies to be employed to lessen and control it.
The author fixes his point of view at Paris.
• The causes of crime and its effects are,' he says, ' everywhere the same; the mode of committing it and the characters of those who commit it vary with every country and every place : but if its nature and effects, as developed in full perfection in Paris, be carefully and fully analyzed, the information thence resulting will, by easy induction, be rendered applicable to the other great towns in France; and also, in a considerable degree, to all the principal cities of other nations.'
* The thesis proposed was as follows:
• Rechercher d'après des observations positives, quels sont les élémens dont se compose à Paris, ou dans toute autre grande ville, cette partie de la population qui forme une classe dangereuse par ses vices, son ignorance, et sa misère; indiquer les moyens, que l'administration, les hommes riches ou aisés, les ouvriers intelligens et laborieux pourraient employer pour améliorer cette classe dangereuse et dépravée.'