« PředchozíPokračovat »
teacher. One of the brothers having carried away a sum of money which had been bequeathed to the Society, denied all knowledge of the founder, and deserted from the Order. The first school which the Abbé had founded, was iminediately destroyed, -and he was condemned to labour in silence. The secrecy to which popular prejudice and clamour had reduced him and his fellow-labourers, involved the whole concern in indiscriminate suspicion and prosecution. Former teachers, who wished to maintain the monopoly they had his therto possessed of instruction, obtained an order to shut bis schools. The Regent, Duke of Orleans, refused him letterspatent; and these humane and benevolent brothers, pursued by the hisses and insults of an ignorant and exasperated populace, thought they made a very comfortable retreat through the streets of Paris, when they escaped lapidation. The schools were proscribed by a dignitary of the Church, and impeached before the Lieutenant de Police. The brothers were condemned to pay a fine of 50 francs each, and the Abbé de la Salle to pay 2000. A few days before his death, this respectable man, who deserved the approbation of all who value what is truly valuable, was laid under an interdict by the Archbishop of Rouen, and expired under the displeasure of the Holy See.
But the calamities which the brothers were doomed to suffer did not end here. They were attacked in every direction at once. Should the reader wish to study the spirit of those times in France, he may find amusement in a Journal called · Les Nouvelles Ecclésiastiques, ’ for 1767. The accusations preferred against the poor Freres ignorantins, are very numerous, but may be reduced under these heads ;-intrigues, religious and mundane; proselytism; fanaticism ; swindling ; cruelty; violence; theft; &c.
To neutralize this acrimony, however, the virtuous Abbé was exalted to nothing less than canonization, among his parti
many persons attested, as eyewitnesses, the miracles which he operated. A patient he embraced, recovered instantly of a fever, for which the physicians had given him over. Brother Giles was cured of a headach, by applying to the part affected, a letter he had received from his revered Superior; and brother Timothy's knee was relieved from a white swelling, by the sign of the cross, which he made over it. Another brother shook off a quartan ague, by swallowing a bolus of grease collected from off the square cap of the Abbot; and brother Bartholomew swore that he appeared to him, after death.
The world would have grown old to very little purpose, if, at the same time, it had not grown a little wiser; and it cannot be
expected that attempts made to instruct mankind should be reprobated with equal bitterness in the 19th, as in the 18th century:-Yet
, even against the present methods, many strictures have appeared, which would not have dishonoured the gloomy zeal of any century, however remote,-though it is true that they have not been balanced by the same predilection for canonization and miracles. We have not room to give any particular account of these diatribes--nor are they worthy of any. But to show the spirit of the modern French opposers of improvement, we may give a word or two.
One of these begins with this phrase. The schools for mu• tual instruction were established in England by Mr Lancas• ter, a Quaker. Now, it is notorious that Quakers are fana
tics; enemies to all authority; who hold the reveries of their • imaginations as indisputable oracles; who believe that all men
are equal, and deny the existence of a future state.' The same sage author dreads the empire which a master, uncontrouled by any other superintendant, may acquire over his scholars; and says, could one be found who would not make an ill use of it, and should he die, where shall we find a second ? He gives a terrific picture, which we know to be a true one, of the morals of near 200 children, imprisoned in Paris for various crimes; and who are so depraved, that the Minister of Marine refused to admit them into the Royal Navy.
The Catholic Pere de Famille, again, is very indignant that any method imported from England should be approved of in France.
_ Anne ulla putetis Dona carere dolis Danaum?? • S'il a plu à quelques Troyens d'accueillir, avec confiance, le
present des Grecs; si des Anglomanes aiment à se passionner
pour une chimere, par cela seul, qu'elle nous vient du pays • des méchaniques, ce n'est pas une raison pour nous de parta
ger cette idolatrie.'--In 1816, we are then informed, this person was in England, and visited a prison (new Bedlam ?), one of the seven wonders of England, which was then erecting in the quarter of Westminster Abbey. It is three quarters of a • mile long, and of a proportionate width; and is destined to s receive the fruit of this new tree of science.'
Such absurdities, we must presume, cannot long produce any effect anywhere: But it is certain, that a very serious obstacle to the introduction of the Lancasterian methods in France, arises from the opinions of those who either condemn the Revolution in toto, or severely reprobate its excesses. Both the one and the other affirm, that the too grent diffusion of knowledge, among the anferior orders, brought on the calansities which they deplore; and that, if so many of the people had not been taught to read and write, France and Europe would not have been thus cruelly distracted. Without espousing the opinion of either party, we would say to the former, that, if they whose interest it was to oppose the revolution in France had been more enlightened, and better stocked with arguments and means to detect the supposed fallacy of the doctrines advanced by their adversaries, the higher orders of that country might have made a happier stand against their assailants. To the latter we may say, that, if a greater proportion of the population had been educated and instructed, so many could not have been impelled to acts of barbarism and injustice, by the sophistry of ill-minded incendiaries. The
of Louis XIV. was that from which the state of knowledge in France, such as it was at the period when the Kevolution broke out, may fairly be said to have taken its tone, That Monarch, more anxious for his own glory than the happiness of his subjects, viewed, with the same feelings, their progress in arms as in the arts, in science and in literature. He used his whole influence to impel them to climb to the splendid heights of knowledge, without having trodden any of the paths which usually lead to it; but the multitude remained nearly as it was before, having caught nothing of the mens divinior' from those who distinguished themselves, but a vague and idle sentiment of admiration, rather than of appreciation. This, however, was all that a despot could desire at home; and it was sufficient to dazzle the world into a belief that his nation was-what he would not for his diadem it had been in reality-the most enlightened of Europe. The ļight there was, was collected in detached orbs, and not at all diffused throughout the system. There was but little of it certainly among the courtiers and nobility ;-but it was not from its possessors that they suffered in an after age; and we would just ask the modern partisans of French ignorance this question: -Among those who burned and demolished the mansions of the rich, in every province of France; who massacred unarmed prisoners, in every town; dragged half. dead bodies through the streets of Paris; fixed the hands of the innocent on the ends of pikes; devoured the flesh, and licked up the blood of their fellow-creatures; who daily shrieked applause at the foot of the reeking guillotine,--how many were there who could read and write? how many among the Pastoureaux, the Cabochiens, the Bourguignons, the Armagnacs, in former times? how many among the defaulters of the Jacquerie? What was the state of instrucţion among the nobility, when, in the reign of Charles VI, Luxembourgh, Harcourt, La Fosseuse, L'Isle-Adam, de Bar, Cher's reuse, Chatellux, stood up to their ankles in blood, acting a dreadful prelude to the murders of 1792? It was not the diffusion of learning, it was its rarity, which favoured both the Revolution and its crimes. It was the superiority which knowledge gives to the few who possess it, to lead or to mislead the ignorant, from which all the good and all the bad proceeded; and, if instruction had been more general, each party would have less reason to lament.
From the facts stated in the work before us, and from other facts equally notorious, we really should not readily infer that knowledge had even yet attained to any dangerous excess in France. The Comte Lasteyrie informs us, ' qu'il y a, en France, • des hommes qui jouissent de quatre à cinq mille livres de rente, • qui n'ont jamais appris à lire: ' And in order that the reader may appreciate this fact to its full extent, he should be informed that, in point of real value, those 5000 liv., or about 2001. per annum, are equal, in the country of France, to nearly 400l. in England; and, in the rank, and consideration, and preponderance which, as mere money (for birth is reckoned upon another footing) they procure to the possessor, may very fairly be computed at 6001.:-Such is the state of property, and the ratio of private fortunes, in the two countries. Now, can any one say, in England, that among his acquaintance there is a single proprietor of 6001. per annum who cannot read, unless he won it in the lottery, or by some other lucky chance?
There was a time when ignorance was held to be a mark of greatness; and the lord of many vassals disdained orthography and callography. Although the Sovereigns of France established academies, and fomented scientific discoveries (for these the world beheld), they did little towards eradicating this prejudice among their courtiers (for that was a domestic concern). To write a fair and legible hand, was derogatory to nobility; and to spell right was pedantic. The populace followed the easy example of the great; and the time is not yet beyond the memory of the living, when every sign-post contained proofs of their success.
We have ourselves been struck with the difference which the great towns of France, compared to Geneva, offered in this respect; and have often remarked, how few examples of such popular ignorance occurred in the classic capital of Helvetian literature. The language of conversation, that for which the uses of polished society created a constant demand in Paris, was not thus neglected; and one of the commonest occurrences was a flow of elegant expressions, squared and polished by the inexorable rule of fashion, from the tongue of a person who could not have committed to paper a single phrase with accuracy, or maintained an argument upon any subject, independent of the little nothings of the beau monde. The revolution indeed, by cutting deeply into that species of society, and forcing reflection to encroach a little upon garrulity, has brought the spoken and the written languages of France somewhat nearer to one level. Still, however, the vestiges of former ignorance are not effaced; and this one emblem of feodality has escaped the general ravage. Neither are all modern monuments exempt from it. At this present hour, two streets in Paris, the brilliant capital of European refinement, exemplify the fact; and as the Police, that is to say, the Government, is a party concerned in the transaction, we quote it with greater confidence. On the north-west corner of the Rue des Bons Enfans, the name is thus written-Rue des Bons En Fans. On the south-east corner of the Rue de Varennes, the name stands thus, Rue de Va reine. The former of these mistakes has been exposed to view for very many years; the latter is of recent date.
Knowledge of every species is more confined to one class in France, than in England; and constitutes as it were un état, a profession, which is little mingled with the rest of the nation. Persons who figure in the foremost ranks of society, seldom pos. sess more than that light and easy kind of anecdotic literature, and biographical history which, when made up into squibs and cartridges, and levelled with the address which they so eminently possess, make a considerable flash in drawing-room oratory. But it is rare that, in the circles of good company, scientific or literary conversation ever takes its turn. Indeed, with the exception of a very limited society in Paris only, knowledge is but little respected throughout France. But, in Britain, science is an introduction into the highest circles of fashion; and the most eminent men, in every department, may meet with their equals in profoundness, among persons of the most exalted rank. Let a philosopher travel where he may in this Island, to the towns, to the country, to our manufactories, to the seats of our great proprietors, of our noblemen, he never will get beyond the pale of rational information; and will be able to indulge in literary or scientific conversation, as long as he continues within the wide circle, which corresponds to British ideas of the society of gentlemen. In France, a yawning chasm separates the boundaries of ignorance and knowledge; and that chasm is filled by levity and jargon. Between the savant and the ignorant there is no intermediate pr connecting link in their society.
Such a state of knowledge and instruction, in the two coun