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and attracted, and effaced by the splendour of his own genius, the converging tendencies of many minds anterior to his own. With none of Voltaire's advantages - low in origin, coarse in tastes, repulsing the intimacy and outraging the self-opinion of literary folks, wayward in heart and understanding, to a degree which amounted to unquestionable insanity-Rousseau swayed the world by two prevailing qualities. He was the great poet of the universal passion— love. He was the great prophet of the doctrine most universally seductive to the human intellect
-the perfectibility of man. He introduced man to a new guide -- a guide who might serve either as a substitute for revelation or a companion to it; teaching, that every man was indeed a law unto himself
. If not absolutely the first to proclaim this doctrine, he was the first to clothe it sometimes with the seductive graces of refined voluptuousness, sometimes with the still more powerful attractions of asceticism and self-denial, borrowed from a severer creed; oftener still, with the charms of philanthropy. This was, in truth, as has been often observed, a consummation for which the world had been long preparing: The practical sense of man's corruption through original sin, the moving principle of so many religious reformations, had long been dying away. Rome had preserved it dogmatically ; but, mingled as it was in the view of Romanists with the tenets of a denounced and unpopular school, it was daily more and more lost sight of in their general teaching. Polite Calvinism was thrusting it into the background as fanatical, the Church of England as methodistical. The principles of Rousseau had at the utmost to break down, or rather to sap, the fence of a few traditionary dogmas, and appeared to numbers of unsuspicious believers fit to take their place side by side with such diluted Christianity as they possessed.
Accordingly, the influence of the Gospel of Rousseau,' as it has been called with greater force than is often contained in a mere sarcasm, spread with electric rapidity over Europe and America. It became at once the sole religion of multitudes, the subsidiary religion of multitudes more. Christianity itself, - that is, the Christianity of the world,—seemed, as we have said, to embrace and admit it; much as Christianity had in early times appeared to admit the popular infusion of Platonism ; less, no doubt, in England than elsewhere; but to an extent we seldom realise, even among our own insulated and unsentimental people. If it entered most powerfully into the new Catholicism of the Stolbergs, Schlegel, and the rest, on the Continent; if it penetrated among the Pietists of Protestant Germany, where, as Göthe himself says, as soon as the belief in good works and
The Gospel of Rousseau.'
“their merit ceased, sentimentalism took its place; it was not less distinctly traceable in the tendencies of many popular religionists among ourselves. It insinuated itself Quakers and Unitarians; it made way even among the children of Knox and Cameron; nay, the very names of our Howards and Wilberforces, of which Religion is so justly proud, cannot be altogether disengaged from the ties of partial allegiance to that of Rousseau. Anglicanism alone-strong in its calmness, perhaps its coldness— seems to have rejected the specious importation almost wholly, and from the beginning.
The time of that intermixture has nearly passed by. The two streams, apparently commingled for a period, have run themselves clear again. The adherents of Revelation, taught by the brief duration and shameful fall of that palace of selfrighteousness and vain-glory which Rousseau and his followers raised, have returned in great measure under the severer discipline of ancient belief. Among all the conflicts of modern religious schools, this, at least, seems to us discernible, notwithstanding some recent and partial appearances to the contrary, that the sense of the corruption of human nature, the strong Anti-Pelagian view of man and the world, however various the shapes which its conclusions may assume among Catholics and Protestants, gains ground, and becomes more and more characteristic; that the sects and shades of thinkers which hold by the more indulgent doctrine, become more and more distinctly marked off from the body of believers, and thrown into affinity with those who reject Revelation. But the system of Rousseau, though no longer the reigning one either in philosophy or religion, is still, perhaps, the most generally popular of all. Examine throughout Europe the life of courts and cities, the most commonly read literature of the day, the received social theories of the middle classes, and the feelings of women in particular, and wherever strict religious views do not prevail, it will be found that the ordinary substitute is still the Gospel of • Rousseau.'
To compare the influence exercised by these two on European thought would be an endless task. So far as Englishmen may venture to pass judgment on such a point, we should say, that in a mere literary point of view, the influence of Voltaire had been almost wholly for good, that of Rousseau simply mischievous. Nor is this difficult to account for. The best points of Voltaire were precisely those in which it was most easy to follow him. His wit was eminently national, and differed only in degree from that possessed by numbers of his compatriots. His clearness of expression, his critical acuteness, and the charms of his narrative, are all qualities in which he leaves a model more or less easily imitable. And accordingly most of the better class of French historical and philosophical works, written since Voltaire's day, savours of Voltaire in every line. Rousseau, on the contrary, is a writer for whom the Horatian phrase - exemplar vitiis imitabile — appears to have been invented. His worst points are those most easily seized, and most tempting to the imitator. His peculiar genius, which redeems them, is unapproachable. Men of lively but shallow fancy, ready rhetorical talent, and a superficial warmth of feeling, catch and exaggerate the tone of Rousseau with fatal facility; and thus are produced the popular sentimental writers whose fashion culminates, declines, and vanishes almost within a generation — the Saint Pierres, Chateaubriands, Lamartines, and the like.
But if we turn from the world of letters to that of life, as exhibited in modern political history, we shall meet with a very different result. Among those whose mental character and culture carry us back to Voltaire, we shall find many distinguished men; but all occupiers of second-rate, though eminent situations. This is the school which furnishes society with such leaders as Condorcet, Talleyrand, Metternich, Thiers; but the real masters of men, those who have moved millions by the force of a contagious enthusiasm, have always had a touch of the spirit of Rousseau: such men as Mirabeau, Robespierre, Napoleon, Nelson — however startling the juxta-position may appear.
As, in the history of a single human life, relaxation of energies is sure to follow their unnatural tension; as, with men of intellectual character, a youth of enthusiasm, full of strong purposes and exaggerated impulses, is commonly followed by a gradual disenchantment, until the care of self and its interests seems to become the only reality; as such men learn to smile at their past delusions -- to look with an indulgence, half contemptuous and half tender, on their younger companions who are possessed with those longings of which they have proved the vanity; as they gradually retreat from one advanced position to another, until understanding, and wit, and cultivated sensibilities, and all the powers which once wandered through eter
nity,' are tamed and disciplined to the household business of smoothing their owner's progress through the troubles of the world ; such were the changes which came over the philosophical mind of Europe when Rousseau was dethroned, with the fall of his extravagant child, the Republic. Thenceforward the spirit which he had aroused passed to the outer multitude of thinkers and readers, the ordinary preservers of the last by-gone fashion. Among the more advanced class, the pretensions of his imitators
Early Influence of Voltaire on Göthe.
were received only with ridicule. Something new was wanted. Voltaire had exhausted for the time intellectual scepticism, and Rousseau sentiment. Voltaire had mocked at ordinary human nature; Rousseau had deified it. What was left, for those who had witnessed the decline of both, except the philosophy which turns from the unsolved enigmas of man’s general nature and destinies to the cultivation of self, which strives to eliminate, as far as possible, the various impulses which lead to extravagance - which passes by religion with a bow, and philanthropy with a sneer, and teaches men that the real aim of his existence in this world is refined enjoyment of it? When the time for a new religion has arrived, a prophet has never been wanting to place himself at the head of it; and that eminence, in the present instance, was reserved for Göthe.
Göthe was born in 1749, consequently ten years earlier than Schiller and the others whom we commonly regard as his contemporaries. The habit of attaching himself more closely to younger men was one of his characteristics, as we shall see presently; and this circumstance, together with others, tends to make us forget his actual age, and rank him lower down in his century than his proper place. Nor is the distinction without importance ; for Göthe being ten years older than his companions of whom we speak, received the full tide of the irruption of Rousseau into Germany in a soberer and less impressionable mood than they. His early youth passed away under the dominion of Voltaire; and he has recorded in his conversations with Eckermann the deep impression which the philosophy of that school made on him. He says himself that he resisted its influence successfully. It is probable that he was scarcely so much exposed to its contagion as he imagined. There were Teutonic faculties and deficiencies about him with which Voltairianism was incompatible: too much real depth of thought and feeling; an appetite for mysticism, though rather intellectual than of the heart; a wonderful penetration into the mental condition of other men, and power of seeing with other's eyes, such as no Frenchman ever possessed, and Voltairian Frenchmen least of all; a deficiency, we cannot but add, in the quality of wit - whatever his countrymen may think of the matter most strange in a mind so richly furnished with other gifts. We are apt, therefore, on the whole, to interpret those passages in which he attributes so much of his own mental cultivation to Voltaire, as savouring a little of the common perversity of men of genius in judging of themselves; the same which made Byron vilipend the romantic school, and pronounce himself the follower of Pope; a slight affectation of contemning the qualities in which they excel, and praising those in which they fall short. Thus far, however, is true, that some results of Encyclopedic teaching, combined with some natural coldness of disposition, and with a certain pride in superiority to mere enthusiasm, such as that of Schiller, enabled Göthe to resist the pressure of the Sturm und · Drang Zeit,' and the more powerful seductions of the Theophilanthropic social philosophy, which made conquest of Germany in the years immediately preceding the French Revolution.
At a later period, Göthe's literary and personal friendship with Schiller became one of the warmest feelings of a heart not much addicted to expansive sympathies, at least with the masculine division of humankind. Yet it is difficult to suppose that his admiration of the younger poet, as an author, however sincere, was of any very high order. As a man of the world, and a courtier, Göthe had always something of a Byronic contempt for mere men of letters; and Schiller was one of the most childlike of the species. Both as a critic and a keen observer of life, he was thoroughly alive to the unreality of Schiller's poetical world, and the defects of dramatic studies elaborated from books, not from life. Moreover, the impartial judge must plainly admit that there was no sympathy in Göthe's heart with that singular purity of feeling, that unsuspecting romance of character, which, with the unsophisticated and uncritical, is Schiller's greatest charm.
In fact, the connexion of Göthe with Schiller is one of the passages in the elder poet's life which we dwell on at once with pleasure and with regret. Nothing can be more attractive than the honest admiration of the established favourite for the rising one ; – the elder brother's fondness with which he at once cautions him against error, and defends him against attacks ; their chivalrous union against hostile criticism, dulness, and • Philisterheit.' Schiller's popularity for a time eclipsed Göthe's; yet appears to have been as thoroughly enjoyed by Göthe as if it had been his own. The early death of the former alone put an end to a literary friendship which, under the circumstances, may almost be termed unexampled.
And yet all the time we feel a painful consciousness that the men were divided from each other by a 'monstrous gulf' in Schiller's own words; a more dreary gulf' than that of literary jealousy. We do not speak of mere inequality of powers, although Schiller's place, as it appears to us, is at best only an elevated one among the Dî minores of literature; Göthe's, perhaps, a low one among the superior Divinities; but from the lowest of these last to the highest of the second-rates, the distance is greater than
• From the centre thrice to the utmost pole.'