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Quarterly Theological Review,
ART. I.-Souvenirs sur Mirabeau et sur les deux premières Assemblées Legislatives. Par Etienne Dumont, de Genève. London. Bull. 1832. 8vo. pp. 342.
ALL the world is exclaiming that this is one of the most interesting and instructive volumes which has ever been presented to their notice. Whig and Tory-Conservative and Radical--all join in the general chorus of encomium. Even the revolutionary press has had the candour to invite the public attention to it, although it teaches some lessons that might well cause the Genius of Revolution to cower "like a guilty thing," and to shrink back to its native darkness. It is, however, impossible to be surprised at this unanimity of praise. In the first place, the period to which the volume relates is one of intense and tremendous interest: secondly, the principal figure in the group which it exhibits was among the most extraordinary specimens of human nature which the world has ever looked upon: thirdly, the artist who has executed these vigorous sketches is a person eminent alike for his talents and his virtues: and, lastly, the volume derives an unspeakable charm, even from its unfinished character; for it rather resembles a collection of masterly fragments than a complete work; and the mind is consequently relieved from the weariness, which is apt to steal over flesh and spirit, in toiling through a formal treatise or a regular and solemn history.
A word or two respecting the author, before we proceed to the book itself. Mr. Dumont was a native of Geneva. His original profession was the Church, and when very young he succeeded in fixing his reputation as a powerful preacher. In 1783 he visited Petersburgh, where certain individuals of his family were then established; and, during a residence of eighteen months, acquired the regard of all who knew him, by the activity of his NO. XXIII.-JULY, 1832.
mind and the elevation of his principles. In 1783, he left Petersburgh for London, where he became attached to Lord Shelburne, then prime minister. His first connection with that nobleman was in the character of tutor to his son; and, in that office, he speedily entitled himself to the confidence and friendship of his patron. It was at this period that he became acquainted with Fox, and Sheridan, and Lord Holland, and many other of the most illustrious men in England; of whom Sir S. Romilly seems to have stood foremost in his esteem and admi
It was in 1788 that he first became personally known to Mirabeau, during a short residence at Paris with Sir S. Romilly, already his intimate friend. On his return from that excursion, he formed an intimacy with the renowned Jeremy Bentham, with whose speculations he was so deeply captivated, that he devoted the greater portion of his life to the labour of interpreting to mankind, the somewhat oracular utterances of that Lycophron of Jurisprudence.
In 1789, Mr. Dumont was tempted back to Paris, by the return of Mr. Necker to the administration; an event which held out some prospect of the restoration of her lost independence to the Republic of Geneva. When once he was in the French capital, he found that events were in progress there, of such stupendous interest, that he was unable to deny himself the pleasure of hovering near their line of march. He speedily renewed his connection with Mirabeau, and became his secret and confidential auxiliary, both in the composition of his writings and the advancement of his projects. But the office of doer (faiseur) to that turbulent politician, threatened at last to force him into a painful and rather inglorious notoriety; and, for this reason, he returned, after some time, to England; and plunged once more into the enchanting labyrinth of Mr. Bentham's meditations.
In 1814, the restoration of Geneva recalled him to his country, which, from that time to the hour of his death, he never quitted for any considerable interval. He there merited the gratitude of his countrymen by the dedication of his talents to their interests; and won the attachment of all to whom he was known by the goodness of his heart, the energy of his benevolence, and the superiority of his attainments and abilities. His death took place in 1829, during an excursion of pleasure in the North of Italy.
Previously to the appearance of this work, Mr. Dumont had been principally known as the apostle of Mr. Bentham. It so happens, however, that the missionary has departed this world before the prophet; but, it appears that he has left behind him
various writings in manuscript, dictated, not by a love of literary renown, but chiefly by his zealous desire to put the world in complete possession of the discoveries and revelations of his venerated master. Of these compositions, no part is, at present, (according to the judgment of the editor, Mr. Duval,) in a condition to be presented to the public. It has therefore been thought advisable to select from his posthumous works the present volume, for immediate publication; both, because it was less in need of revision than the rest, and because it exhibits the powers of the deceased as an original writer. Mr. Dumont appears before us now-not as the interpreter of Jeremy Bentham but as the sagacious and philosophic observer of great events, and over-ruling characters. In his other writings, his own labours are so mixed up with those which it was his purpose to illustrate, that it would be impossible to separate his fame, as a Publicist, from that of his great original. But, here, he steps forward in a character which raises our regret that a larger portion of his time was not devoted to some more independent walk of literature.
We now hasten to the volume before us. It consists entirely of Reminiscences. The author is incessantly regretting that he omitted, while he was on the spot, to detain and perpetuate a multitude of fleeting facts and circumstances, highly interesting in themselves, but, apparently, of slight importance, as they were hurrying onward in the tumultuous procession of mighty events. Had he but preserved minute and written notices of every thing that was passing before his eyes, he might have enriched the world with a representation of those fearful times, which would have united all the charms both of picturesque and philosophical interest. As it is-he complains he has little to offer but a collection of confused remembrances. He sat down to his work at the importunity of his friends; and soon found himself engaged in the task of recalling the lineaments of a fierce and vexatious dream, which had long past away-but which, fortunately, had left traces too deep to be ever obliterated from his memory. His narrative begins with the year 1789, the period at which he visited Paris together with his friend Duroverai, ancient Procurator-General of Geneva, for the purpose of deriving advantage to his country from Mr. Necker's re-establishment in the ministry: but before his plunge into the midst of affairs, he introduces a few brief notices respecting the previous life and habits of Mirabeau. It appears that this strange man had been in London in 1784, and had there become intimate with Romilly. At that time his only trade was literature; his pen was the only instrument he had, whereby to work his way in the world, or even to win his daily bread. But never was adventurer more indefa
tigable, more enterprising, or less fastidious. Nothing came aniss to him. No matter whether he knew any thing of his subject or not; to work he went. To study a thing, and to write upon it, were, with him, one and the same process; and nothing could be more surprising than the dimensions to which all literary projects would suddenly swell, the moment he laid his hand upon them. He got acquainted with a geographer-and, immediately, the outline of a Universal Geography was spread out before his mental vision. If any one had proposed to him the elements of a Chinese Grammar, the design would instantly have expanded into a comprehensive treatise on that language. A sufficient honorarium would easily have engaged him in the compilation of an Encyclopædia; and if he did but little of what he undertook, by his own personal labour, he had a wonderful, aud almost magic facility, in appropriating the labours of other men. Though his patience of mere drudgery was small, his activity was immense. He was incessant in his inquiries among people who could furnish him with information. He was wonderfully sagacious in unearthing hidden talents. Where he did not work himself, he contrived to make other people work with a vengeance. He could surround himself with under-labourers, whom he brought into subservience by the arts of flattery, by professions of personal friendship, and by an appeal to all the motives of public spirit. The men thus employed were the carpenters, the hod-bearers, and the masons; but Mirabeau alone was the architect. His conversation was a perfect whetstone, which gave the keenest edge to the tools he employed. Nothing was ever lost by him. Anecdotes-conversations-thoughts-all were carefully laid up in his capacious repository. He made the reading and the studies of his friends completely his own; and he managed so to use his most recent acquisitions, as to give the impression that he had never been without them. And by these means it was that any work which he undertook advanced, under his hands, with astonishing rapidity towards its completion. It was as if one could see a tree growing visibly, day by day, and almost hour by hour, to its full dimensions. By these accomplishments and fascinations he secured the services of Mr. Dumont. No sooner did he find that this gentleman might be made useful to him, than he began to say all manner of handsome things of his friends, and, above all, to talk to him about Geneva. This," says Mr. Dumont, was a sort of Ranz des Vaches to me!-and thus it was that I was first mollified, and then subjugated."
In 1788, when Dumont and Romilly arrived in Paris, the personal character of Count Mirabeau was at the lowest possible discount. His litigations with his own family his familiarity with
the inside of prisons-his licentious manners--his abductions of women-all these were too much even for the accommodating morals of the good city of Paris. His name was pronounced with scorn in all respectable families. Romilly began to be ashamed of him, and had resolved to have nothing to do with him. But Mirabeau was not to be shaken off. He was not
a man of punctilio. He found out their lodging; and one day a carriage was heard rolling to the door. Romilly retired to his chamber; and, immediately after, Count Mirabeau was announced. He immediately began to converse with Dumont about Geneva-the mother of so many distinguished men!-and to protest that he never should be happy until he could be instrumental to the restoration of her liberties. There was no resisting this. Two hours glided away like a single moment; and, in the eyes of Dumont, every thing interesting in Paris was concentrated in the person of Count Mirabeau! "With whom, in the name of wonder," said Romilly, issuing from his imprisonment, when the visitor was gone-" with whom is it that you have been conversing this tedious length of time?"-"It is one you are well acquainted with, and, surely, you must have overheard an Eloge, of which you were the subject, and which might make a superb funeral oration."-"What Mirabeau!"-" Even Mirabeau and I am this day going to dine with him!" The Count himself soon returned, and carried off the pliant Genevan and the saturnine Englishman in triumph. All prejudice vanished. The triumvirate were perpetually together; the belle saison was diversified with parties of pleasure; they dined together at the Bois de Boulogne-at St. Cloud-at Vincennes; at which last place, a part of the entertainment of the day was a visit to the dungeon in which the Count once had the honour to be incarcerated for three years!
The colloquial fascinations of this extraordinary man, appear to have been of the very highest order. He broke down all the conventional impediments by which men are kept at a convenient distance from each other. He came, at once, into contact with his companions. And yet, under the disguise of an abrupt and blunt familiarity, he would conceal the most consummate artifices of flattery and politeness. Nothing could be more animating than the transition, from the flat and smooth surface of common-place society, to the sharpness and roughness of the coin, fresh from the mintage of Mirabeau. He was then, too, full of curious anecdotes, gathered in his residence at Berlin, where he had resided a short time; and had signalized his return by the publication of a work on the Prussian Monarchy in eight volumes, in which every thing was collected which related to the