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administration of the kingdom. The ministers of Prussia must have been thunderstruck to see themselves furnished with more ample materials than they could find in the Bureaux of their own respective departments; and this, too, by a man who was only a few months among them, and had done nothing, to all appearance, but show himself in society. But, as usual, Mirabeau was only the architect. The joinery and masonry were executed by Major Mauvillon, an officer whose serviceable, but unknown talents, the Count had honoured with his confidence, and, moreover, with all the drudgery of the compilation!
The reputation of Mirabeau as a writer was at this time rapidly advancing. There was scarcely a subject of much popular interest which he did not turn into fame and profit. Romilly had addressed a letter to a friend on the horrors of the Salpetriêre and Bicêtre, Mirabeau soon got hold of it. To translate and publish it was the affair of a single day; and that it might form a little volume, he joined with it the version of an anonymous pamphlet on the administration of penal law in England. The whole was announced as a translation from the English by Count M., but the public insisted on giving him full credit for the original authorship. The sale was accordingly rapid, and the profit covered his expenses for a whole month! He published on banking-on stock-jobbing-on the order of Cincinnatus, &c. &c. He published-but if all the writers had claimed their share, there would have been left for Mirabeau little, but the skilful combination-the bold touches-the biting epigrams and the occasional flashes of masculine eloquence, very different from that of the French Academy! At one time the underlings began to rebel. But it was all in vain. The Count's reputation was now too firmly established to be assailed by the murmurs of the operatives. Besides, they had, after all, but little reason to complain. But for his parental offices, their obscure labours would never have seen the sun; or, if they had, they would, probably, have perished almost as soon as born, for want of the principle of life and vigour which he alone could impart to them.
During these two months Dumont lived more, than during whole years of the rest of his life. Just before his departure, Mirabeau put into his hand a list of literary articles, with which he gravely expected his friend to furnish him soon after his arrival in England. Their number was no less than eighteen! This was an instance of his insatiable avarice of materials for future reproduction. He would have desired no better-says Mr. Dumont than to be the Bureau d'adresse of the whole universe. So much for his mere intellectual powers, as hitherto
developed and displayed. His moral peculiarities were scarcely less perplexing and anomalous. If we may trust the author of these memoirs, he was the votary of vice, and the idolater of virtue. He was one of the most profligate men of his age; but, nevertheless, he had a decided predilection for men of rigorous principles, and of manners directly opposite to his own. Whether this is to be ascribed to his love of contrast-to a relish for antithesis, extended even to morals-or whether it was the effect of a certain native elevation of mind, it may not be very easy to decide. His friend is disposed to ascribe it to the more noble He fancied that he could discern in Mirabeau, through the disguise of his vices, a vigour and dignity of character, which plainly distinguished him from all those featureless personsthose mere shadows and apparitions-which then flitted about in Parisian society: in short, that his virtues were his own, and his defects borrowed or adopted from other men. At the same time he confesses, that the exalted feelings of honour, which were so active within him, were impulses rather than principles; and that there was nothing in him uniform or sustained. His movements, (if we may venture to supply an illustration,) were like those of the kangaroo. It seemed as if his mind was incapable of the ordinary paces of mortal men, and could only go forward by prodigious leaps and bounds. In addition to all this irregu larity, his passions were absolutely terrific. He burned with pride. He was devoured by jealousy. His aberrations were so wild and impetuous, that he often lost all knowledge or recollection of himself.
In 1789 Dumont returned to Paris. His recollections of all he saw and heard at that period present him with nothing but a chaos of confused opinions. Necker was the divinity of the moment. Sieyes, at that time little known, was, nevertheless, the prompter of all who were impatient to speak on public affairs. Rabaud de St. Etienne and Target were at least on a level with Sieyes in reputation. La Fayette, with his head full of America, was thought to be ambitious of becoming the Washington of France. The house of the Duc de la Rochfoucald was the point of union for all the nobility who were favourable to popular measures, and the abandonment of privileges. Those of the noblesse who were desirous of preserving the ancient constitution of the States-General, formed the aristocratic party, and were the objects of outrageous invective. Still, though the noise was loud, the individuals who made it were comparatively few. The great body of the nation, even at Paris, looked forward to the States-General merely as an instrument for the diminution of taxes. The creditors of the state considered them
solely as a rampart against bankruptcy: they had often suffered bitterly from the breach of the public faith; the deficit made them tremble; and they were glad of any hopeful expedient for placing the finance of the country on a footing of stability. In other respects, the diversity of views was endless. The Noblesse had, within their own pale, an Aristocracy and a Democracy—so had the Church-and so likewise had the Tiers-Etat. "It is impossible," says Mr. Dumont, "to paint the confusion of ideasthe derangement of imaginations-the downright burlesque of popular notions-the fears-the hopes-the passions of all parties." Any one would have imagined, (as the Count de Laraguais observed,) that he was looking on the world the day after the creation; that hostile and divided colonies were adjusting their allotments, just as if nothing had ever existed before them; and that the past was to go for nothing in making arrangements for the future!
The French names introduced above will remind the reader that this picture represents the state of things at the commencement of the French revolution. If those names had been omitted, he might have been in danger of fancying that he was reading a description of certain matters much more recent, and much nearer home!
When the States General were opened, the first thing they did was to quarrel about the verification of their powers. The Tiers-Etat insisted that it should be done in common; the two Orders that it should be done separately. The question was trifling in appearance; but, in its tendency, of immense import ance. The Tiers-Etat was resolved, that they and the two orders should form one general Assembly, in which their own preponderance was certain, and the influence of all other parties would be inevitably swamped. Upon this object, therefore, they fixed from the very outset. This was a prey which nothing could rend from their jaws; and the nobility and clergy incurred contempt as well as hatred by their powerless efforts to take it from them.
Mr. Dumont very justly remarks, that the omission to settle this question, before the actual assembling of the States, was one of the most fatal blunders of the ministry. If the King had de cided for the union of the Orders, he would have secured the Tiers-Etat; had he pronounced for the separation of the chambers, he would have lost the Tiers-Etat indeed, but he would have gained the Nobles and the Church. But whatever might have been his decision, it would have been obeyed; for no one would have thought of commencing the session of the States by an act of resistance to the King, who was then regarded as the provisional legislator. He left the question undecided, and thus
threw open the lists to the combatants, with the certain issue that the royal authority would become the spoil of the conqueror. The interval of inaction occasioned by this controversy, was, beyond measure, pernicious. The flames of party spirit grew fiercer every moment. The third Estate advanced daily from strength to strength; and at last felt themselves powerful enough to send a peremptory summons to the two Orders, and, on their refusal, to constitute themselves a National Assembly. The germs of confusion were prodigally scattered, and rapidly took root, during this miserable interregnum. The epoch, says Mr. Dumont, is one which is worthy of the deepest attention of the historian. Alas! for the ignorance or inadvertence of the man! Had he not learned, or had he forgotten, that history is of no more value than Moore's Almanac, and that the annals of past times are fit only to repose with the reveries of Albumazar or Messahalah?
Before we proceed with Count Mirabeau, it may be as well to introduce here some description of his personal appearance. He was of a large, robust figure. His features were strongly and coarsely marked, and his face actually riddled with the small pox. But he was proud of his very deformity. He imagined that there was something irresistibly commanding in it. "People do not know," he would say, "the power of my ugliness." His toilet was, evermore, an affair of the gravest importance. His head of hair was enormous, and was always most scientifically arranged, so as formidably to augment the volume of his head; and, when thus prepared and fitted out, Olympian Pericles was not worthy to be compared to him. "Whenever I shake my terrific locks," he said, "there lives not the mortal that would dare to interrupt me. He would studiously place himself before a large mirror while he was speaking, in order that he might have the satisfaction of contemplating the majestic dignity of his own demeanourthrowing back his head, and squaring his shoulders in the attitude of defiance. He seemed to derive an additional inspiration from the sight of his own image. Nay, he was elevated and enchanted with the very sound of his own name, and would often frame imaginary dialogues, in which he himself was always introduced, as a speaker, with these words: "Le Comte de Mirabeau vous repondra," &c. &c.
Such was the curious mortal who was soon to appear as the mightiest orator of France. His first appearance in the great national club was anything but gratifying. When the appel nominal was made, his name was, positively, received with yells and hootings. The explosion of insult and contempt was such as would have destroyed any man but Mirabeau. Such was his in
famous celebrity, that, in the Assembly, they spoke openly of quashing his election, when they came to the verification of their powers. He attempted to speak on three occasions, but the murmurs were so loud and general that even he was silenced. However, if he could not get a hearing there, he knew that he was sure of one elsewhere; and so he, incontinently, published a journal, under the title of the States-General, in which he mercilessly caricatured the whole Assembly-compared the deputies to a pack of schoolboys, unkenneled for the holidays-gibbeted Necker, the idol of the nation-and overwhelmed the government and the legislators with a volley of epigrams. The anonymous sheets were soon suppressed by authority; but this only made matters worse. Mirabeau was rather animated than dejected by this arbitrary proceeding, and, instantly, came forth, in person, with a letter to his constituents. He thus placed himself in a position perfectly unassailable; for who would dare to question the right of a representative to render an account to the people of the public proceedings of their Assembly?
His exasperation, at this period, was absolutely furious. He protested that he was the victim of a sort of ostracism against talents!-but he vowed that he would throw a weight into the balance which should make his persecutors feel how light they were. Dumont spared no pains to lower these inflammatory symptoms. He had influence enough to persuade him to re-cast entirely the draft he had prepared of the letter to his constituents, and to give it a tone of greater moderation; and he wrung from him a promise that he would abstain from forcing himself upon the Assembly-that he would suffer all the half-talents and half-reputations to find their level-and would wait for some occasion of speaking, which might be worthy of his powers. Soon after this, he was introduced to Necker, with a view to his admission to office. From this conference he came forth with no feelings of idolatry. He said that it would be doing great wrong to the minister to suspect him either of malice of heart, or depth of understanding. The interview, however, was not wholly fruit. less. It opened to him the glimpse of an embassy to Constantinople. He was delighted with the proposal at the time. It not only gratified his self-importance, but it awakened, in a moment, his passion for gigantic literary adventure. The very thought of the" turbaned Turks" raised up in his mind the project of an— Ottoman Encyclopædia! But the subsequent turn of affairs, and the vast ascendency of Mirabeau, soon raised him far above an embassy, and placed him in a condition to dictate stipulations rather than to receive them.
It should be noticed, that his first triumph in the Assembly had