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of Lafontaine's brain, every feature in his poetry; Lafontaine himself would have been amazed, could he have read the book, to find himself credited with aims and purposes of which he in reality had not the faintest conception when he wrote his fables, to hear himself proclaimed to be the representative and mirror of his time, to discover, finally, that he owed his achievements, not to his own genius and abilities, but to the united co-operation of all the conditions and circumstances in the midst of which he lived.
That every human being is born with certain tendencies peculiar to his race, which guide his thoughts and actions; that all his ideas and his deeds, whether good or evil, are to be traced to these innate tendencies, as a river to its sources,—these are the views which Taine, since his Lafontaine début, has ever and everywhere asserted, maintained, and, according to his own conviction, established.
Established! yes, that is the crucial point. As a rule it is admitted that the critic can do no more than express his own opinion. He fulfils his duty when he carefully studies his subject and deals with it dispassionately and as impartially as possible. More is not, and cannot be, demanded from him. Every critic judges according to his circumstances, his experiences, his degree of culture, his fancy, his prejudices, expectations, and sympathies; hence each single criticism remains in every respect an expression of individual opinion. If a criticism commends itself to a majority of men as true and just, it is adopted ; but it is not necessarily competent to establish the real worth or worthlessness of the subject under discussion. Quite different are Taine's views of criticism. He deems it possible to bring certainty into criticism; he insists upon endowing criticism, like physics and mathematics, with the fixedness of scientific formulæ, hedging it round with irrefragable dogmas. His point of view is that criticism must no longer be unreliable, its results no longer fluctuating. At the age of five-and-twenty he springs, a modern Pallas, into literature, ready aimed at all points with a critical system, a philosophy, and last, not least, a style of his own. All that he has more minutely developed in the course of several decades is already to be found in his maiden work on Lafontaine. The novelty of the theories, as well as the fresh, forcible, vivacious style of the
young doctor won him many friends among the public. Nothing venture, nothing have. - It was not long before another opportunity offered of making his voice heard and applying his theories afresh. In the year 1854 the French Academy offered a prize for the best essay on Livy. The life of the historian was to be related, the circumstances under which he wrote, and the principles according to which he planned his history, were to be discussed, and his place in the ranks of historians was to be determined. None of the essays sent in was considered worthy of the prize, but Taine's was pronounced the best; only the stricture was added, that it betrayed 'a deficiency in seriousness and in admiration for the brilliant name and the genius of the distinguished man whom he had to criticise. Taine re-wrote his paper, sent it in again, and this time obtained the prize. Villemain, as spokesman of the Committee of Adjudicators, commended the work in the highest terms, though he was not in harmony with the contents, and said: "We feel bound to congratulate the author on this creditable début on the territory of classical learning, and only wish that we may find similar competitors for all our other offers of prizes, and that we may have such teachers in our schools;' a sarcastic allusion which drew a gentle smile from the dignified Immortals.
The happy author published his prize essay under the title of Essai sur Tite-Live, with a preface which was an unpleasant surprise to some of the members of the Academy, and made them wish it were possible to retract their eulogiums and distinctions. In it Taine pushed farther the consequences of his new theories. He maintained with Spinoza that the relation of man to nature is not that of an imperium in imperio, but that of a part to the whole; that the mind of man is, like the outer world, subject to laws; that a dominant principle regulates the thoughts and urges on the human machine irresistibly and inevitably. In a word, our author regards man as a 'walking theorem.' Naturally he was charged with denying freedom of will and being a fatalist. His opponents also, and not unreasonably, pointed out the necessary irreconcilability of the ideas represented by two such different names as Livy and Spinoza, and showed how paradoxical it was to cite the writings of the Roman historian in support of the philosophical speculations of the Dutch Jew. But paradox is Taine's element. As to the book itself, it was received with universal applause. The reading public sympathised as little with the author's speculations concerning the historian as with those on Lafontaine, but they appreciated the undeniable merits of both works. Taine contends that the birthplace and mode of life of Livy, the time in which he lived, the events of which he was witness, the direction of his taste and of his studies—that all these co-operated to make him an "oratorical historian.' The want of method in the arrangement of his great work, the sentiments expressed in it, the prevailing tone and style, the frequency of the speeches occurring in it—all these things are adduced by Taine in support of his hypothesis, and he goes so far as to assert this to be incontestable certainty. Now everyone will allow that the surrounding circumstances,' which Taine makes the foundation of his deductions respecting Lafontaine, Livy, and others--time, place, conditions of life, &c.—are valuable and weighty factors in forming a decision about individuals and peoples ; but nobody can allow them to constitute infallible certainty in questions of criticism, least of all when we are discussing persons and races long gone by, and whose surrounding circumstances ’ we have not before our eyes, but are obliged
to construct in a great measure; such a necessarily inductive criticism must ever remain hypothetical. It does not follow that it must be erroneous ; it may quite as possibly be correct; but Taine's conclusions with regard to Livy are not only hypothetical and fallible, but actually false. His argument is that Livy was rather a great orator than a great historian. He holds him not to be a good historian because he wields the pen as an orator ; he calls him an torical historian,' and attributes the beauties as well as the defects of his historical style to the preponderantly rhetorical character of his mind. The principle on which he bases this estimate of Livy is evidently erroneous, for Montesquieu, Macaulay, Gibbon, and others were no contemptible historians, notwithstanding their very eminent oratorical power. The same method by which Taine stamps Livy as
oratorical' historian might lead to the conclusion, equally hypothetical, that Livy was capable of writing the History of Rome only because he was endowed with the genius of a painter or poet. The logical premisses which Taine holds to be unassailable are by no means so. He tries to prove too much, and in his impatience to reach his conclusion, overlooks many things which make against his point of view. The fact that Livy—in contradistinction to the philosophical Thucydides and the practical Tacitus-neglects the grouping of incidents, the consultation of original authorities, and places characteristic expressions in the mouths of his personages, proves, not that he was an oratorical' historian, but that he was a careless writer. Facts are in direct opposition to Taine's hypothesis ; he has only maintained, but not proved, that the absence of philosophical generalisations and of diligent research is the characteristic of an orator, and that therefore Livy deserves to be called an oratorical historian.' Many great orators, as we have said, have been admirable historians, and have exbibited remarkable powers of research. Taine seems to demand from Livy what is simply an impossibility : faultless, absolutely perfect writing of history.
Much more might be alleged against the propositions maintained in the Essai sur Tite-Live; suffice it to emphasise once more that the effort to constitute criticism an exact science has been as unsuccessful here as in the book on Lafontaine. In spite of diligent and careful application of the demonstrative method, criticism remains fallible and individual. By the repetition of because and therefore’ a case may be made clearer and less unreliable, but that is not equivalent to proof. As a result of Taine's process we have only a series of paradoxes and generalisations, which, indeed, are always most ingeniously carried out, testify to earnestness and ardent pursuit of truth, and are worthy of the highest recognition, but unfortunately are not always infallible. While this clever mode of generalisation in Taine's hands served to enhance the poetic inspiration of Lafontaine, it served also to depreciate the historical endowment of Livy.
| Shortly after the publication of the Essai sur Tite-Live an obstinate affection of the throat compelled our author to seek the healing influence of the Pyrenean baths. The course of treatment extended through two years. For a short time he even lost his voice. During this journey in search of health his favourite study was Spencer’s Faerie Queene, which perhaps no other Frenchman had at that time read. This explains the high praise which Taine bestowed on the great Elizabethan poet at a later period in his History of English Literature. The life among the mountains furnished the invalid with material for fresh literary work. The result was a book entitled Voyage aux Pyrénées, which was afterwards enriched with admirable illustrations by Gustave Doré. To judge by the number of editions, this would seem to be the most popular of all Taine's works. In this he avails himself freely of the opportunity of employing his critical method in a new sphere : the art of travelling. His colleague, Edmond About, has also written valuable books of travel, but the author of A B C du Travailleur regards things from an entirely different point of view. He directs his attention rather to administrative questions, organisations, taxation, lighting, pavement, in short all that concerns modern civilisation. Taine, on the other hand, dwells more on the intellectual and artistic side of things; he surveys all with the eye of the learned critic; he compares the present with the past, and loves beautiful picturesque scenery. Lest he may become dry and stray too far from the subject in hand, he adopts the plan, instead of clothing his views in the didactic garb, of introducing persons who are to give expression to them, and others to advance opposite opinions. As we should naturally expect, right is always on the side of the author. “Monsieur Paul' is always right; hence Monsieur Paul evidently represents Monsieur Taine. This being so, the following portraiture of Paul may be taken for an autograph description-intentional or otherwise-of the author himself :
A daring traveller, an eccentric lover of painting, who believes in nobody but himself. A raisonneur much addicted to paradoxes with extreme opinions. His brain is always in a state of effervescence with some new idea which pursues him. He seeks truth in season and out of season. In spirit he is usually about a hundred miles in advance of other people. He enjoys being contradicted, but still more enjoys the pleasure of contradicting. Occasionally his pugnacious temperament leads him astray. In his egoism he regards the world as a puppet-show, in which he is the only spectator.
The book now under consideration showed Taine in a new light: as a descriptive writer of the first order. Hitherto he had been known as an acute critic and an original philosopher ; but now it was discovered that in him lay also a fanciful poet, a profound observer of men and manners, a genial and amusing raconteur, a close observer and interpreter of Nature. Books of travel may be divided generally into two classes: the first pretentious, in which the author decides dogmatically upon all that comes across him, without possessing the necessary information and capabilities; these books overflow with stupidity, vanity, and shallowness. The second class are less pretentious, but equally valueless: the author contents himself with transcribing from his guide-books descriptions of what he has seen, with some slight modifications, and giving a tolerably accurate list of the hotels in which the best beds, the cheapest dinners, and the lowest fees are to be secured. The only travels worthy of notice are included in neither of these two classes; among these Taine's works on the Pyrenees and Italy take a foremost place. He looks not so much on the external aspect of things as on their inner, their psychology; he only occupies himself with the outward so far as is necessary to draw from it arguments for the demonstrations and ratiocinations which he applies to all that he sees and observes. If he describes a landscape-and he does it in the most effective and picturesque manner-be at the same time analyses its separate constituents, and makes it clear how and why their combination produces the impression of beauty. He seeks to explain why many things appear beautiful to us to-day which formerly passed for ugly, and vice versa. He inquires into the influence of civilisation on the inhabitants of a region, and the changes which take place in the course of time in the condition of these inhabitants, as well as in their physical and moral constitution. | He traces all things up to their causes, and endeavours to investigate all, even the geological, botanical, and climatic conditions of the Pyrenees, but he dwells only so long upon them as to instruct the general reader without boring the initiated. He draws delicate pictures of the customs of the people and the tourist life. No doubt there may be errors and mis-statements in his travelling descriptions, as they are made subordinate to the illustration of his theories. But on the whole they are of considerable merit and the reverse of superficial.
His next publication was, The French Philosophers of the Nineteenth Century (1856), a witty, telling, acute analysis of official philosophy,' a positivist irruption into the reigning school of the Eclectics, an attack upon that rhetorical spiritualism which, in the eyes of the authorities, had the advantage of giving no umbrage to the clergy, in the eyes of thinkers the disadvantage of tripping airily over the difficulties which it undertook to clear up and do away with, or else of evading them altogether. Taine slays the tenets of five men with the sacrificial knife of ridicule on the altar of sound human reason. Here also he excels in treating a dry subject in an amusing manner. Thanks to his clearness and his esprit the public found itself surprised into taking interest in a scientific tournament. Why did Taine select Cousin, Laromiguière, Roger-Collard, Maine de Biran, and Jouffroy for his target? Apparently because he found