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Essays on French History & Historians

Essays on French History & Historians

Editor of the Text JOHN M. ROBSON
Introduction by JOHN C. CAIRNS
Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 518
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  • Book Info
    Essays on French History & Historians
    Book Description:

    The essays in this volume enable us to interpret anew the practical and theoretical concerns fundamental to his formative years and maturity.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8078-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xcii)

    John mill’s interest in french public life between the two empires is somewhat flatly proposed in hisAutobiography. The casual reader of the few and sober pages alluding to his lifelong acquaintance with the land, the people, and the history might not readily grasp what France had been to him: not merely a window on the wider cultural world, but a laboratory of intellectual exploration and political experimentation, and a mirror, the clearest he knew, in which to see what preoccupied him in England. There were times when he thought they did “order this matter better in France,” times when...

  4. Textual Introduction
    (pp. xciii-cxx)

    Through mill is properly celebrated as a political philosopher, logician, and economist, throughout his work one finds evidence of an intense interest in history. Indeed his first childhood writings, prompted by his father’sHistory of British India,which was composed at the table across which the child worked at his lessons, were histories of India, Rome, and Holland. He never wrote a history in his adult years, but rather occupied himself with the philosophy of history and with the implications of that philosophy for social theory and practical politics. While he took great interest in British and classical history (see...

    (pp. 1-14)

    This is a very sprightly narrative of the French Revolution, in two small volumes: which is as much as to say, that it is calculated to be most extensively popular. It possesses, indeed, all the requisites for a popular history. It tells an interesting story; it tells it in an interesting manner; it is not too long to be readable; it addresses itself to the reigning sentiment in the nation for which it is written; and there is just philosophy enough in it to persuade common readers that they are deriving instruction, while there is not enough to task their...

    (pp. 15-52)

    Though we have not, like so many of our contemporaries, made it our grand occupation, to impress our countrymen with a deep sense of their own wisdom and virtue, and to teach them how proud they ought to be of every thing English, more especially of every thing that is English and bad; we are far from being unconscious how much they have really to be proud of, and in how many respects they might be taken as models by all the nations of the world. If we saw them in any danger of forgetting their own merits, we too...

    (pp. 53-110)

    Sir walter scott cannot write any thing which, as a literary composition, will not be read with pleasure; and if it were possible to consider the work before us merely as a well-told story, we are not sure that it is inferior even to the most perfect of his former productions. Few books, indeed, have ever afforded so much for minute criticism to fasten upon; and that description of critics with whom the substitution of one connecting particle where another would have been more appropriate is a crime for which all the higher excellencies of composition cannot atone, have made...

    (pp. 111-122)

    Of history, the most honoured, if not honourable species of composition, is not the whole purportbiographic? History, it has been said, is the essence of innumerable biographies.[*]Such, at least, it should be: whether it is, might admit of question. But, in any case, what hope have we in turning over those old interminable chronicles, with their garrulities and insipidities; or still worse, in patiently examining those modern narrations, of the philosophic kind, where philosophy, teaching by experience, must sit like owl on house-top,seeingnothing,understandingnothing, uttering only, with solemnity enough, her perpetual most wearisomehoo,hoo:—...

    (pp. 123-130)

    So little is the general course of French affairs attended to in this country, that when, as at present, some single event, either from its importance or its strangeness, attracts a certain degree of notice, its causes, and all which could help to explain it, have been forgotten. It is true that the most assiduous reader of only the English newspapers, even if he retained all he had read, would understand little or nothing of the real character of events in France; for the editors of the English newspapers are as ignorant of France as they probably are of Monomotapa;...

    (pp. 131-166)

    This is not so much a history, as an epic poem; and notwithstanding, or even in consequence of this, the truest of histories. It is the history of the French Revolution, and the poetry of it, both in one; and on the whole no work of greater genius, either historical or poetical, has been produced in this country for many years.

    It is a book on which opinion will be for some time divided; nay, what talk there is about it, while it is still fresh, will probably be oftenest of a disparaging sort; as indeed is usually the case,...

  11. ARMAND CARREL (1837)
    (pp. 167-216)

    aThese little works areathe tribute paid bybtwobdistinguishedcwriterscto one whose memory, though he was but shown to the world, the world will not, and must not be suffered to let die.[∗]Cut off at the age of thirty-six by that union of misfortune and fault (Schicksal und eigene Schuld)[†]to which it has been asserted that all human miscarriages are imputable, he lived long enough to show that he was one of the few, neverdso few as in these latter timesd, who seem raised up to turn the balance of events at some trying moment...

    (pp. 217-256)

    It has of late been a frequent remark among Continental thinkers, that the tendencies of the age set strongly in the direction of historical inquiry, and that history is destined to assume a new aspect from the genius and labours of the minds now devoted to its improvement. The anticipation must appear at least premature to an observer in England, confining his observation to his own country. Whatever may be the merits, in some subordinate respects, of such histories as the last twenty years have produced among us, they are in general distinguished by no essential character from the historical...

    (pp. 257-294)

    These two works are the contributions which the present Minister for Foreign Affairs in France has hitherto made to the philosophy of general history. They are but fragments: the earlier of the two is a collection of detached Essays, andatherefore of necessity fragmentary; while the later is all that the public possesses, or perhaps is destined to possess, of a systematic work cut short in an early stage of its progress. It would be unreasonable to lament that the exigencies or the temptations of politics have called from authorship and the Professor’s chair to the Chamber of Deputies...

    (pp. 295-316)

    There are several causes which make the Political Writings produced at the present time in France, an instructive study to intelligent observers in all countries of Europe.

    In the first place, there is much truth in the boast of French writers, that France marches in the van of the European movement. The fact is not necessarily of the highly complimentary character with which those writers generally choose to invest it. Movement is not always progress; and progress itself may be in a downward, as well as in an upward direction. To be foremost in the road which all are travelling,...

    (pp. 317-364)

    That the transactions and the men of the late French Revolution should find small favour in the eyes of the vulgar and selfish part of the upper and middle classes, can surprise no one: and that the newspaper press, which is the echo, or, as far as it is able, the anticipation, of the opinions and prejudices of those classes, should endeavour to recommend itself by malicious disparagement of that great event, is but in the natural order of things. Justice to the men, and a due appreciation of the event, demand that these unmerited attacks should not remain unprotested...

  16. Appendix A. Guizot’s Lectures on European Civilization (1836)
    (pp. 367-393)
  17. Appendix B. French Texts of Material Quoted in Vindication of the French Revolution of February 1848 (1849)
    (pp. 394-400)
  18. Appendix C. Textual Emendations
    (pp. 401-405)
  19. Appendix D. Index of Persons and Works Cited, with Variants and Notes
    (pp. 406-510)
  20. Index
    (pp. 511-517)