They observed but were not embarrassed by the break between the liberal phase of the Revolution and the Terror. They accepted the challenge of the counter-revolution head-on. In Thiers and Mignet appeared in Paris from the south. They were just twenty-four; the liberal opposition was warming up. But reaching for a wider audience, he, like Thiers, determined to write the history of the Revolution. His two volumes were published in May , offering in a single instalment the whole of the version Thiers served up at greater length over five years.
It was less narrative than exposition, an analysis of a great event that worked itself out as it had to. After collecting materials for two years, Mignet had written his book rapidly in November-December Mill gave so much space to illustrative extracts that one has the feeling he had little to say.
He made no comment on the uncritical handling of sources; or upon the use Mignet made of oral evidence; or upon the role of individuals within the controlling conditions of fatalisme historique. And he did not mention the conception of class struggle as a motor force. The result was a short, schoolmasterly reprimand, separating the faux brillants from the vrais. Philosophical history as practised by the opposition literati under the Bourbon monarchy had become an historiographical artifact.
But perhaps Mill had caught something of the limitation Taine perceived thirty-five years later. When Mignet arrived in Paris, the battle over romanticism was at its height, with Walter Scott at its centre. Mignet waited a year before making a statement, but the popular verdict was in: the reading public was entranced.
The earliest was Augustin Thierry, former secretary to Saint-Simon, a journalist, not yet the historian of the Norman Conquest, not quite so cautious as he would be later on. Reflection brought reserve. He had shown them something essential; his reputation and influence remained greater with them than with English historians. Mill was familiar with the French reception of Scott. His own experience did not predispose him to share it. Romance is always dangerous, but when romance assumes the garb of history, it is doubly pernicious.
- The “summary reflections” on the stones of Salles (circa 1650).
- Philosophie des âges de la vie (essai français) (French Edition);
- The Pink Whisk Brilliant Baking Step-by-Step Cake Making: All the Essential Techniques with Foolproof Recipes?
- LE SIEUR DE LA FRANCHISE.
- Foot Parade - Brandis Aching Feet.
The review constitutes the nearest thing to a fully developed statement about the Revolution Mill ever set down. It was also a blistering attack on Scott. His pre-Revolutionary chapters were prejudiced and misleading; what followed was worse. His skilfully told story, doubtless sincerely intended, manipulated the facts in the cause of a theory that was not true.
As an unprecedented manifestation of popular will, it could not be judged by ordinary rules. Where Scott saw ambitious men seeking office, Mill saw patriots seeking liberty. Where Scott proposed the perverse nature of the lower orders running amok, Mill saw ordinary men driven to excess by injustice and oppression.
Where Scott saw vicious, irreligious philosophes undermining society, Mill saw benefactors of mankind. It was the liberal version of the early Revolution, stopping short of the Jacobin period that Mill found distasteful. But it was significant that he did not push on beyond the early years. If Scott had a didactic purpose, Mill had nothing less.
But he must be read in the context of an entrenched conservative historiography, deep-seated national prejudice against the French, and of course the struggle for reform of the House of Commons. He himself acknowledged some part of its limitation. Perhaps Mill would, some years after he wrote his devastating review, have been more inclined to grant as much. His own views about the depths and poetry of history were changing. But he never found the words.
Mill believed that the huge sales Scott enjoyed had a harmful effect on the public mind. But he also knew that Scott had made an important contribution to the revival of written history, that he was dealing with not merely a pillar of the Tory establishment but a formidable man of letters. In taking on the work of Alison, however, he was jousting with a writer of more ordinary talents, if also of great industry, whose account of the Revolution was also Tory propaganda.
What ultimately justified taking notice of such a study was, again, the immense sales Alison had both at home and, in translation, abroad.
Of the whole multi-volume History of Europe from the Commencement of the French Revolution to the Restoration of the Bourbons, more than half a million copies were sold before his death, though at the time Mill could hardly have foreseen it would have such success. A native of Shropshire who had early moved to Edinburgh where he took up the law, Alison became an advocate-deputy for Scotland, wrote books on the criminal law, and was eventually appointed sheriff of Lanarkshire.
By the time he visited France in , his conservative views were fixed. He was a believer in the institution of slavery, and later a strong supporter of the American Confederacy. The passion for innovation which had for many years overspread the nation, the vague ideas afloat in the public mind, the facility with which Government entered into these views—all these had awakened gloomy presentiments in my mind.
Mill knew what to expect. He wished to pillory the errors, bias, and flaccid lack of philosophy he found in Alison. He wished also to discuss his own conception of history. It is a thing utterly unknown to the English and ought to be known. Speak of it what you know. If Alison prove stupid dismiss him the sooner, but tell your own story freely without fear or favour.
I think beyond anybody who has attempted to write elaborately on the subject.follow site
The Journal of Modern History
He has no research; the references with which he loads his margin are chiefly to compilations. Mill could not see how to strike the larger target behind Alison. Now he was no longer interested in doing that. Neither Alison nor his work justified presentation of what Mill had once thought he had to say about the Revolution as a result of his exacting scrutiny of the published sources, and in the light of his Radical beliefs.
As a Tory, Mill noted, Alison might be expected to disapprove of his actors; instead he offered only indiscriminately charitable judgments. If he honestly revealed his sources, their poverty betrayed his slight reading. But, as Mill pointed out, if that were all he himself had to say, his article might end. This was as close as he got, on this occasion, to assailing Macaulay directly. They would not see that it was the French crown and its advisers that had abandoned peaceful means.
Naturally it did nothing to give Alison pause: if it led him to fatten up his bibliographical prefaces, it by no means discouraged him from pursuing his narrative. He continued to revise his work, which had an immense success as a detailed history of the Revolution in its wider setting. It was translated into many languages and became the best-selling such work for much of the century in England and North America.
My fingers have often itched to be at him. His reaction told something about his own scholarship. I am rather fitted to be a logical expounder than an artist. You I look upon as an artist, and perhaps the only genuine one now living in this country: the highest destiny of all, lies in that direction; for it is the artist alone in whose hands Truth becomes impressive, and a living principle of action. For more than four years they discussed the work, Mill advising and then responding to the steady importuning, Carlyle communicating something of the gestation throes foretelling the strange and awful work he found welling up in him.
Ach Gott! On March 6 Mill brought the terrible news of its accidental burning. I mean, that the common English mode of writing has to do with what I call hearsays of things; and the great business for me, in which alone I feel any comfort, is recording the presence, bodily concrete coloured presence of things;—for which the Nominative-and-verb, as I find it Here and Now, refuses to stand me in due stead. Mill was anxious to publish a review before the book appeared. I am afraid this is a very general opinion, though I grieve it should be so.
The book and the review appeared in July He took the offensive from high ground: the book was unprecedented and must be judged accordingly. Hume and Gibbon compared unfavourably with Carlyle in this regard.
On History - 1. Foreword - Open Book Publishers
Mill quoted large extracts to illustrate the poetry and power of the narrative. His criticisms were gently put: Carlyle was too light on theory. Indeed, beyond the fundamental agreement between them on the decrepitude of the old order and the virtue of the early Revolutionaries, it is difficult to see what Mill and Carlyle had in common. Mill, of course, had been fully warned of what Carlyle had had in mind, and had wholeheartedly abetted the enterprise. If the Girondins were less than favourably treated, there was enough philosophy rumbling beneath the vibrant surface of events to redeem such a lapse.
Moreover, he had done what Mill was convinced he himself could not do: he had created a work of art.
He had said much the same thing in a more aggressive manner to R. The political void Carlyle envisioned at the centre of the experience Mill detected in the July Days, as the aftermath revealed the incapacity or self-interest of those who superseded the Bourbon monarchy.
He had been excited by the lively press wars of the late s. Neither direct censorship nor regulatory measures weakened its independence. French journals were numerous, variegated, and vigorous. How much Mill knew of the close manoeuvring in this long contest that had gone on from the time of his first visit to France can only be surmised. But with the installation of Polignac, both King and minister were daily vilified in the opposition sheets. Mill, who followed the press, was approving. For him it was both a fulfilment and the beginning of a long disenchantment.
Related Tableau de la France: édition intégrale (Histoire de France) (French Edition)
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