27 OCTOBER 1866, Page 8


AS usual in October, Paris is full of reports of coming political change. The right of debate on the Address, that is, of criticizing the position of France, say some, is to be withdrawn from the Legislative Body, while others affirm that the right of interpellation, that is, of criticizing the Ex- ecutive for individual acts, is to be restored. The Emperor, we are told, intends to assume the legislative power, or "to crown the edifice " with liberty, to release the press, or bind it in new fetters, to concede ministerial responsibility, or compel the Chambers to grant him a new loan. We know nothing, nor does any one else, except the Emperor, of the truth of any of these reports, but we would just mention one strong argument against believing half of them. The Empire still fears, fears acutely, the pens of its critics. Never was the repression of the Press more stern than in this, the fourteenth, year of the Empire, never the exclusion of hostile writers and hostile books so complete and perfect. Half the literary ability of France is displayed beyond the frontiers, every writer suspected of hostility to the Empire is either in exile or under surveillance, while every book opposed to Bonapartism even in its historical aspect is rigidly .proscribed. The list of pro- hibited works reads like a chapter of the Index, that of pro- hibited men like the muster-roll of an out-of-door Academy of France. The dogma that the Revolution was the work of Rousseau and Voltaire seems to have penetrated the very soul of Napoleon III., and with six hundred thousand bayonets at command he still dreads the importation of a few volumes written by men whom he himself expelled from out of France. The greatest of living French poets, Victor Hugo; one of the greatest of her historians, Louis Blanc ; the most original of her military writers, Charras, live, or have lived, and written in exile. From Guernsey, London, and Basle, came the voices which will meet with the most sonorous and lasting echo, the books which will live longest of all those which have been published since 1851 in the French language. Louis Blanc's History of the Revolution could, indeed, not be prohibited. Victor Hugo's Travailleurs de la Mel., Mise'rables, and Con- templations may be circulated in France. But the highest efforts of the artist, the most poetical because they were in- spired by real feeling and genuine hatred, his Chcitiments and his Napole'on le Petit, are forbidden fruit to his country- men, though most of them contrived to nibble a bit in some way or other. The grand and, for a French soldier, almost unique productions of Colonel Charras are stopped at the frontier, Napoleon III. being horrified by the mere thought that Frenchmen might be brought to look upon Napoleon I. as the true cause of the disasters which overwhelmed their country from 1812 to 1815. Nay, so savage and blind is this aversion, that only a few weeks ago M. Karcher's Ecrivains Militaires de la France were sent back from the Custom House to the Belgian and English publishers, because that special work contains a biography of Colonel Charras, and exalts republican generals in some degree above the founder of the " fourth dynasty," as M. Persigny delights in naming General Bonaparte.

That some low and disgusting pamphlets like M. Vesignier's lueubrations, and Les IVieits de Saint Cloud or Le Mariage (rune Espagnole, are detained by the police authorities is comprehensible enough, although their circulation, far from injuring the Government in any way, would only lower such of its antagonists as do not shrink from odious ribaldry. We can almost understand that Rogeard's Pauvre France, though weak and innocuous enough, is hunted as savagely as the writer himself, whose Propos de Lohie'nus was the most scathing and dangerous satire yet penned about the Imperial House.

We cannot even wonder that the short-lived Rive Gauche was considered as contraband, though why this should have been the case, when the small paper was edited by M. Longuet and a few confused Belgians, is more than we can account for. Besides, every book worth reading is somehow smuggled in. When M. Berryer paid his visit to the English Bar, he told some- body that there was not one member of the Corps Legislatif who had not perused the translation of Mr. Kinglake's Invasion of the Crimea; and truly no Frenchman ever wrote anything more damaging to Imperialism than the famous fourteenth chapter of that book.

We have still a long list to add of French writers who live out of France. M. Alphonse Esquiros composes near London his remarkable sketches of England and English life. Edgar Quinet studies, in the shadow of Chalon Castle, the causes and spirit of revolutions. Marc Dufraisse likewise sends from Switzerland his stirring pamphlet on the old fierce Huguenot D'Aubigne. Bancel prints in Brussels his interesting Harangues de r Exil, the thoughtful lectures on French literature which he delivers to crowded audiences of students and mature men. Chauffour's Etudes sur lea Rdformateurs were likewise written and printed abroad, before his return to his native country. Felix Pyat's witty and pointed political letters are dated from London, as well as his latest drama, which could only be brought on the stage in Brussels, French censors having forbidden it in Paris, just as they did Karcher's Rienzi, La Science de r Homme, by Gustave Flourens, L' Humaniti, by Dr. Bodichon, Michelet's Sorci&e, Benjamin Larroque's Examen Critique des Doctrines de la Religion Chrertienne, nay, even Le Livre des Connaissances Utiles, by the once well known serjeant and representative of the people, Boichot. All these books have seen the light of day in Belgium. The enterprising publisher, Lacroix, has a whole page of his catalogue filled with the names of works openly announced as " prohibited in France." Among them are to be found the Maudit and the Religieuse, the dramatic and desperate outcries of oppressed priests ; Proudhon's condemned deline- ations of the Gospels, Eugene Sue's complete edition of the Mysteres du Peuple. Even Pascal Duprat's rambling review, La Libre Recherche, could not pass the Belgian frontier. Everybody knows that the works written by the Due d'Aumale, even when they are strictly historical, are eagerly suppressed. His History of the House of Conde was literally and illegally confiscated when it was already printed. Michel Levy published, without name, the Prince's military essays on the Zouaves, the Chasseurs-a-Pied, and the Gallic town " Alesia." It is almost a wonder that the Duke's secretary, M. Auguste Laugel, is allowed to bring out in France his remarkable works on America and on many scientific and philosophical matters. We might lengthen the list indefinitely, but to little purpose, for if we gave it in full there would still remain a longer list behind, the list of the great thoughts and great works lost to man- kind, because under the Empire their publication was im- possible. The index of writers prohibited in Paris, as in Rome, is short, as compared with the list of those silenced, or sickened, or bought over. It may be that the Emperor can- not help himself ; we are not arguing that point now, but we say it is folly to expect new concessions to freedom, any relaxation in the reins, while the war against litera- ture is maintained with such determined rage. Napoleon is never illogical, and to prohibit M. Louis Blanc's writings while allowing M. Jules Favre full right of speech in the tribune, to suppress the Due d'Aumale and let loose Eugene Pelletan, would be illogical folly, of which we may be sure the Emperor will never be guilty. The session will, we be- lieve, proceed as it always has done ; speech will be limited to safe subjects, and the slightest departures called to order ; the Government proposals will be voted by more than two-third majorities, and the Emperor's projects, if he has any, will he worked out in silence by himself in isolation, to burst upon the world when mature with all the force of dramatic effect. The Emperor, who comprehends how a drama may shake a throne, is not blind to the aid which statesmen may derive from well prepared scenes and histrionic situations.