7 AUGUST 1847, Page 15


IF uniformity of example is to be attained by penal visitation, it certainly will fail in the case of the French state swindlers, lately tried and condemned. The effect of the position on all respectively is as different as it could be ; the aspect of each towards the public, as a deterrent example, is totally different.

Teste receives the accusation with a dramatic expression of in- dignant virtue, and takes all the steps that an innocent and in- jured man would take—ostentatiously and freely resigns his posts and dignities, as though mere accusal were to his untainted sense contamination too great for the trappings of honour to be touched by it : he is convicted—the wretched farce breaks down, and in the vehemence of his shame he attempts suicide, and visibly pines away under his remorse. Cubieres, the semi-conscious catspaw, blundered into the hobble like a burglar stumbling among strange furniture in the night ; made so much noise that he was found out ; continues his noise in the form of bullying or whining complaints that he has been hurt ; receives the punishment awarded to the two minor accomplices ; pays the money, goes at large, and is pitied as a good fellow who has been hardly treated. We observe no posi- tive and determined adherence to honesty at any part ; Cubieres behaved like a great lubberly schoolboy who affects to be led into the apple-stealing which he knows is wrong, and when retribution comes finds his advantage in being accounted an ass.

Parmentier, the lowest of the set, whose motives appear to have been merely those of the sharper, displays at first no quality but keenness is managing thesplot ; then, keenness in trying to extort money from poor Cubieres ; then, when he is foiled, keen- ness in revenging himself by dragging the others to a common punishment : he owns the felon's point of honour—he will not be punished alone. But Pellapra is the ideal personage of the company—so facile, so free-handed, so officially decorous, so gay, so sentimental, so suc- cessful l The whole history of the transaction displays Pellapra in the most melodramatic attitudes. He lives in the first style; he quite sports with corruption—he has been " doing it all his life quite detected, he flies to his daughter, who is a princess ; out of the fulness of his benevolent courtesy and irregular power he creates a dramatic surprise by a spontaneous gift of papers to the court of judicature—the papers that settle the whole affair ,• with sportive courage he returns to take his trial—makes a soliloquy. and a clean breast; he is convicted—he bursts into tears, and is mastered by much effective emotion ; he pays the fine, walks out of court, sends a princely present equalling the fine to the hospi- tals, and goes to the opera, where he is the admired of all beholders, taking his rank with the Comte de Monte-Cristo and M. Villefort. M. Dumas writes romances, M. Pellapra lives them. From his career the rising generation of France may learn how to enjoy the luxury of crime with that impunity which is part of high re- finement. The Duke of Wellington has objected to multiplying the admission of plebeians to commissions in the Army, be- cause none but men of birth and blood can bear the hard drink- ing usual among gentlemen at mess : M. Pellapra can tell the youth of France, that none but men of station and aristocratic qualities should take to swindling ; the vulgar become brutalized by it, but to the cultivated it is a zest.

Now what uniform moral is taught by these several examples Teste teaches that to be detected is the crime, and one to be ex- piated by suicide or mortal pining. Cubieres teaches that crime is a mishap that befalls the best of good fellows. Parmentier teaches the advantage of sticking to business in any career : whatever turns up, by diligence and attention, punctuality and despatch, you may convert it to a use. And Pellapra teaches the poetry of crime—shows how escroquerie may be a grandc passion and have its elevating incidents. Such—to borrow the phrase which a distinguished senator of our own country lately applied to a cognate affair, the Wellington statue—such is a " beneficial exposure" of what a retributive penal law can dol