History of Civilization in England, Vol. 2 of 3
Henry Buckley. History of Civilization in England, Vol. 2 of 3
CHAPTER I. OUTLINE OF THE HISTORY OF THE FRENCH INTELLECT FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY TO THE ACCESSION TO POWER OF LOUIS XIV
CHAPTER II. HISTORY OF THE PROTECTIVE SPIRIT, AND COMPARISON OF IT IN FRANCE AND ENGLAND
CHAPTER III. THE ENERGY OF THE PROTECTIVE SPIRIT IN FRANCE EXPLAINS THE FAILURE OF THE FRONDE. COMPARISON BETWEEN THE FRONDE AND THE CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH REBELLION
CHAPTER IV. THE PROTECTIVE SPIRIT CARRIED BY LOUIS XIV. INTO LITERATURE. EXAMINATION OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS ALLIANCE BETWEEN THE INTELLECTUAL CLASSES AND THE GOVERNING CLASSES
CHAPTER V. DEATH OF LOUIS XIV. REACTION AGAINST THE PROTECTIVE SPIRIT, AND PREPARATIONS FOR THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
CHAPTER VI. STATE OF HISTORICAL LITERATURE IN FRANCE FROM THE END OF THE SIXTEENTH TO THE END OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
CHAPTER VII. PROXIMATE CAUSES OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AFTER THE MIDDLE OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
CHAPTER VIII. OUTLINE OF THE HISTORY OF THE SPANISH INTELLECT FROM THE FIFTH TO THE MIDDLE OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
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When, towards the end of the fifth century, the Roman empire was broken up, there followed, as is well known, a long period of ignorance and of crime, in which even the ablest minds were immersed in the grossest superstitions. During these, which are rightly called the Dark Ages, the clergy were supreme: they ruled the consciences of the most despotic sovereigns, and they were respected as men of vast learning, because they alone were able to read and write; because they were the sole depositaries of those idle conceits of which European science then consisted; and because they preserved the legends of the saints and the lives of the fathers, from which, as it was believed, the teachings of divine wisdom might easily be gathered.
Such was the degradation of the European intellect for about five hundred years, during which the credulity of men reached a height unparalleled in the annals of ignorance. But at length the human reason, that divine spark which even the most corrupt society is unable to extinguish, began to display its power, and disperse the mists by which it was surrounded. Various circumstances, which it would be tedious here to discuss, caused this dispersion to take place at different times in different countries. However, speaking generally, we may say that it occurred in the tenth and eleventh centuries, and that by the twelfth century there was no nation now called civilized, upon whom the light had not begun to dawn.
When, in the fourteenth century, the authority of the French kings began rapidly to increase, the political influence of the nobility was, of course, correspondingly diminished. What, however, proves the extent to which their power had taken root, is the undoubted fact, that, notwithstanding this to them unfavourable circumstance, the people were never able to emancipate themselves from their control.316 The relation the nobles bore to the throne became entirely changed; that which they bore to the people remained almost the same. In England, slavery, or villenage, as it is mildly termed, quickly diminished, and was extinct by the end of the sixteenth century.317 In France, it lingered on two hundred years later, and was only destroyed in that great Revolution by which the possessors of ill-gotten power were called to so sharp an account.318 Thus, too, until the last seventy years, the nobles were in France exempt from those onerous taxes which oppressed the people. The taille and corvée were heavy and grievous exactions, but they fell solely on men of ignoble birth;319 for the French aristocracy, being a high and chivalrous race, would have deemed it an insult to their illustrious descent, if they had been taxed to the same amount as those whom they despised as their inferiors.320 Indeed, every thing tended to nurture this general contempt. Every thing was contrived to humble one class, and exalt the other. For the nobles there were reserved the best appointments in the church, and also the most important military posts.321 The privilege of entering the army as officers was confined to them;322 and they alone possessed a prescriptive right to belong to the cavalry.323 At the same time, and to avoid the least chance of confusion, an equal vigilance was displayed in the most trifling matters, and care was taken to prevent any similarity, even in the amusements of the two classes. To such a pitch was this brought, that, in many parts of France, the right of having an aviary or a dovecote depended entirely on a man's rank; and no Frenchman, whatever his wealth might be, could keep pigeons, unless he were a noble; it being considered that these recreations were too elevated for persons of plebeian origin.324
Circumstances like these are valuable, as evidence of the state of society to which they belong; and their importance will become peculiarly obvious, when we compare them with the opposite condition of England.