Autobiography HTML version

not speaking to others, nor much even to themselves, about the things in which they do
feel interest, causes both their feelings and their intellectual faculties to remain
undeveloped, or to develop themselves only in some single and very limited direction;
reducing them, considered as spiritual beings, to a kind of negative existence. All these
things I did not perceive till long afterwards; but I even then felt, though without stating it
clearly to myself, the contrast between the frank sociability and amiability of French
personal intercourse, and the English mode of existence, in which everybody acts as if
everybody else (with few, or no exceptions) was either an enemy or a bore. In France, it
is true, the bad as well as the good points, both of individual and of national character,
come more to the surface, and break out more fearlessly in ordinary intercourse, than in
England: but the general habit of the people is to show, as well as to expect, friendly
feeling in every one towards every other, wherever there is not some positive cause for
the opposite. In England it is only of the best bred people, in the upper or upper middle
ranks, that anything like this can be said.
In my way through Paris, both going and returning, I passed some time in the house of M.
Say, the eminent political economist, who was a friend and correspondent of my father,
having become acquainted with him on a visit to England a year or two after the Peace.
He was a man of the later period of the French Revolution, a fine specimen of the best
kind of French Republican, one of those who had never bent the knee to Bonaparte
though courted by him to do so; a truly upright, brave, and enlightened man. He lived a
quiet and studious life, made happy by warm affections, public and private. He was
acquainted with many of the chiefs of the Liberal party, and I saw various noteworthy
persons while staying at this house; among whom I have pleasure in the recollection of
having once seen Saint-Simon, not yet the founder either of a philosophy or a religion,
and considered only as a clever original. The chief fruit which I carried away from the
society I saw, was a strong and permanent interest in Continental Liberalism, of which I
ever afterwards kept myself au courant, as much as of English politics: a thing not at all
usual in those days with Englishmen, and which had a very salutary influence on my
development, keeping me free from the error always prevalent in England--and from
which even my father, with all his superiority to prejudice, was not exempt--of judging
universal questions by a merely English standard. After passing a few weeks at Caen with
an old friend of my father's, I returned to England in July, 1821 and my education
resumed its ordinary course.