Thus, then, have the Notables returned home; carrying to all quarters of France, such notions of deficit, decrepitude, distraction; and that States-General will cure it, or will not cure it but kill it. Each Notable, we may fancy, is as a funeral torch; disclosing hideous abysses, better left hid! The unquietest humour possesses all men; ferments, seeks issue, in pamphleteering, caricaturing, projecting, declaiming; vain jangling of thought, word and deed.
It is Spiritual Bankruptcy, long tolerated; verging now towards Economical Bankruptcy, and become intolerable. For from the lowest dumb rank, the inevitable misery, as was predicted, has spread upwards. In every man is some obscure feeling that his position, oppressive or else oppressed, is a false one: all men, in one or the other acrid dialect, as assaulters or as defenders, must give vent to the unrest that is in them. Of such stuff national well-being, and the glory of rulers, is not made. O Lomenie, what a wild-heaving, waste-looking, hungry and angry world hast thou, after lifelong effort, got promoted to take charge of!
Lomenie’s first Edicts are mere soothing ones: creation of Provincial Assemblies, ‘for apportioning the imposts,’ when we get any; suppression of Corvees or statute-labour; alleviation of Gabelle. Soothing measures, recommended by the Notables; long clamoured for by all liberal men. Oil cast on the waters has been known to produce a good effect. Before venturing with great essential measures, Lomenie will see this singular ‘swell of the public mind’ abate somewhat.
Most proper, surely. But what if it were not a swell of the abating kind? There are swells that come of upper tempest and wind-gust. But again there are swells that come of subterranean pent wind, some say; and even of inward decomposion, of decay that has become self-combustion:—as when, according to Neptuno-Plutonic Geology, the World is all decayed down into due attritus of this sort; and shall now be exploded, and new-made! These latter abate not by oil.—The fool says in his heart, How shall not tomorrow be as yesterday; as all days,—which were once tomorrows? The wise man, looking on this France, moral, intellectual, economical, sees, ’in short, all the symptoms he has ever met with in history,’—unabatable by soothing Edicts.