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sequently became a favourite study; and its influence was so general and so fasting, that it was distinguished as the Anglomania: a term which is even to the present day the watch-word with the literati of France, who sometimes affect to contemn while they copy, and to calumniate while they admire. In our country alone, the French were taught to think; and here they met with those profound investigations, at which their pusillanimous despotism trembled : while to their surprize they discovered that on the finer productions of Genius, the bolder character of our islanders had imprinted its originality. Bacon, Newton, and Locke, stood like the apostles of Nature, with a new revelation. — Voltaire eagerly diffused his admiration through his country. D'Alembert projected the Encyclopedie from the noble conception of Bacon, in order to make but one body of all the knowlege and all the thoughts of man. Condillac and Helvetius were the pupils of Locke. Our minute philosophers were favourites; and Hobbes and Shaftesbury, Tindal and Toland, &c. became still more « minute philosophers” in the Parisian school. Voltaire, Diderot, Boulanger, -Freret, et hoc genus omne, are their plagiarists or imitators. Milton excited their astonishment and their despair : but the genius of Shakspeare was transported into France ; and though from more than one cause he was most imperfectly understood and most ridiculously disguised, their volatile audiences have sometimes listened to the voice of Nature. They have closely copied our descriptive and our philosophical poets. Richardson they still consider as a prodigy : they only boast that they possess the art of abridging « les longueurs" of the English novelists. In history the present writer confesses our single eminence; and, finally, it was British genius under the name of COOKE that first taught the French to circumnavigate an universe which they affect to consider as their own, while they proudly proclaim that they possess the sole language in which its in, habitants ought to communicate !
The alterations introduced into the French Academy form na inconsiderable event in the literary history of the century. That seat of literature was instituted for the improvement of their language, and Richelieu laid the foundations of the academy with a royal hand : but the lame and the blind were among the labourers ; the institution therefore bore all the character of a vulgar infancy; and the French Minerva did not, as on this great occasion she ought, leap in complete ara mour from the head of her parent. In their vaunted Dic tionary, the Forty members lounged over the letters of their alphabet ; and the academician, who hoped that his friend might live to the letter G, considered his wish as almost tanta mount to the Spanish compliment of living a thousand years. No scene appears more ludicrous than their Concours d'Eloquence ; since in those assemblies of eloquence, the curious were invited to be edified by the most ridiculous or the most ambiguous discussions. The reader may smile at the list which Pelissou will furnish. Some of their graver deliberations were, « On the rarity of good poets” - " Against Eloquence"* What is true Glory?"-On the love of the Mind," which was instantly balanced by another sage, “ On the love of the Body." — The following metaphysical conundrum must have been poignant by its subtility: « There is something that is more than all, and something that is less than nothing." The paradox ought never to have been explained, had the worthy academician been desirous of preserving its interest; however, he meant by the first, God, and by the second, Sin! Their Dise cours de Reception formed another foolery, which, by their oratorical pedantry, attained to the reproachful distinction of the Academical Style.--At length, the universal impulse of the time reached this assembly, and genius appeared in the French Academy. The great men of the age gratified their own ambition by contributing to its eminence, and the Academicians became the distributors of the blue ribbands of literature. Voltaire taught them to direct their discours de reception to some purpose analogous to the spirit of the Institution, and set the example by his paper on the power of the French language, its progress, its defects, and its perfection. Buffon communicated his ideas on style, by revealing the secrets of his eloquence, Others followed, selecting con amore their most favourite topic; and it is easy to perceive that authors, whose volumes had not made them immortal, might contribute to form one production which should deserve that honour, since so many writers compose with true genius on only one subject, and so many works exist, of which the original merit might be compressed into a
A more recent and important improvement in their Concours d'Eloquence was the dismissal of those trivial common-places of norality, and the substitution of Eloges on the most celebrated men of every class. The Concours thus became a noble field for the emulative prowess of men of letters ; and La Harpe; Thomas, De Lille, &c. &c. were proud of breaking a lance with each other. The most successful piece was crowned with the prize, which usually amounted to 600 or 1200 livres : but a first and a second accessit was granted to those who approached the mark ; and these were not regarded with indifference by the rival candidates. Our own literature has received no such honours, nor has youthful genius here been cherished in so
noble a nursery :-yet it is certain that the premium, as well as the honour, for indigent genius, produced the happiest effects.—These Eloges have been imperfectly understood in our country; the term itself but ill defines them, and a spurious multitude has degraded them : yet these Eloges are noble models for the imitation of all literary societies. Examining only the most masterly performances, it would be unjust to compare them with any similar productions of antiquity : they required all that spirit of criticism, that ardour of investigation, and those more liberal sources of knowlege, which have illustrated the eighteenth century. It has been said that these Eloges are not analogous to our tempered character : but some enthusiasm for the illustrious men of England will for ever keep alive the vestal flame of patriotism on the altar of the country, were it possible to fail. « The Worthies” of Fuller and of Lloyd were the contracted attempts of an age which was not equal to the glorious labour ; and perhaps the noble poem of Thomson, to the memory of Newton, is our solitary Eloge*.
An Eloge is not an indiscriminate panegyric, nor a funereal oration ; the subject must give the tone and furnish the matter : if it be a man of letters, the writer must delight with literature ; if a statesman, or a soldier, it is politics or war which he investigates. He must develope the genius of him whom he celebrates, and the causes of that celebrity which he echoes ; the contemplation of genius is fruitful of accessory subjects ; and it is associated with the most elevated feelings and the most enlightened discussions. Such a character stands connected with his own times, and thence a wider field has been opened for the Eloge. - Let us illustrate by exemplification what we may have imperfectly described.-Guibert, in his Eloge of the chancellor L'Hôpital, exhibits a magnificent picture of those horrible civil wars in which that virtuous chancellor appears like a protecting angel. The author of the Eloge on St. Louis introduces the Crusades in a novel point of view, as having been the deliverance of Europe from the irruptions of turbaned fanatics; and, by renewing our communication with the East, enriching Europe with its treasures, its sciences,
A work of this nature was contemplated by Gibbon. “ I have long revolved in my mind (he said the lives, or rather the characters of the most eminent persons in Arts and Arms, in Church and State, who have flourished in Britain from the reign of Henry VIII. to the present age. The subject would afford a rich display of human nature and domestic history, and powerfully address itself to the feelings of every Englishman.” Letter to Lord Sheffield. January 6, 1793.
We have heard of a work of a similar com. plexion from the hand of a living writer.
and its civilization.—Even so dry a subject as that of political economy enters agreably into an Eloge of Colbert, where Necker traces the secret conduct and unfolds the principles of that minister. D'Alembert, La Harpe, Champfort, and Garat, are distinguished composers in this class :--but the author who devoted his studious life and virtuous feelings to these works is Thomas ; he has sometimes injured the elevation of his mind by too highly ornamented a style : but his Eloge on Marcus Ana toninus, sublime and dramatic, is the most perfect; while on Descartes he takes in the whole circle of philosophical known lege. His Essai sur les Eloges is a mature and considerable work, and the finest specimen of literary history, by a philosophical mind.
Political and philosophical romances appear to originate in France; and the immortal work of Fénélon was the tender and graceful mother of a race which has proved austere, yet dig, nified. The Sethos of Terrasson, with more variety and originality, will never charm like Telemachus ; yet Terrassen may. boast of his eloquence, since Voltaire acknowleges it : but his mathematical head and Stoic heart, as Gibbon paints him, denied to him those tender appeals to the feelings which flow from the soul of Fénélon. The work is remarkable for the most curious erudition ; Terrasson having described in it the Mysteries of the Egyptian initiations, and exhibited their singular alliance with religion and politics, the terrific trials of the initiated, the dark and tremendous scenery, and the awful secrets of their temples. Yet the genius of the writer deserts him as soon as he quits the sombrous magnificence of antient superstition ; and few readers perhaps have finished the work of which the commencement attracted their curiosity. Warburton seems to have derived his celebrated system of the Eleusinian mysteries from this romance ; such at least is the strong surmise, supported by dates, given by Gibbon. Ramsay's Voyages de Cyrus, a grave and frigid romance, lingers in our schools, but is never found on our tables. The Belisaire of Marmontel abounds too much with moral and political matter for a romance, and too much with romance for a moral and political treatise. Barthélémy, in his Travels of Anacharsis, compressed the researches of thirty years into that elegant form.
While romance was thus invading the province of history among this volatile people, history assumed a new shape by borrowing the brilliant colours of romance. That sort of narrative, in which truth and fiction borrow a colouring from each other, seems happily adapted to Gallic invention. In the histories of Don Carlos, and the Conspiracy of Venice, the Abbé St. Réal fills up the chasms of history (according to the present critic's ingenious notion) as an architect re-builds a monument, from the ruins and fragments which still subsist.' St. Réal quotes letters, and transcribes speeches, which have only the appearance of historical documents, yet serve to bind together the principal facts ; and of his genius we must think highly, since Voltaire calls him the French Sallust, Schiller has dramatized his Don Carlos, and Otway, in borrowing his subject, has more than imitated his speeches. Vertot inherited his brilliant pencil, and infused into history the captivating spirit of romance, without substituting ideal for real personages and events ; and for this purpose he selected those great catastrophes which convulse empires, so favourable to an active imagination. Such are his Revolutions of Swedens - and of Por. tugal,--and above all, of the Romans.--Voltaire's brilliant narrative of Charles XII. may perhaps be also placed in this class of apocryphal history.
In legitimate history, the present French critic honourably avows that their writers must still leave the palm nearly undisputed to the country which boasts of Hume and Robertson. It is Voltaire alone who, once more, must rescue his nation from the humiliation of this inferiority.' p. 217. This avowal agreeably surprised us, since we recollect that the Compte rendu par PInstitut de France held a very different tone, asserting their own excellence in historical composition, and even exulting that “ a Frenchman first made the English acquainted with the history of their own country :" yet Voltaire will not certainly ' rescue his nation from the humiliation of this inferiority.' 'He has written history without authorities ; and the compliment paid by Robertson to the exactness of the French historian was the political artifice of one who courted public favour, and was half-conscious of his own deficiencies. In all, however, that requires no historical document to attest the veracity of the writer, Voltaire excels ; he discovers great sagacity in liis pictures of human nature, impresses on our mind the general results of history, and in the unrivalled clearness of his style he instructs even when he is most familiar.
In the philosophy of history, Fontenelle led the way by his history of Oracles, drawn from the ponderous Vandale, who could only collect facts; while Fontenelle deduced their consequences and discoveries, to prove the artifices of the pagan priests. Montesquieu's work on the Romans opened a new light on the inferences which his profound genius meditated. Mably, often a frigid dissertator, is a close examine of political theories, and some of his political prophecies are said to have been singularly verified. Raynal's great book was