ePub 版

are to be detected in the statement of facts, and some para. doxical opinions, who would dwell on either? - We have regarded it as our duty to point out certain ambiguities of thinking and speaking on the more important matters, but with minor faults we will not interfere. We see much to applaud in the whole performance. A clearness of style pervades it generally, and an eloquence of no humble nature decorates many passages. The writer evidently knows much, thinks justly, and feels tenderly. We could remark on some mystical notions about the supposed different ranks of intelligences which fil}. the immensity of space, and on several other points ; but we forbear; and we are so desirous of recommending the volumes to those whom they will assuredly benefit,—the young French student, - or indeed the late instructed scholar, who in his youth may have neglected the history and the literature of the antients, – that we shall leave the fair author to make her own impression on our readers at parting, and shall select 2 passage from the conclusion of her work, which will not suffer by being detached from the context.

• Under whatever name God has been worshipped, the unalterable idea of his existence has continued to be the sun of the world. A majestic wisdom was the inheritance of the early race of men : while they were shepherds, it constituted their dignity: when united in society, it became their science. - Justice, piety, gratitude, and tenderness, were their possessions rather than their qualities; and the natural testimonies which they give of their possessing these virtues form the charm of the Scriptures.

• Astronomy fixed the attention of the shepherd; and the move. ment of the celestial bodies, before any other object, furnished his mind with speculations. All Nature offered herself to his observation : her every grace was a blessing ; her every blessing a promise. Man, happy in her gifts, reposed in her bosom, and meditated at his leisure on the wonderful and silent spectacle which unfolded itself over his head. In those beautiful regions in which the flocks wan. dered in security, the calmness of the sky, the uniformity of its appearance, and the corresponding groupes of lofty trees which yielded fruit and shade, were rather formed to support the soul in the heights of enthusiasm, than to seduce the imagination by the allurements of some secret charm. The shepherd read wisdom in "the firmament, more than science; and when we, ourselves, in a beautiful night in summer, united with all those whom we most dearly love, lift our eyes to the vault of heaven, it is our heart rather than our mind which feels the sublime influence : -- the impression is indescribable ; and without knowing how to distinguish'a star from a planet, we are enraptured, we are exalted.

• Poetry has no other date among mankind than the origin of language. Men became astronomers as they gazed on heaven, and poets as they described it. The charms attached to the variations

App. Rev. Vol. LXIII.

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of harmony, - and the pleasure, belonging to man alone, which arises from rythm and measure, - produced from the beginning those natural arts for which our orgaos were so admirably disposed. The song, the dance, and poesy have resounded in every age in their proper cadence; and study is insofficient, when Nature refuses us the feeling which is indispensable to their enjoyment.'

Though it cannot be necessary for us to add, it would be ungallant in us to conclude without repeating our opinion, that this French lady is an honour to her countrywomen; and we should be happy if they could justly as well as exultingly exclaim, “ Ex una, disce omnes."

ART. VIII. Tableau littéraire de la France, &c. ; i.e. A literary

View of France in the Eighteenth Century. By EUSEBIUS SALVERTE. 8vo. Pp. 394. Paris. 1809. At the close of so active a century as the last, it is just to

ascertain its merits, compared with those of its classical predecessor; and it is useful to deposit among our intellectual treasures a schedule of their accumulation. The idea of the present work, therefore, which originated with the French Institute, has in it something felicitous: but we are inclined to receive it partly in the formidable shape of a challenge, which we should rejoice to see accepted not only by our own literati, but by all those of the several states of Europe. In literature, nations, like individuals, when they obtain à reciprocal acquaintance with each other's manners, feelings, and tastes, might soon terminate the absurd quarrels of trifling criticism. Taking then a more enlarged view, it would be interesting to ascertain the fertility, the barrenness, the diversity, and the opposition of national genius ; to bring the respective productions to a more comparative test ; and to render the prejudices of taste less intractable, by freeing it from too circumscribed a circle, while the sources of imitation would astonishingly open on us, 'till the original authors of one country would often appear to shrink into the copyists of another. A selfish feeling, of the most justifiable kind, prompts us to provoke this closer contest; since, after a careful examination of the literary manifesto before us, in which our great and antient rival asserts her claims to that sovereignty which she affects in literature as well as in all other things, she has necessarily roused us to desire an enforcement of our own rights, and the humiliation of her usurping ingenuity, by verifying some prior claims. The empire of literary glory will neither begin nor end with Paris while London exists.


ional. SALVERTEies by the Age of hos

The subject of M. SALVERTE's volume was proposed for the prize of eloquence : but we cannot compliment the judgment of the Institute, in forcing an alliance which is marked by such a spirit of contradiction among the parties, as that of eloquence with critisism. A perpetual straining after ornaments, ill aşa sorted with the inquiry itself, has vitiated this composition ; and the critic who, in the ecstacy of parasitical apostrophes, and premeditated invocations, involves us in ablazing chaos of imagery that hurts the eye to which it gives no light, is only a rhapsodist abounding with feelings more than with ideas, and exhibiting copiousness rather than completeness. This Tableau partakes too much of the glare and flutter of its national school ; and being deficient in unity of subject, its groupes are broken and scattered : yet it is not without some happier touches, and occasionally a more subdued tone. _M. SALVERTE marks the division of the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries by the close of Louis XIV th's reign, distinguished as “ the great Age" of his nation : but, since the author is deficient in honourable candour towards our literature, he probably did not dare rather than was unwilling to confess, as Voltaire has avowed, that it was “ the age of the English" as well as that of Louis XIV. *- The work opens in this extraordinary manner :-. Towards the end of Louis XIV th's reign, when “ the great age” was closing, the star of that monarch had faded, and the treaty of Ryswick marked the decline of the political ascendancy of France. Then the French were nothing more than a PEOPLE, and Louis XIV. nothing more than A KING! There is something of such genuine nationality and something so comic in this insolence, that we know not how to resent it, while we smile! The author, however, who would have written perfectly in his senses, had not the unlucky prize of eloquence been glittering before his eyes, though he had not perhaps the modesty to blush, had the sagacity to discover the lamentable state to which Europe was reduced, even when the imperfect despotism of Louis was abating of its violence. He describes the neighbouring nations then breathing hatred, and indignation, animated by the hope of speedy vengeance.' All this the volatile Gaul tells only as a tale of other times; and instantly, like a true French academie cian, he cheers himself with an invocation, and consolęs himself in metaphor !

We must consider this volume as a collection of materials submitted to our discretion ;- of a great multitude of parti

* In his History of Louis XIV., chapter on the sciçaçes ; a castration for the menaced imperial editions." "L12


culars without arrangement or index: but we shall attempt for ourselves some kind of classification. :

The seventeenth century was the age of the great founders of French literature: -- it was their age of pure invention, when the imagination is full of freshness, and originality seems obtained without effort; -as Dryden expresses it,

“ Fame then was cheap, and the first comers sped !" The eighteenth century opened with all the despair of genius. • It was (says the present auchor) crushed at its birth by a comparison with the great masters. The first places were occupied by transcendant genius; and it had to encounter the lassitude of public taste, which was satiated by chefs-d'oeuvre, and was ready to contemn the imitators : yet, should it stray from the brilliant routes already traced, it would encounter more eminent perils. At its commencement, the age was accused of disguising its weaknesses under the mask of innovation, or betraying its unavoidable inferiority by servile imita'tion.' p. 13. - In the history of literature, at this period, a 'race of adventurers appear, who inscribed on their revolutionary standard, “ Those who imitate will never be imitated !” These innovators, however, dare hardily, not wisely, and give us the new, but not the good. Impatient of enduring superiority, they separate themselves from their masters, and raise up altar against altar: they imagine that in order to equal Genius they have only to abandon its principles; and that they are enlarging the province of art, when they are only exhausting and abusing their powers. Of this class, three authors are distinctly mentioned; Dufresny, Fontenelle, when a young writer, and La Motte, to his last day! These, though of very opposite 'characters, united in one opinion to ridicule antiquity : but

their own examples have only confirmed that close alliance 'which exists between the principles of taste and the just ad. miration of its great models. With this spirit, Dufresny has 'drawn a parallel between Homer and Rabelais : but the malice of his intention is more apparent than its success. Fontenelle '(who afterward obtained the most legitimate honours,) derived his early reputation from an excessive abuse of talent. All his first works are composed with a perfect antipathy of good taste : in his “ Pastorals" the shepherds speak a language exactly opposite to their characters; the amatory « Letters of the Chevalier H.” are the most extravagant debauch of wit; and his “ Dialogues of the Dead” sport with all received opinions, and detract from the objects of general admiration by their false thoughts and splendid ingenuity. La Motte, one of the most perfect antipodes of taste, persevered with the most absurd ingea

tinctly mentio to his fast oa Srinion to find that close

like nature and Land creat

quity in attacking the antients and seducing the moderns: Jie renewed the useless contest respecting their genius, with a bigot of antiquity; and so little did Madame Dacier grace « the better cause,” that the polished prose of La Motte for a consi <derable time divided public opinion. Not satisfied, however, with a leaf of laurel, he hardily resolved to correct the Iliad! he translated the Greek bard without reading Greek, rescinded his redundances by reducing him to half his size, and created a ridiculous Homer. In order to rival Æsop and La Fontaine, our new Fabulist, triumphing over nature and simplicity, compelied his animals to reason like so many doctors of law : he depreciated the lyric enthusiasm of Pindar; yet, that the world might not be deprived of fine Odes, he stamped the title on some dissertations in metaphysics and morals; and after having composed some thousands of verses, which were discovered to be the harshest in the language, he put together a tragedy in prose, asserting that the most excellent versification amounted to nothing more than the puerile merit of useless difficulty! This novel doctrine flattered the jealous impotence of the prosaists, who, with this champion at their head, ex, pected that all verse-making would grow out of fashion :- but enough of La Motte! the singularity of whose taste, sec off by wit and ingenuity, for more than half a century influenced French literature: yet he has not left one classical work; and his name will long remain a memorable example for those innovators, who, in their wanderings after affected or unpleasing novelties, do not even amuse us like La Motte. .

Among these timid copyists and rash innovators, at the opening of the eighteenth century, nothing indicated the splendid character of the approaching æra. It is exhilirating to discover that, after an age of genius, another may still succeed ; and that the invention of man seems only to require new objects in order to expand with equal vigour. These resources arose in the middle of the last century, by the rapid spread of knowlege, the cultivation of science, and the ferment of public opinion. In the last feeble years of the bigot Louis XIV. the nationat genius decayed with that of the sovereign; and, absorbed in theological disputes, his court resembled a house of penance, full of hypocrites. For such characters, it was an easy transi, tion to become libertines in the licentious regency of the Duke of Orleans; and at this period were sown those germs of corrup, tion, and those shameless morals, which have never been era, dicated from the national character. The Regent was closely connected with England, and the administration of the peaceful (or, as the French call him, the indolent) Fleury promoted the happy intercourse of the two countries. English literature L13


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