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Title: A History of French Literature - Short Histories of the Literatures of the World: II.
Author: Dowden, Edward, 1843-1913
Language: English
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Short Histories of the Literatures of the World: II.
Edited by Edmund Gosse



A History of
FRENCH LITERATURE


BY

EDWARD DOWDEN
D.LITT., LL.D. (DUB.), D.C.L. (OXON.), LL.D. (EDIN.)
LL.D. (PRINCETON)
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF DUBLIN



London
WILLIAM HEINEMANN
MCMXIV



_First Edition_, 1897
_New Impressions_, 1899, 1904, 1907, 1911, 1914



_Copyright, London_ 1897, _by William Heinemann_



PREFACE


French prose and French poetry had interested me during so many years
that when Mr. Gosse invited me to write this book I knew that I was
qualified in one particular--the love of my subject. Qualified in
knowledge I was not, and could not be. No one can pretend to know
the whole of a vast literature. He may have opened many books and
turned many pages; he cannot have penetrated to the soul of all books
from the _Song of Roland_ to _Toute la Lyre_. Without reaching its
spirit, to read a book is little more than to amuse the eye with printed
type.

An adequate history of a great literature can be written only by
collaboration. Professor Petit de Julleville, in the excellent
_Histoire de la Langue et de la Littérature Française_, at present
in process of publication, has his well-instructed specialist for
each chapter. In this small volume I too, while constantly exercising
my own judgment, have had my collaborators--the ablest and most
learned students of French literature--who have written each a part
of my book, while somehow it seems that I have written the whole.
My collaborators are on my shelves. Without them I could not have
accomplished my task; here I give them credit for their assistance.
Some have written general histories of French literature; some have
written histories of periods--the Middle Ages, the sixteenth,
seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth centuries; some have studied
special literary fields or forms--the novel, the drama, tragedy,
comedy, lyrical poetry, history, philosophy; many have written
monographs on great authors; many have written short critical studies
of books or groups of books. I have accepted from each a gift. But
my assistants needed to be controlled; they brought me twenty thousand
pages, and that was too much. Some were accurate in statement of fact,
but lacked ideas; some had ideas, but disregarded accuracy of
statement; some unjustly depreciated the seventeenth century, some
the eighteenth. For my purposes their work had to be rewritten; and
so it happens that this book is mine as well as theirs.

The sketch of mediæval literature follows the arrangement of matter
in the two large volumes of M. Petit de Julleville and his
fellow-labourers, to whom and to the writings of M. Gaston Paris I
am on almost every page indebted. Many matters in dispute have here
to be briefly stated in one way; there is no space for discussion.
Provençal literature does not appear in this volume. It is omitted
from the History of M. Petit de Julleville and from that of M. Lanson.
In truth, except as an influence, it forms no part of literature in
the French language.

The reader who desires guidance in bibliography will find it at the
close of each chapter of the History edited by M. Petit de Julleville,
less fully in the notes to M. Lanson's History, and an excellent table
of critical and biographical studies is appended to each volume of
M. Lintilhac's _Histoire de la Littérature Française_. M. Lintilhac,
however, omits many important English and German titles--among
others, if I am not mistaken, those of Birsch-Hirschfeld's
_Geschichte der Französichen Litteratur: die Zeit der Renaissance_,
of Lotheissen's important _Geschichte der Französichen Litteratur
im XVII. Jahrhundert_, and of Professor Flint's learned _Philosophy
of History_ (1893).

M. Lanson's work has been of great service in guiding me in the
arrangement of my subjects, and in giving me courage to omit many
names of the second or third rank which might be expected to appear
in a history of French literature. In a volume like the present,
selection is important, and I have erred more by inclusion than by
exclusion. The limitation of space has made me desire to say no word
that does not tend to bring out something essential or characteristic.

M. Lanson has ventured to trace French literature to the present
moment. I have thought it wiser to close my survey with the decline
of the romantic movement. With the rise of naturalism a new period
opens. The literature of recent years is rather a subject for current
criticism than for historical study.

I cannot say how often I have been indebted to the writings of M.
Brunetière, M. Faguet, M. Larroumet, M. Paul Stapfer, and other living
critics: to each of the volumes of _Les Grands Écrivains Français_,
and to many of the volumes of the _Classiques Populaires_. M.
Lintilhac's edition of Merlet's _Études Littéraires_ has also often
served me. But to name my aids to study would be to fill some pages.

While not unmindful of historical and social influences, I desire
especially to fix my reader's attention on great individuals, their
ideas, their feelings, and their art. The general history of ideas
should, in the first instance, be discerned by the student of
literature through his observation of individual minds.

That errors must occur where so many statements are made, I am aware
from past experience; but I have taken no slight pains to attain
accuracy. It must not be hastily assumed that dates here recorded
are incorrect because they sometimes differ from those given in other
books. For my errors I must myself bear the responsibility; but by
the editorial care of Mr. Gosse, in reading the proof-sheets of this
book, the number of such errors has been reduced.

                                                           EDWARD DOWDEN.

DUBLIN, _June_ 1897.



CONTENTS


_BOOK THE FIRST_--_THE MIDDLE AGES_

CHAPTER                                                          PAGE
   I. NARRATIVE RELIGIOUS POETRY--THE NATIONAL EPIC--THE EPIC OF
        ANTIQUITY--ROMANCES OF LOVE AND COURTESY . . . . . . . .    3

  II. LYRICAL POETRY--FABLES, AND RENARD THE FOX--FABLIAUX--THE
        ROMANCE OF THE ROSE  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   24

 III. DIDACTIC LITERATURE--SERMONS--HISTORY  . . . . . . . . . .   40

  IV. LATEST MEDIÆVAL POETS--THE DRAMA . . . . . . . . . . . . .   58


_BOOK THE SECOND_--_THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY_

   I. RENAISSANCE AND REFORMATION  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   81

  II. FROM THE PLÉIADE TO MONTAIGNE  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   96


_BOOK THE THIRD_--_THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY_

   I. LITERARY FREEDOM AND LITERARY ORDER  . . . . . . . . . . .  131

  II. THE FRENCH ACADEMY--PHILOSOPHY (DESCARTES)--RELIGION
        (PASCAL) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  147

 III. THE DRAMA (MONTCHRESTIEN TO CORNEILLE) . . . . . . . . . .  160

  IV. SOCIETY AND PUBLIC LIFE IN LETTERS . . . . . . . . . . . .  173

   V. BOILEAU AND LA FONTAINE  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  183

  VI. COMEDY AND TRAGEDY--MOLIÈRE--RACINE  . . . . . . . . . . .  196

 VII. BOSSUET AND THE PREACHERS--FÉNELON . . . . . . . . . . . .  219

VIII. TRANSITION TO THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY . . . . . . . . . . .  235


_BOOK THE FOURTH_--_THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY_

   I. MEMOIRS AND HISTORY--POETRY--THE THEATRE--THE NOVEL  . . .  251

  II. MONTESQUIEU--VAUVENARGUES--VOLTAIRE  . . . . . . . . . . .  273

 III. DIDEROT AND THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA--PHILOSOPHERS, ECONOMISTS,
        CRITICS--BUFFON  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  294

  IV. ROUSSEAU--BEAUMARCHAIS--BERNARDIN DE SAINT-PIERRE--ANDRÉ
        CHÉNIER  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  311


_BOOK THE FIFTH_--1789-1850

   I. THE REVOLUTION AND THE EMPIRE--MADAME DE STAËL--
        CHATEAUBRIAND  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  335

  II. THE CONFLICT OF IDEAS  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  354

 III. POETRY OF THE ROMANTIC SCHOOL  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  363

  IV. THE NOVEL  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  396

   V. HISTORY--LITERARY CRITICISM  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  411


      BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  429

      INDEX  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  437



BOOK THE FIRST
_THE MIDDLE AGES_



CHAPTER I
NARRATIVE RELIGIOUS POETRY--THE NATIONAL EPIC--THE EPIC OF
ANTIQUITY--ROMANCES OF LOVE AND COURTESY


The literature of the Middle Ages is an expression of the spirit of
feudalism and of the genius of the Church. From the union of feudalism
and Christianity arose the chivalric ideals, the new courtesy, the
homage to woman. Abstract ideas, ethical, theological, and those of
amorous metaphysics, were rendered through allegory into art.
Against these high conceptions, and the overstrained sentiment
connected with them, the positive intellect and the mocking temper
of France reacted; a literature of satire arose. By degrees the
bourgeois spirit encroached upon and overpowered the chivalric
ideals. At length the mediæval conceptions were exhausted.
Literature dwindled as its sources were impoverished; ingenuities
and technical formalities replaced imagination. The minds of men were
prepared to accept the new influences of the Renaissance and the
Reformation.


I
NARRATIVE RELIGIOUS POETRY

The oldest monument of the French language is found in the Strasburg
Oaths (842); the oldest French poem possessing literary merit is the
_Vie de Saint Alexis_, of which a redaction belonging to the middle
of the eleventh century survives. The passion of piety and the passion
of combat, the religious and the warrior motives, found early
expression in literature; from the first arose the Lives of Saints
and other devout writings, from the second arose the _chansons de
geste_. They grew side by side, and had a like manner of development.
If one takes precedence of the other, it is only because by the chances
of time _Saint Alexis_ remains to us, and the forerunners of the
_Chanson de Roland_ are lost. With each species of poetry
_cantilènes_--short lyrico-epic poems--preceded the narrative form.
Both the profane and what may be called the religious _chanson de
geste_ were sung or recited by the same jongleurs--men of a class
superior to the vulgar purveyors of amusement. Gradually the poems
of both kinds expanded in length, and finally prose narrative took
the place of verse.

The Lives of Saints are in the main founded on Latin originals; the
names of their authors are commonly unknown. _Saint Alexis_, a tale
of Syriac origin, possibly the work of Tedbalt, a canon of Vernon,
consists of 125 stanzas, each of five lines which are bound together
by a single assonant rhyme. It tells of the chastity and poverty of
the saint, who flies from his virgin bride, lives among beggars,
returns unrecognised to his father's house, endures the insults of
the servants, and, dying at Rome, receives high posthumous honours;
finally, he is rejoined by his wife--the poet here adding to the
legend--in the presence of God, among the company of the angels. Some
of the sacred poems are derived from the Bible, rhymed versions of
which were part of the jongleur's equipment; some from the apocryphal
gospels, or legends of Judas, of Pilate, of the Cross, or, again,
from the life of the Blessed Virgin. The literary value of these is
inferior to that of the versified Lives of the Saints. About the tenth
century the marvels of Eastern hagiography became known in France,
and gave a powerful stimulus to the devout imagination. A certain
rivalry existed between the claims of profane and religious
literature, and a popular audience for narrative poems designed for
edification was secured by their recital in churches. Wholly fabulous
some of these are--as the legend of St. Margaret--but they were not
on this account the less welcome or the less esteemed. In certain
instances the tale is dramatically placed in the mouth of a narrator,
and thus the way was in a measure prepared for the future
mystery-plays.

More than fifty of these Lives of Saints are known, composed generally
in octosyllabic verse, and varying in length from some hundreds of
lines to ten thousand. In the group which treats of the national saints
of France, an element of history obscured by errors, extravagances,
and anachronisms may be found. The purely legendary matter occupies
a larger space in those derived from the East, in which the religious
ideal is that of the hermit life. The celebrated _Barlaam et Joasaph_,
in which Joasaph, son of a king of India, escaping from his father's
restraints, fulfils his allotted life as a Christian ascetic, is
traceable to a Buddhist source. The narratives of Celtic origin--such
as those of the Purgatory of St. Patrick and the voyages of St.
Brendan--are coloured by a tender mysticism, and sometimes charm us
with a strangeness of adventure, in which a feeling for external
nature, at least in its aspects of wonder, appears. The Celtic saints
are not hermits of the desert, but travellers or pilgrims. Among the
lives of contemporary saints, by far the most remarkable is that of
our English Becket by Garnier de Pont-Sainte-Maxence. Garnier had
himself known the archbishop; he obtained the testimony of witnesses
in England; he visited the places associated with the events of
Becket's life; his work has high value as an historical document;
it possesses a personal accent, rare in such writings; a genuine
dramatic vigour; and great skill and harmonious power in its stanzas
of five rhyming lines.

A body of short poems, inspired by religious feeling, and often
telling of miracles obtained by the intercession of the Virgin or
the saints, is known as _Contes pieux_. Many of these were the work
of Gautier de Coinci (1177-1236), a Benedictine monk; he translates
from Latin sources, but with freedom, adding matter of his own, and
in the course of his pious narratives gives an image, far from
flattering, of the life and manners of his own time. It is he who
tells of the robber who, being accustomed to commend himself in his
adventures to our Lady, was supported on the gibbet for three days
by her white hands, and received his pardon; and of the illiterate
monk who suffered shame because he knew no more than his _Ave Maria_,
but who, when dead, was proved a holy man by the five roses that came
from his mouth in honour of the five letters of Maria's name; and
of the nun who quitted her convent to lead a life of disorder, yet
still addressed a daily prayer to the Virgin, and who, returning after
long years, found that the Blessed Mary had filled her place, and
that her absence was unknown. The collection known as _Vies des Pères_
exhibits the same naïveté of pious feeling and imagination. Man is
weak and sinful; but by supernatural aid the humble are exalted,
sinners are redeemed, and the suffering innocent are avenged. Even
Théophile, the priest who sold his soul to the devil, on repentance
receives back from the Queen of Heaven the very document by which
he had put his salvation in pawn. The sinner (_Chevalier au barillet_)
who endeavours for a year to fill the hermit's little cask at running
streams, and endeavours in vain, finds it brimming the moment one
tear of true penitence falls into the vessel. Most exquisite in its
feeling is the tale of the _Tombeur de Notre-Dame_--a poor acrobat--a
jongleur turned monk--who knows not even the _Pater noster_ or the
_Credo_, and can only offer before our Lady's altar his tumbler's
feats; he is observed, and as he sinks worn-out and faint before the
shrine, the Virgin is seen to descend, with her angelic attendants,
and to wipe away the sweat from her poor servant's forehead. If there
be no other piety in such a tale as this, there is at least the piety
of human pity.


II
THE NATIONAL EPIC

Great events and persons, a religious and national spirit, and a
genius for heroic narrative being given, epic literature arises, as
it were, inevitably. Short poems, partly narrative, partly lyrical,
celebrate victories or defeats, the achievements of conquerors or
defenders, and are sung to relieve or to sustain the passion of the
time. The French epopee had its origin in the national songs of the
Germanic invaders of Gaul, adopted from their conquerors by the
Gallo-Romans. With the baptism of Clovis at Reims, and the acceptance
of Christianity by the Franks (496), a national consciousness began
to exist--a national and religious ideal arose. Epic heroes--Clovis,
Clotaire, Dagobert, Charles Martel--became centres for the popular
imagination; an echo of the Dagobert songs is found in _Floovent_,
a poem of the twelfth century; eight Latin lines, given in the _Vie
de Saint Faron_ by Helgaire, Bishop of Meaux, preserve, in their
ninth-century rendering, a fragment of the songs which celebrated
Clotaire II. Doubtless more and more in these lost _cantilènes_ the
German element yielded to the French, and finally the two streams
of literature--French and German--separated; gradually, also, the
lyrical element yielded to the epic, and the _chanson de geste_ was
developed from these songs.

In Charlemagne, champion of Christendom against Islam, a great epic
figure appeared; on his person converged the epic interest; he may
be said to have absorbed into himself, for the imagination of the
singers and the people, the persons of his predecessors, and even,
at a later time, of his successors; their deeds became his deeds,
their fame was merged in his; he stood forth as the representative
of France. We may perhaps regard the ninth century as the period of
the transformation of the _cantilènes_ into the _chansons de geste_;
in the fragment of Latin prose of the tenth century--reduced to prose
from hexameters, but not completely reduced--discovered at La Haye
(and named after the place of its discovery), is found an epic episode
of Carlovingian war, probably derived from a _chanson de geste_ of
the preceding century. In each _chanson_ the _gesta_,[1] the deeds
or achievements of a heroic person, are glorified, and large as may
be the element of invention in these poems, a certain historical basis
or historical germ may be found, with few exceptions, in each. Roland
was an actual person, and a battle was fought at Roncevaux in 778.
William of Orange actually encountered the Saracens at Villedaigne
in 793. Renaud de Montauban lived and fought, not indeed against
Charlemagne, but against Charles Martel. Ogier, Girard de Roussillon,
Raoul de Cambrai, were not mere creatures of the fancy. Even when
the narrative records no historical series of events, it may express
their general significance, and condense into itself something of
the spirit of an epoch. In the course of time, however, fantasy made
a conquest of the historical domain; a way for the triumph of fantasy
had been opened by the incorporation of legend into the narrative,
with all its wild exaggerations, its reckless departures from truth,
its conventional types of character, its endlessly-repeated
incidents of romance--the child nourished by wild beasts, the combat
of unrecognised father and son, the hero vulnerable only in one point,
the vindication of the calumniated wife or maiden; and by the
over-labour of fantasy, removed far from nature and reality, the epic
material was at length exhausted.

[Footnote 1: _Gestes_ meant (1) deeds, (2) their history, (3) the
heroic family.]

The oldest surviving _chanson de geste_ is the SONG OF ROLAND, and
it is also the best. The disaster of Roncevaux, probably first sung
in _cantilènes_, gave rise to other chansons, two of which, of earlier
date than the surviving poem, can in a measure be reconstructed from
the Chronicle of Turpin and from a Latin _Carmen de proditione
Guenonis_. These, however, do not detract from the originality of
the noble work in our possession, some of the most striking episodes
of which are not elsewhere found. The oldest manuscript is at Oxford,
and the last line has been supposed to give the author's
name--Touroude (Latinised "Turoldus")--but this may have been the
name of the jongleur who sang, or the transcriber who copied. The
date of the poem lies between that of the battle of Hastings, 1066,
where the minstrel Taillefer sang in other words the deeds of Roland,
and the year 1099. The poet was probably a Norman, and he may have
been one of the Norman William's followers in the invasion of England.

More than any other poem, the _Chanson de Roland_ deserves to be named
the Iliad of the Middle Ages. On August 15, 778, the rearguard of
Charlemagne's army, returning from a successful expedition to the
north of Spain, was surprised and destroyed by Basque mountaineers
in the valley of Roncevaux. Among those who fell was Hrodland (Roland),
Count of the march of Brittany. For Basques, the singers substituted
a host of Saracens, who, after promise of peace, treacherously attack
the Franks, with the complicity of Roland's enemy, the traitor Ganelon.
By Roland's side is placed his companion-in-arms, Olivier, brave but
prudent, brother of Roland's betrothed, _la belle Aude_, who learns
her lover's death, and drops dead at the feet of Charlemagne. In fact
but thirty-six years of age, Charlemagne is here a majestic old man,
_à la barbe fleurie_, still full of heroic vigour. Around him are
his great lords--Duke Naime, the Nestor of this Iliad; Archbishop
Turpin, the warrior prelate; Oger the Dane; the traitor Ganelon. And
overhead is God, who will send his angels to bear heavenwards the
soul of the gallant Roland. The idea of the poem is at once national
and religious--the struggle between France, as champion of
Christendom, and the enemies of France and of God. Its spirit is that
of the feudal aristocracy of the eleventh century. The characters
are in some degree representative of general types, but that of Roland
is clearly individualised; the excess of soldierly pride which will
not permit him, until too late, to sound his horn and recall
Charlemagne to his aid, is a glorious fault. When all his comrades
have fallen, he still continues the strife; and when he dies, it is
with his face to the retreating foe. His fall is not unavenged on
the Saracens and on the traitor. The poem is written in decasyllabic
verse--in all 4000 lines--divided into sections or _laisses_ of
varying length, the lines of each _laisse_ being held together by
a single assonance.[2] And such is the form in which the best _chansons
de geste_ are written. The decasyllabic line, derived originally from
popular Latin verse, rhythmical rather than metrical, such as the
Roman legionaries sang, is the favourite verse of the older chansons.
The alexandrine,[3] first seen in the _Pèlerinage de Jérusalem_ of
the early years of the twelfth century, in general indicates later
and inferior work. The _laisse_, bound in one by its identical
assonance, might contain five lines or five hundred. In chansons of
late date the full rhyme often replaces assonance; but inducing, as
it did in unskilled hands, artificial and feeble expansions of the
sense, rhyme was a cause which co-operated with other causes in the
decline of this form of narrative poetry.

[Footnote 2: _Assonance_, _i.e._ vowel-rhyme, without an agreement
of consonants.]

[Footnote 3: Verse of twelve syllables, with cesura after the sixth
accented syllable. In the decasyllabic line the cesura generally
followed the fourth, but sometimes the sixth, tonic syllable.]

Naturally the chansons which celebrated the achievements of one epic
personage or one heroic family fell into a group, and the idea of
cycles of songs having arisen, the later poets forced many independent
subjects to enter into the so-called cycle of the king (Charlemagne),
or that of William of Orange, or that of Doon of Mayence. The second
of these had, indeed, a genuine cyclic character: it told of the
resistance of the south of France to the Mussulmans. The last cycle
to develop was that of the Crusades. Certain poems or groups of poems
may be distinguished as _gestes_ of the provinces, including the
_Geste des Lorrains_, that of the North (_Raoul de Cambrai_), that
of Burgundy, and others.[4] Among these may be placed the beautiful
tale of _Amis et Amiles_, a glorification of friendship between man
and man, which endures all trials and self-sacrifices. Other poems,
again, are unconnected with any of these cycles; and, indeed, the
cyclic division is more a convenience of classification than a fact
in the spontaneous development of this form of art. The entire period
of the evolution of epic song extends from the tenth or eleventh to
the fifteenth century, or, we might say, from the _Chanson de Roland_
to the _Chronique de Bertrand Duguesclin_. The eleventh century
produced the most admirable work; in the twelfth century the chansons
are more numerous, but nothing was written of equal merit with the
Song of Roland; after the death of Louis VII. (1180) the old epic
material was rehandled and beaten thin--the decadence was already
in progress.

[Footnote 4: The epopee composed in Provençal, sung but not
transcribed, is wholly lost. The development of lyric poetry in the
South probably checked the development of the epic.]

The style in which the _chansons de geste_ are written is something
traditional, something common to the people and to the time, rather
than characteristic of the individual authors. They show little of
the art of arranging or composing the matter so as to produce an unity
of effect: the narrative straggles or condenses itself as if by
accident; skill in transitions is unknown. The study of character
is rude and elementary: a man is either heroic or dastard, loyal or
a traitor; wholly noble, or absolutely base. Yet certain types of
manhood and womanhood are presented with power and beauty. The feeling
for external nature, save in some traditional formulæ, hardly appears.
The passion for the marvellous is everywhere present: St. Maurice,
St. George, and a shining company, mounted on white steeds, will of
a sudden bear down the hordes of the infidel; an angel stands glorious
behind the throne of Charlemagne; or in narrative of Celtic origin
angels may be mingled with fays. God, the great suzerain, to whom
even kings owe homage, rules over all; Jesus and Mary are watchful
of the soldiers of the cross; Paradise receives the souls of the
faithful. As for earth, there is no land so gay or so dear as _la
douce France_. The Emperor is above all the servant and protector
of the Church. As the influence of the great feudal lords increased,
they are magnified often at the expense of the monarchy; yet even
when in high rebellion, they secretly feel the duty of loyalty. The
recurring poetic epithet and phrase of formula found in the _chansons
de geste_ often indicate rather than veil a defect of imagination.
Episodes and adventures are endlessly repeated from poem to poem with
varying circumstances--the siege, the assault, the capture, the duel
of Christian hero and Saracen giant, the Paynim princess amorous of
a fair French prisoner, the marriage, the massacre, and a score of
other favourite incidents.

The popularity of the French epopee extended beyond France. Every
country of Europe translated or imitated the _chansons de geste_.
Germany made the fortunate choice of _Roland_ and _Aliscans_. In
England two of the worst examples, _Fierabras_ and _Otinel_, were
special favourites. In Norway the chansons were applied to the purpose
of religious propaganda. Italy made the tales of Roland, Ogier, Renaud,
her own. Meanwhile the national epopee declined in France; a breath
of scepticism touched and withered the leafage and blossom of
imagination; it even became possible to parody--as in _Audigier_--the
heroic manner. The employment of rhyme in place of assonance, and of
the alexandrine in place of the decasyllabic line, encouraged what may
be called poetical padding. The influence of the Breton romances
diverted the _chansons de geste_ into ways of fantasy; "We shall never
know," writes M. Léon Gautier, "the harm which the Round Table has
done us." Finally, verse became a weariness, and was replaced by prose.
The decline had progressed to a fall.


III
THE EPIC OF ANTIQUITY

Later to develop than the national epopee was that which formed the
cycle of antiquity. Their romantic matter made the works of the
Greco-Roman decadence even more attractive than the writings of the
great classical authors to poets who would enter into rivalry with
the singers of the _chansons de geste_. These poems, which mediævalise
ancient literature--poems often of portentous length--have been
classified in three groups--epic romances, historical or
pseudo-historical romances, and mythological tales, including the
imitations of Ovid. The earliest in date of the first group (about
1150-1155) is the ROMANCE OF THEBES, the work of an unknown author,
founded upon a compendium of the Thebaid of Statius, preceded by the
story of OEdipus. It opened the way for the vast ROMANCE OF TROY,
written some ten years later, by Benoit de Sainte-More. The chief
sources of Benoit were versions, probably more or less augmented,
of the famous records of the Trojan war, ascribed to the Phrygian
Dares, an imaginary defender of the city, and the Cretan Dictys, one
of the besiegers. Episodes were added, in which, on a slender
suggestion, Benoit set his own inventive faculty to work, and among
these by far the most interesting and admirable is the story of Troilus
and Briseida, known better to us by her later name of Cressida. Through
Boccaccio's _Il Filostrato_ this tale reached our English Chaucer,
and through Chaucer it gave rise to the strange, half-heroic,
half-satirical play of Shakespeare.

Again, ten years later, an unknown poet was adapting Virgil to the
taste of his contemporaries in his _Eneas_, where the courtship of
the Trojan hero and Lavinia is related in the chivalric manner. All
these poems are composed in the swift octosyllabic verse; the _Troy_
extends to thirty thousand lines. While the names of the personages
are classical, the spirit and life of the romances are wholly
mediæval: Troilus, and Hector, and Æneas are conceived as if knights
of the Middle Ages; their wars and loves are those of gallant
chevaliers. The _Romance of Julius Cæsar_ (in alexandrine verse),
the work of a certain Jacot de Forest, writing in the second half
of the thirteenth century, versifies, with some additions from the
Commentaries of Cæsar, an earlier prose translation by Jehan de Thuin
(about 1240) of Lucan's Pharsalia--the oldest translation in prose
of any secular work of antiquity. Cæsar's passion for Cleopatra in
the Romance is the love prescribed to good knights by the amorous
code of the writer's day, and Cleopatra herself has borrowed something
of the charm of Tristram's Iseult.

If _Julius Cæsar_ may be styled historical, the ROMAN D'ALEXANDRE,
a poem of twenty thousand lines (to the form of which this romance
gave its name--"alexandrine" verse), the work of Lambert le Tort and
Alexandre de Bernay, can only be described as legendary. All--or
nearly all--that was written during the Middle Ages in French on the
subject of Alexander may be traced back to Latin versions of a Greek
compilation, perhaps of the first century, ascribed to Callisthenes,
the companion of Alexander on his Asiatic expedition.[5] It is
uncertain how much the _Alexandre_ may owe to a Provençal poem on
the same subject, written in the early years of the twelfth century,
probably by Albéric de Briançon, of which only a short fragment, but
that of high merit, has been preserved. From his birth, and his
education by Aristotle and the enchanter Nectanebus, to the division,
as death approaches, of his empire between his twelve peers, the story
of Alexander is a series of marvellous adventures; the imaginary
wonders of the East, monstrous wild beasts, water-women,
flower-maidens, Amazons, rain of fire, magic mountains, magic
fountains, trees of the sun and of the moon, are introduced with a
liberal hand. The hero is specially distinguished by the virtue of
liberality; a jongleur who charms him by lays sung to the flute, is
rewarded with the lordship of Tarsus, a worthy example for the
twelfth-century patrons of the poet. The romance had a resounding
fame.

[Footnote 5: Not quite all, for certain borrowings were made from
the correspondence of Alexander with Dindimus, King of the Brahmans,
and from the _Alexandri Magni iter ad Paradisum_.]

Of classical poets, Ovid ranked next to Virgil in the esteem of the
Middle Ages. The mythology of paganism was sanctified by the
assumption that it was an allegory of Christian mysteries, and thus
the stories might first be enjoyed by the imagination, and then be
expounded in their spiritual meaning. The _Metamorphoses_ supplied
Chrétien de Troyes with the subject of his _Philomena_; other writers
gracefully dealt with the tales of _Piramus_ and of _Narcissus_. But
the most important work founded upon Ovid was a versified translation
of the _Metamorphoses_ (before 1305) by a Franciscan monk, Chrétien
Legouais de Sainte-Maure, with appended interpretations, scientific,
historical, moral, or religious, of the mythological fables. Ovid's
_Art of Love_, of which more than one rendering was made, aided in
the formation or development of the mediæval theory of love and the
amorous casuistry founded upon that theory.


IV
ROMANCES OF LOVE AND COURTESY

Under the general title of the _Épopée courtoise_--the Epopee of
Courtesy--may be grouped those romances which are either works of
pure imagination or of uncertain origin, or which lead us back to
Byzantine or to Celtic sources. They include some of the most
beautiful and original poems of the Middle Ages. Appearing first about
the opening of the twelfth century, later in date than the early
_chansons de geste_, and contemporary with the courtly lyric poetry
of love, they exhibit the chivalric spirit in a refined and graceful
aspect; their marvels are not gross wonders, but often surprises of
beauty; they are bright in colour, and varied in the play of life;
the passions which they interpret, and especially the passion of love,
are felt with an exquisite delicacy and a knowledge of the workings
of the heart. They move lightly in their rhymed or assonanced verse;
even when they passed into the form of prose they retained something
of their charm. Breton harpers wandering through France and England
made Celtic themes known through their _lais_; the fame of King Arthur
was spread abroad by these singers and by the _History_ of Geoffrey
of Monmouth. French poets welcomed the new matter of romance, infused
into it their own chivalric spirit, made it a receptacle for their
ideals of gallantry, courtesy, honour, grace, and added their own
beautiful inventions. With the story of King Arthur was connected
that of the sacred vessel--the graal--in which Joseph of Arimathea
at the cross had received the Saviour's blood. And thus the rude Breton
_lais_ were elevated not only to a chivalric but to a religious
purpose.

The romances of Tristan may certainly be named as of Celtic origin.
About 1150 an Anglo-Norman poet, BÉROUL, brought together the
scattered narrative of his adventures in a romance, of which a large
fragment remains. The secret loves of Tristan and Iseut, their
woodland wanderings, their dangers and escapes, are related with fine
imaginative sympathy; but in this version of the tale the fatal
love-philtre operates only for a period of three years; Iseut, with
Tristan's consent, returns to her husband, King Marc; and then a
second passion is born in their hearts, a passion which is the
offspring not of magic but of natural attraction, and at a critical
moment of peril the fragment closes. About twenty years later (1170)
the tale was again sung by an Anglo-Norman named THOMAS. Here--again
in a fragment--we read of Tristan's marriage, a marriage only in name,
to the white-handed Iseut of Brittany, his fidelity of heart to his
one first love, his mortal wound and deep desire to see the Queen
of Cornwall, the device of the white or black sails to announce the
result of his entreaty that she should come, his deception, and the
death of his true love upon her lover's corpse. Early in the thirteenth
century was composed a long prose romance, often rehandled and
expanded, upon the same subject, in which Iseut and Tristan meet at
the last moment and die in a close embrace.

_Le Chèvrefeuille_ (The Honeysuckle), one of several _lais_ by a
twelfth-century poetess, MARIE, living in England, but a native of
France, tells gracefully of an assignation of Tristan and Iseut, their
meeting in the forest, and their sorrowful farewell. Marie de France
wrote with an exquisite sense of the generosities and delicacy of
the heart, and with a skill in narrative construction which was rare
among the poets of her time. In _Les Deux Amants_, the manly pride
of passion, which in a trial of strength declines the adventitious
aid of a reviving potion, is rewarded by the union in death of the
lover and his beloved. In _Yonec_ and in _Lanval_ tales of love and
chivalry are made beautiful by lore of fairyland, in which the element
of wonder is subdued to beauty. But the most admirable poem by Marie
de France is unquestionably her _Eliduc_. The Breton knight Eliduc
is passionately loved by Guilliadon, the only daughter of the old
King of Exeter, on whose behalf he had waged battle. Her tokens of
affection, girdle and ring, are received by Eliduc in silence; for,
though her passion is returned, he has left in Brittany, unknown to
Guilliadon, a faithful wife. Very beautiful is the self-transcending
love of the wife, who restores her rival from seeming death, and
herself retires into a convent. The lovers are wedded, and live in
charity to the poor, but with a trouble at the heart for the wrong
that they have done. In the end they part; Eliduc embraces the
religious life, and the two loving women are united as sisters in
the same abbey.

Wace, in his romance of the _Brut_ (1155), which renders into verse
the _Historia_ of Geoffrey of Monmouth, makes the earliest mention
of the Round Table. Whether the Arthurian legends be of Celtic or
of French origin--and the former seems probable--the French romances
of King Arthur owe but the crude material to Celtic sources; they
may be said to begin with CHRÉTIEN DE TROYES, whose lost poem on
Tristan was composed about 1160. Between that date and 1175 he wrote
his _Erec et Enide_ (a tale known to us through Tennyson's idyll of
Geraint and Enid, derived from the Welsh _Mabinogion_), _Cligès_,
_Le Chevalier de la Charrette_, _Le Chevalier au Lion_, and _Perceval_.
In _Cligès_ the maidenhood of his beloved Fénice, wedded in form to
the Emperor of Constantinople, is guarded by a magic potion; like
Romeo's Juliet, she sleeps in apparent death, but, happier than Juliet,
she recovers from her trance to fly with her lover to the court of
Arthur. The _Chevalier de la Charrette_, at first unknown by name,
is discovered to be Lancelot, who, losing his horse, has condescended,
in order that he may obtain sight of Queen Guenièvre, and in passionate
disregard of the conventions of knighthood, to seat himself in a cart
which a dwarf is leading. After gallant adventures on the Queen's
behalf, her indignant resentment of his unknightly conduct,
estrangement, and rumours of death, he is at length restored to her
favour.[6] While _Perceval_ was still unfinished, Chrétien de Troyes
died. It was continued by other poets, and through this romance the
quest of the holy graal became a portion of the Arthurian cycle. A
_Perceval_ by ROBERT DE BORON, who wrote in the early part of the
thirteenth century, has been lost; but a prose redaction of the
romance exists, which closes with the death of King Arthur. The great
_Lancelot_ in prose--a vast compilation--(about 1220) reduces the
various adventures of its hero and of other knights of the King to
their definitive form; and here the achievement of the graal is
assigned, not to Perceval, but to the saintly knight Sir Galaad;
Arthur is slain in combat with the revolter Mordret; and Lancelot
and the Queen enter into the life of religion. Passion and piety are
alike celebrated; the rude Celtic legends have been sanctified. The
earlier history of the sacred vase was traced by Robert de Boron in
his _Joseph d'Arimathie_ (or the _Saint-Graal_), soon to be rehandled
and developed in prose; and he it was who, in his _Merlin_--also
presently converted into prose--on suggestions derived from Geoffrey
of Monmouth, brought the great enchanter into Arthurian romance. By
the middle of the thirteenth century the cycle had received its full
development. Towards the middle of the fourteenth century, in
_Perceforest_, an attempt was made to connect the legend of Alexander
the Great with that of King Arthur.

[Footnote 6: Chrétien de Troyes is the first poet to tell of the love
of Lancelot for the Queen.]

Beside the so-called Breton romances, the _Épopée courtoise_ may be
taken to include many poems of Greek, of Byzantine, or of uncertain
origin, such as the _Roman de la Violette_, the tale of a wronged
wife, having much in common with that novel of Boccaccio with which
Shakespeare's _Cymbeline_ is connected, the _Floire et
Blanchefleur_; the _Parténopeus de Blois_, a kind of "Cupid and
Psyche" story, with the parts of the lovers transposed, and others.
In the early years of the thirteenth century the prose romance
rivalled in popularity the romance in verse. The exquisite
_chante-fable_ of _Aucassin et Nicolette_, of the twelfth century,
is partly in prose, partly in assonanced _laisses_ of seven-syllable
verse. It is a story of the victory of love: the heir of Count Garin
of Beaucaire is enamoured of a beautiful maiden of unknown birth,
purchased from the Saracens, who proves to be daughter of the King
of Carthage, and in the end the lovers are united. In one remarkable
passage unusual sympathy is shown with the hard lot of the peasant,
whose trials and sufferings are contrasted with the lighter troubles
of the aristocratic class.

In general the poems of the _Épopée courtoise_ exhibit much of the
brilliant external aspect of the life of chivalry as idealised by
the imagination; dramatic situations are ingeniously devised; the
emotions of the chief actors are expounded and analysed, sometimes
with real delicacy; but in the conception of character, in the
recurring incidents, in the types of passion, in the creation of
marvel and surprise, a large conventional element is present. Love
is independent of marriage, or rather the relation of wedlock excludes
love in the accepted sense of the word; the passion is almost
necessarily illegitimate, and it comes as if it were an irresistible
fate; the first advance is often made by the woman; but, though at
war with the duty of wedlock, love is conceived as an ennobling
influence, prompting the knight to all deeds of courage and
self-sacrifice. Through the later translation of the Spanish _Amadis
des Gaules_, something of the spirit of the mediæval romances was
carried into the chivalric and pastoral romances of the seventeenth
century.



CHAPTER II
LYRICAL POETRY--FABLES, AND RENARD THE FOX--FABLIAUX--THE ROMANCE
OF THE ROSE


I
LYRICAL POETRY

Long before the date of any lyrical poems that have come down to us,
song and dance were a part of the life of the people of the North
as well as of the South of France; religious festivals were celebrated
with a gaiety which had its mundane side; love and malicious sport
demanded an expression as well as pious joy. But in tracing the forms
of lyrical verse anterior to the middle of the twelfth century, when
the troubadour influence from the South began to be felt, we must
be guided partly by conjecture, derived from the later poetry, in
which--and especially in the refrains--earlier fragments have been
preserved.

The common characteristic which distinguishes the earlier lyrics is
the presence in them of an objective element: they do not merely render
an emotion; they contain something of a story, or they suggest a
situation. In this literature of sentiment, the singer or imagined
singer is commonly a woman. The _chanson d'histoire_ is also known
as _chanson de toile_, for the songs were such as suited "the spinsters
and the knitters in the sun." Their inspiring motive was a girl's
joy or grief in love; they lightly outline or suggest the facts of
a miniature drama of passion, and are aided by the repeated lyrical
cry of a refrain. As yet, love was an affair for the woman; it was
she alone who made a confession of the heart. None of these poems
are later than the close of the twelfth century. If the author be
represented as actor or witness, the poem is rather a _chanson à
personnages_ than a _chanson d'histoire_; most frequently it is a
wife who is supposed to utter to husband, or lover, or to the poet,
her complaint of the grievous servitude of marriage. The _aube_ is,
again, a woman's song, uttered as a parting cry when the lark at
daybreak, or the watcher from his tower, warns her lover to depart.
In the _pastourelle_--a form much cultivated--a knight and a
shepherdess meet; love proposals are made, and find a response
favourable or the reverse; witnesses or companions may be present,
and take a part in the action. The _rondet_ is a dancing-song, in
which the refrain corresponds with one of the movements of the dance;
a solo-singer is answered by the response of a chorus; in the progress
of time the _rondet_ assumed the precise form of the modern triolet;
the theme was still love, at first treated seriously if not tragically,
but at a later time in a spirit of gaiety. It is conjectured that
all these lyrical forms had their origin in the festivities of May,
when the return of spring was celebrated by dances in which women
alone took part, a survival from the pagan rites of Venus.

The _poésie courtoise_, moulded in form and inspired in its sentiment
by the Provençal lyrics, lies within the compass of about one hundred
and thirty years, from 1150 to 1280. The Crusade of 1147 served,
doubtless, as a point of meeting for men of the North and of the South;
but, apart from this, we may bear in mind the fact that the mediæval
poet wandered at will from country to country and from court to court.
In 1137, Louis VII. married Éléonore of Aquitaine, who was an ardent
admirer of the poetry of courtesy. Her daughters inherited her taste,
and themselves became patronesses of literature at the courts of their
husbands, Henri de Champagne and Thibaut de Blois. From these courts,
and that of Paris, this poetry of culture spread, and the earlier
singers were persons of royal or noble rank and birth. The chief period
of its cultivation was probably from 1200 to 1240. During the
half-century before its sudden cessation, while continuing to be a
fashion in courts and high society, it reached the wealthy bourgeoisie
of the North. At Arras, where Jacques Bretel and Adam de la Halle,
the hunchback, were eminent in song, it had its latest moments of
splendour.

It is essentially a poetry of the intellect and of the imagination,
dealing with an elaborated theory of love; the simple and spontaneous
cry of passion is rarely heard. According to the amorous doctrine,
love exists only between a married woman and the aspirant to her heart,
and the art of love is regulated by a stringent code. Nothing can
be claimed by the lover as a right; the grace of his lady, who is
placed far above him, must be sought as a favour; for that favour
he must qualify himself by all knightly virtues, and chief among these,
as the position requires, are the virtues of discretion and patience.
Hence the poet's ingenuities of adoration; hence often the monotony
of artificial passion; hence, also, subtleties and curiosities of
expression, and sought-out delicacies of style. In the earlier
chansons some outbreak of instinctive feeling may be occasionally
present; but, as the amorous metaphysics developed, what came to be
admired was the skill shown in manipulating a conventional sentiment;
the lady became an abstraction of exalted beauty, the lover an
interpreter of the theory of love; the most personal of passions lost
the character of individuality. Occasionally, as in the poems of the
Châtelain de Couci, of Conon de Béthune, of Thibaut de Champagne,
and of Adam de la Halle, something personal to the writer may be
discerned; but in general the poetry is that of a doctrine and of
a school.

In some instances the reputation of the lyrical trouvère was founded
rather on his music than his verse. The metrical forms were various,
and were gradually reduced to rule; the _ballette_, of Provençal
origin, was a more elaborate _rondet_, consisting of stanzas and
refrain; the _estampie_ (_stampôn_, to beat the ground with the foot)
was a dancing-song; the lyric _lai_, virtually identical with the
_descort_, consisted of stanzas which varied in structure; the
_motet_, a name originally applied to pieces of church music, was
freer in versification, and occasionally dealt with popular themes.
Among forms which cannot be included under the general title of
chansons, are those in dialogue derived from the Provençal
literature; in the _tenson_ or _débat_ the two interlocutors put forth
their opinions on what theme they may please; in the _jeu parti_ one
of the imagined disputants proposes two contrary solutions of some
poetical or amorous question, and defends whichever solution his
associate refuses to accept; the earliest _jeu parti_, attributed
to Gace Brulé and Count Geoffroi of Brittany, belongs to the second
half of the twelfth century. The _serventois_ were historical poems,
and among them songs of the crusades, or moral, or religious, or
satirical pieces, directed against woman and the worship of woman.
To these various species we should add the songs in honour of the
saints, the sorrows of the Virgin uttered at the foot of the cross,
and other devout lyrics which lie outside the _poésie courtoise_.
With the close of the thirteenth century this fashion of artificial
love-lyric ceased: a change passed over the modes of thought and
feeling in aristocratic society, and other forms took the place of
those found in the _poésie courtoise_.


II
FABLES, AND RENARD THE FOX

The desire of ecclesiastical writers in the Middle Ages to give
prominence to that part of classical literature which seemed best
suited to the purpose of edification caused the fables of Phædrus
and Avianus to be regarded with special honour. Various renderings
from the thirteenth century onwards were made under the title of
_Isopets_,[1] a name appropriated to collections of fables whether
derived from Æsop or from other sources. The twelfth-century fables
in verse of Marie de France, founded on an English collection, include
apologues derived not only from classical authors but from the tales
of popular tradition. A great collection made about 1450 by
Steinhoewel, a physician of Ulm, was translated into French, and
became the chief source of later collections, thus appearing in the
remote ancestry of the work of La Fontaine. The æsthetic value of
the mediæval fables, including those of Marie de France, is small;
the didactic intention was strong, the literary art was feeble.

[Footnote 1: The earlier "Romulus" was the name of the supposed author
of the fables of Phædrus, while that of Phædrus was still unknown.]

It is far otherwise with the famous beast-epic, the ROMAN DE RENARD.
The cycle consists of many parts or "branches" connected by a common
theme; originating and obscurely developed in the North, in Picardy,
in Normandy, and the Isle of France, it suddenly appeared in
literature in the middle of the twelfth century, and continued to
receive additions and variations during nearly two hundred years.
The spirit of the _Renard_ poems is essentially bourgeois; the heroes
of the _chansons de geste_ achieve their wondrous deeds by strength
and valour; Renard the fox is powerful by skill and cunning; the
greater beasts--his chief enemy the wolf, and others--are no match
for his ingenuity and endless resources; but he is powerless against
smaller creatures, the cock, the crow, the sparrow. The names of the
personages are either significant names, such as Noble, the lion,
and Chanticleer, the cock, or proper names, such as Isengrin, the
wolf, Bruno, the bear, Tibert, the cat, Bernard, the ass; and as
certain of these proper names are found in the eastern district, it
has been conjectured that a poet of Lotharingia in the tenth century
first told in Latin the wars of fox and wolf, and that through
translations the epic matter, derived originally from popular
tradition, reached the trouvères of the North. While in a certain
degree typical figures, the beasts are at the same time individual;
Renard is not the representative merely of a species; he is Renard,
an individual, with a personality of his own; Isengrin is not merely
a wolf, he is the particular wolf Isengrin; each is an epic individual,
heroic and undying. Classical fable remotely exerted an influence
on certain branches of the Romance; but the vital substance of the
epic is derived from the stores of popular tradition in which material
from all quarters--the North of Europe and the Eastern world--had
been gradually fused. In the artistic treatment of such material the
chief difficulty lies in preserving a just measure between the
beast-character and the imported element of humanity. Little by
little the anthropomorphic features were developed at the expense
of verisimilitude; the beast forms became a mere masquerade; the
romances were converted into a satire, and the satire lost rather
than gained by the inefficient disguise.

The earliest branches of the cycle have reached us only in a
fragmentary way, but they can be in part reconstructed from the Latin
_Isengrinus_ of Nivard of Ghent (about 1150), and from the German
_Reinhart Fuchs_, a rendering from the French by an Alsatian, Henri
le Glichezare (about 1180). The wars of Renard and Isengrin are here
sung, and the failure of Renard's trickeries against the lesser
creatures; the spirit of these early branches is one of frank gaiety,
untroubled by a didactic or satirical intention. In the branches of
the second period the parody of human society is apparent; some of
the episodes are fatiguing in their details; some are intolerably
gross, but the poem known as the Branch of the Judgment is masterly--an
ironical comedy, in which, without sacrifice of the primitive
character of the beast-epic, the spirit of mediæval life is
transported into the animal world. Isengrin, the accuser of Renard
before King Noble and his court, is for a moment worsted; the fox
is vindicated, when suddenly enters a funeral cortège--Chanticleer
and his four wives bear upon a litter the dead body of one of their
family, the victim of Renard's wiles. The prayers for the dead are
recited, the burial is celebrated with due honour, and Renard is
summoned to justice; lie heaped upon lie will not save him; at last
he humbles himself with pious repentance, and promising to seek God's
pardon over-sea, is permitted in his pilgrim's habit to quit the court.
It is this Judgment of Renard which formed the basis of the _Reineke
Fuchs_, known to us through the modernisation of Goethe.

From the date of the Branch of the Judgment the Renard Romances
declined. The Judgment was imitated by inferior hands, and the beasts
were more and more nearly transformed to men; the spirit of gaiety
was replaced by seriousness or gloom; Renard ceased to be a
light-footed and ingenious rogue; he became a type of human fraud
and cruelty; whatever in society was false and base and merciless
became a form of "renardie," and by "renardie" the whole world seemed
to be ruled. Such is the temper expressed in _Le Couronnement Renard_,
written in Flanders soon after 1250, a satire directed chiefly against
the mendicant orders, in which the fox, turned friar for a season,
ascends the throne. _Renard le Nouveau_, the work of a poet of Lille,
Jacquemart Gelée, nearly half a century later, represents again the
triumph of the spirit of evil; although far inferior in execution
to the _Judgment_, it had remarkable success, to which the allegory,
wearying to a modern reader, no doubt contributed at a time when
allegory was a delight. The last of the Renard romances, _Renard le
Contrefait_, was composed at Troyes before 1328, by an ecclesiastic
who had renounced his profession and turned to trade. In his leisure
hours he spun, in discipleship to Jean de Meun, his interminable poem,
which is less a romance than an encyclopædia of all the knowledge
and all the opinions of the author. This latest _Renard_ has a value
akin to that of the second part of _Le Roman de la Rose_; it is a
presentation of the ideas and manners of the time by one who freely
criticised and mocked the powers that be, both secular and sacred,
and who was in sympathy with a certain movement or tendency towards
social, political, and intellectual reform.


III
FABLIAUX

The name _fabliaux_ is applied to short versified tales, comic in
character, and intended rather for recitation than for song. Out of
a far larger number about one hundred and fifty have survived. The
earliest--_Richeut_--is of the year 1159. From the middle of the
twelfth century, together with the heroic or sentimental poetry of
feudalism, we find this bourgeois poetry of realistic observation;
and even in the _chansons de geste_, in occasional comic episodes,
something may be seen which is in close kinship with the fabliaux.
Many brief humorous stories, having much in common under their various
disguises, exist as part of the tradition of many lands and peoples.
The theory which traces the French fabliaux to Indian originals is
unproved, and indeed is unnecessary. The East, doubtless,
contributed its quota to the common stock, but so did other quarters
of the globe; such tales are ubiquitous and are undying, only the
particular form which they assume being determined by local
conditions.

The fabliaux, as we can study them, belong especially to the north
and north-east of France, and they continued to be put forth by their
rhymers until about 1340, the close of the twelfth and the beginning
of the thirteenth century being the period of their greatest
popularity. Simple and obvious jests sufficed to raise a laugh among
folk disposed to good humour; by degrees something of art and skill
was attained. The misfortunes of husbands supplied an inexhaustible
store of merriment; if woman and the love of woman were idealised
in the romances, the fabliaux took their revenge, and exhibited her
as the pretty traitress of a shameless comedy. If religion was
honoured in the age of faith, the bourgeois spirit found matter of
mirth in the adventures of dissolute priests and self-indulgent monks.
Not a few of the fabliaux are cynically gross--ribald but not
voluptuous. To literary distinction they made small pretence. It
sufficed if the tale ran easily in the current speech, thrown into
rhyming octosyllables; but brevity, frankness, natural movement are
no slight or common merits in mediæval poetry, and something of the
social life of the time is mirrored in these humorous narratives.

To regard them as a satire of class against class, inspired by
indignation, is to misconceive their true character; they are rather
miniature comedies or caricatures, in which every class in turn
provides material for mirth. It may, however, be said that with the
writers of the fabliaux to hold woman in scorn is almost an article
of faith. Among these writers a few persons of secular rank or
dignified churchmen occasionally appeared; but what we may call the
professional rhymers and reciters were the humbler jongleurs
addressing a bourgeois audience--degraded clerics, unfrocked monks,
wandering students, who led a bohemian life of gaiety alternating
with misery. In the early part of the fourteenth century these errant
jongleurs ceased to be esteemed; the great lord attached a minstrel
to his household, and poetry grew more dignified, more elaborate in
its forms, more edifying in its intention, and in its dignity grew
too often dull. Still for a time fabliaux were written; but the age
of the jongleurs was over. _Virelais_, _rondeaux_, _ballades_,
_chants royaux_ were the newer fashion; and the old versified tale
of mirth and ribaldry was by the middle of the century a thing of
the past.


IV
THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE

The most extraordinary production in verse of the thirteenth century
is undoubtedly _Le Roman de la Rose_. It is indeed no single
achievement, but two very remarkable poems, written at two different
periods, by two authors whose characters and gifts were not only alien,
but opposed--two poems which reflect two different conditions of
society. Of its twenty-two thousand octosyllabic lines, upwards of
four thousand are the work of GUILLAUME DE LORRIS; the remainder is
the work of a later writer, JEAN DE MEUN.

Lorris is a little town situated between Orleans and Montargis. Here,
about the year 1200, the earlier poet was born. He was a scholar,
at least as far as knowledge of Latin extends, and learned above all
in the lore of love. He died young, probably before 1230, and during
the five years that preceded his death the first part of _Le Roman
de la Rose_ was composed. Its subject is an allegorised tale of love,
his own or imagined, transferred to the realm of dreams. The writer
would fain win the heart of his beloved, and at the same time he would
instruct all amorous spirits in the art of love. He is twenty years
of age, in the May-morn of youth. He has beheld his beautiful lady,
and been charmed by her fairness, her grace, her courtesy; she has
received him with gentleness, but when he declares his love she grows
alarmed. He gains at last the kiss which tells of her affection; but
her parents intervening, throw obstacles between the lovers. Such,
divested of ornament, allegory, and personification, is the theme
of the poem.

To pluck the rose in the garden of delight is to win the maiden; her
fears, her virgin modesty and pride, her kindness, her pity, are the
company of friends or foes by whom the rose is surrounded; and to
harmonise the real and the ideal, all the incidents are placed in
the setting of a dream. Wandering one spring morning by the
river-banks, the dreamer finds himself outside the walls of a fair
orchard, owned by Déduit (Pleasure), of which the portress is Oiseuse
(Idleness); on the walls are painted figures of Hatred, Envy, Sadness,
Old Age, Poverty, and other evil powers; but unterrified by these,
he enters, and finds a company of dancers on the turf, among whom
is Beauty, led by the god of Love. Surrounded by a thorny hedge is
the rosebud on which all his desire now centres. He is wounded by
the arrows of Love, does homage to the god, and learns his commandments
and the evils and the gains of love. Invited by Bel-Accueil, the son
of Courtoisie, to approach the rose, he is driven back by Danger and
his companions, the guardians of the blossom. Raison descends from
a tower and discourses against the service of Love; Ami offers his
consolations; at length the lover is again admitted to the flowery
precinct, finds his rosebud half unclosed, and obtains the joy of
a kiss. But Jealousy raises an unscalable wall around the rose; the
serviceable Bel-Accueil is imprisoned, and with a long lament of the
lover, the poem (line 4068) closes.

Did Guillaume de Lorris ever complete his poem, or did he die while
it was still but half composed? We may conjecture that it wanted little
to reach some dénouement--perhaps the fulfilment of the lover's
hopes; and it is not impossible that a lost fragment actually brought
the love-tale to its issue. But even if the story remained without
an end, we possess in Guillaume's poem a complete mediæval Art of
Love; and if the amorous metaphysics are sometimes cold, conventional,
or laboured, we have gracious allegories, pieces of brilliant
description, vivid personifications, and something of ingenious
analysis of human passion. Nevertheless the work of this Middle-Age
disciple of Ovid and of Chrétien de Troyes owes more than half its
celebrity to the continuation, conceived in an entirely opposite
spirit, by his successor, Jean de Meun.

The contrast is striking: Guillaume de Lorris was a refined and
graceful exponent of the conventional doctrine of love, a seemly
celebrant in the cult of woman, an ingenious decorator of accepted
ideas; Jean de Meun was a passionate and positive spirit, an ardent
speculator in social, political, and scientific questions, one who
cared nothing for amorous subtleties, and held woman in scorn.
Guillaume addressed an aristocratic audience, imbued with the
sentiments of chivalry; Jean was a bourgeois, eager to instruct, to
arouse, to inflame his fellows in a multitude of matters which
concerned the welfare of their lives. He was little concerned for
the lover and his rose, but was deeply interested in the condition
of society, the corruptions of religion, the advance of knowledge.
He turned from ideals which seemed spurious to reason and to nature;
he had read widely in Latin literature, and found much that suited
his mood and mind in Boethius' _De Consolatione Philosophiæ_ and in
the _De Planctu Naturæ_ of the "universal doctor" of the twelfth
century, Alain de Lille, from each of which he conveyed freely into
his poem. Of his life we know little; Jean Clopinel was born at Meun
on the Loire about the year 1240; he died before the close of 1305;
his continuation of Guillaume's _Roman_ was made about 1270. His later
poems, a _Testament_, in which he warned and exhorted his
contemporaries of every class, the _Codicille_, which incited to
almsgiving, and his numerous translations, prove the unabated energy
of his mind in his elder years.

The rose is plucked by the lover in the end; but lover and rose are
almost forgotten in Jean's zeal in setting forth his views of life,
and in forming an encyclopædia of the knowledge of his time. Reason
discourses on the dangers of passion, commends friendship or
universal philanthropy as wiser than love, warns against the
instability of fortune and the deceits of riches, and sets charity
high above justice; if love be commendable, it is as the device of
nature for the continuation of the species. The way to win woman and
to keep her loyalty is now the unhappy way of squandered largess;
formerly it was not so in the golden age of equality, before private
property was known, when all men held in common the goods of the earth,
and robber kings were evils of the future. The god of Love and his
barons, with the hypocrite monk Faux-Semblant--a bitter satirist of
the mendicant orders--besiege the tower in which Bel-Accueil is
imprisoned, and by force and fraud an entrance is effected. The old
beldame, who watches over the captive, is corrupted by promises and
gifts, and frankly exposes her own iniquities and those of her sex.
War is waged against the guardians of the rose, Venus, sworn enemy
of chastity, aiding the assailants. Nature, devoted to the
continuance of the race, mourns over the violation of her laws by
man, unburdens herself of all her scientific lore in a confession
to her chaplain Génius, and sends him forth to encourage the lover's
party with a bold discourse against the crime of virginity. The
triumph of the lover closes the poem.

The graceful design of the earlier poet is disregarded; the love-story
becomes a mere frame for setting forth the views of Jean de Meun,
his criticism of the chivalric ideal, his satire upon the monkish
vices, his revolutionary notions respecting property and government,
his advanced opinions in science, his frank realism as to the
relations of man and woman. He possesses all the learning of his time,
and an accomplished judgment in the literature which he had studied.
He is a powerful satirist, and passages of narrative and description
show that he had a poet's feeling for beauty; he handles the language
with the strength and skill of a master. On the other hand, he lacks
all sense of proportion, and cannot shape an imaginative plan; his
prolixity wearies the reader, and it cannot be denied that as a moral
reformer he sometimes topples into immorality. The success of the
poem was extraordinary, and extended far beyond France. It was
attacked and defended, and up to the time of Ronsard its influence
on the progress of literature--encouraging, as it did, to excess the
art of allegory and personification--if less than has commonly been
alleged, was unquestionably important.



CHAPTER III
DIDACTIC LITERATURE--SERMONS--HISTORY


I
DIDACTIC LITERATURE

The didactic literature, moral and scientific, of the Middle Ages
is abundant, and possesses much curious interest, but it is seldom
original in substance, and seldom valuable from the point of view
of literary style. In great part it is translated or derived from
Latin sources. The writers were often clerks or laymen who had turned
from the vanities of youth--fabliau or romance--and now aimed at
edification or instruction. Science in the hands of the clergy must
needs be spiritualised and moralised; there were sermons to be found
in stones, pious allegories in beast and bird; mystic meanings in
the alphabet, in grammar, in the chase, in the tourney, in the game
of chess. Ovid and Virgil were sanctified to religious uses. The
earliest versified Bestiary, which is also a Volucrary, a Herbary,
and a Lapidary, that of Philippe de Thaon (before 1135), is versified
from the Latin _Physiologus_, itself a translation from the work of
an Alexandrian Greek of the second century. In its symbolic zoology
the lion and the pelican are emblems of Christ; the unicorn is God;
the crocodile is the devil; the stones "turrobolen," which blaze when
they approach each other, are representative of man and woman. A
_Bestiaire d'Amour_ was written by Richard de Fournival, in which
the emblems serve for the interpretation of human love. A Lapidary,
with a medical--not a moral--purpose, by Marbode, Bishop of Rennes,
was translated more than once into French, and had, indeed, an
European fame.

Bestiaries and Lapidaries form parts of the vast encyclopædias,
numerous in the thirteenth century, which were known by such names
as _Image du Monde_, _Mappe-monde_, _Miroir du Monde_. Of these
encyclopædias, the only one which has a literary interest is the
_Trésor_ (1265), by Dante's master, Brunetto Latini, who wrote in
French in preference to his native Italian. In it science escapes
not wholly from fantasy and myth, but at least from the allegorising
spirit; his ethics and rhetoric are derived from Latin originals;
his politics are his own. The _Somme des Vices et des Vertus_, compiled
in 1279 by Friar Lorens, is a well-composed _trésor_ of religion and
morals. Part of its contents has become familiar to us through the
Canterbury discourse of Chaucer's parson. The moral experience of
a man of the world is summed up in the prose treatise on "The Four
Ages of Man," by Philippe de Novare, chancellor of Cyprus. With this
edifying work may be grouped the so-called _Chastiements_, counsels
on education and conduct, designed for readers in general or for some
special class--women, children, persons of knightly or of humble
rank; studies of the virtues of chivalry, the rules of courtesy and
of manners.[1] Other writings, the _États du Monde_, present a view
of the various classes of society from a standpoint ethical, religious,
or satirical, with warnings and exhortations, which commonly
conclude with a vision of the last judgment and the pains of hell.
With such a scene of terror closes the interesting _Poème Moral_ of
Étienne de Fougères, in which the life of St. Moses, the converted
robber, serves as an example to monks, and that of the converted Thaïs
to ladies who are proud of their beauty. Its temper of moderation
contrasts with the bitter satire in the _Bible_ by Guiot de Provins,
and with many shorter satirical pieces directed against clerical
vices or the infirmities of woman. The _Besant de Dieu_, by Guillaume
le Clerc, a Norman poet (1227), preaches in verse, with eloquence
and imaginative power, the love of God and contempt of the world from
the texts of two Scripture parables--that of the Talents and that
of the Bridegroom; Guillaume anticipates the approaching end of the
world, foreshown by wars, pestilence, and famine, condemns in the
spirit of Christian charity the persecution of the Albigenses, and
mourns over the shame that has befallen the Holy Sepulchre.

[Footnote 1: Two works of the fourteenth century, interesting in the
history of manners and ideas, may here be mentioned--the _Livre du
Chevalier de la Tour-Landry_ (1372), composed for the instruction
of the writer's daughters, and the _Ménagier de Paris_, a treatise
on domestic economy, written by a Parisian bourgeois for the use of
his young wife.]

Among the preacher poets of the thirteenth century the most
interesting personally is the minstrel RUTEBEUF, who towards the
close of his gay though ragged life turned to serious thoughts, and
expressed his penitent feelings with penetrating power. Rutebeuf,
indeed--the Villon of his age--deployed his vivid and ardent powers
in many directions, as a writer of song and satire, of allegory, of
fabliaux, of drama. On each and all he impressed his own personality;
the lyric note, imaginative fire, colour, melody, these were gifts
that compensated the poet's poverty, his conjugal miseries, his lost
eye, his faithless friends, his swarming adversaries. The
personification of vices and virtues, occasional in the _Besant_ and
other poems, becomes a system in the _Songe d'Enfer_, a pilgrim's
progress to hell, and the _Voie de Paradis_, a pilgrim's progress
to heaven, by Raoul de Houdan (after 1200). The _Pèlerinage de la
Vie Humaine_--another "way to Paradise"; the _Pèlerinage de
l'Âme_--a vision of hell, purgatory, and heaven; and the _Pèlerinage
de Jésus-Christ_--a narrative of the Saviour's life, by Guillaume
de Digulleville (fourteenth century), have been imagined by some to
have been among the sources of Bunyan's allegories. Human life may
be represented in one aspect as a pilgrimage; in another it is a
knightly encounter; there is a great strife between the powers of
good and evil; in _Le Tornoiement Antecrist_, by Huon de Méri, Jesus
and the Knights of the Cross, among whom, besides St. Michael, St.
Gabriel, Confession, Chastity, and Alms, are Arthur, Launcelot, and
Gawain, contend against Antichrist and the infernal barons--Jupiter,
Neptune, Beelzebub, and a crowd of allegorical personages. But the
battles and _débats_ of a chivalric age were not only religious; there
are battles of wine and water, battles of fast and feasting, battles
of the seven arts. A disputation between the body and the soul, a
favourite subject for separate treatment by mediæval poets, is found
also in one of the many sermons in verse; the _Débat des Trois Morts
et des Trois Vifs_ recalls the subject of the memorable painting in
the Campo Santo at Pisa.


II
SERMONS

The Latin sermons of the Middle Ages were countless; but it is not
until Gerson and the close of the fourteenth century that we find
a series of discourses by a known preacher written and pronounced
in French. It is maintained that these Latin sermons, though prepared
in the language of the Church, were delivered, when addressed to lay
audiences, in the vernacular, and that those composite sermons in
the macaronic style, that is, partly in French, partly in Latin, which
appear in the thirteenth century and are frequent in the fifteenth,
were the work of reporters or redactors among the auditory. On the
other hand, it is argued that both Latin and French sermons were
pronounced as each might seem suitable, before the laity, and that
the macaronic style was actually practised in the pulpit. Perhaps
we may accept the opinion that the short and simple homilies designed
for the people, little esteemed as compositions, were rarely thought
worthy of preservation in a Latin form; those discourses which remain
to us, if occasionally used before an unlearned audience, seem to
have been specially intended for clerkly hearers. The sermons of St.
Bernard, which have been preserved in Latin and in a French
translation of the thirteenth century, were certainly not his
eloquent popular improvisations; they are doctrinal, with crude or
curious allegorisings of Holy Scripture. Those of Maurice de Sully,
Archbishop of Paris, probably also translated from the Latin, are
simpler in manner and more practical in their teaching; but in these
characteristics they stand apart from the other sermons of the twelfth
century.

It was not until the mendicant orders, Franciscans and Dominicans,
began their labours that preaching, as preserved to us, was truly
laicised and popularised. During the thirteenth century the work of
the pulpit came to be conceived as an art which could be taught;
collections of anecdotes and illustrations--_exempla_--for the
enlivening of sermons, manuals for the use of preachers were formed;
rules and precepts were set forth; themes for popular discourse were
proposed and enlarged upon, until at length original thought and
invention ceased; the preacher's art was turned into an easy trade.
The effort to be popular often resulted in pulpit buffoonery. When
GERSON preached at court or to the people towards the close of the
fourteenth century, gravely exhorting high and low to practical
duties, with tender or passionate appeals to religious feeling, his
sermons were noble exceptions to the common practice. And the descent
from Gerson to even his more eminent successors is swift and steep.
The orators of the pulpit varied their discourse from burlesque mirth
or bitter invective to gross terrors, in which death and judgment,
Satan and hell-fire were largely displayed. The sermons of Michel
Menot and Olivier Maillard, sometimes eloquent in their censure of
sin, sometimes trivial or grotesque, sometimes pedantic in their
exhibition of learning, have at least an historical value in
presenting an image of social life in the fifteenth century.

A word must be said of the humanism which preceded the Renaissance.
Scholars and students there were in France two hundred years before
the days of Erasmus and of Budé; but they were not scholars inspired
by genius, and they contented themselves with the task of translators,
undertaken chiefly with a didactic purpose. If they failed to
comprehend the spirit of antiquity, none the less they did something
towards quickening the mind of their own time and rendering the French
language less inadequate to the intellectual needs of a later age.
All that was then known of Livy's history was rendered into French
in 1356 by the friend of Petrarch, Pierre Berçuire. On the suggestion
of Charles V., Nicole Oresme translated from the Latin the Ethics,
Politics, and Economics of Aristotle. It was to please the king that
the aged Raoul de Presles prepared his version of St. Augustine's
_De Civitate Dei_, and Denis Foulechat, with very scanty scholarship,
set himself to render the _Polycraticus_ of John of Salisbury. The
dukes of Bourbon, of Berry, of Burgundy, were also patrons of letters
and encouraged their translators. We cannot say how far this movement
of scholarship might have progressed, if external conditions had
favoured its development. In Jean de Montreuil, secretary of Charles
VI., the devoted student of Cicero, Virgil, and Terence, we have an
example of the true humanist before the Renaissance. But the seeming
dawn was a deceptive aurora; the early humanism of France was clouded
and lost in the tempests of the Hundred Years' War.


III
HISTORY

While the mediæval historians, compilers, and abbreviators from
records of the past laboured under all the disadvantages of an age
deficient in the critical spirit, and produced works of little value
either for their substance or their literary style, the chroniclers,
who told the story of their own times, Villehardouin, Joinville,
Froissart, Commines, and others, have bequeathed to us, in living
pictures or sagacious studies of events and their causes, some of
the chief treasures of the past. History at first, as composed for
readers who knew no Latin, was comprised in those _chansons de geste_
which happened to deal with matter that was not wholly--or almost
wholly--the creation of fancy. Narrative poems treating of
contemporary events came into existence with the Crusades, but of
these the earliest have not survived, and we possess only rehandlings
of their matter in the style of romance. What happened in France might
be supposed to be known to persons of intelligence; what happened
in the East was new and strange. But England, like the East, was
foreign soil, and the Anglo-Norman trouvères of the eleventh and
twelfth centuries busied themselves with copious narratives in rhyme,
such as Gaimar's _Estorie des Engles_ (1151), Wace's _Brut_ (1155)
and his _Roman de Rou_, which, if of small literary importance, remain
as monuments in the history of the language. The murder of Becket
called forth the admirable life of the saint by Garnier de
Pont-Sainte-Maxence, founded upon original investigations; Henry
II.'s conquest of Ireland was related by an anonymous writer; his
victories over the Scotch (1173-1174) were strikingly described by
Jordan Fantosme. But by far the most remarkable piece of versified
history of this period, remarkable alike for its historical interest
and its literary merit, is the _Vie de Guillaume le Maréchal_--William,
Earl of Pembroke, guardian of Henry III.--a poem of nearly twenty
thousand octosyllabic lines by an unknown writer, discovered by M.
Paul Meyer in the library of Sir Thomas Phillipps. "The masterpiece
of Anglo-Norman historiography," writes M. Langlois, "is assuredly
this anonymous poem, so long forgotten, and henceforth classic."

Prose, however, in due time proved itself to be the fitting medium
for historical narrative, and verse was given over to the
extravagances of fantasy. Compilations from the Latin, translations
from the pseudo-Turpin, from Geoffrey of Monmouth, from Sallust,
Suetonius, and Cæsar were succeeded by original record and testimony.
GEOFFROY DE VILLEHARDOUIN, born between 1150 and 1164, Marshal of
Champagne in 1191, was appointed eight years later to negotiate with
the Venetians for the transport of the Crusaders to the East. He was
probably a chief agent in the intrigue which diverted the fourth
Crusade from its original destination--the Holy Land--to the assault
upon Constantinople. In the events which followed he had a prominent
part; before the close of 1213 Villehardouin was dead. During his
last years he dictated the unfinished Memoirs known as the _Conquête
de Constantinople_, which relate the story of his life from 1198 to
1207. Villehardouin is the first chronicler who impresses his own
personality on what he wrote: a brave leader, skilful in resource,
he was by no means an enthusiast possessed by the more extravagant
ideas of chivalry; much more was he a politician and diplomatist,
with material interests well in view; not, indeed, devoid of a certain
imaginative wonder at the marvels of the East; not without his moments
of ardour and excitement; deeply impressed with the feeling of feudal
loyalty, the sense of the bond between the suzerain and his vassal;
deeply conscious of the need of discipline in great adventures;
keeping in general a cool head, which could calculate the sum of profit
and loss.

It is probable that Villehardouin knew too much of affairs, and was
too experienced a man of the world to be quite frank as a historian:
we can hardly believe, as he would have us, that the diversion of
the crusading host from its professed objects was unpremeditated;
we can perceive that he composes his narrative so as to form an
apology; his recital has been justly described as, in part at least,
"un mémoire justificatif." Nevertheless, there are passages, such
as that which describes the first view of Constantinople, where
Villehardouin's feelings seize upon his imagination, and, as it were,
overpower him. In general he writes with a grave simplicity, sometimes
with baldness, disdaining ornament, little sensible to colour or
grace of style; but by virtue of his clear intelligence and his real
grasp of facts his chronicle acquires a certain literary dignity,
and when his words become vivid we know that it is because he had
seen with inquisitive eyes and felt with genuine ardour. Happily for
students of history, while Villehardouin presents the views of an
aristocrat and a diplomatist, the incidents of the same extraordinary
adventure can be seen, as they struck a simple soldier, in the record
of Robert de Clari, which may serve as a complement and a counterpoise
to the chronicle of his more illustrious contemporary. The unfinished
_Histoire de l'Empereur Henri_, which carries on the narrative of
events for some years subsequent to those related by Villehardouin,
the work of Henri de Valenciennes, is a prose redaction of what had
originally formed a _chanson de geste_.

The versified chronicle or history in the thirteenth century declined
among Anglo-Norman writers, but was continued in Flanders and in
France. Prose translations and adaptations of Latin chronicles,
ancient and modern, were numerous, but the literary value of many
of these is slight. In the Abbey of Saint-Denis a corpus of national
history in Latin had for a long while been in process of formation.
Utilising this corpus and the works from which it was constructed,
one of the monks of the Abbey--perhaps a certain Primat--compiled,
in the second half of the century, a History of France in the
vernacular--the _Grandes Chroniques de Saint-Denis_--with which
later additions were from time to time incorporated, until under
Charles V. the _Grandes Chroniques de France_ attained their
definitive form.[2] Far more interesting as a literary composition
is the little work known as _Récits d'un Ménestrel de Reims_ (1260),
a lively, graceful, and often dramatic collection of traditions,
anecdotes, dialogues, made rather for the purposes of popular
entertainment than of formal instruction, and expressing the ideas
of the middle classes on men and things. Forgotten during several
centuries, it remains to us as one of the happiest records of the
mediæval spirit.

[Footnote 2: The _Chroniques_ were continued by lay writers to the
accession of Louis XI.]

But among the prose narratives to which the thirteenth century gave
birth, the _Histoire de Saint Louis_, by JEAN DE JOINVILLE, stands
pre-eminent. Joinville, born about 1224, possessed of such literary
culture as could be gained at the Court of Thibaut IV. of Champagne,
became a favoured companion of the chivalric and saintly Louis during
his six years' Crusade from 1248 to 1254. The memory of the King
remained the most precious possession of his follower's elder years.
It is probable that soon after 1272 Joinville prepared an
autobiographic fragment, dealing with that period of his youth which
had been his age of adventure. When he was nearly eighty, Jeanne of
Navarre, wife of Philippe le Bel, invited the old seneschal to put
on record the holy words and good deeds of Saint Louis. Joinville
willingly acceded to the request, and incorporating the fragment of
autobiography, in which the writer appeared in close connection with
his King, he had probably almost completed his work at the date of
Queen Jeanne's death (April 2, 1305); to her son, afterwards Louis
X., it was dedicated. His purpose was to recite the pious words and
set forth the Christian virtues of the royal Saint in one book of
the History, and to relate his chivalric actions in the other; but
Joinville had not the art of construction, he suffered from the
feebleness of old age, and he could not perfectly accomplish his
design; in 1317 Joinville died. Deriving some of his materials from
other memoirs of the King, especially those by Geoffroy de Beaulieu
and Guillaume de Nangis, he drew mainly upon his own recollections.
Unhappily the most authoritative manuscripts of the _Histoire de
Saint Louis_ have been lost; we possess none earlier than the close
of the fourteenth century; but by the learning and skill of a modern
editor the text has been substantially established.

We must not expect from Joinville precision of chronology or
exactitude in the details of military operations. His recollections
crowd upon him; he does not marshal them by power of intellect, but
abandons himself to the delights of memory. He is a frank, amiable,
spirited talker, who has much to tell; he succeeds in giving us two
admirable portraits--his own and that of the King; and unconsciously
he conveys into his narrative both the chivalric spirit of his time,
and a sense of those prosaic realities which tempered the ideals of
chivalry. What his eyes had rested on lives in his memory, with all
its picturesque features, all its lines and colours, undimmed by time;
and his curious eyes had been open to things great and small. He
appears as a brave soldier, but, he confesses, capable of mortal fear;
sincerely devout, but not made for martyrdom; zealous for his master's
cause, but not naturally a chaser of rainbow dreams; one who enjoys
good cheer, who prefers his wine unallayed with water, who loves
splendid attire, who thinks longingly of his pleasant château, and
the children awaiting his return; one who will decline future
crusading, and who believes that a man of station may serve God well
by remaining in his own fields among his humble dependants. But
Joinville felt deeply the attraction of a nature more under the
control of high, ideal motives than was his own; he would not himself
wash the feet of the poor; he would rather commit thirty mortal sins
than be a leper; but a kingly saint may touch heights of piety which
are unattainable by himself. And, at the same time, he makes us feel
that Louis is not the less a man because he is a saint. Certain human
infirmities of temper are his; yet his magnanimity, his sense of
justice, his ardent devotion, his charity, his pure self-surrender
are made so sensible to us as we read the record of Joinville that
we are willing to subscribe to the sentence of Voltaire: "It is not
given to man to carry virtue to a higher point."

During the fourteenth century the higher spirit of feudalism
declined; the old faith and the old chivalry were suffering a decay;
the bourgeoisie grew in power and sought for instruction; it was an
age of prose, in which learning was passing to the laity, or was
adapted to their uses. Yet, while the inner life of chivalry failed
day by day, and self-interest took the place of heroic self-surrender,
the external pomp and decoration of the feudal world became more
brilliant than ever. War was a trade practised from motives of vulgar
cupidity; but it was adorned with splendour, and had a show of
gallantry. The presenter in literature of this glittering spectacle
is the historian JEAN FROISSART. Born in 1338, at Valenciennes, of
bourgeois parents, Froissart, at the age of twenty-two, a
disappointed lover, a tonsured clerk, and already a poet, journeyed
to London, with his manuscript on the battle of Poitiers as an offering
to his countrywoman, Queen Philippa of Hainault. For nearly five years
he was the _ditteur_ of the Queen, a sharer in the life of the court,
but attracted before all else to those "ancient knights and squires
who had taken part in feats of arms, and could speak of them rightly."
His patroness encouraged Froissart's historical inquiries. In the
_Chroniques_ of Jean le Bel, canon of Liège, he found material ready
to his hand, and freely appropriated it in many of his most admirable
pages; but he also travelled much through England and Scotland, noting
everything that impressed his imagination, and gathering with
delight the testimony of those who had themselves been actors in the
events of the past quarter of a century. He accompanied the Black
Prince to Aquitaine, and, later, the Duke of Clarence to Milan. The
death of Queen Philippa, in 1369, was ruinous to his prospects. For
a time he supported himself as a trader in his native place. Then
other patrons, kinsfolk of the Queen, came to his aid. The first
revised redaction of the first book of his Chronicles was his chief
occupation while curé of Lestinnes; it is a record of events from
1325 to the death of Edward III., and its brilliant narrative of events
still recent or contemporary insured its popularity with
aristocratic readers. Under the influence of Queen Philippa's
brother-in-law, Robert of Namur, it is English in its sympathies and
admirations. Unhappily Froissart was afterwards moved by his patron,
Gui de Blois, to rehandle the book in the French interest; and once
again in his old age his work was recast with a view to effacing the
large debt which he owed to his predecessor, Jean le Bel. The first
redaction is, however, that which won and retained the general favour.
If his patron induced Froissart to wrong his earlier work, he made
amends, for it is to Gui de Blois that we owe the last three books
of the history, which bring the tale of events down to the
assassination of Richard II. Still the curé of Lestinnes and the canon
of Chimai pursued his early method of travel--to the court of Gaston,
Count of Foix, to Flanders, to England--ever eager in his
interrogation of witnesses. It is believed that he lived to the close
of 1404, but the date of his death is uncertain.

Froissart as a poet wrote gracefully in the conventional modes of
his time. His vast romance _Méliador_, to which Wenceslas, Duke of
Brabant, contributed the lyric part--famous in its day, long lost
and recently recovered--is a construction of external marvels and
splendours which lacks the inner life of imaginative faith. But as
a brilliant scene-painter Froissart the chronicler is unsurpassed.
His chronology, even his topography, cannot be trusted as exact; he
is credulous rather than critical; he does not always test or control
the statements of his informants; he is misled by their prejudices
and passions; he views all things from the aristocratic standpoint;
the life of the common people does not interest him; he has no sense
of their wrongs, and little pity for their sufferings; he does not
study the deeper causes of events; he is almost incapable of
reflection; he has little historical sagacity; he accepts
appearances without caring to interpret their meanings. But what a
vivid picture he presents of the external aspects of fourteenth-century
life! What a joy he has in adventure! What an eye for the picturesque!
What movement, what colour! What a dramatic--or should we say
theatrical?--feeling for life and action! Much, indeed, of the
vividness of Froissart's narrative may be due to the eye-witnesses from
whom he had obtained information; but genius was needed to
preserve--perhaps to enhance--the animation of their recitals. If he
understood his own age imperfectly, he depicted its outward appearance
with incomparable skill; and though his moral sense was shallow, and
his knowledge of character far from profound, he painted portraits
which live in the imagination of his readers.

The fifteenth century is rich in historical writings of every
kind--compilations of general history, domestic chronicles, such as
the _Livre des Faits du bon Messire Jean le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut_,
official chronicles both of the French and Burgundian parties,
journals and memoirs. The Burgundian Enguerrand de Monstrelet was
a lesser Froissart, faithful, laborious, a transcriber of documents,
but without his predecessor's genius. On the French side the so-called
_Chronique Scandaleuse_, by Jean de Roye, a Parisian of the time of
Louis XI., to some extent redeems the mediocrity of the writers of
his party.

In PHILIPPE DE COMMINES we meet the last chronicler of the Middle
Ages, and the first of modern historians. Born about 1445, in Flanders,
of the family of Van den Clyte, Commines, whose parents died early,
received a scanty education; but if he knew no Latin, his acquaintance
with modern languages served him well. At first in the service of
Charles the Bold, in 1472 he passed over to the cause of Louis XI.
His treason to the Duke may be almost described as inevitable; for
Commines could not attach himself to violence and folly, and was
naturally drawn to the counsels of civil prudence. The bargain was
as profitable to his new master as to the servant. On the King's death
came a reverse of fortune for Commines: for eight months he was cramped
in the iron cage; during two years he remained a prisoner in the
Conciergerie (1487-89), with enforced leisure to think of the
preparation of his _Mémoires_.[3] Again the sunshine of royal favour
returned; he followed Charles VIII. to Italy, and was engaged in
diplomatic service at Venice. In 1511 he died.

[Footnote 3: Books I.-VI., written 1488-94; Books VII., VIII.,
written 1494-95.]

The _Mémoires_ of Commines were composed as a body of material for
a projected history of Louis XI. by Archbishop Angelo Cato; the writer,
apparently in all sincerity, hoped that his unlearned French might
thus be translated into Latin, the language of scholars; happily we
possess the Memoirs as they left their author's mind. And, though
Commines rather hides than thrusts to view his own personality, every
page betrays the presence of a remarkable intellect. He was no artist
either in imaginative design or literary execution; he was before
all else a thinker, a student of political phenomena, a searcher after
the causes of events, an analyst of motives, a psychologist of
individual character and of the temper of peoples, and, after a
fashion, a moralist in his interpretation of history. He cared little,
or not at all, for the coloured surface of life; his chief concern
is to seize the master motive by which men and events are ruled, to
comprehend the secret springs of action. He is aristocratic in his
politics, monarchical, an advocate for the centralisation of power;
but he would have the monarch enlightened, constitutional, and
pacific. He values solid gains more than showy magnificence; and
knowing the use of astuteness, he knows also the importance of good
faith. He has a sense of the balance of European power, and anticipates
Montesquieu in his theory of the influence of climates on peoples.
There is something of pity, something of irony, in the view which
he takes of the joyless lot of the great ones of the earth. Having
ascertained how few of the combinations of events can be controlled
by the wisest calculation, he takes refuge in a faith in Providence;
he finds God necessary to explain this entangled world; and yet his
morality is in great part that which tries good and evil by the test
of success. By the intensity of his thought Commines sometimes becomes
striking in his expression; occasionally he rises to a grave
eloquence; occasionally his irony is touched by a bitter humour. But
in general he writes with little sentiment and no sense of beauty,
under the control of a dry and circumspect intelligence.



CHAPTER IV
LATEST MEDIÆVAL POETS--THE DRAMA


I
LATEST MEDIÆVAL POETS

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries form a period of transition
from the true Middle Ages to the Renaissance. The national epopee
was dead; the Arthurian tales were rehandled in prose; under the
influence of the _Roman de la Rose_, allegory was highly popular,
and Jean de Meun had shown how it could be applied to the
secularisation of learning; the middle classes were seeking for
instruction. In lyric poetry the free creative spirit had declined,
but the technique of verse was elaborated and reduced to rule; ballade,
chant royal, lai, virelai, rondeau were the established forms, and
lyric verse was often used for matter of a didactic, moral, or
satirical tendency. Even Ovid was tediously moralised (_c_. 1300)
in some seventy thousand lines by Chrétien Legouais. Literary
societies or _puys_[1] were instituted, which maintained the rules
of art, and awarded crowns to successful competitors in poetry; a
formal ingenuity replaced lyrical inspiration; poetry accepted
proudly the name of "rhetoric." At the same time there is gain in
one respect--the poets no longer conceal their own personality behind
their work: they instruct, edify, moralise, express their real or
simulated passions in their own persons; if their art is mechanical,
yet through it we make some acquaintance with the men and manners
of the age.

[Footnote 1: _Puy_, mountain, eminence, signifying the elevated seat
of the judges of the artistic competition.]

The chief exponent of the new art of poetry was GUILLAUME DE MACHAUT.
Born about 1300, he served as secretary to the King of Bohemia, who
fell at Crécy. He enjoyed a tranquil old age in his province of
Champagne, cultivating verse and music with the applause of his
contemporaries. The ingenuities of gallantry are deployed at length
in his _Jugement du Roi de Navarre_; he relates with dull prolixity
the history of his patron, Pierre de Lusignan, King of Cyprus, in
his _Prise d'Alexandrie_; the _Voir dit_ relates in varying verse
and prose the course of his sexagenarian love for a maiden in her
teens, Peronne d'Armentières, who gratified her coquetry with an old
poet's adoration, and then wedded his rival.

In the forms of his verse EUSTACHE DESCHAMPS, also a native of
Champagne (_c_. 1345-1405), was a disciple of Machaut: if he was not
a poet, he at least interests a reader by rhymed journals of his own
life and the life of his time, written in the spirit of an honest
bourgeois, whom disappointed personal hopes and public misfortune
had early embittered. Eighty thousand lines, twelve hundred ballades,
nearly two hundred rondeaux, a vast unfinished satire on woman, the
_Miroir de Mariage_, fatigued even his own age, and the official court
poet of France outlived his fame. He sings of love in the conventional
modes; his historical poems, celebrating events of the day, have
interest by virtue of their matter; as a moralist in verse he deplores
the corruption of high and low, the cupidity in Church and State,
and, above all, applies his wit to expose the vices and infirmities
of women. The earliest Poetic in French--_L'art de dictier et de fere
chançons, balades, virelais, et rondeaulx_ (1392)--is the work of
Eustache Deschamps, in which the poet, by no means himself a master
of harmonies, insists on the prime importance of harmony in verse.

The exhaustion of the mediæval sources of inspiration is still more
apparent in the fifteenth-century successors of Deschamps. But
already something of the reviving influence of Italian culture makes
itself felt. CHRISTINE DE PISAN, Italian by her parentage and place
of birth (_c_. 1363), was left a widow with three young children at
the age of twenty-five. Her sorrow, uttered in verse, is a genuine
lyric cry; but when in her poverty she practised authorship as a trade,
while she wins our respect as a mother, the poetess is too often at
once facile and pedantic. Christine was zealous in maintaining the
honour of her sex against the injuries of Jean de Meun; in her prose
_Cité des Dames_ she celebrates the virtues and heroism of women,
with examples from ancient and modern times; in the _Livre des Trois
Vertus_ she instructs women in their duties. When advanced in years,
and sheltered in the cloister, she sang her swan-song in honour of
Joan of Arc. Admirable in every relation of life, a patriot and a
scholar, she only needed one thing--genius--to be a poet of
distinction.

A legend relates that the Dauphiness, Margaret of Scotland, kissed
the lips of a sleeper who was the ugliest man in France, because from
that "precious mouth" had issued so many "good words and virtuous
sayings." The sleeper was Christine's poetical successor, ALAIN
CHARTIER. His fame was great, and as a writer of prose he must be
remembered with honour, both for his patriotic ardour, and for the
harmonious eloquence (modelled on classical examples) in which that
ardour found expression. His first work, the _Livre des Quatre Dames_,
is in verse: four ladies lament their husbands slain, captured, lost,
or fugitive and dishonoured, at Agincourt. Many of his other poems
were composed as a distraction from the public troubles of the time;
the title of one, widely celebrated in its own day, _La Belle Dame
sans Mercy_, has obtained a new meaning of romance through its
appropriation by Keats. In 1422 he wrote his prose _Quadrilogue
Invectif_, in which suffering France implores the nobles, the clergy,
the people to show some pity for her miserable state. If Froissart
had not discerned the evils of the feudal system, they were patent
to the eyes of Alain Chartier. His _Livre de l'Espérance_, where the
oratorical prose is interspersed with lyric verse, spares neither
the clergy nor the frivolous and dissolute gentry, who forget their
duty to their country in wanton self-indulgence; yet his last word,
written at the moment when Joan of Arc was leaving the pastures for
battle, is one of hope. His _Curial_ (_The Courtier_) is a satire
on the vices of the court by one who had acquaintance with its
corruption. The large, harmonious phrase of Alain Chartier was new
to French prose, and is hardly heard again until the seventeenth
century.

The last grace and refinements of chivalric society blossom in the
poetry of CHARLES D'ORLÉANS, "la grâce exquise des choses frêles."
He was born in 1391, son of Louis, Duke of Orleans, and an Italian
mother, Valentine of Milan. Married at fifteen to the widow of Richard
II. of England, he lost his father by assassination, his mother by
the stroke of grief, his wife in childbirth. From the battlefield
of Agincourt he passed to England, where he remained a prisoner,
closely guarded, for twenty-five years. It seems as if events should
have made him a tragic poet; but for Charles d'Orléans poetry was
the brightness or the consolation of his exile. His elder years at
the little court of Blois were a season of delicate gaiety, when he
enjoyed the recreations of age, and smiled at the passions of youth.
He died in 1465. Neither depth of reflection nor masculine power of
feeling finds expression in his verse; he does not contribute new
ideas to poetry, nor invent new forms, but he rendered the old material
and made the accepted moulds of verse charming by a gracious
personality and an exquisite sense of art. Ballade, rondeau, chanson,
each is manipulated with the skill of a goldsmith setting his gems.
He sings of the beauty of woman, the lighter joys of love, the pleasure
of springtide, the song of the birds, the gliding of a stream or a
cloud; or, as an elder man, he mocks with amiable irony the fatiguing
ardours of young hearts. When St. Valentine's day comes round, his
good physician "Nonchaloir" advises him to abstain from choosing a
mistress, and recommends an easy pillow. The influence of Charles
d'Orléans on French poetry was slight; it was not until 1734 that
his forgotten poems were brought to light.

In the close of the mediæval period, when old things were passing
away and new things were as yet unborn, the minds of men inclined
to fill the void with mockery and satire. Martin Lefranc (_c_. 1410-61)
in his _Champion des Dames_--a poem of twenty-four thousand lines, in
which there is much spirit and vigour of versification--balances one
against another the censure and the praise of women. Coquillard, with
his railleries assuming legal forms and phrases, laughs at love and
lovers, or at the _Droits Nouveaux_ of a happy time when licence had
become the general law. Henri Baude, a realist in his keen observation,
satirises with direct, incisive force, the manners and morals of his
age. Martial d'Auvergne (_c_. 1433-1508), chronicling events in his
_Vigiles de Charles VII._, a poem written according to the scheme of
the liturgical Vigils, is eloquent in his expression of the wrongs of
the poor, and in his condemnation of the abuses of power and station.
If the _Amant rendu Cordelier_ be his, he too appears among those who
jest at the follies and extravagance of love. His prose _Arrêts
d'Amour_ are discussions and decisions of the imaginary court which
determines questions of gallantry.

Amid such mockery of life and love, the horror of death was ever
present to the mind of a generation from which hope and faith seemed
to fail; it was the time of the _Danse Macabré_; the skeleton became
a grim humourist satirising human existence, and verses written for
the dance of women were ascribed in the manuscript which preserves
them to Martial d'Auvergne.

Passion and the idea of death mingle with a power at once realistic
and romantic in the poetry of FRANÇOIS VILLON. He was born in poverty,
an obscure child of the capital, in 1430 or 1431; he adopted the name
of his early protector, Villon; obtained as a poor scholar his
bachelor's degree in 1449, and three years later became a _maître
ès arts_; but already he was a master of arts less creditable than
those of the University. In 1455 Villon--or should we call him
Monterbier, Montcorbier, Corbueil, Desloges, Mouton (aliases
convenient for vagabondage)?--quarrelled with a priest, and killed
his adversary; he was condemned to death, and cheered his spirits
with the piteous ballade for those about to swing to the kites and
the crows; but the capital punishment was commuted to banishment.
Next winter, stung by the infidelity and insults of a woman to whom
he had abandoned himself, he fled, perhaps to Angers, bidding his
friends a jesting farewell in the bequests of his _Petit Testament_.
Betrayed by one who claimed him as an associate in robbery, Villon
is lost to view for three years; and when we rediscover him in 1461,
it is as a prisoner, whose six months' fare has been bread and water
in his cell at Meun-sur-Loire. The entry of Louis XI., recently
consecrated king, freed the unhappy captive. Before the year closed
he had composed his capital work, the _Grand Testament_, and proved
himself the most original poet of his century. And then Villon
disappears; whether he died soon after, whether he lived for half
a score of years, we do not know.

While he handles with masterly ease certain of the fifteenth-century
forms of verse--in particular the ballade--Villon is a modern in his
abandonment of the traditional machinery of the imagination, its
convention of allegories and abstractions, and those half-realised
moralisings which were repeated from writer to writer; he is modern
in the intensity of a personal quality which is impressed upon his
work, in the complexity of his feelings, passing from mirth to despair,
from beauty to horror, from cynical grossness to gracious memories
or aspirations; he is modern in his passion for the real, and in those
gleams of ideal light which are suddenly dashed across the vulgar
surroundings of his sorry existence. While he flings out his scorn
and indignation against those whom he regarded as his ill-users, or
cries against the injuries of fortune, or laments his miserable past,
he yet is a passionate lover of life; and shadowing beauty and youth
and love and life, he is constantly aware of the imminent and
inexorable tyranny of death. The ideas which he expresses are few
and simple--ideas common to all men; but they take a special colour
from his own feelings and experiences, and he renders them with a
poignancy which is his own, with a melancholy gaiety and a desperate
imaginative sincerity. His figure is so interesting in itself--that
of the _enfant perdu_ of genius--and so typical of a class, that the
temptation to create a Villon legend is great; but to magnify his
proportions to those of the highest poets is to do him wrong. His
passionate intensity within a limited range is unsurpassed; but
Villon wanted sanity, and he wanted breadth.

In his direct inspiration from life, co-operating with an admirable
skill and science in literary form, Villon stands alone. For
others--Georges Chastelain, Meschinot, Molinet, Crétin--poetry was
a cumbrous form of rhetoric, regulated by the rules of those arts
of poetry which during the fifteenth century appeared at not
infrequent intervals. The _grands rhétoriqueurs_ with their
complicated measures, their pedantic diction, their effete allegory,
their points and puerilities, testify to the exhaustion of the Middle
Ages, and to the need of new creative forces for the birth of a living
literature.

There is life, however, in the work of one remarkable prose-writer
of the time--ANTOINE DE LA SALLE. His residence in Rome (1422) had
made him acquainted with the tales of the Italian _novellieri_; he
was a friend of the learned and witty Poggio; René of Anjou entrusted
to him the education of his son; when advanced in years he became
the author certainly of one masterpiece, probably of three. If he
was the writer of the _Quinze Joies de Mariage_, he knew how to mask
a rare power of cynical observation under a smiling face: the Church
had celebrated the fifteen joys of the Blessed Virgin; he would
ironically depict the fifteen afflictions of wedded life, in scenes
finely studied from the domestic interior. How far the _Cent Nouvelles
nouvelles_ are to be ascribed to him is doubtful; it is certain that
these licentious tales reproduce, with a new skill in narrative prose,
the spirit of indecorous mirth in their Italian models. The _Petit
Jehan de Saintré_ is certainly the work of Antoine de la Salle; the
irony of a realist, endowed with subtlety and grace, conducts the
reader through chivalric exaltations to vulgar disillusion. The
writer was not insensible to the charm of the ideals of the past,
but he presents them only in the end to cover them with disgrace.
The anonymous farce of _Pathelin_, and the _Chronique de petit Jehan
de Saintré_, are perhaps the most instructive documents which we
possess with respect to the moral temper of the close of the Middle
Ages; and there have been critics who have ventured to ascribe both
works to the same hand.


II
THE DRAMA

The mediæval drama in France, though of early origin, attained its
full development only when the Middle Ages were approaching their
term; its popularity continued during the first half of the sixteenth
century. It waited for a public; with the growth of industry, the
uprising of the middle classes, it secured its audience, and in some
measure filled the blank created by the disappearance of the _chansons
de geste_. The survivals of the drama of the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries are few; the stream, as we know, was flowing, but it ran
underground.

The religious drama had its origin in the liturgical offices of the
Church. At Christmas and at Easter the birth and resurrection of the
Saviour were dramatically recited to the people by the clergy, within
the consecrated building, in Latin paraphrases of the sacred text;
but, as yet, neither Jesus nor His mother appeared as actors in the
drama. By degrees the vernacular encroached upon the Latin and
displaced it; the scene passed from the church to the public place
or street; the action developed; and the actors were priests supported
by lay-folk, or were lay-folk alone.

The oldest surviving drama written in French (but with interspersed
liturgical sentences of Latin) is of the twelfth century--the
_Représentation d'Adam_: the fall of man, and the first great crime
which followed--the death of Abel--are succeeded by the procession
of Messianic prophets. It was enacted outside the church, and the
spectators were alarmed or diverted by demons who darted to and fro
amidst the crowd. Of the thirteenth century, only two religious pieces
remain. Jean Bodel, of Arras, was the author of _Saint Nicholas_.
The poet, himself about to assume the cross, exhibits a handful of
Crusaders in combat with the Mussulmans; all but one, a supplicant
of the saint, die gloriously, with angelic applause and pity;
whereupon the feelings of the audience are relieved by the mirth and
quarrels of drinkers in a tavern, who would rob St. Nicholas of the
treasure entrusted to his safeguard; miracles, and general
conversion of the infidels, conclude the drama. The miracle of
_Théophile_, the ambitious priest who pawned his soul to Satan, and
through our Lady's intercession recovered his written compact, is
by the trouvère Rutebeuf. These are scanty relics of a hundred years;
yet their literary value outweighs that of the forty-two _Miracles
de Notre Dame_ of the century which followed--rude pieces, often
trivial, often absurd in their incidents, with mystic extravagance
sanctifying their vulgar realism. They formed, with two exceptions,
the dramatic repertory of some mediæval _puy_, an association
half-literary, half-religious, devoted to the Virgin's honour; their
rhymed octosyllabic verse--the special dramatic form--at times
borders upon prose. One drama, and only one, of the fourteenth century,
chooses another heroine than our Lady--the _Histoire de Grisélidis_,
which presents, with pathos and intermingling mirth, those marvels
of wifely patience celebrated for other lands by Boccaccio, by
Petrarch, and by Chaucer.

The fifteenth-century Mystery exhibits the culmination of the
mediæval sacred drama. The word _mystère_,[2] first appropriated to
tableaux vivants, is applied to dramatic performances in the royal
privilege which in 1402 conferred upon the association known as the
_Confrérie de la Passion_ the right of performing the plays of our
Redemption. Before this date the Blessed Virgin and the infant Jesus
had appeared upon the scene. The Mystery presents the course of sacred
story, derived from the Old and the New Testaments, together with
the lives of the saints from apostolic times to the days of St. Dominic
and St. Louis; it even includes, in an extended sense, subjects from
profane history--the siege of Orleans, the destruction of Troy--but
such subjects are of rare occurrence during the fifteenth century.

[Footnote 2: Derived from _ministerium_ (_métier_), but doubtless
often drawing to itself a sense suggested by the _mysteries_ of
religion.]

For a hundred years, from 1450 onwards, an unbounded enthusiasm for
the stage possessed the people, not of Paris merely, but of all France.
The _Confrères de la Passion_, needing a larger repertoire, found
in young ARNOUL GREBAN, bachelor in theology, an author whose vein
was copious. His _Passion_, written about the middle of the fifteenth
century, embraces the entire earthly life of Christ in its thirty-four
thousand verses, which required one hundred and fifty performers and
four crowded days for the delivery. Its presentation was an
unprecedented event in the history of the theatre. The work of Greban
was rehandled and enlarged by Jean Michel, and great was the triumph
when it was given at Angers in 1486. Greban was not to be outdone
either by his former self or by another dramatist; in collaboration
with his brother Simon, he composed the yet more enormous _Actes des
Apôtres_, in sixty-two thousand lines, demanding the services of five
hundred performers. When presented at Bourges as late as 1536, the
happiness of the spectators was extended over no fewer than forty
days. The Mystery of the Old Testament, selecting whatever was
supposed to typify or foreshadow the coming of the Messiah, is only
less vast, and is not less incoherent. Taken together, the Mysteries
comprise over a million verses, and what remains is but a portion
of what was written.

Though the literary value of the Mysteries is slight, except in
occasional passages of natural feeling or just characterisation,
their historical importance was great; they met a national
demand--they constituted an animated and moving spectacle of
universal interest. A certain unity they possessed in the fact that
everything revolved around the central figure of Christ and the
central theme of man's salvation; but such unity is only to be
discovered in a broad and distant view. Near at hand the confusion
seems great. Their loose construction and unwieldy length
necessarily endangered their existence when a truer feeling for
literary art was developed. The solemnity of their matter gave rise
to a further danger; it demanded some relief, and that relief was
secured by the juxtaposition of comic scenes beside scenes of gravest
import. Such comedy was occasionally not without grace--a passage
of pastoral, a song, a naïve piece of gaiety; but buffoonery or vulgar
riot was more to the taste of the populace. It was pushed to the
furthest limit, until in 1548 the Parlement of Paris thought fit to
interdict the performance of sacred dramas which had lost the sense
of reverence and even of common propriety. They had scandalised
serious Protestants; the Catholics declined to defend what was
indefensible; the humanists and lovers of classical art in
Renaissance days thought scorn of the rude mediæval drama. Though
it died by violence, its existence could hardly have been prolonged
for many years. But in the days of its popularity the performance
of a mystery set a whole city in motion; carpenters, painters,
costumiers, machinists were busy in preparation; priests, scholars,
citizens rehearsed their parts; country folk crowded to every
hostelry and place of lodging. On the day preceding the first morning
of performance the personages, duly attired--Christians, Jews,
Saracens, kings, knights, apostles, priests--defiled through the
streets on their way to the cathedral to mass. The vast stage hard
by the church presented, with primitive properties, from right to
left, the succession of places--lake, mountain, manger, prison,
banquet-chamber--in which the action should be imagined; and from
one station to another the actors passed as the play proceeded. At
one end of the stage rose heaven, where God sat throned; at the other,
hell-mouth gaped, and the demons entered or emerged. Music aided the
action; the drama was tragedy, comedy, opera, pantomime in one. The
actors were amateurs from every class of society--clergy, scholars,
tradesmen, mechanics, occasionally members of the _noblesse_. In
Paris the Confraternity of the Passion had almost an exclusive right
to present these sacred plays; in the provinces associations were
formed to carry out the costly and elaborate performance. To the
_Confrères de la Passion_--bourgeois folk and artisans--belonged the
first theatre, and it was they who first presented plays at regular
intervals. From the Hospital of the Trinity, originally a shelter
for pilgrims, they migrated in 1539 to the Hôtel de Flandres, and
thence in 1548 to the Hôtel de Bourgogne. Their famous place of
performance passed in time into the hands of professional actors;
but it was not until 1676 that the Confrérie ceased to exist.

Comedy, unlike the serious drama, suffered no breach of continuity
during its long history. The jongleurs of the Middle Ages were the
immediate descendants of the Roman mimes and histrions; their
declamations, accompanied by gestures, at least tended towards the
dramatic form. Classical comedy was never wholly forgotten in the
schools; the liturgical drama and the sacred pieces developed from
it had an indirect influence as encouraging dramatic feeling, and
providing models which could be applied to other uses. The earliest
surviving _jeux_ are of Arras, the work of ADAM DE LA HALLE. In the
_Jeu d'Adam_ or _de la Feuillée_ (_c_. 1262) satirical studies of
real life mingle strangely with fairy fantasy; the poet himself,
lamenting his griefs of wedlock, his father, his friends are
humorously introduced; the fool and the physician play their
laughable parts; and the three fay ladies, for whom the citizens have
prepared a banquet under _la feuillée_, grant or refuse the wishes
of the mortal folk in the traditional manner of enchantresses amiable
or perverse. The _Jeu de Robin et Marlon_--first performed at Naples
in 1283--is a pastoral comic opera, with music, song, and dance; the
good Marion is loyal to her rustic lover, and puts his rival, her
cavalier admirer, to shame. These were happy inventions happily
executed; but they stand alone. It is not until we reach the fifteenth
century that mediæval comedy, in various forms, attained its true
evolution.

The Moralities, of which sixty-five survive, dating, almost all, from
1450 to 1550, differed from the Mysteries in the fact that their
purpose was rather didactic than religious; as a rule they handled
neither historical nor legendary matter; they freely employed
allegorical personification after the fashion of the _Roman de la
Rose_. The general type is well exemplified in _Bien-Avisé,
Mal-Avisé_, a kind of dramatic Pilgrim's Progress, with two
pilgrims--one who is instructed in the better way by all the
personified powers which make for righteousness; the other finding
his companions on the primrose path, and arriving at the everlasting
bonfire. Certain Moralities attack a particular vice--gluttony or
blasphemy, or the dishonouring of parents. From satirising the social
vices of the time, the transition was easy to political satire or
invective. In the sixteenth century both the partisans of the
Reformation and the adherents to the traditional creed employed the
Morality as a medium for ecclesiastical polemics. Sometimes treating
of domestic manners and morals, it became a kind of bourgeois drama,
presenting the conditions under which character is formed. Sometimes
again it approached the farce: two lazy mendicants, one blind, the
other lame, fear that they may suffer a cure and lose their trade
through the efficacy of the relics of St. Martin; the halt, mounted
on the other's back, directs his fellow in their flight; by ill luck
they encounter the relic-bearers, and are restored in eye and limb;
the recovered cripple swears and rages; but the man born blind,
ravished by the wonders of the world, breaks forth in praise to God.
The higher Morality naturally selected types of character for satire
or commendation. It is easy to perceive how such a comic art as that
of Molière lay in germ in this species of the mediæval drama. At a
late period examples are found of the historical Morality. The
pathetic _l'Empereur qui tua son Neveu_ exhibits in its action and
its stormy emotion something of tragic power. The advent of the
pseudo-classical tragedy of the Pléiade checked the development of
this species. The very name "Morality" disappears from the theatre
after 1550.

The _sottie_, like the Morality, was a creation of the fifteenth
century. Whether it had its origin in a laicising of the irreverent
celebration of the Feast of Fools, or in that parade of fools which
sometimes preceded a Mystery, it was essentially a farce, but a farce
in which the performers, arrayed in motley, and wearing the long-eared
cap, distributed between them the several rôles of human folly.
Associations of _sots_, known in Paris as _Enfants sans Souci_, known
in other cities by other names, presented the unwisdom or madness
of the world in parody. The _sottie_ at times rose from a mere
diversion to satire; like the Morality, it could readily adapt itself
to political criticism. The _Gens Nouveaux_, belonging perhaps to
the reign of Louis XI., mocks the hypocrisy of those sanguine
reformers who promise to create the world anew on a better model,
and yet, after all, have no higher inspiration than that old greed
for gold and power and pleasure which possessed their predecessors.
Louis XII., who permitted free comment on public affairs from actors
on the stage, himself employed the poet Pierre Gringoire to satirise
his adversary the Pope. In 1512 the _Jeu du Prince des Sots_ was given
in Paris; Gringoire, the _Mère-Sotte_, but wearing the Papal robes
to conceal for a time the garb of folly, discharged a principal part.
Such dangerous pleasantries as this were vigorously restrained by
François I.

A dramatic monologue or a _sermon joyeux_ was commonly interposed
between the _sottie_ and the Morality or miracle which followed. The
sermon parodied in verse the pulpit discourses of the time, with text
duly announced, the customary scholastic divisions, and an
incredible licence in matter and in phrase. Among the dramatic
monologues of the fifteenth century is found at least one little
masterpiece, which has been ascribed on insufficient grounds to
Villon, and which would do no discredit to that poet's genius--the
_Franc-Archer de Bagnolet_. The francs-archers of Charles VII.--a
rural militia--were not beloved of the people; the _miles gloriosus_
of Bagnolet village, boasting largely of his valour, encounters a
stuffed scarecrow, twisting to the wind; his alarms, humiliations,
and final triumph are rendered in a monologue which expounds the
action of the piece with admirable spirit.

If the Mystery served to fill the void left by the national epopee,
the farce may be regarded as to some extent the dramatic inheritor
of the spirit of the fabliau. It aims at mirth and laughter for their
own sakes, without any purpose of edification; it had, like the
fabliau, the merit of brevity, and not infrequently the fault of
unabashed grossness. But the very fact that it was a thing of little
consequence allowed the farce to exhibit at times an audacity of
political or ecclesiastical criticism which transformed it into a
dramatised pamphlet. In general it chose its matter from the ludicrous
misadventures of private life: the priest, the monk, the husband,
the mother-in-law, the wife, the lover, the roguish servant are the
agents in broadly ludicrous intrigues; the young wife lords it over
her dotard husband, and makes mockery of his presumptive heirs, in
_La Cornette_ of Jean d'Abondance; in _Le Cuvier_, the husband, whose
many household duties have been scheduled, has his revenge--the list,
which he deliberately recites while his wife flounders helpless in
the great washing-tub, does not include the task of effecting her
deliverance.

Amid much that is trivial and much that is indecent, one farce stands
out pre-eminent, and may indeed be called a comedy of manners and
of character--the merry misfortunes of that learned advocate,
_Maître Pierre Pathelin_. The date is doubtless about 1470; the author,
probably a Parisian and a member of the Basoche, is unknown. With
all his toiling and cheating, Pathelin is poor; with infinite art
and spirit he beguiles the draper of the cloth which will make himself
a coat and his faithful Guillemette a gown; when the draper, losing
no time, comes for his money and an added dinner of roast goose, behold
Maître Pathelin is in a raging fever, raving in every dialect. Was
the purchase of his cloth a dream, or work of the devil? To add to
the worthy tradesman's ill-luck, his shepherd has stolen his wool
and eaten his sheep. The dying Pathelin unexpectedly appears in court
to defend the accused, and having previously advised his client to
affect idiocy and reply to all questions with the senseless utterance
_bée_, he triumphantly wins the case; but the tables are turned when
Master Pathelin demands his fee, and can obtain no other response
than _bée_ from the instructed shepherd. The triumph of rogue over
rogue is the only moral of the piece; it is a satire on fair dealing
and justice, and, though the morals of a farce are not to be gravely
insisted on, such morals as _Maître Pathelin_ presents agree well
with the spirit of the age which first enjoyed this masterpiece of
caricature.

The actors in mediæval comedy, as in the serious drama, were amateurs.
The members of the academic _puys_ were succeeded by the members of
guilds, or _confréries_, or _sociétés joyeuses_. Of these societies
the most celebrated was that of the Parisian _Enfants sans Souci_.
With this were closely associated the Basochiens, the corporation
of clerks to the _procureurs_ of the Parlement of Paris.[3] It may
be that the _sots_ of the capital were only members of the _basoche_,
assuming for the occasion the motley garb. In colleges, scholars
performed at first in Latin plays, but from the fifteenth century
in French. At the same time, troupes of performers occasionally moved
from city to city, exhibiting a Mystery, but they did not hold together
when the occasion had passed. Professional comedians were brought
from Italy to Lyons in 1548, for the entertainment of Henri II. and
Catherine de Médicis. From that date companies of French actors appear
to become numerous. New species of the drama--tragedy, comedy,
pastoral--replace the mediæval forms; but much of the genius of French
classical comedy is a development from the Morality, the _sottie_,
and the farce. To present these newer forms the service of trained
actors was required. During the last quarter of the sixteenth century
the amateur performers of the ancient drama finally disappear.

[Footnote 3: This corporation, known as the _Royaume de la Basoche_
(_basilica_), was probably as old as the fourteenth century.]



BOOK THE SECOND
_THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY_



CHAPTER I
RENAISSANCE AND REFORMATION


The literature of the sixteenth century is dominated by two chief
influences--that of the Renaissance and that of the Reformation. When
French armies under Charles VIII. and Louis XII. made a descent on
Italy, they found everywhere a recognition of the importance of art,
an enthusiasm for beauty, a feeling for the æsthetic as well as the
scholarly aspects of antiquity, a new joy in life, an universal
curiosity, a new confidence in human reason. To Latin culture a Greek
culture had been added; and side by side with the mediæval master
of the understanding, Aristotle, the master of the imaginative reason,
Plato, was held in honour. Before the first quarter of the sixteenth
century closed, France had received a great gift from Italy, which
profoundly modified, but by no means effaced, the characteristics
of her national genius. The Reformation was a recovery of Christian
antiquity and of Hebraism, and for a time the religious movement made
common cause with the Renaissance; but the grave morals, the
opposition of grace to nature, and the dogmatic spirit of theology
after a time alienated the Reforming party from the mere humanism
of literature and art. An interest in general ideas and a capacity
for dealing with them were fostered by the study of antiquity both
classical and Christian, by the meeting of various tendencies, and
by the conflict of rival creeds. To embody general ideas in art under
a presiding feeling for beauty, to harmonise thought and form, was
the great work of the seventeenth century; but before this could be
effected it was necessary that France should enjoy tranquillity after
the strife of the civil wars.

Learning had received the distinction of court patronage when Louis
XII. appointed the great scholar Budé his secretary. Around Francis
I., although he was himself rather a lover of the splendour and
ornament of the Renaissance than of its finer spirit, men of learning
and poets gathered. On the suggestion of GUILLAUME BUDÉ he endowed
professorships of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, to which were added those
of medicine, mathematics, and philosophy (1530-40), and in this
projected foundation of the Collège de France an important step was
made towards the secularisation of learned studies. The King's sister,
MARGUERITE OF NAVARRE (1492-1549), perhaps the most accomplished
woman of her time, represents more admirably than Francis the genius
of the age. She studied Latin, Italian, Spanish, German, Hebrew, and,
when forty, occupied herself with Greek. Her heart was ardent as well
as her intellect; she was gay and mundane, and at the same time she
was serious (with even a strain of mystical emotion) in her concern
for religion. Although not in communion with the Reformers, she
sympathised with them, and extended a generous protection to those
who incurred danger through their liberal opinions. Her poems,
_Marguerites de la Marguerite des Princesses_ (1547), show the
mediæval influences forming a junction with those of the Renaissance.
Some are religious, but side by side with her four dramatic Mysteries
and her eloquent _Triomphe de l'Agneau_ appears the _Histoire des
Satyres et Nymphes de Diane_, imitated from the Italian of Sannazaro.
Among her latest poems, which remained in manuscript until 1896, are
a pastoral dramatic piece expressing her grief for the death of her
brother Francis I.; a second dramatic poem, _Comédie jouée au Mont
de Marsan_, in which love (human or divine) triumphs over the spirit
of the world, over superstitious asceticism, and over the wiser temper
of religious moderation. _Les Prisons_ tells in allegory of her
servitude to passion, to worldly ambition, and to the desire for human
knowledge, until at last the divine love brought her deliverance.
The union of the mundane and the moral spirit is singularly shown
in Marguerite's collection of prose tales, written in imitation of
Boccaccio, the _Heptaméron des Nouvelles_ (1558).

These tales were not an indiscretion of youth; probably Marguerite
composed them a few years before her death; perhaps their licence
and wanton mirth were meant to enliven the melancholy hours of her
beloved brother; certainly the writer is ingenious in extracting
edifying lessons from narratives which do not promise edification.
They are not so gross as other writings of the time, and this is
Marguerite's true defence; to laugh at the immoralities of monks and
priests was a tradition in literature which neither the spirit of
the Renaissance nor that of the Reformation condemned. A company of
ladies and gentlemen, detained by floods on their return from the
Pyrenean baths, beguile the time by telling these tales, and the pious
widow Dame Oisille gives excellent assistance in showing how they
tend to a moral purpose. The series, designed to equal in number the
tales of the Decameron, is incomplete. Possibly Marguerite was aided
by some one or more of the authors of whom she was the patroness and
protector; but no sufficient evidence exists for the ascription of
the _Heptaméron_ to Bonaventure des Périers.

Among the poets whom Marguerite received with favour at her court
was CLÉMENT MAROT, the versifier, as characterised by Boileau, of
"elegant badinage." His predecessors and early contemporaries in the
opening years of the sixteenth century continued the manner of the
so-called _rhétoriqueurs_, who endeavoured to maintain allegory, now
decrepit or effete, with the aid of ingenuities of versification and
pedantry of diction; or else they carried on something of the more
living tradition of Villon or of Coquillard. Among the former, Jean
le Maire de Belges deserves to be remembered less for his verse than
for his prose work, _Illustrations de Gaule et Singularitez de Troie_,
in which the Trojan origin of the French people is set forth with
some feeling for beauty and a mass of crude erudition. Clément Marot,
born at Cahors in 1495 or 1496, a poet's son, was for a time in the
service of Francis I. as _valet de chambre_, and accompanied his
master to the battle of Pavia, where he was wounded and made prisoner.
Pursued by the Catholics as a heretic, and afterwards by the Genevan
Calvinists as a libertine, he was protected as long as was possible
by the King and by his sister. He died at Turin, a refugee to Italy,
in 1544.

In his literary origins Marot belongs to the Middle Ages; he edited
the _Roman de la Rose_ and the works of Villon; his immediate masters
were the _grands rhétoriqueurs_; but the spirit of the Renaissance
and his own genius delivered him from the oppression of their
authority, and his intellect was attracted by the revolt and the
promise of freedom found in the Reforming party. A light and
pleasure-loving nature, a temper which made the prudent conduct of
life impossible, exposed him to risks, over which, aided by protectors
whom he knew how to flatter with a delicate grace, he glided without
fatal mishap. He did not bring to poetry depth of passion or solidity
of thought; he brought what was needed--a bright intelligence, a sense
of measure and proportion, grace, gaiety, _esprit_. Escaping, after
his early _Temple de Cupido_, from the allegorising style, he learned
to express his personal sentiments, and something of the gay,
bourgeois spirit of France, with aristocratic distinction. His
poetry of the court and of occasion has lost its savour; but when
he writes familiarly (as in the _Épître au Roi pour avoir été derobé_),
or tells a short tale (like the fable of the rat and the lion), he
is charmingly bright and natural. None of his poems--elegies,
epistles, satires, songs, epigrams, rondeaux, pastorals,
ballades--overwhelm us by their length; he was not a writer of vast
imaginative ambitions. His best epigrams are masterpieces in their
kind, with happy turns of thought and expression in which art seems
to have the ease of nature. The satirical epistle supposed to be sent,
not by Marot, but by his valet, to Marot's adversary, Sagon, is
spirited in its insolence. _L'Enfer_ is a satiric outbreak of
indignation suggested by his imprisonment in the Châtelet on the
charge of heresy. His versified translation of forty-nine Psalms
added to his glory, and brought him the honour of personal danger
from the hostility of the Sorbonne; but to attempt such a translation
is to aim at what is impossible. His gift to French poetry is
especially a gift of finer art--firm and delicate expression,
felicity in rendering a thought or a feeling, certainty and grace
in poetic evolution, skill in handling the decasyllabic line. A great
poet Marot was not, and could not be; but, coming at a fortunate moment,
his work served literature in important ways; it was a return from
laboured rhetoric to nature. In the classical age his merit was
recognised by La Bruyère, and the author of the _Fables_ and the
_Contes_--in some respects a kindred spirit--acknowledged a debt to
Marot.

From Marot as a poet much was learned by Marguerite of Navarre. Of
his contemporaries, who were also disciples, the most distinguished
was MELIN DE SAINT-GELAIS, and on the master's death Melin passed
for an eminent poet. We can regard him now more justly, as one who
in slender work sought for elegance, and fell into a mannered
prettiness. While preserving something of the French spirit, he
suffered from the frigid ingenuities which an imitation of Italian
models suggested to him; but it cannot be forgotten that Saint-Gelais
brought the sonnet from Italy into French poetry. The school of Marot,
ambitious in little things, affected much the _blason_, which
celebrates an eyebrow, a lip, a bosom, a jewel, a flower, a precious
stone; lyrical inspiration was slender, but clearness and grace were
worth attaining, and the conception of poetry as a fine art served
to lead the way towards Ronsard and the Pléiade.

The most powerful personality in literature of the first half of the
sixteenth century was not a poet, though he wrote verses, but a great
creator in imaginative prose, great partly by virtue of his native
genius, partly because the sap of the new age of enthusiasm for science
and learning was thronging in his veins--FRANÇOIS RABELAIS. Born
about 1490 or 1495, at Chinon, in Touraine, of parents in a modest
station, he received his education in the village of Seuillé and at
the convent of La Baumette. He revolted against the routine of the
schools, and longed for some nutriment more succulent and savoury.
For fifteen years he lived as a Franciscan monk in the cell and
cloisters of the monastery at Fontenay-le-Comte. In books, but not
those of a monastic library, he found salvation; mathematics,
astronomy, law, Latin, Greek consoled him during his period of
uncongenial seclusion. His criminal companions--books which might
be suspected of heresy--were sequestrated. The young Bishop of
Maillezais--his friend Geoffroy d'Estissac, who had aided his
studies--and the great scholar Budé came to his rescue, and passing
first, by favour of the Pope, to the Benedictine abbey of Maillezais,
before long he quitted the cloister, and, as a secular priest, began
his wanderings of a scholar in search of universal knowledge. In
1530-31 he was at Montpellier, studying medicine and lecturing on
medical works of Hippocrates and Galen; next year, at Lyons, one of
the learned group gathered around the great printers of that city,
he practised his art of physic in the public hospital, and was known
as a scientific author. Towards the close of 1532 he re-edited the
popular romance _Chroniques Gargantuines_, which tells the
adventures of the "enormous giant Gargantua." It was eagerly read,
and brought laughter to the lips of Master Rabelais' patients.
Learning, he held, was good, but few things in this world are
wholesomer than laughter. The success of the _Chroniques_ seems to
have moved him to write a continuation, and in 1533 appeared
_Pantagruel_, the story of the deeds and prowess of Gargantua's giant
son, newly composed by Alcofribas Nasier, an anagram which concealed
the name of François Rabelais. It forms the second of the five books
which make up its author's famous work. A recast or rather a new
creation of the Chronicles of Gargantua, replacing the original
_Chroniques_, followed in 1535. It was not until 1546 and 1552 that
the second and--in its complete form--the third books of _Pantagruel_
appeared, and the authorship was acknowledged. The last book was
posthumous (1562 in part, 1564 in full), and the inferiority of style,
together with the more bitter spirit of its satire, have led many
critics to the opinion that it is only in part from the hand of the
great and wise humourist.

Rabelais was in Rome in 1534, and again in 1535, as physician to the
French ambassador, Jean du Bellay, Bishop of Paris. He pursued his
scientific studies in medicine and botany, took lessons in Arabic,
and had all a savant's intelligent curiosity for the remains of
antiquity. Some years of his life were passed in wandering from one
French university to another. Fearing the hostility of the Sorbonne,
during the last illness of his protector Francis I., he fled to the
imperial city of Metz. He was once again in Rome with Cardinal du
Bellay, in 1549. Next year the author of _Pantagruel_ was appointed
curé of Meudon, near Paris, but, perhaps as a concession to public
opinion, he resigned his clerical charges on the eve of the
publication of his fourth book. Rabelais died probably in 1552 or
1553, aged about sixty years.

On his death it might well have been said that the gaiety of nations
was eclipsed; but to his contemporaries Rabelais appeared less as
the enormous humourist, the buffoon Homer, than as a great scholar
and man of science, whose bright temper and mirthful conversation
were in no way inconsistent with good sense, sound judgment, and even
a habit of moderation. It is thus that he should still be regarded.
Below his laughter lay wisdom; below his orgy of grossness lay a noble
ideality; below the extravagances of his imagination lay the
equilibrium of a spirit sane and strong. The life that was in him
was so abounding and exultant that it broke all dikes and dams; and
laughter for him needed no justification, it was a part of this
abounding life. After the mediæval asceticism and the intellectual
bondage of scholasticism, life in Rabelais has its vast outbreak and
explosion; he would be no fragment of humanity, but a complete man.
He would enjoy the world to the full, and yet at the same time there
is something of stoicism in his philosophy of life; while gaily
accepting the good things of the earth, he would hold himself detached
from the gifts of fortune, and possess his soul in a strenuous sanity.
Let us return--such is his teaching--to nature, honouring the body,
but giving higher honour to the intellect and to the moral feeling;
let us take life seriously, and therefore gaily; let us face death
cheerfully, knowing that we do not wholly die; with light in the
understanding and love in the heart, we can confront all dangers and
defy all doubts.

He is the creator of characters which are types. His
giants--Grandgousier, Gargantua, Pantagruel--are giants of good
sense and large benevolence. The education of Pantagruel presents
the ideal pedagogy of the Renaissance, an education of the whole
man--mind and body--in contrast with the dwarfing subtleties and
word-spinning of the effete mediæval schools. Friar John is the monk
whose passion for a life of activity cannot be restrained; his
violence is the overflow of wholesome energy. It is to his care that
the Abbey of Thelema is confided, where young men and maidens are
to be occupied with every noble toil and every high delight, an abbey
whose rule has but a single clause (since goodness has no rule save
freedom), "Do what you will." Of such a fraternity, love and marriage
are the happiest outcome. Panurge, for whom the suggestion was derived
from the macaronic poet Folengo, is the fellow of Shakespeare's
Falstaff, in his lack of morals, his egoism, his inexhaustible wit;
he is the worst and best of company. We would dispense with such a
disreputable associate if we could, but save that he is a "very wicked
lewd rogue," he is "the most virtuous man in the world," and we cannot
part with him. Panurge would marry, but fears lest he may be the victim
of a faithless wife; every mode of divination, every source of
prediction except one is resorted to, and still his fate hangs
threatening; it only remains to consult the oracle of La Dive
Bouteille. The voyaging quest is long and perilous; in each island
at which the adventurers touch, some social or ecclesiastical abuse
is exhibited for ridicule; the word of the oracle is in the end the
mysterious "Drink"--drink, that is, if one may venture to interpret
an oracle, of the pure water of wisdom and knowledge, and let the
unknown future rest.

The obscenity and ordure of Rabelais were to the taste of his time;
his severer censures of Church and State were disguised by his
buffoonery; flinging out his good sense and wise counsels with a
liberal hand, he also wields vigorously the dunghill pitchfork. If
he is gross beyond what can be described, he is not, apart from the
evil of such grossness, a corrupter of morals, unless morals be
corrupted by a belief in the goodness of the natural man. The graver
wrongs of his age--wars of ambition, the abuse of public justice,
the hypocrisies, cruelties, and lethargy of the ecclesiastics,
distrust of the intellectual movement, spurious ideals of life--are
vigorously condemned. Rabelais loves goodness, charity, truth; he
pleads for the right of manhood to a full and free development of
all its powers; and if questions of original sin and divine grace
trouble him little, and his creed has some of the hardihood of the
Renaissance, he is full of filial gratitude to _le bon Dieu_ for His
gift of life, and of a world in which to live strongly should be to
live joyously.

The influence of Rabelais is seen in the writers of prose tales who
were his contemporaries and successors; but they want his broad good
sense and real temperance. BONAVENTURE DES PÉRIERS, whom Marguerite
of Navarre favoured, and whose _Nouvelles Récréations_, with more
of the tradition of the French fabliaux and farces and less of the
Italian manner, have something in common with the stories of the
_Heptaméron_, died in desperation by his own hand about 1543. His
Lucianic dialogues which compose the _Cymbalum Mundi_ show the
audacity of scepticism which the new ideas of the Renaissance
engendered in ill-balanced spirits. With all his boldness and ardour
Rabelais exercised a certain discretion, and in revising his own text
clearly exhibited a desire to temper valour with prudence.

It is remarkable that just at the time when Rabelais published the
second and best book of his _Pantagruel_, in which the ideality and
the realism of the Renaissance blossom to the full, there was a certain
revival of the chivalric romance. The Spanish _Amadis des Gaules_
(1540-48), translated by Herberay des Essarts, was a distant echo
of the Romances of the Round Table. The gallant achievements of
courtly knights, their mystical and platonic loves, were a delight
to Francis I., and charmed a whole generation. Thus, for the first
time, the literature of Spain reached France, and the influence of
_Amadis_ reappears in the seventeenth century in the romances of
d'Urfé and Mdlle. de Scudéry.

If the genius of the Renaissance is expressed ardently and amply in
the writings of Rabelais, the genius of the Reformation finds its
highest and most characteristic utterance through one whom Rabelais
describes as the "demoniacle" of Geneva--JEAN CALVIN (1509-64). The
pale face and attenuated figure of the great Reformer, whose life
was a long disease, yet whose indomitable will sustained him amid
bodily infirmities, present a striking contrast to the sanguine
health and overflowing animal spirits of the good physician who
reckoned laughter among the means of grace. Yet Calvin was not merely
a Reformer: he was also a humanist, who, in his own way, made a profound
study of man, and who applied the learning of a master to the
determination of dogma. His education was partly theological, partly
legal; and in his body of doctrine appear some of the rigour, the
severity, and the formal procedures of the law. Indignation against
the imprisonment and burning of Protestants, under the pretence that
they were rebellious anabaptists, drew him from obscurity; silence,
he thought, was treason. He addressed to the King an eloquent letter,
in which he maintained that the Reformed faith was neither new nor
tending towards schism, and next year (1536) he published his lucid
and logical exposition of Protestant doctrine--the _Christianæ
Religionis Institutio_. It placed him, at the age of twenty-seven,
as leader in the forefront of the new religious movement.

But the movement was not merely learned, it was popular, and Calvin
was resolved to present his work to French readers in their own tongue.
His translation--the _Institution_--appeared probably in 1541.
Perhaps no work by an author of seven-and-twenty had ever so great
an influence. It consists of four books--of God, of Jesus as a Mediator,
of the effects of His mediatorial work, and of the exterior forms
of the Church. The generous illusion of Rabelais, that human nature
is essentially good, has no place in Calvin's system. Man is fallen
and condemned under the law; all his righteousness is as filthy rags;
God, of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity predestinated some
men to eternal life and others to eternal death; the Son of God came
to earth to redeem the elect; through the operation of the Holy Spirit
in the gift of faith they are united to Christ, are justified through
His righteousness imputed to them, and are sanctified in their hearts;
the Church is the body of the faithful in every land; the officers
of the Church are chosen by the people; the sacraments are
two--baptism and the Lord's Supper. In his spirit of system, his
clearness, and the logical enchainment of his ideas, Calvin is
eminently French. On the one side he saw the Church of Rome, with--as
he held--its human tradition, its mass of human superstitions,
intervening between the soul and God; on the other side were the
scepticism, the worldliness, the religious indifference of the
Renaissance. Within the Reforming party there was the conflict of
private opinions. Calvin desired to establish once for all, on the
basis of the Scriptures, a coherent system of dogma which should
impose itself upon the minds of men as of divine authority, which
should be at once a barrier against the dangers of superstition and
the dangers of libertine speculation. As the leaders of the French
Revolution propounded political constitutions founded on the idea
of the rights of man, so Calvin aimed at setting forth a creed
proceeding, if we may so put it, from a conception of the absolute
rights of God. Through the mere good pleasure of our Creator, Ruler,
Judge, we are what we are.

It is not perhaps too much to say that Calvin is the greatest writer
of the sixteenth century. He learned much from the prose of Latin
antiquity. Clearness, precision, ordonnance, sobriety, intellectual
energy are compensations for his lack of grace, imagination,
sensibility, and religious unction. He wrote to convince, to impress
his ideas upon other minds, and his austere purpose was attained.
In the days of the pagan Renaissance, it was well for France that
there should also be a Renaissance of moral rigour; if freedom was
needful, so also was discipline. On the other hand, it may be admitted
that Calvin's reason is sometimes the dupe of Calvin's reasoning.

His _Life_ was written in French by his fellow-worker in the
Reformation, Théodore de Bèze, who also recorded the history of the
Reformed Churches in France (1580). Bèze and Viret, together with
their leader Calvin, were eminent in pulpit exposition and
exhortation, and in Bèze the preacher was conjoined with a poet. At
Calvin's request he undertook his translation of the Psalms, to
complete that by Marot, and in 1551 his sacred drama the _Tragédie
Française du sacrifice d'Abraham_, designed to inculcate the duty
of entire surrender to the divine will, and written with a grave and
restrained ardour, was presented at the University of Lausanne.



CHAPTER II
FROM THE PLÉIADE TO MONTAIGNE


The classical Renaissance was not necessarily opposed to high ethical
ideals; it was not wholly an affair of the sensuous imagination; it
brought with it the conception of Roman virtue, and this might well
unite itself (as we see afterwards in Corneille) with Christian faith.
Among the many translators of the sixteenth century was Montaigne's
early friend--the friend in memory of all his life--ÉTIENNE DE LA
BOÉTIE (1530-63). It is not, however, for his fragments of Plutarch
or his graceful rendering of Xenophon's Economics (named by him the
_Mesnagerie_) that we remember La Boétie; it is rather for his
eloquent pleading on behalf of freedom in the _Discours de la
Servitude Volontaire_ or _Contr'un_, written at sixteen--revised
later--in which, with the rhetoric of youth, he utters his invective
against tyranny. Before La Boétie's premature death the morals of
antiquity as seen in action had been exhibited to French readers in
the pages of Amyot's delightful translation of Plutarch's Lives
(1559), to be followed, some years later, by his _OEuvres Morales
de Plutarque_. JACQUES AMYOT (1513-93), from an ill-fed, ragged boy,
rose to be the Bishop of Auxerre. His scholarship, seen not only in
his Plutarch, but in his rendering of the _Daphnis et Chloé_ of Longus,
and other works, was exquisite; but still more admirable was his sense
of the capacities of French prose. He divined with a rare instinct
the genius of the language; he felt the affinities between his Greek
original and the idioms of his own countrymen; he rather re-created
than translated Plutarch. "We dunces," wrote Montaigne, "would have
been lost, had not this book raised us from the mire; thanks to it,
we now venture to speak and write; ... it is our breviary." The life
and the ideas of the ancient world became the possession, not of
scholars only, but of all French readers. The book was a school of
manners and of thought, an inspirer of heroic deeds. "To love
Plutarch," said the greatest Frenchman of the century, Henry of
Navarre, "is to love me, for he was long the master of my youth."

It was such an interest in the life and ideas of antiquity as Amyot
conveyed to the general mind of France that was wanting to Ronsard
and the group of poets surrounding him. Their work was concerned
primarily with literary form; of the life of the world and general
ideas, apart from form, they took too little heed. The transition
from Marot to Ronsard is to be traced chiefly through the school of
Lyons. In that city of the South, letters flourished side by side
with industry and commerce; Maurice Scève celebrated his mistress
Délie, "object of the highest virtue," with Petrarchan ingenuities;
and his pupil LOUISE LABÉ, "la belle Cordière," sang in her sonnets
of a true passion felt, as she declares, "en ses os, en son sang,
en son âme." The Lyonese poets, though imbued with Platonic ideas,
rather carry on the tradition of Marot than announce the Pléiade.
PIERRE DE RONSARD, born at a château a few leagues from Vendôme, in
the year 1524, was in the service of the sons of Francis I. as page,
was in Scotland with James V., and later had the prospect of a
distinguished diplomatic career, when deafness, consequent on a
serious malady, closed for him the avenue to public life. He threw
himself ardently into the study of letters; in company with the boy
Antoine de Baïf he received lessons from an excellent Hellenist, Jean
Daurat, soon to be principal of the Collège Coqueret. At the College
a group of students--Ronsard, Baïf, Joachim du Bellay, Remi
Belleau--gathered about the master. The "Brigade" was formed, which,
by-and-by, with the addition of Jodelle and Pontus de Thyard, and
including Daurat, became the constellation of the Pléiade. The seven
associates read together, translated and imitated the classics; a
common doctrine of art banded them in unity; they thought scorn of
the vulgar ways of popular verse; poetry for them was an arduous and
exquisite toil; its service was a religion. At length, in 1549, they
flung out their manifesto--the _Défense et Illustration de la Langue
Française_ by Du Bellay, the most important study in literary
criticism of the century. With this should be considered, as less
important manifestoes, the later _Art Poétique_ of Ronsard, and his
prefaces to the _Franciade_. To formulate principles is not always
to the advantage of a movement in literature; but champions need a
banner, reformers can hardly dispense with a definite creed. Against
the popular conception of the ignorant the Pléiade maintained that
poetry was a high and difficult form of art; against the pedantry
of humanism they maintained that the native tongue of France admitted
of literary art worthy to take its place beside that of Greece or
Rome. The French literary vocabulary, they declared, has excellences
of its own, but it needs to be enriched by technical terms, by words
of local dialects, by prudent adoptions from Greek and Latin, by
judicious developments of the existing families of words, by the
recovery of words that have fallen into disuse.

It is unjust to the Pléiade to say that they aimed at overloading
poetic diction with neologisms of classical origin; they sought to
innovate with discretion; but they unquestionably aimed at the
formation of a poetic diction distinct from that of prose; they turned
away from simplicity of speech to ingenious periphrasis; they desired
a select, aristocratic idiom for the service of verse; they
recommended a special syntax in imitation of the Latin; for the elder
forms of French poetry they would substitute reproductions or
re-creations of classical forms. Rondeaux, ballades, virelais,
chants royaux, chansons are to be cast aside as _épiceries_; and their
place is to be taken by odes like those of Pindar or of Horace, by
the elegy, satire, epigram, epic, or by newer forms justified by the
practice of Italian masters. Rich but not over-curious rhymes are
to be cultivated, with in general the alternation of masculine and
feminine rhymes; the cæsura is to fall in accordance with the meaning.
Ronsard, more liberal than Du Bellay, permits, on the ground of
classical example, the gliding from couplet to couplet without a pause.
"The alexandrine holds in our language the place of heroic verse among
the Greeks and Romans"--in this statement is indicated the chief
service rendered to French poetry by Ronsard and the rest of the
Pléiade; they it was who, by their teaching and example, imposed on
later writers that majestic line, possessing the most varied powers,
capable of the finest achievements, which has yielded itself alike
to the purposes of Racine and to those of Victor Hugo.

Ronsard and Du Bellay broke with the tradition of the Middle Ages,
and inaugurated the French classical school; it remained for Malherbe,
at a later date, to reform the reformation of the Pléiade, and to
win for himself the glory which properly belongs to his predecessors.
Unfortunately from its origin the French classical school had in it
the spirit of an intellectual aristocracy, which removed it from
popular sympathies; unfortunately, also, the poets of the Pléiade
failed to perceive that the masterpieces of Greece and Rome are
admirable, not because they belong to antiquity, but because they
are founded on the imitation of nature and on ideas of the reason.
They were regarded as authorities equal with nature or independent
of it; and thus while the school of Ronsard did much to renew literary
art, its teaching involved an error which eventually tended to the
sterilisation of art. That error found its correction in the
literature of the seventeenth century, and expressly in the doctrine
set forth by Boileau; yet under the correction some of the
consequences of the error remained. Ronsard and his followers, on
the other hand, never made the assumption, common enough in the
seventeenth century, that poetry could be manufactured by observance
of the rules, nor did they suppose that the total play of emotion
must be rationalised by the understanding; they left a place for the
instinctive movements of poetic sensibility.

During forty years Ronsard remained the "Prince of Poets." Tasso
sought his advice; the Chancellor Michel de l'Hospital wrote in his
praise; Brantôme placed him above Petrarch; Queen Elizabeth and Mary
Stuart sent him gifts; Charles IX. on one occasion invited him to
sit beside the throne. In his last hours he was still occupied with
his art. His death, at the close of 1585, was felt as a national
calamity, and pompous honours were awarded to his tomb. Yet Ronsard,
though ambitious of literary distinction, did not lose his true self
in a noisy fame. His was the delicate nature of an artist; his deafness
perhaps added to his timidity and his love of retirement; we think
of him in his garden, cultivating his roses as "the priest of Flora."

His work as a poet falls into four periods. From 1550 to 1554 he was
a humanist without discretion or reserve. In the first three books
of the _Odes_ he attempted to rival Pindar; in the _Amours de
Cassandre_ he emulates the glory of Petrarch. From 1554 to 1560,
abandoning his Pindarism, he was in discipleship to Anacreon[1] and
Horace. It is the period of the less ambitious odes found in the fourth
and fifth books, the period of the _Amours de Marie_ and the _Hymnes_.
From 1560 to 1574 he was a poet of the court and of courtly occasions,
an eloquent declaimer on public events in the _Discours des Misères
de ce Temps_, and the unfortunate epic poet of his unfinished
_Franciade_. During the last ten years of his life he gave freer
expression to his personal feelings, his sadness, his gladness; and
to these years belong the admirable sonnets to Hélène de Surgères,
his autumnal love.

[Footnote 1: _i.e._ the Anacreontic poems, found, and published in
1554, by Henri Estienne.]

Ronsard's genius was lyrical and elegiac, but the tendencies of a
time when the great affair was the organisation of social life, and
as a consequence the limitation of individual and personal passions,
were not favourable to the development of lyrical poetry. In his
imitations of Pindar a narrative element checks the flight of song,
and there is a certain unreality in the premeditated attempt to
reproduce the passionate fluctuations and supposed disorder of his
model. The study of Pindar, however, trained Ronsard in the handling
of sustained periods of verse, and interested him in complex lyrical
combinations. His Anacreontic and Horatian odes are far happier;
among these some of his most delightful work is found. If he was
deficient in great ideas, he had delicacy of sentiment and an
exquisite sense of metrical harmony. The power which he possessed
as a narrative poet appears best in episodes or epic fragments. His
ambitious attempt to trace the origin of the French monarchy from
the imaginary Trojan Francus was unfortunate in its subject, and
equally unfortunate in its form--the rhyming decasyllabic verse.

In pieces which may be called hortatory, the pulpit eloquence, as
it were, of a poet addressing his contemporaries on public matters,
the utterances of a patriot and a citizen moved by pity for his fellows,
such poetry as the _Discours des Misères de ce Temps_ and the
_Institution pour l'Adolescence du Roi, Charles IX._, Ronsard is
original and impressive, a forerunner of the orator poets of the
seventeenth century. His eclogues show a true feeling for external
nature, touched at times by a tender sadness. When he escapes from
the curiosities and the strain of his less happy Petrarchism, he is
an admirable poet of love in song and sonnet; no more beautiful
variation on the theme of "gather the rosebuds while ye may" exists
than his sonnet _Quand vous serez bien vieille_, unless it be his
dainty ode _Mignonne, allons voir si la Rose_. Passionate in the
deepest and largest sense Ronsard is not; but it was much to be sincere
and tender, to observe just measure, to render a subtle phase of
emotion. In the fine melancholy of his elegiac poetry he is almost
modern. Before all else he is a master of his instrument, an inventor
of new effects and movements of the lyre; in his hands the entire
rhythmical system was renewed or was purified. His dexterity in
various metres was that of a great virtuoso, and it was not the mere
dexterity which conquers difficulties, it was a skill inspired and
sustained by the sentiment of metre.

Of the other members of the Pléiade, one--Jodelle--is remembered
chiefly in connection with the history of the drama. Baïf (1532-89),
son of the French ambassador at Venice, translated from Sophocles
and Terence, imitated Plautus, Petrarchised in sonnets, took from
Virgil's Georgics the inspiration of his _Météores_, was guided by
the Anacreontic poems in his _Passe-Temps_, and would fain rival
Theognis in his most original work _Les Mimes_, where a moral or
satiric meaning masks behind an allegory or a fable. He desired to
connect poetry more closely with music, and with this end in view
thought to reform the spelling of words and to revive the quantitative
metrical system of classical verse.[2] REMI BELLEAU (1528-77)
practised the Horatian ode and the sonnet; translated Anacreon;
followed the Neapolitan Sannazaro in his _Bergerie_ of connected
prose and verse, where the shepherds are persons of distinction
arrayed in a pastoral disguise; and adapted the mediæval _lapidary_
(with imitations of the pseudo-Orpheus) to the taste of the
Renaissance in his _Amours et Nouveaux Éschanges des Pierres
Précieuses_. These little myths and metamorphoses of gems are
ingenious and graceful. The delicate feeling for nature which Belleau
possessed is seen at its best in the charming song _Avril_, included
in his somewhat incoherent _Bergerie_. Among his papers was found,
after his death, a comedy, _La Reconnue_, which, if it has little
dramatic power, shows a certain instinct for satire.

[Footnote 2: The "Baïfin verse," French not classical, is of fifteen
syllables, divided into hemistichs of seven and eight syllables.]

These are minor lights in the poetical constellation; but the star
of JOACHIM DU BELLAY shines with a ray which, if less brilliant than
that of Ronsard, has a finer and more penetrating influence. Du Bellay
was born about 1525, at Liré, near Angers, of an illustrious family.
His youth was unhappy, and a plaintive melancholy haunts his verse.
Like Ronsard he suffered from deafness, and he has humorously sung
its praises. _Olive_, fifty sonnets in honour of his Platonic or
Petrarchan mistress, Mlle. de Viole (the letters of whose name are
transposed to Olive), appeared almost at the same moment as the
earliest _Odes_ of Ronsard; but before long he could mock in sprightly
stanzas the fantasies and excesses of the Petrarchan style. It was
not until his residence in Rome (1551) as intendant of his cousin
Cardinal du Bellay, the French ambassador, that he found his real
self. In his _Antiquités de Rome_ he expresses the sentiment of ruins,
the pathos of fallen greatness, as it had never been expressed before.
The intrigues, corruption, and cynicism of Roman society, his broken
health, an unfortunate passion for the Faustina of his Latin verses,
and the longing for his beloved province and little Liré depressed
his spirits; in the sonnets of his _Regrets_ he embodied his intimate
feelings, and that lively spirit of satire which the baseness of the
Pontifical court summoned into life. This satiric vein had, indeed,
already shown itself in his mocking counsel to _le Poète courtisan_:
the courtier poet is to be a gentleman who writes at ease; he is not
to trouble himself with study of the ancients; he is to produce only
pieces of occasion, and these in a negligent style; the rarer and
the smaller they are the better; and happily at last he may cease
to bring forth even these. Possibly his _poète courtisan_ was Melin
de Saint-Gelais. As a rural poet Du Bellay is charming; his _Jeux
Rustiques_, while owing much to the _Lusus_ of the Venetian poet
Navagero, have in them the true breath of the fields; it is his _douce_
province of Anjou which inspires him; the song to _Vénus_ in its
happiest stanzas is only less admirable than the _Vanneur de Blé_,
with which more than any other single poem the memory of Du Bellay
is associated. The personal note, which is in general absent from
the poetry of Ronsard, is poignantly and exquisitely audible in the
best pieces of Du Bellay. He did not live long enough to witness the
complete triumph of the master; in 1560 he died exhausted, at the
age of thirty-five.

The Pléiade served literature by their attention to form, by their
skill in poetic instrumentation; but they were incapable of
interpreting life in any large and original way. In the hands of their
successors poetry languished for want of an inspiring theme. PHILIPPE
DESPORTES (1546-1606) was copious and skilful in his reproduction
and imitation of Italian models; as a courtier poet he reduced
literary flattery to a fine art; but his mannered graces are cold,
his pretence of passion is a laboured kind of _esprit_. A copy of
his works annotated by the hand of Malherbe survives; the comments,
severe and just, remained unpublished, probably because the writer
was unwilling to pursue an adversary whom death had removed from his
way. Jean Bertaut, his disciple, is a lesser Desportes. Satire was
developed by Jean Vauquelin de la Fresnaye, and to him we owe an _Art
Poétique_ (1575) which adapts to his own time the teaching of
Aristotle and Horace. More interesting than these is JEAN PASSERAT
(1534-1602), whose spirit is that of old France in its mirth and
mockery, and whose more serious verse has the patriotism of French
citizenship; his field was small, but he tilled his field gaily and
courageously. The villanelle _J'ai perdu ma tourterelle_ and the ode
on May-day show Passerat's art in its happiest moments.

The way for a reform in dramatic poetry had been in some degree
prepared by plays of the sixteenth century, written in Latin--the
work of Buchanan, Muret, and others--by translations from Terence,
Sophocles, Euripides, translations from Italian comedy, and
renderings of one Spanish model, the highly-popular _Celestina_ of
Fernando de Rojas. The Latin plays were acted in schools. The first
performance of a play in French belonging to the new tendency was
that of Ronsard's translation of the Plutus of Aristophanes, in 1549,
by his friends of the Collège de Coqueret. It was only by amateurs,
and before a limited scholarly group of spectators, that the new
classical tragedies could be presented. Gradually both tragedy and
comedy came to be written solely with a view to publication in print.
The mediæval drama still held the stage.

JODELLE'S _Cléopâtre_ (1552), performed with enthusiasm by amateurs,
was therefore a false start; it was essentially literary, and not
theatrical. Greek models were crudely imitated, with a lack of almost
everything that gave life and charm to the Greek drama. Seneca was
more accessible than Sophocles, and his faults were easy to
imitate--his moralisings, his declamatory passages, his excess of
emphasis. The so-called Aristotelian dramatic canons, formulated by
Scaliger in his Poetic, were rigorously applied. Unity of place is
preserved in _Cléopâtre_; the time of the action is reduced to twelve
hours; there are interminable monologues, choral moralities, a ghost
(in Seneca's manner), a narration of the heroine's death; of action
there is none, the stage stands still. If Jodelle's _Didon_ has some
literary merit, it has little dramatic vitality. The oratorical
energy of Grévin's _Jules César_, the studies of history in _La Mort
de Daire_ and _La Mort d'Alexandre_, by Jacques de La Taille, do not
compensate their deficiency in the qualities required by the theatre.
One tragedy alone, _La Sultane_, by Gabriel Bounin (1561), amid its
violences and extravagances, shows a feeling for dramatic action and
scenic effect.

Could the mediæval mystery and classical tragedy be reconciled? The
Protestant Reformer Bèze, in his _Sacrifice d'Abraham_, attempted
something of the kind; his sacred drama is a mystery by its subject,
a tragedy in the conduct of the action. Three tragedies on the life
of David--one of them admirable in its rendering of the love of Michol,
daughter of Saul--were published in 1556 by Loys Des-Masures: the
stage arrangements are those of the mediæval drama, but the unity
of time is observed, and chorus and semi-chorus respond in alternate
strains. No junction of dramatic systems essentially opposed proved
in the end possible. When Jean de La Taille wrote on a biblical subject
in his _Saül le Furieux_, a play remarkable for its impressive
conception and development of the character of Saul, he composed it
_selon l'art_, and in the manner of "the old tragic authors." He is
uncompromising in his classical method; the mediæval drama seemed
inartificial to him in the large concessions granted by the spectators
to the authors and actors; he would have what passes on the stage
approximate, at least, to reality; the unities were accepted not
merely on the supposed authority of Aristotle, but because they were
an aid in attaining verisimilitude.

The most eminent name in the history of French tragedy of the sixteenth
century is that of ROBERT GARNIER (1534-90). His discipleship to
Seneca was at first that of a pupil who reproduces with exaggeration
his master's errors. Sensible of the want of movement in his scenes,
he proceeded in later plays to accumulate action upon action without
reducing the action to unity. At length, in _Les Juives_ (1583), which
exhibits the revolt of the Jewish King and his punishment by
Nabuchodonosor, he attained something of true pity and terror, beauty
of characterisation, beauty of lyrical utterance in the plaintive
songs of the chorus. Garnier was assuredly a poet; but even in _Les
Juives_, the best tragedy of his century, he was not a master of
dramatic art. If anywhere he is in a true sense dramatic, it is in
his example of the new form of tragi-comedy. _Bradamante_, derived
from the _Orlando Furioso_ of Ariosto, shows not only poetic
imagination, but a certain feeling for the requirements of the
theatre.

Comedy in the sixteenth century, dating from Jodelle's _Eugène_, is
either a development of the mediæval farce, indicated in point of
form by the retention of octosyllabic verse, or an importation from
the drama of Italy. Certain plays of Aristophanes, of Terence, of
Plautus were translated; but, in truth, classical models had little
influence. Grévin, while professing originality, really follows the
traditions of the farce. Jean de La Taille, in his prose comedy _Les
Corrivaux_, prepared the way for the easy and natural dialogue of
the comic stage. The most remarkable group of sixteenth-century
comedies are those translated in prose from the Italian, with such
obvious adaptations as might suit them to French readers, by PIERRE
DE LARIVEY (1540 to after 1611). Of the family of the Giunti, he had
gallicised his own name (_Giunti_, i.e. _Arrivés_); and the
originality of his plays is of a like kind with that of his name;
they served at least to establish an Italian tradition for comedy,
which was not without an influence in the seventeenth century; they
served to advance the art of dialogue. If any comedy of the period
stands out as superior to its fellows, it is _Les Contents_ (1584),
by Odet de Turnèbe, a free imitation of Italian models united with
something imported from the Spanish _Celestina_. Its intrigue is an
Italian imbroglio; but there are lively and natural scenes, such as
can but rarely be found among the predecessors of Molière. In general
the comedy of the sixteenth century is wildly confused in plot,
conventional in its types of character, and too often as grossly
indecent as the elder farces. Before the century closed, the pastoral
drama had been discovered, and received influences from both Italy
and Spain; the soil was being prepared for that delicate flower of
poetry, but as yet its nurture was little understood, nor indeed can
it be said to have ever taken kindly to the climate of France.

While on the one hand the tendencies of the Pléiade may be described
as exotic, going forth, as they did, to capture the gifts of classical
and Italian literature, on the other hand they pleaded strenuously
that thus only could French literature attain its highest
possibilities. In the scholarship of the time, side by side with the
humanism which revived and restored the culture of Greece and Rome,
was another humanism which was essentially national. The historical
origins of France were studied for the first time with something of
a critical spirit by CLAUDE FAUCHET in his _Antiquités Gauloises et
Françoises_ (1579-1601). His _Recueil de l'Origine de la Langue et
Poésie Françoise_, in spite of its errors, was an effort towards
French philology; and in calling attention to the trouvères and their
works, Fauchet may be considered a remote master of the school of
modern literary research. ESTIENNE PASQUIER (1529-1615), the jurist
who maintained in a famous action the cause of the University against
the Jesuits, in his _Recherches de la France_ treated with learning
and vigour various important points in French history--civil and
ecclesiastical--language, literary history, and the foundation of
universities. HENRI ESTIENNE (1531-98), who entered to the full into
the intoxication of classical humanism, was patriotic in his
reverence for his native tongue. In a trilogy of little treatises
(1565-79), written with much spirit, he maintained that of modern
languages the French has the nearest affinity to the Greek, attempted
to establish its superiority to Italian, and much more to Spanish,
and mocked the contemporary fashion of Italianised French.

The study of history is supported on the one hand by such erudite
research as that of Fauchet and Pasquier; on the other hand it is
supported by political philosophy and speculation. To philosophy,
in the wider sense of the word, the sixteenth century made no large
and coherent contribution; the Platonism, Pyrrhonism, Epicureanism,
Stoicism of the Renaissance met and clashed together; the rival
theologies of the Roman and Reformed Churches contended in a struggle
for life. PIERRE DE LA RAMÉE (1515-72) expressed the revolt of
rationalism against the methods of the schoolmen and the authority
of Aristotle; but he ordinarily wrote in Latin, and his _Dialectique_,
the first philosophical work in the vulgar tongue, hardly falls within
the province of literary history.

The philosophy of politics is represented by one great name, that
of JEAN BODIN (1529-96), whose _République_ may entitle him to be
styled the Montesquieu of the Renaissance. In an age which tended
towards the formation of great monarchies he was vigorously
monarchical. The patriarchal power of the sovereign might well be
thought needful, in the second half of the century, as a barrier
against anarchy; but Bodin was no advocate of tyranny; he condemned
slavery, and held that religious persecution can only lead to a
dissolution of religious belief. A citizen is defined by Bodin as
a free man under the supreme government of another; like Montesquieu,
he devotes attention to the adaptation of government to the varieties
of race and climate. The attempts at a general history of France in
the earlier part of the sixteenth century preserved the arid methods
and unilluminated style of the mediæval chronicles;[3] in the second
half of the century they imitated with little skill the models of
antiquity. Histories of contemporary events in Europe were written
with conscientious impartiality by Lancelot de la Popelinière, and
with personal and party passion, struggling against his well-meant
resolves, by Agrippa d'Aubigné. The great _Historia mei Temporis_
of De Thou, faithful and austere in its record of fact, was a
highly-important contribution to literature, but it is written in
Latin.

[Footnote 3: The narrative of the life of Bayard, by his secretary,
writing under the name of "Le Loyal Serviteur" (1527), is admirable
for its clearness, grace, and simplicity.]

With a peculiar gift for narrative, the French have been long
pre-eminent as writers of memoirs, and already in the sixteenth
century such personal recitals are numerous. The wars of François
I. and of Henri II. gave abundant scope for the display of individual
enterprise and energy; the civil wars breathed into the deeds of men
an intensity of passion; the actors had much to tell, and a motive
for telling it each in his own interest.

The _Commentaires_ of BLAISE DE MONLUC (1502-77) are said to have
been named by Henri IV. "the soldier's Bible"; the Bible is one which
does not always inculcate mercy or peace. Monluc, a Gascon of
honourable birth and a soldier of fortune, had the instinct of battle
in his blood; from a soldier he rose through every rank to be the
King's lieutenant of Guyenne and a Marshal of France; during fifty
years he fought, as a daring captain rather than as a great general,
amorous of danger, and at length, terribly disfigured by wounds, he
sat down, not to rest, but to wield his pen as if it were a sword
of steel. His _Commentaires_ were meant to be a manual for hardy
combatants, and what model could he set before the young aspirant
so animating as himself? In his earlier wars against the foreign foes
of his country, Monluc was indeed a model of military prowess; the
civil wars added cruelty to his courage; after a fashion he was
religious, and a short shrift and a cord were good enough for heretics
and adversaries of his King. An unlettered soldier, Monluc, by virtue
of his energy of character and directness of speech, became a most
impressive and spirited narrator. His Memoirs close with a sigh for
stern and inviolable solitude. Among the Pyrenean rocks he had
formerly observed a lonely monastery, in view at once of Spain and
France; there it was his wish to end his days.

From the opposite party in the great religious and political strife
came the temperate Memoirs of Lanoue, the simple and beautiful record
of her husband's life by Madame de Mornay, and that of his own career,
written in an old age of gloom and passion, by D'Aubigné. The ideas
of Henri IV.--himself a royal author in his _Lettres missives_--are
embodied in the _OEconomies Royales_ of the statesman Sully, whose
secretaries were employed for the occasion in laboriously reciting
his words and deeds as they had learnt them from their chief. The
superficial aspects of the life of society, the manners and morals--or
lack of morals--of the time, are lightly and brightly exhibited by
PIERRE DE BOURDEILLE, lord of BRANTÔME, Catholic abbé, soldier and
courtier, observer of the great world, gossip of amorous secrets.
His _Vies des Hommes Illustres et des Grands Capitaines_, his _Vies
des Dames Illustres et des Dames Galantes_, and his _Mémoires_
contained matter too dangerous, perhaps, for publication during his
lifetime, but the author cherished the thought of his posthumous
renown. Brantôme, wholly indifferent to good and evil, had a vivid
interest in life; virtue and vice concerned him alike and equally,
if only they had vivacity, movement, colour; and although, as with
Monluc, it was a physical calamity that made him turn to authorship,
he wrote with a naïve art, an easy grace, and abundant spirit. To
correct and complete Brantôme's narrative as it related to herself,
Marguerite, Queen of Navarre, first wife of Henri IV., prepared her
unfinished Memoirs, which opens the delightful series of
autobiographies and reminiscences of women. Her account of the night
of St. Bartholomew is justly celebrated; the whole record, indeed,
is full of interest; but there were passages of her life which it
was natural that she should pass over in silence; her sins of omission,
as Bayle has observed, are many.[4]

[Footnote 4: The _Mémoires-Journeaux_ of Pierre de l'Estoile are a
great magazine of the gains of the writer's disinterested curiosity.
The _Lettres_ of D'Ossat and the _Négotiations_ of the President
Jeannin are of importance in the records of diplomacy.]

The controversies of the civil wars produced a militant literature,
in which the extreme parties contended with passion, while between
these a middle party, the aspirants to conciliation, pleaded for the
ways of prudence, and, if possible, of peace. FRANÇOIS HOTMAN, the
effect of whose Latin _Franco-Gallia_, a political treatise
presenting the Huguenot demands, has been compared to that of
Rousseau's _Contrat Social_, launched his eloquent invective against
the Cardinal de Lorraine, in the _Epistre envoyée au Tigre de la
France_. Hubert Languet, the devoted friend of Philip Sidney, in his
_Vindiciæ contra Tyrannos_, justified rebellion against princes who
violate by their commands the laws of God. D'Aubigné, in his
_Confession de Sancy_, attacked with characteristic ardour the
apostates and waverers of the time, above the rest that threefold
recanter of his faith, Harlay de Sancy. Marnix de Sainte-Aldegonde,
in his _Tableau des Différands de la Religion_, mingles theological
erudition with his raillery against the Roman communion. Henri
Estienne applied the spirit and learning of a great humanist to
religious controversy in the second part of his _Apologie pour
Hérodote_; the marvellous tales of the Greek historian may well be
true, he sarcastically maintains, when in this sixteenth century the
abuses of the Roman Church seem to pass all belief. On the other hand,
Du Perron, a cardinal in 1604, replied to the arguments and citations
of the heretics. As the century drew towards its close, violence
declined; the struggle was in a measure appeased. In earlier days
the Chancellor, Michel de l'Hospital, had hoped to establish harmony
between the rival parties; grief for the massacre of St. Bartholomew
hastened his death. The learned Duplessis-Mornay, leader and guide
of the Reformed Churches of France, a devoted servant of Henri of
Navarre, while fervent in his own beliefs, was too deeply attached
to the common faith of Christianity to be an extreme partisan. The
reconciliation of Henri IV. with the Church of Rome, which delivered
France from anarchy, was, however, a grief to some of his most loyal
supporters, and of these Duplessis-Mornay was the most eminent.

The cause of Henri against the League was served by the manuscript
circulation of a prose satire, with interspersed pieces of verse,
the work of a group of writers, moderate Catholics or converted
Protestants, who loved their country and their King, the _Satire
Ménipée_.[5] When it appeared in print (1594; dated on the title-page
1593) the cause was won; the satire rose upon a wave of success, like
a gleaming crest of bitter spray. It is a parody of the Estates of
the League which had been ineffectually convoked to make choice of
a king. Two Rabelaisian charlatans, one from Spain, one from Lorraine,
offer their drugs for sale in the court of the Louvre; the virtues
of the Spanish Catholicon, a divine electuary, are manifold--it will
change the blackest criminal into a spotless lamb, it will transform
a vulgar bonnet to a cardinal's hat, and at need can accomplish a
score of other miracles. Presently the buffoon Estates file past to
their assembly; the hall in which they meet is tapestried with
grotesque scenes from history; the order of the sitting is determined,
and the harangues begin, harangues in which each speaker exposes his
own ambitions, greeds, hypocrisies, and egoism, until Monsieur
d'Aubray, the orator of the _tiers état_, closes the debate with a
speech in turn indignant, ironical, or grave in its commiseration
for the popular wrongs--an utterance of bourgeois honesty and good
sense. The writers--Canon Pierre Leroy; Gillot, clerk-advocate of
the Parliament of Paris; Rapin, a lettered combatant at Ivry; Jean
Passerat, poet and commentator on Rabelais; Chrestien and Pithou,
two Protestants discreetly converted by force of events--met in a
room of Gillot's house, where, according to the legend, Boileau was
afterwards born, and there concocted the venom of their pamphlet.
Its wit, in spite of some extravagances and the tedium of certain
pages, is admirable; farce and comedy, sarcasm and moral prudence
alternate; and it had the great good fortune of a satire, that of
coming at the lucky moment.

[Footnote 5: Varro, who to a certain extent copied from Menippus the
Gadarene, had called his satires _Saturæ Menippeæ_; hence the title.]

The French Huguenots were not without their poets. Two of
these--Guillaume Saluste, Seigneur du Bartas, and Agrippa
d'Aubigné--are eminent. The fame of DU BARTAS (1544-90) was indeed
European. Ronsard sent him a pen of gold, and feared at a later time
the rivalry of his renown; Tasso drew inspiration from his verse;
the youthful Milton read him with admiration in the rendering by
Sylvester; long afterwards Goethe honoured him with praise beyond
his deserts. To read his poems now, notwithstanding passages of vivid
description and passages of ardent devotional feeling, would need
rare literary fortitude. His originality lies in the fact that while
he was a disciple of the Pléiade, a disciple crude, intemperate, and
provincial, he deserted Greece and Rome, and drew his subjects from
Hebraic sources. His _Judith_ (1573), composed by the command of
Jeanne d'Albret, has more of Lucan than of Virgil in its over-emphatic
style. _La Sepmaine, ou la Création en Sept Journées_, appeared in
1578, and within a few years had passed through thirty editions. Du
Bartas is always copious, sometimes brilliant, sometimes majestic;
but laboured and rhetorical description, never ending and still
beginning, fatigues the mind; an encyclopædia of the works of creation
weighs heavily upon the imagination; we sigh for the arrival of the
day of rest.

THÉODORE-AGRIPPA D'AUBIGNÉ (1550-1630) was not among the admirers
of Du Bartas. His natural temper was framed for pleasure; at another
time he might have been known only as a poet of the court, of lighter
satire, and of love; the passions of the age transformed him into
an ardent and uncompromising combatant. His classical culture was
wide and exact; at ten years old he translated the _Crito_; Latin,
Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish were at his command. He might, had
France been at peace with herself, have appeared in literature as
a somewhat belated Ronsardist; but his hereditary cause became his
own. While still a child he accepted from his father, in presence
of the withering heads of the conspirators of Amboise, the oath of
immitigable vengeance. Pursuits, escapes, the camp, the battle-field,
the prison, the court made up no small part of his life of vicissitude
and of unalterable resolve. He roused Henri of Navarre from the
lethargy of pleasure; he warned the King against the crime of
apostasy; he dreaded the mass, but could cheerfully have accepted
the stake. Extreme in his rage of party, he yet in private affairs
could show good sense and generosity. His elder years were darkened
by what he regarded as treason in his King, and by the falling away
from the faith of that son who, by an irony of fate, became the father
of Madame de Maintenon. Four times condemned to death, he died in
exile at the age of eighty.

D'Aubigné's satirical tale, _Les Aventures du Baron de Fæneste_,
contrasts the man who _appears_--spreading his plumes in the sunshine
of the court--with the man who _is_, the man who lives upon his estate,
among his rustic neighbours, tilling his fields and serving his people
and his native land. As an elegiac poet D'Aubigné is little more than
a degenerate issue from the Pléiade. It is in his vehement poem of
mourning and indignation and woe, _Les Tragiques_, begun in 1577 but
not published till 1616, that his power is fully manifested. To
D'Aubigné, as its author, the characterisation of Sainte-Beuve
exactly applies: "Juvénal du xvi. siècle, âpre, austère, inexorable,
hérissé d'hyperboles, étincelant de beautés, rachetant une rudesse
grossière par une sublime énergie." In seven books it tells of the
misery of France, the treachery of princes, the abuse of public law
and justice, the fires and chains of religious persecution, the
vengeance of God against the enemies of the saints, and the final
judgment of sinners, when air and fire and water become the accusers
of those who have perverted the powers of nature to purposes of cruelty.
The poem is ill composed, its rhetoric is often strained or hard and
metallic, its unrelieved horrors oppress the heart; but the cry of
true passion is heard in its finer pages; from amid the turmoil and
smoke, living tongues of flame seem to dart forth which illuminate
the gloom. The influence of _Les Tragiques_ may still be felt in
passages of Victor Hugo's fulgurant eloquence.

In the midst of strife, however, there were men who pursued the
disinterested service of humanity and whose work made for peace. The
great surgeon Ambroise Paré, full of tolerance and deeply pious,
advanced his healing art on the battle-field or amid the ravages of
pestilence, and left a large contribution to the literature of science.
Bernard Palissy, a devout Huguenot, was not only the inventor of
"rustic figulines," the designer of enamelled cups and platters, but
a true student of nature, who would substitute the faithful
observation of phenomena for vain and ambitious theory. Olivier de
Serres, another disciple of Calvin, cultivated his fields, helped
to enrich France by supporting Henri IV. in the introduction of the
industry in silk, and amassed his knowledge and experience in his
admirably-written _Théâtre d'Agriculture_. At a later date Antoine
de Montchrestien, adventurous and turbulent in his Protestant zeal,
the writer of tragedies which connect the sixteenth century with the
classical school of later years, became the advocate of a
protectionist and a colonial policy in his _Traicté de l'OEconomie
Politique_; the style of his essay towards economic reform has some
of the passion and enthusiasm of a poet.

A refuge from the troubles and vicissitudes of the time was sought
by some in a Christianised Stoicism. Guillaume du Vair (1556-1621),
eminent as a magistrate, did not desert his post of duty; he pleaded
eloquently, as chief orator of the middle party of conciliation, on
behalf of unity under Henri of Navarre. In his treatise on French
eloquence he endeavoured to elevate the art of public speaking above
laboured pedantry to true human discourse. But while taking part in
the contentious progress of events, he saw the flow of human affairs
as from an elevated plateau. In the conversations with friends which
form his treatise _De la Constance et Consolation ès Calamités
Publiques_, Du Vair's counsels are those of courage and resignation,
not unmingled with hope. He rendered into French the stoical morals
of Epictetus; and in his own _Sainte Philosophie_ and _Philosophie
Morale des Stoïques_ he endeavoured, with honest purpose, rather than
with genius, to ally speculation to religion, and to show how human
reason can lead the way to those ethical truths which are the guiding
lights of conduct.

Perhaps certitude sufficient for human life may be found by
limitation; a few established truths will, after all, carry us from
the cradle to the grave; and beyond the bounds of certitude lies a
limitless and fascinating field for observation and dubious
conjecture. Amid the multitude of new ideas which the revival of
antiquity brought with it, amid the hot disputes of the rival churches,
amid the fierce contentions of civil war, how delightful to possess
one's soul in quiet, to be satisfied with the needful knowledge, small
though it be, which is vouchsafed to us, and to amuse the mind with
every opinion and every varying humour of that curious and wayward
creature man! And who so wayward, who so wavering as one's self in
all those parts of our composite being which are subject to the play
of time and circumstance? Such, in an age of confusion working towards
clearness, an age of belligerency tending towards concord, were the
reflections of a moralist, the most original of his century--Michel
de Montaigne.

MICHEL EYQUEM, SEIGNEUR DE MONTAIGNE, was born at a château in
Périgord, in the year 1533. His father, whom Montaigne always
remembered with affectionate reverence, was a man of original ideas.
He entrusted the infant to the care of peasants, wishing to attach
him to the people; educated him in Latin as if his native tongue;
roused him at morning from sleep to the sound of music. From his sixth
to his thirteenth year Montaigne was at the Collège de Guyenne, where
he took the leading parts in Latin tragedies composed by Muret and
Buchanan. In 1554 he succeeded his father as councillor in the court
_des aides_ of Périgueux, the members of which were soon afterwards
incorporated in the Parliament of Bordeaux. But nature had not
destined Montaigne for the duties of the magistracy; he saw too many
sides of every question; he chose rather to fail in justice than in
humanity. In 1565 he acquired a large fortune by marriage, and having
lost his father, he retired from public functions in 1570, to enjoy
a tranquil existence of meditation, and of rambling through books.
He had published, a year before, in fulfilment of his father's desire,
a translation of the _Theologia Naturalis_ of Raimond de Sebonde,
a Spanish philosopher of the fifteenth century; and now he occupied
himself in preparing for the press the writings of his dead friend
La Boétie. Love for his father and love for his friend were the two
passions of Montaigne's life. From 1571 to 1580 he dwelt in retreat,
in company with his books and his ideas, indulging his humour for
tranquil freedom of the mind. It was his custom to enrich the margins
of his books with notes, and his earliest essays may be regarded as
an extension of such notes; Plutarch and Seneca were, above all, his
favourites; afterwards, the volume which he read with most enjoyment,
and annotated most curiously, was that of his own life.

And, indeed, Montaigne's daily life, with outward monotony and
internal variety, was a pleasant miscellany on which to comment. He
was of a middle temperament, "between the jovial and the melancholic";
a lover of solitude, yet the reverse of morose; choosing bright
companions rather than sad; able to be silent, as the mood took him,
or to gossip; loyal and frank; a hater of hypocrisy and falsehood;
a despiser of empty ceremony; disposed to interpret all things to
the best; cheerful among his children; careless of exercising
authority; incapable of household management; trustful and kind
towards his neighbours; indulgent in his judgments, yet warm in his
admiration of old, heroic virtue. His health, which in boyhood had
been robust, was shaken in middle life by an internal malady. He
travelled in the hope of finding strength, visiting Germany,
Switzerland, Italy, Tyrol, and observing, with a serious amusement,
the varieties of men and manners. While still absent from France,
in 1581, he learned that he had been elected mayor of Bordeaux; he
hesitated in accepting an honourable but irksome public office; the
King permitted no dallying, and Montaigne obeyed. Two years later
the mayor was re-elected; it was a period of difficulty; a Catholic
and a Royalist, he had a heretic brother, and himself yielded to the
charm of Henri of Navarre; "for the Ghibelline I was a Guelph, for
the Guelph a Ghibelline." When, in 1585, pestilence raged in Bordeaux,
Montaigne's second period of office had almost expired; he quitted
the city, and the election of his successor took place in his absence.
His last years were brightened by the friendship--almost filial--of
Mlle. de Gournay, an ardent admirer, and afterwards editor, of the
_Essais_. In 1592 Montaigne died, when midway in his sixtieth year.

The first two books of the _Essais_ were published by their author
in 1580; in 1588 they appeared in an augmented text, with the addition
of the third book. The text superintended by Mlle. de Gournay, based
upon a revised and enlarged copy left by Montaigne, is of the year
1595.

The unity of the book, which makes no pretence to unity, may be found
in the fact that all its topics are concerned with a common
subject--the nature of man; that the writer accepts himself as the
example of humanity most open to his observation; and that the same
tranquil, yet insatiable curiosity is everywhere present. Man, as
conceived by Montaigne, is of all creatures the most variable,
unstable, inconstant. The species includes the saint and the brute,
the hero and the craven, while between the extremes lies the average
man, who may be anything that nature, custom, or circumstances make
him. And as the species varies indefinitely, so each individual varies
endlessly from himself: his conscience controls his temperament; his
temperament betrays his conscience; external events transform him
from what he was. Do we seek to establish our moral being upon the
rock of philosophical dogma? The rock gives way under our feet, and
scatters as if sand. Such truth as we can attain by reason is relative
truth; let us pass through knowledge to a wise acceptance of our
ignorance; let us be contented with the probabilities which are all
that our reason can attain. The truths of conduct, as far as they
are ascertainable, were known long since to the ancient moralists.
Can any virtue surpass the old Roman virtue? We believe in God,
although we know little about His nature or His operations; and why
should we disbelieve in Christianity, which happens to be part of
the system of things under which we are born? But why, also, should
we pay such a compliment to opinions different from our own as to
burn a heretic because he prefers the Pope of Geneva to the Pope of
Rome? Let each of us ask himself, "Que sais-je?"--"What do I really
know?" and the answer will serve to temper our zeal.

While Montaigne thus saps our confidence in the conclusions of the
intellect, when they pass beyond a narrow bound, he pays a homage
to the force of will; his admiration for the heroic men of Plutarch
is ardent. An Epicurean by temperament, he is a Stoic through his
imagination; but for us and for himself, who are no heroes, the
appropriate form of Stoical virtue is moderation within our sphere,
and a wise indifference, or at most a disinterested curiosity, in
matters which lie beyond that sphere. Let us resign ourselves to life,
such as it is; let us resign ourselves to death; and let the
resignation be cheerful or even gay. To spend ourselves in attempted
reforms of the world, of society, of governments, is vain. The world
will go its own way; it is for us to accept things as they are, to
observe the laws of our country because it is ours, to smile at them
if we please, and to extract our private gains from a view of the
reformers, the enthusiasts, the dogmatists, the credulous, the
combatants; there is one heroism possible for us--the heroism of good
sense. "It is an absolute perfection, and as it were divine," so we
read on the last page of Florio's translation of the _Essais_, "for
a man to know how to enjoy his being loyally. We seek for other
conditions because we understand not the use of ours; and go out of
ourselves, forasmuch as we know not what abiding there is. We may
long enough get upon stilts, for be we upon them, yet must we go with
our legs. And sit we upon the highest throne of the world, yet sit
we upon our own tail. The best and most commendable lives, and best
pleasing me are (in my conceit), those which with order are fitted,
and with decorum are ranged, to the common mould and human model;
but without wonder or extravagancy. Now hath old age need to be handled
more tenderly. Let us recommend it unto that God who is the protector
of health and fountain of all wisdom; but blithe and social." And
with a stanza of Epicurean optimism from Horace the Essay closes.

Such, or somewhat after this fashion, is the doctrine of Montaigne.
It is conveyed to the reader without system, in the most informal
manner, in a series of discourses which seem to wander at their own
will, resembling a bright and easy conversation, vivid with imagery,
enlivened by anecdote and citation, reminiscences from history,
observations of curious manners and customs, offering constantly to
view the person of Montaigne himself in the easiest undress. The style,
although really carefully studied and superintended, has an air of
light facility, hardly interposing between the author and his reader;
the book is of all books the most sociable, a living companion rather
than a book, playful and humorous, amiable and well bred, learned
without pedantry, and wise without severity.

During the last three years of his life Montaigne enjoyed the
friendship of a disciple who was already celebrated for his eloquence
as a preacher. PIERRE CHARRON (1541-1603), legist and theologian,
under the influence of Montaigne's ideas, aspired to be a philosopher.
It was as a theologian that he wrote his book of the _Trois Verités_,
which attempts to demonstrate the existence of God, the truth of
Christianity, and the exclusive orthodoxy of the Roman communion.
It was as a philosopher, in the _Traité de la Sagesse_, that he
systematised the informal scepticism of Montaigne. Instead of
putting the question, "Que sais-je?" Charron ventures the assertion,
"Je ne sais." He exhibits man's weakness, misery, and bondage to the
passions; gives counsel for the enfranchisement of the mind; and
studies the virtues of justice, prudence, temperance, and valiance.
God has created man, says Charron, to know the truth; never can he
know it of himself or by human means, and one who despairs of reason
is in the best position for accepting divine instruction; a Pyrrhonist
at least will never be a heretic; even if religion be regarded as
an invention of man, it is an invention which has its uses. Not a
few passages of the _Sagesse_ are directly borrowed, with slight
rehandling, from Montaigne and from Du Vair; but, instead of
Montaigne's smiling agnosticism, we have a grave and formal
indictment of humanity; we miss the genial humour and kindly temper
of the master; we miss the amiable egotism and the play of a versatile
spirit; we miss the charm of an incomparable literary style.



BOOK THE THIRD
_THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY_



CHAPTER I
LITERARY FREEDOM AND LITERARY ORDER


With the restoration of order under Henri IV. the delights of peace
began to be felt; a mundane society, polished and pleasure-loving,
began to be constituted, and before many years had passed the
influence of women and of the _salon_ appeared in literature. Should
such a society be permitted to remain oblivious to spiritual truth,
or to repose on the pillow of scepticism provided by Charron and
Montaigne? Might it not be captured for religion, if religion were
presented in its most gracious aspect, as a source of peace and joy,
a gentle discipline of the heart? If one who wore the Christian armour
should throw over his steel some robe of courtly silk, with floral
adornments, might he not prove a persuasive champion of the Cross?
Such was the hope of FRANÇOIS DE SALES (1567-1622), Bishop of Geneva,
when, in 1608, he published his _Introduction à la Vie Dêvote_. The
angelic doctor charmed by his mere presence, his grace of person,
his winning smile, his dove's eyes; he showed how amiable piety might
be; his eloquence was festooned with blossoms; he strewed the path
to heaven with roses; he conquered by docility; yet under his
sweetness lay strength, and to methodise and popularise moral
self-superintendence was to achieve much. The _Traité de l'Amour de
Dieu_ (1616), while it expounds the highest reaches of mystical
devotion, yet presents religion as accessible to every child of God.
With his tender and ardent devotion, something of a poet's sentiment
for nature was united; but mysticism and poetry were both subservient
to his aim of regulating the conduct of the heart; he desired to show
how one may remain in the world, and yet not be of the world; by personal
converse and by his spiritual letters he became the director of
courtiers and of ladies. The motto of the literary Academy which he
founded at Annecy expresses his spirit--_flores fructusque
perennes_--flowers for their own sake, but chiefly for the sake of
fruit. Much of the genius for holiness of the courtly saint has passed
into the volume of reminiscences by Bishop Camus, his companion and
disciple--_l'Esprit de Saint François de Sales_.

A mundane society, however, where fine gentlemen and ladies meet to
admire and be admired, needs other outlets for its imagination than
that of the primrose way to Paradise. The labour of the fields had
inspired Olivier de Serres with the prose Georgics of his _Théâtre
d'Agriculture_, a work directed towards utility; the romance of the
fields, and the pastoral, yet courtly, loves of a French Arcady, were
the inspiration of the endless prose bucolics found in the _Astrée_
of HONORÉ D'URFÉ. The Renaissance delight in the pastoral had passed
from Italy to Spain; through the _Diana_ of the Spanish Montemayor
it passed to France. After a period of turbulent strife there was
a fascination in visions of a peace, into which, if warfare entered,
the strange irruption only enhanced an habitual calm. A whole
generation waited long to learn the issue of the passion of Celadon
and Astrée. The romance, of which the earliest part appeared in 1610,
or earlier, was not completely published until 1627, when its author
was no longer living.[1] The scene is laid in the fields of d'Urfé's
familiar Forez and on the banks of the Lignon; the time is of
Merovingian antiquity. The shepherd Celadon, banished on suspicion
of faithlessness from the presence of his beloved Astrée, seeks death
beneath the stream; he is saved by the nymphs, escapes the amorous
pursuit of Galatea, assumes a feminine garb, and, protected by the
Druid Adamas, has the felicity of daily beholding his shepherdess.
At length he declares himself, and is overwhelmed with reproaches;
true lover that he is, when he offers his body to the devouring lions
of the Fountain of Love, the beasts refuse their prey; the venerable
Druid discreetly guides events; Celadon's fidelity receives its
reward in marriage, and the banks of the Lignon become a scene of
universal joy. The colours of the _Astrée_ are faded now as those
of some ancient tapestry, but during many years its success was
prodigious. D'Urfé's highest honour, of many, is the confession of
La Fontaine:--

   "_Étant petit garçon je lisais son roman,
    Et je le lis encore ayant la barbe grise._"

The _Astrée_ won its popularity, in part because it united the old
attraction of a chivalric or heroic strain with that of the newer
pastoral; in part because it idealised the gallantries and developed
the amorous casuistry of the day, not without a real sense of the
power of love; in part because it was supposed to exhibit ideal
portraits of distinguished contemporaries. It was the parent of a
numerous progeny; and as the heroic romance of the seventeenth century
is derived in direct succession from the loves of Celadon and Astrée,
so the comic romance, beside all that it owes to the tradition of
the _esprit gaulois_, owes something to the mocking gaiety with which
d'Urfé exhibits the adventures and emotional vicissitudes of his
inconstant shepherd Hylas.

[Footnote 1: It should be noted that the close of the _Astrée_ is
by D'Urfé's secretary Baro.]

In the political and social reconstruction which followed the civil
and religious wars, the need of discipline and order in literature
was felt; in this province, also, unity under a law was seen to be
desirable. The work of the Pléiade had in a great measure failed;
they had attempted to organise poetry and its methods, and poetry
was still disorganised. To reduce the realm of caprice and fantasy
to obedience to law was the work of FRANÇOIS DE MALHERBE. Born at
Caen in 1555, he had published in 1587 his _Larmes de Saint Pierre_,
an imitation of the Italian poem by Tansillo, in a manner which his
maturer judgment must have condemned. It was not until about his
fortieth year that he found his true direction. Du Vair, with whom
he was acquainted, probably led him to a true conception of the nature
of eloquence. Vigorous of character, clear in understanding, with
no affluence of imagination and no excess of sensibility, Malherbe
was well qualified for establishing lyrical poetry upon the basis
of reason, and of general rather than individual sentiment. He chose
the themes of his odes from topics of public interest, or founded
them on those commonplaces of emotion which are part of the possession
of all men who think and feel. If he composed his verses for some
great occasion, he sought for no curiosities of a private imagination,
but considered in what way its nobler aspects ought to be regarded
by the community at large; if he consoled a friend for losses caused
by death, he held his personal passion under restraint; he generalised,
and was content to utter more admirably than others the accepted
truths about the brevity and beauty of life, and the inevitable doom
of death. What he gained by such a process of abstraction, he lost
in vivid characterisation; his imagery lacks colour; the movement
of his verse is deliberate and calculated; his ideas are rigorously
enchained one to another.

It has been said that poetry--the overflow of individual emotion--is
overheard; while oratory--the appeal to an audience--is heard. The
processes of Malherbe's art were essentially oratorical; the lyrical
cry is seldom audible in his verse; it is the poetry of eloquence
thrown into studied stanzas. But the greater poetry of the seventeenth
century in France--its odes, its satires, its epistles, its noble
dramatic scenes--and much of its prose literature are of the nature
of oratory; and for the progress of such poetry, and even of such
prose, Malherbe prepared a highway. He aimed at a reformation of the
language, which, rejecting all words either base, provincial,
archaic, technical, or over-learned and over-curious, should employ
the standard French, pure and dignified, as accepted by the people
of Paris. In his hands language became too exclusively an instrument
of the intelligence; yet with this instrument great things were
achieved by his successors. He methodised and regulated
versification, insisting on rich and exact rhymes, condemning all
licence and infirmity of structure, condemning harshness of sound,
inversion, hiatus, negligence in accommodating the cesura to the
sense, the free gliding of couplet into couplet. It may be said that
he rendered verse mechanical; but within the arrangement which he
prescribed, admirable effects were attainable by the mastery of
genius. He pondered every word, weighed every syllable, and thought
no pains ill-spent if only clearness, precision, the logic of
ordonnance, a sustained harmony were at length secured; and until
the day of his death, in 1628, no decline in his art can be perceived.

Malherbe fell far short of being a great poet, but in the history
of seventeenth-century classicism, in the effort of the age to
rationalise the forms of art, his name is of capital importance. It
cannot be said that he founded a school. His immediate disciples,
MAYNARD and RACAN, failed to develop the movement which he had
initiated. Maynard laid verse by the side of verse with exact care,
and sometimes one or the other verse is excellent, but he lacked
sustained force and flight. Racan had genuine inspiration; a true
feeling for nature appears in his dramatic pastoral, the _Bergeries_
(1625); unhappily he had neither the culture nor the patience needed
for perfect execution; he was rather an admirable amateur than an
artist. But if Malherbe founded no school, he gave an eminent example,
and the argument which he maintained in the cause of poetic art was
at a later time carried to its conclusion by Boileau.

Malherbe's reform was not accepted without opposition. While he
pleaded for the supremacy of order, regularity, law, the voice of
MATHURIN REGNIER (1573-1613) was heard on behalf of freedom. A nephew
of the poet Desportes, Regnier was loyal to his uncle's fame and to
the memory of the Pléiade; if Malherbe spoke slightingly of Desportes,
and cast aside the tradition of the school of Ronsard, the retort
was speedy and telling against the arrogant reformer, tyrant of words
and syllables, all whose achievement amounted to no more than _proser
de la rime et rimer de la prose_. Unawares, indeed, Regnier, to a
certain extent, co-operated with Malherbe, who recognised the genius
of his younger adversary; he turned away from languid elegances to
observation of life and truth of feeling; if he imitated his masters
Horace and Ovid, or the Italian satiric poets, with whose writings
he had become acquainted during two periods of residence in Rome,
his imitations were not obsequious, like those of the Pléiade, but
vigorous and original, like those of Boileau; in his sense of comedy
he anticipates some of Molière's feeling for the humorous
perversities of human character; his language is vivid, plain, and
popular. The classical school of later years could not reject Regnier.
Boileau declared that no poet before Molière was so well acquainted
with the manners and characters of men; through his impersonal study
of life he is indeed classic. But his ardent nature rebelled against
formal rule; he trusted to the native force of genius, and let his
ideas and passions lead him where they would. His satires are those
of a painter whose eye is on his object, and who handles his brush
with a vigorous discretion; they are criticisms of society and its
types of folly or of vice, full of force and colour, yet general in
their intention, for, except at the poet who had affronted his uncle,
"le bon Regnier" struck at no individual. Most admirable, amid much
that is admirable, is the picture of the old worldling Macette, whose
veil of pretended piety is gradually dropped as she discourses with
growing wantonness to the maiden whom she would lead in the way she
should not go: Macette is no unworthy elder of the family of Tartufe.
Regnier confesses freely the passions of his own irregular life; had
it been wisely conducted, his genius might have carried him far; as
it was, he passed away prematurely at the age of forty, the victim
of his own intemperate pursuit of pleasure.

Still more unfortunate was the life of a younger poet, who, while
honouring the genius of Malherbe, pronounced, like Regnier, for
freedom rather than order, and maintained that each writer of genius
should be a law to himself--a poet whom his contemporaries esteemed
too highly, and whom Malherbe, and afterwards Boileau, unjustly
depreciated--THÉOPHILE DE VIAU. A Huguenot who had abjured his faith,
afterwards pursued as a libertine in conduct and as a freethinker,
Théophile was hunted, imprisoned, exiled, condemned to execution,
and died exhausted in 1626, when only six-and-thirty years old. He
has been described as the last lyrical poet of his age, and the first
of the poetical exponents of the new preciosity. His dramatic _Pyrame
et Thisbé_, though disfigured by those _concetti_ which the Italian
Marini--an honoured guest at the French court--and the invasion of
Spanish tastes had made the mode, is not without touches of genuine
pathos. The odes of Théophile are of free and musical movement, his
descriptions of natural beauty are graciously coloured, his judgment
in literary matters was sound and original; but he lacked the patient
workmanship which art demands, and in proclaiming himself on the side
of freedom as against order, he was retrograding from the position
which had been secured for poetry under the leadership of Malherbe.

With social order came the desire for social refinement, and following
the desire for refinement came the prettinesses and affectations of
over-curious elegance. Peace returned to France with the monarchy
of Henri IV., but the Gascon manners of his court were rude. Catherine
de Vivonne, Marquise de Rambouillet, whose mother was a great Roman
lady, and whose father had been French ambassador at Rome, young,
beautiful, delicately nurtured, retired in 1608 from the court, and
a few years later opened her _salon_ of the Hôtel de Rambouillet to
such noble and cultivated persons as were willing to be the courtiers
of womanly grace and wit and taste. The rooms were arranged and
decorated for the purposes of pleasure; the _chambre bleue_ became
the sanctuary of polite society, where Arthénice (an anagram for
"Catherine") was the high priestess. To dance, to sing, to touch the
lute was well; to converse with wit and refinement was something more
admirable; the _salon_ became a mart for the exchange of ideas; the
fashion of Spain was added to the fashion of Italy; Platonism,
Petrarchism, Marinism, Gongorism, the spirit of romance and the
daintinesses of learning and of pedantry met and mingled. Hither came
Malherbe, Racan, Chapelain, Vaugelas; at a later time Balzac, Segrais,
Voiture, Godeau; and again, towards the mid-years of the century,
Saint-Évremond and La Rochefoucauld. Here Corneille read his plays
from the _Cid_ to _Rodogune_; here Bossuet, a marvellous boy,
improvised a midnight discourse, and Voiture declared he had never
heard one preach so early or so late.

As Julie d'Angennes and her sister Angélique attained an age to divide
their mother's authority in the _salon_, its sentiment grew
quintessential, and its taste was subtilised well-nigh to inanity.
They censured _Polyeucte_; they found Chapelain's unhappy epic
"perfectly beautiful, but excessively tiresome"; they laid their
heads together over Descartes' _Discours de la Méthode_, and
profoundly admired the philosopher; they were enraptured by the
madrigals on flowers, more than three score in number, offered as
the _Guirlande de Julie_ on Mademoiselle's fête; they gravely debated
the question which should be the approved spelling, _muscadin_ or
_muscardin_. In 1649 they were sundered into rival parties--_Uranistes_
and _Jobelins_--tilting in literary lists on behalf of the respective
merits of a sonnet by Voiture and a sonnet by Benserade. The word
_précieux_ is said to date from 1650. The Marquise de Rambouillet
survived Molière's satiric comedy _Les Précieuses Ridicules_ (1659) by
several years. Mme. de Sévigné, Mme. de la Fayette, Fléchier, the
preacher of fashion, were among the illustrious personages of the
decline of her _salon_. We smile at its follies and affectations; but,
while it harmed literature by magnifying things that were petty, it did
something to refine manners, to quicken ideas, to encourage clearness
and grace of expression, and to make the pursuit of letters an avenue
to social distinction. Through the Hôtel de Rambouillet, and the
_salons_ which both in Paris and the provinces imitated its modes, and
pushed them to extravagance, the influence of women on literature
became a power for good and for evil.

The "Works," as they were styled, of VINCENT VOITURE
(1598-1648)--posthumously published--represent one side of the
spirit of the _salon_. Capable of something higher, he lived to
exhibit his ingenuity and wit in little ways, now by a cleverly-turned
verse, now by a letter of gallantry. Although of humble origin, he
was for long a presiding genius in the _chambre bleue_ of Arthénice.
His play of mind was unhappily without a subject, and to be witty
on nothings puts a strain on wit. Voiture expends much labour on being
light, much serious effort in attaining vanities. His letters were
admired as models of ingenious elegance; the life has long since
passed from their raillery and badinage, but Voiture may be credited
with having helped to render French prose pliant for the uses of
pleasure.

The dainty trifles of the school of preciosity fluttered at least
during the sunshine of a day. Its ambitious epics, whatever attention
they may have attracted in their time, cannot be said to have ever
possessed real life. The great style is not to be attained by tagging
platitudes with points. The _Saint Louis_ of Lemoyne, the _Clovis_
of Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin, the _Alaric_ of Scudéry, the
_Charlemagne_ of Louis le Laboureur remain only as evidences of the
vanity of misplaced ambition. During twenty years JEAN CHAPELAIN,
a man of no mean ability in other fields, was occupied with his _La
Pucelle d'Orléans_; twelve cantos at length appeared magnificently
in 1656, and won a brief applause; the remaining twelve cantos lie
still inedited. The matter of history was too humble for Chapelain's
genius; history is ennobled by an allegorical intention; France
becomes the soul of man; Charles, swayed between good and evil, is
the human will; the Maid of Orleans is divine grace. The satire of
Boileau, just in its severity, was hardly needed to slay the slain.

In the prose romances, which are epics emancipated from the trammels
of verse, there was more vitality. Bishop Camus, the friend of
François de Sales, had attempted to sanctify the movement which d'Urfé
had initiated; but the spirit of the _Astrée_ would not unite in a
single stream with the spirit of the _Introduction à la Vie Dévote_.
Gomberville is remembered rather for the remorseless war which he
waged against the innocent conjunction _car_, never to be admitted
into polite literature, than for his encyclopædic romance
_Polexandre_, in which geography is illustrated by fiction, as
copious as it is fantastic; yet it was something to annex for the
first time the ocean, with all its marvels, to the scenery of adventure.
Gombauld, the _Beau Ténébreux_ of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, secured
a reading for his unreadable _Endymion_ by the supposed transparence
of his allusions to living persons. Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin
relieved the amorous exaltations of his _Ariane_, a tale of the time
of Nero, by excursions which touch the borders of comedy. These are
books on which the dust gathers thick in ancient libraries.

But the romances of LA CALPRENÈDE and of GEORGES and MADELEINE DE
SCUDÉRY might well be taken down by any lover of literature who
possesses the virtue of fortitude. Since d'Urfé's day the taste for
pastoral had declined; the newer romance was gallant and heroic.
Legend or history supplied its framework; but the central motive was
ideal love at odds with circumstance, love the inspirer of limitless
devotion and daring. The art of construction was imperfectly
understood; the narratives are of portentous length; ten, twelve,
twenty volumes were needed to deploy the sentiments and the adventures.
In _Cassandre_, in _Cléopâtre_, in _Pharamond_, La Calprenède
exhibits a kind of universal history; the dissolution of the
Macedonian empire, the decline of the empire of Rome, the beginnings
of the French monarchy are successively presented. But the chief
personages are idealised portraits drawn from the society of the
author's time. The spirit of the Hôtel de Rambouillet is transferred
to the period when the Scythian Oroondate was the lover of Statira,
daughter of Darius; the Prince de Condé masks in _Cléopâtre_ as
Coriolan; Pharamond is the Grand Monarch in disguise. Notwithstanding
the faded gallantries and amorous casuistry of La Calprenède's
interminable romances, a certain spirit of real heroism, offspring of
the writer's ardent imagination and bright southern temper, breathes
through them. They were the delight of Mme. de Sévigné and of La
Fontaine; even in the eighteenth century they were the companions of
Crébillon, and were not forgotten by Rousseau.

Still more popular was _Artamène, ou le Grand Cyrus_. Mdlle. de
Scudéry, the "Sapho" of her Saturday _salon_, a true _précieuse_,
as good of heart and quick of wit as she was unprepossessing of person,
supplied the sentiment and metaphysics of love to match the
gasconading exploits of her brother's invention. It was the time not
only of preciosity, but of the Fronde, with its turbulent adventures
and fantastic chivalry. Under the names of Medes and Persians could
be discovered the adventurers, the gallants, the fine ladies of the
seventeenth century. In _Clélie_ an attempt is made to study the
curiosities of passion; it is a manual of polite love and elegant
manners; in its _carte de Tendre_ we can examine the topography of
love-land, trace the routes to the three cities of "Tendre," and learn
the dangers of the way. Thus the heroic romance reached its term;
its finer spirit became the possession of the tragic drama, where
it was purified and rendered sane. The modern novel had wandered in
search of its true self, and had not succeeded in the quest. When
_Gil Blas_ appeared, it was seen that the novel of incident must also
be the novel of character, and that in its imitation of real life
it could appropriate some of the possessions which by that time comedy
had lost.

The extravagances of sentiment produced a natural reaction. Not a
few of the intimates of the Hôtel de Rambouillet found a relief from
their fatigue of fine manners and high-pitched emotions in the
unedifying jests and merry tales of the tavern. A comic, convivial,
burlesque or picaresque literature became, as it were, a parody of
the literature of preciosity. Saint-Amand (1594-1661) was at once
a disciple of the Italian Marini, the admired "Sapurnius" of the
_salon_, author of at least one beautiful ode--_La Solitude_--breathing
a gentle melancholy, and a gay singer of bacchic chants. Desmarets de
Saint-Sorlin, in his comedy _Les Visionnaires_ (1637), mocked the
_précieuses_, and was applauded by the spectators of the theatre. One
of his heroines is hopelessly enamoured of Alexander the Great; one is
enamoured of poetry, and sees life as if it were material for the
stage; and the third is enamoured of her own beauty, with its imagined
potency over the hearts of men. As early as 1622 CHARLES SOREL
expressed, in his _Histoire Comique de Francion_, a Rabelaisian and
picaresque tale of low life, the revolt of the _esprit gaulois_ against
the homage of the imagination to courtly shepherdesses and pastoral
cavaliers. It was reprinted more than forty times. In _Le Berger
Extravagant_ (1628) he attempted a kind of Don Quixote for his own
day--an "anti-romance"--which recounts the pastoral follies of a young
Parisian bourgeois, whose wits have been set wandering by such dreams
as the _Astrée_ had inspired; its mirth is unhappily overloaded with
pedantry.

The master of this school of seventeenth-century realism was PAUL
SCARRON (1610-60), the comely little abbé, unconcerned with
ecclesiastical scruples or good manners, who, when a paralytic,
twisted and tortured by disease, became the husband of D'Aubigné's
granddaughter, destined as Madame de Maintenon to become the most
influential woman in all the history of France. In his _Virgile
Travesti_ he produced a vulgar counterpart to the heroic epics, which
their own dead-weight would have speedily enough borne downwards to
oblivion. His _Roman Comique_ (1651), a short and lively narrative
of the adventures of a troupe of comedians strolling in the provinces,
contrasted with the exaltations, the heroisms, the delicate
distresses of the ideal romance. The _Roman Bourgeois_ (1666) of
ANTOINE FURETIÈRE is a belated example of the group to which
_Francion_ belongs. The great event of its author's life was his
exclusion from the Academy, of which he was a member, on the ground
that he had appropriated for the advantage of his Dictionary the
results of his fellow-members' researches for the Dictionary, then
in progress, of the learned company. His _Roman_ is a remarkable study
of certain types of middle-class Parisian life, often animated, exact,
effective in its satire; but the analysis of a petty and commonplace
world needs some relief of beauty or generosity to make its triviality
acceptable, and such relief Furetière will not afford.

Somewhat apart from this group of satiric tales, yet with a certain
kinship to them, lie the more fantastic satires of that fiery
swashbuckler--"démon des braves"--CYRANO DE BERGERAC (1619-55),
_Histoire Comique des États et Empires de la Lune_, and _Histoire
Comique des États et Empires du Soleil_. Cyrano's taste, caught by
the mannerisms of Italy and extravagances of Spain, was execrable.
To his violences of temper he added a reputation for irreligion. His
comedy _Le Pédant Joué_ has the honour of having furnished Molière
with the most laughable scene of the _Fourberies de Scapin_. The
voyages to the moon and the sun, in which the inhabitants, their
manners, governments, and ideas, are presented, mingle audacities
and caprices of invention with a portion of satiric truth; they lived
in the memories of the creator of Gulliver and the creator of
Micromégas.



CHAPTER II
THE FRENCH ACADEMY--PHILOSOPHY (DESCARTES)--RELIGION (PASCAL)


The French Academy, an organised aristocracy of letters, expressed
the growing sense that anarchy in literature must end, and that
discipline and law must be recognised in things of the mind. It is
one of the glories of RICHELIEU that he perceived that literature
has a public function, and may indeed be regarded as an affair of
the State. His own writings, or those composed under his
direction--memoirs; letters; the _Succincte Narration_, which sets
forth his policy; the _Testament_, which embodies his counsel in
statecraft--belong less to literature than to French history. But
he honoured the literary art; he enjoyed the drama; he devised plots
for plays, and found docile poets--his Society of five--to carry out
his designs.

In 1629 Valentin Conrart, secretary to the King, and one of the
frequenters of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, was accustomed to receive
weekly a group of distinguished men of letters and literary amateurs,
who read their manuscripts aloud, discussed the merits of new works,
and considered questions of criticism, grammar, and language.
Tidings of these reunions having reached Richelieu, he proposed that
the society should receive an official status. By the influence of
Chapelain the objections of certain members were overcome. The
_Académie Française_ held its first sitting on March 13, 1634; three
years later the letters patent were registered; the number of members
was fixed at forty; when vacancies occurred, new members were co-opted
for life. Its history to the year 1652 was published in the following
year by Pellisson, and obtained him admission to a chair. The
functions of the learned company were to ascertain, as far as possible,
the French language, to regulate grammar, and to act as a literary
tribunal if members consented to submit their works to its examination.
There were hopes that authoritative treatises on rhetoric and poetics
might be issued with its sanction; but these hopes were not fulfilled.
A dictionary, of which Chapelain presented the plan in 1638, was,
however, undertaken; progressing by slow degrees, the first edition
appeared in 1694. Its aim was not to record every word of which an
example could be found, but to select those approved by the usage
of cultivated society and of the best contemporary or recent authors.
Thus it tended to establish for literary use an aristocracy of words;
and while literary expression gained in dignity and intellectual
precision, gained as an instrument of reason and analysis, such
regulation created a danger that it might lose in elements that have
affinities with the popular mind--vivacity, colour, picturesqueness,
variety. At its commencement no one was more deeply interested in
the dictionary than Vaugelas (1585-1650), a gentleman of Savoie,
whose concern for the purity of the language, as determined by the
best usage, led him to resist innovations and the invasion of foreign
phraseology. His _Remarques sur la Langue Française_ served as a guide
to his fellow-members of the Academy. Unhappily he was wholly ignorant
of the history of the language. With the erudite Chapelain he mediated
between the scholarship and the polite society of the time. But while
Vaugelas was almost wholly occupied with the vocabulary and grammar,
Chapelain did much to enforce the principles of the classical school
upon literary art. The Academy took up the work which the _salons_
had begun; its spirit was more robust and masculine than theirs; it
was freer from passing fashions, affectations, prettinesses; it
leaned on the side of intellect rather than of sentiment.

In what may be called the regulation of French prose the influence
of JEAN-LOUIS GUEZ DE BALZAC (1594-1654) was considerable. He had
learnt from Malherbe that a literary craftsman should leave nothing
to chance, that every effect should be exactly calculated. It was
his task to apply to prose the principles which had guided his master
in verse. His _Lettres_, of which a first series appeared in 1624,
and a second twelve years later, are not the spontaneous intercourse
of friend with friend, but rather studious compositions which deal
with matters of learning, literature, morals, religion, politics,
events, and persons of the time. Their contents are of little
importance; Balzac was not an original thinker, but he had the art
of arranging his ideas, and of expressing them in chosen words
marshalled in ample and sonorous sentences. A certain fire he had,
a limited power of imagination, a cultivated judgment, a taste, which
suffered from bad workmanship; a true affection for rural life. These
hardly furnished him with matter adequate to support his elevated
style. His letters were regarded as models of eloquence; but it is
eloquence manufactured artificially and applied to subjects, not
proceeding from them. His _Prince_, a treatise on the virtues of kings,
with a special reference to Louis XIII., was received coldly. His
_Aristippe_, which dealt with the manners and morals of a court, and
his _Socrate Chrétien_, a study in ethics and theology, were efforts
beyond his powers. His gift to literature was a gift of method and
of style; others who worked in marble learned something from his
studious modellings in clay.

To regulate thought required an intellect of a different order from
that of Balzac, "emperor of orators." It was the task of RENÉ DESCARTES
(1596-1650). A child of delicate health, born at La Haye, near Tours,
he became, under Jesuit teachers, a precocious student both in
languages and science. But truth, not erudition, was the demand and
the necessity of his mind. Solitary investigations in mathematics
were for a time succeeded by the life of a soldier in the Netherlands
and Holland. The stream of thought was flowing, however, underground.
Suddenly it emerged to light. In 1619, when the young volunteer was
in winter quarters at Neuburg, on the Danube, on a memorable day the
first principles of a new philosophical method presented themselves
to his intellect, and, as it were, claimed him for their interpreter.
After wanderings through various parts of Europe, and a period of
studious leisure in Paris, he chose Holland for his place of abode
(1629), and though often shifting his residence, little disturbed
save by the controversies of philosophy and the orthodox zeal of Dutch
theologians, he gave his best hours during twenty years to thought.
An invitation from Queen Christina to the Swedish court was accepted
in 1649. The change in his habits and the severity of a northern winter
proved fatal to the health which Descartes had carefully cherished;
in February of 1650 he was dead.

The mathematical cycle in the development of Descartes' system of
thought preceded the metaphysical. His great achievements in
analytical geometry, in optics, in physical research, his
explanation of the laws of nature, and their application in his theory
of the material universe, belong to the history of science. Algebra
and geometry led him towards his method in metaphysical speculation.
How do all primary truths verify themselves to the human mind? By
the fact that an object is clearly and distinctly conceived. The
objects of knowledge fall into certain groups or series; in each
series there is some simple and dominant element which may be
immediately apprehended, and in relation to which the subordinate
elements become intelligible. Let us accept nothing on hearsay or
authority; let us start with doubt in order to arrive at certitude;
let us test the criterion of certitude to the uttermost. There is
one fact which I cannot doubt, even in doubting all--I think, and
if I think, I exist--"Je pense, donc je suis." No other evidence of
this is needed than that our conception is clear and distinct; in
this clearness and distinctness we find the principle of certitude.
Mind, then, exists, and is known to us as a thinking substance. But
the idea of an infinite, perfect Being is also present to our
intellect; we, finite, imperfect beings, could not have made it;
unmake it we cannot; and in the conception of perfection that of
existence is involved. Therefore God exists, and therefore the laws
of our consciousness, which are His laws, cannot deceive us. We have
seen what mind or spirit signifies--a thinking substance. Reduce our
idea of matter to clearness and distinctness, and what do we find?
The idea of an extended substance. Our complex humanity, made up of
soul and body, comprises both kinds of substance. But thought and
extension have nothing in common; their union can only be conceived
as the collocation at a single point of a machine with that which
raises it above a mere machine. As for the lower animals, they are
no more than automata.

Descartes' _Principia_ and his _Meditationes_ were written in Latin.
The _Discours de la Méthode_ (1637) and the later _Traité des
Passions_ showed how the French language could be adapted to the
purposes of the reason. Such eloquence as is found in Descartes is
that of thought illuminating style. The theory of the passions
anticipates some of the tendencies of modern psychology in its
physical investigations. No one, however, affirmed more absolutely
than Descartes the freedom of the will--unless, indeed, we regard
it as determined by God: it cannot directly control the passions,
but it can indirectly modify them with the aid of imagination; it
is the supreme mistress of action, however the passions may oppose
its fiat. Spiritualist as he was, Descartes was not disposed to be
the martyr of thought. Warned by the example of Galileo, he did not
desire to expose himself to the dangers attending heretical opinions.
He separated the province of faith from that of reason: "I revere
our theology," he said; but he held that theology demanded other
lights than those of the unaided powers of man. In its own province,
he made the reason his absolute guide, and with results which
theologians might regard as dangerous.

The spirit of Descartes' work was in harmony with that of his time,
and reacted upon literature. He sought for general truths by the light
of reason; he made clearness a criterion of truth; he proclaimed man
a spirit; he asserted the freedom of the will. The art of the classical
period sought also for general truths, and subordinated imagination
to reason. It turned away from ingenuities, obscurities, mysteries;
it was essentially spiritualist; it represented the crises and heroic
victories of the will.

Descartes' opponent, Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655), epicurean in his
physics, an empiricist, though an inconsistent one, in philosophy,
chose the Latin language as the vehicle for his ideas. A group of
writers whose tendencies were towards sensualism or scepticism,
viewed him as their master. Chapelle in verse, La Mothe le Vayer in
prose, may serve as representatives of art surrendering itself to
vulgar pleasures, and thought doubting even its doubts, and finding
repose in indifference.

The true successor of Descartes in French philosophy, eminent in the
second half of the century, was NICOLAS DE MALEBRANCHE (1638-1715).
Soul and body, Descartes had shown, are in their very nature alien
each from the other. How then does the soul attain a knowledge of
the external world? In God, the absolute substance, are the ideas
of all things; in God we behold those ideas which matter could never
convey to us, and which we could never ourselves originate; in God
we see and know all things. The _Recherche de la Vérité_ (1674-75)
was admirably written and was widely read. The theologians found it
dangerous; and when six years later Malebranche published his _Traité
de la Nature et de la Grâce_, characterised briefly and decidedly
by Bossuet as "pulchra, nova, falsa," at Bossuet's request both
Arnauld and Fénelon attempted to refute "the extravagant Oratorian."
His place in the evolution of philosophy lies between Descartes and
Spinoza, who developed and completed the doctrine of Descartes. In
the transition from dualism to monism Malebranche served as a
mediator.

Religious thought in the seventeenth century, wedded to an austere
morality, is expressed by the writers of Port-Royal, and those who
were in sympathy with them. They could not follow the flowery path
of piety--not the less the narrow path because it was cheerful--pointed
out by St. François de Sales. Between nature and grace they saw a deep
and wide abyss. In closest connection with them was one man of the
highest genius--author of the _Provinciales_ and the _Pensées_--whose
spiritual history was more dramatic than any miracle-play or morality
of the Middle Ages.

BLAISE PASCAL was born at Clermont-Ferrand in 1623. His father, a
president of the Court of Aids at Clermont, a man of intellect and
character, guided his education in languages, natural science, and
mathematics. The boy's precocity was extraordinary; at sixteen he
had written a treatise on Conic Sections, which excited the
astonishment of Descartes. But the intensity of study, preying upon
a nervous constitution, consumed his health and strength; at an early
age he suffered from temporary paralysis. When about twenty-three
he fell under the religious influences of certain disciples of St.
Cyran, read eagerly in the writings of Jansen and Arnauld, and
resolved to live for God alone. But to restore his health he was urged
to seek recreation, and by degrees the interests and pleasures of
the world took hold upon him; the master of his mind was the sceptical
Montaigne; he moved in the mundane society of the capital; and it
has been conjectured from hints in his _Discours sur les Passions
de l'Amour_ that he loved the sister of his friend, the Duc de Roannez,
and had the vain hope of making her his wife.

The spirit of religion, however, lived within his heart, and needed
only to be reawakened. The reawakening came in 1654 through the
persuasions of his sister, Jacqueline, who had abandoned the world
two years previously, and entered the community of Port-Royal. The
abbey of Port-Royal, situated some seven or eight miles from
Versailles, was presided over by Jacqueline Arnauld, the Mère
Angélique, and a brotherhood of solitaries, among whom were several
of the Arnauld family, had settled in the valley in the year 1637.
With this unvowed brotherhood Pascal, though never actually a
solitary, associated himself at the close of 1654. An escape from
sudden danger in a carriage accident, and a vision or ecstasy which
came to him, co-operated in his conversion. After his death, copies
of a fragmentary and passionate writing referring to this period--the
so-called "amulet" of Pascal--were found upon his person; its words,
"renonciation totale et douce," and "joie, joie, joie, pleurs de
joie," express something of his resolution and his rapture.

The affair of the _Provinciales_, and the design of an apology for
Christianity with which his _Pensées_ are connected, together with
certain scientific studies and the deepening passion of religion,
make up what remained of Pascal's life. His spirit grew austere, but
in his austerity there was an inexpressible joy. Exhausted by his
ascetic practices and the inward flame of his soul, Pascal died on
August 19, 1662. "May God never leave me" were his last words.

With Pascal's work as a mathematician and a physicist we are not here
concerned. In it "we see," writes a scientific authority, "the
strongest marks of a great original genius creating new ideas, and
seizing upon, mastering, and pursuing further everything that was
fresh and unfamiliar in his time. After the lapse of more than two
hundred years, we can still point to much in exact science that is
absolutely his; and we can indicate infinitely more which is due to
his inspiration."

Jansenism and Jesuitism, opposed as they were, have this in common,
that both were movements in that revival of Roman Catholicism which
was stimulated by the rivalry of the Protestant Reformation. But the
Jesuits sought to win the world to religion by an art of piety, in
which a system of accommodation was recognised as a means of drawing
worldlings to the Church; the Jansenists held up a severe moral ideal,
and humbled human nature in presence of the absolute need and
resistless omnipotence of divine grace. Like the Jesuits, but in a
different spirit, the Port-Royalists devoted themselves much to the
task of education. They honoured classical studies; they honoured
science, dialectics, philosophy. Their grammar, logic, geometry were
substantial additions to the literature of pedagogy. Isaac le Maistre
de Sacy and others translated and annotated the Bible. Their
theologian, moralist, and controversialist, Pierre Nicole (1625-95),
author of _Essais de Morale_ (1671), if not profound or brilliant,
was the possessor of learning, good sense, good feeling, and religious
faith. Under the influence of St. Cyran, the Port-Royalists were in
close sympathy with the teaching of Jansen, Bishop of Ypres; the
writings of their great theologian Antoine Arnauld were vigorously
anti-Jesuitical. In 1653 five propositions, professedly extracted
from Jansen's _Augustinus_, were condemned by a Papal bull. The
insulting triumph of the Jesuits drew Arnauld again into controversy;
and on a question concerning divine grace he was condemned in January
1656 by the Sorbonne. "You who are clever and inquiring" (_curieux_),
said Arnauld to Pascal, "you ought to do something." Next day was
written the first of Pascal's _Lettres à un Provincial_, and on 23rd
January it was issued to the public; a second followed within a week;
the success was immense. The writer concealed his identity under the
pseudonym "Louis de Montalte."

The _Lettres Provinciales_ are eighteen in number. The first three
and the last three deal with the affair of Arnauld and the Sorbonne,
and the questions under discussion as to the nature and the need of
divine grace. In the opening letters the clearest intellectual
insight and the deepest seriousness of spirit are united with the
finest play of irony, and even with the temper of comedy. The supposed
Louis de Montalte, seeking theological lights from a doctor of the
Sorbonne, finds only how hopelessly divided in opinion are the
opponents of Arnauld, and how grotesquely they darken counsel with
speech. In the twelve letters intervening between the third and the
sixteenth, Pascal takes the offensive, and deploys an incomparably
skilful attack on the moral theology of the Jesuits. For the rigid
they may have a stricter morality, but for the lax their casuistry
supplies a pliable code of morals, which, by the aid of ingenious
distinctions, can find excuses for the worst of crimes. With force
of logic, with fineness of irony, with energy of moral indignation,
with a literary style combining strength and lightness, Pascal
presses his irresistible assault. The effect of the "Provincial
Letters" was to carry the discussion of morals and theology before
a new court of appeal--not the Sorbonne, but the public intelligence
and the unsophisticated conscience of men. To French prose they added
a masterpiece and a model.

The subject of the _Provinciales_ is in part a thing of the past;
the _Pensées_ deal with problems which can never lose their interest.
Among Pascal's papers were found, after his early death, many
fragments which his sister, Madame Périer, and his friends recognised
as of rare value; but the editors of the little volume which appeared
in 1670, imagining that they could safeguard its orthodoxy, and even
amend its style, freely omitted and altered what Pascal had written.
It was not until 1844 that a complete and genuine text was established
in the edition of M. Faugère. We can hardly hope to arrange the
fragments so as to exhibit the design of that apology for Christianity,
with which many of them were doubtless connected, but the main
outlines of Pascal's body of thought can be clearly discerned.

The intellect of Pascal, so powerful in its grasp of scientific truth,
could find by its own researches no certitude in the sphere of
philosophy and religion. He had been deeply influenced by the
sceptical mind of Montaigne. He found within him a passionate craving
for certitude; man is so constituted that he can never be at rest
until he rests in knowledge of the truth; but man, as he now exists,
is incapable of ascertaining truth; he is weak and miserable, and
yet the very consciousness of his misery is evidence of his greatness;
"Nature confounds the Pyrrhonist, and reason the dogmatist;" "Man
is but a reed, the feeblest of created things, but a reed which
thinks." How is this riddle of human nature to be explained? Only
in one way--by a recognition of the truth taught by religion, that
human nature is fallen from its true estate, that man is a dethroned
king. And how is the dissonance in man's nature to be overcome? Only
in one way--through union with God made man; with Jesus Christ, the
centre in which alone we find our weakness and the divine strength.
Through Christ man is abased and lifted up--abased without despair,
and lifted up without pride; in Him all contradictions are reconciled.
Such, in brief, is the vital thought from which Pascal's apologetic
proceeds. It does not ignore any of the external evidences of
Christianity; but the irresistible evidence is that derived from the
problem of human nature and the essential needs of the spirit--a
problem which religion alone can solve, and needs which Christ alone
can satisfy. Pascal's "Thoughts" are those of an eminent intelligence.
But they are more than thoughts; they are passionate lyrical cries
of a heart which had suffered, and which had found more than
consolation; they are the interpretation of the words of his
amulet--"Joie, joie, joie, pleurs de joie." The union of the ardour
of a poet or a saint with the scientific rigour of a great geometer,
of wit and brilliance with a sublime pathos, is among the rarest
phenomena in literature; all this and more is found in Pascal.



CHAPTER III
THE DRAMA (MONTCHRESTIEN TO CORNEILLE)


The classical and Italian drama of the sixteenth century was literary,
oratorical, lyrical; it was anything but dramatic. Its last
representative, ANTOINE DE MONTCHRESTIEN (1575-1621), a true poet,
and one whose life was a series of strange adventures, wrote, like
his predecessors, rather for the readers of poetry than for the
theatre. With a gift for style, and a lyrical talent, seen not only
in the chants of the chorus, but in the general character of his dramas,
he had little feeling for life and movement; his personages expound
their feelings in admirable verse; they do not act. He attempted a
tragedy--L'Écossaise--on the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, a theme
beyond his powers. In essentials he belonged rather to the past, whose
traditions he inherited, than to the future of the stage. But his
feeling for grandeur of character, for noble attitudes, for the
pathetic founded on admiration, and together with these the firm
structure of his verse, seem to warrant one in thinking of him as
in some respects a forerunner of Corneille.

At the Hôtel de Bourgogne, until 1599, the Confrères de la Passion
still exhibited the mediæval drama. It passed away when their theatre
was occupied by the company of Valleran Lecomte, who had in his pay
a dramatist of inexhaustible fertility--ALEXANDRE HARDY (_c_. 1560
to _c_. 1630). During thirty years, from the opening of the
seventeenth century onwards, Hardy, author of some six or seven
hundred pieces, of which forty-one remain, reigned as master of the
stage.[1] A skilful improvisor, devoid of genius, devoid of taste,
he is the founder of the French theatre; he first made a true appeal
to the people; he first showed a true feeling for theatrical effects.
Wherever material suitable for his purposes could be caught
at--ancient or modern, French, Italian, or Spanish--Hardy made it
his own. Whatever form seemed likely to win the popular favour, this
he accepted or divined. The _Astrée_ had made pastoral the fashion;
Hardy was ready with his pastoral dramas. The Italian and Spanish
novels were little tragi-comedies waiting to be dramatised;
forthwith Hardy cast them into a theatrical mould. Writing for the
people, he was not trammelled by the unities of time and place; the
mediæval stage arrangements favoured romantic freedom. In his desire
to please a public which demanded animation, action, variety, Hardy
allowed romantic incident to predominate over character; hence,
though he produced tragedies founded on legendary or historical
subjects, his special talent is seen rather in tragi-comedy. He
complicated the intrigue, he varied the scenes, he shortened the
monologues, he suppressed or reduced the chorus--in a word, the drama
in his hands ceased to be oratorical or lyrical, and became at length
dramatic. The advance was great; and it was achieved by a hack
playwright scrambling for his crusts of bread.

[Footnote 1: Or thirty-four pieces, if _Théagène et Cariclée_ be
reckoned as only one.]

But to dramatic life and movement it was necessary that order,
discipline, regulation should be added. The rules of the unities were
not observed by Hardy--were perhaps unknown to him. But they were
known to others. Jean de Schelandre (the pseudonym formed from the
letters of his name being Daniel d'Anchères), in his vast drama in
two parts, _Tyr et Sidon_, claimed all the freedom of the mysteries
in varying the scene, in mingling heroic matter with buffoonery. In
the edition of 1628 a preface appears by François Ogier, a learned
churchman, maintaining that the modern stage, in accordance with
altered circumstances, should maintain its rights to complete
imaginative liberty against the authority of the Greeks, who
presented their works before different spectators under different
conditions. Ogier's protest was without effect. Almost immediately
after its appearance the _Sophonisbe_ of Jean de Mairet was given,
and the classical tragedy of France was inaugurated on a popular stage.
In the preface to his pastoral tragi-comedy _Sylvanire_, Mairet in
1631 formulated the doctrine of the unities. The adhesion of Richelieu
and the advocacy of Chapelain insured their triumph. The "rules" came
to be regarded as the laws of a literary species.

The influence of the Spanish drama, seen in the writings of Rotrou
and others, might be supposed to make for freedom. It encouraged
romantic inventions and ambitious extravagances of style. Much that
is rude and unformed is united with a curiosity for points and laboured
ingenuity in the dramatic work of Scudéry, Du Ryer, Tristan l'Hermite.
A greater dramatist than these showed how Spanish romance could
coalesce with French tragedy in a drama which marks an epoch--the
_Cid_; and the _Cid_, calling forth the judgment of the Academy,
served to establish the supremacy of the so-called rules of Aristotle.

PIERRE CORNEILLE, son of a legal official, was born at Rouen in 1606.
His high promise as a pupil of the Jesuits was not confirmed when
he attempted to practise at the bar; he was retiring, and spoke with
difficulty. At twenty-three his first dramatic piece, _Mélite_, a
comedy, suggested, it is told, by an adventure of his youth, was given
with applause in Paris; it glitters with points, and is of a
complicated intrigue, but to contemporaries the plot appeared less
entangled and the style more natural than they seem to modern readers.
The tragi-comedy, _Clitandre_, which followed (1632), was a romantic
drama, crowded with extravagant incidents, after the manner of Hardy.
In _La Veuve_ he returned to the style of _Mélite_, but with less
artificial brilliance and more real vivacity; it was published with
laudatory verses prefixed, in one of which Scudéry bids the stars
retire for the sun has risen. The scene is laid in Paris, and some
presentation of contemporary manners is made in _La Galerie du Palais_
and _La Place Royale_. It was something to replace the nurse of elder
comedy by the soubrette. The attention of Richelieu was attracted
to the new dramatic author; he was numbered among the five _garçons
poètes_ who worked upon the dramatic plans of the Cardinal; but he
displeased his patron by his imaginative independence. Providing
himself with a convenient excuse, Corneille retired to Rouen.

These early works were ventures among which the poet was groping for
his true way. He can hardly be said to have found it in _Médée_ (1635),
but it was an advance to have attempted tragedy; the grandiose style
of Seneca was a challenge to his genius; and in the famous line--

   "_Dans un si grand revers, que vous reste-t-il? Moi!_"

we see the flash of his indomitable pride of will, we hear the sudden
thunder of his verse. An acquaintance, M. de Chalon, who had been
one of the household of Marie de Médicis, directed Corneille to the
Spanish drama. The _Illusion Comique_, the latest of his tentative
plays, is a step towards the _Cid_; its plot is fantastical, but in
some of the fanfaronades of the braggart Matamore, imported from Spain,
are pseudo-heroics which only needed a certain transposition to
become the language of chivalric heroism. The piece closes with a
lofty eulogy of the French stage.

The sun had indeed risen and the stars might disappear when in the
closing days of 1636 the _Cid_ was given in Paris at the Théâtre du
Marais; the eulogy of the stage was speedily justified by its author.
His subject was found by Corneille in a Spanish drama, _Las Mocedades
del Cid_, by Guilhem de Castro; the treatment was his own; he reduced
the action from that of a chronicle-history to that of a tragedy;
he centralised it around the leading personages; he transferred it
in its essential causes from the external world of accident to the
inner world of character; the critical events are moral events,
victories of the soul, triumphs not of fortune but of the will. And
thus, though there are epic episodes and lyric outbreaks in the play,
the _Cid_ definitely fixed, for the first time in France, the type
of tragedy. The central tragic strife here is not one of rival houses.
Rodrigue, to avenge his father's wrong, has slain the father of his
beloved Chimène; Chimène demands from the King the head of her beloved
Rodrigue. In the end Rodrigue's valour atones for his offence. The
struggle is one of passion with honour or duty; the fortunes of the
hero and heroine are affected by circumstance, but their fate lies
in their own high hearts.

The triumph of Corneille's play was immense. The Cardinal, however,
did not join in it. Richelieu's intractable poet had glorified Spain
at an inconvenient moment; he had offered an apology for the code
of honour when edicts had been issued to check the rage of the duel;
yet worse, he had not been crushed by the great man's censure. The
quarrel of the _Cid_, in which Mairet and Scudéry took an embittered
part, was encouraged by Richelieu. He pressed the Academy, of which
Corneille was not a member until 1647, for a judgment upon the piece,
and at length he was partially satisfied by a pronouncement, drawn
up by Chapelain, which condemned its ethics and its violation of
dramatic proprieties, yet could not deny the author's genius.
Corneille was deeply discouraged, but prepared himself for future
victories.

Until 1640 he remained silent. In that illustrious year _Horace_ and
_Cinna_ were presented in rapid succession. From Spain, the land of
chivalric honour, the dramatist passed to antique Rome, the mother
and the nurse of heroic virtue. In the _Cid_ the dramatic conflict
is between love and filial duty; in _Horace_ it is between love, on
the one side, united with the domestic affections, and, on the other,
devotion to country. In both plays the inviolable will is arbiter
of the contention. The story of the Horatii and Curiatii, as told
by Livy, is complicated by the union of the families through love
and marriage; but patriotism requires the sacrifice of the tenderer
passions. It must be admitted that the interest declines after the
third act, and that our sympathies are alienated from the younger
Horace by the murder of a sister; we are required to feel that a private
crime, the offence of overstrained patriotism, is obliterated in the
glory of the country. In _Cinna_ we pass from regal to imperial Rome;
the commonwealth is represented by Augustus; a great monarchy is
glorified, but in the noblest way, for the highest act of empire is
to wield supreme power under the sway of magnanimity, and to remain
the master of all self-regarding passions. The conspiracy of Cinna
is discovered; it is a prince's part to pardon, and Augustus rises
to a higher empire than that of Rome by the conquest of himself. In
both _Horace_ and _Cinna_ there are at times a certain overstrain,
an excess of emphasis, a resolve to pursue heroism to all extremities;
but the conception of moral grandeur is genuine and lofty; the error
of Corneille was the error of an imagination enamoured of the sublime.

But are there not heroisms of religion as pure as those of patriotism?
And must we go back to pagan days to find the highest virtue? Or can
divine grace effect no miracles above those of the natural will?
Corneille gives his answer to such a challenge in the tragedy of
_Polyeucte_ (1643). It is the story of Christian martyrdom; a homage
rendered to absolute self-devotion to the ideal; a canticle intoned
in celebration of heavenly grace. Polyeucte, the martyr, sacrifices
to his faith not only life, but love; his wife, who, while she knew
him imperfectly, gave him an imperfect love, is won both for God and
for her husband by his heroism; she is caught away from her tenderness
for Sévère into the flame of Polyeucte's devout rapture; and through
her Sévère himself is elevated to an unexpected magnanimity. The
family, the country, the monarchy, religion--these in turn were
honoured by the genius of Corneille. He had lifted the drama from
a form of loose diversion to be a great art; he had recreated it as
that noblest pastime whose function is to exercise and invigorate
the soul.

The transition from _Polyeucte_ to _Le Menteur_, of the same year,
is among the most surprising in literature.[2] From the most elevated
of tragedies we pass to a comedy, which, while not belonging to the
great comedy of character, is charmingly gay. We expect no grave
moralities here, nor do we find them. The play is a free and original
adaptation from a work of the Spanish dramatist Alarcon, but in
Corneille's hands it becomes characteristically French. Young
Dorante, the liar, invents his fictions through an irresistible
genius for romancing. His indignant father may justly ask, Has he
a heart? Is he a gentleman? But how can a youth with such a pretty
wit resist the fascination of his own lies? He is sufficiently
punished by the fact that they do not assist, but rather trouble,
the course of his love adventure, and we demand no further poetical
justice. In Corneille's art, tragedy had defined itself, and comedy
was free to be purely comic; but it is also literary--light, yet solid
in structure; easy, yet exact in style. The _Suite du Menteur_,
founded on a comedy by Lope de Vega, has a curious attraction of its
own, half-fantastic as it is, and half-realistic; yet it has shared
the fate of all continuations, and could not attain the popularity
of its predecessor. It lacks gaiety; the liar has sunk into a rascal,
and we can hardly lend credence to the amendment in his mendacious
habit when he applies the art of dissimulation to generous purposes.

[Footnote 2: _Polyeucte_ may possibly be as early as 1641.]

These are the masterpieces of Corneille. Already in _Pompée_,
although its date is that of _Polyeucte_, while the great dramatist
is present throughout, he is not always present at his best. It should
not surprise us that Corneille preferred Lucan to Virgil. Something
of the over-emphasis of the _Pharsalia_, his original, has entered
into the play; but the pomp of the verse is no vulgar pomp. A graver
fault is the want of a dramatic centre for the action, which tends
too much towards the epic. Pompey is the presiding power of the
tragedy; his spirit dominates the lesser characters; but he does not
appear in person. The political interest develops somewhat to the
subordination of the personal interest. Corneille's unhappy theory
of later years, that love is unworthy of a place in high tragedy,
save as an episode, is here exemplified in the passion of Cæsar for
Cleopatra; but, in truth, love is too sovereign a power to admit of
its being tagged to tragedy as an ornament.

Until 1636 Corneille was seeking his way. From 1636 to 1644 his genius
soared on steady pinions. During the eight years that followed he
triumphed, but he also faltered. _Rodogune_ (1644), which he
preferred to all his other plays, is certainly, by virtue of the
enormity of the characters, the violence of the passions, the vastness
of its crimes, the most romantic of his tragedies; it is constructed
with the most skilful industry; from scene to scene the emotion is
intensified and heightened until the great fifth act is reached; but
if by incomparable audacity the dramatist attains the ideal, it is
an ideal of horror. _Théodore_, a second play of martyrdom, fell far
below _Polyeucte_. _Heraclius_ is obscure through the complication
of its intrigue. _Don Sanche d'Aragon_, a romantic tragi-comedy, is
less admirable as a whole than in the more brilliant scenes. In the
historical drama _Nicomède_ (1651), side by side with tragic
solemnities appears matter of a familiar kind. It was the last great
effort of its author's genius. The failure of _Pertharite_, in 1652,
led to the withdrawal of Corneille from the theatre during seven years.
He completed during his seclusion a rendering into verse of the
_Imitation of Jesus Christ_. When he returned to the stage it was
with enfeebled powers, which were overstrained by the effort of his
will; yet he could still write noble lines, and in the tragedy-ballet
of _Psyché_, in which Quinault and Molière were his collaborators,
the most charming verses are those of Corneille. His young rival
Racine spoke to the hearts of a generation less heroic and swayed
by tenderer passion, and the old man resented the change. Domestic
sorrows were added to the grief of ill success in his art. Living
simply, his means were narrow for his needs. The last ten years of
his life were years of silence. He died in 1684, at the age of
seventy-eight.

The drama of Corneille deals with what is extraordinary, but in what
is extraordinary it seeks for truth. He finds the marvellous in the
triumphs of the human will. His great inventive powers were applied
to creating situations for the manifestation of heroic energy.
History attracted him, because a basis of fact seemed to justify what
otherwise could not be accepted as probable. Great personages suited
his purpose, because they can deploy their powers on the amplest scale.
His characters, men and women, act not through blind, instinctive
passion, but with deliberate and intelligent force; they reason, and
too often with casuistical subtlety, about their emotions. At length
he came to glorify the will apart from its aims and ends, when tending
even to crime, or acting, as it were, in the void. He thought much
of the principles of his art, and embodied his conclusions in critical
dissertations and studies of his own works. He accepted the rule of
the unities of place and time (of which at first he was ignorant)
as far as his themes permitted, as far as the rules served to
concentrate action and secure verisimilitude. His mastery in verse
of a masculine eloquence is unsurpassed; his dialogue of rapid
statement and swift reply is like a combat with Roman short swords;
in memorable single lines he explodes, as it were, a vast charge of
latent energy, and effects a clearance for the progress of his action.
His faults, like his virtues, are great; and though faults and virtues
may be travestied, both are in reality alike inimitable.

Alone among Corneille's dramatic rivals, if they deserve that
name--Du Ryer, Tristan, Scudéry, Boisrobert, and others--JEAN ROTROU
(1610-50) had the magnanimity to render homage to the master of his
art. While still a boy he read Sophocles, and resolved that he would
live for the dramatic art. His facility was great, and he had the
faults of a facile writer, who started on his career at the age of
nineteen. He could not easily submit to the regulation of the
classical drama, and squandered his talents in extravagant
tragi-comedies; but his work grew sounder and stronger towards the
close. _Saint Genest_ (1645), which is derived, but in no servile
fashion, from Lope de Vega, recalls _Polyeucte_; an actor of the time
of Diocletian, in performing the part of a Christian martyr, is
penetrated by the heroic passion which he represents, confesses his
faith, and receives its crown in martyrdom. The tragi-comedy _Don
Bernard de Cabrère_ and the tragedy _Venceslas_ of the following year
exhibit the romantic and passionate sides of Rotrou's genius. The
intemperate yet noble Ladislas has rashly and in error slain his
brother; he is condemned to death by his father Venceslas, King of
Poland, and he accepts his doom. The situation is such as Corneille
might have imagined; but Rotrou's young hero in the end is pardoned
and receives the kingdom. If their careless construction and unequal
style in general forbade the dramas of Rotrou to hold the stage, they
remained as a store from which greater artists than he could draw
their material. His death was noble: the plague having broken out
at Dreux, he hastened from Paris to the stricken town, disregarding
all affectionate warnings, there to perform his duty as a magistrate;
within a few days the inhabitants followed Rotrou's coffin to the
parish church.

THOMAS CORNEILLE, the faithful and tender brother of "le grand
Corneille," and his successor in the Academy, belongs to a younger
generation. He was born in 1625, and did not die until near the close
of the first decade of the eighteenth century. As an industrious
playwright he imitated his brother's manner, and reproduced his
situations with a feebler hand. Many of his dramas are of Spanish
origin, comic imbroglios, tragic extravagances; they rather diverted
dramatic art from its true way than aided its advance. Perhaps for
this reason they were the more popular. His _Timocrate_ (1656), drawn
from the romance of _Cléopâtre_, and itself a romance written for
the stage, had a success rarely equalled during the century. The hero
is at once the enemy and the lover of the Queen of Argos; under one
name he besieges her, under another he repels his own attack; he is
hated and adored, the conquered and the conqueror. The languors of
conventional love and the plaintive accents of conventional grief
suited the powers of the younger Corneille. His _Ariane_ (1672)
presents a heroine, Ariadne, abandoned by Theseus, who reminds us
of one of Racine's women, drawn with less certain lines and fainter
colours. In _Le Comte d'Essex_ history is transformed to a romance.
Perhaps the greatest glory of Thomas Corneille is that his reception
as an Academician became the occasion for a just and eloquent tribute
to the genius of his brother uttered by Racine, when the bitterness
of rivalry was forgotten and the offences of Racine's earlier years
were nobly repaired.



CHAPTER IV
SOCIETY AND PUBLIC LIFE IN LETTERS


Before noticing the theories of classical poetry in the writings of
its master critic, Boileau, we must glance at certain writers who
belonged rather to the world of public life and of society than to
the world of art, but who became each a master in literary craft,
as it were, by an irresistible instinct. Memoirs, maxims, epistolary
correspondence, the novel, in their hands took a distinguished place
in the hierarchy of literary art.

FRANÇOIS VI., DUC DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULD, Prince de Marsillac, was born
in 1613, of one of the greatest families of France. His life is divided
into two periods--one of passionate activity, when with romantic
ardour he threw himself into the struggles of the Fronde, only to
be foiled and disillusioned; and the other of bitter reflection,
consoled by certain social successes, loyal friendships, and an
unique literary distinction. His _Maximes_ are the brief confession
of his experience of life, an utterance of the pessimism of an
aristocratic spirit, moulded into a form proper to the little world
of the _salon_--each maxim a drop of the attar not of roses but of
some more poignant and bitterly aromatic blossom. In the circle of
Mme. de Sablé, now an elderly _précieuse_, a circle half-Epicurean,
half-Jansenist, frivolously serious and morosely gay, the
composition of maxims and "sentences" became a fashion. Those of La
Rochefoucauld were submitted to her as to an oracle; five years were
given to shaping a tiny volume; fifteen years to rehandling and
polishing every phrase. They are like a collection of medals struck
in honour of the conquests of cynicism. The first surreptitious
edition, printed in Holland in 1664, was followed by an authorised
edition in 1665; the number of maxims, at first 317, rose finally
in 1678 to 504; some were omitted; many were reduced to the extreme
of concision; under the influence of Mme. de la Fayette, in the later
texts the indictment of humanity was slightly attenuated. "Il m'a
donné de l'esprit," said Mme. de la Fayette, "mais j'ai réformé son
coeur."

The motto of the book, "Our virtues are commonly vices in disguise,"
expresses its central idea. La Rochefoucauld does not absolutely deny
disinterested goodness; there may be some such instinctive virtue
lying below all passions which submit to be analysed; he does not
consider the love of God, the parental or the filial affections; but
wherever he applies analysis, it is to reduce each apparently
disinterested feeling to self-love. "We all have strength enough to
endure the misfortunes of another;" "When vices desert us, we flatter
ourselves with the belief that it is we who desert them;" "With true
love it is as with apparitions--every one talks of them, but few
persons have seen them;" "Virtues lose themselves in self-interest
as rivers lose themselves in the sea;" "In the adversity of our best
friends we always find something which does not displease us"--such
are the moral comments on life graven in ineffaceable lines by La
Rochefoucauld. He is not a philosophic thinker, but he is a
penetrating and remorseless critic, who remains at one fixed point
of view; self-interest is assuredly a large factor in human conduct,
and he exposes much that is real in the heart of man; much also that
is not universally true was true of the world in which he had moved;
whether we accept or reject his doctrine, we are instructed by a
statement so implacable and so precise of the case against human
nature as he saw it. Pitiless he was not himself; perhaps his artistic
instinct led him to exclude concessions which would have marred the
unity of his conception; possibly his vanity co-operated in producing
phrases which live and circulate by virtue of the shock they
communicate to our self-esteem. The merit of his _Maximes_ as examples
of style--a style which may be described as lapidary--is
incomparable; it is impossible to say more, or to say it more
adequately, in little; but one wearies in the end of the monotony
of an idea unalterably applied, of unqualified brilliance, of
unrelieved concision; we anticipate our surprise, and its purpose
is defeated. Traces of preciosity are found in some of the earliest
sentences; that infirmity was soon overcome by La Rochefoucauld, and
his utterances become as clear and as hard as diamond.

He died at the age of sixty-seven, in the arms of Bossuet. His
_Memoires_,[1] relating to the period of the Fronde, are written with
an air of studied historical coldness, which presents a striking
contrast to the brilliant vivacity of Retz.

[Footnote 1: Ed. 1662, surreptitious and incomplete; complete ed.,
1868-1884.]

The most interesting figure of the Fronde, its portrait-painter, its
analyst, its historian, is CARDINAL DE RETZ (1614-1679). Italian by
his family, and Italian in some features of his character, he had,
on a scale of grandeur, the very genius of conspiracy. When his first
work, _La Conjuration de Fiesque_, was read by Richelieu, the judgment
which that great statesman pronounced was penetrating--"Voilà un
dangereux esprit." Low of stature, ugly, ill-made, short-sighted,
Retz played the part of a gallant and a duellist. Never had any one
less vocation for the spiritual duties of an ecclesiastic; but, being
a churchman, he would be an illustrious actor on the ecclesiastical
stage. There was something demoniac in his audacity, and with the
spirit of turbulence and intrigue was united a certain power of
self-restraint. When fallen, he still tried to be magnificent, though
in disgrace: he would resign his archbishopric, pay his enormous debts,
resign his cardinalate, exhibit himself as the hero in misfortune.
"Having lived as a Catiline," said Voltaire, "he lived as an Atticus."
In retirement, as his adventurous life drew towards its close, he
wrote, at the request of Madame de Caumartin, those Memoirs which
remained unpublished until 1717, and which have insured him a place
in literature only second to Saint-Simon.

It was an age remarkable for its memoirs; those of Mlle. de Montpensier,
of Mme. de Motteville, of Bussy-Rabutin are only a few of many. The
_Mémoires_ of Retz far surpass the rest not only in their historical
interest, but in their literary excellence. Arranging facts and dates
so that he might superbly figure in the drama designed for future
generations, he falsifies the literal truth of things; but he lays
bare the inner truth of politics, of life, of character, with
incomparable mastery. He exposes the disorder of his conduct in early
years with little scruple. The origins of the Fronde are expounded
in pages of profound sagacity. His narrative has all the impetuosity,
all the warmth and hues of life, all the tumult and rumour of action;
he paints, but in painting he explains; he touches the hidden springs
of passion; his portraits of contemporaries are not more vivid in
their colours than they are searching in their psychology: and in
his style there is that negligent grandeur which belongs rather to
the days of Louis XIII. than to the age of his successor, when language
grew more exact for the intelligence, but lost much of its passion
and untamed energy.

The epistolary art, in which the art itself is nature, may be said
to have reached perfection, with scarcely an historical development,
in the letters of MME. DE SÉVIGNÉ. The letters of Balzac are rhetorical
exercises; those of Voiture are often, to use a word of Shakespeare,
"heavy lightness, serious vanity." Mme. de Sévigné entered into the
gains of a cultivated society, in which graceful converse had become
a necessity of existence. She wrote delightfully, because she
conveyed herself into her letters, and because she conversed freely
and naturally by means of her pen. Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, born
in 1626, deprived of both parents in her earliest years, was carefully
trained in literary studies--Latin, Italian, French--under the
superintendence of her uncle, "le bien bon," the Abbé de Coulanges.
Among her teachers were the scholar Ménage and the poet Chapelain.
Married at eighteen to an unworthy husband, the Marquis Henri de
Sévigné, she was left at twenty-five a widow with two children, the
daughter whom she loved with excess of devotion, and a son, who
received from his mother a calmer affection. She saw the life of the
court, she was acquainted with eminent writers, she frequented the
Hôtel de Rambouillet (retaining from it a touch of preciosity, "one
superfluous ribbon," says Nisard, "in a simple and elegant toilet"),
she knew and loved the country and its rural joys, she read with
excellent judgment and eager delight the great books of past and
present times.

When her daughter, "the prettiest girl in France," was married in
1669 to M. de Grignan, soon to be Lieutenant-General of Provence,
Mme. de Sévigné, desiring to be constantly one with her, at least
in thought, transferred into letters her whole life from day to day,
together with much of the social life of the time during a period
of nearly thirty years. She allowed her pen to trot, throwing the
reins, as she says, upon its neck; but if her letters are
improvisations, they are improvisations regulated by an exquisite
artistic instinct. Her imagination is alert in discovering,
combining, and presenting the happiest meanings of reality. She is
gay, witty, ironical, malicious, and all this without a trace of
malignity; amiable rather than passionate, except in the ardour of
her maternal devotion, which sometimes proved oppressive to a
daughter who, though not unloving, loved with a temperate heart;
faithful to friends, loyal to those who had fallen into misfortune,
but neither sentimental nor romantic, nor disposed to the
generosities of a universal humanity; a woman of spirit, energy, and
good sense; capable of serious reflection, though not of profound
thought; endowed with an exquisite sense of the power of words, and,
indeed, the creator of a literary style. While her interests were
in the main of a mundane kind, she was in sympathy with Port-Royal,
admired the writings of Pascal, and deeply reverenced Nicole.
Domestic affairs, business (concern for her children having involved
her in financial troubles), the aristocratic life of Paris and
Versailles, literature, the pleasures and tedium of the country, the
dulness or gaiety of a health-resort, the rise and fall of those in
power, the petty intrigues and spites and follies of the day--these,
and much besides, enter into Mme. de Sévigné's records, records made
upon the moment, with all the animation of an immediate impression,
but remaining with us as one of the chief documents for the social
history of the second half of the seventeenth century. In April 1696
Mme. de Sévigné died.

Beside the letters addressed to her daughter are others--far fewer
in number--to her cousin Bussy-Rabutin, to her cousin Mme. de
Coulanges, to Pomponne, and other correspondents. In Bussy's
_Mémoires et Correspondance_ (1696-97) first appeared certain of her
letters; a collection, very defective and inaccurate, was published
in 1726; eight years later the first portion of an authorised text
was issued under the sanction of the writer's grand-daughter;
gradually the material was recovered, until it became of vast extent;
even since the appearance of the edition among the _Grands Écrivains
de la France_ two volumes of _Lettres inédites_ have been published.

Among the other letter-writers of the period, perhaps the most
distinguished were Mme. de Sévigné's old and attached friend Mme.
de la Fayette, and the woman of supreme authority with the King, Mme.
de Maintenon. A just view of Mme. de Maintenon's character has been
long obscured by the letters forged under her name by La Beaumelle,
and by the bitter hostility of Saint-Simon. On a basis of ardour and
sensibility she built up a character of unalterable reason and good
sense. Her letters are not creations of genius, unless practical
wisdom and integrity of purpose be forms of genius. She does not gossip
delightfully; at times she may seem a little hard or dry; but her
reason is really guided by human kindness. "Her style," wrote a high
authority, Döllinger, "is clear, terse, refined, often sententious;
her business letters are patterns of simplicity and pregnant brevity.
They might be characterised as womanly yet manly, so well do they
combine the warmth and depth of womanly feeling with the strength
and lucidity of a masculine mind." The foundation of Saint-Cyr, for
the education of girls wellborn but poor, was the object of her
constant solicitude; there she put out her talents as a teacher and
guide of youth to the best interest; there she found play for her
best affections: "C'est le lieu," she said, "de délices pour moi."

The friend of Madame de Sévigné, the truest woman whom La
Rochefoucauld had ever known, MADAME DE LA FAYETTE was the author
of two historical works, of which one is exquisite--a memorial of
her friend the Duchess of Orleans, and of two--perhaps
three--romances, the latest of which, in the order of chronology,
is the masterpiece of seventeenth-century fiction. Marie de la Vergne,
born in 1634, a pupil of Ménage, married at twenty-one to M. de la
Fayette, became the trusted companion of the bright and gracious
Henrietta of England. It is not that part of Madame's life, when she
acted as intermediary between Louis XIV. and her brother, Charles
II., that is recorded by her friend: it is the history of her heart.
Nothing is more touching in its simplicity than the narrative of
Madame's last moments; it serves as the best possible comment on the
pathetic Funeral Oration of Bossuet. We have no grounds for asserting
that the married life of Madame de la Fayette was unhappy, except
through the inadequacy of a husband whose best qualities seem to have
been of a negative kind. During the fifteen years which preceded the
death of La Rochefoucauld her friendship for him was the centre of
her existence. She seemed to bear about with her some secret grief;
something remained veiled from other friends than he, and they named
her _le Brouillard_. She outlived her friend by thirteen years, and
during ten was widowed. In 1693 she died.

Her earliest novel, _La Princesse de Montpensier_ (1662), a tale of
the days of the Valois and of St. Bartholomew, is remarkable for its
truthful pictures of the manners of the court, its rendering of
natural and unexaggerated feeling, and for the fact that it treats
of married life, occupying itself with such themes as have been dealt
with in many of its modern successors. The _Zayde_, of eight years
later, was written in collaboration with Segrais. It is in _La
Princesse de Clèves_ (1678) that the genius and the heart of Madame
de la Fayette find a perfect expression. The Princess, married to
a husband who loves her devotedly, and whom she honours, but whose
feelings she cannot return, is tempted by the brilliant Duc de Nemours
and by the weakness of her own passion, to infidelity. She resolves
to confide her struggle to her husband, and seek in him a protector
against herself. The hard confession is made, but a grievous and
inevitable change has passed over their lives. Believing himself
deceived, M. de Clèves is seized by a fever and dies, not without
the consolation of learning his error. Nemours renews his vows and
entreaties; the Princess refuses his hand, and atones for her error
in cloistered seclusion. The tale has lost none of its beauty and
pathos after a lapse of two centuries. Does it reveal the hidden grief
of the writer's life? And was her friend, the Duc de la Rochefoucauld,
delivered from his gout and more than a score of years, transformed
by Madame de la Fayette into the foiled lover of her tale?



CHAPTER V
BOILEAU AND LA FONTAINE


The great name in criticism of the second half of the seventeenth
century is that of Boileau. But one of whom Boileau spoke harshly,
a soldier, a man of the world, the friend of Ninon de l'Enclos, a
sceptical Epicurean, an amateur in letters, Saint-Évremond
(1613-1703), among his various writings, aided the cause of criticism
by the intuition which he had of what is excellent, by a fineness
of judgment as far removed from mere licence as from the pedantry
of rules. Fallen into disfavour with the King, Saint-Évremond was
received into the literary society of London. His criticism is that
of a fastidious taste, of balance and moderation, guided by tradition,
yet open to new views if they approved themselves to his culture and
good sense. Had his studies been more serious, had his feelings been
more generous and ardent, had his moral sense been less shallow, he
might have made important contributions to literature. As it was,
to be a man of the world was his trade, to be a writer was only an
admirable foible.

NICOLAS BOILEAU, named DESPRÉAUX, from a field (pré) of his father's
property at Crosne, was born in Paris, 1636, son of the registrar
of the Grand Chambre du Palais. His choice of a profession lay between
the Church and that with which his father was connected--the law;
but though he made some study of theology, and was called to the bar,
his inclination for literature could not be resisted. His whole life,
indeed, was that of a man of letters--upright, honourable, serious,
dignified, simple; generous to the friends whose genius he could
justly applaud; merciless to books and authors condemned by his reason,
his good sense, his excellent judgment. He was allied by an ardent
admiration to Racine, and less intimately to Molière, La Fontaine,
and Chapelle; Jansenist through his religious sympathies, and
closely attached to the venerable Arnauld; appointed historiographer
to the King (1677) together with Racine; an Academician by the King's
desire, notwithstanding the opposition of his literary enemies. In
his elder years his great position of authority in the world of letters
was assured, but he suffered from infirmities of body, and from an
increasing severity of temper. In 1711 he died, bequeathing a large
sum of money to the poor.

Boileau's literary career falls into three periods--the first,
militant and destructive, in which he waged successful war against
all that seemed to him false and despicable in art; the second,
reconstructive, in which he declared the doctrine of what may be
termed literary rationalism, and legislated for the French
Parnassus; the third, dating from his appointment as historiographer,
a period of comparative repose and, to some extent, of decline, but
one in which the principles of his literary faith were maintained
and pressed to new conclusions. His writings include twelve satires
(of which the ninth, "A son Esprit," is the chief masterpiece); twelve
epistles (that to Racine being pre-eminent); the literary-didactic
poem, _L'Art Poétique_; a heroi-comical epic, _Le Lutrin_;
miscellaneous shorter poems (among which may be noted the admirable
epitaph on Arnauld, and an unhappy ode, _Sur la Prise de Namur_, 1693);
and various critical studies in prose, his Lucianic dialogue _Les
Héros de Roman_, satirising the extravagant novels not yet dismissed
to oblivion, and his somewhat truculent _Réflexions sur Longin_ being
specially deserving of attention. The satires preceded in date the
epistles; of the former, the first nine belong to the years 1660-67;
the first nine of the epistles to the years 1669-77; three satires
and three epistles may be described as belated. The year 1674 is
memorable as that in which were published _L'Art Poétique_ and the
first four _chants_ of _Le Lutrin_.

The genius of Boileau was in a high degree intellectual, animated
by ideas; but it is an error to suppose that a sensuous element is
absent from his verse. It is verse of the classical school, firm and
clear, but it addresses the ear with a studied harmony, and what
Boileau saw he could render into exact, definite, and vivid expression.
His imagination was not in a large sense creative; he was wholly
lacking in tenderness and sensibility; his feeling for external
nature was no more than that of a Parisian bourgeois who enjoys for
a day the repose of the fields; but for Paris itself, its various
aspects, its life, its types, its manners, he had the eye and the
precise rendering of a realist in art; his faithful objective touch
is like that of a Dutch painter. As a moralist, he is not searching
or profound; he saw too little of the inner world of the heart, and
knew too imperfectly its agitations. When, however, he deals with
literature--and a just judgment in letters may almost be called an
element in morals--all his penetration and power become apparent.

To clear the ground for the new school of nature, truth and reason
was Boileau's first task. It was a task which called for courage and
skill. The public taste was still uncertain. Laboured and lifeless
epics like Chapelain's _La Pucelle_, petty ingenuities in metre like
those of Cotin, violence and over-emphasis, extravagances of
sentiment, faded preciosities, inane pastoralisms, gross or vulgar
burlesques, tragedies languorous and insipid, lyrics of pretended
passion, affectations from the degenerate Italian literature,
super-subtleties from Spain--these had still their votaries. And the
conduct of life and characters of men of letters were often unworthy
of the vocation they professed. "La haine d'un sot livre" was an
inspiration for Boileau, as it afterwards was for our English satirist
Pope; and he felt deeply that dignity of art is connected with dignity
of character and rectitude of life--"Le vers se sent toujours des
bassesses de coeur." He struck at the follies and affectations of
the world of letters, and he struck with force: it was a needful duty,
and one most effectively performed. Certain of the Epistles, which
are written with less pitiless severity and with a more accomplished
mastery of verse, continue the work of the Satires. From Horace he
derived much, something from Juvenal, and something from his
predecessor Regnier; but he had not the lightness nor the _bonhomie_
of Horace, nor his easy and amiable wisdom.

In the _Art Poétique_ Boileau is constructive; he exhibits the true
doctrine of literature, as he conceived it. Granted genius, fire,
imagination--the gifts of heaven--what should be the self-imposed
discipline of a poet? Above all, the cultivation of that power which
distinguishes false from true, and aids every other faculty--the
reason. "Nothing," declares Boileau, "is beautiful save what is
true;" nature is the model, the aim and end of art; reason and good
sense discern reality; they test the fidelity of the artistic
imitation of nature; they alone can vouch for the correspondence of
the idea with its object, and the adequacy of the expression to the
idea. What is permanent and universal in literature lives by the aid
of no fashion of the day, but by virtue of its truth to nature. And
hence is derived the authority of the ancient classics, which have
been tried by time and have endured; these we do not accept as tyrants,
but we may safely follow as guides.

To study nature is, however, before all else to study man--that is,
human nature--and to distinguish in human nature what is universal
and abiding from what is transitory and accidental; we cannot be
expected to discover things absolutely new; it suffices to give to
what is true a perfect expression. Unhappily, human nature, as
understood by Boileau, included little beyond the court and the town.
Unhappily his appreciation of classical literature was defective;
to justify as true and natural the mythology of Greece he has to regard
it as a body of symbols or a moral allegory. Unhappily his survey
of literature was too narrow to include the truths and the splendours
of Mediæval poetry and art. For historical truth, indeed, he had
little sense; seeking for what is permanent and universal, he had
little regard for local colour and the truth of manners. To secure
assent from contemporary minds truth must assume what they take to
be its image, and a Greek or Roman on the stage must not shock the
demand for verisimilitude made by the courtly imagination of the days
of Louis Quatorze. Art which fails to please is no longer art.

To the workmanship, the technique of poetry, Boileau attaches a high
importance. Its several species--idyl, elegy, ode, sonnet, epigram,
rondeau, ballade, madrigal, satire, epic, tragedy, comedy--are
separated from one another by fixed boundaries, and each is subject
to its own rules; but genius, on occasion, may transcend those rules,
and snatch an unauthorised grace. It is difficult to understand why
from among the _genres_ of poetry Boileau omitted the fable; perhaps
he did not regard its form, now in verse and now in prose, as defined;
possibly he was insensible of the perfection to which the fable in
verse had been carried by La Fontaine. The fourth _chant_ of the _Art
Poétique_ is remarkable for its lofty conception of the position of
the poet; its counsels express the dignity of the writer's own
literary life. He has been charged not only with cruelty as a satirist,
but with the baseness of a flatterer of the great. It would be more
just to notice the honourable independence which he maintained,
notwithstanding his poetical homage to the King, which was an
inevitable requisition. Boileau's influence as a critic of
literature can hardly be overrated; it has much in common with the
influence of Pope on English literature--beneficial as regards his
own time, somewhat restrictive and even tyrannical upon later
generations.

_Le Lutrin_ (completed in 1683) is not a burlesque which degrades
a noble theme, but, like Pope's far more admirable _Rape of the Lock_,
a heroi-comic poem humorously exalting humble matter of the day. It
tells of the combats of ecclesiastics respecting the position of a
lectern, combats in which the books of a neighbouring publisher serve
as formidable projectiles. The scene is in the Sainte-Chapelle and
the Palais de Justice. Boileau's gift for the vivid presentation of
visible detail, and his skill in versification, served him here better
than did his choice of a subject. On the whole, we think of him less
as a poet than as the classical guardian and legislator of poetry.
He was an emancipator by directing art towards reason and truth; when
larger interpretations of truth and reason than his became possible,
his influence acted unfavourably as a constraint.

All that Boileau lacked as a poet was possessed by the most easy and
natural of the singers of his time--one whose art is like nature in
its freedom, while yet it never wrongs the delicate bounds of art.
JEAN DE LA FONTAINE was born in 1621 at Château-Thierry, in Champagne,
son of the "maître des eaux et forêts." His education was less of
a scholastic kind than an education derived from books read for his
own pleasure, and especially from observation or reverie among the
woods and fields, with their population of bird, beast, and insect,
so dear to his heart and his imagination. Slipping away from theology
and law, he passed ten years, from twenty-three to thirty-three, in
seeming indolence, a "bon garçon," irreclaimably wayward as regards
worldly affairs, but already drawing in to himself all that fed his
genius, all sights and sounds of nature, all the lore of old poets,
story-tellers, translators, and already practising his art of verse.
Nothing that was not natural to him, and wholly to his liking, would
he or could he do; but happily he was born to write perfect verses,
and the labour of the artist was with him an instinct and a delight.
He allowed himself to be married to a pretty girl of fifteen, and
presently forgot that he had a wife and child, drifted away, and agreed
in 1659 to a division of goods; but his carelessness and egoism were
without a touch of malignity, those of an overgrown child rather than
of a man.

In 1654 he published a translation of the _Eunuch_ of Terence of small
worth, and not long after was favoured with the patronage of Fouquet,
the superintendant of finance. To him La Fontaine presented his
_Adonis_, a narrative poem, graceful, picturesque, harmonious,
expressing a delicate feeling for external nature rarely to be found
in poetry of the time, and reviving some of the bright Renaissance
sense of antiquity. The genius of France is united in La Fontaine's
writings with the genius of Greece. But the verses written by command
for Fouquet are laboured and ineffective. His ill-constructed and
unfinished _Songe de Vaux_, partly in prose, partly in verse, was
designed to celebrate his patron's Château de Vaux.

Far happier than this is the poem in dialogue _Clymène_, a dramatic
fantasy, in which Apollo on Mount Parnassus learns by the aid of the
Muses the loves of Acante (La Fontaine) and Clymène (Madame X ...),
a rural beauty, whom the god had seen wandering on the banks of
Hippocrene. On the fall of his magnificent patron La Fontaine did
not desert him, pleading in his _Élégie aux Nymphes de Vaux_ on behalf
of the disgraced minister. As a consequence, the poet retired for
a time from Paris to banishment at Limoges. But in 1664 he is again
in Paris or at Château-Thierry, his native place, where the Duchesse
de Bouillon, niece of Mazarin, young, gay, pleasure-loving, bestowed
on him a kind protection. His tedious paraphrase of _Psyché_, and
the poem _Quinquina_, in which he celebrates the recovery from illness
of the Duchess, were performances of duty and gratitude rather than
of native impulse; but the tendencies of her salon, restrained neither
by the proprieties of the classical doctrine in literature nor those
of religious strictness, may have encouraged him to the production
of his _Contes_.

In Paris, from 1661 to 1664 joyous meetings took place in Boileau's
rooms in the Rue du Colombier of a distinguished group, which included
Molière, Chapelle, Racine, and La Fontaine. La Fontaine, the
_bonhomme_, who escaped from the toil of conversation which did not
interest him in shy or indolent taciturnity, could be a charming
talker with companions of his choice. Probably to Boileau's urgency
is due the first original publication of La Fontaine, a little volume
of _Nouvelles en Vers_ (1664-1665), containing the _Joconde_, a tale
from Ariosto, and a comic story versified from Boccaccio. Almost
immediately there followed a collection of ten _Contes_, with the
author's name upon the title-page, and at various later dates were
published added tales, until five parts completed the series. The
success was great, but great also was the scandal, for the _bonhomme_,
drawing from Boccaccio, the Heptameron, the Cent Nouvelles nouvelles,
Rabelais, Petronius, Athenæus, and other sources, had exhibited no
more regard for decency than that which bestows the graces of
lightness, brightness, wit, and gaiety upon indecency. His unabashed
apology was that the artistic laws of the _conte_ obliged him to
decline the laws of modesty; and among those who applauded his tales
were the Duchess de Bouillon and Mme. de Sévigné. It is indeed
impossible not to applaud their skill in rapid and easy narrative,
and the grace, freedom, and spontaneity of the verse.

The first six books of the _Fables_ appeared in 1668; the next five
in two parts, in 1678 and 1679; the twelfth and last book in 1694.
When the _Psyché_ was published, soon after the first group of the
_Fables_, the prose and verse were placed in a graceful setting, which
tells of the converse of the author with his friends Boileau, Racine,
and Molière (or possibly Chapelle) in the midst of the unfinished
gardens of Versailles, where the author of _Psyché_, named happily
Polyphile (for he loved many things, and among them his friends),
will read his romance for his literary comrades.

   "_J'aime le jeu, l'amour, les livres, la musique,
    La ville et la campagne, enfin tout: il n'est rien
        Qui ne me soit souverain bien
    Jusq'aux sombres plaisirs d'un coeur mélancolique._"

Some of his friends before long had passed away, but others came to
fill their places. For many years he was cared for and caressed by
the amiable and cultivated Mme. de Sablière, and when she dismissed
other acquaintances she still kept "her dog, her cat, and her La
Fontaine." The Academy would have opened its doors to him sooner than
to Boileau, but the King would not have it so, and he was admitted
(1684) only when he had promised Louis XIV. henceforth to be _sage_.
When Mme. de Sablière died, Hervart, maître des requêtes, one day
offered La Fontaine the hospitality of his splendid house. "I was
on my way there," replied the poet. After a season of conversion,
in which he expressed penitence for his "infamous book" of _Contes_,
the _bonhomme_ tranquilly died in April 1693. "He is so simple," said
his nurse, "that God will not have courage to damn him." "He was the
most sincere and candid soul," wrote his friend Maucroix, who had
been intimate with him for more than fifty years, "that I have ever
known; never a disguise; I don't know that he spoke an untruth in
all his life."

All that is best in the genius of La Fontaine may be found in his
_Fables_. The comedies in which he collaborated, the _Captivité de
Saint Malc_, written on the suggestion of the Port-Royalists, the
miscellaneous poems, though some of these are admirable, even the
_Contes_, exhibit only a fragment of his mind; in the _Fables_ the
play of his faculties is exquisite, and is complete. His imagination
was unfitted for large and sustained creation; it operated most
happily in a narrow compass. The _Fables_, however, contain much in
little; they unite an element of drama and of lyric with narrative;
they give scope to his feeling for nature, and to his gift for the
observation of human character and society; they form, as he himself
has said--

   "_Une ample comédie à cents actes divers
    Et dont la scène est l'univers._"

He had not to invent his subjects; he found them in all the fabulists
who had preceded him--Greek, Latin, Oriental, elder French
writers--"j'en lis qui sont du Nord et qui sont du Midi;" but he may
be said to have recreated the species. From an apologue, tending to
an express moral, he converted the fable into a _conte_, in which
narrative, description, observation, satire, dialogue have an
independent value, and the moral is little more than an accident.
This is especially true of the midmost portion of the collection--Books
vii.-ix.--which appeared ten years after the earliest group. He does
not impose new and great ideas on the reader; he does not interpret the
deepest passions; he takes life as he sees it, as an entertaining
comedy, touched at times with serious thought, with pathos, even with
melancholy, but in the main a comedy, which teaches us to smile at the
vanities, the follies, the egoisms of mankind, and teaches us at the
same time something of tenderness and pity for all that is gentle or
weak. His morality is amiable and somewhat epicurean, a morality of
indulgence, of moderation, of good sense. His eye for what is
characteristic and picturesque in animal life is infallible; but his
humanised wild creatures are also a playful, humorous, ironical
presentation of mankind and of the society of his own day, from the
grand monarch to the bourgeois or the lackey.

La Fontaine's language escapes from the limitations of the classical
school of the seventeenth century; his manifold reading in elder
French literature enriched his vocabulary; he seems to light by
instinct upon the most exact and happiest word. Yet we know that the
perfection of his art was attained only as the result of untiring
diligence; indolent and careless as he was in worldly affairs, he
was an indefatigable craftsman in poetry. His verse is as free as
it is fine; it can accomplish whatever it intends; now it is light
and swift, but when needful it can be grave and even magnificent:

   "_Aurait-il imprimé sur le front des étoiles
    Ce que la nuit des temps enferme dans ses voiles?_"

It is verse which depends on no mechanical rules imposed from without;
its life and movement come from within, and the lines vary, like a
breeze straying among blossoms, with every stress or relaxation of
the writer's mood. While La Fontaine derives much from antiquity,
he may be regarded as incarnating more than any other writer of his
century the genius of France, exquisite in the proportion of his
feeling and the expression of feeling to its source and cause. If
we do not name him, with some of his admirers, "the French Homer,"
we may at least describe him, with Nisard, as a second Montaigne,
"mais plus doux, plus aimable, plus naïf que le premier," and with
all the charm of verse superadded.



CHAPTER VI
COMEDY AND TRAGEDY--MOLIÈRE--RACINE


I

The history of comedy, from Larivey to Molière, is one of arrested
development, followed by hasty and ill-regulated growth. During the
first twenty-five years of the seventeenth century, comedy can hardly
be said to have existed; whatever tended to beauty or elevation, took
the form of tragi-comedy or pastoral; what was rude and popular became
a farce. From the farce Molière's early work takes its origin, but
of the repertory of his predecessors little survives. Much, indeed,
in these performances was left to the improvisation of the burlesque
actors. Gros-Guillaume, Gaultier-Garguille, Turlupin, Tabarin,
rejoiced the heart of the populace; but the _farces tabariniques_
can hardly be dignified with the name of literature.

In 1632 the comedy of intrigue was advanced by Mairet in his
_Galanteries du Duc d'Ossone_. The genius of Rotrou, follower though
he was of Plautus, tended towards the tragic; if he is really gay,
it is in _La Soeur_ (1645), a bright tangle of extravagant incidents.
For Rotrou the drama of Italy supplied material; the way to the Spanish
drama was opened by d'Ouville, the only writer of the time devoted
specially to comedy, in _L'Esprit Follet_ (1641); once opened, it
became a common highway. Scarron added to his Spanish originals in
_Jodelet_ and _Don Japhet d'Arménie_ his own burlesque humour. The
comedy of contemporary manners appears with grace and charm in
Corneille's early plays; the comedy of character, in his admirable
_Le Menteur_. Saint-Évremond satirised literary affectations in _La
Comédie des Académistes_; these and other follies of the time are
presented with spirit in Desmaret's remarkable comedy, _Les
Visionnaires_. If we add, for sake of its study of the peasant in
the character of Mathieu Gareau, the farcical _Pédant Joué_ of Cyrano,
we have named the most notable comedies of the years which preceded
_Les Précieuses Ridicules_.

Their general character is extravagance of resources in the plot,
extravagance of conception in the characters. Yet in both intrigue
and characters there is a certain monotony. The same incidents,
romantic and humorous, are variously mingled to produce the
imbroglio; the same typical characters--the braggart, the parasite,
the pedant, the extravagant poet, the amorous old man, the designing
woman, the knavish valet, the garrulous nurse--play their mirthful
parts. If the types are studied from real life rather than adopted
from Italian or Spanish models, they are exaggerated to absurdity.
Corneille alone is distinguished by delicacy of imagination and the
finer touch of a dexterous artist.

JEAN-BAPTISTE POQUELIN, who, when connected with the stage, named
himself MOLIÈRE, was born in January 1622, in Paris, the son of a
prosperous upholsterer, Jean Poquelin, and Marie Cressé, his wife.
Educated at the Collège de Clermont, he had among his fellow-pupils
the Prince de Conti, Chapelle, the future poet Hesnault, the future
traveller Bernier. There seems to be no sufficient reason to doubt
that he and some of his friends afterwards received lessons in
philosophy from Gassendi, whose influence must have tended to loosen
him from the traditional doctrines, and to encourage independence
of thought. A translation by Molière of the great poem of Lucretius
has been lost, but a possible citation from it appears in the second
act of the _Misanthrope_. Legal studies followed those of philosophy.
But Molière had other ends in view than either those of an advocate
or of the hereditary office of upholsterer to the King. In 1643, at
the age of twenty-one, he decided to throw in his lot with the
theatrical company in which Madeleine Béjart and her brothers were
leading members. The _Illustre Théâtre_ was constituted, but Paris
looked askance at the illustrious actors; debt, imprisonment, and
release through friendly aid, formed the net result of Molière's first
experiment.

The troupe decided at the close of 1645 or in the early days of the
following year to try their fortune in the provinces. It is needless
to follow in detail their movements during twelve years--twelve years
fruitful in experience for one who observed life with keenest eyes,
years of toil, in which the foundations of his art were laid. At Lyons,
probably in 1655, possibly in 1653, a comedy, founded on the Italian
of Nicolo Barbieri, _L'Étourdi_, saw the light, and Molière revealed
himself as a poet. Young Lélie, the _Étourdi_, is enamoured of the
beautiful Célie, whom the merchant Trufaldin, old and rich, has
purchased from corsairs. Lélie's valet Mascarille, who is the life
of the play, invents stratagem on stratagem to aid the lover, and
is for ever foiled by his master's indiscretions, until the inevitable
happy dénouement arrives. The romantic intrigue is conventional; the
charm is in the vivacity and colour of the style. In 1656 _Le Dépit
Amoureux_ was given with applause at Béziers; much is derived from
the Italian of Secchi, something perhaps from Terence; the tender
scenes of lovers' quarrels and lovers' reconciliation, contrasting
with the franker comedy of the loves of waiting-maid and valet, still
live, if the rest of the play be little remembered.

The years of apprenticeship were over when, in 1658, Molière and his
company once more in Paris presented, by command, before the King,
Corneille's _Nicomède_, and, leave being granted, gave his farce in
the Italian style, the _Docteur Amoureux_, before pleased spectators.
The company was now the troupe of Monsieur, the King's brother, with
the Petit-Bourbon as theatre, and there, in November 1659, was enacted
Molière's first satiric play on contemporary manners, _Les
Précieuses Ridicules_. We do not need the legendary old man crying
from the pit "Courage, Molière! voilà la bonne comédie" to assure
us that the comic stage possessed at length a masterpiece. The
dramatist had himself known the précieuses of the provinces; through
them he might with less danger exhibit the follies of the Hôtel de
Rambouillet and the _ruelles_ of the capital. The good bourgeois
Gorgibus is induced by his niece and daughter, two précieuses, to
establish himself in Paris. Their aspirant lovers, unversed in the
affectations of the salon, are slighted and repelled; in revenge they
employ their valets, Mascarille and Jodelet, to play the parts of
men of fashion and of taste. The exposure and confusion of the ladies,
with an indignant rebuke from Gorgibus, close the piece. It was a
farce raised to the dignity of comedy. Molière's triumph was the
triumph of good sense.

After a success in _Sganarelle_ (1660), a broad comedy of vulgar
jealousy, and a decided check--the only one in his dramatic career--in
the somewhat colourless tragi-comedy _Don Garcie de Navarre_ (1661),
Molière found a theme, suggested by the Adelphi of Terence, which
was happily suited to his genius. _L'École des Maris_ (1661) contrasts
two methods of education--one suspicious and severe, the other wisely
indulgent. Two brothers, Ariste and Sganarelle, seek the hands of
their wards, the orphan sisters Isabelle and Léonor; the amiable
Ariste, aided by the good sense of a gay soubrette, is rewarded with
happiness; the vexatious Sganarelle is put to confusion. The drama
is a plea, expressing the writer's personal thoughts, for nature and
for freedom. The comedy of manners is here replaced by the comedy
of character. Its success suggested to Fouquet that Molière might
contribute to the amusement of the King at the fêtes of the Château
de Vaux; in fifteen days the dramatist had his bright improvisation
_Les Fâcheux_ ready, a series of character sketches in scenes rather
than a comedy. The King smiled approval, and, it was whispered, hinted
to Molière that another bore might with advantage be added to the
collection--the sportsman whose talk shall be of sport. At
Fontainebleau he duly appeared before his Majesty, and unkind
spectators recognised a portrait of the Marquis de Soyecourt.

Next February (1662) Molière, aged forty, was married to the actress
Armande Béjart, whose age was half his own--a disastrous union, which
caused him inexpressible anxiety and unhappiness. In _L'École des
Femmes_ of the same year he is wiser than he had shown himself in
actual life. Arnolphe would train a model wife from childhood by the
method of jealous seclusion and in infantile ignorance; but love,
in the person of young Horace, finds out a way. There is pathos in
the anguish of Arnolphe; yet it is not the order of nature that
middle-aged folks should practise perverting arts upon innocent
affections. The charming Agnès belongs of right to Horace, and the
over-wise, and therefore foolish, Arnolphe must quit the scene with
his despairing cry. Some matter of offence was found by the devout
in Molière's play; it was the opening of a long campaign; the
_précieuses_, the dainty gentle-folk, the critical disciples of
Aristotle, the rival comedians, were up in arms. Molière for the
occasion ignored the devout; upon the others he made brilliant
reprisals in _La Critique de l'École des Femmes_ (1663) and
_L'Impromptu de Versailles_ (1663).

Among those who war against nature and human happiness, not the least
dangerous foe is the religious hypocrite. On May 12, 1664, Molière
presented before the King the first three acts of his great
character-comedy _Tartufe_. Instantly Anne of Austria and the King's
confessor, now Archbishop of Paris, set to work; the public
performance of "The Hypocrite" was inhibited; a savage pamphlet was
directed against its author by the curé of Saint-Barthélemy. Private
representations, however, were given; _Tartufe_, in five acts, was
played in November in presence of the great Condé. In 1665 Molière's
company was named the servants of the King; two years later a verbal
permission was granted for the public performance of the play. It
appeared under the title of _L'Imposteur_; the victory seemed won,
when again, and without delay, the blow fell; by order of the President,
M. de Lamoignon, the theatre was closed. Molière bore up courageously.
The King was besieging Lille; Molière despatched two of his comrades
to the camp, declaring that if the Tartufes of France should carry
all before them he must cease to write. The King was friendly, but
the Archbishop fulminated threats of excommunication against any one
who should even read the play. At length in 1669, when circumstances
were more favourable, Louis XIV. granted the desired permission; in
its proper name Molière's play obtained complete freedom. Bourdaloue
might still pronounce condemnation; Bossuet might draw terrible
morals from the author's sudden death; an actor, armed with the sword
of the comic spirit, had proved victorious. And yet the theologians
were not wholly wrong; the tendency of Molière's teaching, like that
of Rabelais and like that of Montaigne, is to detach morals from
religion, to vindicate whatever is natural, to regard good sense and
good feeling as sufficient guides of conduct.

There is an accent of indignation in the play; the follies of men
and women may be subjects of sport; base egoism assuming the garb
of religion deserves a lash that draws the blood. Is it no act of
natural piety to defend the household against the designs of greedy
and sensual imposture; no service to society to quicken the
penetration of those who may be made the dupes of selfish craft? While
Organ and his mother are besotted by the gross pretensions of the
hypocrite, while the young people contend for the honest joy of life,
the voice of philosophic wisdom is heard through the sagacious Cléante,
and that of frank good sense through the waiting-maid, Dorine.
Suddenly a providence, not divine but human, intervenes in the
representative of the monarch and the law, and the criminal at the
moment of triumph is captured in his own snare.

When the affair of _Tartufe_ was in its first tangle, Molière produced
a kind of dramatic counterpart--_Don Juan, ou le Festin de Pierre_
(1665). In Don Juan--whose valet Sganarelle is the faithful critic
of his master--the dramatist presented one whose cynical incredulity
and scorn of all religion are united with the most complete moral
licence; but hypocrisy is the fashion of the day, and Don Juan in
sheer effrontery will invest himself for an hour in the robe of a
penitent. Atheist and libertine as he is, there is a certain glamour
of reckless courage about the figure of his hero, recreated by Molière
from a favourite model of Spanish origin. His comedy, while a vigorous
study of character, is touched with the light of romance.

These are masterpieces; but neither _Tartufe_ nor _Don Juan_
expresses so much of the mind of Molière as does _Le Misanthrope_
(1666). His private griefs, his public warfare, had doubtless a little
hardened and a little embittered his spirit. In many respects it is
a sorry world; and yet we must keep on terms with it. The misanthropist
Alceste is nobly fanatical on behalf of sincerity and rectitude. How
does his sincerity serve the world or serve himself? And he, too,
has his dose of human folly, for is he not enamoured of a heartless
coquette? Philinte is accommodating, and accepts the world for what
it is; and yet, we might ask, is there not a more settled misanthropy
in such cynical acquiescence than there is in the intractable virtue
of Alceste? Alone of Molière's plays, _Le Misanthrope_ has that
Shakespearean obscurity which leaves it open to various
interpretations. It is idle to try to discover actual originals for
the characters. But we may remember that when Alceste cried to
Célimène, "C'est pour mes péchés que je vous aime," the actors who
stood face to face were Molière and the wife whom he now met only
on the stage.

Molière's genius could achieve nothing higher than _Tartufe_ and the
_Misanthrope_. His powers suffered no decline, but he did not again
put them to such strenuous uses. In 1668 the brilliant fantasy of
_Amphitryon_, freely derived from Plautus, was succeeded by an
admirable comedy in prose, _Georges Dandin_, in which the folly of
unequal marriage between the substantial farmer and the fine lady
is mocked with bitter gaiety. Before the year closed Molière,
continuing to write in prose, returned to Plautus, and surpassed him
in _L'Avare_. To be rich and miserly is in itself a form of fatuity;
but Harpagon is not only miserly but amorous, as far as a ruling
passion will admit one of subordinate influence. _Le Bourgeois
Gentilhomme_ (1670), a lesson of good sense to those who suffer from
the social ambition to rise above their proper rank, is wholly
original; it mounts in the close from comedy to the extravagance of
farce, and perhaps in the uproarious laughter of the play we may
discover a touch of effort or even of spasm. The operatic _Psyché_
(1671) is memorable as having combined the talents of Molière,
Corneille, and Quinault, with the added musical gifts of Lulli.

In _Les Femmes Savantes_ (1672) Molière returned to an early theme,
with variations suited to the times. The Hôtel de Rambouillet was
closed; the new tribe of _précieuses_ had learnt the Cartesian
philosophy, affected the sciences, were patronesses of physics,
astronomy, anatomy. Something of the old romantic follies survived,
and mingled strangely with the pretensions to science and the
pedantries of erudition. Trissotin (doubtless a portrait in
caricature from the Abbé Cotin) is the Tartufe of spurious culture;
Vadius (a possible satire of Ménage) is a pedant, arrogant and brutal.
Shall the charming Henriette be sacrificed to gratify her mother's
domineering temper and the base designs of an impostor? The forces
are arrayed on either side; the varieties of learned and elegant folly
in woman are finely distinguished; of the opposite party are Chrysale,
the bourgeois father with his rude common-sense; the sage Ariste;
the faithful servant, Martine, whose grammar may be faulty, but whose
wit is sound and clear; and Henriette herself, the adorable, whom
to know is more of a liberal education than to have explored all the
Greek and Latin masters of Vadius and Trissotin. The final issue of
the encounter between good sense, good nature, reason and folly,
pedantry and pride, cannot be uncertain.

_Le Malade Imaginaire_ was written when Molière was suffering from
illness; but his energy remained indomitable. The comedy continued
that long polemic against the medical faculty which he had sustained
in _L'Amour Médecin_, _Monsieur de Pourceaugnac_, and other plays.
Molière had little faith in any art which professes to mend nature;
the physicians were the impostors of a learned hygiene. It was the
dramatist's last jest at the profession. While playing the part of
Argan on February 17, 1673, the "Malade Imaginaire" fell dying on
the stage; he forced a laugh, but could not continue his part; at
ten o'clock he was no more. Through the exertions of his widow a
religious funeral was permitted to an actor who had died unfortified
by the rites of the Church.

Many admirable though slighter pieces served as the relief of his
mind between the effort of his chief works. In all, gaiety and good
sense interpenetrate each other. Kindly natured and generous,
Molière, a great observer, who looked through the deeds of men, was
often taciturn--_le contemplateur_ of Boileau--and seemingly
self-absorbed. Like many persons of artistic temperament, he loved
splendour of life; but he was liberal in his largess to those who
claimed his help. He brought comedy to nature, and made it a study
of human life. His warfare was against all that is unreal and unnatural.
He preached the worth of human happiness, good sense, moderation,
humorous tolerance. He does not indulge in heroics, and yet there
is heroism in his courageous outlook upon things. The disciple of
Molière cannot idealise the world into a scene of fairyland; he will
conceive man as far from perfect, perhaps as far from perfectible;
but the world is our habitation; let us make it a cheerful one with
the aid of a sane temper and an energetic will. As a writer, Molière
is not free from faults; but his defects of style are like the
accidents that happen within the bounds of a wide empire. His stature
is not diminished when he is placed among the greatest European
figures. "I read some pieces of Molière's every year," said Goethe,
"just as from time to time I contemplate the engravings after the
great Italian masters. For we little men are not able to retain the
greatness of such things within ourselves."

To study the contemporaries and immediate successors of Molière in
comedy--Thomas Corneille, Quinault, Montfleury, Boursault,
Baron--would be to show how his genius dominates that of all his
fellows. The reader may well take this fact for granted.[1]

[Footnote 1: An excellent guide will be found in Victor Fournel's
_Le Théâtre au xvii. Siècle, La Comédie_.]


II

With the close of the sanguinary follies of the Fronde, with the
inauguration of the personal government of Louis XIV. and the triumph
of an absolute monarchy, a period of social and political
reorganisation began. The court became the centre for literature;
to please courtiers and great ladies was to secure prosperity and
fame; the arts of peace were magnificently ordered; the conditions
were favourable to ideals of grace and beauty rather than of proud
sublimity; to isolate one's self was impossible; literature became
the pastime of a cultivated society; it might be a trivial pastime,
but in fitting hands it might become a noble pleasure.

The easier part was chosen by PHILIPPE QUINAULT, the more arduous
by Racine. Quinault (1635-88) had given his first comedy as early
as 1653; in tragedies and tragi-comedies which followed, he heaped
up melodramatic incidents, but could not base them upon characters
strongly conceived, or passion truly felt. A frigid sentimentality
replaces passion, and this is expressed with languorous monotony.
Love reigns supreme in his theatre; but love, as interpreted by
Quinault, is a kind of dulcet gallantry. His tragedy _Astrate_ (1663)
was not the less popular because its sentiment was in the conventional
mode. One comedy by Quinault, _La Mère Coquette_, is happy in its
plot and in its easy style. But he did not find his true direction
until he declined--or should we rather say, until he rose?--into the
librettist for the operas of Lulli. His lyric gifts were considerable;
he could manipulate his light and fragile material with extraordinary
skill. The tests of truth and reality were not applied to such verse;
if it was decorative, the listeners were satisfied. The opera
flourished, and literature suffered through its pseudo-poetics. But
the libretti of Quinault and the ballets of Benserade are
representative of the time, and in his mythological or chivalric
inventions Benserade sometimes could attain to the poetry of graceful
fantasy.

Quinault retired from the regular drama almost at the moment when
Racine appeared. Born at La Ferté-Milon in 1639, son of a procureur
and comptroller of salt, JEAN RACINE lost both parents while a child.
His widowed grandmother retired to Port-Royal in 1649. After six
years' schooling at Beauvais the boy passed into the tutelage of the
Jansenists, and among his instructors was the devout and learned
Nicole. Solitude, religion, the abbey woods, Virgil, Sophocles,
Euripides--these were the powers that fostered his genius. Already
he was experimenting in verse. At nineteen he continued his studies
in Paris, where the little abbé Le Vasseur, who knew the _salons_
and haunted the theatre, introduced him to mundane pleasures.
Racine's sensitive, mobile character could easily adapt itself to
the world. His ode on the marriage of the King, _La Nymphe de la Seine_,
corrected by Chapelain (for to bring Tritons into a river was highly
improper), won him a gift of louis d'or. But might not the world
corrupt the young Port-Royalist's innocence? The company of ladies
of the Marais Theatre and that of La Fontaine might not tend to
edification. So thought Racine's aunts; and, with the expectation
that he would take orders, he was exiled to Uzès, where his uncle
was vicar-general, and where the nephew could study the _Summa_ of
theology, but also the Odyssey, the odes of Pindar, Petrarch, and
the pretty damsels who prayed in the cathedral church.

In 1663 he was again in Paris, was present at royal levées, and in
Boileau's chambers renewed his acquaintance with La Fontaine, and
became a companion of Molière. His vocation was not that of an
ecclesiastic. Two dramatic works of earlier date are lost; his first
piece that appeared before the public, _La Thébaïde_, was presented
in 1664 by Molière's company. It is a tragedy written in discipleship
to Rotrou and to Corneille, and the pupil was rather an imitator of
Corneille's infirmities than of his excellences. _Alexandre_
followed towards the close of the ensuing year--a feeble play, in
which the mannered gallantry of the time was liberally transferred
to the kings of India and their Macedonian conqueror. But amorous
sighs were the mode, and there was a young grand monarch who might
discover himself in the person of the magnanimous hero. The success
was great, though Saint-Évremond pronounced his censures, and
Corneille found ridiculous the trophies erected upon the imagined
ruins of his own. Discontented with the performers at the Palais-Royal,
Racine offered his play to the Hôtel de Bourgogne; Molière's best
actress seceded to the rival house. Racine's ambition may excuse,
but cannot justify an injurious act; a breach between the friends
was inevitable.

Boileau remained now, as ever, loyal--loyal for warning as well as
for encouragement. Nicole, the former guide of Racine's studies, in
his _Visionnaires_, had spoken of dramatic poets as "public
poisoners." The reproach was taken to himself by Racine, and in two
letters, written with some of the spirit of the _Provinciales_, he
turned his wit against his Jansenist friends. Thanks to Boileau's
wise and firm counsel, the second of these remained unpublished.

Madame de Sévigné was the devoted admirer of the great Corneille,
but when she witnessed his young rival's _Andromaque_ she yielded
to its pathos six reluctant tears. On its first appearance in 1667
a triumph almost equal to that of the _Cid_ was secured. Never before
had grace and passion, art and nature, ideality and truth, been so
united in the theatre of France. Racine did not seek for novelty in
the choice of a subject; Euripides had made Andromache familiar to
the Greek stage. The invention of Racine was of a subtler kind than
that which manufactures incidents and constructs a plot. Like Raphael
in the art of painting, he could accept a well-known theme and renew
it by the finest processes of genius. He did not need an extraordinary
action, or personages of giant proportions; the simpler the intrigue,
the better could he concentrate the interest on the states of a soul;
the more truly and deeply human the characters, the more apt were
they for betraying the history of a passion. In its purity of outline,
its harmony of proportions, _Andromaque_ was Greek; in its sentiment,
it gained something from Christian culture; in its manners, there
was a certain reflection of the Versailles of Louis XIV. It was at
once classical and modern, and there was no discordance between
qualities which had been rendered, to borrow a word from Shakespeare,
"harmonious charmingly." With _Andromaque_ French tragedy ceased to
be oratorical, and became essentially poetic.

Adversaries there were, such as success calls forth; the irritable
poet retorted with epigrams of a kind which multiply and perpetuate
enmities. His true reprisal was another work, _Britannicus_,
establishing his fame in another province of tragedy. But before
_Britannicus_ appeared he had turned aside, as if his genius needed
recreation, to produce the comedy, or farce, or buffoonery, or
badinage, or mockery (for it is all these), _Les Plaideurs_. It may
be that his failure in a lawsuit moved Racine to have his jest at
the gentlemen of the Palais; he and his friends of the tavern of the
_Mouton Blanc_--Furetière among them--may have put their wits
together to devise material for laughter, and discussed how far _The
Wasps_ of Aristophanes could be acclimatised in Paris. At first the
burlesque was meant for an Italian troupe, but Scaramouche left the
town, and something more carefully developed would be expected at
the Hôtel de Bourgogne. The play was received with hisses, but Molière
did not fear to laugh at what was comic, whether he laughed according
to the rules or against them. A month later, at a court performance,
Louis XIV. laughed loudly; the courtiers quickly discovered Racine's
wit, and the laughter was echoed by all loyal citizens. In truth,
there is laughing matter in the play; the professional enthusiasm
of Dandin, the judge, who wears his robe and cap even in bed, the
rage and rapture of litigation in Chicanneau and the Countess, have
in them something of nature beneath the caricature; in the buffoonery
there is a certain extravagant grace.

_Les Plaideurs_, however, was only an interlude between graver
efforts. _Britannicus_ (1669), founded on the Annals of Tacitus,
exhibits with masterly power Nero's adolescence in crime; the young
tiger has grace and strength, but the instinct of blood needs only
to be awakened within him. Agrippine is a superb incarnation of
womanly ambition, a Roman sister of Athalie. The play was at first
coldly received; Corneille and his cabal did not spare their censures.
In a preface Racine struck back, but afterwards repented of his bitter
words and withdrew them. The critics, as he says in a later preface,
disappeared; the piece remained. His conception of tragedy in
contrast with that of Corneille was defined by him in memorable
words--what is natural should be sought rather than what is
extraordinary; the action should be simple, "chargée de peu de
matière"; it should advance gradually towards the close, sustained
by the interests, sentiments, and passions of the personages.

The sprightly Henrietta of England, Duchess of Orleans, seems to have
conceived the idea of bringing the rivalry between the old dramatic
poet and his young successor to a decisive test. She proposed to each,
without the other's knowledge, a subject for a tragedy--the parting,
for reasons of State policy, of two royal lovers, Titus, Emperor of
Rome, and Bérénice, Queen of Palestine. Perhaps Henrietta
mischievously thought of the relations of her friend Marie de Mancini
with Louis XIV. The plays appeared almost simultaneously in November
1670; Corneille's was before long withdrawn; Racine's _Bérénice_,
in which the penetrating voice of La Champmeslé interpreted the
sorrows of the heroine, obtained a triumph. Yet the elegiac subject
is hardly suited to tragedy; a situation rather than an action is
presented; it needed all the poet's resources to prevent the scenes
from being stationary. In Bérénice there is a suavity in grief which
gives a grace to her passion; the play, if not a drama of power, is
the most charming of elegiac tragedies.

_Bajazet_ (1672), a tragedy of the seraglio, although the rôle of
the hero is feeble, has virile qualities. The fury of Eastern passion,
a love resembling hate, is represented in the Sultana Roxane. In the
Vizier Acomat, deliberate in craft, intrepid in danger, Racine proved,
as he proved by his Nero and his Joad, that he was not always doomed
to fail in his characters of men. The historical events were
comparatively recent; but in the perspective of the theatre, distance
may produce the idealising effect of time. The story was perhaps found
by Racine in _Floridon_, a tale by Segrais. The heroine of
_Mithridate_ (1673), the noble daughter of Ephesus, Monime, queen
and slave, is an ideal of womanly love, chastity, fidelity, sacrifice;
gentle, submissive, and yet capable of lofty courage. The play unites
the passions of romance with a study of large political interests
hardly surpassed by Corneille. The cabal which gathered head against
_Bajazet_ could only whisper its malignities when _Mithridate_
appeared.

_Iphigénie_, which is freely imitated from Euripides, was given at
the fêtes of Versailles in the summer of 1674. The French Iphigenia
is enamoured of Achilles, and death means for her not only departure
from the joy of youth and the light of the sun, but the loss of love.
Here, as elsewhere, Racine complicates the moral situation with cross
and counter loves: Ériphile is created to be the jealous rival of
Iphigénie, and to be her substitute in the sacrifice of death. The
ingenious transpositions, which were necessary to adapt a Greek play
to Versailles in the second half of the seventeenth century, called
forth hostile criticisms. Through miserable intrigues a competing
_Iphigénie_, the work of Le Clerc and Coras, was produced in the spring
of 1675; it was born dead, and five days later it was buried.

The hostilities culminated two years later. It is commonly said that
Racine wrote in the conventional and courtly taste of his own day.
In reality his presentation of tragic passions in their terror and
their truth shocked the aristocratic proprieties which were the mode.
He was an innovator, and his audacity at once conquered and repelled.
It was known that Racine was engaged on _Phèdre_. The Duchesse de
Bouillon and her brother the Duc de Nevers were arbiters of elegance
in literature, and decreed that it should fail. A rival play on the
same subject was ordered from Pradon; and to insure her victory the
Duchess, at a cost of fifteen thousand livres, as Boileau declares,
engaged the front seats of two theatres for six successive
evenings--the one to be packed with applauding spectators, the other
to exhibit empty benches, diversified with creatures who could hiss.
Nothing could dignify Pradon's play, as nothing could really degrade
that of Racine. But Racine was in the highest degree sensitive, and
such a desperate plot against his fame might well make him pause and
reflect.

_Phèdre_, like _Iphigénie_, is a new creation from Euripides. Its
singular beauty has been accurately defined as a mingling of horror
and compassion, of terror and curiosity. It is less a drama than one
great part, and that part consists of a diseased state of the soul,
a morbid conflict of emotions, so that the play becomes overmuch a
study in the pathology of passion. The greatness of the rôle of the
heroine constitutes the infirmity of the play as a whole; the other
characters seem to exist only for the sake of deploying the inward
struggle of which Phèdre is the victim. Love and jealousy rage within
her; remorse follows, for something of Christian sentiment is
conveyed by Racine into his classical fable. Never had his power as
a psychologist in art been so wonderfully exhibited; yet he had
elsewhere attained more completely the ideal of the drama. In the
succession of his profane masterpieces we may say of the last that
it is lesser than the first and greater. _Phèdre_ lacks the balance
and proportion of _Andromaque_; but never had Racine exhibited the
tempest and ravage of passion in a woman's soul on so great a scale
or with force so terrible.

The cabal might make him pause; his own play, profoundly moralised
as it was, might cause him to consider. Events of the day, crimes
of passion, adulteries, poisonings, nameless horrors, might agitate
his spirit. Had he not fed the full-blown passions of the time? What
if Nicole's word that playwrights were public poisoners should be
true? Probably various causes operated on the mobile spirit of Racine;
certainly the Christian, of Jansenist education, who had slumbered
within him, now awakened. He resolved to quit the world and adopt
the Carthusian habit. The advice of his confessor was that he should
regulate his life by marriage. Racine yielded, and found his
contentment in a wife who was ignorant of his plays, and in children
whose inclinations and training were religious. The penitent was
happy in his household, happy also in his reconciliation with Nicole
and Arnauld. To Boileau he remained attached. And he did not renounce
the court. Was not the King the anointed vicegerent of God, who could
not be too much honoured? He accepted, with Boileau as fellow-labourer,
the position of the King's historiographer, and endeavoured to fulfil
its duties.

Twelve years after his withdrawal from the theatre, Racine, at the
request of Madame de Maintenon, composed his Biblical tragedy of
_Esther_ (1688-89) for her cherished schoolgirls at Saint-Cyr. The
subject was not unaptly chosen--a prudent and devout Esther now helped
to guide the fortunes of France, and she was surrounded at Saint-Cyr
by her chorus of young daughters of Sion. _Esther_ was rendered by
the pupils, with graceful splendours, before the King, and the delight
was great. The confidante of the Persian Queen indeed forgot her
words; at Racine's hasty complaint the young actress wept, and the
poet, weeping with her, wiped away her tears.

_Esther_ is a melodious play, exquisite in its refined style and
delicate versification; but the characters are faintly drawn. Its
novelty lay in its lyrical movements and in the poetical uses of its
finely-imagined spectacle. Madame de Maintenon or her directors
feared that the excitement and ambitions of another play in costume
might derange the spirits of her girls, and when _Athalie_ was recited
at Versailles, in January 1691, it was little of an event; the play
passed almost unnoticed. A noisy reception, indeed, would have been
no fitting tribute to its solemn beauty. All Racine's religious
feeling, all his domestic tenderness are united in _Athalie_ with
his matured feeling for Greek art. The great protagonist is the Divine
Being; Providence replaces the fate of the ancient drama. A child
(for Racine was still an innovator in the French theatre) was the
centre of the action; the interests were political, or rather national,
in the highest sense; the events were, as formerly, the developments
of inward character; but events and characters were under the
presiding care of God. The tragedy is lyrical, not merely through
the chorus, which expresses common emotions of devout joy and fear,
indignation, praise, and rapture. The chorus is less developed here,
and its chants are less impressive than in _Esther_. There is, however,
a lyrism, personal and modern, in the prophetic inspiration of the
High Priest, and Racine anticipated that his boldness in presenting
this might be censured by his contemporaries. The unity of place,
which had been disregarded in _Esther_, is here preserved; the scene
is the temple at Jerusalem; and by its impressive grandeur, and the
awful associations of the place, the spectacle may be said to take
part in the action of the play. Perhaps it would be no exaggeration
to assert that grandeur and beauty are nowhere else so united in French
dramatic art as in _Athalie_; perhaps it might truly be described
as flawless in majesty and grace.

A light disfavour of the King saddened, and perhaps hastened, the
close of Racine's life. Port-Royal was regarded as a centre of
rebellious heresy; and Racine's piety to his early masters was humble
and devout. He had further offended by drawing up a memorandum on
the sufferings of the French people resulting from the wars. Madame
de Maintenon assured him that the cloud would pass; but the favour
of death, accepted with tranquillity, came before the returning
favour of the poet's master. He died in April 1699, soon after he
had entered his sixtieth year.

The highest distinction of the drama of Racine is its truth to
nature--truth, that is, in its interpretation and rendering of human
passion. Historical accuracy and local colour concerned him as far
as they were needful with his courtly spectators for verisimilitude.
The fluctuations of passion he studies to most advantage in his
characters of women. Love, in all its varieties, from the passion
of Roxane or Phèdre to the pure devotion of Bérénice, Iphigénie, or
Monime; maternal tenderness or the tenderness of the foster-mother
(Andromaque, Clytemnestre, Josabeth); female ambition (Agrippine,
Athalie)--these are the themes of his exposition. His style has been
justly characterised as a continual creation; its audacity underlies
its suavity; its miracles are accomplished with the simplest means.
His vocabulary is singularly small, yet with such a vocabulary he
can attain the rarest effects. From sustained dignity he can pass
suddenly, when the need arises, to the most direct familiarity. The
music of his verse is seldom rich or sonorous; it is at once a pure
vehicle for the idea and a delicate caress to the senses.



CHAPTER VII
BOSSUET AND THE PREACHERS--FÉNELON


I

"A man set under authority"--these words, better than any other,
define Bossuet. Above him was God, represented in things spiritual
by the Catholic Church, in things temporal by the French monarchy;
below him were the faithful confided to his charge, and those who
would lead the faithful astray from the path of obedience and
tradition. Duty to what was above him, duty to those placed under
him, made up the whole of Bossuet's life. To maintain, to defend,
to extend the tradition he had received, was the first of duties.
All his powers as an orator, a controversialist, an educator were
directed to this object. He wrote and spoke to dominate the intellects
of men and to subdue their wills, not for the sake of personal power,
but for the truth as he had received it from the Church and from the
monarchy.

JACQUES-BÉNIGNE BOSSUET was born in 1627, at Dijon, of a middle-class
family, distinguished in the magistracy. In his education, pursued
with resolute ardour, the two traditions of Hellenism and Hebraism
were fused together: Homer and Virgil were much to him; but the Bible,
above all, nourished his imagination, his conscience, and his will.
The celebrity of his scholarship and the flatteries of Parisian
_salons_ did not divert him from his course. At twenty-five he was
a priest and a doctor of the Sorbonne. Six years were spent at Metz,
a city afflicted by the presence of Protestants and Jews, where
Bossuet fortified himself with theological studies, preached,
panegyrised the saints, and confuted heretics. His fame drew him to
Paris, where, during ten years, his sermons were among the great
events of the time. In 1669 he was named Bishop of Condom, but, being
appointed preceptor to the Dauphin, he resigned his bishopric, and
devoted himself to forming the mind of a pupil, indolent and dull,
who might one day be the vicegerent of God for his country. Bishop
of Meaux in 1681, he opened the assembly of French clergy next year
with his memorable sermon on the unity of the Church, and by his
authority carried, in a form decisive for freedom while respectful
towards Rome, the four articles which formulated the liberties of
the Gallican Church. The duties of his diocese, controversy against
Protestantism, the controversy against Quietism, in which Fénelon
was his antagonist, devotional writings, strictures upon the stage,
controversy against the enlightened Biblical criticism of Richard
Simon, filled his energetic elder years. He ceased from a life of
glorious labour and resolute combat in April 1704.

The works of Bossuet, setting aside his commentaries on Holy Scripture,
devotional treatises, and letters, fall into three chief groups: the
eloquence of the pulpit, controversial writings, and writings
designed for the instruction of the Dauphin.

Political eloquence could not exist where power was grasped by the
hands of one great ruler. Judicial eloquence lacked the breadth and
elevation which come with political freedom; it contented itself with
subtleties of argument, decked with artificial flowers of style. The
pulpit was the school of oratory. St. Vincent de Paul had preached
with unction and a grave simplicity, and Bossuet, his disciple, felt
his influence. But the offering which Bossuet laid upon the altar
must needs be costly, an offering of all his powers. While an
unalterable good sense regulates all he wrote, the sweep of his
intellect demanded plenitude of expression; his imagination, if it
dealt with life and death, must needs deal with them at times in the
way of magnificence, which was natural to it; and his lyrical
enthusiasm, fed by the prophetic poetry of the Old Testament, could
not but find an escape in words. He sought no literary fame; his
sermons were acts of faith, acts of duty. Out of the vast mass of
his discourses he printed one, a sermon of public importance--that
on the unity of the Church.

At the request of friends, some of the Funeral Orations were published.
These, with his address on the profession of Louise de La Vallière,
were all that could be read of Bossuet's pulpit oratory by his
contemporaries. His sermons were carefully meditated and prepared,
but he would not check his power of lofty improvisation by following
the words of a manuscript. After his death his papers had perilous
adventures. By the devotion of his first editor, Déforis, nearly two
hundred sermons were after many years recovered; later students have
presented them with as close an approximation as is possible to their
original form. Bossuet's first manner--that of the years at Metz--is
sometimes marred by scholastic subtleties, a pomp of quotations, too
curious imagery, and a temper rather aggressive than conciliating.
During the period when he preached in Paris he was master of all his
powers, which move with freedom and at the same time with a majestic
order; his grandeur grows out of simplicity. As Bishop of Meaux he
exhorted his flock out of the abundance of his heart, often without
the intermediary of written preparation.

He is primarily a doctor of the faith: dogma first, determined by
authority, and commending itself to human reason; morality, not
independent, but proceeding from or connected with dogma, and while
truly human yet resting upon divine foundations. But neither dogma
nor morals are presented in the manner of the schools; both are made
living powers by the preacher's awe, adoration, joy, charity,
indignation, pity; in the large ordonnance of his discourse each
passion finds its natural place. His eloquence grows out of his theme;
his logic is the logic of clear and natural ideas; he is lucid, rapid,
energetic; then suddenly some aspect of his subject awakens a lyrical
emotion, and the preacher rises into the prophet.

Bossuet's panegyrics of the saints are sermons in which doctrine and
morals are enforced by great examples. His _Oraisons Funèbres_ preach,
for the uses of the living, the doctrine of death. Nowhere else does
he so fill the mind with a sense of the greatness and the glory of
life as when he stands beside the bier and reviews the achievements
or presents the characters of the illustrious deceased. Observing
as he did all the decorum of the occasion, his discourses do not
degenerate into mere adulation; some are historic surveys,
magnificent in their breadth of view and mastery of events. He
presents things as he saw them, and he did not always see aright.
Cromwell is a hypocrite and an impostor; the revocation of the edict
of Nantes is the laudable act of a king who is a defender of the faith.
The intolerance of Bossuet proceeds not so much from his heart as
from the logic of his orthodoxy. His heart had a tenderness which
breaks forth in many places, and signally in the discourse occasioned
by the death of the Duchess of Orleans. This, and the eloquent
memorials of her mother, Henrietta, Queen of England, and of the
Prince de Condé, touch the heights and depths of the passions proper
to the grave.

Bossuet's polemic against Protestantism is sufficiently represented
by his _Exposition de la Doctrine Catholique_ (published 1671) and
the _Histoire des Variations des Églises Protestantes_ (1688). The
latter, in its fifteen books, is an attempt to overwhelm the
contending Protestant communions by one irresistible attack. Their
diversities of error are contrasted with the one, unchanging faith
of the infallible Church. Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, the
Albigenses, the Hussites, the Wicliffites are routed and slain, as
opponents are slain in theological warfare--to rise again. History
and theology co-operate in the result. The characters of the
Protestant Reformers are studied with a remorseless scrutiny, and
an art which can bring into relief what the work of art requires.
Why the children of the infallible Church rose up in disobedience
against their mother is left unexplained. The great heresy, Bossuet
was persuaded, had almost reached its term; the intellectual chaos
would soon be restored to universal order under the successors of
Innocent XI.

In the embittered controversy with his brother-Bishop of Cambrai,
on the significance of which the singular autobiography of Madame
Guyon[1] throws much light, Bossuet remained the victor. It was a
contention between dogmatic rectitude and the temper of emotional
religion. Bossuet was at first unversed in the writings of the
Catholic mystics. Being himself a fully-formed will, watchful and
armed for obedience and command--the "man under authority"--he
rightly divined the dangers to dogmatic faith arising from
self-abandonment to God within the heart. The elaborate structure
of orthodoxy seemed to dissolve in the ardour of a personal emotion;
it seemed to him another form of the individualism which he condemned.
The Church was a great objective reality; it had laid down a system
of belief. A love of God which ignored the method of God, was but
a spurious love, leading to destruction.

[Footnote 1: Translated into English for the first time in full, 1897,
by T. T. Allen.]

Protestant self-will, mystical private emotion--these were in turn
met by the champion of tradition, and, as he trusted, were subdued.
Another danger he perceived, not in the unregenerate will or wandering
heart, but in the critical intelligence. Bossuet again was right in
viewing with alarm the Biblical studies of Richard Simon. But his
scholarship was here defective. He succeeded in suppressing an
edition of the _Histoire Critique du Vieux Testament_. There were
printers in Holland beyond the reach of Bossuet's arm; and Simon
continued the work which others have carried further with the aids
of more exact science.

To doubt the government of His world by the Divine Ruler, who assigns
us our duty and our place, is to sap the principles of authority and
of obedience. The doctrine of God's providence is at the centre of
all Bossuet's system of thought, at the heart of his loyal passions.
On earth, the powers that be; in France, the monarch; in heaven, a
greater Monarch (we will not say a magnified Louis XIV.) presiding
over all the affairs of this globe. When Bossuet tried to educate
his indocile pupil the Dauphin, he taught him how God is above man,
as man is above the brute. Monarchy--as he showed in his _Politique
Tirée de l'Écriture Sainte_--is hereditary and absolute; but
absolute power is not arbitrary power; the King is God's subject,
and his laws must conform to those of his Divine Ruler. The _Discours
sur l'Histoire Universelle_ (1681) was written in the first instance
for the Dauphin; but its purpose was partly apologetic, and Bossuet,
especially in the second part of the book, had the errors of
free-thinkers--Spinoza and Simon--before his mind.

The seventeenth century had not contributed largely to historical
literature, save in the form of memoirs. Mézeray, in the first half
of the century, Fleury, in the second, cannot be ranked among those
writers who illuminate with profound and just ideas. The Cartesian
philosophy viewed historical studies with haughty indifference.
Bossuet's _Discours_ is a vindication of the ways of God in history,
a theology of human progress. He would exhibit the nations and
generations of human-kind bound each to each under the Providential
government. The life of humanity, from Adam to Charlemagne, is mapped
into epochs, ages, periods--the periods of nature, of the law, and
of grace. In religion is found the unity of human history. By religion
is meant Judaism and Christianity; by Christianity is meant the
Catholicism of Rome.

Having expounded the Divine policy in the government of the world,
Bossuet is free to study those secondary causes which have determined
the rise and fall of empires. With magisterial authority, and with
majestic skill, he presents the movements of races and peoples. His
sympathy with the genius of ancient Rome proceeds not only from his
comprehensive grasp of facts, but from a kinship between his own and
the Roman type of character. The magnificent design of Bossuet was
magnificently accomplished. He hoped to extend his studies, and apply
his method to other parts of his vast subject, but the hope was not
to be fulfilled. A disinterested student of the philosophy of history
he is not; he is the theologian who marshals facts under an accepted
dogma. A conception of Providence may indeed emerge from the
researches of a devout investigator of the life of humanity as their
last result; but towards that conception the secular life and the
various religions of the world will contribute; the ways of the Divine
Spirit will appear other than those of the anthropomorphic Ruler of
Bossuet's imagination. He was not an original thinker; he would have
scorned such a distinction--"l'hérétique est celui qui a une
opinion"; he had received the truth, and only gave it extended
applications. He is "le sublime orateur des idées communes."

More than an orator, before all else he was a combatant. Falling at
his post as the eighteenth century opened, he is like some majestic,
white-haired paladin of old romances which tell of the strife between
French chivalry and the Saracenic hordes. Bossuet fell; the age of
growing incredulity and novel faiths was inaugurated; the infidels
passed over the body of the champion of conservative tradition.


II

Bossuet's contemporaries esteemed him as a preacher less highly than
they esteemed the Jesuit Bourdaloue. The life of LOUIS BOURDALOUE
(1632-1704) is told in the words of Vinet: "He preached, confessed,
consoled, and then he died." It does credit to his hearers that they
valued him aright--a modest man of simple probity. He spoke, with
downcast eyes and full harmonious voice, as a soul to souls; his
eloquence was not that of the rhetorician; his words were grave and
plain and living, and were pressed home with the force of their reality.
He aimed never at display, but always at conviction. When the crowd
at St. Sulpice was moved as he entered the church and ascended the
pulpit, "Silence!" cried the Prince de Condé, "there is our enemy!"
Bourdaloue marshalled his arguments and expositions with the
elaborate skill of a tactician; he sought to capture the judgment;
he reached the heart through a wise director's knowledge of its inmost
processes. When his words were touched with emotion, it was the
involuntary manifestation of the life within him. His studies of
character sometimes tended to the form of portraits of moral types,
features in which could be identified with actual persons; but in
these he was the moralist, not the satirist. During four-and-thirty
years Bourdaloue distributed, to those who would take it, the bread
of life--plain, wholesome, prepared skilfully and with clean hands,
never varying from the evenness and excellence of its quality. He
does not startle or dazzle a reader; he does what is better--he
nourishes.

Bourdaloue pronounced only two _Oraisons Funèbres_, and those under
the constraint of duty. He thought the Christian pulpit was meant
for less worldly uses than the eulogy of mortal men. The _Oraison
Funèbre_ was more to the taste of Mascaron (1634-1703), whose unequal
rhetoric was at its best in his panegyric of Turenne; more to the
taste of the elegant FLÉCHIER, Bishop of Nîmes. All the literary
graces were cultivated by Fléchier (1632-1710), and his eloquence
is unquestionable; but it was not the eloquence proper to the pulpit.
He was a man of letters, a man of the world, formed in the school
of preciosity, a haunter of the Hôtel de Rambouillet; knowing the
surface of society, he knew as a moralist how to depict its manners
and the evil that lay in them. He did not apply doctrine to life like
Bossuet, nor search the heart with Bourdaloue's serious zeal; to save
souls was indeed important; to exhibit his talents before the King
was also important. But the true eloquence of the pulpit has deeper
springs than lay in Fléchier's mundane spirit. Already the decadence
has begun.

Protestantism had its preacher in JACQUES SAURIN (1677-1730), clear,
logical, energetic, with negligences of style and sudden flashes of
genius. But he belongs to London, to Geneva, to the Hague more perhaps
than to France. An autumnal colouring, bright and abundant, yet
indicative of the decline, is displayed in the discourses of the
latest of the great pulpit orators, JEAN-BAPTISTE MASSILLON
(1663-1742), who belongs more to the eighteenth than to the
seventeenth century. "He must increase," said Bourdaloue, "but I must
decrease." Massillon, with gifts of person and of natural grace,
sensitive, tender, a student and professor of the rhetorical art,
sincerely devout, yet with waverings towards the world, had something
in his genius that resembled Racine. A pathetic sentiment, a feeling
for human passions, give his sermons qualities which contrast with
the severer manner of Bourdaloue. They are simple in plan; the
preacher's art lay in deploying and developing a few ideas, and
infusing into them an imaginative sensibility; he is facile and
abundant; faultless in amenity, but deficient in force and fire. Yet
the opening words of the Funeral Oration on Louis XIV.--"God alone
is great, my brethren"--are noble in their simplicity; and the thought
of Jesus suddenly appearing in "the most august assembly of the
world"--in the chapel at Versailles--startled the hearers of the
sermon on the "small number of the elect." "There is an orator!" cried
the actor Baron, "we are only comedians;" but no actor would have
instituted a comparison between himself and Bourdaloue. "When one
enters the avenue at Versailles," said Massillon, "one feels an
enervating air."

He was aware of the rising tide of luxury and vice around him; he
tried to meet it, tracing the scepticism of the time to its
ill-regulated passions; but he met scepticism by morality detached
from dogma. The _Petit Carême_, preached before Louis XV. when a child
of eight, expresses the sanguine temper of the moment: the young King
would grow into the father of his people; the days of peace would
return. Great and beneficent kings are not effeminately amiable; it
were better if Massillon had preached "Be strong" than "Be tender."
Voltaire kept on his desk the sermons of Massillon, and loved to hear
the musical periods of the _Petit Carême_ read aloud at meal-time.
To be the favourite preacher of eighteenth-century philosophers is
a distinction somewhat compromising to an exponent of the faith.


III

Bossuet's great antagonist in the controversy concerning Quietism
might have found the approval of the philosophers for some of his
political opinions. His religious writings would have spoken to them
in an unknown tongue.

FRANÇOIS DE SALIGNAC DE LA MOTHE-FÉNELON was born in Périgord (1651),
of an ancient and illustrious family. Of one whose intellect and
character were infinitely subtle and complex, the blending of all
opposites, it is possible to sustain the most conflicting opinions,
and perhaps in the end no critic can seize this Proteus. Saint-Simon
noticed how in his noble countenance every contrary quality was
expressed, and how all were harmonised: "Il fallait faire effort pour
cesser de le regarder." During the early years of his clerical career
he acted as superior to female converts from Protestantism, and as
missionary among the unconverted Calvinists. In 1689 he was appointed
tutor to the King's grandson, the Duc de Bourgogne, and from a
passionate boy he transformed his pupil into a youth too blindly
docile. Fénelon's nomination to the Archbishopric of Cambrai (1695),
which removed him from the court, was in fact a check to his ambition.
His religious and his political views were regarded by Louis XIV.
as dangerous for the Church and the monarchy.

Through his personal interest in Mme. Guyon, and his sympathy with
her mystical doctrine in religion--one which inculcated complete
abnegation of the will, and its replacement by absolute surrender
to the Divine love--he came into conflict with Bossuet, and after
a fierce war of diplomacy and of pamphlets, in which Fénelon displayed
the utmost skill and energy as tactician and dialectician, he received
a temperate condemnation from Rome, and submitted. The death of the
Dauphin (1711), which left his former pupil heir to the throne,
revived Fénelon's hopes of political influence, but in the next year
these hopes disappeared with the decease of the young Duc de Bourgogne.
At Cambrai, where he discharged his episcopal duties like a saint
and a _grand seigneur_, Fénelon died six months before Louis XIV.,
in 1715.

"The most original intellect--if we set Pascal aside--of the
seventeenth century"--so Fénelon is described by one excellent
critic. "Antique and modern," writes his biographer, M. Paul Janet,
"Christian and profane, mystical and diplomatic, familiar and noble,
gentle and headstrong, natural and subtle, fascinating the
eighteenth century as he had fascinated the seventeenth, believing
like a child, and daring as Spinoza, Fénelon is one of the most
original figures which the Catholic Church has produced." His first
publication was the treatise _De l'Éducation des Filles_ (written
1681, published 1687), composed at the request of his friends the
Duc and Duchesse de Beauvilliers. It is based on a recognition of
the dignity of woman and the duty of a serious effort to form her
mind. It honours the reason, opposes severity, would make instruction,
as far as possible, a delight, and would exhibit goodness in a gracious
aspect; commends object-lessons in addition to book-learning,
indicates characteristic feminine failings (yet liveliness of
disposition is not regarded as one of these), exhorts to a dignified
simplicity in dress. The range of studies recommended is narrow, but
for Fénelon's time it was liberal; the book marks an epoch in the
history of female education.

For his pupil the Duc de Bourgogne, Fénelon wrote his graceful prose
_Fables_ (which also include under that title short tales, allegories,
and fairy stories), the _Dialogues des Morts_, aiming at the
application of moral principles to politics, and his _Télémaque_,
named in the first (incomplete) edition _Suite du IVe Livre de
l'Odyssée_ (1699). In this, for long the most popular of tales for
the young, Fénelon's imaginative devotion to antiquity finds ample
expression; it narrates the wanderings of Telemachus in search of
his father Ulysses, under the warning guidance and guardianship of
Minerva disguised as Mentor. Imitations and borrowings from
classical authors are freely and skilfully made. It is a poem in prose,
a romance of education, designed at once to charm the imagination
and to inculcate truths of morals, politics, and religion. The
didactic purpose is evident, yet it remains a true work of art, full
of grace and colour, occasionally, indeed, languid, but often vivid
and forcible.

Fénelon's views on politics were not so much fantastic as those of
an idealist. He dreamed of a monarchy which should submit to the
control of righteousness; he mourned over the pride and extravagance
of the court; he constantly pleaded against wars of ambition; he
desired that a powerful and Christian nobility should mediate between
the crown and the people; he conceived a system of decentralisation
which should give the whole nation an interest in public affairs;
in his ecclesiastical views he was Ultramontane rather than Gallican.
These ideas are put forth in his _Direction pour la Conscience d'un
Roi_ and the _Plan de Gouvernement_. Louis XIV. suspected the
political tendency of _Télémaque_, and caused the printing of the
first edition to be suspended. Fénelon has sometimes been regarded
as a forerunner of the Revolutionary movement; but he would rather,
by ideas in which, as events proved, there may have been something
chimerical, have rendered revolution impossible.

Into his controversy with Bossuet he threw himself with a combative
energy and a skill in defence and attack that surprise one who knows
him only through his _Lettres Spirituelles_, which tend towards the
effacement of the will in a union with God through love. Bossuet
pleaded against the dangers for morals and for theology of a false
mysticism; Fénelon, against confounding true mysticism with what is
false. In his _Traité de l'Existence de Dieu_ he shows himself a bold
and subtle thinker: the first part, which is of a popular character,
attempts to prove the existence of the Deity by the argument from
design in nature and from the reason in man; the second part--of a
later date--follows Descartes in metaphysical proofs derived from
our idea of an infinite and a perfect being. To his other distinctions
Fénelon added that of a literary critic, unsurpassed in his time,
unless it be by Boileau. His _Dialogues sur l'Éloquence_ seek to
replace the elaborate methods of logical address, crowded with
divisions and subdivisions, and supported with a multitude of
quotations, by a style simple, natural, and delicate in its fervency.

The admirable _Lettre à l'Académie_, Fénelon's latest gift to
literature, states the case of the ancients against the moderns, and
of the moderns against the ancients, with an attempt at impartiality,
but it is evident that the writer's love was chiefly given to his
favourite classical authors; simplicity and natural beauty attracted
him more than ingenuity or wit or laboured brilliance. He feared that
the language was losing some of its richness and flexibility; he
condemns the use of rhyme; he is hardly just to Racine, but honours
himself by his admiration of Molière. In dealing with historical
writings he recognises the importance of the study of governments,
institutions, and social life, and at the same time values highly
a personal, vivid, direct manner, and a feeling for all that is real,
concrete, and living. To his rare gifts of intellect and of the soul
was added an inexpressible personal charm, in which something that
was almost feminine was united with the reserved power and authority
of a man.



CHAPTER VIII
TRANSITION TO THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY


The spiritual life was interpreted from within by Fénelon. The facts
of the moral world, as seen in society, were studied, analysed, and
portrayed by La Bruyère and Saint-Simon.

JEAN DE LA BRUYÈRE (1645-96), a Parisian of the _bourgeoisie_,
appointed preceptor in history to the grandson of the great Condé,
saw with the keen eyes of a disenchanted observer the spectacle of
seventeenth-century society. In 1688, appended to his translation
of the Characters of Theophrastus, appeared his only important work,
_Les Caractères ou les Moeurs de ce Siècle_; revised and enlarged
editions followed, until the ninth was published in 1696. "I restore
to the public," he wrote, "what the public lent me." In a series of
sixteen chapters, each consisting of detached paragraphs, his
studies of human life and of the social environment are presented
in the form of maxims, reflections, observations, portraits. For the
maxims a recent model lay before him in the little volume of La
Rochefoucauld; portraits, for which the romances of Mlle. de Scudéry
had created a taste, had been exhibited in a collection formed by
Mlle. de Montpensier--the growth of her _salon_--in collaboration
with Segrais (_Divers Portraits_, 1659). Aware of his mastery as a
painter of character, La Bruyère added largely to the number of his
portraits in the later editions. Keys, professing to identify his
character-sketches with living persons, enhanced the interest
excited by the work; but in many instances La Bruyère aims at
presenting a type rather than an individual, a type which had been
individualised by his observation of actual persons.

A profound or an original thinker he was not. Incapable of employing
base means to attain worldly success, his honourable failure left
a certain bitterness in his spirit; he regarded the life around him
as a looker-on, who enjoyed the spectacle, and enjoyed also to note
the infirmities of those who took part in the game which he had
declined. He is neither a determined pessimist, nor did he see
realities through a roseate veil; he neither thinks basely of human
nature nor in a heroic fashion: he studies its weakness with a view,
he declares, to reformation, but actually, perhaps, more in the way
of an observer than of a moral teacher. He is before all else a
"naturalist," a naturalist with a sufficient field for investigation,
though the life of the provinces and that of the fields (save in their
more obvious aspect of mournful toil) lie beyond his sphere. The value
of his criticisms of men and manners arises partly from the fact that
he is not pledged to a system, that he can take up various points
of view, and express the results of many moods of mind. Now he is
severe, and again he is indulgent; now he appears almost a cynic,
and presently we find that his heart is tender; now he is grave, and
in a moment mirthful; while for every purpose and in every mood he
has irony at his command. He divines the working of the passions with
a fine intelligence, and is a master in noting every outward betrayal
or indication of the hidden processes of the heart.

The successive chapters deal with the intellect and authorship,
personal merit, women, the heart, society and conversation, the gifts
of fortune, the town, the court, men in high station, the King and
commonwealth, the nature of man, judgments and criticism, fashion,
customs, the pulpit; and under each head are grouped, without formal
system, those notes on life and studies of society that had gradually
accumulated in the author's mind. A final chapter, "Des Esprits
Forts," expresses a vague spiritual philosophy, which probably was
not insincere, and which at least served to commend the mundane
portion of his book to pious readers. The special attraction of the
whole lies in its variety. A volume merely of maxims would have been
too rigid, too oracular for such a versatile spirit as that of La
Bruyère. "Different things," he says, "are thought out by different
methods, and explained by diverse expressions, it may be by a sentence,
an argument, a metaphor or some other figure, a parallel, a simple
comparison, a complete fact, a single feature, by description, or
by portraiture." His book contains all these, and his style
corresponds with the variety of matter and method--a style, as
Voltaire justly characterises it, rapid, concise, nervous,
picturesque. "Among all the different modes in which a single thought
may be expressed," wrote La Bruyère, "only one is correct." To find
this exact expression he sometimes over-labours his style, and
searches the vocabulary too curiously for the most striking word.
In his desire for animation the periodic structure of sentence yields
to one of interruptions, suspensions, and surprises. He is at once
a moralist and a virtuoso in the literary art.

The greater part of Saint-Simon's life and the composition of his
_Mémoires_ belong to the eighteenth century; but his mind was moulded
during his early years, and retained its form and lineaments. He may
be regarded as a belated representative of the great age of Louis
XIV. If he belongs in some degree to the newer age by virtue of his
sense that political reform was needed, his designs of political
reform were derived from the past rather than pointed towards the
future. LOUIS DE ROUVRAY, DUC DE SAINT-SIMON, was born at Versailles
in 1675. He cherished the belief that his ancestry could be traced
to Charlemagne. His father, a page of Louis XIII., had been named
a duke and peer of France in 1635; from his father descended to the
son a devotion to the memory of Louis XIII., and a passionate
attachment to the dignity of his own order.

Saint-Simon's education was narrow, but he acquired some Latin, and
was a diligent reader of French history. In 1691 he was presented
to the King and was enrolled as a soldier in the musketeers. He
purchased by-and-by what we should now call the colonelcy of a cavalry
regiment, but was ill-pleased with the system which had transformed
a feudal army into one where birth and rank were subjected to official
control; and in 1702, when others received promotion and he was passed
over, he sent in his resignation. Having made a fortunate and happy
marriage, Saint-Simon was almost constantly at Versailles until the
death of the King, and obtained the most intimate acquaintance with
what he terms the mechanics of the court. He had many grievances
against Louis XIV., chief among them the insult shown to the nobility
in the King's legitimatising his natural offspring; and he justly
regarded Madame de Maintenon as his enemy.

The death of the Duc de Bourgogne, to whose party he belonged, was
a blow to Saint-Simon's hopes; but the Regent remained his friend.
He helped, on a diplomatic mission to Spain, to negotiate the marriage
of Louis XV.; yet still was on fire with indignation caused by the
wrongs of the dukes and peers, whom he regarded as entitled on
historical grounds to form the great council of the monarchy, and
almost as rightful partners in the supreme power. His political life
closed in 1723 with the death of the Regent. He lived in retirement
at his château of La Ferté-Vidame, sorrowfully surviving his wife
and his sons. In Paris, at the age of eighty (1755), Saint-Simon died.

When nineteen years old, reading Bassompierre's _Mémoires_ in a
soldier's hour of leisure, he conceived the idea of recording his
own experiences, and the _Mémoires_ of Saint-Simon were begun. During
later years, in the camp or at the court, notes accumulated in his
hands, but the definitive form which they took was not determined
until, in his retirement at La Ferté-Vidame, the _Journal_ of Dangeau
came into his hands. Dangeau's _Journal_ is dry, colourless,
passionless, without insight and without art; but it is a
well-informed and an exact chronicle, extending over the years from
1684 to 1720. Saint-Simon found it "d'une fadeur à faire vomir"; its
servility towards the King and Madame de Maintenon enraged him; but
it exhibited facts in an orderly sequence; it might serve as a guide
and a clue among his own reminiscences; on the basis of Dangeau's
literal transcript of occurrences he might weave his own brilliant
recitals and passionate presentations of character. Thus
Saint-Simon's _Mémoires_ came to be written.

He himself saw much, and his eye had a demonic power of observation;
nothing escaped his vision, and his passions enabled him to penetrate
through what he saw to its secret meanings. He had gathered
information from those who knew the mysteries of the palace and the
court; great persons, court ladies, even valets and waiting-women,
had been sought and searched to satisfy his insatiable curiosity.
It is true that the passions which often lit up the truth sometimes
obscured it; any gossip discreditable to those whom he hated was
welcome to him; he confesses that he did not pique himself on his
impartiality, and it is certain that he did not always verify details.
Nevertheless he did not consciously falsify facts; he had a sense
of the honour of a gentleman; his spirit was serious, and his feeling
of duty and of religion was sincere. Without his impetuosity, his
violence, his exaggerations, we might not have had his vividness,
like that of life itself, his incomparable portraits, more often
inspired by hatred than by love, his minuteness and his breadth of
style, the phrases which ineffaceably brand his victims, the lyrical
outcry of triumph over enemies of his order. His style is the large
style of seventeenth-century prose, but alive with words that sparkle
and gleam, words sometimes created by himself to express the intensity
of his imagination.

The _Mémoires_, the final preparation of which was the work of his
elder years, cover the period from 1691 to 1723. His manuscripts were
bequeathed to his cousin, the Bishop of Metz; a lawsuit arose with
Saint-Simon's creditors, and in the end the papers were buried among
the public archives. Considerable fragments saw the light before the
close of the eighteenth century, but it was not until 1829-31 that
a true _editio princeps_, substantially correct, was published. The
violences and irregularities of Saint-Simon's style offered no
obstacle to the admiration of readers at a time when the romantic
movement was dominant. He was hailed as the Tacitus of French history,
and had his manner something more of habitual concentration the
comparison would not be unjust.

The eighteenth century may be said to have begun before the year 1701
with the quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns. If we can speak
of any one idea as dominant during the age of the philosophers, it
is the idea of human progress. Through an academic disputation that
idea emerged to the light. At first a religious question was
complicated with a question relating to art; afterwards the religious
question was replaced by one of philosophy. As early as 1657,
Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin, turned pietist after a youth of licence,
maintained in theory, as well as by the examples of his unreadable
epic poems, that Christian heroism and Christian faith afforded
material for imaginative handling more suitable to a Christian poet
than the history and fables of antiquity. Boileau, in the third
_chant_ of his _Art Poétique_, replied--the mysteries of the
Christian faith are too solemn, too awful, to be tricked out to gratify
the fancy.

Desmarets dying, bequeathed his contention to CHARLES PERRAULT
(1628-1703), who had burlesqued the _Æneid_, written light and
fragile pieces of verse, and occupied himself as a dilettante in
patristic and historical studies. In 1687, after various skirmishes
between partisans on either side, the quarrel assumed a new importance.
The King had recovered after a painful operation; it was a moment
for gratulation. Perrault, at a sitting of the Academy, read his poem
_Le Siècle de Louis le Grand_, in which the revolt against the
classical tyranny was formulated, and contemporary authors were
glorified at the expense of the poets of antiquity. Boileau murmured,
indignant; Racine offered ironical commendations; other
Academicians patriotically applauded their own praises.
Light-feathered epigrams sped to and fro.

Fontenelle, in his _Discours sur l'Églogue_ and a _Digression sur
les Anciens et les Modernes_, widened the field of debate. Were trees
in ancient days taller than those in our own fields? If not, why may
not modern men equal Homer, Plato, and Demosthenes? "Nothing checks
the progress of things, nothing confines the intelligence so much
as admiration of the ancients." Genius is bestowed by Nature on every
age, but knowledge grows from generation to generation. In his
dialogues entitled the _Parallèle des Anciens et des Modernes_
(1688-97), Perrault maintained that in art, in science, in literature,
the law of the human mind is a law of progress; that we are the true
ancients of the earth, wise with inherited science, more exact in
reasoning, more refined in psychological distinctions, raised to a
higher plane by Christianity, by the invention of printing, and by
the favour of a great monarch. La Fontaine in his charming _Épître_
to Huet, La Bruyère in his _Caractères_, Boileau in his ill-tempered
_Réflexions sur Longin_, rallied the supporters of classicism.
Gradually the fires smouldered or were assuaged; Boileau and Perrault
were reconciled.

Perrault, if he did not honour antiquity in classical forms, paid
a homage to popular tradition in his delightful _Contes de ma Mère
l'Oie_ (if, indeed, the tales be his), which have been a joy to
generations of children. With inferior art, Madame d'Aulnoy added
to the golden treasury for the young. When, fifteen or twenty years
after the earlier war, a new campaign began between the Ancients and
the Moderns, the philosophical discussion of the idea of progress
had separated itself from the literary quarrel. But in the tiltings
of Lamotte-Houdart, the champion of the moderns, against a
well-equipped female knight, the learned Madame Dacier--indignant
at Lamotte's _Iliade_, recast in the eighteenth-century taste--a new
question was raised, and one of significance for the eighteenth
century--that of the relative merits of prose and verse.

Lamotte, a writer of comedy, tragedy, opera, fables, eclogues, odes,
maintained that the highest literary form is prose, and he versified
none the less. The age was indeed an age of prose--an age when the
_salons_ discussed the latest discovery in science, the latest
doctrine in philosophy or politics. Its imaginative enthusiasm
passed over from art to speculation, and what may be called the poetry
of the eighteenth century is to be found less in its odes or dramas
or elegies than in the hopes and visions which gathered about that
idea of human progress emerging from a literary discussion, idle,
perhaps, in appearance, but in its inner significance no unfitting
inauguration of an era which looked to the future rather than to the
past.

BERNARD LE BOVIER DE FONTENELLE (1657-1757), a son of Corneille's
sister, whose intervention in the quarrel of Ancients and Moderns
turned the discussion in the direction of philosophy, belongs to both
the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. In the hundred years
which made up his life, there was indeed time for a second Fontenelle
to develop from the first. The first Fontenelle, satirised as the
Cydias of La Bruyère, "un composé du pédant et du précieux," was an
aspirant poet, without vision, without passion, who tried to
compensate his deficiencies by artificial elegances of style. The
origin of hissing is maliciously dated by Racine from his tragedy
_Aspar_. His operas fluttered before they fell; his _Églogues_ had
not life enough to flutter. The _Dialogues des Morts_ (1683) is a
young writer's effort to be clever by paradox, an effort to show his
wit by incongruous juxtapositions, and a cynical levelling of great
reputations. But there was another Fontenelle, the untrammelled
disciple of Descartes, a man of universal interests, passionless,
but curious for all knowledge, an assimilator of new ideas, a
dissolver of old beliefs, an intermediary between science and the
world of fashion, a discreet insinuator of doubts, who smiled but
never condescended to laugh, an intelligence supple, subtle, and
untiring.

In 1686 he published his _Entretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes_,
evening conversations between an astronomer and a marchioness,
half-scientific, half-gallant, learned coquetries with science, for
which he asked no more serious attention than a novel might require,
while he communicated the theories of Descartes and the discoveries
of Galileo, suggested that science is our safest way to truth, and
that truth at best is not absolute but relative to the human
understanding. The _Histoire des Oracles_, in which the cargo of Dutch
erudition that loaded his original by Van Dale is skilfully lightened,
glided to the edge of theological storm. Fontenelle would show that
the pagan oracles were not delivered by demons, and did not cease
at the coming of Jesus Christ; innocent opinions, but apt to
illustrate the origins and growth of superstitions, from which we
too may not be wholly free in spite of all our advantages of true
religion and sound philosophy. Of course God's chosen people are not
like unguided Greeks or Romans; and yet human beings are much the
same in all times and places. The Jesuit Baltus scented heresy, and
Fontenelle was very ready to admit that the devil was a prophet, since
Father Baltus wished it so to be, and held the opinion to be orthodox.

Appointed perpetual secretary of the _Académie des Sciences_ in 1697,
Fontenelle pronounced during forty years the panegyrics of those who
had been its members. These _Éloges des Académiciens_ are
masterpieces in a difficult art, luminous, dignified, generous
without ostentation, plain without poverty of thought or expression.
The discreet Fontenelle loved tranquillity--"If I had my hand full
of truths, I should take good care before I opened it." He never lost
a friend, acting on two prudent maxims, "Everything is possible,"
and "Every one is right." "It is not a heart," said Madame de Tencin,
"which you have in your breast; it is a brain." It was a kindly brain,
which could be for a moment courageous. And thus it was possible for
him to enter his hundredth year, still interested in ideas, still
tranquil and alert.

A great arsenal for the uses of eighteenth-century philosophy was
constructed and stored by PIERRE BAYLE (1647-1706) in his
_Dictionnaire Historique et Critique_, of which the first edition
was published in 1697. Science, which found its popular interpreter
in Fontenelle, was a region hardly entered by Bayle; the general
history of Europe, from the close of the mediæval period, and
especially the records in every age of mythologies, religions,
theologies, philosophies, formed his province, and it was one of wide
extent. Born in 1647, son of a Protestant pastor, educated by Jesuits,
converted by them and reconverted, professor of philosophy at Sedan,
a fugitive to Rotterdam, professor there of history and philosophy,
deprived of his position for unorthodox opinions, Bayle found rest
not in cessation from toil, but in the research of a sceptical scholar,
peaceably and endlessly pursued.

His early zeal of proselytism languished and expired. In its place
came a boundless curiosity, a penetrating sagacity. His vast
accumulations of knowledge were like those of the students of the
Renaissance. The tendencies of his intellect anticipate the
tendencies of the eighteenth century, but with him scepticism had
not become ambitious or dogmatic. He followed tranquilly where reason
and research led, and saw no cause why religion and morals more than
any other subjects should not be submitted to the scrutiny of rational
inquiry. Since men have held all beliefs, and are more prone to error
than apt to find the truth, why should any opinions be held sacred?
Let us ascertain and expose the facts. In doing so, we shall learn
the lesson of universal tolerance; and if the principle of authority
in matters of religion be gently sapped, can this be considered an
evil? Morals, which have their foundation in the human understanding,
remain, though all theologies may be in doubt. If the idea of
Providence be a superstition, why should not man guide his life by
good sense and moderation? Bayle did not attack existing beliefs with
the battering-ram: he quietly removed a stone here and a stone there
from the foundations. If he is aggressive, it is by means of a tranquil
irony. The errors of human-kind are full of curious interest; the
disputes of theologians are both curious and amusing; the moral
licences of men and women are singular and often diverting. Why not
instruct and entertain our minds with the facts of the world?

The instruction is delivered by Bayle in the dense and sometimes heavy
columns of his text; the entertainment will be found in the rambling
gossip, interspersed with illuminating ideas, of his notes. Almost
every eminent writer of the eighteenth century was a debtor to Bayle's
Dictionary. He kept his contemporaries informed of all that was added
to knowledge in his periodical publication, _Nouvelles de la
République des Lettres_ (begun in 1684). He called himself a
cloud-compeller: "My gift is to create doubts; but they are no more
than doubts." Yet there is light, if not warmth, in such a genius
for criticism as his; and it was light not only for France, but for
Europe.



BOOK THE FOURTH
_THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY_



CHAPTER I
MEMOIRS AND HISTORY--POETRY--THE THEATRE--THE NOVEL


I

The literature of the second half of the seventeenth century was
monarchical, Christian, classical. The eighteenth century was to
lose the spirit of classical art while retaining many of its forms,
to overthrow the domination of the Church, to destroy the monarchy.
It was an age not of great art but of militant ideas, which more and
more came to utilise art as their vehicle. Political speculation,
criticism, science, sceptical philosophy invaded literature. The
influence of England--of English free-thinkers, political writers,
men of science, essayists, novelists, poets--replaced the influence
of Italy and Spain, and for long that of the models of ancient Greece
and Rome. The century of the philosophers was eminently social and
mundane; the _salons_ revived; a new preciosity came into fashion;
but as time went on the _salons_ became rather the mart of ideas
philosophical and scientific than of the daintinesses of letters and
of art. Journalism developed, and thought tended to action, applied
itself directly to public life. While the work of destructive
criticism proceeded, the bases of a moral reconstruction were laid;
the free play of intellect was succeeded by a great enfranchisement
of the passions; the work of Voltaire was followed by the work of
Rousseau.

Before the close of the reign of Louis XIV. the old order of things
had suffered a decline. War, famine, public debt, oppressive taxation
had discredited the monarchy. A dull hypocrisy hardly disguised the
gross licentiousness of the times. The revocation of the edict of
Nantes had exiled those Protestants who formed a substantial part
of the moral conscience of France. The bitter feud of brother-bishops,
Bossuet and Fénelon, hurling defiance against each other for the love
of God, had made religion a theme for mockery. Port-Royal, once the
refuge of serious faith and strict morals, was destroyed. The bull
_Unigenitus_ expelled the spiritual element from French Christianity,
reduced the clergy to a state of intellectual impotence, and made
a lasting breach between them and the better part of the laity.
Meanwhile the scientific movement had been proving its power. Science
had come to fill the place left void by religion. The period of the
Regency (1715-23) is one of transition from the past to the newer
age, shameless in morals, degraded in art; the period of Voltaire
followed, when intellect sapped and mined the old beliefs; with
Rousseau came the explosion of sentiment and an effort towards
reconstruction. A great political and social revolution closed the
century.

The life of the time is seen in many memoirs, and in the correspondence
of many distinguished persons, both men and women. Among the former
the _Mémoires_ of Mdlle. Delaunay, afterwards Mme. de Staäl
(1684-1750) are remarkable for the vein of melancholy, subdued by
irony, underlying a style which is formed for fine and clear exactness.
The Duchesse du Maine's lady-in-waiting, daughter of a poor painter,
but educated with care, drew delicately in her literary art with an
etcher's tool, and her hand was controlled by a spirit which had in
it something of the Stoic. The _Souvenirs_ of Mme. de Caylus
(1673-1729), niece of Mme. de Maintenon--"jamais de créature plus
séduisante," says Saint-Simon--give pictures of the court, charming
in their naïveté, grace, and mirth. Mme. d'Épinay, designing to tell
the story of her own life, disguised as a piece of fiction, became
in her _Mémoires_ the chronicler of the manners of her time. The
society of the _salons_ and the men of letters is depicted in the
Memoirs of Marmontel. These are but examples from an abundant
literature constantly augmented to the days of Mme. de Campan and
Mme. Roland. The general aspect of the social world in the mid-century
is presented by the historian Duclos (1704-1772) in his
_Considérations sur les Moeurs de ce Siècle_, and with reparation
for his previous neglect of the part played in society by women in
his _Mémoires pour servir à l'Histoire du XVIIIe Siècle_.

As much or more may be learnt from the letter-writers as from the
writers of memoirs. If Voltaire did not take the first place by his
correspondence, so vast, so luminous, so comprehensive, it might
justly be assigned to his friend Mme. du Deffand (1697-1780), whose
lucid intelligence perceived everything, whose disabused heart
seemed detached until old age from all that most interested her
understanding. For clear good sense we turn to the Marquise de Lambert,
for bourgeois worth and kindliness to Mme. Geoffrin, for passion which
kindles the page to Mdlle. de Lespinasse, for sensibility and romance
ripening to political ardour and strenuous convictions to Mme. Roland.
Among the philosophers Diderot pours the torrent, clear or turbid,
of his genius into his correspondence with affluent improvisation;
D'Alembert is grave, temperate, lucid; the Abbé Galiani, the little
Machiavel--"a pantomime from head to foot," said Diderot--the gay
Neapolitan punchinello, given the freedom of Paris, that "capital
of curiosity," is at once wit, cynic, thinker, scholar, and buffoon.
These, again, are but examples from an epistolary swarm.

While the eighteenth century thus mirrored itself in memoirs and
letters, it did not forget the life of past centuries. The studious
Benedictines, who had already accomplished much, continued their
erudite labours. Nicolas Fréret (1688-1749), taking all antiquity
for his province, illuminated the study of chronology, geography,
sciences, arts, language, religion. Daniel and Velly narrated the
history of France. Vertot (1655-1735), with little of the spirit of
historical fidelity, displayed certain gifts of an historical artist.
The school of scepticism was represented by the Jesuit Hardouin, who
doubted the authenticity of all records of the past except those of
his own numismatic treasures. Questions as to the principles of
historical certitude occupied the Academy of Inscriptions during
many sittings from 1720 onwards, and produced a body of important
studies. While the Physiocrats were endeavouring to demonstrate that
there is a natural order in social circumstances, a philosophy of
history, which bound the ages together, was developed in the writings
of Montesquieu and Turgot, if not of Voltaire. The _Esprit des Lois_,
the _Essai sur les Moeurs_, and Turgot's discourses, delivered in
1750 at the Sorbonne, contributed in different degrees and ways
towards a new and profounder conception of the life of societies or
of humanity. By Turgot for the first time the idea of progress was
accepted as the ruling principle of history. It cannot be denied that,
as regards the sciences of inorganic nature, he more than foreshadowed
Comte's theory of the three states, theological, metaphysical, and
positive, through which the mind of humanity is alleged to have
travelled.

In the second half of the century, history tended to become
doctrinaire, aggressive, declamatory--a pamphlet in the form of
treatise or narrative. Morelly wrote in the interest of socialistic
ideas, which correspond to those of modern collectivism. Mably,
inspired at first by enthusiasm for the ancient republics, advanced
to a communistic creed. Condorcet, as the century drew towards a close,
bringing together the ideas of economists and historians, traced
human progress through the past, and uttered ardent prophecies of
human perfectibility in the future.


II

Poetry other than dramatic grew in the eighteenth century upon a
shallow soil. The more serious and the more ardent mind of the time
was occupied with science, the study of nature, the study of society,
philosophical speculation, the criticism of religion, of government,
and of social arrangements. The old basis of belief upon which reposed
the great art of the preceding century had given way. The analytic
intellect distrusted the imagination. The conventions of a brilliant
society were unfavourable to the contemplative mood of high poetry.
The tyranny of the "rules" remained when the enthusiasm which found
guidance and a safeguard in the rules had departed. The language
itself had lost in richness, variety, harmony, and colour; it was
an admirable instrument for the intellect, but was less apt to render
sensations and passions; when employed for the loftier purposes of
art it tended to the oratorical, with something of over-emphasis and
strain. The contention of La Motte-Houdart that verse denaturalises
and deforms ideas, expresses the faith of the time, and La Motte's
own cold and laboured odes did not tend to refute his theory.

Chaulieu (1639-1720), the "poëte de la bonne compagnie," an
anacreontic senior, patriarch of pleasure, survived the classical
century, and sang his songs of facile, epicurean delights; his friend
La Fare (1644-1712) survived, but slept and ate more than a songster
should. Anthony Hamilton (1646?-1720) wrote graceful verses, and in
his brilliant _Mémoires de la Vie du Comte de Gramont_ became the
historian of the amorous intrigues of the court of Charles II.
Jean-Baptiste Rousseau (1670-1741), who in the days of Mme. de
Maintenon's authority had in his sacred _Cantates_ been pious by
command, recompensed himself by retailing unbecoming epigrams--and
for epigram he had a genuine gift--to the Society of the Temple. He
manufactured odes with skill in the mechanism of verse, and carefully
secured the fine disorder required in that form of art by factitious
enthusiasm and the abuse of mythology and allegory. When Rousseau
died, Lefranc de Pompignan mourned for "le premier chantre du monde,"
reborn as the Orpheus of France, in a poem which alone of Lefranc's
numerous productions--and by virtue of two stanzas--has not that
sanctity ascribed to them by Voltaire, the sanctity which forbids
any one to touch them. Why name their fellows and successors in the
eighteenth-century art of writing poems without poetry?

Louis Racine (1692-1763), son of the author of _Athalie_, in his
versified discourses on _La Grâce_ and _La Réligion_ was devout and
edifying, but with an edification which promotes slumber. If a poet
in sympathy with the philosophers desired to edify, he described the
phenomena of nature as Saint-Lambert (1716-1803) did in his
_Saisons_--"the only work of our century," Voltaire assured the
author, "which will reach posterity." To describe meant to draw out
the inventory of nature's charms with an eye not on the object but
on the page of the Encyclopædia, and to avoid the indecency of naming
anything in direct and simple speech. The _Seasons_ of Saint-Lambert
were followed by the _Months_ (_Mois_) of Roucher (1745-94)--"the
most beautiful poetic shipwreck of the century," said the malicious
Rivarol--and by the _Jardins_ of Delille (1738-1813). When Delille
translated the _Georgics_ he was saluted by Voltaire as the Abbé
Virgil.[1] The _salons_ heard him with rapture recite his verses as
from the tripod of inspiration. He was the favourite of
Marie-Antoinette. Aged and blind, he was a third with Homer and Milton.
In death they crowned his forehead, and for three days the mourning
crowd gazed on all that remained of their great poet. And yet Delille's
_Jardins_ is no better than a patchwork of carpet-gardening, in which
the flowers are theatrical paper-flowers. If anything lives from the
descriptive poetry of the eighteenth century, it is a few detached
lines from the writings of Lemierre.

[Footnote 1: Or was this Rivarol's ironical jest?]

The successor of J.-B. Rousseau in the grand ode was Écouchard Lebrun
(1729-1807), rival of Pindar. All he wanted to equal Pindar was some
forgetfulness of self, some warmth, some genuine enthusiasm, some
harmony, a touch of genius; a certain dignity of imagination he
exhibits in his best moments. If we say that he honoured Buffon and
was the friend of André Chénier, we have said in his praise that which
gives him the highest distinction; yet it may be added that if he
often falsified the ode, he, like Rousseau, excelled in epigram. It
was not the great lyric but _le petit lyrisme_ which blossomed and
ran to seed in the thin poetic soil. The singers of fragile loves
and trivial pleasures are often charming, and as often they are merely
frivolous or merely depraved. Grécourt; Piron; Bernard, the curled
and powdered Anacreon; Bernis, Voltaire's "Babet la Bouquetière,"
King Frederick's poet of "sterile abundance"; Dorat, who could
flutter at times with an airy grace; Bertin, born in the tropics,
and with the heat of the senses in his verse; Parny, an estray in
Paris from the palms and fountains of the Isle Bourbon, the "dear
Tibullus" of Voltaire--what a swarm of butterflies, soiled or
shining!

If two or three poets deserve to be distinguished from the rest, one
is surely JEAN-BAPTISTE-LOUIS GRESSET (1709-77), whose parrot
_Vert-Vert_, instructed by the pious Sisters, demoralised by the
boatmen of the Loire, still edifies and scandalises the lover of happy
badinage in verse; one is the young and unfortunate
NICOLAS-JOSEPH-LAURENT GILBERT (1751-80), less unfortunate and less
gifted than the legend makes him, yet luckless enough and embittered
enough to become the satirist of Academicians and philosophers and
the society which had scorned his muse; and the third is JEAN-PIERRE
CLARIS DE FLORIAN (1755-94), the amiable fabulist, who, lacking La
Fontaine's lyric genius, fine harmonies, and penetrating good sense,
yet can tell a story with pleasant ease, and draw a moral with gentle
propriety.

In every poetic form, except comedy, that he attempted, Voltaire
stands high among his contemporaries; they give us a measure of his
range and excellence. But the two greatest poets of the eighteenth
century wrote in prose. Its philosophical poet was the naturalist
Buffon; its supreme lyrist was the author of _La Nouvelle Héloïse_.


III

In the history of French tragedy only one name of importance--that
of Crébillon--is to be found in the interval between Racine and
Voltaire. Campistron feebly, Danchet formally and awkwardly,
imitated Racine; Duché followed him in sacred tragedy; La
Grange-Chancel (author of the _Philippiques_, directed against the
Regent) followed him in tragedies on classical subjects. If any piece
deserves to be distinguished above the rest, it is the _Manlius_
(1698) of La Fosse, a work--suggestive rather of Corneille than of
Racine--which was founded on the _Venice Preserved_ of Otway. The
art of Racine languished in inferior hands. The eighteenth century,
while preserving its form, thought to reanimate it by the provocatives
of scenic decoration and more rapid and more convulsive action.

PROSPER JOLYOT DE CRÉBILLON (1674-1762), a diligent reader of
seventeenth-century romances, transported the devices of romance,
its horrors, its pathetic incidents, its disguises, its surprises,
its discoveries, into the theatre, and substituted a tragedy of
violent situations for the tragedy of character. His _Rhadamiste et
Zénobie_ (1711), which has an air of Corneillean grandeur and heroism,
notwithstanding a plot so complicated that it is difficult to follow,
was received with unmeasured enthusiasm. To be atrocious within the
rules was to create a new and thrilling sensation. Torrents of tears
flowed for the unhappy heroine of La Motte's _Inès de Castro_ (1723),
secretly married to the Prince of Portugal, and pardoned only when
the fatal poison is in her veins. Voltaire's effort to renovate
classical tragedy was that of a writer who loved the theatre, first
for its own sake, afterwards as an instrument for influencing public
opinion, who conceived tragedy aright as the presentation of
character and passion seen in action. His art suffered from his
extreme facility, from his inability (except it be in _Zaïre_) to
attain dramatic self-detachment, from the desire to conquer his
spectators in the readiest ways, by striking situations, or, at a
later date, by the rhetoric of philosophical doctrine and sentiment.

There is no one, with all his faults, to set beside Voltaire. Piron
and Gresset are remembered, not by their tragedies, but each by a
single comedy. Marmontel's Memoirs live; his tales have a faded glory;
as for his tragedies, the ingenious stage asp which hissed as the
curtain fell on his _Cléopâtre_, was a sound critic of their
mediocrity. Lemierre, with some theatrical talent, wrote ill; as the
love of spectacle grew, he permitted his William Tell to shoot the
apple, and his widow of Malabar to die in flames upon the stage.

Saurin in _Spartacus_ (1760) declaimed and dissertated in the manner
of Voltaire. De Belloy at a lucky moment showed, in his _Siège de
Calais_ (1765), that rhetorical patriotism had survived the Seven
Years' War; he was supposed to have founded that national, historic
drama which the President Hénault had projected; but with the _Siège
de Calais_ the national drama rose and fell. Laharpe (1739-1803) was
the latest writer who compounded classical tragedy according to the
approved recipe. In the last quarter of the century Shakespeare became
known to the French public through the translation of Letourneur.
Before that translation began to appear, JEAN-FRANÇOIS DUCIS
(1733-1816), the patron of whose imagination was his "Saint
Guillaume" of Stratford, though he knew no English, had in a fashion
presented Hamlet (1769) and Romeo and Juliet to his countrymen; King
Lear, Macbeth, King John, Othello (1792) followed. But Ducis came
a generation too soon for a true Shakespearian rendering; simple and
heroic in his character as a man, he belonged to an age of philosophers
and sentimentalists, an age of "virtue" and "nature." Shakespeare's
translation is as strange as that of his own Bottom. Ophelia is the
daughter of King Claudius; the Queen dies by her own hand; old Montague
is a Montague-Ugolino who has devoured his sons; Malcolm is believed
to be a mountaineer's child; Lear is borne on the stage, sleeping
on a bed of roses, that he may behold a sunrise; Hédelmone (Desdemona)
is no longer Othello's wife; Iago disappears; Desdemona's
handkerchief is not among the properties; and Juliet's lark is
voiceless. Eighteenth-century tragedy is indeed a city of tombs.

Comedy made some amends. Before the appearance of Regnard, the actor
Baron, Molière's favourite pupil, had given a lively play--_L'Homme
à bonne Fortune_ (1686). JEAN-FRANÇOIS REGNARD (1655-1709) escaped
from his corsair captors and slavery at Algiers, made his sorry
company of knaves and fools acceptable by virtue of inexhaustible
gaiety, bright fantasy, and the liveliest of comic styles. His
_Joueur_ (1696) is a scapegrace, possessed by the passion of gaming,
whose love of Angélique is a devotion to her dowry, but he will console
himself for lost love by another throw of the dice. His _Légataire
Universel_, greedy, old, and ailing, is surrounded by pitiless rogues,
yet the curtain falls on a general reconciliation. Regnard's morals
may be doubtful, but his mirth is unquestionable.

Dancourt (1661-1725), with a far less happy style, had a truer power
of observation, and as quick an instinct for theatrical effects; he
exhibits in the _Chevalier à la Mode_ and the _Bourgeoises à la Mode_,
if not with exact fidelity, at least in telling caricature, the
struggle of classes in the society around him, wealth ambitious for
rank, rank prepared to sell itself for wealth. The same spirit of
cynical gaiety inspires the _Double Veuvage_ of Charles Rivière
Dufresny (1655?-1724), where husband and wife, each disappointed in
false tidings of the other's death, exhibit transports of feigned
joy on meeting, and assist in the marriage of their respective lovers,
each to accomplish the vexation of the other. Among such plays as
these the _Turcaret_ (1709) of Lesage appears as the creation of a
type, and a type which verifies itself as drawn with a realism powerful
and unfaltering.

In striking contrast with Lesage's bold and bitter satire are the
comedies of Marivaux, delicate indeed in observation of life and
character, skilled in their exploration of the byways of the heart,
brilliant in fantasy, subtle in sentiment, lightly touched by the
sensuality of the day. Philippe Néricault Destouches (1680-1754) had
the ambition to revive the comedy of character, and by its means to
read moral lessons on the stage; unfortunately what he lacked was
comic power. In his most celebrated piece, _Le Glorieux_, he returns
to the theme treated by Dancourt of the struggle between the ruined
noblesse and the aspiring middle class. Pathos and something of
romance are added to comedy.

Already those tendencies which were to produce the so-called _comédie
larmoyante_ were at work. Piron (1689-1773), who regarded it with
hostility, undesignedly assisted in its creation; _Les Fils Ingrats_,
named afterwards _L'École des Pères_, given in 1728, the story of
a too generous father of ungrateful children, a play designed for
mirth, was in fact fitter to draw tears than to excite laughter.
Piron's special gift, however, was for satire. In _La Métromanie_
he smiles at the folly of the aspirant poet with all his cherished
illusions; yet young Damis with his folly, the innocent error of a
generous spirit, wins a sympathy to which the duller representatives
of good sense can make no claim. It is satire also which gives whatever
comic force it possesses to the one comedy of Gresset that is not
forgotten: _Le Méchant_ (1747), a disloyal comrade, would steal the
heart of his friend's beloved; soubrette and valet conspire to expose
the traitor; but Cléon, who loves mischief in the spirit of sport,
though unmasked, is little disconcerted. Brilliant in lines and
speeches, _Le Méchant_ is defective in its composition as a whole.

The decline in a feeling for composition, for art, for the severity
of outline, was accompanied by a development of the emotional or
sentimental element in drama. As sensibility was quickened, and
wealth and ease increased, little things came to be felt as important.
The middle class advanced in prosperity and power. Why should emperors
and kings, queens and princesses occupy the stage? Why neglect the
joys and griefs of every-day domestic life? If "nature" and "virtue"
were to be honoured, why not seek them here? Man, the new philosophy
taught, is essentially good; human nature is of itself inclined to
virtue; if it strays through force of circumstance into vice or folly,
should not its errors be viewed with sympathy, with tenderness? Thus
comedy grew serious, and tragedy put off its exalted airs; the genius
of tragedy and the genius of comedy were wedded, and the _comédie
larmoyante_, which might be named more correctly the bourgeois drama,
was born of this union.

In the plays of NIVELLE DE LA CHAUSÉE (1692-1754) the new type is
already formed. The relations of wife and husband, of father and child,
form the theme of all his plays. In _Mélanide_, father and son,
unrecognised, are rivals in love; the wife and mother, supposed to
be dead, is discovered; the husband returns to her arms, and is
reconciled to his son. It is the victory of nature and of innate
goodness; comic intention and comic power are wholly absent. La
Chausée's morals are those of an optimist; but those modern domestic
tragedies, the ethics of which do not err by over-sanguine views of
human nature, may trace their ancestry to _Mélanide_.

For such serious comedy or bourgeois drama the appropriate vehicle,
so Diderot maintained, is prose. Diderot, among his many gifts, did
not possess a talent for dramatic writing. But as a critic his
influence was considerable. Midway between tragedy and comedy he
perceived a place for the serious drama; to right and left, on either
side of the centre, were spaces for forms approximating, the one to
tragedy, the other to comedy. The hybrid species of tragi-comedy he
wholly condemned; each genre, as he conceived it, is a unity
containing its own principle of life. The function of the theatre
is less to represent character fully formed than to study the natural
history of character, to exhibit the environments which determine
character. Its purpose is to moralise life, and the chief means of
moralisation is that effusive sensibility which is the outflow of
the inherent goodness of human nature.

Diderot attempted to justify his theory by examples, and only proved
his own incapacity as a writer for the stage. His friend SEDAINE
(1719-97) was more fortunate. Of the bourgeois drama of the eighteenth
century, _Le Philosophe sans le savoir_ alone survives. It is little
more than a domestic anecdote rendered dramatic, but it has life and
reality. The merchant Vanderk's daughter is to be married; but on
the same day his son, resenting an insult to his father, must expose
his life in a duel. Old Antoine, the intendant, would take his young
master's place of danger; Antoine's daughter, Victorine,
half-unawares has given her heart to the gallant duellist. Hopes and
fears, joy and grief contend in the Vanderk habitation. Sedaine made
a true capture of a little province of nature. When Mercier
(1740-1814) tried to write in the same vein, his "nature" was that
of declamatory sentiment imposed upon trivial incidents.
Beaumarchais, in his earlier pieces, was tearful and romantic;
happily he repented him of his lugubrious sentiment, and restored
to France its old gaiety in the _Barbier de Séville_ and the inimitable
_Mariage de Figaro_; but amid the mirth of _Figaro_ can be heard the
detonation of approaching revolutionary conflict.


IV

The history of the novel in the eighteenth century corresponds with
the general movement of ideas; the novel begins as art, and proceeds
to propagandism. ALAIN-RENÉ LESAGE, born at Sarzeau, near Vannes,
in 1668, belongs as much to the seventeenth as to the eighteenth
century. His life of nearly eighty years (died 1747) was the
honourable life of a bourgeois, who was also a man of genius, and
who maintained his own independence and that of his wife and children
by the steadfast diligence of his pen. He was no passionate reformer,
no preacher of ideas; he observed life and human nature with shrewd
common-sense, seeing men in general as creatures in whom good and
evil are mixed; his imagination combined and vivified all he had
observed; and he recorded the results of his study of the world in
a style admirable for naturalness and ease, though these were not
attained without the careful practice of literary art.

From translations for the readers of fiction and for the theatre,
he advanced to free adaptations, and from these to work which may
be called truly original. Directed by the Abbé de Lyonne to Spanish
literature, he endeavoured in his early plays to preserve what was
brilliant and ingenious in the works of Spanish dramatists, and to
avoid what was strained and extravagant. In his _Crispin Rival de
son Maître_ (1707), in which the roguish valet aspires to carry off
his master's betrothed and her fortune, he borrows only the idea of
Mendoza's play; the conduct of the action, the dialogue, the
characters are his own. His prose story of the same year, _Le Diable
Boiteux_, owes but little to the suggestion derived from Guevara;
it is, in fact, more nearly related to the _Caractères_ of La Bruyère;
when Asmodeus discloses what had been hidden under the house-roofs
of the city, a succession of various human types are presented, and,
as in the case of La Bruyère, contemporaries attempted to identify
these with actual living persons.

In his remarkable satiric comedy _Turcaret_, and in his realistic
novel _Gil Blas_, Lesage enters into full possession of his own genius.
_Turcaret, ou le Financier_, was completed early in 1708; the efforts
of the financiers to hinder its performance served in the end to
enhance its brief and brilliant success. The pitiless amasser of
wealth, Turcaret, is himself the dupe of a coquette, who in her turn
is the victim of a more contemptible swindler. Lesage, presenting
a fragment of the manners and morals of his day, keeps us in
exceedingly ill company, but the comic force of the play lightens
the oppression of its repulsive characters. It is the first
masterpiece of the eighteenth-century _comédie de moeurs_.

Much of Lesage's dramatic work was produced only for the hour or the
moment--pieces thrown off, sometimes with brilliance and wit, for
the _Théâtres de la Foire_, where farces, vaudevilles, and comic opera
were popular. They served to pay for the bread of his household. His
great comedy, however, a comedy in a hundred acts, is the story of
_Gil Blas_. Its composition was part of his employment during many
years; the first volumes appeared in 1715, the last volume in 1735.
The question of a Spanish original for the story is settled--there
was none; but from Spanish fiction and from Spanish history Lesage
borrowed what suited his purpose, without in any way compromising
his originality. To the picaresque tales (and among these may be noted
a distant precursor of _Gil Blas_ in the _Francion_ of Charles Sorel)
he added his own humanity, and in place of a series of vulgar
adventures we are given a broad picture of social life; the comedy
of manners and intrigue grows, as the author proceeds, into a comedy
of character, and to this something of the historical novel is added.
The unity of the book is found in the person of Gil Blas himself:
he is far from being a hero, but he is capable of receiving all
impressions; he is an excellent observer of life, his temper is bright,
he is free from ill-nature; we meet in him a pleasant companion, and
accompany him with sympathy through the amusing Odyssey of his varied
career.

As a moralist Lesage is the reverse of severe, but he is far from
being base. "All is easy and good-humoured," wrote Sir Walter Scott,
"gay, light, and lively; even the cavern of the robbers is illuminated
with a ray of that wit with which Lesage enlightens his whole narrative.
It is a work which renders the reader pleased with himself and with
mankind, where faults are placed before him in the light of follies
rather than vices, and where misfortunes are so interwoven with the
ludicrous that we laugh in the very act of sympathising with them."
In the earlier portion incidents preponderate over character; in the
close, some signs of the writer's fatigue appear. Of Lesage's other
tales and translations, _Le Bachelier de Salamanque_ (1736) takes
deservedly the highest rank.

With PIERRE CARLET DE CHAMBLAIN DE MARIVAUX (1688-1763) the novel
ceases to be primarily a study of manners or a romance of adventures;
it becomes an analysis of passions to which manners and adventures
are subordinate. As a journalist he may be said to have proceeded
from Addison; by his novels he prepared the way for Richardson and
for Rousseau. His early travesties of Homer and of Fénelon's
_Télémaque_ seem to indicate a tendency towards realism, but
Marivaux's realism took the form not so much of observation of society
in its breadth and variety as of psychological analysis. If he did
not know the broad highway of the heart, he traversed many of its
secret paths. His was a feminine spirit, delicate, fragile, curious,
unconcerned about general ideas; and yet, while untiring in his
anatomy of the passions, he was not truly passionate; his heart may
be said to have been in his head.

In the opening of the eighteenth century there was a revival of
preciosity, which Molière had never really killed, and in the _salon_
of Madame de Lambert, Marivaux may have learned something of his
metaphysics of love and something of his subtleties or affectations
of style. He anticipates the sensibility of the later part of the
century; but sensibility with Marivaux is not profound, and it is
relieved by intellectual vivacity. His conception of love has in it
not a little of mere gallantry. Like later eighteenth-century writers,
he at once exalts "virtue," and indulges his fancy in a licence which
does not tend towards good morals or manners. His _Vie de Marianne_
(1731-41), which occupied him during many years, is a picture of
social life, and a study, sometimes infinitely subtle, of the emotions
of his heroine; her genius for coquetry is finely allied to her maiden
pride; the hypocrite, M. de Climal--old angel fallen--is a new variety
of the family of Tartufe. _Le Paysan Parvenu_ (1735-36), which tells
of the successes of one whom women favour, is on a lower level of
art and of morals. Both novels were left unfinished; and while both
attract, they also repel, and finally weary the reader.[2] Their
influence was considerable in converting the romance of adventures
into the romance of emotional incident and analysis.

[Footnote 2: The twelfth part of _Marianne_ is by Madam Riccoboni.
Only five parts of the _Paysan_ are by Marivaux.]

The work of Marivaux for the stage is more important than his work
in prose fiction. His comedy has been described as the tragedy of
Racine transposed, with love leading to marriage, not to death. Love
is his central theme--sometimes in conflict with self-love--and
women are his protagonists. He discovers passion in its germ, and
traces it through its shy developments. His plays are little romances
handled in dramatic fashion; each records some delicate adventure
of the heart. He wrote much for the Comédie-Italienne, where he did
not suffer from the tyranny of rules and models, and where his graceful
fancy had free play. Of his large repertoire, the most admirable
pieces are _Le Jeu de l'Amour et du Hasard_ (1730) and _Les Fausses
Confidences_ (1732). In the former the heroine and her chambermaid
exchange costumes; the hero and his valet make a like exchange; yet
love is not misled, and heroine and hero find each other through their
disguises. In _Les Fausses Confidences_ the young widow Araminte is
won to a second love in spite of her resolve, and becomes the happy
victim of her own tender heart and of the devices of her assailants.
The "marivaudage" of Marivaux is sometimes a refined and novel mode
of expressing delicate shades and half-shades of feeling; sometimes
an over-refined or over-subtle attempt to express ingenuities of
sentiment, and the result is then frigid, pretentious, or pedantic.
No one excelled him in the art, described by Voltaire, of weighing
flies' eggs in gossamer scales.

The Abbé A.-F. PRÉVOST D'EXILES (1697-1763) is remembered by a single
tale of rare power and beauty, _Manon Lescaut_, but his work in
literature was voluminous and varied. Having deserted his
Benedictine monastery in 1728, he led for a time an irregular and
wandering life in England and Holland; then returning to Paris, he
gained a living by swift and ceaseless production for the booksellers.
In his journal, _Le Pour et le Contre_, he did much to inform his
countrymen respecting English literature, and among his translations
are those of Richardson's _Pamela_, _Sir Charles Grandison_, and
_Clarissa Harlowe_. Many of his novels are melodramatic narratives
of romantic adventure, having a certain kinship to our later romances
of Anne Radcliffe and Matthew Gregory Lewis, in which horror and pity,
blood and tears abound. Sometimes, however, when he writes of passion,
we feel that he is engaged in no sport of the imagination, but
transcribing the impulsive speech of his own tumultuous heart. The
_Mémoires d'un Homme de Qualité_, _Cléveland_, _Le Doyen de
Killerine_ are tragic narratives, in which love is the presiding
power.

_Manon Lescaut_, which appeared in 1731, as an episode of the first
of these, is a tale of fatal and irresistible passion. The heroine
is divided in heart between her mundane tastes for luxury and her
love for the Chevalier des Grieux. He, knowing her inconstancy and
infirmity, yet cannot escape from the tyranny of the spell which has
subdued him; his whole life is absorbed and lost in his devotion to
Manon, and he is with her in the American wilds at the moment of her
piteous death. The admirable literary style of _Manon Lescaut_ is
unfelt and disappears, so directly does it bring us into contact with
the motions of a human heart.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, philosophy, on the one
hand, invaded the novel and the short tale; on the other hand it was
invaded by a flood of sentiment. An irritated and irritating
sensuality could accommodate itself either to sentiment or to
philosophy. Voltaire's tales are, in narrative form, criticisms of
belief or opinion which scintillate with ironic wit. His disciple,
Marmontel, would "render virtue amiable" in his _Contes Moraux_
(1761), and cure the ravage of passion with a canary's song. His more
ambitious _Bélisaire_ seems to a modern reader a masterpiece in the
_genre ennuyeux_. His _Incas_ is exotic without colour or credibility.
Florian, with little skill, imitated the _Incas_ and _Télémaque_,
or was feebly idyllic and conventionally pastoral as a follower of
the Swiss Gessner. Restif de la Bretonne could be gross, corrupt,
declamatory, sentimental, humanitarian in turns or all together.
Three names are eminent--that of Diderot, who flung his good and evil
powers, mingling and fermenting, into his novels as into all else;
that of Rousseau, who interpreted passion, preached its restraints,
depicted the charms of the domestic interior, and presented the
glories of external nature in _La Nouvelle Héloise_; that of Bernardin
de Saint-Pierre, who reaches a hand to Rousseau on the one side, and
on the other to Chateaubriand.



CHAPTER II
MONTESQUIEU--VAUVENARGUES--VOLTAIRE


I

The author of _De l'Esprit des Lois_ was as important in the history
of European speculation as in that of French literature; but
inevitable changes of circumstances and ideas have caused his
influence to wane. His life was one in which the great events were
thoughts. Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de MONTESQUIEU, was born
in 1689 at La Brède, near Bordeaux. After his years of education by
the Oratorians, which left him with something of scepticism in his
intellect, and something of stoicism in his character, he pursued
legal studies, and in 1716 became President of the Parliament of
Bordeaux. The scientific researches of his day attracted him;
investigating anatomy, botany, natural philosophy, the history of
the earth, he came to see man as a portion of nature, or at least
as a creature whose life is largely determined by natural laws. With
a temper of happy serenity, and an admirable balance of faculties,
he was possessed by an eager intellectual curiosity. "I spend my
life," he said, "in examining; everything interests, everything
surprises me."

Nothing, however, interested him so much as the phenomena of human
society; he had no aptitude for metaphysical speculations; his
feeling for literature and art was defective; he honoured the antique
world, but it was the Greek and Latin historians and the ideals of
Roman virtue and patriotism which most deeply moved him. At the same
time he was a man of his own generation, and while essentially serious,
he explored the frivolous side of life, and yielded his imagination
to the licence of the day.

With enough wit and enough wantonness to capture a multitude of
readers, the _Lettres Persanes_ (1721) contain a serious criticism
of French society in the years of the Regency. It matters little that
the idea of the book may have been suggested by the Siamese travellers
of Dufresny's _Amusements_; the treatment is essentially original.
Things Oriental were in fashion--Galland had translated the _Arabian
Nights_ (1704-1708)--and Montesquieu delighted in books of travel
which told of the manners, customs, religions, governments of distant
lands. His Persians, Usbek and Rica, one the more philosophical, the
other the more satirical, visit Europe, inform their friends by letter
of all the aspects of European and especially of French life, and
receive tidings from Persia of affairs of the East, including the
troubles and intrigues of the eunuchs and ladies of the harem. The
spirit of the reaction against the despotism of Louis XIV. is
expressed in Montesquieu's pages; the spirit also of religious
free-thought, and the reaction against ecclesiastical tyranny. A
sense of the dangers impending over society is present, and of the
need of temperate reform. Brilliant, daring, ironical, licentious
as the _Persian Letters_ are, the prevailing tone is that of judicious
moderation; and already something can be discerned of the large views
and wise liberality of the _Esprit des Lois_. The book is valuable
to us still as a document in the social history of the eighteenth
century.

In Paris, Montesquieu formed many distinguished acquaintances, among
others that of Mlle. de Clermont, sister of the Duke de Bourbon.
Perhaps it was in homage to her that he wrote his prose-poem, which
pretends to be a translation from the Greek, _Le Temple de Gnide_
(1725). Its feeling for antiquity is overlaid by the artificialities,
long since faded, of his own day--"naught remains," writes M. Sorel,
"but the faint and subtle perfume of a _sachet_ long hidden in a
_rococo_ cabinet." Although his publications were anonymous,
Montesquieu was elected a member of the Academy in 1728, and almost
immediately after this he quitted France for a long course of travel
throughout Europe, undertaken with the purpose of studying the
manners, institutions, and governments of foreign lands. At Venice
he gained the friendship of Lord Chesterfield, and they arrived
together in England, where for nearly two years Montesquieu remained,
frequently hearing the parliamentary debates, and studying the
principles of English politics in the writings of Locke. His thoughts
on government were deeply influenced by his admiration of the British
constitution with its union of freedom and order attained by a balance
of the various political powers of the State. On Montesquieu's return
to La Brède he occupied himself with that great work which resumes
the observations and meditations of twenty years, the _Esprit des
Lois_. In the history of Rome, which impressed his imagination with
its vast moral, social, and political significance, he found a signal
example of the causes which lead a nation to greatness and the causes
which contribute to its decline. The study made at this point of view
detached itself from the more comprehensive work which he had
undertaken, and in 1734 appeared his _Considérations sur les Causes
de la Grandeur et de la Décadence des Romains_.

Bossuet had dealt nobly with Roman history, but in the spirit of a
theologian expounding the course of Divine Providence in human
affairs. Montesquieu studied the operation of natural causes. His
knowledge, indeed, was incomplete, but it was the knowledge afforded
by the scholarship of his own time. The love of liberty, the patriotic
pride, the military discipline, the education in public spirit
attained by discussion, the national fortitude under reverses, the
support given to peoples against their rulers, the respect for the
religion of conquered tribes and races, the practice of dealing at
one time with only a single hostile power, are pointed out as
contributing to the supremacy of Rome in the ancient world. Its
decadence is explained as the gradual result of its vast overgrowth,
its civil wars, the loss of patriotism among the soldiery engaged
in remote provinces, the inroads of luxury, the proscription of
citizens, the succession of unworthy rulers, the division of the
Empire, the incursion of the barbarians; and in treating this portion
of his subject Montesquieu may be said to be wholly original. A short
_Dialogue de Sylla et d'Eucrate_ may be viewed as a pendant to the
_Considérations_, discussing a fragment of the subject in dramatic
form. Montesquieu's desire to arrive at general truths sometimes led
him to large conclusions resting on too slender a basis of fact; but
the errors in applying his method detract only a little from the
service which he rendered to thought in a treatment of history at
least tending in the direction of philosophic truth.

The whole of his mind--almost the whole of his existence--is embodied
in the _Esprit des Lois_ (1748). It lacks the unity of a ruling idea;
it is deficient in construction, in continuity, in cohesion; much
that it contains has grown obsolete or is obsolescent; yet in the
literature of eighteenth-century thought it takes, perhaps, the
highest place; and it must always be precious as the self-revealment
of a great intellect--swift yet patient, ardent yet temperate,
liberal yet the reverse of revolutionary--an intellect that before
all else loved the light. It lacks unity, because its author's mind
was many-sided, and he would not suppress a portion of himself to
secure a factitious unity. Montesquieu was a student of science, who
believed in the potency of the laws of nature, and he saw that human
society is the product of, or at least is largely modified by, natural
law; he was also a believer in the power of human reason and human
will, an admirer of Roman virtue, a citizen, a patriot, and a reformer.
He would write the natural history of human laws, exhibit the
invariable principles from which they proceed, and reduce the study
of governments to a science; but at the same time he would exhibit
how society acts upon itself; he would warn and he would exhort; he
would help, if possible, to create intelligent and patriotic citizens.
To these intentions we may add another--that of a criticism, touched
with satire, of the contemporary political and social arrangements
of France.

And yet again, Montesquieu was a legist, with some of the curiosity
of an antiquary, not without a pride in his rank, interested in its
origins, and desirous to trace the history of feudal laws and
privileges. The _Esprit des Lois_ is not a doctrinaire exposition
of a theory, but the record of a varied life of thought, in which
there are certain dominant tendencies, but no single absolute idea.
The forms of government, according to Montesquieu, are
three--republic (including both the oligarchical republic and the
democratic), monarchy, despotism. Each of these structural
arrangements requires a principle, a moral spring, to give it force
and action: the popular republic lives by virtue of patriotism, public
spirit, the love of equality; the aristocratic republic lives by the
spirit of moderation among the members of the ruling class; monarchy
lives by the stimulus of honour, the desire of superiority and
distinction; despotism draws its vital force from fear; but each of
these principles may perish through its corruption or excess. The
laws of each country, its criminal and civil codes, its system of
education, its sumptuary regulations, its treatment of the relation
of the sexes, are intimately connected with the form of government,
or rather with the principle which animates that form.

Laws, under the several forms of government, are next considered in
reference to the power of the State for purposes of defence and of
attack. The nature of political liberty is investigated, and the
requisite separation of the legislative, judicial, and
administrative powers is exhibited in the example set forth in the
British constitution. But political freedom must include the liberty
of the individual; the rights of the citizen must be respected and
guaranteed; and, as part of the regulation of individual freedom,
the levying and collection of taxes must be studied.

From this subject Montesquieu passes to his theory, once celebrated,
of the influence of climate and the soil upon the various systems
of legislation, and especially the influence of climate upon the slave
system, the virtual servitude of woman, and the growth of political
despotism. Over against the fatalism of climate and natural
conditions he sets the duty of applying the reason to modify the
influences of external nature by wise institutions. National
character, and the manners and customs which are its direct expression,
if they cannot be altered by laws, must be respected, and something
even of direction or regulation may be attained. Laws in relation
to commerce, to money, to population, to religion, are dealt with
in successive books.

The duty of religious toleration is urged from the point of view of
a statesman, while the discussions of theology are declined. Very
noteworthy is the humble remonstrance to the inquisitors of Spain
and Portugal ascribed to a Jew of eighteen, who is supposed to have
perished in the last _auto-da-fé_. The facts of the civil order are
not to be judged by the laws of the religious order, any more than
the facts of the religious order are to be judged by civil laws. Here
the great treatise might have closed, but Montesquieu adds what may
be styled an historical appendix in his study of the origin and
development of feudal laws. At a time when antiquity was little
regarded, he was an ardent lover of antiquity; at a time when mediæval
history was ignored, he was a student of the forgotten centuries.

Such in outline is the great work which in large measure modified
the course of eighteenth-century thought. Many of its views have been
superseded; its collections of facts are not critically dealt with;
its ideas often succeed each other without logical sequence; but
Montesquieu may be said to have created a method, if not a science;
he brought the study of jurisprudence and politics, in the widest
sense, into literature, laicising and popularising the whole
subject; he directed history to the investigation of causes; he led
men to feel the greatness of the social institution; and, while
retiring from view behind his work, he could not but exhibit, for
his own day and for ours, the spectacle of a great mind operating
over a vast field in the interests of truth, the spectacle of a great
nature that loved the light, hating despotism, but fearing revolution,
sane, temperate, wisely benevolent. In years tyrannised over by
abstract ideas, his work remained to plead for the concrete and the
historical; among men devoted to the absolute in theory and the
extreme in practice, it remained to justify the relative, to demand
a consideration of circumstances and conditions, to teach men how
large a field of reform lay within the bounds of moderation and good
sense.

The _Esprit des Lois_ was denounced by Jansenists and Jesuits; it
was placed in the Index, but in less than two years twenty-two editions
had appeared, and it was translated into many languages. The author
justified it brilliantly in his _Défense_ of 1750. His later writings
are of small importance. With failing eyesight in his declining years,
he could enjoy the society of friends and the illumination of his
great fame. He died tranquilly (1755) at the age of sixty-six, in
the spirit of a Christian Stoic.


II

The life of society was studied by Montesquieu; the inward life of
the heart was studied by a young moralist, whose premature loss was
lamented with tender passion by Voltaire.

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de VAUVENARGUES, though neither a thinker
nor a writer of the highest order, attaches us by the beauty of his
character as seen through his half-finished work, more than any other
author of the earlier part of the eighteenth century. He was born
(1715) at Aix, in Provence, received a scanty education, served in
the army during more than ten years, retired with broken health and
found no other employment, lived on modest resources, enjoyed the
acquaintance of the Marquis de Mirabeau and the friendship and high
esteem of Voltaire, and died in 1747, at the early age of thirty-two.
His knowledge of literature hardly extended beyond that of his French
predecessors of the seventeenth century. The chief influences that
reached him came from Pascal, Bossuet, and Fénelon. His learning was
derived from action, from the observation of men, and from
acquaintance with his own heart.

The writings of Vauvenargues are the fragmentary _Introduction à la
Connaissance de l'Esprit Humain_, followed by _Réflexions et
Maximes_ (1746), and a few short pieces of posthumous publication.
He is a moralist, who studies those elements of character which tend
to action, and turns away from metaphysical speculations. His early
faith in Christianity insensibly declined and disappeared, but his
spirit remained religious; he believed in God and immortality, and
he never became a militant philosopher. He thought generously of human
nature, but without extravagant optimism. The reason, acting alone,
he distrusted; he found the source of our highest convictions and
our noblest practice in the emotions, in the heart, in the obscure
depths of character and of nature. Here, indeed, is Vauvenargues'
originality. In an age of ill living, he conceived a worthy ideal
of conduct; in an age tending towards an exaggerated homage to reason,
he honoured the passions: "Great thoughts come from the heart"; "We
owe, perhaps, to the passions the greatest gains of the intellect";
"The passions have taught men reason."

Vauvenargues, with none of the violences of Rousseau's temperament,
none of the excess of his sensibility, by virtue of his recognition
of the potency of nature, of the heart, may be called a precursor
of Rousseau. Into his literary criticism he carries the same
tendencies: it is far from judicial criticism; its merit is that it
is personal and touched with emotion. His total work seems but a
fragment, yet his life had a certain completeness; he knew how to
act, to think, to feel, and after great sufferings, borne with
serenity, he knew how to die.


III

The movement of Voltaire's mind went with that of the general mind
of France. During the first half of the century he was primarily a
man of letters; from about 1750 onwards he was the aggressive
philosopher, the social reformer, using letters as the vehicle of
militant ideas.

Born in Paris in 1694, the son of a notary of good family,
FRANÇOIS-MARIE AROUET, who assumed the name VOLTAIRE (probably an
anagram formed from the letters of _Arouet l.j._, that is _le jeune_),
was educated by the Jesuits, and became a precocious versifier of
little pieces in the taste of the time. At an early age he was
introduced to the company of the wits and fine gentlemen who formed
the sceptical and licentious Society of the Temple. Old Arouet
despaired of his son, who was eager for pleasure, and a reluctant
student of the law. A short service in Holland, in the household of
the French ambassador, produced no better result than a fruitless
love-intrigue.

Again in Paris, where he ill endured the tedium of an attorney's office,
Voltaire haunted the theatres and the _salons_, wrote light verse
and indecorous tales, planned his tragedy _OEdipe_, and, inspired
by old M. de Caumartin's enthusiasm for Henri IV., conceived the idea
of his _Henriade_. Suspected of having written defamatory verses
against the Regent, he was banished from the capital, and when
readmitted was for eleven months, on the suspicion of more atrocious
libels, a prisoner in the Bastille. Here he composed--according to
his own declaration, in sleep--the second canto of the _Henriade_,
and completed his _OEdipe_, which was presented with success before
the close of 1718. The prisoner of the Bastille became the favourite
of society, and repaid his aristocratic hosts by the brilliant sallies
of his conversation.

A second tragedy, _Artémire_, afterwards recast as _Mariamne_, was
ill received in its earlier form. Court pensions, the death of his
father, and lucky financial speculations brought Voltaire
independence. He travelled in 1722 to Holland, met Jean-Baptiste
Rousseau on the way, and read aloud for his new acquaintance _Le Pour
et le Contre_, a poem of faith and unfaith--faith in Deism, disbelief
in Christianity. The meeting terminated with untimely wit at
Rousseau's expense and mutual hostility. Unable to obtain the
approbation for printing his epic, afterwards named _La Henriade_,
Voltaire arranged for a secret impression, under the title _La Ligue_,
at Rouen (1723), whence many copies were smuggled into Paris. The
young Queen, Marie Lecszinska, before whom his _Mariamne_ and the
comedy _L'Indiscret_ were presented, favoured Voltaire. His
prospects were bright, when sudden disaster fell. A quarrel in the
theatre with the Chevalier de Rohan, followed by personal violence
at the hands of the Chevalier's bullies, ended for Voltaire, not with
the justice which he demanded, but with his own lodgment in the
Bastille. When released, with orders to quit Paris, he thought of
his acquaintance and admirer Bolingbroke, and lost no time in taking
refuge on English soil.

Voltaire's residence in England extended over three years (1726-29).
Bolingbroke, Peterborough, Chesterfield, Pope, Swift, Gay, Thomson,
Young, Samuel Clarke were among his acquaintances. He discovered the
genius of that semi-barbarian Shakespeare, but found the only
reasonable English tragedy in Addison's "Cato." He admired the epic
power of Milton, and scorned Milton's allegory of Sin and Death. He
found a master of philosophy in Locke. He effected a partial entrance
into the scientific system of Newton. He read with zeal the writings
of those pupils of Bayle, the English Deists. He honoured English
freedom and the spirit of religious toleration. In 1728 the _Henriade_
was published by subscription in London, and brought the author
prodigious praise and not a little pelf. He collected material for
his _Histoire de Charles XII._, and, observing English life and
manners, prepared the _Lettres Philosophiques_, which were to make
the mind of England favourably known to his countrymen.

_Charles XII._, like _La Ligue_, was printed at Rouen, and smuggled
into Paris. The tragedies _Brutus_ and _Ériphyle_, both of which show
the influence of the English drama, were coldly received. Voltaire
rose from his fall, and produced _Zaïre_ (1732), a kind of
eighteenth-century French "Othello," which proved a triumph; it was
held that Corneille and Racine had been surpassed. In 1733 a little
work of mingled verse and prose, the _Temple du Goût_, in which recent
and contemporary writers were criticised, gratified the self-esteem
of some, and wounded the vanity of a larger number of his
fellow-authors. The _Lettres Philosophiques sur les Anglais_, which
followed, were condemned by the Parliament to be burnt by the public
executioner. With other audacities of his pen, the storm increased.
Voltaire took shelter (1734) in Champagne, at Cirey, the château of
Madame du Châtelet.

Voltaire was forty years of age; Madame, a woman of intellect and
varied culture, was twelve years younger. During fifteen years, when
he was not wandering abroad, Cirey was the home of Voltaire, and Madame
du Châtelet his sympathetic, if sometimes his exacting companion.
To this period belong the dramas _Alzire_, _Zulime_, _L'Enfant
Prodigue_, _Mahomet_, _Mérope_, _Nanine_. The divine Émilie was
devoted to science, and Voltaire interpreted the Newtonian
philosophy to France or discussed questions of physics. Many
admirable pieces of verse--ethical essays in the manner of Pope,
lighter poems of occasion, _Le Mondain_, which contrasts the golden
age of simplicity with the much more agreeable age of luxury, and
many besides--were written. Progress was made with the shameless
burlesque on Joan of Arc, _La Pucelle_. In _Zadig_ Voltaire gave the
first example of his sparkling tales in prose. Serious historical
labours occupied him--afterwards to be published--the _Siècle de
Louis XIV._ and the great _Essai sur les Moeurs_. In 1746, with the
support of Madame de Pompadour, he entered the French Academy. The
death of Madame du Châtelet, in 1749, was a cruel blow to Voltaire.
He endeavoured in Paris to find consolation in dramatic efforts,
entering into rivalry with the aged Crébillon.

Among Voltaire's correspondents, when he dwelt at Cirey, was the Crown
Prince of Prussia, a royal _philosophe_ and aspirant French poet.
Royal flatteries were not more grateful to Voltaire than philosophic
and literary flatteries were to Frederick. Personal acquaintance
followed; but Frederick would not receive Madame du Châtelet, and
Voltaire would not desert his companion. Now when Madame was dead,
when the Pompadour ceased from her favours to the poet, when Louis
turned his back in response to a compliment, Frederick was to secure
his philosopher. In July 1750 Voltaire was installed at Berlin. For
a time that city was "the paradise of _philosophes_."

The _Siècle de Louis XIV._ was published next year. Voltaire's
insatiable cupidity, his tricks, his tempers, his vindictiveness,
shown in the _Diatribe du Docteur Akakia_ (an embittered attack on
Maupertuis), alienated the King; when "the orange" of Voltaire's
genius "was sucked" he would "throw away the rind." With unwilling
delays, and the humiliation of an arrest at Frankfort, Voltaire
escaped from the territory of the royal "Solomon" (1753), and
attracted to Switzerland by its spirit of toleration, found himself
in 1755 tenant of the château which he named Les Délices, near Geneva,
his "summer palace," and that of Monrion, his "winter palace," in
the neighbourhood of Lausanne. His pen was busy: the tragedy
_L'Orphelin de la Chine_, tales, fugitive verses, the poem on the
earthquake at Lisbon, with its doubtful assertion of Providence as
a slender counterpoise to the certainty of innumerable evils in the
world, pursued one another in varied succession. Still keeping in
his hands Les Délices, he purchased in 1758 the château and demesne
of Ferney on French soil, and became a kind of prince and patriarch,
a territorial lord, wisely benevolent to the little community which
he made to flourish around him, and at the same time the intellectual
potentate of Europe.

Never had his brain been more alert and indefatigable. The years from
1760 to 1778 were years of incessant activity. Tragedy, comedy, opera,
epistles, satires, tales in verse, _La Pucelle_,[1] _Le Pauvre
Diable_ (admirable in its malignity), literary criticism, a
commentary on Corneille (published for the benefit of the great
dramatist's grandniece), brilliant tales in prose, the _Essai sur
les Moeurs et l'Esprit des Nations_, the _Histoire de l'Empire de
Russie sous Pierre le Grand_, with other voluminous historical works,
innumerable writings in philosophy, in religious polemics, including
many articles of the _Dictionnaire Philosophique_, in politics, in
jurisprudence, a vast correspondence which extended his influence
over the whole of Europe--these are but a part of the achievement
of a sexagenarian progressing to become an octogenarian.

[Footnote 1: First authorised edition, 1762; surreptitiously printed,
1755.]

His work was before all else a warfare against intolerance and in
favour of free thought. The grand enemy of intellectual liberty
Voltaire saw in the superstition of the Church; his word of command
was short and uncompromising--_Écrasez l'Infâme_. Jean Calas, a
Protestant of Toulouse, falsely accused of the murder of his son,
who was alleged to have been converted to the Roman communion, was
tortured and broken on the wheel. Voltaire, with incredible zeal,
took up the victim's cause, and finally established the dead man's
innocence. Sirven, a Protestant, declared guilty of the murder of
his Roman Catholic daughter, was beggared and banished; Voltaire
succeeded, after eight years, in effecting the reversal of the
sentence. La Barre was tortured and decapitated for alleged impiety.
Voltaire was not strong enough to overpower the French magistracy
supported now by the French monarch. He turned to Frederick with a
request that he would give shelter to a colony of _philosophes_, who
should through the printing-press make a united assault upon
_l'Infâme_.

In the early days of 1778, Voltaire, urged by friends, imprudently
consented to visit Paris. His journey was like a regal progress; his
reception in the capital was an overwhelming ovation. In March he
was ailing, but he rose from his bed, was present at a performance
of his _Irène_, and became the hero and the victim of extravagant
popular enthusiasm. In April he eagerly pleaded at the French Academy
for a new dictionary, and undertook himself to superintend the letter
A. In May he was dangerously ill; on the 26th he had the joy of learning
that his efforts to vindicate the memory of the unfortunate Count
Lally were crowned with success. It was Voltaire's last triumph; four
days later, unshriven and unhouseled, he expired. Seldom had such
a coil of electrical energy been lodged within a human brain. His
desire for intellectual activity was a consuming passion. His love
of influence, his love of glory were boundless. Subject to spasms
of intensest rage, capable of malignant trickery to gain his ends,
jealous, mean, irreverent, mendacious, he had yet a heart open to
charity and pity, a zeal for human welfare, a loyalty to his ruling
ideas, and a saving good sense founded upon his swift and clear
perception of reality.

Voltaire's mind has been described as "a chaos of clear ideas." It
is easy to point out the inconsistencies of his opinions, yet certain
dominant thoughts can be distinguished amid the chaos. He believed
in a God; the arrangements of the universe require a designer; the
idea of God is a benefit to society--if He did not exist, He must
be invented. But to suppose that the Deity intervenes in the affairs
of the world is superstition; He rules through general laws--His
executive; He is represented in the heart of man by His
viceroy--conscience. The soul is immortal, and God is just; therefore
let wrong-doers beware. In _L'Histoire de Jenni_ the youthful hero
is perverted by his atheistic associates, and does not fear to murder
his creditor; he is reconverted to theism, and becomes one of the
best men in England. As to the evil which darkens the world, we cannot
understand it; let us not make it worse by vain perplexities; let
us hope that a future life will right the balance of things; and,
meanwhile, let us attend to the counsels of moderation and good sense;
let the narrow bounds of our knowledge at least teach us the lesson
of toleration.

Applied to history, such ideas lead Voltaire, in striking contrast
with Bossuet, to ignore the supernatural, to eliminate the
Providential order, and to seek the explanation of events in human
opinion, in human sentiments, in the influence of great men, even
in the influence of petty accident, the caprice of _sa Majesté le
Hasard_. In the epoch of classical antiquity--which Voltaire
understood ill--man had advanced from barbarism to a condition of
comparative well-being and good sense; in the Christian and mediæval
period there was a recoil and retrogression; in modern times has begun
a renewed advance. In fixing attention on the _esprit et moeurs_ of
nations--their manners, opinions, institutions, sentiments,
prejudices--Voltaire was original, and rendered most important
service to the study of history. Although his blindness to the
significance of religious phenomena is a grave defect, his historical
scepticism had its uses. As a writer of historical narrative he is
admirably lucid and rapid; nor should the ease of his narration
conceal the fact that he worked laboriously and carefully among
original sources. With his _Charles XII._, his _Pierre le Grand_,
his _Siècle de Louis XIV._, we may class the _Henriade_ as a piece
of history; its imaginative power is not that of an epic, but it is
an interpretation of a fragment of French history in the light of
one generous idea--that of religious toleration.

Filled with destructive passion against the Church, Voltaire, in
affairs of the State, was a conservative. His ideal for France was
an intelligent despotism. But if a conservative, he was one of a
reforming spirit. He pleaded for freedom in the internal trade of
province with province, for legal and administrative uniformity
throughout the whole country, for a reform of the magistracy, for
a milder code of criminal jurisprudence, for attention to public
hygiene. His programme was not ambitious, but it was reasonable, and
his efforts for the general welfare have been justified by time.

As a literary critic he was again conservative. He belonged to the
classical school, and to its least liberal section. He regarded
literary forms as imposed from without on the content of poetry, not
as growing from within; passion and imagination he would reduce to
the strict bounds of uninspired good sense; he placed Virgil above
Homer, and preferred French tragedy to that of ancient Greece; from
his involuntary admiration of Shakespeare he recoiled in alarm; if
he admired Corneille, it was with many reservations. Yet his taste
was less narrow than that of some of his contemporaries; he had a
true feeling for the genius of the French language; he possessed,
after the manner of his nation and his time, _le grand goût_; he
honoured Boileau; he exalted Racine in the highest degree; and, to
the praise of his discernment, it may be said that he discovered
_Athalie_.

The spectacular effects of _Athalie_ impressed Voltaire's
imagination. In his own tragedies, while continuing the
seventeenth-century tradition, he desired to exhibit more striking
situations, to develop more rapid action, to enhance the dramatic
spectacle, to add local colour. His style and speech in the theatre
have the conventional monotonous pomp, the conventional monotonous
grace, without poetic charm, imaginative vision, or those flashes
which spring from passionate genius. When, as was frequently the case,
he wrote for the stage to advocate the cause of an idea, to preach
tolerance or pity, he attained a certain height of eloquence. Whatever
sensibility there was in Voltaire's heart may be discovered in _Zaïre_.
_Mérope_ has the distinction of being a tragedy from which the passion
of love is absent; its interest rests wholly on maternal affection.
_Tancrède_ is remarkable as an eighteenth-century treatment of the
chivalric life and spirit. The Christian temper of tolerance and
humanity is honoured in _Alzire_.

Voltaire's incomparable gift of satirical wit did not make him a
writer of high comedy: he could be grotesque without lightness or
brightness. But when a sentimental element mingles with the comic,
and almost obscures it, as in _Nanine_ (a dramatised tale derived
from Richardson's _Pamela_), the verse acquires a grace, and certain
scenes an amiable charm. _Nanine_, indeed, though in dramatic form,
lies close to those tales in verse in which Voltaire mingled happily
his wisdom and his wit. "The philosophy of Horace in the language
of La Fontaine, this," writes a critic, "is what we find from time
to time in Voltaire." In his lighter verses of occasion, epigram,
compliment, light mockery, half-playful, half-serious sentiment, he
is often exquisite.

No part of Voltaire's work has suffered so little at the hands of
time as his tales in prose. In his contributions to the satire of
human-kind he learned something from Rabelais, something from Swift.
It is the satire of good sense impatient against folly, and armed
with the darts of wit. Voltaire does not esteem highly the wisdom
of human creatures: they pretend to knowledge beyond their powers;
they kill one another for an hypothesis; they find ingenious reasons
for indulging their base or petty passions; their lives are under
the rule of _sa Majesté le Hasard_. But let us not rage in Timon's
manner against the human race; if the world is not the best of all
possible worlds, it is not wholly evil. Let us be content to mock
at the absurdity of the universe, and at the diverting, if irritating,
follies of its inhabitants. Above all, let us find support in work,
even though we do not see to what it tends; "Il faut cultiver notre
jardin"--such is Voltaire's word, and the final word of Candide. With
light yet effective irony, Voltaire preaches the lesson of good sense.
When bitter, he is still gay; his sad little philosophy of existence
is uttered with an accent of mirth; his art in satirical narrative
is perfect; he is not resigned; he is not enraged; he is indignant,
but at the same time he smiles; there is always the last resource
of blindly cultivating our garden.

In Voltaire's myriad-minded correspondence the whole man may be
found--his fire, his sense, his universal curiosity, his wit, his
malignity, his goodness, his Protean versatility, his ruling ideas;
and one may say that the whole of eighteenth-century Europe presses
into the pages. He is not only the man of letters, the student of
science, the philosopher; he is equally interested in politics, in
social reform, in industry, in agriculture, in political economy,
in philology, and, together with these, in the thousand incidents
of private life.



CHAPTER III
DIDEROT AND THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA--PHILOSOPHERS, ECONOMISTS,
CRITICS--BUFFON


I

"When I recall Diderot," wrote his friend Meister, "the immense
variety of his ideas, the amazing multiplicity of his knowledge, the
rapid flight, the warmth, the impetuous tumult of his imagination,
all the charm and all the disorder of his conversation, I venture
to liken his character to Nature herself, exactly as he used to
conceive her--rich, fertile, abounding in germs of every sort ...
without any dominating principle, without a master, and without a
God." No image more suitable could be found; and his works resemble
the man, in their richness, their fertility, their variety, and their
disorder. A great writer we can hardly call him, for he has left no
body of coherent thought, no piece of finished art; but he was the
greatest of literary improvisators.

DENIS DIDEROT, son of a worthy cutler of Langres, was born in 1713.
Educated by the Jesuits, he turned away from the regular professions,
and supported himself and his ill-chosen wife by hack-work for the
Paris booksellers--translations, philosophical essays directed
against revealed religion, stories written to suit the appetite for
garbage. From deism he advanced to atheism. Arguing in favour of the
relativity of human knowledge in his _Lettre sur les Aveugles_ (1749),
he puts his plea for atheism into the lips of an English man of science,
but the device did not save him from an imprisonment of three months.

In 1745 the booksellers, contemplating a translation of the English
"Cyclopædia" of Chambers, applied to Diderot for assistance. He
readily undertook the task, but could not be satisfied with a mere
translation. In a Prospectus (1750) he indicated the design of the
"Encyclopædia" as he conceived it: the order and connection of the
various branches of knowledge should be set forth, and in dictionary
form the several sciences, liberal arts, and mechanical arts should
be dealt with by experts. The homage which he rendered to science
expressed the mind of his time; in the honour paid to mechanical toil
and industry he was in advance of his age, and may be called an
organiser of modern democracy. At his request JEAN LE ROND D'ALEMBERT
(1717-83) undertook the direction of the mathematical articles, and
wrote the _Discours Préliminaire_, which classified the departments
of human knowledge on the basis of Bacon's conceptions, and gave a
survey of intellectual progress. It was welcomed with warm applause.
The aid of Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Buffon, Turgot, Quesnay,
and a host of less illustrious writers was secured; but the vast
enterprise excited the alarms of the ecclesiastical party; the
Jesuits were active in rivalry and opposition; Rousseau deserted and
became an enemy; D'Alembert, timid, and a lover of peace, withdrew.
In 1759 the privilege of publication was revoked, but the Government
did not enforce its own decree. Through all difficulties and dangers
Diderot held his ground. One day he wrote a fragment of the history
of philosophy; the next he was in a workshop examining the
construction of some machine: nothing was too great or too small for
his audacity or his patience. To achieve the work, tact was needed
as well as courage; at times he condescended to disguise his real
opinions, striving to weather the storm by yielding to it. In 1765
his gigantic labours were substantially accomplished, though the
last plates of the _Encyclopédie_ were not issued until 1772. When
all was finished, the scientific movement of the century was
methodised and popularised; a barrier against the invasion of the
past was erected; the rationalist philosophy, with all its truths
and all its errors, its knowledge and its ignorance, had obtained
its _Summa_.

But, besides this co-operative work, Diderot did much, and in many
directions, single-handed, flinging out his thoughts with ardent
haste, and often leaving what he had written to the mercies of chance;
a prodigal sower of good and evil seed. Several of his most remarkable
pieces came to light, as it were, by accident, and long after his
death. His novel _La Religieuse_--influenced to some extent by
Richardson, whom he superstitiously admired--is a repulsive exposure
of conventual life as it appeared to him, and of its moral disorder.
_Jacques le Fataliste_, in which the manner is coarsely imitated from
Sterne, a book ill-composed and often malodorous, contains, among
its heterogeneous tales, one celebrated narrative, the _Histoire de
Mme. de la Pommeraye_, relating a woman's base revenge on a faithless
lover. If anything of Diderot's can be named a masterpiece, it is
certainly _Le Neveu de Rameau_, a satire and a character-study of
the parasite, thrown into the form of dialogue, which he handled with
brilliant success; it remained unknown until the appearance of a
German version (1805), made by Goethe from a manuscript copy.

In his _Salons_, Diderot elevated and enlarged the criticism of the
pictorial art in France. His eye for colour and for contour was
admirable; but it is less the technique of paintings that he studies
than the subjects, the ideas, and the moral significance. Such
criticism may be condemned as literary rather than artistic; it was,
however, new and instructive, and did much to quicken the public taste.
Diderot pleaded for a return to nature in the theatre; for a bourgeois
drama, domestic tragedy and serious comedy, touched with pathos,
studied from real life, and inspired by a moral purpose; for the
presentation on the stage of "conditions" rather than individual
types--that is, of character as modified by social environments and
the habits which they produce. He maintained that the actor should
rather possess than be possessed by his theme, should be the master
rather than the slave of his sensibility.

The examples of dramatic art which Diderot gave in his own plays,
the _Père de Famille_ and the _Fils Naturel_, are poor affectations
of a style supposed to be natural, and are patently doctrinaire in
their design, laboured developments of a moral thesis. One piece in
which he paints himself, _Est-il bon? Est-il méchant?_ and this alone,
falls little short of being admirable, and yet it fails of true
success.

A coherent system of thought cannot be found in Diderot's writings,
but they are pregnant with ideas. He is deist, pantheist, atheist;
he is a materialist--one, however, who conceives matter not as inert,
but quick with force. He is edifying and sincere in his morality;
and presently his morals become the doctrines of an anarchical licence.
All the ideas of his age struggle within him, and are never reduced
to unity or harmony; light is never separate in his nature from heat,
and light and warmth together give rise to thoughts which are
sometimes the anticipations of scientific genius; he almost leaps
forward to some of the conclusions of Darwin. His great powers and
his incessant energy were not directed to worldly prosperity. Diderot
was never rich. The Empress Catherine of Russia magnificently
purchased his library, and entrusted him with the books, as her
librarian, providing a salary which to him was wealth. He travelled
to St. Petersburg to thank her in person for her generous and delicate
gift. But her imperial generosity was not greater than his own; he
was always ready to lavish the treasures of his knowledge and thought
in the service of others; no small fragment of his work was a free
gift to his friends, and passed under their name; Holbach and Raynal
were among his debtors.

His correspondence presents a vivid image of the man and of the group
of philosophers to which he belonged; the letters addressed to Mlle.
Volland, to whom he was devotedly attached during many years, are
frank betrayals of his character and his life. Her loss saddened his
last days, but the days of sorrow were few. In July 1784, Diderot
died. His reputation and influence were from time to time enhanced
by posthumous publications. Other writers of his century impressed
their own personalities more distinctly and powerfully upon society;
no other writer mingled his genius so completely with external things,
or responded so fully and variously to the stimulus of the spirit
of his age.


II

The French philosophical movement--the "Illumination"--of the
eighteenth century, proceeds in part from the empiricism of Locke,
in part from the remarkable development of physical and natural
science; it incorporated the conclusions of English deism, and
advanced from deism to atheism. An intellectual centre for the
movement was provided by the _Encyclopédie_; a social centre was found
in Parisian _salons_. It was sustained and invigorated by the passion
for freedom and for justice asserting itself against the despotism
and abuses of government and against the oppressions and abuses of
the Church. The opposing forces were feeble, incompetent,
disorganised. The methods of government were, in truth,
indefensible; religion had surrendered dogma, and lost the austerity
of morals; within the citadel of the Church were many professed and
many secret allies of the philosophers.

While in England an apologetic literature arose, profound in thought
and adequate in learning, in France no sustained resistance was
offered to the inroad of free thought. Episcopal fulminations rolled
like stage thunder; the Bastille and Vincennes were holiday retreats
for fatigued combatants; imprisonment was tempered with cajoleries;
the censors of the press connived with their victims. The Chancellor
D'AGUESSEAU (1668-1751), an estimable magistrate, a dignified orator,
maintained the old seriousness of life and morals, and received the
reward of exile. The good ROLLIN (1661-1741) dictated lessons to youth
drawn from antiquity and Christianity, narrated ancient history, and
discoursed admirably on a plan of studies with a view to form the
heart and mind; an amiable Christian Nestor, he was not a man-at-arms.
The Abbé Guenée replied to Voltaire with judgment, wit, and erudition,
in his _Lettres de quelques Juifs_ (1769), but it was a single victory
in a campaign of many battles. The satire of Gilbert, _Le Dix-huitième
Siècle_, is rudely vigorous; but Gilbert was only an angry youth,
disappointed of his fame. Fréron, the "Wasp" (_frélon_) of Voltaire's
_L'Écossaise_, might sting in his _Année Littéraire_, but there were
sharper stings in satire and epigram which he must endure. Palissot
might amuse the theatrical spectators of 1760 with his ridiculous
philosophers; the _Philosophes_ was taken smilingly by Voltaire, and
was sufficiently answered by Morellet's pamphlet and the
_bouts-rimés_ of Marmontel or Piron. The _Voltairomanie_ of
Desfontaines is only the outbreak of resentment of the accomplished
and disreputable Abbé against a benefactor whose offence was to have
saved him from the galleys.

The sensationalist philosophy is inaugurated by JULIEN OFFRAY DE LA
METTRIE (1709-51) rather than by Condillac. A physician, making
observations on his own case during an attack of fever, he arrived
at the conclusion that thought is but a result of the mechanism of
the body. Man is a machine more ingeniously organised than the brute.
All ideas have their origin in sensation. As for morals, they are
not absolute, but relative to society and the State. As for God,
perhaps He exists, but why should we worship this existence more than
any other? The law of our being is to seek happiness; the law of society
is that we should not interfere with the happiness of others. The
pleasure of the senses is not the only pleasure, but it has the
distinction of being universal to our species.

La Mettrie, while opposing the spiritualism of Descartes, is more
closely connected with that great thinker, through his doctrine that
brutes are but machines, than with Locke. It is from Locke--though
from Locke mutilated--that ÉTIENNE BONNOT DE CONDILLAC (1715-80)
proceeds. All ideas are sensations, but sensations transformed.
Imagine a marble statue endowed successively with the several human
senses; it will be seen how perceptions, consciousness, memory, ideas,
comparison, judgment, association, abstraction, pleasure, desire
are developed. The _ego_ is but the bundle of sensations experienced
or transformed and held in recollection. Yet the unity of the _ego_
seems to argue that it is not composed of material particles.
Condillac's doctrine is sensationalist, but not materialistic.
Condillac's disciple, the physician Cabanis (1757-1808), proceeded
to investigate the nature of sensibility itself, and to develop the
physiological method of psychology. The unnecessary soul which
Condillac preserved was suppressed by Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836);
his ideology was no more than a province of zoology.

The morals of the sensationalist school were expressed by
CLAUDE-ADRIEN HELVÉTIUS (1715-71), a worthy and benevolent
farmer-general. The motive of all our actions is self-love, that
tendency which leads us to seek for pleasure and avoid pain; but,
by education and legislation, self-love can be guided and trained
so that it shall harmonise with the public good. It remained for a
German acclimatised to Paris to compile the full manifesto of
atheistic materialism. At Holbach's hospitable table the
philosophers met, and the air was charged with ideas. To condense
these into a system was Holbach's task. Diderot, Lagrange, Naigeon
may have lent their assistance, but PAUL-HENRY THIRY, BARON D'HOLBACH
(1723-89) must be regarded as substantially the author of the _Système
de la Nature_ (1770), which the title-page prudently attributed to
the deceased Mirabaud. What do we desire but that men should be happy,
just, benevolent? That they may become so, it is necessary to deliver
them from those errors on which political and spiritual despotism
is founded, from the chains of tyrants and the chimeras of priests,
and to lead them back from illusions to nature, of which man is a
part. We find everywhere matter and motion, a chain of material causes
and effects, nor can we find aught beside these. An ever-circulating
system of motions connects inorganic and organic nature, fire and
air and plant and animal; free-will is as much excluded as God and
His miraculous providence. The soul is nothing but the brain receiving
and transmitting motions; morals form a department of physiology.
Religions and governments, as they exist, are based on error, and
drive men into crime. But though Holbach "accommodated atheism," as
Grimm puts it, "to chambermaids and hairdressers," he would not hurry
forward a revolution. All will come in good time; in some happier
day Nature and her daughters Virtue, Reason, and Truth will alone
receive the adoration of mankind.[1]

[Footnote 1: The Swiss naturalist Charles Bonnet (1720-93)
endeavoured to reconcile his sensationalism with a religious faith
and a private interpretation of Christianity.]

Among the friends of Holbach and Helvétius was C.-F. de Chasseboeuf,
Count de VOLNEY (1757-1820), who modified and developed the ethics
of Helvétius. An Orientalist by his studies, he travelled in Egypt
and Syria, desiring to investigate the origins of ancient religions,
and reported what he had seen in colourless but exact description.
In _Les Ruines, ou Méditations sur les Révolutions des Empires_, he
recalls the past like "an Arab Ossian," monotonous and grandiose,
and expounds the history of humanity with cold and superficial
analysis clothed in a pomp of words. His faith in human progress,
founded on nature, reason, and justice, sustained Volney during the
rise and fall of the Girondin party.

A higher and nobler spirit, who perished in the Revolution, but ceased
not till his last moment to hope and labour for the good of men, was
J.-A.-N. de Caritat, Marquis de CONDORCET (1743-94). Illustrious in
mathematical science, he was interested by Turgot in political
economy, and took a part in the polemics of theology. While lying
concealed from the emissaries of Robespierre he wrote his _Esquisse
d'un Tableau Historique des Progrès de l'Esprit Humain_. It is a
philosophy of the past, and almost a hymn in honour of human
perfectibility. The man-statue of Condillac, receiving, retaining,
distinguishing, and combining sensations, has gradually developed,
through nine successive epochs, from that of the hunter and fisher
to the citizen of 1789, who comprehends the physical universe with
Newton, human nature with Locke and Condillac, and society with Turgot
and Rousseau. In the vision of the future, with its progress in
knowledge and in morals, its individual and social improvement, its
lessening inequalities between nations and classes, the philosopher
finds his consolation for all the calamities of the present age.
Condorcet died in prison, poisoned, it is believed, by his own hand.

The economists, or, as Dupont de Nemours named them, the physiocrats,
formed a not unimportant wing of the philosophic phalanx, now in
harmony with the Encyclopædic party, now in hostility. The sense of
the misery of France was present to many minds in the opening of the
century, and with the death of Louis XIV. came illusive hopes of
amelioration. The Abbé de Saint-Pierre (1658-1743), filled with
ardent zeal for human happiness, condemned the government of the
departed Grand Monarch, and dreamed of a perpetual peace; among his
dreams arose projects for the improvement of society which were
justified by time. Boisguillebert, and Vauban, marshal of France and
military engineer, were no visionary spirits; they pleaded for a
serious consideration of the general welfare, and especially the
welfare of the agricultural class, the wealth-producers of the
community. To violate economic laws, Boisguillebert declared, is to
violate nature; let governments restrain their meddling, and permit
natural forces to operate with freedom.

Such was the doctrine of the physiocratic school, of which FRANÇOIS
QUESNAY (1694-1774) was the chief. Let human institutions conform
to nature; enlarge the bounds of freedom; give play to the spirit
of individualism; diminish the interference of government--"laissez
faire, laissez passer."[2] Agriculture is productive, let its
burdens be alleviated; manufactures are useful but "sterile": honour,
therefore, above all, to the tiller of the fields, who hugs nature
close, and who enriches humankind! The elder Mirabeau--"ami des
hommes"--who had anticipated Quesnay in some of his views, and himself
had learnt from Cantillon, met Quesnay in 1757, and thenceforth
subordinated his own fiery spirit, as far as that was possible, to
the spirit of the master. From the physiocrats--Gournay and
Quesnay--the noble-minded and illustrious TURGOT (1727-81) derived
many of those ideas of reform which he endeavoured to put into action
when intendant of Limoges, and later, when Minister of Finance. By
his _Réflexions sur la Formation et la Distribution des Richesses_,
Turgot prepared the way for Adam Smith.

[Footnote 2: This phrase had been used by Boisguillebert and by the
Marquis d'Argenson before Gournay made it a power. On D'Argenson
(1694-1757), whose _Considérations sur le Gouvernement de la France_
were not published until 1764, see the study by Mr. Arthur Ogle
(1893).]

In 1770 the Abbé Galiani, as alert of brain as he was diminutive of
stature, attacked the physiocratic doctrines in his _Dialogues sur
le Commerce des Blés_, which Plato and Molière--so Voltaire
pronounced--had combined to write. The refutation of the _Dialogues_
by Morellet was the result of no such brilliant collaboration, and
Galiani, proposed that his own unstatuesque person should be honoured
by a statue above an inscription, declaring that he had wiped out
the economists, who were sending the nation to sleep. The fame of
his _Dialogues_ was perhaps in large measure due to the party-spirit
of the Encyclopædists, animated by a vivacious attack upon the
physiocrats. The book was applauded, but reached no second edition.

An important body of articles on literature was contributed to the
_Encyclopédie_ by JEAN-FRANÇOIS MARMONTEL. As early as 1719 a
remarkable study in æsthetics had appeared--the _Réflexions
Critiques sur la Poésie et la Peinture_, by the Abbé Dubos. Art is
conceived as a satisfaction of the craving for vivid sensations and
emotions apart from the painful consequences which commonly attend
these in actual life. That portion of Dubos' work which treats of
"physical causes in the progress of art and literature," anticipates
the views of Montesquieu on the influence of climate, and studies
the action of environment on the products of the imagination. In 1746
Charles Batteux, in his treatise _Les Beaux-Arts réduits à un même
Principe_, defined the end of art as the imitation of nature--not
indeed of reality, but of nature in its actual or possible beauty;
of nature not as it is, but as it may be. The articles of Marmontel,
revised and collected in the six volumes of his _Éléments de
Littérature_ (1787), were full of instruction for his own time,
delicate and just in observation, as they often were, if not
penetrating or profound. In his earlier _Poétique Française_--"a
petard," said Mairan, "laid at the doors of the Academy to blow them
up if they should not open"--he had shown himself strangely
disrespectful towards the fame of Racine, Boileau, and the poet
Rousseau.

The friend of Marmontel, Antoine-Léonard Thomas (1732-85),
honourably distinguished by the dignity of his character and conduct,
a composer of _Éloges_ on great men, somewhat marred by strain and
oratorical emphasis, put his best work into an _Essai sur les Éloges_.
At a time when Bossuet was esteemed below his great deserts,
Thomas--almost alone--recognised his supremacy in eloquence. As the
century advanced, and philosophy developed its attack on religion
and governments, the classical tradition in literature not only
remained unshaken, but seemed to gain in authority. The first
lieutenant of Voltaire, his literary "son," LAHARPE (1739-1803)
represents the critical temper of the time. In 1786 he began his
courses of lectures at the Lycée, before a brilliant audience composed
of both sexes. For the first time in France, instruction in literature,
not trivial and not erudite, but suited to persons of general culture,
was made an intellectual pleasure. For the first time the history
of literature was treated, in its sequence from Homer to modern times,
as a totality. Laharpe's judgments of his contemporaries were often
misled by his bitterness of spirit; his mind was not capacious, his
sympathies were not liberal; his knowledge, especially of Greek
letters, was defective. But he knew the great age of Louis XIV., and
he felt the beauty of its art. No one has written with finer
intelligence of Racine than he in his _Lycée, ou Cours de Littérature_.
As the Revolution approached he sympathised with its hopes and fears;
the professor donned the _bonnet rouge_. The storm which burst
silenced his voice for a time; in 1793 he suffered imprisonment; and
when he occupied his chair again, it was a converted Laharpe who
declaimed against philosophers, republicans, and atheists, the
tyrants of reason, morals, art and letters.

The finest and surest judgment in contemporary literature was that
of a gallicised German--MELCHIOR GRIMM (1723-1807). As Laharpe was
bound in filial loyalty to Voltaire, so Grimm was in fraternal
attachment to the least French of eighteenth-century French
authors--Diderot. From a basis of character in which there was a
measure of Teutonic enthusiasm and romance, his intellect rose clear,
light, and sure, with no mists of sentiment about it, and no clouds
of fancy. During thirty-seven years, as a kind of private journalist,
he furnished princely and royal persons of Germany, Russia, Sweden,
Poland, with "Correspondence," which reflected as from a mirror all
the lights of Paris to the remote North and East. His own philosophy,
his political views, were cheerless and arid; but he could judge the
work of others generously as well as severely. No one of his generation
so intelligently appreciated Shakespeare; no one more happily
interpreted Montaigne. By swift _aperçu_, by criticism, by anecdote,
by caustic raillery, or serious record, he makes the intellectual
world of his day pass before us and expound its meanings. The
Revolution, the dangers of which he divined early, drove him from
Paris. In bidding it farewell he wished that he were in his grave.


III

Buffon, whose power of wing was great, and who did not love the heat
and dust of combat, soared smoothly above the philosophic strife.
Born in 1707, at Montbard, in Burgundy, GEORGE-LOUIS LECLERC, created
Comte de BUFFON by Louis XV., fortunate in the possession of riches,
health, and serenity of heart and brain, lived in his domestic circle,
apart from the coteries of Paris, pursuing with dignity and infinite
patience his proper ends. The legend describes him as a pompous
Olympian even in his home; in truth, if he was majestic--like a marshal
of France, as Hume describes him--he was also natural, genial, and
at times gay. His appointment, in 1739, as intendant of the Royal
Garden, now the _Jardin des Plantes_, turned his studies from
mathematical science to natural history.

The first volumes of his vast _Histoire Naturelle_ appeared in 1749;
aided by Daubenton and others, he was occupied with the succeeding
volumes during forty years, until death terminated his labours in
1788. The defects of his work are obvious--its want of method, its
disdain of classification, its abuse of hypotheses, its humanising
of the animal world, its pomp of style. But the progress of science,
which lowered the reputation of Buffon, has again re-established his
fame. Not a few of his disdained hypotheses are seen to have been
the divinations of genius; and if he wrote often in the ornate,
classical manner, he could also write with a grave simplicity.

In his _Discours de Réception_, pronounced before the French Academy
in 1753, he formulated his doctrine of literary style, insisting that
it is, before all else, the manifestation of order in the evolution
of ideas; ideas alone form the basis and inward substance of style.
Rejecting merely abstract conceptions as an explanation of natural
phenomena, viewing classifications as no more than a convenience of
the human intellect, refusing to regard final causes as a subject
of science, he envisaged nature with a tranquil and comprehensive
gaze, and with something of a poet's imagination. He perceived that
the globe, in its actual condition, is the result of a long series
of changes, and thereby he gave an impulse to sound geological study;
he expounded the geography of species, and almost divined the theory
of their transformation or variability; he recognised in some degree
the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest; he
regarded man as a part of nature, but as its noblest part, capable
of an intellectual and moral progress which is not the mere result
of physical laws.

Whatever may have been Buffon's errors as a thinker, he enlarged the
bounds of literature by annexing the province of natural history as
Montesquieu had annexed that of political science. His vision of the
universe was unclouded by passion, and part of its grandeur is derived
from this serenity. He studied and speculated with absolute freedom,
prepared to advance from his own ideas to others more in accordance
with observed phenomena. "He desired to be," writes a critic, "and
almost became, a pure intelligence in presence of eternal things."
How could he concern himself with the strifes and passions of a day
to whom the centuries were moments in the vast process of evolving
change? In André Chénier he found a disciple who would fain have been
the Lucretius of the new system of nature.



CHAPTER IV
ROUSSEAU--BEAUMARCHAIS--BERNARDIN DE SAINT-PIERRE--ANDRÉ CHÉNIER


I

JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU the man is inseparable from Rousseau the
writer; his works proceed directly from his character and his life.
Born at Geneva in 1712, he died at Ermenonville in 1778. His childhood
was followed by years of vagabondage. From 1732, the date of his third
residence with Madame de Warens, until 1741, though his vagabondage
did not wholly cease, he was collecting his powers and educating his
mind with studies ardently pursued. During nine subsequent years in
Paris, in Venice, and elsewhere, he was working his way towards the
light; it was the period of his gayer writings, ballet, opera, comedy,
and of the articles on music contributed to the _Encyclopédie_: he
had not yet begun to preach and prophesy to his age. The great fourth
period of his life, from 1749 to 1762, includes all his masterpieces
except the _Confessions_. From 1762 until his death, while his temper
grew darker and his reason was disturbed, Rousseau was occupied with
apologetic and autobiographic writings.

His mother died in giving birth to Jean-Jacques. His father, a
watchmaker, filled the child's head with the follies of romances,
which they read together, and gave him through Plutarch's Lives a
sense of the exaltations of virtue. The boy's feeling for nature was
quickened and fostered in the garden of the pastor of Bossey. From
a notary's office, where he seemed an incapable fool, he passed under
the harsh rule of an engraver of watches, learning the vices that
grow from fear. At sixteen he fled, and found protection at Annecy,
under Madame de Warens, a young and comely lady, recently converted
to the Roman communion, frank, kind, gay, and as devoid of moral
principles as any creature in the Natural History. Sent to Turin for
instruction, Rousseau renounced his Protestant faith, and soon after
found in the good Abbé Gaime the model in part of his Savoyard vicar.
Some experience of domestic service was followed by a year at Annecy,
during which Rousseau's talent as a musician was developed. From
eighteen to twenty he led a wandering life--"starved, feasted,
despaired, was happy." Rejoining Madame de Warens at Chambéry in 1732,
he interested himself in music, physics, botany, and was more and
more drawn towards the study of letters. He methodised his reading
(1738-41), and passionately pursued a liberal system of
self-education, literary, scientific, and philosophical.

Rousseau's relations with his _bonne maman_, Madame de Warens, had
been troubled by the latest of her other loves. In 1741 he set off
for Paris, bearing with him the manuscript of a new system of musical
notation, which was offered to the Académie des Sciences, and was
declared neither new nor useful for instrumentalists. An experiment
in life as secretary to the French Ambassador at Venice closed, after
fourteen months, with his abrupt dismissal. Again in Paris, Rousseau
obtained celebrity by his operas and comedies, was received in the
_salons_, and associated joyously with Diderot, Marmontel, and Grimm.
He arranged his domestic life by taking an illiterate and vulgar
drudge, Thérèse Le Vasseur, for his companion; their children were
abandoned to the care of the Foundling Hospital.

In 1749 Diderot was a prisoner at Vincennes. Rousseau, on the road
to visit his friend, read in the _Mercure de France_ that the Academy
of Dijon had proposed as the subject for a prize to be awarded next
year the question, "Has the progress of arts and sciences contributed
to purify morals?" Suddenly a tumult of ideas arose in his brain and
overwhelmed him; it was an ecstasy of the intellect and the passions.
With Diderot's encouragement he undertook his indictment of
civilisation; in 1750 the _Discours sur les Sciences et les Arts_
was crowned. In accordance with his theory he proceeded to simplify
his own life, intensifying his self-consciousness by singularities
of assumed austerity, and playing the part (not wholly a fictitious
one) of a moral reformer. Famous as author of the _Discours_ and the
opera _Le Devin de Village_, presented before the King, he returned
to his native Switzerland, and there re-entered the Protestant
communion. In 1754 he again competed for a prize at Dijon, on the
question, "What is the origin of inequality among men, and is it
authorised by the law of nature?" Rousseau failed to obtain the prize,
but the _Discours sur l'Inégalité_ was published (1755) with a
dedication to the Republic of Geneva. He had discovered in private
property the source of all the evils of society.

In Switzerland Rousseau prepared a first redaction of his political
treatise, the _Contrat Social_, and filled his heart with the beauty
of those prospects which form an environment for the lovers in his
Héloïse. In 1756 he was established, through the kindness of Madame
d'Épinay, in the Hermitage, near the borders of the forest of
Montmorency. His delight in the woods and fields was great; his
delight in Madame d'Houdetot, kinswoman of his hostess, was a more
troubled passion. Quarrels with Madame d'Épinay, quarrels with Grimm
and Diderot, estrangement from Madame d'Houdetot, closed the scene
at the Hermitage.

Authorship, however, had its joys and consolations. The _Lettre à
D'Alembert_, a censure of the theatre (1758), was succeeded by _La
Nouvelle Héloïse_ (1761), by the _Contrat Social_ (1762), and _Émile_
(1762). The days at Montmorency which followed his departure from
the Hermitage passed in calm. With the publication of _Émile_ the
storms began again. The book, condemned by the Sorbonne, was ordered
by the Parliament to be burnt by the common executioner. Rousseau
escaped imprisonment by flight. In Switzerland he could not settle
near Voltaire. A champion for the doctrine of a providential order
of the world, an enemy of the stage--especially in republican
Geneva--Rousseau had flung indignant words against Voltaire, and
Voltaire had tossed back words of bitter scorn. Geneva had followed
Paris in its hostility towards Rousseau's recent publications; whose
doing could it be except Voltaire's? He fled from his persecutors
to Môtiers, where the King of Prussia's governor afforded him
protection. Renewed quarrels with his countrymen, clerical
intolerance, mob violence, an envenomed pamphlet from Voltaire, once
more drove him forth. He took refuge on an island in the lake of Bienne,
only to be expelled by the authorities of Berne. Encouraged by
Hume--"le bon David"--he arrived in January 1766 in London.

At Wootton, in the Peak of Derbyshire, Rousseau prepared the first
five books of his _Confessions_. Within a little time he had assured
himself that Hume was joined with D'Alembert and Voltaire in a
triumvirate of persecutors to defame his character and render him
an outcast; the whole human race had conspired to destroy him. Again
Rousseau fled, sojourned a year at Trye-Château under an assumed name,
and after wanderings hither and thither, took refuge in Paris, where,
living meanly, he completed his _Confessions_, wrote other eloquent
pieces of self-vindication, and relieved his morbid cerebral
excitement by music and botanising rambles. The hospitality of M.
de Girardin at Ermenonville was gladly accepted in May 1778; and there,
on July 2, he suddenly died; suicide was surmised; the seizure was
probably apoplectic.

Rousseau was essentially an idealist, but an idealist whose dreams
and visions were inspired by the play of his sensibility upon his
intellect and imagination, and therefore he was the least impersonal
of thinkers. Generous of heart, he was filled with bitter suspicions;
inordinately proud, he nursed his pride amid sordid realities;
cherishing ideals of purity and innocence, he sank deep in the mire
of imaginative sensuality; effeminate, he was also indomitable; an
uncompromising optimist, he saw the whole world lying in wickedness;
a passionate lover of freedom, he aimed at establishing the most
unqualified of tyrannies; among the devout he was a free-thinker,
among the philosophers he was the sentimentalist of theopathy. He
stands apart from his contemporaries: they did homage to the
understanding; he was the devotee of the heart: they belonged to a
brilliant society; he was elated, suffered, brooded, dreamed in
solitude: they were aristocratic, at least by virtue of the
intellectual culture which they represented; he was plebeian in his
origin, and popular in his sympathies.

He became a great writer comparatively late in life, under the
compulsion of a ruling idea which lies at the centre of all his more
important works, excepting such as are apologetic and autobiographical:
Nature has made man good and happy; society has made him evil and
miserable. Are we, then, to return to a state of primitive savagery?
No: society cannot retrograde. But in many ways we can ameliorate human
life by approximating to a natural condition.

In the _Discours sur les Sciences et les Arts_, the _Discours sur
l'Inégalité_, and the _Lettre à D'Alembert sur les Spectacles_,
Rousseau pleads against the vices, the artificiality, the
insincerities, the luxuries, the false refinements, the factitious
passions, the dishonest pleasures of modern society. "You make one
wish," wrote Voltaire, "to walk on all fours." By nature all men are
born free and equal; society has rendered them slaves, and impounded
them in classes of rich and poor, powerful and weak, master and servant,
peasant and peer. Rousseau's conception of the primitive state of
nature, and the origin of society by a contract, may not be
historically exact--this he admits; nevertheless, it serves well,
he urges, as a working hypothesis to explain the present state of
things, and to point the way to a happier state. It exhibits property
as the confiscation of natural rights; it justifies the sacred cause
of insurrection; it teaches us to honour man as man, and the simple
citizen more than the noble, the scientific student, or the artist.
Plain morals are the only safe morals. We are told that the theatre
is a school of manners, purifying the passions; on the contrary, it
irritates and perverts them; or it offers to ridicule the man of
straightforward virtue, as Molière was not ashamed to do in his
_Misanthrope_.

Having developed his destructive criticism against society as it is,
Rousseau would build up. In the _Contrat Social_ he would show how
freedom and government may be conciliated; how, through the
arrangements of society, man may in a certain sense return to the
law of nature. "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains;"
yet social order, Rousseau declares, is sacred. Having resigned his
individual liberty by the social pact, how may man recover that
liberty? By yielding his individual rights absolutely to a
self-governing community of which he forms a part. The _volonté
générale_, expressing itself by a plurality of votes, resumes the
free-will of every individual. If any person should resist the general
will, he thereby sacrifices his true freedom, and he must be "forced
to be free." Thus the dogma of the sovereignty of the people is
formulated by Rousseau. Government is merely a delegation of power
made by the people as sovereign for the uses of the people as subjects.
In Rousseau's system, if the tyranny of the majority be established
without check or qualification, at least equality is secured, for,
in the presence of the sovereign people and its manifested will, each
individual is reduced to the level of all his fellows.

_La Nouvelle Héloïse_, in the form of a romance, considers the
purification of domestic manners. Richardson's novels are followed
in the epistolary style of narration, which lends itself to the
exposition of sentiment. The story is simple in its incidents.
Saint-Preux's crime of passion against his pupil Julie resembles that
of Abelard against Eloisa. Julie, like Eloisa, has been a consenting
party. Obedient to her father's will, Julie marries Wolmar. In despair
Saint-Preux wanders abroad. Wolmar offers him his friendship and a
home. The lovers meet, are tried, and do not yield to the temptation.
Julie dies a victim to her maternal devotion, and not too
soon--"Another day, perhaps, and I were guilty!"

In 1757 Rousseau conceived the design of his romance. It might have
been coldly edifying had not the writer's consuming passion for Madame
d'Houdetot, awakening all that he had felt as the lover of Madame
de Warens, filled it with intensity of ardour. In the first part of
the romance, passion asserts the primitive rights of nature; in the
second part, those rights are shown to be no longer rights in an
organised society. But the ideal of domestic life exhibited is one
far removed from the artificialities of the world of fashion: it is
a life of plain duties, patriarchal manners, and gracious beneficence.
Rousseau the moralist is present to rebuke Rousseau the
sentimentalist; yet the sentimentalist has his own persuasive power.
The emotion of the lovers is reinforced by the penetrating influences
of the beauty of external nature; and both are interpreted with
incomparable harmonies of style and poignant lyrical cries, in which
the violin note outsoars the orchestra.

A reform of domestic life must result in a reform of education.
Rousseau's ideal of education, capable of adaptations and
modifications according to circumstances, is presented in his
_Émile_. How shall a child be formed in accordance, not with the
vicious code of an artificial society, but in harmony with nature?
Rousseau traces the course of Émile's development from birth to adult
years. Unconstrained by swaddling-bands, suckled by his mother, the
child enjoys the freedom of nature, and at five years old passes into
the care of his father or his tutor. During the earlier years his
education is to be negative: let him be preserved from all that is
false or artificial, and enter upon the heritage of childhood, the
gladness of animal life, vigorous delights in sunshine and open air;
at twelve he will hardly have opened a book, but he will have been
in vital relation with real things, he will unconsciously have laid
the foundations of wisdom. When the time for study comes, that study
should be simple and sound--no Babel of words, but a wholesome
knowledge of things; he may have learnt little, but he will know that
little aright; a sunrise will be his first lesson in cosmography;
he may watch the workman in his workshop; he may practise the
carpenter's trade; he may read _Robinson Crusoe_, and learn the lesson
of self-help. Let him ask at every moment, "What is the good of this?"
Unpuzzled by questions of morals, metaphysics, history, he will have
grown up laborious, temperate, patient, firm, courageous.

At fifteen the passions are awake; let them be gently and wisely guided.
Let pity, gratitude, benevolence be formed within the boy's heart,
so that the self-regarding passions may fall into a subordinate place.
To read Plutarch is to commune with noble spirits; to read Thucydides
is almost to come into immediate contact with facts. The fables of
La Fontaine will serve as a criticism of the errors of the passions.

And now Émile, at eighteen, may learn the sublime mysteries of that
faith which is professed by Rousseau's Savoyard vicar. A Will moves
the universe and animates nature; that Will, acting through general
laws, is guided by supreme intelligence; if the order of Providence
be disturbed, it is only through the abuse of man's free-will; the
soul is immaterial and survives the body; conscience is the voice
of God within the soul; "dare to confess God before the philosophers,
dare to preach humanity before the intolerant;" God demands no other
worship than that of the heart. With such a preparation as this, Émile
may at length proceed to æsthetic culture, and find his chief delight
in those writers whose genius has the closest kinship to nature.
Finally, in Sophie, formed to be the amiable companion and helpmate
of man, Émile should find a resting-place for his heart. Alas, if
she should ever betray his confidence!

The _Confessions_, with its sequels in the _Dialogues, ou Rousseau
juge de Jean-Jacques_, and the _Rêveries du Promeneur Solitaire_,
constitute an autobiographical romance. The sombre colours of the
last six Books throw out the livelier lights and shades of the
preceding Books. While often falsifying facts and dates, Rousseau
writes with all the sincerity of one who was capable of boundless
self-deception. He will reserve no record of shame and vice and
humiliation, confident that in the end he must appear the most
virtuous of men. As the utterance of a soul touched and thrilled by
all the influences of nature and of human life, the _Confessions_
affects the reader like a musical symphony in which various movements
are interpreted by stringed and breathing instruments. If Rousseau
here is less of the prophet than in his other writings, he is more
of the great enchanter. Should a moral be drawn from the book, the
author would have us learn that nature has made man good, that society
has the skill to corrupt him, and finally that it is in his power
to refashion himself to such virtue as the world most needs and most
impatiently rejects.

The influence of Rousseau cannot easily be over-estimated. He
restored the sentiment of religion in an age of abstract deism or
turbid materialism. He inaugurated a moral reform. He tyrannised over
France in the person of his disciple Robespierre. He emancipated the
passions from the domination of the understanding. He liberated the
imagination. He caught the harmonies of external nature, and gave
them a new interpretation.[1] He restored to French prose, colour,
warmth, and the large utterance which it had lost. He created a
literature in which all that is intimate, personal, lyrical asserted
its rights, and urged extravagant claims. He overthrew the classical
ideal of art, and enthroned the _ego_ in its room.

[Footnote 1: Among writers who fostered the new feeling for external
nature, Ramond (1755-1827), who derived his inspiration, partly
scientific, partly imaginative, from the Swiss Alps and the Pyrenees,
deserves special mention.]


II

The fermentation of ideas was now quickened by the new life of
passion--passion social and democratic as the days of Revolution
approached; passion also personal and private, which, welcomed as
a sacred fire, too often made the inmost being of the individual a
scene of agitating and desolating conflict.

The Abbé Raynal (1713-96) made his _Histoire des Deux Indes_ a
receptacle not only for just views and useful information, but for
every extravagance of thought and sentiment. "Insert into my book,"
he said to his brother philosophers, "everything that you choose
against God, against religion, and against government." In the third
edition appears a portrait of the author, posing theatrically, with
the inscription, "To the defender of humanity, of truth, of liberty!"
The _salons_ caught the temper of the time. Voltairean as they were,
disposed to set down Rousseau as an enthusiast or a charlatan, they
could not resist the invasion of passion or of sensibility. It mingled
with a swarm of incoherent ideas and gave them a new intensity of
life. The incessant play of intellect flashed and glittered for many
spirits over a moral void; the bitter, almost misanthropic temper
of Chamfort's maxims and _pensées_ may testify to the vacuity of faith
and joy; sentiment and passion came to fill the void; to desire, to
love, to pity, to suffer, to weep, was to live the true life of the
heart.

Madame du Deffand (1697-1780) might oppose the demon of ennui with
the aid of a cool temperament and a brilliant wit; at sixty-eight,
whatever ardour had been secretly stored up in her nature escaped
to lavish itself half-maternally on Horace Walpole. Her young
companion and reader, who became a rival and robbed her _salon_ of
its brilliance, Mlle. de Lespinasse (1732?-76) might cherish a calm
friendship for D'Alembert. When M. de Guibert came to succeed M. de
Mora in her affections, she poured out the lava torrent of passion
in those Letters which have given her a place beside Sappho and beside
Eloisa. Madame Roland in her girlhood had been the ardent pupil of
Rousseau, whose _Nouvelle Héloïse_ was to her as a revelation from
heaven. The first appearance in literature of Madame Necker's amazing
daughter was as the eulogist of Rousseau.

The intellect untouched by emotion may be aristocratic; passion and
sentiment have popular and democratic instincts. "The Revolution was
already in action," said Napoleon, "when in 1784 Beaumarchais's
_Mariage de Figaro_ appeared upon the stage." If Napoleon's words
overstate the fact, we may at least name that masterpiece of comedy
a symptom of the coming explosion, or even, in Sainte-Beuve's words,
an armed Fronde.

Pierre-Augustin Caron, who took the name of BEAUMARCHAIS (1732-99),
son of a watchmaker of Paris, was born under a merry star, with a
true genius for comedy, yet his theatrical pieces were only the
recreations of a man of affairs--a demon of intrigue--determined to
build up his fortune by financial adventures and commercial
enterprises. Suddenly in 1774-75 he leaped into fame. Defeated in
a trial in which his claim to fifteen thousand livres was disputed,
Beaumarchais, in desperate circumstances, made his appeal to public
opinion in four _Mémoires_, which admirably united seriousness,
gaiety, argument, irony, eloquence, and dramatic talent. "I am a
citizen," he cried--"that is to say, something wholly new, unknown,
unheard of in France. I am a citizen--that is to say, what you should
have been two hundred years ago, what perhaps you will be twenty years
hence." The word "citizen" sounded strange in 1774; it was soon to
become familiar.

Before this incident Beaumarchais had produced two dramas, _Eugénie_
and _Les Deux Amis_, of the tearful, sentimental, bourgeois type,
yet with a romantic tendency, which distinguishes at least _Eugénie_
from the bourgeois drama of Diderot and of Sedaine. The failure of
the second may have taught their author the wisdom of mirth; he
abandoned his high dramatic principles to laugh and to evoke laughter.
_Le Barbier de Séville_, developed from a comic opera to a comedy
in five acts, was given, after long delays, in 1775. The spectators
manifested fatigue; instantly the play reappeared in four acts,
Beaumarchais having lost no time in removing the fifth wheel from
his carriage. It delighted the public by the novelty of its abounding
gaiety, a gaiety full and free, yet pointed with wit, a revolving
firework scattering its dazzling spray. The old comic theme of the
amorous tutor, the charming pupil, the rival lover, adorned with the
prestige of youth, the intriguing attendant, was renewed by a dialogue
which was alive with scintillating lights.

From the success of the _Barbier_ sprang _Le Mariage de Figaro_.
Completed in 1778, the royal opposition to its performance was not
overcome until six years afterwards. By force of public opinion the
watchmaker's son had triumphed over the King. The subject of the play
is of a good tradition--a daring valet disputes the claim of a
libertine lord to the possession of his betrothed. Spanish colour
and Italian intrigue are added to the old mirth of France. From Regnard
the author had learnt to entangle a varied intrigue; from Lesage he
borrowed his Spanish costumes and decoration--Figaro himself is a
Gil Blas upon the stage; in Marivaux he saw how women may assert
themselves in comic action with a bright audacity. The _Mariage de
Figaro_ resumes the past; it depicts the present, as a social satire,
and a painting of manners; it conveys into art the experience, the
spirit, the temerity of Beaumarchais's adventurous life as a man of
the world; it creates characters--Almaviva, Suzanne, Figaro himself,
the budding Chérubin. It is at the same time--or, rather, became
through its public reception--a pamphlet in comedy which announces
the future; it ridicules the established order with a sprightly
insolence; it pleads for social equality; it exposes the iniquity
of aristocratic privilege, the venality of justice, the greed of
courtiers, the chicanery of politicians. Figaro, since he appeared
in "The Barber of Seville," has grown somewhat of a moralist and a
pedant; he must play the part of censor of society, he must represent
the spirit of independent criticism, he must maintain the cause of
intelligence against the authority of rank and station. Beaumarchais
may have lacked elevation and delicacy, but he knew his craft as a
dramatist, and left a model of prose comedy from which in later years
others of his art and mystery made profitable studies. He restored
mirth to the stage; he rediscovered theatrical intrigue; he created
a type, which was Beaumarchais himself, and was also the lighter
genius of France; he was the satirist of society; he was the
nimble-feathered bird that foretells the storm.


III

BERNARDIN DE SAINT-PIERRE connects Rousseau with Chateaubriand and
the romantic school of the nineteenth century. The new feeling for
external nature attained through him a wider range, embracing the
romance of tropic lands; it acquired an element of the exotic; at
the same time, descriptive writing became more vivid and picturesque,
and the vocabulary for the purposes of description was enlarged. He
added to French literature a tale in which human passion and the
sentiment of nature are fused together by the magic of genius; he
created two figures which live in the popular imagination, encircled
with a halo of love and sorrow.

Born at Havre in 1737, Bernardin, through his imagination, was an
Utopian visionary, an idyllic dreamer; through his temper, an angry
disputant with society. His life was a fantastic series of adventures.
Having read as a boy the story of Crusoe, and listened to the heroic
record of the travels and sufferings of Jesuit missionaries, his fancy
caught fire; he would seek some undiscovered island in mid-ocean,
he would found some colony of the true children of nature, far from
a corrupt civilisation, peaceable, virtuous, and free.

In France, in Russia, he was importunate in urging his extravagant
designs upon persons of influence. When the French Government in 1767
commissioned him to work in Madagascar, he believed that his dream
was to come true, but a rude awakening and the accustomed quarrels
followed. He landed on the Isle of France, purposing to work as an
engineer, and there spent his days in gazing at the sea, the skies,
the mountains, the tropical forests. All forms and colours and sounds
and scents impressed themselves on his brain, and were transferred
to his collection of notes. When, on returning to Paris, he published
(1773) his _Voyage à l'Île de France_, the literature of picturesque
description may be said to have been founded. Already in this volume
his feeling for nature is inspired by an emotional theism, and is
burdened by his sentimental science, which would exhibit a fantastic
array of evidences of the designs for human welfare of an amiable
and ingenious Author of nature. Before the book appeared, Bernardin
had made the acquaintance of Rousseau, then living in retirement,
tormented by his diseased suspicions and cloudy indignations. To his
new disciple Rousseau was in general gracious, and they rambled
together, botanising in the environs of Paris.

For a time Bernardin himself was in a condition bordering upon
insanity; but the crisis passed, and he employed himself on the
_Études de la Nature_, which appeared in three volumes in 1784. The
tale of _Paul et Virginie_ was not included; for when the author had
read it aloud, though ladies wept, the sterner auditors had been
contemptuous; Thomas slumbered, and Buffon called for his carriage.
The _Études_ accumulate the grotesque notions of Bernardin with
reference to final causes in nature: nature is benevolent and
harmonious; society is corrupt and harsh; scientific truth is to be
discovered by sentiment, and not by reason; the whole universe is
planned for the happiness of man; the melon is large because it was
designed for the family; the pumpkin is larger, because Providence
intended that it should be shared with our neighbours. Providence,
indeed, in a sceptical and mocking generation, suffered cruelly at
the hands of its advocate. Yet Bernardin conveyed into his book a
feeling of the rich and obscure life and energy of nature; his
descriptive power is admirable. "He desired," says M. Barine, "to
open the door for Providence to enter; in fact he opened the door
for the great Pan," and in this he was a precursor of much that followed
in literature.

Bernardin's fame was now established. In the sentimental reaction
against the dryness of sceptical philosophy, in the return to a
feeling for the poetical aspect of things, he was looked upon as a
leader. In the fourth volume of _Études_ (1788) he had courage to
print the tale of _Paul et Virginie_. It is an idyll of the tropics,
written with the moral purpose of contrasting the beneficent
influence of nature and of feeling with the dangers and evils of
civilised society and of the intellect. The children grow up side
by side in radiant innocence and purest companionship; then passion
makes its invasion of their hearts. The didactic commonplaces and
the faded sentimentalities of the idyll may veil, but cannot hide,
the genuine power of those pages which tell of the modest ardours
of first love. An element of melodrama mingles with the tragic close.
Throughout we do more than see the landscape of the tropics: we feel
the life of external nature throbbing in sympathy with human emotion.
Something was gained by Bernardin from the _Daphnis and Chloe_ of
Longus in the motives and the details of his story, but it is
essentially his own. It had a resounding success, and among its most
ardent admirers was Napoleon.

Bernardin married at fifty-five, and became the father of a Paul and
a Virginie. On the death of his wife, whom he regarded as a faithful
housekeeper, he married again, and his life was divided between the
devotion of an old man's love and endless quarrels with his colleagues
of the _Institut_. His later writings added nothing to his fame. _La
Chaumière Indienne_--the story of a pariah who learns wisdom from
nature and from the heart--has a certain charm, but it lacks the power
of the better portions of _Paul et Virginie_. The _Harmonies de la
Nature_ is a feeble reflection of the _Études_. Chateaubriand, to
whom Bernardin was personally known, gave a grudging recognition of
the genius of his precursor. Lamartine, in after years, was a more
generous disciple. In January 1814 Bernardin died, murmuring the name
of God; among the great events of the time his death was almost
unnoticed.


IV

In the second half of the eighteenth century, aided by the labours
of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, came a revival
of the study of antiquity and of the sentiment for classical art.
The Count de Caylus (1692-1765), travelling in Italy and the East
with the enthusiasm of an archæologist, presented in his writings
an ideal of beauty and grace which was new to sculptors and painters
of the time. The discovery of Pompeii followed, after an interval,
the discovery of Herculaneum. The Abbé BARTHÉLEMY (1716-95) embodied
the erudite delights of a lifetime in his _Voyage du Jeune Anacharsis
en Grèce_ (1788), which seemed a revelation of the genius of Hellenism
as it existed four centuries prior to the Christian era. It was an
ideal Greece--the Greece of Winckelmann and Goethe--unalterably
gracious, radiantly calm, which was discovered by the eighteenth
century; but it served the imaginative needs of the age. We trace
its influence in the harmonious forms of Bernardin's and
Chateaubriand's imagining, and in the marbles of Canova. A poet, the
offspring of a Greek mother and a French father--André Chénier--a
latter-day Greek or demi-Greek himself, and yet truly a man of his
own century, interpreted this new ideal in literary art.

Born at Constantinople in 1762, ANDRÉ CHÉNIER was educated in France,
travelled in Switzerland and Italy, resided as secretary to the French
Ambassador for three weary years in England--land of mists, land of
dull aristocrats--returned to France in 1790, ardent in the cause
of constitutional freedom, and defended his opinions and his friends
as a journalist. The violences of the Revolution drove him into
opposition to the Jacobin party. In March 1794 he was arrested; on
the 25th July, two days before the overthrow of Robespierre, André
Chénier's head fell on the scaffold.

Only two poems, the _Jeu de Paume_ and the _Hymne aux Suisses_, were
published by Chénier; after his death appeared in journals the _Jeune
Captive_ and the _Jeune Tarentine_; his collected poems, already
known in manuscript to lovers of literature, many of them fragmentary,
were issued in 1819. The romantic school had come into existence
without his aid; but under Sainte-Beuve's influence it chose to regard
him as a predecessor, and during the years about 1830 he was studied
and imitated as a master.

He belongs, however, essentially to the eighteenth century, to its
graceful sensuality, its revival of antiquity, its faith in human
reason, its comprehensive science of nature and of society. In certain
of his poems suggested by public occasions he is little more than
a disciple of Lebrun. His _Élégies_ are rather Franco-Roman than
Greek; these, together with beauties of their own, have the
characteristic rhetoric, the conventional graces, the mundane
voluptuousness of their age. His philosophical poem _Hermès_, of
which we have designs and fragments, would have been the _De Rerum
Natura_ of an admiring student of Buffon.

In his _Églogues_ and his epic fragments he is a Greek or a demi-Greek,
who has learnt directly from Homer, from the pastoral and idyllic
poets of antiquity, and from the Anthology. The Greece of Chénier's
imagination is the ideal Greece of his time, more finely outlined,
more delicately coloured, more exquisitely felt by him than was
possible with his contemporaries in an age of prose. "It is the
landscape-painter's Greece," writes M. Faguet, "the Greece of fair
river-banks, of gracious hill-slopes, of comely groups around a
well-head or a stream, of harmonious theories beside the voiceful
sea, of dancing choirs upon the luminous heights, under the blue
heavens, which lift to ecstasy his spirit, light as the light
breathing of the Cyclades."

In the _Ïambes_, inspired by the emotions of the Revolution during
his months of imprisonment, Chénier united modern passion with the
beauty of classic form; satire in these loses its critical temper,
and becomes truly lyrical. In his versification he attained new and
alluring harmonies; he escaped from the rhythmical uniformity of
eighteenth-century verse, gliding sinuously from line to line and
from strophe to strophe. He did over again for French poetry the work
of the Pléiade, but he did this as one who was a careful student and
a critic of Malherbe.



BOOK THE FIFTH
1789-1850



CHAPTER I
THE REVOLUTION AND THE EMPIRE--MADAME DE STAËL--CHATEAUBRIAND


I

The literature of the Revolution and the Empire is that of a period
of transition. Madame de Staël and Chateaubriand announce the future;
the writers of an inferior rank represent with declining power the
past, and give some faint presentiment of things to come. The great
political concussion was not favourable to art. Abstract ideas united
with the passions of the hour produced poetry which was of the nature
of a declamatory pamphlet. Innumerable pieces were presented on the
stage, but their literary value is insignificant.

Marie-Joseph Chénier (1764-1811), brother of the great poet who
perished on the scaffold, attempted to inaugurate a school of national
tragedy in his _Charles IX._; neither he nor the public knew history
or possessed the historical sentiment--his tragedy was a
revolutionary "school of kings." Arnault, Legouvé, Népomucène
Lemercier were applauded for their classic dignity, or their depth
of characterisation, or their pomp of language. The true tragedy of
the time was enacted in the streets and in the clubs. Comedy was
welcome in days of terror as at all other times. Collin d'Harleville
drew mirth from the infirmities and follies of old age in _Le Vieux
Célibataire_ (1792); Fabre d'Eglantine moralised Molière to the
taste of Rousseau by exhibiting a Philante debased by egoism and
accommodations with the world; Louis Laya, during the trial of the
King, satirised the pretenders to patriotism in _L'Ami des Lois_,
yet escaped the vengeance of the Jacobins.

Historical comedy, a novelty in art, was seen in Lemercier's _Pinto_
(1799), where great events are reduced to petty dimensions, and the
destiny of nations is satirically viewed as a vulgar game of
trick-track. In his _Christophe Colomb_ of 1809 he dared to despise
the unities of time and place, and excited a battle, not bloodless,
among the spectators. Exotic heroes suited the imperial régime.
Baour-Lormian, the translator of _Ossian_ (1801), converted the
story of Joseph in Egypt into a frigid tragedy; Hector and Tippoo
Sahib, Mahomet II., and Ninus II. (with scenes of Spanish history
transported to Assyria) diversified the stage. The greatest success
was that of Raynouard's _Les Templiers_ (1805); the learned author
wisely applied his talents in later years to romance philology. Among
the writers of comedy--Andrieux, Étienne, Duval, and others--Picard
has the merit of reproducing the life of the day, satirising social
classes and conditions with vivacity and careless mirth. In melodrama,
Pixérécourt contributed unconsciously to prepare the way for the
romantic stage. Désaugiers, with his gift for gay plebeian song, was
the master of the vaudeville.

Song of a higher kind had been heard twice or thrice during the
Revolution. The lesser Chénier's _Chanson du Départ_ has in it a
stirring rhetoric for soldiers of the Republic sent forth to war with
the acclaim of mother and wife and maiden, old men and little children.
Lebrun-_Pindare_, in his ode _Sur le Vaisseau le Vengeur_, does not
quite stifle the sense of heroism under his flowers of classical
imagery. Rouget de Lisle's improvised verse and music, _La
Marseillaise_ (1792), was an inspiration which equally lent itself
to the enthusiasm of victory and the gallantries of despair. The
pseudo-epics and the descriptive poetry of the Empire are laboured
and lifeless. But Creuzé de Lesser, in his _Chevaliers de la
Table-Ronde_ (1812) and other poems, and Baour-Lormian, in his
_Poésies Ossianiques_, widened the horizons of literature. The
_Panhypocrisiade_ of Lemercier, published in 1819, but written
several years earlier--an "infernal comedy of the sixteenth
century"--is an amazing chaos of extravagance, incompetence, and
genius; it bears to Hugo's _Légende des Siècles_ the relation which
the megatherium or mastodon may bear to some less monstrous analogues.

If we are to look for a presentiment of Lamartine's poetry, we may
find it in the harmonious melancholy of Chênedollé, in the grace of
Fontanes' stanzas, in the timid elegiac strains of Millevoye. The
special character of the poetry of the Empire lies in its combination
of the tradition derived from the eighteenth century, with a certain
reaching-forth to an ideal, by-and-by to be realised, which it could
not attain. Its comparative sterility is not to be explained solely
or chiefly by the vigilance of the imperial censure of publications.
The preceding century had lost the large feeling for composition,
for beauty and severity of form; attention was fixed upon details.
If invention ceased to create, it must necessarily trick out what
was commonplace in ingenuities of decorative periphrasis. Literature
in the eighteenth century had almost ceased to be art, and had become
a social and political weapon; under the imperial rule this militant
function was withdrawn; what remained for literature but frigid
ambitions or petty adornments, until a true sense of art was once
again recovered?

The Revolution closed the _salons_ and weakened the influence of
cultivated society upon literature. Journalism and the pamphlet
filled the place left vacant by the _salons_. The _Décade
Philosophique_ was the organ of the ideologists, who applied the
conceptions of Condillac and his followers to literary and
philosophical criticism. In 1789 the _Journal des Débats_ was founded.
Much ardour of feeling, much vigour of intellect was expended in the
columns of the public press. Among the contributors were André Chénier,
Mallet du Pin, Suard, Rivarol. With a little ink and a guillotine,
Camille Desmoulins hoped to render France happy, prosperous, and
republican. Heady, vain, pleasure-loving, gay, bitter, sensitive,
with outbreaks of generosity and moments of elevation, he did
something to redeem his crimes and follies by pleas for justice and
mercy in his journal, _Le Vieux Cordelier_, and died, with Danton
as his companion, after a frenzy of resistance and despair.

The orators of the Revolution glorified doctrinaire abstractions,
overflowed with sentimental humanity, and decorated their harangues
with heroic examples of Roman virtue. The most abstract, colourless,
and academic was Rousseau's disciple, who took the "Supreme Being"
under his protection, Robespierre. The fervid spirit of the Girondins
found its highest expression in Vergniaud, who, with infirm character,
few ideas, and a hesitating policy, yet possessed a power of vibrating
speech. Danton, the Mirabeau of the populace, was richer in ideas,
and with sudden accesses of imagination thundered in words which
tended to action; but in general the Mountain cared more for deeds
than words. The young Saint-Just thrilled the Convention with icy
apothegms which sounded each, short and sharp, like the fall of the
knife. Barnave, impetuous in his temper, was clear and measured in
discourse, and once in opposition to Mirabeau, defending the royal
prerogative, rose beyond himself to the height of a great occasion.

But it was MIRABEAU, and Mirabeau alone, who possessed the genius
of a great statesman united with the gifts of an incomparable orator.
Born in 1749, of the old Riquetti family, impulsive, proud, romantic,
yet clear of intellect and firmly grasping facts, a thinker and a
student, calmly indifferent to religion, irregular in his conduct,
the passionate foe of his father, the passionate lover of his Sophie
and of her child, he had conceived, and in a measure comprehended,
the Revolution long before the explosion came. Already he was a
copious author on political subjects. He knew that France needed
individual liberty and individual responsibility; he divined the
dangers of a democratic despotism. He hoped by the decentralisation
of power to balance Paris by the provinces, and quicken the political
life of the whole country; he desired to balance the constitution
by playing off the King against the Assembly, and the Assembly against
the King, and to control the action of each by the force of public
opinion. From Montesquieu he had learnt the gains of separating the
legislative, the executive, and the judicial functions. His hatred
of aristocracy, enhanced by the hardship of imprisonment at Vincennes,
led him to ignore an influence which might have assisted in the
equilibration of power. As an orator his ample and powerful rhetoric
rested upon a basis of logic; slow and embarrassed as he began to
speak, he warmed as he proceeded, negligent of formal correctness,
disdainful of the conventional classical decorations, magnificent
in gesture, weaving together ideas, imagery, and passion. His speech,
said Madame de Staël, was "like a powerful hammer, wielded by a skilful
artist, and fashioning men to his will." At the sitting of the Assembly
on April 2, 1791, the President announced, amid murmurs, "Ah! il est
mort," which anticipated his words, that Gabriel-Honoré Riquetti was
dead.

"The 18th Brumaire," writes M. Lanson, "silenced the orators. For
fifteen years a solitary voice was heard, imperious but eloquent....
Napoleon was the last of the great Revolutionary orators." As he
advanced in power he dropped the needless ornaments of rhetoric, and
condensed his summons to action into direct, effective words, now
simple and going straight at some motive of self-interest, now
grandiose to seduce the imagination to his side. Speech with Napoleon
was a means of government, and he knew the temper of the men whom
he addressed. His own taste in literature was touched with
sentimentality; _Ossian_ and _Werther_ were among his favourite
books; but what may be styled the official literature of the Empire
was of the decaying classical or neo-classical tradition.

Yet while the democratic imperialism was the direct offspring of the
Revolution with its social contract and its rights of man, it was
necessary to combat eighteenth-century ideas and defend the throne
and the altar. Great scientific names--Laplace, Bichat, Cuvier,
Lamarck--testify to the fact that a movement which made the eighteenth
century illustrious had not spent its force. Scholarship was laying
the bases for future constructions; Ginguené published in 1811 the
first volumes of his _Histoire Littéraire de l'Italie_; Fauriel and
Raynouard accumulated the materials for their historical, literary,
and philological studies. Philosophy was turning away from
sensationalism, which seemed to have said its final word, towards
spiritualist conceptions. Maine de Biran (1766-1824) found in the
primitive fact of consciousness--the _nisus_ of the will--and in the
self-recognition of the _ego_ as a cause, an escape from materialism.
Royer-Collard (1763-1845), afterwards more distinguished in
politics than he was in speculation, read for his class at the Sorbonne
from the Scottish philosophy of Reid, and turned it by his commentary
as a siege-train against the positions of Condillac.

The germs of new literary growths were in the soil; but the spring
came slowly, and after the storms of Revolution were spent, a chill
was in the air. Measureless hopes, and what had come of them? infinite
desire, and so poor an attainment! A disciple of Rousseau, who shared
in his sentiment without his optimistic faith, and who, like Rousseau,
felt the beauty of external nature without Rousseau's sense of its
joy, Étienne Pivert de SÉNANCOURT published in 1799 his _Rêveries_,
a book of disillusion, melancholy atheism, and stoical resistance
to sadness, a resistance which he was unable to sustain. It was
followed in 1804 by _Obermann_, a romance in epistolary form, in which
the writer, disguised in the character of his hero, expresses a fixed
and sterile grief, knowing not what he needs, nor what he loves, nor
what he wills, lamenting without a cause and desiring without an
object. The glories of Swiss landscape, which quicken his imagination,
do not suffice to fill the void that is in his soul; yet perhaps in
old age--if ever it come--he may resign himself to the infinite
illusion of life. It is an indication of the current of the time that
fifteen years later, when the _Libres Méditations_ appeared,
Sénancourt had found his way through a vague theopathy to autumnal
brightness, late-born hope, and tranquil reconcilement with
existence.

The work of the professional critics of the time--Geoffroy, De Féletz,
Dussault, Hoffman--counts now for less than the words of one who was
only an amateur of letters, and a moralist who never moralised in
public. JOSEPH JOUBERT (1754-1824), the friend of Fontanes and of
Chateaubriand, a delicate spirit, filled with curiosity for ideas,
and possessing the finest sense of the beauty of literature, lacked
the strength and self-confidence needful in a literary career. He
read everything; he published nothing; but the _Pensées_, which were
collected from his manuscripts by Chateaubriand, and his letters
reveal a thinker who loved the light, a studious dilettante charmed
by literary grace, a writer tormented by the passion to put a volume
in a page, a page in a phrase, a phrase in a word. Plato in philosophy,
Virgil in poetry, satisfy his feeling for beauty and refinement of
style. From Voltaire and Rousseau he turns away, offended by their
lack of moral feeling, of sanity, of wisdom, of delicacy. A man of
the eighteenth century, Joubert had lifted himself into thin clear
heights of middle air, where he saw much of the past and something
of the future; but the middle air is better suited for speculation
than for action.


II

The movement towards the romantic theory and practice of art was
fostered in the early years of the nineteenth century by two eminent
writers--one a woman with a virile intellect, the other a man with
more than a woman's imaginative sensibility--by GERMAINE DE STAËL
and by Chateaubriand. The one exhibits the eighteenth century passing
into the nineteenth, receiving new developments, yet without a breach
of continuity; the other represents a reaction against the ideas of
the age of the philosophers. Both opened new horizons--one, by the
divinations of her ardent intelligence; the other, by his creative
genius. Madame de Staël interpreted new ideas and defined a new theory
of art. Chateaubriand was himself an extraordinary literary artist.
The style of the one is that of an admirable improvisator, a brilliant
and incessant converser; that of the other is at its best a miracle
of studied invention, a harmony of colour and of sound. The genius
of the one was quickened in brilliant social gatherings; a Parisian
_salon_ was her true seat of empire. The genius of the other was nursed
in solitude by the tempestuous sea or on the wild and melancholy moors.

Germaine Necker, born in 1766, daughter of the celebrated Swiss banker
and future minister of France, a child of precocious intelligence
and eager sympathies, reared amid the brilliant society of her
mother's _salon_, a girl whose demands on life were large--demands
of the intellect, demands of the heart--enamoured of the writings
of Rousseau, married at twenty to the Swedish Ambassador, the Baron
de Staël-Holstein, herself a light and an inspirer of the
constitutional party of reform in the early days of the Revolution,
in her literary work opened fresh avenues for nineteenth-century
thought. She did not recoil from the eighteenth century, but rather
carried forward its better spirit. The Revolution, as a social
upheaval, she failed to understand; her ideal was liberty, not
equality; and Necker's daughter was assured that all would be well
were liberty established in constitutional forms of government. A
republican among aristocrats, she was an aristocrat among
republicans. During the years of Revolutionary trouble, the years
of her flights from Paris, her returns, excursions, and retreats,
she was sustained by her zeal for justice, her pity for the oppressed,
and her unquenchable faith in human progress.

A crude panegyric of Rousseau, certain political pamphlets, an _Essai
sur les Fictions_, a treatise on the Influence of the Passions upon
the Happiness of Individuals and Nations (1796), were followed in
1800 by her elaborate study, _De la Littérature considérée dans ses
Rapports avec les Institutions Sociales_. Its central idea is that
of human progress: freedom, incarnated in republican institutions,
will assure the natural development of the spirit of man; a great
literature will be the offspring of progress and of freedom; and each
nation will lend its lights to other nations to illuminate the general
advance. Madame de Staël hoped to cast the spell of her intellect
over the young conqueror Bonaparte; Bonaparte regarded a political
meteor in feminine form with cold and haughty aversion. In 1802 the
husband, whom she had never loved, was dead. Her passion for Benjamin
Constant had passed through various crises in its troubled career--a
series of attractions ending in repulsions, and repulsions leading
to attractions, such as may be discovered in Constant's remarkable
novel _Adolphe_. They could neither decide to unite their lives, nor
to part for ever. Adolphe, in Constant's novel, after a youth of
pleasure-seeking, is disenchanted with life; his love of Ellénore
is that of one whose passions are exhausted, who loves for vanity
or a new indulgence of egoism; but Ellénore, whose youth is past,
will abandon all for him, and she imposes on him the tyranny of her
devotion. Each is the other's torturer, each is the other's
consolation. In the mastery of his cruel psychology Constant
anticipates Balzac.

Madame de Staël lightened the stress of inward storm by writing
_Delphine_, the story of a woman of genius, whose heroic follies bring
her into warfare with the world. The lover of Delphine, violent and
feeble, sentimental and egoistic, is an accomplice of the world in
doing her wrong, and Delphine has no refuge but death in the wilds
of America.[1]

[Footnote 1: In the first edition, Delphine dies by her own hand.]

In 1803 Madame de Staël received orders to trouble Paris with her
torrent of ideas and of speech no longer. The illustrious victim of
Napoleon's persecution hastened to display her ideas at Weimar, where
Goethe protected his equanimity, as well as might be, from the storm
of her approach, and Schiller endured her literary enthusiasm with
a sense of prostration. August Wilhelm von Schlegel, tutor to her
sons, became the interpreter of Germany to her eager and apprehensive
mind. Having annexed Germany to her empire, she advanced to the
conquest of Italy, and had her Roman triumph. England, which she had
visited in her Revolutionary flights, and Italy conspired in the
creation of her novel _Corinne_ (1807). It is again the history of
a woman of genius, beautiful, generous, enthusiastic, whom the world
understands imperfectly, and whom her English lover, after his fit
of Italian romance, discards with the characteristic British phlegm.
The paintings of Italian nature are rhetorical exercises; the
writer's sympathy with art and history is of more value; the
interpretation of a woman's heart is alive with personal feeling.
Madame de Staël's novels are old now, which means that they once were
young, and for her own generation they had the freshness and charm
of youth.

Her father's death had turned her thoughts towards religion. A
Protestant and a liberal, her spiritualist faith now found support
in the moral strength of Christianity. She was not, like Chateaubriand,
an epicurean and a Catholic; she did not care to decorate religion
with flowers, or make it fragrant with incense; it spoke to her not
through the senses, but directly to the conscience, the affections,
and the will. In the chapters of her book on Germany which treat of
"the religion of enthusiasm," her devout latitudinarianism finds
expression.

The book _De l'Allemagne_, published in London in 1813, after the
confiscation and destruction of the Paris edition by the imperial
police, prepared the way by criticism for the romantic movement. It
treats of manners, letters, art, philosophy, religion, interpreting
with astonishing insight, however it may have erred in important
details, the mind of Germany to the mind of France. It was a Germany
of poets, dreamers, and metaphysicians, loyal and sincere, but
incapable of patriotic passion, disqualified for action and for
freedom, which she in 1804 had discovered. The life of society
produces literature in France; the genius of inward meditation and
sentiment produces literature in Germany. The literature and art of
the South are classical, those of the North are romantic; and since
the life of our own race and the spirit of our own religion are infused
into romantic art, it has in it possibilities of indefinite growth.
Madame de Staël advanced criticism by her sense that art and
literature are relative to ages, races, governments, environments.
She dreamed of an European or cosmopolitan literature, in which each
nation, while retaining its special characteristics, should be in
fruitful communication with its fellows.

In 1811 Madame de Staël, when forty-five, became the wife of Albert
de Rocca, a young Swiss officer, more than twenty years her junior.
Their courage was rewarded by six years of happiness. Austria, Poland,
Russia, Sweden, England were visited. Upon the fall of Napoleon Madame
de Staël was once more in Paris, and there in 1817 she died. The _Dix
Années d'Exil_, posthumously published, records a portion of her
agitated life, and exhales her indignation against her imperial
persecutor. The unfinished _Considérations sur la Révolution
Française_, designed originally as an apology for Necker, defends
the Revolution while admitting its crimes and errors; its true object,
as the writer conceived--political liberty--had been in the end
attained; her ideal of liberty was indeed far from that of a
revolutionary democracy; England, liberal, constitutional, with a
system at once popular and aristocratic, was the country in which
she saw her political aspirations most nearly realised.


III

FRANÇOIS-RENÉ DE CHATEAUBRIAND was born in 1768, at St.-Malo, of an
ancient Breton family. Except for the companionship of an elder sister,
of fragile health and romantic temper, his childhood was solitary.
The presence of the old count his father inspired terror. The boy's
society was with the waves and winds, or at the old château of Combourg,
with lonely woods and wilds. Horace, Tibullus, _Télémaque_, the
sermons of Massillon, nourished his imagination or stimulated his
religious sentiment; but solitude and nature were his chief
inspirers.

At seventeen he already seemed worn with the fatigue of unsatisfied
dreaming, before he had begun to know life. A commission in the army
was procured for him. He saw, interested yet alien in heart, something
of literary life in Paris; then in Revolution days (1791) he quitted
France, and, with the dream of discovering the North-West Passage,
set sail to America. If he did not make any geographical discovery,
Chateaubriand found his own genius in the western world. The news
of the execution of Louis XVI. decided him to return; a Breton and
a royalist should show himself among the ranks of the emigrants. To
gratify the wish of his family, he married before crossing the
frontier. Madame de Chateaubriand had the dignity to veil her sorrow
caused by an imperfect union, and at a later time she won such a portion
of her husband's regard as he could devote to another than himself.

The episode of war having soon closed--not without a wound and a
serious illness--he found a refuge in London, enduring dire poverty,
but possessing the consolation of friendship with Joubert and
Fontanes, and there he published in 1797 his first work, the _Essai
sur les Révolutions_. The doctrine of human progress had been part
of the religion of the eighteenth century; Chateaubriand in 1797 had
faith neither in social, nor political, nor religious progress. Why
be deceived by the hopes of revolution, since humanity can only circle
for ever through an exhausting round of illusions? The death of his
mother and words of a dying sister awakened him from his melancholy
mood; he resolved to write a second book, which should correct the
errors of the first, and exhibit a source of hope and joy in religion.
To the eighteenth century Christianity had appeared as a gross and
barbarous superstition; he would show that it was a religion of beauty,
the divine mother of poetry and of art, a spring of poetic thought
and feeling alike through its dogma and its ritual; he would convert
literature from its decaying cult of classicism, and restore to honour
the despised Middle Ages.

The _Génie du Christianisme_, begun during its author's residence
in London, was not completed until four years later. In 1801,
detaching a fragment from his poetic apology for religion, he
published his _Atala, ou les Amours de Deux Sauvages dans le Désert_.
It is a romance, or rather a prose poem, in which the magic of style,
the enchantment of descriptive power, the large feeling for nature,
the sensibility to human passion, conceal many infirmities of design
and of feeling. Chateaubriand suddenly entered into his fame.

On April 18, 1802, the Concordat was celebrated with high solemnities;
the Archbishop of Paris received the First Consul within the portals
of Notre-Dame. It was the fitting moment for the publication of the
_Génie du Christianisme_. Its value as an argumentative defence of
Christianity may not be great; but it was the restoration of religion
to art, it contained or implied a new system of æsthetics, it was
a glorification of devout sentiment, it was a pompous manifesto of
romanticism, it recovered a lost ideal of beauty. From Ronsard to
Chénier the aim of art had been to imitate the ancients, while
imitating or interpreting life. Let us be national, let us be modern,
let us therefore be Christians, declared Chateaubriand, and let us
seek for our tradition in the great Christian ages. It was a revolution
in art for which he pleaded, and throughout the first half of the
nineteenth century the revolution was in active progress.

The episode of _René_, which was included in the _Génie_, and
afterwards published separately, has been described as a
Christianised _Werther_; its passion is less frank, and even more
remote from sanity of feeling, than that of Goethe's novel, but the
sadness of the hero is more magnificently posed. A sprightly English
lady described Chateaubriand as "wearing his heart in a sling"; he
did so during his whole life; and through René we divine the inventor
of René carrying his wounded heart, as in the heroine we can discern
some features of his sister Lucile. In all his writings his feelings
centre in himself: he is a pure egoist through his sensibility; but
around his own figure his imagination, marvellous in its expansive
power, can deploy boundless perspectives.

Both _Atala_ and _René_, though brought into connection with the
_Génie du Christianisme_, are in fact more closely related to the
prose epic _Les Natchez_, written early, but held in reserve until
the publication of his collected works in 1826-31. _Les Natchez_,
inspired by Chateaubriand's American travels, idealises the life of
the Red Indian tribes. The later books, where he escapes from the
pseudo-epic manner, have in them the finest spirit of his early years,
his splendour and delicacy of description, his wealth of imaginative
reverie. Famous as the author of the _Génie_, Chateaubriand was
appointed secretary to the embassy at Rome. The murder of the Duc
d'Enghien alienated him from Napoleon. Putting aside the _Martyrs_,
on which he had been engaged, he sought for fresh imagery and local
colour to enrich his work, in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a record
of which was published in his (1811) _Itinéraire de Paris à
Jerusalem_.

The _Martyrs_ appeared in 1809. It was designed as a great example
of that art, inspired by Christianity, on behalf of which he had
contended in the _Génie_; the religion of Christ, he would prove,
can create passions and types of character better suited for noble
imaginative treatment than those of paganism; its supernatural
marvels are more than a compensation for the loss of pagan mythology.
The time chosen for his epopee in prose is the reign of the persecutor
Diocletian; Rome and the provinces of the Empire, Gaul, Egypt, the
deserts of the Thebaid, Jerusalem, Sparta, Athens, form only portions
of the scene; heaven and hell are open to the reader, but Chateaubriand,
whose faith was rather a sentiment than a passion, does not succeed
in making his supernatural habitations and personages credible even
to the fancy. Far more admirable are many of the terrestrial scenes
and narrations, and among these, in particular the story of Eudore.

In the course of the travels which led him to Jerusalem, Chateaubriand
had visited Spain, and it was his recollections of the Alhambra that
moved him to write, about 1809, the _Aventures du Dernier des
Abencérages_, published many years later. It shows a tendency towards
self-restraint, excellent in itself, but not entirely in harmony with
his effusive imagination. With this work Chateaubriand's inventive
period of authorship closed; the rest of his life was in the main
that of a politician. From the position of an unqualified royalist
(1814-24) he advanced to that of a liberal, and after 1830 may be
described as both royalist and republican. His pamphlet of 1814, _De
Bonaparte et des Bourbons_, was declared by Louis XVIII. to be worth
an army to his cause.

In his later years he published an _Essai sur la Littérature Anglaise_
and a translation of "Paradise Lost." But his chief task was the
revision of the _Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe_, an autobiography designed
for posthumous publication, and actually issued in the pages of the
_Presse_, through the indiscreet haste of the publishers, while
Chateaubriand was still living. Its egotism, its vanity, its
malicious wit, its fierce reprisals on those whom the writer regarded
as his enemies, its many beauties, its brilliance of style, make it
an exposure of all that was worst and much of what was best in his
character and genius. Tended by his old friend Mme. Récamier, to whom,
if to any one, he was sincerely attached, Chateaubriand died in the
summer of 1848. His tomb is on the rocky islet of Grand-Bé, off the
coast of Brittany.

Chateaubriand cannot be loved, and his character cannot be admired
without grave reserves. But an unique genius, developed at a fortunate
time, enabled him to play a most significant part in the history of
literature. He was the greatest of landscape painters; he restored
to art the sentiment of religion; he interpreted the romantic
melancholy of the age. If he posed magnificently, there were native
impulses which suggested the pose; and at times, as in the
_Itinéraire_, the pose is entirely forgotten. His range of ideas is
not extraordinary; but vision, imagination, and the passion which
makes the imaginative power its instrument, were his in a supereminent
degree.



CHAPTER II
THE CONFLICT OF IDEAS


While the imagination of France was turning towards the romance of
the Middle Ages and the art of Christianity, Hellenic scholarship
was maintained by Jean-François Boissonade. The representative of
Hellenism in modern letters was Courier, a brave but undisciplined
artillery officer under Napoleon, who loved the sight of a Greek
manuscript better than he loved a victory. PAUL-LOUIS COURIER DE MÉRÉ
(1772-1825) counts for nothing in the history of French thought; in
the history of French letters his pamphlets remain as masterpieces
of Attic grace, luminous, light and bright in narrative, easy in
dialogue, of the finest irony in comment, impeccable in measure and
in malice. The translator of _Daphnis and Chloe_, wearied by war and
wanderings in Italy, lived under the Restoration among his vines at
Veretz, in Touraine. In 1816 he became the advocate of provincial
popular rights against the vexations of the Royalist reaction. He
is a vine-dresser, a rustic bourgeois, occupied with affairs of the
parish. Shall Chambord be purchased for the Duke of Burgundy? shall
an intolerant young _curé_ forbid the villagers to dance? shall
magistrates harass the humble folk? Such are the questions agitating
the country-side, which the vine-dresser Courier will resolve. The
questions have been replaced to-day by others; but nothing has quite
replaced the _Simple Discours_, the _Pétition pour les Villageois_,
the _Pamphlet des Pamphlets_, in which the ease of the best sixteenth
and seventeenth century prose is united with a deft rapier-play like
that of Voltaire, and with the lucidity of the writer's classical
models.

Chateaubriand's artistic and sentimental Catholicism was the
satisfaction of imaginative cravings. When JOSEPH DE MAISTRE
(1753-1821) revolted against the eighteenth century, it was a revolt
of the soul; when he assailed the authority of the individual reason,
it was in the name of a higher reason. Son of the President of the
Senate of Savoy, he saw his country invaded by the French Republican
soldiery in 1792, and he retired to Lausanne. He protested against
the Revolutionary aggression in his _Lettres d'un Royaliste
Savoisien_; inspired by the mystical Saint-Martin, in his
_Considérations sur la France_, he interpreted the meaning of the
great political cataclysm as the Divine judgment upon France--assigned
by God the place of the leader of Christendom, the eldest daughter of
the Church--for her faithlessness and proud self-will. The sacred
chastisement accomplished, monarchy and Catholicism must be restored
to an intact and regenerated country. During fifteen years Maistre
served the King of Sardinia as envoy and plenipotentiary at the
Russian Court, maintaining his dignity in cruel distress upon the
salary of a clerk. Amiable in his private life, he was remorseless--with
the stern charity of an inquisitor--in dogma. In a style of
extraordinary clearness and force he expounded a system of ideas,
logically connected, on which to base a complete reorganisation of
European society. Those ideas are set forth most powerfully in the
dialogues entitled _Les Soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg_ and the
treatises _Du Pape_ and _De l'Église Gallicane_.

He honours reason; not the individual reason, source of innumerable
errors, but the general reason, which, emanating from God, reveals
universal and immutable truth--_quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab
omnibus_. To commence philosophising we should despise the
philosophers. Of these, Bacon, to whose errors Maistre devotes a
special study, is the most dangerous; Locke is the most contemptible.
The eighteenth century spoke of nature; Maistre speaks of God, the
Grand Monarch who rules His worlds by laws which are flexible in His
hands. To punish is the prime duty of authority; the great Justiciary
avenges Himself on the whole offending race of men; there is no
government without an executioner. But God is pitiful, and allows
us the refuge of prayer and sacrifice. Without religion there is no
society; without the Catholic Church there is no religion; without
the sovereign Pontiff there is no Catholic Church. The sovereignty
of the Pope is therefore the keystone of civilisation; his it is to
give and take away the crowns of kings. Governments absolute over
the people, the Pontiff absolute over governments--such is the
earthly reflection of the Divine monarchy in heaven. To suppose that
men can begin the world anew from a Revolutionary year One, is the
folly of private reason; society is an organism which grows under
providential laws; revolutions are the expiation for sins. Such are
the ideas which Maistre bound together in serried logic, and deployed
with the mastery of an intellectual tactician. The recoil from
individualism to authority could not have found a more absolute
expression.

The Vicomte de Bonald (1754-1840), whose theocratic views have much
in common with those of Maistre, and of his teacher Saint-Martin,
dwelt on the necessity of language as a condition of thought, and
maintained that language is of divine origin. Ballanche (1776-1847),
half poet, half philosopher, connected theocratic ideas with a theory
of human progress--a social and political palingenesis--which had
in it the elements of political liberalism. Theocracy and liberalism
met in the genius of FÉLICITÉ-ROBERT DE LAMENNAIS (1782-1854); they
engaged after a time in conflict, and in the end the victory lay with
his democratic sympathies. A Breton and a priest, Lamennais, endowed
with imagination, passion, and eloquence, was more a prophet than
a priest. He saw the world around him perishing through lack of faith;
religion alone could give it life and health; a Church, freed from
political shackles, in harmony with popular tendencies, governed by
the sovereign Pontiff, might animate the world anew. The voice of
the Catholic Church is the voice of humanity, uttering the general
reason of mankind. When the _Essai sur l'Indifférence en Matière de
Religion_ appeared, another Bossuet seemed to have arisen. But was
a democratic Catholicism possible? Lamennais trusted that it might
be so, and as the motto of the journal _L'Avenir_ (1830), in which
Lacordaire and Montalembert were his fellow-labourers, he chose the
words _Dieu et Liberté_.

The orthodoxy of the _Avenir_ was suspected. Lamennais, with his
friends, journeyed to Rome "to consult the Lord in Shiloh," and in
the _Affaires de Rome_ recorded his experiences. The Encyclical of
1832 pronounced against the doctrines dearest to his heart and
conscience; he bowed in submission, yet he could not abandon his
inmost convictions. His hopes for a democratic theocracy failing,
he still trusted in the peoples. But the democracy of his desire and
faith was one not devoted to material interests; to spiritualise the
democracy became henceforth his aim. In the _Paroles d'un Croyant_
he announced in rhythmical prose his apocalyptic visions. "It is,"
said a contemporary, "a _bonnet rouge_ planted on a cross." In his
elder years Lamennais believed in a spiritual power, a common thought,
a common will directing society, as the soul directs the body, but,
like the soul, invisible. His metaphysics, in which it is attempted
to give a scientific interpretation and application to the doctrine
of the Trinity, are set forth in the _Esquisse d'une Philosophie_.
His former associates, Lacordaire, the eloquent Dominican, and
Montalembert, the historian, learned and romantic, of Western
monasticism, remained faithful children of the Church. Lamennais,
no less devout in spirit than they, died insubmissive, and above his
grave, among the poor of Père-Lachaise, no cross was erected.

The antagonism to eighteenth-century thought assumed other forms
than those of the theocratic school. VICTOR COUSIN (1792-1867), a
pupil of Maine de Biran and Royer-Collard, became at the age of
twenty-three a lecturer on philosophy at the Sorbonne. He was
enthusiastic, ambitious, eloquent; with scanty knowledge he spoke
as one having authority, and impressed his hearers with the force
of a ruling personality. Led on from Scotch to German philosophy,
and having the advantage of personal acquaintance with Hegel, he
advanced through psychology to metaphysics. Not in the senses but
in the reason, impersonal in its spontaneous activity, he recognised
the source of absolute truth; in the first act of consciousness are
disclosed the finite, the infinite, and their mutual relations. In
the history of philosophy, in its four great systems of sensationalism,
idealism, scepticism, mysticism, he recognised the substance of
philosophy itself undergoing the process of evolution; each system
is true in what it affirms, false in what it denies. With psychology
as a starting-point, and eclecticism as a method, Cousin attempted
to establish a spiritualist doctrine. A young leader in the domain
of thought, he became at a later time too imperious a ruler. In the
writings of his disciple and friend THÉODORE JOUFFROY (1796-1842)
there is a deeper accent of reality. Doubting, and contending with
his doubts, Jouffroy brooded upon the destiny of man, made inquisition
into the problems of psychology, refusing to identify mental science
with physiology, and applied his remarkable powers of patient and
searching thought to the solution of questions in morals and æsthetics.
The school of Cousin has been named eclectic; it should rather be
named spiritualist. The tendencies to which it owed its origin
extended beyond philosophy, and are apparent in the literary art of
Cousin's contemporaries.

As a basis for social reconstruction the spiritualist philosophy was
ineffectual. Another school of thought issuing from the Revolution,
yet opposing its anarchic individualism, aspired to regenerate
society by the application of the principles of positive science.
CLAUDE-HENRI DE SAINT-SIMON (1760-1825), and FRANÇOIS-CHARLES
FOURIER (1772-1837), differing in many of their opinions, have a
common distinction as the founders of modern socialism.
Saint-Simon's ideal was that of a State controlled in things of the
mind by men of science, and in material affairs by the captains of
industry. The aim of society should be the exploitation of the globe
by associative effort. In his _Nouveau Christianisme_ he thought to
deliver the Christian religion from the outworn superstition, as he
regarded it, alike of Catholicism and Protestantism, and to point
out its true principle as adapted to our nineteenth century--that
of human charity, the united effort of men towards the well-being
of the poorest class.

Saint-Simon, fantastic, incoherent, deficient in the scientific
spirit and in the power of co-ordinating his results, yet struck out
suggestive ideas. A great and systematic thinker, AUGUSTE COMTE
(1798-1857), who was associated with Saint-Simon from 1817 to 1824,
perceived the significance of these ideas, and was urged forward by
them to researches properly his own. The positivism of Comte consists
of a philosophy and a polity, in which a religion is involved. The
quickening of his emotional nature through an adoring friendship with
Mme. Clotilde de Vaux, made him sensible of the incompleteness of
his earlier efforts at an intellectual reconstruction; he felt the
need of worship and of love. Comte's philosophy proceeds from the
theory that all human conceptions advance from the primitive
theological state, through the metaphysical--when abstract forces,
occult causes, scholastic entities are invented to explain the
phenomena of nature--to the positive, when at length it is recognised
that human knowledge cannot pass beyond the region of phenomena. With
these stages corresponds the progress of society from militarism,
aggressive or defensive, to industrialism. The several abstract
sciences--those dealing with the laws of phenomena rather than with
the application of laws--are so arranged by Comte as to exhibit each
more complex science resting on a simpler, to which it adds a new
order of truths; the whole erection, ascending to the science of
sociology, which includes a dynamical as well as a statical doctrine
of human society--a doctrine of the laws of progress as well as of
the laws of order--is crowned by morals.

In the polity of positivism the supreme spiritual power is entrusted
to a priesthood of science. Their moral influence will be chiefly
directed to reinforcing the social feeling, altruism, as against the
predominance of self-love. The object of religious reverence is not
God, but the "Great Being"--Humanity, the society of the noble living
and the noble dead, the company, or rather the unity, of all those
who contribute to the better life of man. To Humanity we pay our vows,
we yield our gratitude, we render our homage, we direct our
aspirations; for Humanity we act and live in the blessed subordination
of egoistic desire. Women--the mother, the wife, the daughter--purifying
through affection the energies of man, act, under the Great Being, as
angelic guardians, accomplishing a moral providence.

Comte's theory of the three states, theological, metaphysical, and
positive, was accepted by PIERRE JOSEPH PROUDHON (1809-65), a far
more brilliant writer, a far less constructive thinker, and aided
him in arriving at conclusions which differ widely from those of Comte.
Son of a cooper at Besançon, Proudhon had the virtues of a true child
of the people--integrity, affection, courage, zeal, untiring energy.
Religion he would replace by morality, ardent, strict, and pure. Free
associations of workmen, subject to no spiritual or temporal
authority, should arise over all the land. _Qu'est-ce que la
Propriété?_ he asked in the title of a work published in 1840; and
his answer was, _La Propriété c'est le Vol_. Property, seizing upon
the products of labour in the form of rent or interest, and rendering
no equivalent, is theft. Justice demands that service should be repaid
by an equal service. Society, freely organising itself on the
principles of liberty and justice, requires no government; only
through such anarchy as this can true order be attained. An apostle
of modern communism, Proudhon, by ideas leavening the popular mind,
became no insignificant influence in practical politics.



CHAPTER III
POETRY OF THE ROMANTIC SCHOOL


I

The eighteenth century did homage to the reason; it sought for general
truths, scientific, social, political; its art was in the main an
inheritance, diminished with lapse of time, from the classical art
of the preceding century. With Rousseau came an outburst of the
personal element in literature, an overflow of sensibility, an
enfranchisement of the passions, and of imagination as connected with
the passions; his eloquence has in it the lyrical note. The romantic
movement was an assertion of freedom for the imagination, and an
assertion of the rights of individuality. Love, wonder, hope,
measureless desire, strange fears, infinite sadness, the sentiment
of nature, aspiration towards God, were born anew. Imagination,
claiming authority, refused to submit to the rules of classic art.
Why should the several literary species be impounded each in its
separate paddock? Let them mingle at the pleasure of the artist's
genius; let the epic and the drama catch what they can of the lyric
cry; let tragedy and comedy meet and mix. Why remain in servitude
to the models of Greece and Rome? Let all epochs and every clime
contribute to the enrichment of art. The primitive age was above all
others the age of poetry. The great Christian centuries were the
centuries of miracle and marvel, of spiritual exaltation and
transcendent passion. Honour, therefore, to our mediæval
forefathers! It is the part of reason to trust the imagination in
the imaginative sphere. Through what is most personal and intimate
we reach the truths of the universal heart of man. An image may at
the same time be a symbol; behind a historical tableau may lie a
philosophical idea.

At first the romantic movement was Christian and monarchical. Its
assertion of freedom, its claims on behalf of the _ego_, its licence
of the imagination, were in reality revolutionary. The intellect is
more aristocratic than the passions. The great spectacle of modern
democracy deploying its forces is more moving than any pallid ideals
of the past; it has the grandeur and breadth of the large phenomena
of nature; it is wide as a sunrise; its advance is as the onset of
the sea, and has like rumours of victory and defeat. The romantic
movement, with no infidelity to its central principle, became modern
and democratic.

Foreign life and literatures lent their aid to the romantic movement
in France--the passion and mystery of the East; the struggle for
freedom in Greece; the old ballads of Spain; the mists, the solitudes,
the young heroes, the pallid female forms of Ossian; the feudal
splendours of Scott; the melancholy Harold; the mysterious Manfred;
Goethe's champion of freedom, his victim of sensibility, his seeker
for the fountains of living knowledge; Schiller's revolters against
social law, and his adventurers of the court and camp.

With the renewal of imagination and sentiment came a renewal of
language and of metre. The poetical diction of the eighteenth century
had grown colourless and abstract; general terms had been preferred
to particular; simple, direct, and vivid words had been replaced by
periphrases--the cock was "the domestic bird that announces the day."
The romantic poets sought for words--whether noble or vulgar--that
were coloured, concrete, picturesque. The tendency culminated with
Gautier, to whom words were valuable, like gems, for their gleam,
their iridescence, and their hardness. Lost treasures of the language
were recovered; at a later date new verbal inventions were made. By
degrees, also, grammatical structure lost some of its rigidity;
sentences and periods grew rather than were built; phrases were alive,
and learnt, if there were a need, to leap and bound. Verse was moulded
by the feeling that inspired it; the melodies were like those of an
Eolian harp, long-drawn or retracted as the wind swept or touched
the strings. Symmetry was slighted; harmony was valued for its own
sake and for its spiritual significance. Rich rhymes satisfied or
surprised the ear, and the poet sometimes suffered through his
curiosity as a virtuoso. By internal licences--the mobile cesura,
new variations and combinations--the power of the alexandrine was
marvellously enlarged; it lost its monotony and became capable of
every achievement; its external restraints were lightened; verse
glided into verse as wave overtaking wave. The accomplishment of these
changes was a gradual process, of which Hugo and Sainte-Beuve were
the chief initiators. Gautier and, in his elder years, Hugo
contributed to the later evolution of romantic verse. The influence
on poetical form of Lamartine, Vigny, Musset, was of minor importance.

The year 1822 is memorable; it saw the appearance of Vigny's _Poèmes_,
the _Odes_ of Hugo, which announced a new power in literature, though
the direction of that power was not yet defined, and almost to the
same moment belongs the indictment of classical literature by Henri
Beyle ("Stendhal") in his study entitled _Racine et Shakespeare_.
Around Charles Nodier, in the library of the Arsenal, gathered the
young revolters--among them Vigny, Sainte-Beuve, Émile Deschamps,
afterwards the translator of _Romeo and Juliet_ and _Macbeth_, his
brother Antony, afterwards the translator of the _Divine Comedy_.
The first Cénacle was formed; in the _Muse Française_ and in the
_Globe_ the principles of the new literary school were expounded and
illustrated. Victor Hugo looked on with friendly intentions, but
still held aloof.

JEAN-PIERRE DE BÉRANGER (1780-1857) was not one of this company of
poets. A child of Paris, of humble parentage, he discovered, after
various experiments, that his part was not that of a singer of large
ambitions. In 1815 his first collection of _Chansons_ appeared; the
fourth appeared in 1833. Standing between the bourgeoisie and the
people, he mediated between the popular and the middle-class
sentiment. His songs flew like town sparrows from garret to garden;
impudent or discreet, they nested everywhere. They seemed to be the
embodied wisdom of good sense, good temper, easy morals, love without
its ardours, poverty without its pains, patriotism without its
fatigues, a religion on familiar terms with the _Dieu des bonnes gens_.
In his elder years a Béranger legend had evolved itself; he was the
sage of democracy, the Socrates of the people, the patriarch to whom
pilgrims travelled to receive the oracles of liberal and benevolent
philosophy. Notwithstanding his faults in the pseudo-classic taste,
Béranger was skilled in the art of popular song; he knew the virtue
of concision; he knew how to evolve swiftly his little lyric drama;
he knew how to wing his verses with a volant refrain; he could catch
the sentiment of the moment and of the multitude; he could be gay
with touches of tenderness, and smile through a tear reminiscent of
departed youth and pleasure and Lisette. For the good bourgeois he
was a liberal in politics and religion; for the people he was a
democrat who hated the Restoration, loved equality more than liberty,
and glorified the legendary Napoleon, representative of democratic
absolutism. In the history of politics the songs of Béranger count
for much; in the history of literature the poet has a little niche
of his own, with which one may be content who, if he had not in elder
years supposed himself the champion of a literary revolution, might
be called modest.


II

Among the members of the Cénacle was to be seen a poet already famous,
their elder by several years, who might have been the master of a
school had he not preferred to dwell apart; one who, born for poetry,
chose to look on verse as no more than an accident of his existence.
In the year 1820 had appeared a slender volume entitled _Méditations
Poétiques_. The soul, long departed, returned in this volume to French
poetry. Its publication was an event hardly less important than that
of the _Génie du Christianisme_. The well-springs of pure inspiration
once more flowed. The critics, indeed, were not all enthusiastic;
the public, with a surer instinct, recognised in Lamartine the singer
they had for many years desired, and despaired to find.

ALPHONSE DE LAMARTINE, born at Mâcon in 1790, of royalist parents,
had passed his childhood among the tranquil fields and little hills
around his homestead at Milly. From his mother he learned to love
the Bible, Tasso, Bernardin, and a christianised version of the
Savoyard Vicar's faith; at a later time he read Chateaubriand,
Rousseau, Milton, Byron, and was enchanted by the wandering gleams
and glooms of Ossian. From the melancholy of youth he was roused by
Italian travel, and by that Italian love romance of Graziella, the
circumstances of which he has dignified for the uses of idealised
autobiography. A deeper passion of love and grief followed; Madame
Charles, the "Julie" of Lamartine's _Raphaël_, the "Elvire" of his
_Méditations_, died. Lamartine had versified already in a manner
which has affinities with that of those eighteenth-century poets and
elegiac singers of the Empire whom he was to banish from public regard.
Love and grief evoked finer and purer strains; his deepest feelings
flowed into verse with perfect sincerity and perfect spontaneity.
Without an effort of the will he had become the most illustrious poet
of France.

Lamartine had held and had resigned a soldier's post in the body-guard
of Louis XVIII. He now accepted the position of attaché to the embassy
at Naples; published in 1823 his _Nouvelles Méditations_, and two
years later _Le Dernier Chant du Pèlerinage d'Harold_ (Byron's Childe
Harold); after which followed a long silence. Secretary in 1824 to
the legation at Florence, he abandoned after a time the diplomatic
career, and on the eve of the Revolution of July (1830) appeared again
as a poet in his _Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses_; travelled in
the East in company with his wife, and recorded his impressions in
the _Voyage en Orient_; entered into political life, at first a
solitary in politics as he had been in literature, but by degrees
finding himself drawn more and more towards democratic ideas. "Where
will you sit?" he was asked on his presentation in the Chamber. His
smiling reply, "On the ceiling," was symbolical of the fact; but from
"the ceiling" his exalted oratory, generous in temper, sometimes wise
and well informed, descended with influence. _Jocelyn_ (1836), _La
Chute d'un Ange_ (1838), the _Recueillements Poétiques_ (1839),
closed the series of his poetical works, though he did not wholly
cease from song.

In 1847 Lamartine's idealising _Histoire des Girondins_, brilliant
in its romantic portraiture, had the importance of a political event.
The Revolution of February placed him for a little time at the head
of affairs; as he had been the soul of French poetry, so for a brief
hour he was the soul of the political life of France. With the victory
of imperialism Lamartine retired into the shade. He was more than
sixty years of age; he had lost his fortune and was burdened with
debt. His elder years were occupied with incessant improvisations
for the booksellers--histories, biographies, tales, criticism,
autobiographic confidences flowed from his pen. It was a gallant
struggle and a sad one. Through the delicate generosity of Napoleon
III. he was at length relieved without humiliating concessions. In
1869 Lamartine died in his eightieth year.

He was a noble dreamer in practical affairs, and just ideas formed
a portion of his dreams. Nature had made him an irreclaimable
optimist; all that is base and ugly in life passed out of view as
he soared above earth in his luminous ether. Sadness and doubt indeed
he knew, but his sadness had a charm of its own, and there were
consolations in maternal nature, in love, in religious faith and
adoration. His power of vision was not intense or keen; his
descriptions are commonly vague or pale; but no one could mirror more
faithfully a state of feeling divested of all material circumstance.
The pure and ample harmonies of his verse do not attack the ear, but
they penetrate to the soul. All the great lyric themes--God, nature,
death, glory, melancholy, solitude, regret, desire, hope, love--he
interpreted on his instrument with a musician's inspiration.
Unhappily he lacked the steadfast force of will, the inexhaustible
patience, which go to make a complete artist; he improvised admirably;
he refused to labour as a master of technique; hence his diffuseness,
his negligences; hence the decline of his powers after the first
spontaneous inspiration was exhausted.

Lamartine may have equalled but he never surpassed the best poems
of his earliest volume. But the elegiac singer aspired to be a
philosophic poet, and, infusing his ideas into sentiment and
narrative, became the author of _Jocelyn_ and _La Chute d'un Ange_.
Recalling and idealising an episode in the life of his friend the
Abbé Dumont, he tells how Jocelyn, a child of humble parents--not
yet a priest--takes shelter among the mountains from the
Revolutionary terror; how a proscribed youth, Laurence, becomes his
companion; how Laurence is found to be a girl; how friendship passes
into love; how, in order that he may receive the condemned bishop's
last confession, Jocelyn submits to become a priest; how the lovers
part; how Laurence wanders into piteous ways of passion; how Jocelyn
attends her in her dying hours, and lays her body among the hills
and streams of their early love. It is Jocelyn who chronicles events
and feelings in his journal of joy and of sorrow. Lamartine
acknowledges that he had before him as a model the idyl dear to him
in childhood--Bernardin's _Paul et Virginie_.

The poem is complete in itself, but it was designed as a fragment
of that vast modern epopee, with humanity for the hero, of which _La
Chute d'un Ange_ was another fragment. The later poem, vast in
dimensions, fantastic in subject, negligent in style, is a work of
Lamartine's poetic decline. We are among the mountains of Lebanon,
where dwell the descendants of Cain. The angel, enamoured of the
maiden Daïdha, becomes human. Through gigantic and incoherent
inventions looms the idea of humanity which degrades itself by
subjugation to the senses, as in _Jocelyn_ we had seen the type of
humanity which ascends by virtue of aspirations of the soul. It was
a poor jest to say that the title of his poem _La Chute d'un Ange_
described its author. Lamartine had failed; he could not handle so
vast a subject with plastic power; but in earlier years he had
accomplished enough to justify us in disregarding a late failure--he
had brought back the soul to poetry.


III

Among the romantic poets who made themselves known between 1820 and
1830, ALFRED DE VIGNY is distinguished by the special character of
his genius, and by the fact that nothing in his poetry is derived
from his contemporaries. Lamartine, Hugo, and, at a later date, Musset,
found models or suggestions in his writings. He, though for a time
closely connected with the romantic school, really stands apart and
alone. Born in 1797, he followed the profession of his father, that
of arms, and knew the hopes, the illusions, and the disappointments
of military service at the time of the fall of the Empire and the
Bourbon restoration. He read eagerly in Greek literature, in the Old
Testament, and among eighteenth-century philosophers. As early as
1815 he wrote his admirable poem _La Dryade_, in which, before André
Chénier's verse had appeared, Chénier's fresh and delicate feeling
for antiquity was anticipated. In 1822 his first volume, _Poèmes_,
was published, including the _Héléna_, afterwards suppressed, and
groups of pieces classified as _Antiques_, _Judaïques_, and
_Modernes_. Already his _Moïse_, majestic in its sobriety, was
written, though it waited four years for publication in the volume
of _Poèmes Antiques et Modernes_ (1826). Moses climbing the slopes
of Nebo personifies the solitude and the heavy burden of genius; his
one aspiration now is for the sleep of death; and it is the lesser
leader Joshua who will conduct the people into the promised land.
The same volume included _Eloa_, a romance of love which abandons
joy through an impulse of divine pity: the radiant spirit Eloa, born
from a tear of Christ, resigns the happiness of heaven to bring
consolation to the great lost angel suffering under the malediction
of God. Other pieces were inspired by Spain, with its southern
violence of passion, and by the pass of Roncesvalles, with its
chivalric associations.

The novel of _Cinq-Mars_, which had a great success, is a free
treatment of history; but Vigny's best work is rather the embodiment
of ideas than the rendering of historical matter. His _Stello_ in
its conception has something of kinship with _Moïse_; in three prose
tales relating the sufferings of Chatterton, Chénier, and Gilbert,
it illustrates the sorrows of the possessors of genius. Vigny's
military experience suggested another group of tales, the _Servitude
et Grandeur Militaires_; the soldier in accepting servitude finds
his consolation in the duty at all costs of strenuous obedience.

In 1827 Vigny quitted the army, and next year took place his
marriage--one not unhappy, but of imperfect sympathy--to an English
lady, Lydia Bunbury. His interest in English literature was shown
by translations of _Othello_ and the _Merchant of Venice_. The former
was acted with the applause of the young romanticists, who worshipped
Shakespeare ardently if not wisely, and who bore the shock of hearing
the unclassical word _mouchoir_ valiantly pronounced on the French
stage. The triumph of his drama of _Chatterton_ (1835) was
overwhelming, though its glory to-day seems in excess of its deserts.
Ten years later Vigny was admitted to the Academy. But with the
representation of _Chatterton_, and at the moment of his highest fame,
he suddenly ceased from creative activity. Never was his mind more
energetic, never was his power as an artist so mature; but, except
a few wonderful poems contributed to the _Revue des Deux Mondes_,
and posthumously collected, nothing was given by him to the world
from 1835 to 1863, the year of his death.

He had always been a secluded spirit; external companionship left
him inwardly solitary; secret--so Sainte-Beuve puts it--in his
"tower of ivory"; touching some mountain-summit for a moment--so
Dumas describes him--if he folded his wings, as a concession to
humanity. A great disillusion of passion had befallen him; but, apart
from this, he must have retreated into his own sphere of ideas and
of images, which seemed to him to be almost wronged by an attempt
at literary expression. He looked upon the world with a disenchanted
eye; he despaired of the possibilities of life for himself and for
all men; without declamation or display, he resigned himself to a
silent and stoical acceptance of the lot of man; but out of this calm
despair arose a passionate pity for his fellows, a pity even for things
evil, such as his Eloa felt for the lost angel. _La Colère de Samson_
gives majestic utterance to his despair of human love; his _Mont des
Oliviers_, where Jesus seeks God in vain, and where Judas lurks near,
expresses his religious despair. Nature, the benevolent mother, says
Vigny, is no mother, but a tomb. Yet he would not clamour against
the heavens or the earth; he would meet death silently when it comes,
like the dying wolf of his poem (_La Mort du Loup_), suffering but
voiceless. Wealth and versatility of imagination were not Vigny's
gifts. His dominant ideas were few, but he lived in them; for them
he found apt imagery or symbol; and in verse which has the dignity
of reserve and of passion controlled to sobriety, he let them as it
were involuntarily escape from the seclusion of his soul. He is the
thinker among the poets of his time, and when splendours of colour
and opulence of sound have passed away, the idea remains. In fragments
from his papers, published in 1867, with the title _Journal d'un
Poète_, the inner history of Vigny's spirit can be traced.


IV

To present VICTOR HUGO in a few pages is to carve a colossus on a
cherry-stone. His work dominates half a century. In the years of exile
he began a new and greater career. During the closing ten years his
powers had waned, but still they were extraordinary. Even with death
he did not retire; posthumous publications astonished and perhaps
fatigued the world.

Victor-Marie Hugo was born at Besançon on February 26, 1802, son of
a distinguished military officer--

   "_Mon père vieux soldat, ma mère Vendéenne._"

Mother and children followed Commandant Hugo to Italy in 1807; in
Spain they halted at Ernani and at Torquemada--names remembered by
the poet; at Madrid a Spanish Quasimodo, their school servant, alarmed
the brothers Eugène and Victor. A schoolboy in Paris, Victor Hugo
rhymed his chivalric epic, his tragedy, his melodrama--"les bétises
que je faisais avant ma naissance." In 1816 he wrote in his manuscript
book the words, "I wish to be Chateaubriand or nothing." At fifteen
he was the laureate of the Jeux Floraux, the "enfant sublime" of
Chateaubriand's or of Soumet's praise.

Founder, with his brothers, of the _Conservateur Littéraire_, he
entered into the society of those young aspirants who hoped to renew
the literature of France. In 1822 he published his _Odes et Poésies
Diverses_, and, obtaining a pension from Louis XVIII., he married
his early playfellow Adèle Foucher. Romances, lyrics, dramas
followed in swift succession. Hugo, by virtue of his genius, his
domineering temper, his incessant activity, became the acknowledged
leader of the romantic school. In 1841 he was a member of the Academy;
four years later he was created a peer. Elected deputy of Paris in
1848, the year of revolution, he sat on the Right in the Constituant,
on the Left in the Legislative Assembly, tending more and more towards
socialistic democracy. The Empire drove him into exile--exile first
at Brussels, then in Jersey, finally in Guernsey, where Hugo, in his
own imagination, was the martyred but unsubdued demi-god on his
sea-beaten rock. In 1870, on the fall of the Empire, he returned to
Paris, witnessed the siege, was elected to the National Assembly,
urged a continuance of the war, spoke in favour of recognising
Garibaldi's election, and being tumultuously interrupted by the
Right, sent in his resignation. Occupied at Brussels in the interests
of his orphaned grandchildren, he was requested to leave, on the
ground of his zeal on behalf of the fallen Communists; he returned
to Paris, and pleaded in the _Rappel_ for amnesty. In 1875 he was
elected a senator. His eightieth birthday was celebrated with
enthusiasm. Three years later, on May 23, 1885, Victor Hugo died.
His funeral pomps were such that one might suppose the genius of France
itself was about to be received at the Panthéon.

In Victor Hugo an enormous imagination and a vast force of will
operated amid inferior faculties. His character was less eminent than
his genius. If it is vanity to take a magnified Brocken-shadow for
one's self and to admire its superb gestures upon the mist, never
was vanity more complete or more completely satisfied than his. He
was to himself the hero of a Hugo legend, and did not perceive when
the sublime became the ridiculous. Generous to those beneath him,
charitable to universal humanity, he was capable of passionate
vindictiveness against individuals who had wounded his self-esteem;
and, since whatever opposed him was necessarily an embodiment of the
power of evil, the contest rose into one of Ormuzd against Ahriman.
His intellect, the lesser faculty, was absorbed by his imagination.
Vacuous generalities, clothed in magnificent rhetoric, could pass
with him for ideas; but his visions are sometimes thoughts in images.
The voice of his passions was leonine, but his moral sensibility
wanted delicacy. His laughter was rather boisterous than fine. He
is a poet who seldom achieved a faultless rendering of the subtle
psychology of lovers' hearts; there was in him a vein of robust
sensuality. Children were dear to him, and he knew their pretty ways;
a cynical critic might allege that he exploited overmuch the tender
domesticities. His eye seized every form, vast or minute, defined
or vague; his feeling for colour was rather strong than delicate;
his vision was obsessed by the antithesis of light and shade; his
ear was awake to every utterance of wind or wave; phantoms of sound
attacked his imagination; he lent the vibrations of his nerves, his
own sentiments, to material objects; he took and gave back the soul
of things. Words for him were living powers; language was a moving
mass of significant myths, from which he chose and which he
aggrandised; sensations created images and words, and images and
words created ideas. He was a master of all harmonies of verse; now
a solitary breather through pipe or flute; more often the conductor
of an orchestra.

To say that Hugo was the greatest lyric poet of France is to say too
little; the claim that he was the greatest lyric poet of all literature
might be urged. The power and magnitude of his song result from the
fact that in it what is personal and what is impersonal are fused
in one; his soul echoed orchestrally the orchestrations of nature
and of humanity--

   "_Son âme aux mille voix, que le Dieu qu'il adore
     Mit au centre de tout comme un écho sonore._"

And thus if his poetry is not great by virtue of his own ideas, it
becomes great as a reverberation of the sensations, the passions,
and the thoughts of the world. He did not soar tranquilly aloft and
alone; he was always a combatant in the world and wave of men, or
borne joyously upon the flood. The evolution of his genius was a long
process. The _Odes_ of 1822 and 1824, the _Odes et Ballades_ of 1826,
Catholic and royalist in their feeling, show in their form a
struggling originality oppressed by the literary methods of his
predecessors--J.-B. Rousseau, Lebrun, Casimir Delavigne. This
originality asserts itself chiefly in the _Ballades_. His early prose
romances, _Han d'Islande_ (1823) and _Bug-Jargal_ (1826)--the one
a tale of the seventeenth-century man-beast of Norway, the other a
tale of the generous St. Domingo slave--are challenges of youthful
and extravagant romanticism. _Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamné_ (1829)
is a prose study in the pathology of passion. The same year which
saw the publication of the last of these is also the year of _Les
Orientales_. These poems are also studies--amazing studies in colour,
in form, in all the secrets of poetic art. The East was popular--Hugo
was ever passionate for popularity--and Spain, which he had seen,
is half-Oriental. But of what concern is the East? he had seen a sunset
last summer, and the fancy took him; the East becomes an occasion
for marvellous combinations of harmony and lustrous tinctures; art
for its own sake is precious.

From 1827, when _Cromwell_ appeared, to 1843, when the epic in drama
_Les Burgraves_ failed, Hugo was a writer for the stage, diverting
tragedy from its true direction towards lyrical melodrama.[1] In the
operatic libretto _La Esmeralda_ (1836) his lyrical virtuosity was
free to display itself in an appropriate dramatic form. The libretto
was founded on his own romance _Notre-Dame de Paris_ (1831), an
evocation, more imaginative than historical, of the old city of the
fifteenth century, its tragic passions, its strangeness, its horrors,
and its beauty; it is a marvellous series of fantasies in black and
white; things live in it more truly than persons; the cathedral, by
its tyrannous power and intenser life, seems to overshadow the other
actors. The tale is a juxtaposition of violent contrasts, an
antithesis of darkness and light. Through Quasimodo afflicted
humanity appeals for pity.

[Footnote 1: See section VII, this chapter.]

In the volume of verse which followed _Les Orientales_ after an
interval of two years, _Les Feuilles d'Automne_ (1831), Hugo is a
master of his instrument, and does not need to display his miracles
of skill; he is freer from faults than in the poetry of later years,
but not therefore more to be admired. His noblest triumphs were almost
inevitably accompanied by the excesses of his audacity. Here the
lyrism is that of memory and of the heart--intimate, tender, grave,
with a feeling for the hearth and home, a sensibility to the
tranquillising influences of nature, a charity for human-kind, a
faith in God, a hope of immortality. Now and again, as in the epilogue,
the spirit of public indignation breaks forth--

   "_Et j'ajoute à ma lyre une corde d'airain._"

The spirit of the _Chants du Créspuscule_ (1835) is one of doubt,
trouble, almost of gloom. Hugo's faith in the bourgeois monarchy is
already waning; he is a satirist of the present; he sees two things
that are majestic--the figure of Napoleon in the past, the popular
flood-tide in the future which rises to threaten the thrones of kings.
But this tide is discerned, as it were, through a dimness of weltering
mist. _Les Voix Intérieures_ (1837) resumes the tendencies of the
two preceding volumes; the dead Charles X. is reverently saluted;
the legendary Napoleon is magnified; the faith in the people grows
clearer; the inner whispers of the soul are caught with heedful ear;
the voice of the sea now enters into Hugo's poetry; Nature, in the
symbolic _La Vache_, is the mother and the exuberant nurse of all
living things. In _Les Rayons et les Ombres_ (1840), Nature is not
only the nurse, but the instructress and inspirer of the soul,
mingling spirit with spirit. Lamartine's _Le Lac_ and Musset's
_Souvenir_ find a companion, not more pure, but of fuller harmonies,
in the _Tristesse d'Olympio_; reminiscences of childhood are
magically preserved in the poem of the _Feuillantines_.

From 1840 to 1853 Hugo as a lyrical poet was silent. Like Lamartine,
he had concerned himself with politics. A private grief oppressed
his spirits. In 1843 his daughter Léopoldine and her husband of a
few short months were drowned. In 1852 the poet who had done so much
to magnify the first Napoleon in the popular imagination was the exile
who launched his prose invective _Napoléon le Petit_. A year later
appeared _Les Châtiments_, in which satire, with some loss of critical
discernment, is infused with a passionate lyrical quality,
unsurpassed in literature, and is touched at times with epic grandeur.
The Empire, if it severed Hugo from the soil of France, restored him
to himself with all his superb power and all his violences and errors
of genius.

The volumes of _Les Contemplations_ (1856) mark the culmination of
Hugo's powers as a lyrical poet. The earlier pieces are of the past,
from 1830 to 1843, and resemble the poems of the past. A group of
poems, sacred to the memory of his daughter, follow, in which beauty
and pathos are interpenetrated by a consoling faith in humanity, in
nature, and in God. The concluding pieces are in a greater manner.
The visionary Hugo lives and moves amid a drama of darkness and of
light; gloom is smitten by splendour, splendour collapses into gloom;
and darkness and light seem to have become vocal in song.

But a further development lay before him. The great lyric poet was
to carry all his lyric passion into an epic presentation, in detached
scenes, of the life of humanity. The first part of _La Légende des
Siècles_ was published in 1859 (later series, 1877, 1883). From the
birth of Eve to the trumpet of judgment the vast cycle of ages and
events unrolls before us; gracious episodes relieve the gloom; beauty
and sublimity go hand in hand; in the shadow the great criminals are
pursued by the great avengers. The spirit of _Les Châtiments_ is
conveyed into a view of universal history; if kings are tyrants and
priests are knaves, the people is a noble epic hero. This poem is
the epopee of democratic passions.

The same spirit of democratic idealism inspires Hugo's romance _Les
Misérables_ (1862). The subject now is modern; the book is rather
the chaos of a prose epic than a novel; the hero is the high-souled
outcast of society; everything presses into the pages; they are turn
by turn historical, narrative, descriptive, philosophical (with such
philosophy as Hugo has to offer), humanitarian, lyrical, dramatic,
at times realistic; a vast invention, beautiful, incredible, sublime,
absurd, absorbing in its interest, a nightmare in its tedium.

We have passed beyond the mid-century, but Hugo is not to be presented
as a torso. In the tale _Les Travailleurs de la Mer_ (1866) the choral
voices of the sea cover the thinness and strain of the human voices;
if the writer's genius is present in _L'Homme qui Rit_ (1869), it
often chooses to display its most preposterous attitudes; the better
scenes of _Quatre-vingt Treize_ (1874) beguile our judgment into the
generous concessions necessary to secure an undisturbed delight.
These are Hugo's later poems in prose. In verse he revived the feelings
of youth with a difference, and performed happy caprices of style
in the _Chansons des Rues et des Bois_ (1865); sang the incidents
and emotions of his country's sorrow and glory in _L'Année Terrible_
(1872), and--strange contrast--the poetry of babyland in _L'Art
d'être Grandpère_ (1877). Volume still followed volume--_Le Pape_,
_La Pitié Suprême_, _Religions et Religion_, _L'Âne_, _Les Quatre
Vents de l'Esprit_, the drama _Torquemada_. The best pages in these
volumes are perhaps equal to the best in any of their author's
writings; the pages which force antithesis, pile up synonyms, develop
commonplaces in endless variations, the pages which are hieratic,
prophetic, apocalyptic, put a strain upon the loyalty of our
admiration. The last legend of Hugo's imagination was the Hugo legend:
if theism was his faith, autotheism was his superstition. Yet it is
easy to restore our loyalty, and to rediscover the greatest lyric
poet, the greatest master of poetic counterpoint that France has
known.


V

ALFRED DE MUSSET has been reproached with having isolated himself
from the general interests and affairs of his time. He did not isolate
himself from youth or love, and the young of two generations were
his advocates. Born in 1810, son of the biographer of Rousseau, he
was a Parisian, inheriting the sentiment and the scepticism of the
eighteenth century. Impressionable, excitable, greedy of sensations,
he felt around him the void left by the departed glories of the Empire,
the void left by the passing away of religious faiths. One thing was
new and living--poetry. Chénier's remains had appeared; Vigny, Hugo,
Lamartine had opened the avenues for the imagination; Byron was dead,
but Harold and Manfred and Don Juan survived. Musset, born a poet,
was ready for imaginative ventures; he had been introduced, while
still a boy, to the Cénacle. Spain and Italy were the regions of
romance; at nineteen he published his first collection of poems,
_Contes d'Espagne et d'Italie_, and--an adolescent Chérubin-Don Juan
of song--found himself famous.

He gave his adhesion to the romantic school, rather with the light
effrontery of youth than with depth of conviction; he was impertinent,
ironical, incredulous, blasphemous, despairing, as became an elegant
Byron minor of the boulevards, aged nineteen. But some of the pieces
were well composed; all had the "form and feature of blown youth";
the echoes of southern lands had the fidelity and strangeness of
echoes tossed from Paris backwards; certain passages and lines had
a classic grace; it might even be questioned whether the _Ballade
à la Lune_ was a challenge to the school of tradition, or a jest at
the expense of his own associates.

A season of hesitation and of transition followed. Musset was not
disposed to play the part of the small drummer-boy inciting the
romantic battalion to the double-quick. He began to be aware of his
own independence. He was romantic, but he had wit and a certain
intellectual good-sense; he honoured Racine together with Hugo; he
could not merge his individuality in a school. Yet, with an infirmity
characteristic of him, Musset was discouraged. It was not in him to
write great poetry of an impersonal kind; his _Nuit Vénitienne_ had
been hissed at the Odéon; and what had he to sing out of his own heart?
He resolved to make the experiment. Three years after his first volume
a second appeared, which announced by its title that, while still
a dramatic poet, he had abandoned the stage; the _Spectacle dans un
Fauteuil_ declared that, though his glass was small, it was from his
own glass that he would drink.

The glass contained the wine of love and youth mingled with a grosser
potion. In the drama _La Coupe et les Lèvres_ he exhibited libertine
passion seeking alliance with innocence and purity, and incapable
of attaining self-recovery; in _Namouna_, hastily written to fit the
volume for publication, he presented the pursuit of ideal love as
conducting its victim through all the lures of sensual desire; the
comedy _À quoi rêvent les jeunes Filles_, with its charm of fantasy,
tells of a father's device to prepare his daughters for the good prose
of wedlock by the poetry of invented romance. Musset had emancipated
himself from the Cénacle, and would neither appeal to the eye with
an overcharge of local colour, nor seduce the ear with rich or curious
rhymes. Next year (1833) in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ appeared
_Rolla_, the poem which marks the culmination of Musset's early manner,
and of Byron's influence on his genius; the prodigal, beggared of
faith, debased by self-indulgence, is not quite a disbeliever in love;
through passion he hastens forward in desperation to the refuge of
death.

At the close of 1833 Musset was with George Sand in Italy. The hours
of illusion were followed by months of despair. He knew suffering,
not through the imagination, but in his own experience. After a time
calm gradually returned, and the poet, great at length by virtue of
the sincerity of genius, awoke. He is no longer frivolously despairing
and elegantly corrupt. In _Les Nuits_--two of these (_Mai_,
_Octobre_) inspired by the Italian joy and pain--he speaks simply
and directly from the heart in accents of penetrating power. Solitude,
his constant friend, the Muse, and love rising from the grave of love,
shall be his consolers--

   "_Après avoir souffert, il faut souffrir encore;
     Il faut aimer sans cesse, après avoir aimé._"

Musset's powers had matured through suffering; the _Lettre à
Lamartine_, the _Espoir en Dieu_, the _Souvenir_, the elegy _À la
Malibran_, the later stanzas _Après une Lecture_ (1842), are
masterpieces of the true Musset--the Musset who will live.

At thirty Musset was old. At rare intervals came the flash and outbreak
of a fiery mind; but the years were years of lassitude. His patriotic
song, _Le Rhin Allemand_, is of 1841. In 1852 the Academy received
him. "Musset s'absente trop," observed an Academician; the
ungracious reply, "Il s'absinthe trop," told the truth, and it was
a piteous decline. In 1857, attended by the pious Sister Marceline,
Musset died.

Passion, the spirit of youth, sensibility, a love of beauty,
intelligence, _esprit_, fantasy, eloquence, graceful converse--these
were Musset's gifts. He lacked ideas; he lacked the constructive
imagination; with great capacities as a writer, he had too little of an
artist's passion for perfection. His longest narrative in prose, the
_Confession d'un Enfant du Siècle_, has borne the lapse of time ill.
"J'y ai vomi la vérité," he said. It is not the happiest way of
communicating truth, and the moral of the book, that debauchery ends in
cynicism, was not left for Musset to discover. Some of his shorter
tales have the charm of fancy or the charm of tenderness, with
breathings of nature here, and there the musky fragrance of a
Louis-Quinze boudoir. _Pierre et Camille_, with its deaf-and-dumb
lovers, and their baby, who babbles in the presence of the relenting
grandfather "Bonjour, papa," has a pretty innocence. _Le Fils de
Titien_ returns to the theme of fallen art, the ruin of self-indulgence.
_Frédéric et Bernerette_ and _Mimi Pinson_ may be said to have created
the poetic literature of the grisette--gay and good, or erring and
despairful--making a flower of what had blossomed in the stories of
Paul de Kock as a weed.

Next to the most admirable of his lyric and elegiac poems, Musset's
best _Comédies_ and _Proverbes_ (proverbial sayings exemplified in
dramatic action), deserve a place. Written in prose for readers of
the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, their scenic qualities were discovered
only in 1847, when the actress Madame Allan presented _Un Caprice_
and _Il faut qu'une Porte soit ouverte ou fermée_ at St. Petersburg.
The ambitious Shakespearian drama of political conspiracy,
_Lorenzaccio_, was an effort beyond the province and the powers of
Musset. His _André del Sarto_, a tragic representation of the great
painter betrayed by his wife and his favourite pupil, needed the
relief of his happier fantasy. It is in such delicate creations of
a world of romance, a world of sunshine and of perpetual spring, as
_On ne badine pas avec l'Amour_, _Les Caprices de Marianne_, _Le
Chandelier_, _Il ne faut jurer de rien_, that Musset showed how
romantic art could become in a high sense classic by the balance of
sensibility and intelligence, of fantasy and passion. The graces of
the age of Madame de Pompadour ally themselves here with the freer
graces of the Italian Renaissance. Something of the romance of
Shakespeare's more poetic comedies mingles with the artificial
elegance of Marivaux. Their subject is love, and still repeated love;
sentiment is relieved by the play of gaiety; the grotesque approaches
the beautiful; we sail in these light-timbered barques to a land that
lies not very far from the Illyria and Bohemia and Arden forest of
our own great enchanter.


VI

Lyrical self-confession reached its limit in the poetry of Musset.
Detachment from self and complete surrender to the object is the law
of Gautier's most characteristic work; he is an eye that sees, a hand
that moulds and colours--that is all. A child of the South, born at
Tarbes in 1811, THÉOPHILE GAUTIER was a pupil in the painter Rioult's
studio till the day when, his friend the poet Gérard de Nerval having
summoned him to take part in the battle of _Hernani_, he swore by
the skull from which Byron drank that he would not be a defaulter.
His first volume, _Poésies_, appeared in 1830, and was followed in
two years by _Albertus_, a fantastic manufacture of strangeness and
horror, amorous sorcery, love-philtres, witches' Sabbaths. The
_Comédie de la Mort_ evokes the illustrious shades of Raphael, Faust,
Don Juan to testify to the vanity of knowledge and glory and art and
love. Gautier's romantic enthusiasm was genuine and ardent. The
_Orientales_ was his poetic gospel; but the _Orientales_ is precisely
the volume in which Hugo is least effusive, and pursues art most
exclusively for art's sake. Love and life and death in these early
poems of Gautier are themes into which he works coloured and
picturesque details; sentiment, ideas are of value to him so far as
they can be rendered in images wrought in high relief and tinctured
with vivid pigments.

It was the sorrow of Gautier's life, that born, as he believed, for
poetry, he was forced to toil day after day, year after year, as a
critic of the stage and of the art-exhibitions. He performed his task
in workman-like fashion, seeking rather to communicate impressions
than to pronounce judgments. His most valuable pieces of literary
criticism are his exhumations of the earlier seventeenth-century
poets--Théophile, Cyrano, Saint-Amant, Scarron, and others--published
in 1844, together with a study of Villon, under the title _Les
Grotesques_, and the memoir of 1867, drawn up in compliance with the
request of the Minister of Public Instruction, on _Les Progrès de la
Poésie Française depuis 1830_. A reader of that memoir to-day will
feel, with Swift, that literary reputations are dislimned and shifted
as quickly and softly as the forms of clouds when the wind plays aloft.

In 1840 Gautier visited Spain; afterwards he saw Italy, Algeria,
Constantinople, Russia, Greece. He travelled not as a student of life
or as a romantic sentimentalist. He saw exactly, and saw all things
in colour; the world was for him so much booty for the eye. Endowed
with a marvellous memory, an unwearied searcher of the vocabulary,
he could transfer the visual impression, without a faltering outline
or a hue grown dim, into words as exact and vivid as the objects which
he beheld. If his imagination recomposed things, it was in the manner
of some admired painter; he looked on nature through the medium of
a Zurbaran or a Watteau. The dictionary for Gautier was a collection
of gems that flashed or glowed; he chose and set them with the skill
and precision of a goldsmith enamoured of his art. At Athens, in one
of his latest wanderings, he stood in presence of the Parthenon, and
found that he was a Greek who had strayed into the Middle Ages; on
the faith of _Notre-Dame de Paris_ he had loved the old cathedrals;
"the Parthenon," he writes, "has cured me of the Gothic malady, which
with me was never very severe."

Gautier's tales attained one of their purposes, that of astonishing
the bourgeois; yet if he condescended to ideas, his ideas on all
subjects except art had less value than those of the philistine.
_Mademoiselle de Maupin_ has lost any pretensions it possessed to
supereminent immorality; its sensuality is that of a dream of youth;
such purity as it possesses, compared with books of acrid grossness,
lies in the fact that the young author loved life and cared for beauty.
In shorter tales he studiously constructs strangeness--the sense of
mystery he did not in truth possess--on a basis of exactly carved
and exactly placed material. His best invention is the tale of actors
strolling in the time most dear to his imagination, the old days of
Louis XIII., _Le Capitaine Fracasse_, suggested doubtless by
Scarron's _Roman Comique_, and patiently retouched during a quarter
of a century.

Gautier as a poet found his true self in the little pieces of the
_Émaux et Camées_. He is not without sensibility, but he will not
embarrass himself with either feelings or ideas. He has emancipated
himself from the egoism of the romantic tendency. He sees as a painter
or a gem-engraver sees, and will transpose his perceptions into
coloured and carven words. That is all, but that is much. He values
words as sounds, and can combine them harmoniously in his little
stanzas. Life goes on around him; he is indifferent to it, caring
only to fix the colour of his enamel, to cut his cameo with unfaltering
hand. When the Prussian assault was intended to the city, when
Regnault gave away his life as a soldier, Gautier in the Muses' bower
sat pondering his epithets and filing his phrases. Was it strength,
or was it weakness? His work survives and will survive by virtue of
its beauty--beauty somewhat hard and material, but such as the artist
sought. In 1872 Gautier died. By directing art to what is impersonal
he prepared the way for the Parnassien school, and may even be
recognised as one of the lineal predecessors of naturalism.

These--Lamartine, Vigny, Hugo, Musset, Gautier--are the names which
represent the poetry of nineteenth-century romance; four stars of
varying magnitudes, and one enormous cometary apparition. There was
also a _via lactea_, from which a well-directed glass can easily
disentangle certain orbs, pallid or fiery: Sainte-Beuve, a critic
and analyst of moral disease and disenchantment in the _Vie, Poésies
et Pensées de Joseph Delorme_; a singer of spiritual reverie, modest
pleasures, modest griefs, and tender memories in the _Consolations_
and the _Pensées d'Août_; a virtuoso always in his metrical
researches; Auguste Barbier, eloquent in his indignant satires the
_Iambes_, lover of Italian art and nature in _Il Pianto_; Auguste
Brizeux, the idyllist, in his _Marie_, of Breton wilds and provincial
works and ways; Gérard de Nerval, Hégésippe Moreau, Madame
Désbordes-Valmore, and paler, lessening lights. These and others
dwindle for the eye into a general stream of luminous atoms.


VII

The weaker side of the romantic school is apparent in the theatre.
It put forth a magnificent programme of dramatic reform, which it
was unable to carry out. The preface to Victor Hugo's _Cromwell_
(1827) is the earliest and the most important of its manifestoes.
The poetry of the world's childhood, we are told, was lyrical; that
of its youth was epic; the poetry of its maturity is dramatic. The
drama aims at truth before all else; it seeks to represent complete
manhood, beautiful and revolting, sublime and grotesque. Whatever
is found in nature should be found in art; from multiple elements
an æsthetic whole is to be formed by the sovereignty of imagination;
unity of time, unity of place are worthless conventions; unity of
action remains, and must be maintained. The play meant to exemplify
the principles of Hugo's preface is of vast dimensions, incapable
of presentation on the stage; the large painting of life for which
he pleaded, and which he did not attain, is of a kind more suitable
to the novel than to the drama. _Cromwell_, which departs little from
the old rules respecting time and place, is a flux and reflux of action,
or of speeches in place of action, with the question of the hero's
ambition for kingship as a centre; its personages are lay figures
draped in the costumes of historical romance.

The genius of Hugo was pre-eminently lyrical; the movement to which
he belonged was also essentially lyrical, a movement for the
emancipation of the personal element in art; it is by qualities which
are non-dramatic that his dramas are redeemed from dishonour. When,
in 1830, his _Hernani_ was presented at the Théâtre Français, a
strange, long-haired, bearded, fantastically-attired brigade of
young supporters engaged in a mêlée with those spectators who
represented the tyranny of tradition. "Kill him! he is an
Academician," was heard above the tumult. Gautier's truculent
waistcoat flamed in the thickest of the fight. The enthusiasm of
Gautier's party was justified by splendours of lyrism and of oratory;
but Hugo's play is ill-constructed, and the characters are beings
of a fantastic world. In _Marion Delorme_, in _Le Roi s'amuse_, in
the prose-tragedy _Lucrèce Borgia_, Victor Hugo develops a favourite
theme by a favourite method--the moral antithesis of some purity of
passion surviving amid a life of corruption, the apotheosis of virtue
discovered in a soul abandoned to vice, and exhibited in violent
contrasts. Marion is ennobled by the sacrifice of whatever remains
to her of honour; the moral deformity of Lucrèce is purified by her
instinct of maternal love; the hideous Triboulet is beautiful by
virtue of his devotion as a father. The dramatic study of character
is too often replaced by sentimental rhetoric. _Ruy Blas_, like
_Marion Delorme_ and _Hernani_, has extraordinary beauties; yet the
whole, with its tears and laughter, its lackey turned minister of
state, its amorous queen, is an incredible phantasmagoria. _Angelo_
is pure melodrama; _Marie Tudor_ is the melodrama of history. _Les
Burgraves_ rises from declamation to poetry, or sinks from poetry
to declamation; it is grandiose, epic, or, if the reader please,
symbolic; it is much that it ought not to be, much that is admirable
and out of place; failing in dramatic truth, it fails with a certain
sublimity. The logic of action, truth of characterisation, these in
tragic creation are essentials; no heights or depths of poetry which
is non-dramatic can entirely justify works which do not accept the
conditions proper to their kind.

The tragedy of _Torquemada_, strange in conception, wonderful--and
wonderfully unequal--in imaginative power, was an inspiration of
Hugo's period of exile, wrought into form in his latest years. The
dramas of the earlier period, opening with an historical play too
enormous for the stage, closed in 1843 with _Les Burgraves_, which
is an epic in dialogue. Aspiring to revolutionary freedom, the
romantic drama disdained the bounds of art; epic, lyric, tragedy,
comedy met and mingled, with a result too often chaotic. The desired
harmony of contraries was not attained. Past ages were to be revived
upon the stage. The historic evocation possessed too often neither
historic nor human truth; it consisted in "local colour," and local
colour meant a picturesque display of theatrical bric-à-brac. Yet
a drama requires some centre of unity. Failing of unity in coherent
action and well-studied character, can a centre be provided by some
philosophical or pseudo-philosophical idea? Victor Hugo, wealthy in
imagery, was not wealthy in original ideas; in grandiose prefaces
he attempted to exhibit his art as the embodiment of certain abstract
conceptions. A great poet is not necessarily a philosophical poet.
Hugo's interpretations of his own art are only evidence of the fact
that a writer's vanity can practise on his credulity.

Among the romantic poets the thinker was Vigny. But it is not by its
philosophical symbolism that his _Chatterton_ lives; it is by virtue
of its comparative strength of construction, by what is sincere in
its passion, what is genuine in its pathos, and by the character of
its heroine, Kitty Bell. In the instincts of a dramaturgist both Vigny
and Hugo fell far short of ALEXANDRE DUMAS (1803-70). Before the
battle of _Hernani_ he had unfolded the romantic banner in his _Henri
III. et sa Cour_ (1829); it dazzled by its theatrical inventions,
its striking situations, its ever-changing display of the stage
properties of historical romance. His _Antony_, of two years later,
parent of a numerous progeny, is a domestic tragedy of modern life,
exhaling Byronic passion, misanthropy, crime, with a bastard, a
seducer, a murderer for its hero, and for its ornaments all those
atrocities which fascinate a crowd whose nerves can bear to be
agreeably shattered. Something of abounding vitality, of tingling
energy, of impetuosity, of effrontery, secured a career for _Antony_,
the _Tour de Nesle_, and his other plays. The trade in horrors lost
its gallant freebooting airs and grew industriously commercial in
the hands of Frédéric Soulié. When in 1843--the year of Hugo's
unsuccessful _Les Burgraves_--a pseudo-classical tragedy, the
_Lucrèce_ of Ponsard, was presented on the stage, the enthusiasm was
great; youth and romance, if they had not vanished, were less militant
than in the days of _Hernani_; it seemed as if good sense had returned
to the theatre.[2]

[Footnote 2: The influence of the great actress Rachel helped to
restore to favour the classical theatre of Racine and Corneille.]

Casimir Delavigne (1793-1843) is remembered in lyric poetry by his
patriotic odes, _Les Messéniennes_, suggested by the military
disasters of France. His dramatic work is noteworthy, less for the
writer's talent than as indicating the influence of the romantic
movement in checking the development of classical art. Had he been
free to follow his natural tendencies, Delavigne would have remained
a creditable disciple of Racine; he yielded to the stream, and timidly
approached the romantic leaders in historical tragedy. Once in comedy
he achieved success; _L'École des Vieillards_ has the originality
of presenting an old husband who is generous in heart, and a young
wife who is good-natured amid her frivolity. Comedy during the second
quarter of the century had a busy ephemeral life. The name of Eugène
Scribe, an incessant improvisator during forty years, from 1811
onwards, in comedy, vaudeville, and lyric drama, seems to recall that
of the seventeenth-century Hardy. His art was not all commerce; he
knew and he loved the stage; a philistine writing for philistines,
Scribe cared little for truth of character, for beauty of form; the
theatrical devices became for him ends in themselves; of these he
was as ingenious a master as is the juggler in another art when he
tosses his bewildering balls, or smiles at the triumph of his
inexplicable surprises.



CHAPTER IV
THE NOVEL


I

The novel in the nineteenth century has yielded itself to every
tendency of the age; it has endeavoured to revive the past, to paint
the present, to embody a social or political doctrine, to express
private and personal sentiment, to analyse the processes of the heart,
to idealise life in the magic mirror of the imagination. The
literature of prose fiction produced by writers who felt the influence
of the romantic movement tended on the one hand towards lyrism, the
passionate utterance of individual emotion--George Sand's early
tales are conspicuous examples; on the other hand it turned to history,
seeking to effect a living and coloured evocation of former ages.
The most impressive of these evocations was assuredly Hugo's
_Notre-Dame de Paris_. It was not the earliest; Vigny's _Cinq-Mars_
preceded _Notre-Dame_ by five years. The writer had laboriously
mastered those details which help to make up the romantic _mise en
scène_; but he sought less to interpret historical truth by the
imagination than to employ the material of history as a vehicle for
what he conceived to be ideal truth. In Mérimée's _Chronique de
Charles IX._ (1829), which also preceded Hugo's romance, the
historical, or, if not this, the archæological spirit is present;
it skilfully sets a tale of the imagination in a framework of history.

Hugo's narratives are eminent by virtue of his imagination as a poet;
they are lyrical, dramatic, epic; as a reconstitution of history their
value is little or is none. The historical novel fell into the hands
of Alexandre Dumas. No one can deny the brilliance, the animation,
the bustle, the audacity, the inexhaustible invention of _Les Trois
Mousquetaires_ and its high-spirited fellows. There were times when
no company was so inspiriting to us as that of the gallant Athos,
Porthos, and Aramis. Let the critics assure us that Dumas' history
is untrue, his characters superficial, his action incredible; we
admit it, and we are caught again by the flash of life, the fanfaronade
of adventure. We throw Eugène Sue to the critics that we may save
Alexandre Dumas. But Dumas' brain worked faster than his hand--or
any human hand--could obey its orders; the mine of his inventive
faculty needed a commercial company and an army of diggers for its
exploitation. He constituted himself the managing director of this
company; twelve hundred volumes are said to have been the output of
the chief and his subordinates; the work ceased to be literature,
and became mere commerce. The money that Dumas accumulated he
recklessly squandered. Half genius, half charlatan, his genius
decayed, and his charlatanry grew to enormous proportions. Protected
by his son, he died a poor man amid the disasters of the
Franco-Prussian war.


II

HENRI BEYLE, who wrote under the pseudonym of Stendhal, not popular
among his contemporaries, though winning the admiration of Mérimée
and the praise of Balzac, predicted that he would be understood about
1880. If to be studied and admired is to be understood, the prediction
has been fulfilled. Taine pronounced him the greatest psychologist
of the century; M. Zola, doing violence to facts, claimed him as a
literary ancestor; M. Bourget discovered in him the author of a
nineteenth-century Bible and a founder of cosmopolitanism in letters.
During his lifetime Beyle was isolated, and had a pride in isolation.
Born at Grenoble in 1783, he had learnt, during an unhappy childhood,
to conceal his natural sensibility; in later years this reserve was
pushed to affectation. He served under Napoleon with coolness and
energy; he hated the Restoration, and, a lover of Italian manners
and Italian music, he chose Milan for his place of abode. The
eighteenth-century materialists were the masters of his intellect;
"the only excuse for God," he declared, "is that he does not exist";
in man he saw a being whose end is pleasure, whose law is egoism,
and who affords a curious field for studying the dynamics of the
passions. He honoured Napoleon as an incarnation of force, the
greatest of the _condottieri_. He loved the Italian character because
the passions in Italy manifest themselves with the sudden outbreaks
of nature. He indulged his own passions as a refuge from ennui, and
turned the scrutiny of his intelligence upon every operation of his
heart. Fearing to be duped, he became the dupe of his own philosophy.
He aided the romantic movement by the paradox that all the true
classical writers were romantic in their own day--they sought to
please their time; the pseudo-classical writers attempt to maintain
a lifeless tradition. But he had little in common with the romantic
school, except a love for Shakespeare, a certain feeling for local
colour, and an interest in the study of passion; the effusion and
exaltation of romance repelled him; he laboured to be "dry," and often
succeeded to perfection.

His analytical study _De l'Amour_, resting on a sensual basis, has
all the depth and penetration which is possible to a shallow
philosophy. His notes on travel and art anticipate in an informal
way the method of criticism which became a system in the hands of
Taine; in a line, in a phrase, he resolves the artist into the
resultant of environing forces. His novels are studies in the
mechanics of the passions and the will. Human energy, which had a
happy outlet in the Napoleonic wars, must seek a new career in
Restoration days. Julien Sorel, the low-born hero of _Le Rouge et
le Noir_, finding the red coat impossible, must don the priestly black
as a cloak for his ambition. Hypocrite, seducer, and assassin, he
ends his career under the knife of the guillotine. _La Chartreuse
de Parme_ exhibits the manners, characters, intrigues of
nineteenth-century Italy, with a remarkable episode which gives a
soldier's experiences of the field of Waterloo. In the artist's
plastic power Beyle was wholly wanting; a collection of ingenious
observations in psychology may be of rare value, but it does not
constitute a work of art. His writings are a whetstone for the
intelligence, but we must bring intelligence to its use, else it will
grind down or break the blade. In 1842 he died, desiring to perpetuate
his expatriation by the epitaph which names him Arrigo Beyle Milanese.


III

Lyrical and idealistic are epithets which a critic is tempted to affix
to the novels of George Sand; but from her early lyrical manner she
advanced to perfect idyllic narrative; and while she idealised, she
observed, incorporating in her best work the results of a patient
and faithful study of reality. A vaguer word may be applied to whatever
she wrote; offspring of her idealism or her realism, it is always
in a true sense poetic.

LUCILE-AURORE DUPIN, a descendant of Marshal Saxe, was born in Paris
in 1804, the daughter of Lieutenant Dupin and a mother of humble
origin--a child at once of the aristocracy and of the people. Her
early years were passed in Berri, at the country-house of her
grandmother. Strong, calm, ruminating, bovine in temperament, she
had a large heart and an ardent imagination. The woods, the flowers,
the pastoral heights and hollows, the furrows of the fields, the
little peasants, the hemp-dressers of the farm, their processes of
life, their store of old tales and rural superstitions made up her
earliest education. Already endless stories shaped themselves in her
brain. At thirteen she was sent to be educated in a Paris convent;
from the boisterous moods which seclusion encouraged, she sank of
a sudden into depths of religious reverie, or rose to heights of
religious exaltation, not to be forgotten when afterwards she wrote
_Spiridion_. The country cooled her devout ardour; she read widely,
poets, historians, philosophers, without method and with boundless
delight; the _Génie du Christianisme_ replaced the _Imitation_;
Rousseau and Byron followed Chateaubriand, and romance in her heart
put on the form of melancholy. At eighteen the passive Aurore was
married to M. Dudevant, whose worst fault was the absence of those
qualities of heart and brain which make wedded union a happiness.
Two children were born; and having obtained her freedom and a scanty
allowance, Madame Dudevant in 1831, in possession of her son and
daughter, resolved upon trying to obtain a livelihood in the capital.

Perhaps she could paint birds and flowers on cigar-cases and
snuff-boxes; happily her hopes received small encouragement. Perhaps
she could succeed in journalism under her friend Delatouche; she
proved wholly wanting in cleverness; her imagination had wings; it
could not hop on the perch; before she had begun the beginning of
an article the column must end. With her compatriot Jules Sandeau,
she attempted a novel--_Rose et Blanche_. "Sand" and Sandeau were
fraternal names; a countryman of Berri was traditionally George.
Henceforth the young Bohemian, who traversed the _quais_ and streets
in masculine garb, should be GEORGE SAND.

To write novels was to her only a process of nature; she seated herself
before her table at ten o'clock, with scarcely a plot, and only the
slightest acquaintance with her characters; until five in the evening,
while her hand guided a pen, the novel wrote itself. Next day and
the next it was the same. By-and-by the novel had written itself in
full, and another was unfolding. Not that she composed mechanically;
her stories were not manufactured; they grew--grew with facility and
in free abundance. At first, a disciple of Rousseau and Chateaubriand,
her theme was the romance of love. In _Indiana_, _Valentine_, _Lélia_,
_Jacques_, she vindicated the supposed rights of passion. These
novels are lyrical cries of a heart that had been wounded; protests
against the crime of loveless marriage, against the tyranny of man,
the servitude of woman; pleas for the individualism of the
soul--superficial in thought, ill-balanced in feeling, unequal in
style, yet rising to passages of rare poetic beauty, and often
admirable in descriptive power. The imagination of George Sand had
translated her private experiences into romance; yet she, the
spectator of her own inventions, possessed of a fund of sanity which
underlay the agitations of her genius, while she lent herself to her
creations, plied her pen with a steady hand from day to day. Unwise
and blameful in conduct she might be for a season; she wronged her
own life, and helped to ruin the life of Musset, who had neither her
discretion nor her years; but when the inevitable rupture came she
could return to her better self.

Through _André_, _Simon_, _Mauprat_--the last a tale of love subduing
and purifying the savage instincts in man--her art advanced in
sureness and in strength. Singularly accessible to external
influences, singularly receptive of ideas, the full significance and
relations of which she failed to comprehend, she felt the force of
intelligences stronger than her own--of Lamennais, of Ledru-Rollin,
of Jean Raynaud, of Pierre Leroux. Mystical religious sentiment, an
ardent enthusiasm of humanity, mingled in her mind with all the
discordant formulas of socialism. From 1840 to 1848 her love and large
generosity of nature found satisfaction in the ideals and the hopes
of social reform. Her novels _Consuelo_, _Jeanne_, _Le Meunier
d'Angibault_, _Le Péché de M. Antoine_, become expositions of a thesis,
or are diverted from their true development to advocate a cause. The
art suffers. _Jeanne_, so admirable in its rural heroine, wanders
from nature to humanitarian symbolism; _Consuelo_, in which the
writer studies so happily the artistic temperament, too often loses
itself in a confusion of ill-understood ideas and tedious declamation.
But the gain of escape from the egoism of passion to a more
disinterested, even if a doctrinaire, view of life was great. George
Sand was finding her way.

Indeed, while writing novels in this her second manner, she had found
her way; her third manner was attained before the second had lost
its attraction. _La Mare au Diable_ belongs to the year 1846; _La
Petite Fadette_, to the year of Revolution, 1848, which George Sand,
ever an optimist, hailed with joy; _François le Champi_ is but two
years later. In these delightful tales she returns from humanitarian
theories to the fields of Berri, to humble walks, and to the huts
where poor men lie. The genuine idyll of French peasant life was new
to French literature; the better soul of rural France, George Sand
found deep within herself; she had read the external circumstances
and incidents of country life with an eye as faithful in observation
as that of any student who dignifies his collection of human documents
with the style and title of realism in art; with a sense of beauty
and the instincts of affection she merged herself in what she saw;
her feeling for nature is realised in gracious art, and her art seems
itself to be nature.

In the novels of her latest years she moved from Berri to other regions
of France, and interpreted aristocratic together with peasant life.
Old, experienced, infinitely good and attaching, she has tales for
her grandchildren, and romances--_Jean de la Roche_, _Le Marquis de
Villemer_, and the rest--for her other grandchildren the public. The
soul of the peasant, of the artist, of the man who must lean upon
a stronger woman's arm, of the girl--neither child nor fully
adult--she entered into with deepest and truest sympathy. The simple,
austere, stoical, heroic man she admired as one above her. Her style
at its best, flowing without impetuosity, full and pure without
commotion, harmonious without complex involutions, can mirror beauty
as faithfully and as magically as an inland river. "Calme, toujours
plus calme," was a frequent utterance of her declining years. "Ne
détruisez pas la verdure" were her latest words. In 1876 George Sand
died. Her memoirs and her correspondence make us intimate with a
spirit, amid all its errors, sweet, generous, and gaining through
experience a wisdom for the season of old age.


IV

George Sand may be described as an "idealist," if we add the words
"with a remarkable gift for observation." Her great contemporary
HONORÉ DE BALZAC is named a realist, but he was a realist haunted
or attacked by phantasms and nightmares of romance. Born in 1799 at
Tours, son of an advocate turned military commissariat-agent, Honoré
de Balzac, after some training in the law, resolved to write, and,
if possible, not to starve. With his robust frame, his resolute will,
manifest in a face coarsely powerful, his large good-nature, his large
egoism, his audacity of brain, it seemed as if he might shoulder his
way through the crowd to fortune and to fame. But fortune and fame
were hard to come at. His tragedy _Cromwell_ was condemned by all
who saw the manuscript; his novels were published, and lie deep in
their refuge under the waters of oblivion. He tried the trades of
publisher, printer, type-founder, and succeeded in encumbering
himself with debt. At length in 1829 _Le Dernier Chouan_, a
half-historical tale of Brittany in 1800, not uninfluenced by Scott,
was received with a measure of favour.

Next year Balzac found his truer self, overlaid with journalism,
pamphleteering, and miscellaneous writing, in a Dutch painting of
bourgeois life, _Le Maison du Chatqui-pelote_, which relates the
sorrows of the draper's daughter, Augustine, drawn from her native
sphere by an artist's love. From the day that Balzac began to wield
his pen with power to the day, in 1850, when he died, exhausted by
the passion of his brain, his own life was concentrated in that of
the creatures of his imagination. He had friends, and married one
of the oldest of them, Madame Hanska, shortly before his death.
Sometimes for a little while he wandered away from his desk. More
than once he made wild attempts to secure wealth by commercial
enterprise or speculation. These were adventures or incidents of his
existence. That existence itself is summed up in the volumes of his
_Human Comedy_. He wrote with desperate resolve and a violence of
imagination; he attacked the printer's proof as if it were crude
material on which to work. At six in the evening he retired to sleep;
he rose at the noon of night, urged on his brain with cups of coffee,
and covered page after page of manuscript, until the noon of day
released him. So it went on for nearly twenty years, until the
intemperance of toil had worn the strong man out.

There is something gross in Balzac's genius; he has little wit, little
delicacy, no sense of measure, no fine self-criticism, no lightness
of touch, small insight into the life of refined society, an imperfect
sense of natural beauty, a readiness to accept vulgar marvels as the
equivalent of spiritual mysteries; he is monarchical without the
sentiment of chivalric loyalty, a Catholic without the sentiment of
religion; he piles sentence on sentence, hard and heavy as the
accumulated stones of a cairn. Did he love his art for its own sake?
It must have been so; but he esteemed it also as an implement of power,
as the means of pushing towards fame and grasping gold.

Within the gross body of his genius, however, an intense flame burnt.
He had a vivid sense of life, a perception of all that can be seen
and handled, an eager interest in reality, a vast passion for _things_,
an inexhaustible curiosity about the machinery of society, a feeling,
exultant or cynical, of the battle of existence, of the conflict for
wealth and power, with its triumphs and defeats, its display of fierce
volition, its pushing aside of the feeble, its trampling of the fallen,
its grandeur, its meanness, its obscure heroisms, and the cruelties
of its pathos. He flung himself on the life of society with a desperate
energy of inspection, and tried to make the vast array surrender to
his imagination. And across his vision of reality shot strange beams
and shafts of romantic illumination--sometimes vulgar theatrical
lights, sometimes gleams like those which add a new reality of wonder
to the etchings of Rembrandt. What he saw with the eyes of the senses
or those of the imagination he could evoke without the loss of any
fragment of its life, and could transfer it to the brain of his reader
as a vision from which escape is impossible.

The higher world of aristocratic refinement, the grace and natural
delicacy of virginal souls, in general eluded Balzac's observation.
He found it hard to imagine a lady; still harder--though he tried
and half succeeded--to conceive the mystery of a young girl's mind,
in which the airs of morning are nimble and sweet. The gross bourgeois
world, which he detested, and a world yet humbler were his special
sphere. He studied its various elements in their environment; a street,
a house, a chamber is as much to him as a human being, for it is part
of the creature's shell, shaped to its uses, corresponding to its
nature, limiting its action. He has created a population of persons
which numbers two thousand. Where Balzac does not fail, each of these
is a complete individual; in the prominent figures a controlling
passion is the centre of moral life--the greed of money, the desire
for distinction, the lust for power, some instinct or mania of animal
affection. The individual exists in a group; power circulates from
inanimate objects to the living actors of his tale; the environment
is an accomplice in the action; power circulates from member to member
of the group; finally, group and group enter into correspondence or
conflict; and still above the turmoil is heard the groundswell of
the tide of Paris.

The change from the Renés and Obermanns of melancholy romance was
great. But in the government of Louis-Philippe the bourgeoisie
triumphed; and Balzac hated the bourgeoisie. From 1830 to 1840 were
his greatest years, which include the _Peau de Chagrin_, _Eugénie
Grandet_, _La Recherche de l'Absolu_, _Le Père Goriot_, and other
masterpieces. To name their titles would be to recite a Homeric
catalogue. At an early date Balzac conceived the idea of connecting
his tales in groups. They acquired their collective title, _La Comédie
Humaine_, in 1842. He would exhibit human documents illustrating the
whole social life of his time; "the administration, the church, the
army, the judicature, the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, the
prolétariat, the peasantry, the artists, the journalists, the men
of letters, the actors, ... the shopkeepers of every degree, the
criminals," should all appear in his vast tableau of society. His
record should include scenes from private life, scenes from Parisian,
provincial, political, military, rural life, with philosophical
studies in narrative and analytic treatises on the passions. The
spirit of system took hold upon Balzac; he had, in common with Victor
Hugo, a gift for imposing upon himself with the charlatanry of
pseudo-ideas; to observe, to analyse, to evoke with his imagination
was not enough; he also would be among the philosophers--and Balzac's
philosophy is often pretentious and vulgar, it is often banal. Outside
the general scheme of the human comedy lie his unsuccessful attempts
for the theatre, and the _Contes Drolatiques_, in which the
pseudo-antique Rabelaisian manner and the affluent power do not
entirely atone for the anachronism of a grossness more natural in
the sixteenth than in the nineteenth century.


V

Was it possible to be romantic without being lyrical? Was it possible
to produce purely objective work, reserving one's own personality,
and glancing at one's audience only with an occasional look of
superior irony? Such was the task essayed by PROSPER MÉRIMÉE (1803-70).
With some points of resemblance in character to Beyle, whose ideas
were influential on his mind, Mérimée possessed the plastic
imagination and the craftsman's skill, in which Beyle was deficient.
"He is a gentleman," said Cousin, and the words might serve for
Mérimée's epitaph; a gentleman not of nature's making, or God
Almighty's kind, but constructed in faultless bearing according to
the rules. Such a gentleman must betray no sensibility, must express
no sentiment, must indulge no enthusiasm, must attach himself to no
faith, must be superior to all human infirmities, except the infirmity
of a pose which is impressive only by its correctness; he may be
cynical, if the cynicism is wholly free from emphasis; he may be
ironical, if the irony is sufficiently disguised; he may mystify his
fellows, if he keeps the pleasure of mystification for his private
amusement. Should he happen to be an artist, he must appear to be
only a dilettante. He must never incur ridicule, and yet his whole
attitude may be ridiculous.

Such a gentleman was Prosper Mérimée. He had the gift of imagination,
psychological insight, the artist's shaping hand. His early romantic
plays were put forth as those of Clara Gazul, a Spanish _comédienne_.
His Illyrian poems, _La Guzla_, were the work of an imaginary
Hyacinthe Maglanovich, and Mérimée could smile gently at the
credulity of a learned public. He took up the short story where Xavier
de Maistre, who had known how to be both pathetic and amiably humorous,
and Charles Nodier, who had given play to a graceful fantasy, left
it. He purged it of sentiment, he reduced fantasy to the law of the
imagination, and produced such works as _Carmen_ and _Colomba_, each
one a little masterpiece of psychological truth, of temperate local
colour, of faultless narrative, of pure objective art. The public
must not suppose that he cares for his characters or what befell them;
he is an archæologist, a savant, and only by accident a teller of
tales. Mérimée had more sensibility than he would confess; it shows
itself for moments in the posthumous _Lettres à une Inconnue_; but
he has always a bearing-rein of ironical pessimism to hold his
sensibility in check. The egoism of the romantic school appears in
Mérimée inverted; it is the egoism not of effusion but of disdainful
reserve.[1]

[Footnote 1: It is one of Mérimée's merits that he awakened in France
an interest in Russian literature.]



CHAPTER V
HISTORY--LITERARY CRITICISM


I

The progress of historical literature in the nineteenth century was
aided by the change which had taken place in philosophical opinion;
instead of a rigid system of abstract ideas, which disdained the
thought of past ages as superstition, had come an eclecticism guided
by spiritual beliefs. The religions of various lands and various ages
were viewed with sympathetic interest; the breach of continuity from
mediæval to modern times was repaired; the revolutionary spirit of
individualism gave way before a broader concern for society; the
temper in politics grew more cautious and less dogmatic; the great
events of recent years engendered historical reflection; literary
art was renewed by the awakening of the romantic imagination.

The historical learning of the Empire is represented by Daunou, an
explorer in French literature; by Ginguené, the literary historian
of Italy; by Michaud, who devoted his best years to a _History of
the Crusades_. In his _De la Religion_ (1824-31) Benjamin Constant,
in Restoration days, traced the progress of the religious sentiment,
cleaving its way through dogma and ordinance to a free and full
development. Sismondi (1773-1842), in his _Histoire des Français_,
investigated such sources as were accessible to him, studied economic
facts, and in a liberal spirit exhibited the life of the nation, and
not merely the acts of monarchs or the intrigues of statesmen. His
wide, though not profound, erudition comprehended Italy as well as
France; the _Histoire des Républiques Italiennes_ is the chart of
a difficult labyrinth. The method of disinterested narrative, which
abstains from ethical judgments, propounds no thesis, and aims at
no doctrinaire conclusion, was followed by Barante in his _Histoire
des Ducs de Bourgogne_. The precept of Quintilian expresses his rule:
"Scribitur ad narrandum, non ad probandum."

Each school of nineteenth-century thought has had its historical
exponents. Liberal Catholicism is represented by Montalembert,
Ozanam, De Broglie; socialism, by Louis Blanc; a patriotic Cæsarism,
by Thiers; the democratic school, by Michelet and Quinet; philosophic
liberalism, by Guizot, Mignet, and Tocqueville.

AUGUSTIN THIERRY (1795-1856) nobly led the way. Some pages of
Chateaubriand, full of the sentiment of the past, were his first
inspiration; at a later time the influence of Fauriel and the novels
of Walter Scott, "the master of historical divination," confirmed
him in his sense of the uses of imagination as an aid to the scholarship
of history. For a time he acted as secretary to Saint-Simon, and under
his influence proposed a scheme for a community of European peoples
which should leave intact the nationality of each. Then he parted
from his master, to pursue his way in independence. It seemed to him
that the social condition and the revolutions of modern Europe had
their origins in the Germanic invasions, and especially in the Norman
Conquest of England. As he read the great collection of the original
historians of France and Gaul, he grew indignant against the modern
travesties named history, indignant against writers without
erudition, who could not see, and writers without imagination, who
could not depict. The conflict of races--Saxons and Normans in England,
Gauls and Franks in his own country--remained with him as a dominant
idea, but he would not lose himself in generalisations; he would
involve the abstract in concrete details; he would see, and he would
depict. There was much philosophy in abstaining from philosophy
overmuch. The _Lettres sur l'Histoire de France_ were followed in
1825 by the _Histoire de la Conquête de l'Angleterre_, in which the
art of historiography attained a perfection previously unknown.
Through charter and chronicle, Thierry had reached the spirit of the
past. He had prophesied upon the dry bones and to the wind, and the
dry bones lived. As a liberal, he had been interested in contemporary
politics. His political ardour had given him that historical
perspicacity which enabled him to discover the soul behind an ancient
text.

In 1826 Thierry, the martyr of his passionate studies, suffered the
calamity of blindness. With the aid of his distinguished brother,
of friends, and secretaries--above all, with the aid of the devoted
woman who became his wife, he pursued his work. The _Récits des Temps
Mérovingiens_ and the _Essai sur l'Histoire de la Formation du Tiers
État_ were the labours of a sightless scholar. His passion for
perfection was greater than ever; twenty, fifteen lines a day
contented him, if his idea was rendered clear and enduring in
faultless form. Paralysis made its steady advance; still he kept his
intellect above his infirmities, and followed truth and beauty. On
May 22, 1856, he woke his attendant at four in the morning, and
dictated with laboured speech the alteration of a phrase for the
revised _Conquête_. On the same day, "insatiable of perfection,"
Thierry died. He is not, either in substance, thought, or style, the
greatest of modern French historians; but, more than any other, he
was an initiator.

The life of FRANÇOIS GUIZOT--great and venerable name--is a portion
of the history of his country. Born at Nîmes in 1787, of an honourable
Protestant family, he died, with a verse of his favourite Corneille
or a text of Scripture on his lips, in 1874. Austere without severity,
simple in habit without rudeness, indomitable in courage, imperious
in will, gravely eloquent, he had at once the liberality and the
narrowness of the middle classes, which he represented when in power.
A threefold task, as he conceived, lies before the historian: he must
ascertain facts; he must co-ordinate these facts under laws, studying
the anatomy and the physiology of society; finally, he must present
the external physiognomy of the facts. Guizot was not endowed with
the artist's imagination; he had no sense of life, of colour, of
literary style; he was a thinker, who saw the life of the past through
the medium of ideas; he does not in his pages evoke a world of animated
forms, of passionate hearts, of vivid incidents; he distinguishes
social forces, with a view to arrive at principles; he considers those
forces in their play one upon another.

The _Histoire Générale de la Civilisation en Europe_ and the _Histoire
de la Civilisation en France_ consist of lectures delivered from 1828
to 1830 at the Sorbonne.[1] Guizot recognised that the study of
institutions must be preceded by a study of the society which has
given them birth. In the progress of civilisation he saw not merely
the development of communities, but also that of the individual. The
civilisation of Europe, he held, was most intelligibly exhibited in
that of France, where, more than in other countries, intellectual
and social development have moved hand in hand, where general ideas
and doctrines have always accompanied great events and public
revolutions. The key to the meaning of French history he found in
the tendency towards national and political unity. From the tenth
to the fourteenth century four great forces met in co-operation or
in conflict--royalty, the feudal system, the communes, the Church.
Feudalism fell; a great monarchy arose upon its ruins. The human mind
asserted its spiritual independence in the Protestant reformation.
The _tiers état_ was constantly advancing in strength. The power of
the monarchy, dominant in the seventeenth century, declined in the
century that followed; the power of the people increased. In modern
society the elements of national life are reduced to two--the
government on the one hand, the people on the other; how to harmonise
these elements is the problem of modern politics. As a capital example
for the French bourgeoisie, Guizot, returning to an early work, made
a special study of the great English revolution of the seventeenth
century. In Germany, of the preceding century, the revolution was
religious and not political. In France, of the succeeding century,
the revolution was political and not religious. The rare good fortune
of England lay in the fact that the spirit of religious faith and
the spirit of political freedom ruled together, and co-operated
towards a common result.

[Footnote 1: The _History of Civilisation in France_ closes with the
fourteenth century.]

The work of FRANÇOIS MIGNET (1796-1884), eminent for its research,
exactitude, clearness, ordonnance, has been censured for its
historical fatalism. In reality Mignet's mind was too studious of
facts to be dominated by a theory. He recognised the great forces
which guide and control events; he recognised also the power and
freedom of the individual will. His early _Histoire de la Révolution
Française_ is a sane and lucid arrangement of material that came to
his hands in chaotic masses. His later and more important writings
deal with his special province, the sixteenth century; his method,
as he advanced, grew more completely objective; we discern his ideas
through the lines of a well-proportioned architecture.

The analytic method of Guizot, supported by a method of patient
induction, was applied by ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE (1805-59) to the study
of the great phenomenon of modern democracy. Limiting the area of
investigation to America, which he had visited on a public mission,
he investigated the political organisation, the manners and morals,
the ideas, the habits of thought and feeling of the United States
as influenced by the democratic equality of conditions. He wrote as
a liberal in whom the spirit of individualism was active. He regarded
the progress of democracy in the modern world as inevitable; he
perceived the dangers--formidable for society and for individual
character--which accompany that progress; he believed that by
foresight and wise ordering many of the dangers could be averted.
The fears and hopes of the citizen guided and sustained in Tocqueville
a philosophical intelligence. Turning from America to France, he
designed to disengage from the tangle of events the true historical
significance of the Revolution. Only one volume, _L'Ancien Régime
et la Révolution_, was accomplished. It can stand alone as a work
of capital importance. In the great upheaval he saw that all was not
progress; the centralisation of power under the old régime remained,
and was rendered even more formidable than before; the sentiment of
equality continued to advance in its inevitable career; unhappily
the spirit of liberty was not always its companion, its moderator,
or its guide.

ADOLPHE THIERS (1797-1877) was engaged at the same time as Mignet,
his lifelong friend, upon a history of the French Revolution (1823-27).
The same liberal principles were held in common by the young authors.
Their methods differed widely: Mignet's orderly and compact
narration was luminous through its skilful arrangement; Thiers'
_Histoire_ was copious, facile, brilliant, more just in its general
conception than exact in statement, a plea for revolutionary
patriotism as against the royalist reaction of the day, and not
without influence in preparing the spirit of the country for the
approaching Revolution of July. His _Histoire du Consulat et de
l'Empire_ (1845-62) is the great achievement of Thiers' maturity;
journalist, orator, minister of state, until he became the chief of
stricken France in 1871 his highest claim to be remembered was this
vast record of his country's glory. He had an appetite for facts;
no detail--the price of bread, of soap, of candles--was a matter of
indifference to him; he could not show too many things, or show them
too clearly; his supreme quality was intelligence; his passion was
the pride of patriotism; his foible was the vanity of military success,
the zeal of a chauvinist. He was a liberal; but Napoleon summed up
France, and won her battles, therefore Napoleon, the great captain,
who "made war with his genius and politics with his passions," must
be for ever magnified. The _coup d'état_ of the third Napoleon owed
a debt to the liberal historian who had reconstructed the Napoleonic
legend. The campaigns and battle-pieces of Thiers are unsurpassed
in their kind. His style in narrative is facile, abundant, animated,
and so transparent that nothing seems to intervene between the object
and the reader who has become a spectator; a style negligent at times,
and even incorrect, adding no charm of its own to a lucid presentation
of things.

JULES MICHELET, the greatest imaginative restorer of the past, the
greatest historical interpreter of the soul of ancient France, was
born in 1798 in Paris, an infant seemingly too frail and nervous to
remain alive. His early years gave him experience, brave and pathetic,
of the hardships of the poor. His father, an unsuccessful printer,
often found it difficult to procure bread or fire for his household;
but he resolved that his son should receive an education. The boy,
of a fine and sensitive organisation, knew cold and hunger; he watched
his mother toiling, and from day to day declining in health. Two
sources of consolation he found--the _Imitation_, which told him of
a Divine refuge from sorrow, and the Museum of French monuments, which
made him forget all present distress in visions of the vanished
centuries. Mocked and persecuted by his schoolfellows, he never lost
courage, and had the joy of rewarding his parents with the cross won
by his schoolboy theme. In happy country days his aunt Alexis told
him legendary tales, and read to him the old chroniclers of France.
Michelet's vocation was before long revealed, and its summons was
irresistible.

In 1827 he published his earliest works, the _Précis de l'Histoire
Moderne_, a modest survey of a wide field, in which genius illuminated
scholarship, and a translation of the _Scienza Nuova_ of Vico, the
master who impressed him with the thought that humanity is in a
constant process of creation under the influence of the Divine ideas.
The _Histoire Romaine_ and the _Introduction à l'Histoire
Universelle_ followed; the latter a little book, written with
incredible ardour under the inspiration of the days of July. His
friend Quinet had taught him to see in history an ever-broadening
combat for freedom--in Michelet's words, "an eternal July," and the
exposition of this idea was of the nature of a philosophical
entrancement.

A teacher at the École Normale, appointed chief of the historical
section of the National Archives in 1831, Guizot's substitute at the
Sorbonne in 1833, professor of history and morals at the Collège de
France in 1838, Michelet lived in and for the life of his people and
of his land. The _Histoire de France_, begun in 1830, was completed
thirty-seven years later. After the disasters of the war of 1870-71,
with failing strength the author resumed his labours, endeavouring
to add, as it were, an appendix on the nineteenth century.

A passionate searcher among original sources, published and
unpublished, handling documents as if they were things of flesh and
blood, seeing the outward forms of existence with the imaginative
eye, pressing through these to the soul of each successive epoch,
possessed by an immense pity for the obscure generations of human
toilers, having, more than almost any other modern writer, Virgil's
gift of tears, ardent in admiration, ardent in indignation, with ideas
impregnated by emotions, and emotions quickened by ideas, Michelet
set himself to resuscitate the buried past. It seemed to him that
his eminent predecessors--Guizot, Mignet, Thiers, Thierry--had each
envisaged history from some special point of view. Each had too little
of the outward body or too little of the inward soul of history.
Michelet dared to hope that a resurrection of the integral life of
the dead centuries was possible. All or nothing was his word. It was
a bold venture, but it was a venture, or rather an act, of faith.
Thierry had been tyrannised by the idea of the race: the race is much,
but the people does not march in the air; it has a geographical basis;
it draws its nutriment from a particular soil. Michelet, at the moment
of his narrative when France began to have a life distinct from Germany,
enters upon a survey of its geography, in which the physiognomy and
the genius of each region are studied as if each were a separate living
creature, and the character of France itself is discovered in the
cohesion or the unity of its various parts. Reaching the tenth and
eleventh centuries, he feels the sadness of their torpor and their
violence; yet humanity was living, and soon in the enthusiasm of
Gothic art and the enthusiasm of the Crusades the sacred aspirations
of the soul had their manifestation. At the close of the mediæval
period everything seems to droop and decay: no! it was then, during
the Hundred Years' War, that the national consciousness was born,
and patriotism was incarnated in an armed shepherdess, child of the
people.

By the thirteenth year of his labours--1843--Michelet had traversed
the mediæval epoch, and reached the close of the reign of Louis XI.
There he paused. Seeing one day high on the tower of Reims Cathedral,
below which the kings of France received their consecration, a group
or garland of tortured and mutilated figures carved in stone, the
thought possessed him that the soul and faith of the people should
be confirmed within his own soul before he could trust himself to
treat of the age of the great monarchy. He leaped at once the
intervening centuries, and was at work during eight years--from 1845
to 1853--on the French Revolution. He found a hero for his
revolutionary epic in the people.

The temper of 1848 was hardly the temper in which the earlier
Revolution could be judiciously investigated. Michelet and Quinet
had added to their democratic zeal the passions connected with an
anticlerical campaign. The violence of liberalism was displayed in
_Des Jésuites_, and _Du Prêtre, de la Femme et de la Famille_. When
the historian returned to the sixteenth century his spirit had
undergone a change: he adored the Middle Ages; but was it not the
period of the domination of the Church, and how could it be other
than evil? He could no longer be a mere historian; he must also be
a prophet. The volumes which treat of the Reformation, the Renaissance,
the wars of religion, are as brilliant as earlier volumes, but they
are less balanced and less coherent. The equilibrium between
Michelet's intellect and his imagination, between his ideas and his
passions, was disturbed, if not destroyed.

Michelet, who had been deprived of his chair in the Collège de France,
lost also his post in the Archives upon his refusal, in 1852, to swear
allegiance to the Emperor. Near Nantes in his tempest-beaten home,
near Genoa in a fold of the Apennines, where he watched the lizards
sleep or slide, a great appeasement came upon his spirit. He had
interpreted the soul of the people; he would now interpret the soul
of humbler kinsfolk--the bird, the insect; he would interpret the
inarticulate soul of the mountain and the sea. He studied other
documents--the documents of nature--with a passion of love, read
their meanings, and mingled as before his own spirit with theirs.
_L'Oiseau_, _L'Insecte_, _La Mer_, _La Montagne_, are canticles in
prose by a learned lover of the external world, rather than essays
in science; often extravagant in style, often extreme in sentiment,
and uncontrolled in imagination, but always the betrayals of genius.

Michelet's faults as an historian are great, and such as readily
strike an English reader. His rash generalisations, his lyrical
outbreaks, his Pindaric excitement, his verbiage assuming the place
of ideas, his romantic excess, his violence in ecclesiastical affairs,
his hostility to our country, his mysticism touched with sensuality,
his insistence on physiological details, his quick and irregular
utterance--these trouble at times his imaginative insight, and mar
his profound science in documents. He died at Hyères in 1874, hoping
that God would grant him reunion with his lost ones, and the joys
promised to those who have sought and loved.

EDGAR QUINET (1803-1875), the friend and brother-in-arms of Michelet
in his attack upon the Jesuits, born at Bourg, of a Catholic father
and a Protestant mother, approached the study of literature and
history with that tendency to large _vues d'ensemble_ which was
natural to his mind, and which had been strengthened by discipleship
to Herder. Happy in temper, sound of conscience, generous of heart,
he illuminated many subjects, and was a complete master of none. A
poet of lofty intentions, in his _Ahasvérus_ (1833)--the wandering
Jew, type of humanity in its endless Odyssey--in his _Napoléon_, his
_Prométhée_, his vast encyclopædic allegory _Merlin l'Enchanteur_
(1860), his poetry lacked form, and yielded itself to the rhetoric
of the intellect.

In the _Génie des Religions_ Quinet endeavoured to exhibit the
religious idea as the germinative power of civilisation, giving its
special character to the political and social idea. _La Révolution_,
which is perhaps his most important work, attempts to replace the
Revolutionary hero-worship, the Girondin and Jacobin legends, by a
faithful interpretation of the meaning of events. The principles of
modern society and the principles of the Roman Catholic Church, Quinet
regarded as incapable of conciliation. In the incompetence of the
leaders to perceive and apply this truth, and in the fatal logic of
their violent and anarchic methods, lay, as he believed, the causes
of the failure which followed the bright hopes of 1789. In 1848 Quinet
was upon the barricades; the Empire drove him into exile. In his elder
years, like Michelet, he found a new delight in the study of nature.
_La Création_ (1870) exhibits the science of nature and that of human
history as presenting the same laws and requiring kindred methods.
It closes with the prophecy of science that creation is not yet fully
accomplished, and that a nobler race will enter into the heritage
of our humanity.


II

Literary criticism in the eighteenth century had been the criticism
of taste or the criticism of dogma; in the nineteenth century it became
naturalistic--a natural history of individual minds and their
products, a natural history of works of art as formed or modified
by social, political, and moral environments, and by the tendencies
of races. Such criticism must inevitably have followed the growth
of the comparative study of literatures in an age dominated by the
scientific spirit. If we are to name any single writer as its founder,
we must name Mme. de Staël. The French nation, she explained in
_L'Allemagne_, inclines towards what is classical; the Teutonic
nations incline towards what is romantic. She cares not to say whether
classical or romantic art should be preferred; it is enough to show
that the difference of taste results not from accidental causes, but
from the primitive sources of imagination and of thought.

The historical tendency, proceeding from the eighteenth century,
influenced alike the study of philosophy, of politics, and of
literature. While Cousin gave an historical interpretation of
philosophy, and Guizot applied history to the exposition of politics,
a third eminent professor, ABEL-FRANÇOIS VILLEMAIN (1790-1870) was
illuminating literature with the light of history. An accomplished
classical scholar, a student of English, Italian, and Spanish authors,
Villemain, in his _Tableau de la Littérature au Moyen Âge_, and his
more admirable _Tableau de la Littérature au XVIIIe Siècle_, viewed
a wide prospect, and could not apply a narrow rule to the measurement
of all that he saw. He did not formulate a method of criticism; but
instinctively he directed criticism towards history. He perceived
the correspondence between literary products and the other phenomena
of the age; he observed the movement in the spirit of a period; he
passed from country to country; he made use of biography as an aid
in the study of letters. His learning was at times defective; his
views often superficial; he suffered from his desire to entertain
his audience or to capture them by rhetoric. Yet Villemain served
letters well, and, accepted as a master by the young critics of the
_Globe_, he prepared the way for Sainte-Beuve.

While such criticism as that of Villemain was maintained by Saint-Marc
Girardin (1801-73), professor of French poetry at the Sorbonne, the
dogmatic or doctrinaire school of criticism was represented with rare
ability by DÉSIRÉ NISARD (1806-88). His capital work, the _Histoire
de la Littérature Française_, the labour of many years, is
distinguished by a magisterial application of ideas to the decision
of literary questions. Criticism with Nisard is not a natural history
of minds, nor a study of historical developments, so much as the
judgment of literary art in the light of reason. He confronts each
book on which he pronounces judgment with that ideal of its species
which he has formed in his own mind: he compares it with the ideal
of the genius of France, which attains its highest ends rather through
discipline than through freedom; he compares it with the ideal of
the French language; finally, he compares it with the ideal of
humanity as seen in the best literature of the world. According to
the result of the comparison he delivers condemnation or awards the
crown. In French literature, at its best, he perceives a marvellous
equilibrium of the faculties under the control of reason; it applies
general ideas to life; it avoids individual caprice; it dreads the
chimeras of imagination; it is eminently rational; it embodies ideas
in just and measured form. Such literature Nisard found in the great
age of Louis XIV. Certain gains there may have been in the eighteenth
century, but these gains were more than counterbalanced by losses.
To disprove the saying that there is no disputing about tastes, to
establish an order and a hierarchy in letters, to regulate
intellectual pleasures, was Nisard's aim; but in attempting to
constitute an exact science founded upon general principles, he too
often derived those principles from the attractions and repulsions
of his individual taste. Criticism retrograded in his hands; yet,
in retrograding, it took up a strong position: the influence of such
a teacher was not untimely when facile sympathies required the
guidance or the check of a director.

The admirable critic of the romantic school, CHARLES-AUGUSTIN
SAINTE-BEUVE (1804-69), developed, as time went on, into the great
critic of the naturalistic method. In his _Tableau de la Poésie
Française au XVIe Siècle_ he found ancestors for the romantic poets
as much older than the ancestors of classical art in France as Ronsard
is older than Malherbe. Wandering endlessly from author to author
in his _Portraits Littéraires_ and _Portraits Contemporains_, he
studied in all its details what we may term the physiology of each.
The long research of spirits connected with his most sustained work,
_Port-Royal_, led him to recognise certain types or families under
which the various minds of men can be grouped and classified. During
a quarter of a century he investigated, distinguished, defined in
the vast collection of little monographs which form the _Causeries
du Lundt_ and the _Nouveaux Lundis_. They formed, as it were, a natural
history of intellects and temperaments; they established a new method,
and illustrated that method by a multitude of examples.

Never was there a more mobile spirit; but he was as exact and
sure-footed as he was mobile. When we have allowed for certain
personal jealousies or hostilities, and for an excessive attraction
towards what may be called the morbid anatomy of minds, we may give
our confidence with scarcely a limit to the psychologist critic
Sainte-Beuve. Poet, novelist, student of medicine, sceptic, believer,
socialist, imperialist--he traversed every region of ideas; as soon
as he understood each position he was free to leave it behind. He
did not pretend to reduce criticism to a science; he hoped that at
length, as the result of numberless observations, something like a
science might come into existence. Meanwhile he would cultivate the
relative and distrust the absolute. He would study literary products
through the persons of their authors; he would examine each detail;
he would inquire into the physical characteristics of the subject
of his investigation; view him through his ancestry and among his
kinsfolk; observe him in the process of education; discover him among
his friends and contemporaries; note the moment when his genius first
unfolded itself; note the moment when it was first touched with decay;
approach him through admirers and disciples; approach him through
his antagonists or those whom he repelled; and at last, if that were
possible, find some illuminating word which resumes the results of
a completed study. There is no "code Sainte-Beuve" by which off-hand
to pronounce literary judgments; a method of Sainte-Beuve there is,
and it is the method which has best served the study of literature
in the nineteenth century.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here this survey of a wide field finds its limit. The course of French
literature since 1850 may be studied in current criticism; it does
not yet come within the scope of literary history. The product of
these years has been manifold and great; their literary importance
is attested by the names--among many others--of Leconte de Lisle,
Sully Prudhomme, Verlaine, in non-dramatic poetry; of Augier and the
younger Dumas in the theatre; of Flaubert, Edmond and Jules de
Goncourt, Zola, Daudet, Bourget, Pierre Loti, Anatole France, in
fiction; of Taine and Renan in historical study and criticism; of
Fromentin in the criticism of art; of Scherer, Brunetière, Faguet,
Lemaître, in the criticism of literature.

The dominant fact, if we discern it aright, has been the scientific
influence, turning poetry from romantic egoism to objective art,
directing the novel and the drama to naturalism and to the study of
social environments, informing history and criticism with the spirit
of curiosity, and prompting research for laws of evolution. Whether
the spiritualist tendency observable at the present moment be a
symptom of languor and fatigue, or the indication of a new moral energy,
future years will determine.



BIBLIOGRAPHY


The following notes are designed as an indication of some books which
may be useful to students.

Of the many Histories of French Literature the fullest and most
trustworthy is that at present in course of publication under the
editorship of M. Petit de Julleville, _Histoire de la Langue et de
la Littérature française_ (A. Colin et Cie.). M. Lanson's _Histoire
de la Littérature française_ should be in the hands of every student,
and this may be supplemented by M. Lintilhac's _Littérature
française_ (2 vols.).

The works of Mr. Saintsbury, Géruzez, Demogeot, are widely known,
and have proved useful during many years. Much may be learnt and learnt
pleasantly from Paul Albert's volumes on the literature of the
sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Two
volumes out of five of M. Charles Gidel's _Histoire de la Littérature
française_ (Lemerre) are occupied with literature from 1815 to 1886.
M. Hermann Pergamini's _Histoire générale de la Littérature
française_ (Alcan) sometimes gives fresh and interesting views. For
a short school history by an accomplished scholar, none is better
than M. Petit de Julleville's _Histoire de la Littérature française_,
which, in 555 pages, packs a great deal of information. The _Histoire
élémentaire de la Littérature française_, by M. Jean Fleury, has been
popular; it tells much of the contents of great books, and makes no
assumption that the reader is already acquainted with them. Dr.
Warren's _A Primer of French Literature_ (Heath, Boston, U.S.A.) is
well proportioned and well arranged, but it has room for little more
than names, dates, and the briefest characterisations. Dr. Wells's
_Modern French Literature_ (Roberts, Boston, U.S.A.) sketches French
literature to Chateaubriand, and treats with considerable fulness
the literature from Chateaubriand and Mme. de Staël to the present
time. For the present century M. G. Pellissier's _Le Mouvement
littéraire au XIXe Siècle_ is valuable.

Of elder histories that by Nisard is by far the most distinguished,
the work of a scholar and a thinker. (See the final section of the
present volume.)

The student will find Merlet's _Études littéraires sur les Classiques
français_ (2 vols.), revised and enlarged by M. Lintilhac, highly
instructive; the second volume is wholly occupied with Corneille,
Racine, and Molière.

For the history of the French theatre the best introduction is M.
Petit de Julleville's _Le Théâtre en France_; it may be supplemented
by M. Brunetière's _Les Époques du Théâtre français_. Learning wide
and exact, and original thought, characterise all the work of M.
Brunetière; each of his many volumes should be searched by the student
for what he may need. The studies of M. Faguet on the writers of the
sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries are the
work of a critic who is penetrating in his psychological study of
authors, and who, just or unjust, is always suggestive. For numberless
little monographs the student may turn to Sainte-Beuve. Monographs
on a larger scale will be found in the admirable series of _Grands
Écrivains français_ (Hachette); the _Classiques populaires_ (Lecène,
Oudin et Cie.) are in some instances no less scholarly. The writings
of Scherer, of M. Jules Lemaître, and of M. Anatole France are
especially valuable on nineteenth-century literature. The best study
of French historical literature is Professor Flint's _The Philosophy
of History_ (1893).

Provided with such books as these the student will hardly need the
general histories of French literature by German writers. I may name
Prof. Bornhak's _Geschichte der Französischen Literatur_, and the
more popular history by Engel (4th ed., 1897). Lotheissen's
_Geschichte der Französischen Literatur im XVII. Jahrhundert_ seems
to me the best book on the period. The monographs in German are
numberless.

The editions of authors in the _Grands Écrivains de la France_ are
of the highest authority. The best anthology of French poetry is
Crépet's _Les Poètes français_ (4 vols.). Small anthologies of French
poetry since the fifteenth century, and of French lyrical poets of
the nineteenth century, are published by Lemerre.

The list which follows is taken partly from books which I have used
in writing this volume, partly from the Bibliography in M. Lintilhac's
_Histoire de la Littérature française_. To name English writers and
books seems unnecessary.


THE MIDDLE AGES

_Histoire littéraire de la France_ (a vast repertory on mediæval
literature).

GASTON PARIS. _La Littérature française au moyen Âge_. 1890.

AUBERTIN. _Hist. de la Langue et de la Litt. françaises au moyen Âge_.
2 vols. 1883.

G. PARIS. _La Poésie du moyen Âge_. 2 vols. 1887.

LÉON GAUTIER. _Les Épopées françaises_. 2nd edition. 4 vols. 1878-94.

J. BÉDIER. _Les Fabliaux, Études de Litt. populaire et d'Histoire
litt. du moyen Âge_. 1895.

L. SUDRE. _Les Sources du Roman de Renart_. 1893.

LENIENT. _La Satire en France au moyen Âge_. 1883.

E. LANGLOIS. _Origines et Sources du Roman de la Rose_. 1890.

A. DÉBIDOUR. _Les Chroniqueurs_. 2 vols. 1892. (_Classiques
populaires_.)

A. JEANROY. _Les Origines de la Poésie lyrique en France_. 1889.

CLÉDAT. _Rutebeuf_. 1891. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

MARY DARMESTETER. _Froissart_. 1894. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

A. SARRADIN. _Eustache Deschamps_. 1879.

C. BEAUFILS. _Étude sur la Vie et les Poésies de Charles d'Orléans_.
1861.

A. CAMPAUX. _François Villon_. 1859.

A. LONGNON. _Étude biographique sur. Fr. Villon_. 1877.

LECOY DE LA MARCHE. _La Chaire fr. au moyen Âge_. 1886.

PETIT DE JULLEVILLE. _Les Mystères_. 2 vols. 1880.

PETIT DE JULLEVILLE. _Les Comédiens en Fr. au moyen Âge_. 1885.

PETIT DE JULLEVILLE. _La Comédie et les Moeurs en France au moyen
Âge_. 1886.

PETIT DE JULLEVILLE. _Répertoire du Théâtre comique en France au moyen
Âge_. 1885.

FAGUET. _XVIe Siècle_. 1894. (On Commines.)

MERLET. _Études litt._ (On Villehardouin, Froissart, Commines.)
Edited by Lintilhac. 1894.

L. CLÉDAT. _La Poésie du moyen Âge_. 1893. (_Classiques populaires_.)


SIXTEENTH CENTURY

A. DARMESTETER ET A. HATZFELD. _Le XVIe Siècle en France_. 1878.

FAGUET. _XVIe Siècle_. 1894.

SAINTE-BEUVE. _Tableau historique et critique de la Poésie fr. au
XVIe Siècle_.

L. FEUGÈRE. _Caractères et Portraits litt. du XVIe Siècle_. 1859.

EGGER. _L'Hellénisme en France_. 1869.

FAGUET. _La Tragédie fr. au XVIe Siècle_. 1883.

E. CHASLES. _La Comédie en France au XVIe Siècle_. 1862.

E. BOURCIEZ. _Les Moeurs polies et la Litt. de Cour sous Henri II._
1886.

P. STAPFER. _Rabelais_. 1889.

R. MILLET. _Rabelais_. 1892. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

E. GEBHART. _Rabelais, la Renaissance et la Réforme_. 1895.

HAAG ET BORDIER. _La France protestante_. 2nd edition. (Vols. i.-vi.
have appeared.)

F. BUNGENER. _Calvin, sa Vie, son OEuvre et ses Écrits_. 1862.

A. BIRSCH-HIRSCHFELD. _Geschichte der Französischen Litteratur,
seit Anfang des XVI. Jahrhunderts_. Erster Band: _Das Zeitalter der
Renaissance_. 1889.

EBERT. _Entwickelungs-Geschichte der Fr. Tragödie, vornämlich im XVI.
Jahrhundert_. 1856.

F. GODEFROY. _Histoire de la Litt. fr. depuis le XVIe Siècle jusqu'à
nos Jours_. 1878.

G. MERLET. _Les grands Écrivains du XVIe Siècle_. 1875.

C. LENIENT. _La Satire en France, ou la Litt. militante au XVIe Siècle_.
1886.

E. COUGNY. _Guillaume du Vair_. 1857.

A. SAYOUS. _Études litt. sur les Écrivains fr. de la Réformation_.
1854.

A. VINET. _Moralistes des XVIe et XVIIe Siècles_. 1859.

P. STAPFER. _Montaigne_. 1895. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

P. BONNEFON. _Montaigne, l'Homme et l'OEuvre_. 1893.

SAINT-MARC GIRARDIN. _Tableau de la Litt. fr. au XVIe Siècle_. 1862.

CH. NORMAND. _Monluc_. (_Classiques populaires_.)

G. BIZOS. _Ronsard_. (_Classiques populaires_.)

GÉRUZEZ. _Essais d'Histoire litt._ 1853.

P. MORILLOT. _Discours sur la Vie et les OEuvres d'Agrippa d'Aubigné_.
1884.

H. PERGAMINI. _La Satire au XVIe Siècle et les Tragiques d'Agrippa
d'Aubigné_. 1881.


SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

F. LOTHEISSEN. _Geschichte der Französischen Litteratur im XVII.
Jahrhundert_. 2 vols. 1897.

A. DUPUY. _Histoire de la Litt. fr. au XVIIe Siècle_. 1892.

LE R. PÈRE G. LONGHAYE. _Histoire de la Litt. fr. au XVIIe Siècle_.
1895.

J. DEMOGEOT. _Tableau de la Litt. fr. au XVIIe Siècle avant Corneille
et Descartes_. 1859.

LE DUC DE BROGLIE. _Malherbe_. 1897. (_Grands Écrivains fr_.)

V. COUSIN. _La Société fr. au XVIIe Siècle_. 1858.

V. COUSIN. _Mme. de Sablé_. 1882.

V. COUSIN. _Jacqueline Pascal_. 1878.

V. COUSIN. _La Jeunesse de Mme. de Longueville_. 1853.

V. COUSIN. _Mme. de Longueville et la Fronde_. 1859.

G. LARROUMET. Introduction to edition of _Les Précieuses ridicules_.
1884.

A. LE BRETON. _Le Roman au XVIIe Siècle_. 1890.

SAINTE-BEUVE. _Portraits de Femmes_. 1855.

A. BOURGOIN. _Valentin Conrart_. 1883.

A. BOURGOIN. _Les Maîtres de la Critique au XVIIe Siècle_. 1889.

PELLISSON ET D'OLIVET. _Histoire de l'Académie fr._ 2 vols. 1858.

E. ROY. _Étude sur Charles Sorel_. 1893.

P. MORILLOT. _Scarron et le Genre burlesque_. 1888.

P. MORILLOT. _Le Roman en France depuis 1610 jusqu'à nos Jours_.

A. FOUILLÉE. _Descartes_. 1893. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

F. BOUILLIER. _Histoire de la Philosophie cartésienne_. 2 vols. 1868.

E. RIGAL. _Alexandre Hardy et le Théâtre fr._ 1889.

E. RIGAL. _Esquisse d'une Histoire des Théâtres de Paris de 1548 à
1635_. 1887.

GUIZOT. _Corneille et son Temps_. 1880.

G. REYNIER. _Thomas Corneille, sa Vie et son Théâtre_. 1892.

P. MONCEAUX. _Racine_. (_Classiques populaires_.)

SAINTE-BEUVE. _Port-Royal_. 7 vols. 1888.

E. DESCHANEL. _Le Romantisme des Classiques_. 1883.

P. STAPFER. _Racine et Victor Hugo_. 1887.

G. LARROUMET. _La Comédie de Molière_. 1889.

H. DURAND. _Molière_. 1889. (_Classiques populaires_.)

MAHRENHOLTZ. _Molières Leben und Werke_. 1881.

V. FOURNEL. _Le Théâtre au XVIIe Siècle: la Comédie_. 1888.

H. RIGAULT. _Hist. de la Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes_. 1856.

P. MORILLOT. _Boileau_. (_Classiques populaires_.)

G. LANSON. _Boileau_. 1892. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

G. LAFENESTRE. _La Fontaine_. 1895. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

H. TAINE. _La Fontaine et ses Fables_. 1879.

PRÉVOST-PARADOL. _Les Moralistes fr._ 1865.

P. JANET. _Les Passions et les Caractères dans la Litt. du XVIIe
Siècle_. 1888.

PELLISSON. _La Bruyère_. 1892. (_Classiques populaires_.)

JACQUINET. _Des Prédicateurs du XVIIe Siècle avant Bossuet_. 1863.

G. LANSON. _Bossuet_. 1891. (_Classiques populaires_.)

A. FEUGÈRE. _Bourdaloue, sa Prédication et son Temps_. 1874.

LEHANNEUR. _Mascaron_. 1878.

L'ABBÉ FABRE. _Fléchier orateur_. 1885.

L'ABBÉ BAYLE. _Massillon_ 1867.

G. BIZOS. _Fénelon_. 1887. (_Classiques populaires_.)

P. JANET. _Fénelon_. 1892. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

R. VALLERY RADOT. _Mme. de Sévigné_. 1888. (_Classiques
populaires_.)

G. BOISSIER. _Mme. de Sévigné_. 1887. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

CTE. D'HAUSSONVILLE. _Mme. de la Fayette_. 1891. (_Grands Écrivains
fr._)

G. BOISSIER. _Saint-Simon_. 1892. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

J. BOURDEAU. _La Rochefoucauld_. 1895. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)


EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

H. HETTNER. _Literaturgeschichte des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts:
Zweiter Theil_. 1872.

VILLEMAIN. _Tableau de la Litt. au XVIIIe Siècle_. 4 vols. 1841.

DE BARANTE. _Tableau de la Litt. fr. au XVIIIe Siècle_. 1856.

BERSOT. _Études sur le XVIIIe Siècle_. 1852.

VINET. _Hist. de la Litt. fr. au XVIIIe Siècle_. 1853.

J. BARNI. _Hist. des Idées morales et politiques en France au XVIIIe
Siècle_. 1865.

CARO. _La Fin du XVIIIe Siècle_. 1881.

TAINE. _Les Origines de la France contemporaine_. 1882. (Vol. i.)

A. SOREL. _Montesquieu_. 1889. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

H. LEBASTEUR. _Buffon_. 1888. (_Classiques populaires_.)

M. PALÉOLOGUE. _Vauvenargues_. 1890. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

G. DESNOIRESTERRES. _Voltaire et la Société au XVIIIe Siècle_. 8 vols.
1871-76.

E. FAGUET. _Voltaire_. 1895. (_Classiques populaires_.)

A. CHUQUET. _J.-J. Rousseau_. 1893. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

H. BEAUDOUIN. _La Vie et les OEuvres de J.-J. Rousseau_. 1871.

SAINT-MARC GIRARDIN. _J.-J. Rousseau, sa Vie et ses Ouvrages_. 2 vols.
1875.

CH. LENIENT. _La Comédie en France au XVIIIe Siècle_. 2 vols. 1888.

E. LINTILHAC. _Lesage_. 1893. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

E. LINTILHAC. _Beaumarchais et ses Ouvres_. 1887.

A. HALLAYS. _Beaumarchais_. 1897. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

LÉO CLARETIE. _Essai sur Lesage romancier_. 1890.

LÉO CLARETIE. _Florian_. 1888. (_Classiques populaires_.)

G. LARROUMET. _Marivaux, sa Vie et ses OEuvres_. 1882.

J. REINACH. _Diderot_. 1894. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

J. BERTRAND. _D'Alembert_. 1889. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

L. SAY. _Turgot_. 1889. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)


REVOLUTION AND NINETEENTH CENTURY

E. GERUZEZ. _Hist. de la Litt. fr. pendant la Révolution_. 1881.

E. ROUSSE. _Mirabeau_. 1891. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

DE LESCURE. _Rivarol et la Société fr. pendant la Révolution et
l'Émigration_. 1883.

DE LESCURE. _Bernardin de Saint-Pierre_. (_Classiques populaires_.)

DE LESCURE. _Chateaubriand_. 1892. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

G. MERLET. _Tableau de la Litt. fr._ 1800-1815. 1883.

ARVÈDE BARINE. _Bernardin de Saint-Pierre_. 1892. (_Grands Écrivains
fr._)

SAINTE-BEUVE. _Chateaubriand et son Groupe litt._ 2 vols. 1889.

A. BARDOUX. _Chateaubriand_. 1893. (_Classiques populaires_.)

A. SOREL. _Mme. de Staël_. 1893. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

G. BRANDES. _Die Hauptströmungen der Litteratur des 19 Jahrhundert_.
Vol. v. 1894.

E. FAGUET. _Politiques et Moralistes du XIXe Siècle_. 1891.

G. PELLISSIER. _Le Mouvement littéraire au XIXe Siècle_. 1893.

TH. GAUTIER. _Histoire de Romantisme_. 1874.

E. ROD. _Lamartine_. 1893. (_Classiques populaires_.)

E. DESCHANEL. _Lamartine_. 2 vols. 1893.

E. BIRÉ. _Victor Hugo avant_ 1830. 1883.

E. DUPUY. _V. Hugo, l'Homme et le Poète_. 1887.

M. PALÉOLOGUE. _Alfred de Vigny_. 1891. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

DORISON. _Alfred de Vigny, Poète et Philosophe_. 1892.

A. BARINE. _Alfred de Musset_. 1893. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

A. CLAVEAU. _Alfred de Musset_. (_Classiques populaires_.)

M. DU CAMP. _Théophile Gautier_. 1890. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

G. COGORDAN. _Joseph de Maistre_. 1894. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

E. SPULLER. _Lamennais, sa Vie et ses OEuvres_. 1893.

J. SIMON. _Victor Cousin_. 1887. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

E. CARO. _George Sand_. 1887. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

E. ROD. _Stendhal_. 1892. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

F. CORRÉARD. _Michelet_. 1887. (_Classiques populaires_.)

P. DE REMUSAT. _Thiers_. 1889. (_Grands Écrivains fr._)

E. ZÉVORT. _Thiers_. 1892. (_Classiques populaires_.)

A. FILON. _Mérimée et ses Amis_. 1894.

BRUNETIÈRE. _L'Evolution de la Poésie lyrique en France au XIXe
Siècle_. 2 vols. 1894.



INDEX


Abondance, Jean d', 75

Adam de la Halle, 26, 27, 72

Alarcon, 167

Albéric de Briançon, 17

_Alexis, Vie de Saint_, 4

_Amadis des Gaules_, 23, 92

_Amis et Amiles_, 12

Amyot, Jacques, 96-97

Andrieux, 336

Anne of Austria, 201

Argenson, Marquis d', 304 _note_

Armentières, Peronne d', 59

Arnauld, Antoine, 153, 156-157, 184, 185, 215

Arnauld, Jacqueline, 155

Arnault, 335

Arouet, _see_ Voltaire

Aubigné, Agrippa d', 112, 113, 115, 117-119

_Aucassin et Nicolette_, 22

Aulnoy, Mme. d', 243

Auvergne, Martial d', 63


Baïf, Antoine de, 98, 103

Ballanche, 357

Baltus, 245

Balzac, Guez de, 149-150, 177

Balzac, Honoré de, 404-408

Baour-Lormian, 336, 337

Barante, 412

Barbier, Auguste, 391

Barbieri, Nicolo, 198

_Barlaam et Joasaph_, 5

Barnave, 339

Baron, 207, 229, 262

Bartas, Du, 117

Barthélemy, Abbé, 329

Basoche, La, 76

Bassompierre, 239

Batteux, Charles, 306

Baude, Henri, 63

Bayle, Pierre, 245-247

Beaulieu, Geoffroy de, 51

Beaumarchais, 265, 323-325

Béjart, Armande, 200

Béjart, Madeleine, 198

Bellay, Jean du, 88

Bellay, Joachim du, 98, 99, 100, 104-105

Belleau, Remi, 98, 103-104

Benedictines, the, 254

Benoit de Sainte-More, 15

Benserade, 140, 208

Béranger, J.-P. de, 366-367

Berçuire, Pierre, 46

Bernard, 258

Bernard, Saint, 44

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, 272, 325-329

Bernay, Alexandre de, 16

Bernis, 258

Béroul, 19

Bertaut, Jean, 106

Bertin, 258

Beyle, Henri, 366, 398-399

Bèze, Théodore de, 94, 107

Bichat, 341

_Bien-Avisé, Mal-Avisé_, 72

Blanc, Louis, 412

Blois, Gui de, 54

Bodel, Jean, 67

Bodin, Jean, 111

Boétie, La, 96, 122

Boileau, Nicolas, 183-189, 241, 242

Boisguillebert, 304

Boissonade, J.-F., 354

Bolingbroke, 284

Bonald, Vicomte de, 357

Bonnet, Charles, 302 _note_

Bossuet, Jacques-Bénigne, 139, 153, 202, 219-226, 233, 276

Bouillon, Duchesse de, 190, 191, 214

Bounin, Gabriel, 107

Bourdaloue, 202, 227

Boursault, 207

Brantôme, 113-114

Bretel, Jacques, 26

Brizeux, Auguste, 391

Buchanan, 106

Budé, Guillaume, 82, 87

Buffon, 308-310, 327

Bunbury, Lydia, 373

Bussy-Rabutin, 176, 179


Cabanis, 301

Calas, Jean, 287

Calvin, Jean, 92-94

Campan, Mme. de, 253

Campistron, 259

Camus, Bishop, 132, 141

Cantillon, 305

Cato, Angelo, 56

Caumartin, de, 283

Caumartin, Mme. de, 176

Caylus, Count de, 329

Caylus, Mme. de, 253

_Cent Nouvelles nouvelles_, 66

Chamfort, 322

Chapelain, Jean, 141, 147, 149, 162, 177, 186

Chapelle, 153, 184, 192

Charles, Mme., 368

Charron, Pierre, 126-127

Chartier, Alain, 60-61

Chastelain, Georges, 65

Chateaubriand, 328, 343, 348-353

Châtelain de Couci, the, 27

Châtelet, Mme. du, 285, 286

Chaulieu, 256

Chênedollé, 337

Chénier, André, 329-331, 338

Chénier, Marie-Joseph, 335, 337

Chesterfield, Lord, 275

Chrestien, 116

Chrétien de Troyes, 17, 21

Christine de Pisan, 60

Clari, Robert de, 49

Clermont, Mlle. de, 275

Collin d'Harleville, 336

Commines, Philippe de, 55-57

Comte, Auguste, 255, 360-361

Condillac, 301

Condorcet, 255, 303-304

Confrérie de la Passion, 68, 71, 160

Conon de Béthune, 27

Conrart, Valentin, 147

Constant, Benjamin, 345, 411

Coquillard, 63

Coras, 214

Corneille, Pierre, 139, 163-170, 204

Corneille, Thomas, 171-172, 206

Cotin, 186, 205

Coulanges, Abbé de, 177

Coulanges, Mme. de, 179

Courier, Paul-Louis, 354-355

Cousin Victor, 358-359

Crébillon, P. J. de, 259-260

Crétin, 65

Creusé de Lesser, 337

Cuvier, 341

_Cuvier, Le_, 75

Cyrano de Bergerac, 145-146, 197


Dacier, Mme., 243

D'Aguesseau, 299

D'Alembert, 254, 295

Danchet, 259

Dancourt, 262

Dangeau, 239

Daniel, 254

_Danse Macabré_, 63

Danton, 338, 339

Daubenton, 309

Daunou, 411

Daurat, Jean, 98

_Débats, Journal de_, 338

De Belloy, 261

De Broglie, 412

_Décade Philosophique_, 338

De Féletz, 342

Deffand, Mme. du, 253, 322

Déforis, 221

Delatouche, 401

Delavigne, Casimir, 395

Delille, 257-258

Désaugiers, 336

Désbordes-Valmore, Mme., 391

Descartes, René, 150-153

Deschamps, Antony, 366

Deschamps, Émile, 366

Desfontaines, 300

Désmarets de St.-Sorlin, 141, 142, 144, 197, 241

Des-Masures, Loys, 107

Desmoulins, Camille, 338

Desportes, Philippe, 105-106, 137

Despréaux, _see_ Boileau

Destouches, 263

Diderot, Denis, 254, 265, 272, 294-299, 302, 313

Digulleville, Guillaume de, 43

Döllinger, 180

Dorat, 258

Dubos, Abbé, 305

Duché, 259

Ducis, 261

Duclos, 253

Dudevant, Mme., _see_ Sand, George

Dufresny, 262, 274

Dumas, Alexandre, 394, 397

Dumont, Abbé, 370

Dupont de Nemours, 304

Duplessis-Mornay, 115

Du Ryer, 162, 170

Dussault, 342

Duval, 336


_Eneas_, 16

Enfants san Souci, 74, 76

Épinay, Mme. d', 253, 314

Estienne, Henri, 101 _note_, 110, 115

Estissac, Geoffroy d', 87

Estoile, Pierre de l', 114 _note_

Étienne, 336


Fabre d'Eglantine, 336

Fantosme, Jordan, 47

Fauchet, Claude, 110

Fauriel, 341

Fayette, Mme. de la, 174, 179, 180-182

Fénelon, 153, 230-234

Fléchier, 140, 228

Fleury, 225

_Floovent_, 8

Florian, 259, 272

Fontanes, 337, 349

Fontenelle, 242, 243-245

Foucher, Adèle, 375

Fougères, Étienne de, 42

Foulechat, Denis, 46

Fouquet, 190, 200

Fourier, 359

Fournival, Richard de, 41

_Franc-Archer de Bagnolet_, 74

Francis I., 82

Frederick the Great, 286, 288

Fréron, 300

Froissart, Jean, 53-55

Furetière, Antoine, 145, 211


Gace Brulé, 27

Gaimar, 47

Gaime, Abbé, 312

Galiani, 254, 305

Galland, 274

Garnier, Robert, 108

Garnier de Pont-Sainte-Maxence, 6, 47

Gassendi, Pierre, 153

Gautier, Théophile, 365, 387-390, 392

Gautier de Coinci, 6

Gelée, Jacquemart, 31

_Gens Nouveaux_, 74

Geoffrin, Mme., 254

Geoffroi of Brittany, 28

Geoffroy, 342

Gerson, 44, 45

Gilbert, 258-259, 300

Gillot, 116

Ginguené, 341, 411

Girardin, M. de, 315

Girardin, Saint-Marc, 425

Godeau, 139

Goethe, 297, 345

Gombault, 142

Gomberville, 142

Gournay, 305

Gournay, Mlle. de, 123

_Grandes Chroniques_, 50

Greban, Arnoul, 69

Greban, Simon, 69

Grécourt, 258

Gresset, 258, 260, 263

Grévin, 107

Grignan, Mme. de, 178

Grimm, Melchior, 307

Gringoire, Pierre, 74

_Grisélidis, Histoire de_, 68

Guenée, Abbé, 300

Guevara, 267

Guillaume le Clerc, 42

_Guillaume le Maréchal, Vie de_, 47

_Guirlande de Julie_, 140

Guizot, François, 412, 414-416

Guyon, Mme., 224, 230


Hamilton, Anthony, 256

Hardouin, 254

Hardy, Alexandre, 161

Helgaire, 8

Helvétius, 301

Hénault, 261

Henri le Glichezare, 30

Herberay des Essarts, 92

Hoffman, 342

Holbach, Baron d', 302

Hospital, Michel de l', 100, 115

Hotman, François, 114

Houdetot, Mme. d', 314, 318

Huet, 242

Hugo, Victor, 365, 375-383, 391-393, 396

Hume, David, 315


Jacot de Forest, 16

Jansen, 156

Jeannin, President, 114 _note_

Jehan de Thuin, 16

Jobelins, 140

Jodelle, 98, 103, 107

Joinville, Jean de, 50-52

Joubert, Joseph, 342-343, 349

Jouffroy, Théodore, 359


La Barre, 288

Labé, Louise, 97

La Beaumelle, 179

Laboureur, Louis le, 141

La Bruyère, 235-238, 242

La Calprenède, 142, 143

Lacordaire, 357, 358

La Fare, 256

La Fontaine, Jean de, 189-195

La Fosse, 259

Lagrange, 302

La Grange-Chancel, 259

Laharpe, 261, 306-307

_La Haye, Fragment of_, 9

Lally, Count, 288

Lamarck, 341

Lamartine, Alphonse de, 329, 367-371

Lambert, Marquise de, 254, 269

Lambert le Tort, 16

Lamennais, 357-358

La Mettrie, 300-301

Lamoignon, de, 202

La Motte-Houdart, 243, 256, 260

Languet, Hubert, 114

Lanoue, 113

Laplace, 341

Larivey, Pierre de, 109

La Rochefoucauld, 173-175, 181, 182

Latini, Brunetto, 41

Laya, Louis, 336

Le Bel, Jean, 53

Lebrun, Écouchard, 258, 337

Le Clerc, 214

Lecomte, Valleran, 160

Lefranc de Pompignan, 256

Lefranc, Martin, 62

Legouais, Chrétien, 17, 58

Legouvé, 335

Le Maire de Belges, Jean, 84

Lemercier, Népomucène, 336, 337

Lemierre, 258, 260

Lemoyne, 141

_L'Empereur qui tua son Neveu_, 73

Leroy, Pierre, 116

Lesage, 262, 266-268

Lespinasse, Mlle. de, 254, 322

Letourneur, 261

Le Vasseur, Thérèse, 313

Lille, Alain de, 37

Lorens, Friar, 41

Lorris, Guillaume de, 34-36

Lyonne, Abbé de, 266


Mably, 255

Machaut, Guillaume de, 59

Maillard, Olivier, 45

Maine de Biran, 341

Maintenon, Mme. de, 118, 145, 179-180, 216, 217

Mairet, Jean de, 162, 165, 196

Maistre, Joseph de, 355-356

Maistre, Xavier de, 409

Malebranche, Nicolas de, 153

Malherbe, François de, 100, 106, 134-136, 331

Mallet du Pin, 338

Marbode, Bishop, 41

Marguerite of Navarre, 82-84

Marguerite of Navarre (wife of Henri IV.), 114

Marie de France, 20, 28

Marivaux, 262, 269-271

Marmontel, 253, 260, 272, 300, 305-306

Marnix de Ste. Aldegonde, 115

Mascaron, 228

Massillon, J.-B., 228, 229

Maupertuis, 286

Maynard, 136

Melin de Saint-Gelais, 86, 105

Ménage, 177, 205

_Ménagier de Paris_, 41 _note_

Mendoza, 267

Menot, Michel, 45

Mercier, 265

Méri, Huon de, 43

Mérimée, Prosper, 396, 408-410

Meschinot, 65

Meun, Jean de, 36-39

Mézeray, 225

Michaud, 411

Michel, Jean, 69

Michelet, Jules, 412, 418-422

Mignet, François, 412, 416

Millevoye, 337

Mirabeau, 339-340

Mirabeau (the elder), 281, 305

_Miracles de Notre-Dame_, 68

Molière, Jean-Baptiste, 146, 169, 197-206

Molinet, 65

Monluc, Blaize de, 112-113

Monstrelet, 55

Montaigne, Michel de, 121-126

Montalembert, 357, 358, 412

Montchrestien, Antoine de, 120, 160

Montesquieu, 57, 111, 255, 273-280

Montfleury, 207

Montpensier, Mlle. de, 176, 235

Montreuil, Jean de, 46

Moreau, Hégésippe, 391

Morellet, 300, 305

Morelly, 255

Mornay, Mme. de, 113

Mothe le Vayer, la, 153

Motteville, Mme. de, 176

Muret, 106

Musset, Alfred de, 383-387


Naigeon, 302

Namur, Robert of, 54

Nangis, Guillaume de, 51

Napoleon I., 340

Napoleon III., 369

Navagero, 105

Nerval, Gérard de, 388, 391

Nevers, Duc de, 214

Nicole, 156, 178, 208, 209, 215

Ninon, 183

Nisard, Désiré, 425-426

Nivart of Ghent, 30

Nivelle de la Chaussée, 264

Nodier, Charles, 366, 409

Novare, Philippe de, 41


Ogier, François, 162

Oresme, Nicole, 46

Orléans, Charles d', 61-62

Orleans, Duchess of, 180, 212

Ossat, d', 114 _note_

Ouville, d', 196

Ozanam, 412


Palissot, 300

Palissy, Bernard, 119

Paré, Ambroise, 119

Parny, 258

_Partenopéus de Blois_, 22

Pascal, Blaise, 154-159

Pasquier, Estienne, 110

Passerat, Jean, 106, 116

_Pathelin, La Farce de_, 66, 75-76

_Pèlerinage de Jérusalem_, 11

Pellisson, 148

Périer, Mme., 158

Périers, Bonaventure des, 84, 91

Perrault, Charles, 241-242, 243

Perron, du, 115

Physiocrats, the, 304

Picard, 336

Piron, 258, 260, 263, 300

Pithou, 116

Pixérécourt, 336

Pomponne, 179

Ponsard, 395

Popelinière, L. de la, 112

Poquelin. _See_ Molière

Port-Royal, 155, 252

Pradon, 214

Presles, Raoul de, 46

Prévost, Abbé, 271-272

Proudhon, Pierre Joseph, 361-362

Provins, Guiot de, 42


Quesnay, François, 304, 305

Quinault, Philippe, 169, 204, 206, 207-208

Quinet, Edgar, 412, 422-423

_Quinze Joies de Mariage_, 66


Rabelais, François, 87-91

Racan, 136

Racine, Jean, 172, 208-218

Racine, Louis, 257

Rambouillet, Hôtel de, 139

Ramée, Pierre de la, 111

Ramond, 321 _note_

Raoul de Houdan, 43

Rapin, 116

Raynal, Abbé, 321-322

Rayounard, 336, 341

Récamier, Mme., 352

_Récits d'un Ménestrel de Reims_, 50

Regnard, 262

Regnier, Mathurin, 136-138

_Renard, Roman de_, 29

_Représentation d'Adam_, 67

Restif de la Bretonne, 272

Retz, Cardinal de, 175-176

Riccoboni, Mme., 270 _note_

Richelieu, 147, 162, 176

Rivarol, 338

Robert de Boron, 21, 22

Rocca, Albert de, 347

Rohan, Chevalier de, 284

Rojas, 106

Roland, Mme., 253, 254, 322

_Roland, Song of_, 9-11

Rollin, 300

Romulus, 28 _note_

Ronsard, Pierre de, 97-103

Rotrou, Jean, 162, 170-171, 196

Roucher, 257

Rouget de Lisle, 337

Rousseau, Jean-Baptiste, 256, 283

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 272, 311-321, 327

Roye, Jean de, 55

Royer-Collard, 341

Rutebeuf, 42, 43


Sable, Mme. de, 173

Sablière, Mme. de, 192

Sacy, de, 156

Sagon, 85

Saint-Amand, 144

Saint-Cyran, 156

Sainte-Beuve, 330, 365, 366, 391, 426-427

Saint-Évremond, 139, 183, 197, 209

Saint-Just, 339

Saint-Lambert, 257

Saint-Martin, 355, 357

Saint-Pierre, Abbé de, 304

Saint-Simon, Claude-Henri de, 359-360

Saint-Simon, Duc de, 238-241

Sales, François de, 131-132

Salle, Antoine de la, 65-66

Sand, George, 400-404

Sandeau, Jules, 401

Sannazaro, 103

Saurin, Bernard-Joseph, 261

Saurin, Jacques, 228

Scarron, Paul, 145, 197

Scève, Maurice, 97

Schelandre, Jean de, 162

Schiller, 345

Schlegel, A. W. von, 346

Scribe, Eugène, 395

Scudéry, Georges de, 142, 162, 163, 165, 170

Scudéry, Mlle. de, 92, 142, 143

Sebonde, Raimond de, 122

Secchi, 199

Sedaine, 265

Segrais, 181, 213, 235

Sénancourt, 341-342

Serres, Olivier de, 119, 132

Serviteur, Le Loyal, 112 _note_

Sévigné, Mme. de, 143, 177-179, 191, 210

Simon, Richard, 220, 224, 225

Sirven, 288

Sismondi, 411-412

Sorel, Charles, 144, 268

Soulié, Frédéric, 394

Soyecourt, Marquis de, 200

Staäl-Delaunay, Mme. de, 253

Staël, Mme. de, 343-348

Steinhoewel, 28

Stendhal. _See_ Beyle

_Strasburg Oaths_, 4

Suard, 338

Sue, Eugène, 397

Sully, Maurice de, 44

Surgères, Helène de, 101


Tabarin, 196

Taille, Jacques de la, 107

Taille, Jean de la, 108, 109

Tedbalt, 4

Tencin, Mme. de, 245

Thaon, Philippe de, 40

_Thebes, Romance of_, 15

_Théophile_, 68

Thibaut de Champagne, 27

Thierry, Augustin, 412-414

Thiers, Adolphe, 412, 417-418

Thomas (Anglo-Norman poet), 19

Thomas, A.-L., 306, 327

Thou, De, 112

Thyard, Pontus de, 98

Tocqueville, A. de, 412, 416-417

_Tour-Landry, Livre du Chevalier de la_, 41 _note_

Touroude, 10

Tracy, Destutt de, 301

Tristan l'Hermite, 162, 170

Turgot, 255

Turnèbe, Odet de, 109


Uranistes, 140

Urfe, Honoré d', 92, 132-134


Vair, Guillaume de, 120, 127, 134

Valenciennes, Henri de, 49

Vallière, Louise de la, 221

Van Dale, 244

Vauban, 304

Vaugelas, 148

Vauquelin de la Fresnaye, Jean, 106

Vauvenargues, 281-282

Vaux, Mme. Clothilde de, 360

Velly, 254

Vergniaud, 339

Vertot, 254

Viau, Théophile de, 138

Vigny, Alfred de, 365, 371-374, 394, 396

Villehardouin, Geoffroy de, 48

Villemain, 424

Villon, François, 63-65, 74

Vincent de Paul, St., 221

Viole, Mlle. de, 104

_Violette, Roman de la_, 22

Viret, 94

Vivonne, Catherine de, 139

Voiture, Vincent, 139, 140-141

Volland, Mlle., 298

Volney, 303

Voltaire, 229, 253, 255, 260, 272, 282-293, 314


Wace, 20, 47

Walpole, Horace, 322

Warens, Mme. de, 311, 312, 318

Wenceslas, Duke, 54



THE END



Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & Co.
at Paul's Work, Edinburgh



Short Histories of the Literatures of the World
EDITED BY EDMUND GOSSE, LL.D.

Large Crown 8vo, cloth, 6s. each Volume

ANCIENT GREEK LITERATURE
By Prof. GILBERT MURRAY, M.A.

FRENCH LITERATURE
By Prof. EDWARD DOWDEN, D.C.L., LL.D.

MODERN ENGLISH LITERATURE
By the EDITOR

ITALIAN LITERATURE
By RICHARD GARNETT, C.B., LL.D.

SPANISH LITERATURE
By JAMES FITZMAURICE-KELLY

JAPANESE LITERATURE
By WILLIAM GEORGE ASTON, C.M.G., D.Lit.

BOHEMIAN LITERATURE
By THE COUNT LÜTZOW, D.Litt., D.Ph.

SANSKRIT LITERATURE
By Prof. A. A. MACDONELL, M.A.

HUNGARIAN LITERATURE
By Dr. RIEDL

AMERICAN LITERATURE
By Prof. W. P. TRENT

RUSSIAN LITERATURE
By K. WALISZEWSKI

CHINESE LITERATURE
By Prof. A. GILES

ARABIC LITERATURE
By C. HUART

GERMAN LITERATURE
By CALVIN THOMAS, LL.D.

_In preparation_
LATIN LITERATURE
By MARCUS DIMSDALE, M.A.


LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN


_All rights reserved_





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