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a star of the first magnitude. Moreover, between La Bruyère and Fontenelle a very pronunced spirit of personal antagonism soon set in. The details need not now be recapitulated, but its effect was detrimental to the author of the Caractères, in his efforts to get himself elected a member of the Académie Française; and when, after his fruitless competitions, he at last succeeded, the so-called “Norman” clique *) were loud in their satire. Their irritation was presently increased by the somewhat proud and independent tone in which the new Academician pitched his Discours de Réception, and by his preference therein given to the poetry of Racine over that of Corneille. For a moment, indeed, the Academy itself demanded that the passage containing the offensive sentiment should be suppressed. but Bossuet made it known that, in that case,

Racine would never appear at the Academy again. Party-spirit waxed so strong on the occasion that the King's curiosity was aroused, and he desired to have the now famous Discours read aloud to him at one of his Marly dinners. He applauded it highly; and its author did not fail to add the royal approbation to the topics of self-defence introduced with satirical force into the preface which accompanied his Discourse when printed. In the eigth edition of the Caractères, the last published in his lifetime, La Bruyère dealt his final stroke against Fontenelle, by inserting the charater of Cydias, the professional bel esprit, the master-manufacturer of general literature, working with his journeymen under him, and turning off to order elegies, letters, "prose,

*) Normandy was the native province of Fontenelle and the Corneilles.

vers, que voulez-vous ? a compound of the pedant and the précieux, made to be admired by the bourgeoisie and the provinces, in whom, nevertheless, one can discern nothing lofty save the opinion which he has of himself." The mortification occasioned him by this satire Fontenelle is said never to have got over. As he lived for upwards of sixty years afterwards, it may be doubted whether so long a literary grudge was ever felt before or since.

He who shot the dart which rankled so effectually did not long survive its emission.

It was on the 8th of May, 1696, two days after a lively supper at Paris, where he had been reading some passages from his own Dialogues sur le Quiétisme, a work of his latter days, written in unison with the opinions of Bossuet on that controverted subject, that he was seized with an apoplectic stroke-after supper again—in the apartments of the Prince de Condé at Versailles. The court doctors came in hot haste. Every approved remedy was tried, in vain. mies of the Mercure Galant insinuated that he had eaten to excess; but his death was so sudden and unexpected that the more dramatic solution of poison was whispered, and even printed. His work had provoked resentment in many breasts; and the revenge was not thought improbable.

A few weeks only before La Bruyère's death, the funeral-bell had tolled for the Marquise de Sévigné, as close an observer as himself of the personages and events of the time, and one who, more than any other female writer, merited the eulogiums he bestows on the epistolary accomplishments of the fair sex. Yet it is not apparent, but, on the whole, improbable, that

His ene

La Bruyère ever knew her or her letters. Not once throughout her lively correspondence does the Marquise allude to the Caractères or their author, living, though she did, in the same capital with him, knowing many of the same people, keeping on terms of pretty frequent intercourse with the Condés themselves, being nearly related, moreover, to Bussy Rabutin, who was his friend and admirer. This is certainly a curious circumstance. One would have supposed that to such a lover of gossip the successive editions of the Caractères would afford a fruitful theme of discussion in her letters to her daughter. But, on the whole, Madame de Sévigné and La Bruyère belonged to different sections of society. The lady was completely of the Versailles set; her acquaintance was mainly among the courtiers and the haute noblesse. The satirist, from his early associations, as well as from the general character of the Condé entourage, was thrown among professionals and officials, and those rather of an Opposition clique. Madame de Sévigné frequented the fashionable society of the Marais; La Bruyère the society of the Faubourg St. Honoré, where lawyers and bourgeoisie abounded. So it was that they dwelt apart, and described different sides of that brilliant busy world of theirs. It has been remarked that even in the famous portrait of Ménalque, the absent man, intended in its principal features for the Duc de Brancas, so often mentioned by Madame de Sévigné, the incidents of his abstraction specified by La Bruyère are never the same

as those which she recounts.

The world must have been duller, we fancy, when these two animated onlookers were withdrawn from its haunts. But it is our philosopher who asks the

.

question—“who is there, endowed, though he may be, with the rarest talents and the most transcendent merit, who must not be convinced of his own uselessness when he reflects that in dying he quits a world which has no consciousness of his loss, and where so many are at hand immediately to replace him?"

The literary planet of the next century had already peeped above the horizon. Voltaire was a child of two years old when the grave closed over the Marquise de Sévigné and La Bruyère.

NAPOLEON I.*)

[Quarterly Review, April, 1870.]

LANFREY'S History of Napoleon' is a book which, even in its unfinished state, cannot fail to inspire the highest respect for the anthor and the deepest interest in the trains of reflection which it suggests. Independently of its merits as a succinct, original, lucid and severely accurate summary of events, it vividly reproduces and helps to solve problems of incalculable importance to society. Is greatness hopelessly incompatible with goodness? Must the brightest of mankind be invariably the meanest? The feather that adorns the royal bird supports his flight. Strip him of his plumage, and you fix him to the earth.' Is the plumage of soaring ambition made up of deceit, dissimulation, vain glory, and false pretences ? Should we fix it to the earth by stripping off its feathers, or by weighting it with honour, probity, and truth? Fielding leaves it to be inferred, if he does not actually maintain, that the only essential difference between Jonathan Wild and the conquerors who are popularly

* Histoire de Napoléon Ier. Par P. LANFREY. Tome Premier et Tome Deuxième. Paris, 1867. Tome Troisième, 1808. Tome Quatrième, 1870.

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