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AMONG the critical essays with which the French press teems, we English take naturally a special interest in those which relate to our own literature. These are a numerous class, and the demand seems likely to increase the rate of supply. To allude to a few writers in this department: There is M. Arthur Dudley, who, in the Revue des Deux Mondes, has criticised Sir Bulwer Lytton's "New Timon," and the poems of Alexander Smith the romantic, and of Matthew Arnold the classical; and the literary merits at large of Thomas Moore and of Charles Dickens. M. E.-D. Forgues has initiated his countrymen in a large course of English belles lettres,-now taking for his theme the "Mount Sorel" of Mrs. Marsh, now the "Hochelaga" of Mr. Warburton,-anon turning the pages of (ce spirituel badaud) Mr. Titmarsh's "Irish Sketch-Book," and analysing the subtle beauties of Alfred Tennyson, and guessing at the enigma meanings of Robert Browning, and doing his best by the subtleties of Shelley, and the whims and oddities of Thomas Hood, and interpreting the natural supernaturalisms of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the strange vagaries of Edgar Poe, and the equivocal tendencies of "Sir Edouard's" Lucretia, and the crosses of Mrs. Norton's Stuart of Dunleath, and the autobiographical mystifications of George Borrow ;-M. Eugène Forçade has introduced to his countrywomen the romances of Charlotte Bronte, and analysed for his countrymen the History of Mr. Macaulay, and Warburton's Memoirs of Prince Rupert ;-M. John Lemoinne has discussed the memoirs of Lord Malmesbury, and of Beau Brummel ;-M. Merimée (and others) Grote's History of Greece ;-M. Gustave Planche, not a few of our novelists, including Fielding and Bulwer Lytton, and of our latter-day dramaturges, Maturin and Fanny Kemble;-M. Léon de Wailly, the sonnets of Shakspeare, the tragedies of Shakspeare's predecessors, and the lyrics of Robert Burns ;-the life and times of Bolingbroke, and the umbratic career of Junius, have been minutely treated by M. Charles de Rémusat, who has also given a "study" of that favourite subject for French études, Horace Walpole;-M. Milsand has discoursed on the poetical charms of Campbell, of Tennyson, of Westland Marston, of Mrs. Browning, of Edmund Reade, and of Henry Taylor,-Talfourd's plays, Bulwer Lytton's epic, and Carlyle's Latter-day Pamphlets;-M. Montégut has interpreted the Christian Socialism of Charles Kingsley's novels and pamphlets, and the writings of Margaret Fuller, and has appraised the pretensions of Carlyle, and his friend John Sterling, and the humours of Sam Slick, and the aspirations of Longfellow, and the oracles of Emerson. But of all writers who have thus taken upon them to familiarise French readers with English literature, and its American offshoots, M. Philarète Chasles enjoys probably the repute of pre-eminence; so diligent, so persevering, so minute, and so miscellaneous have been his researches into our literary doings, from Elizabethan days downwards. Seven years he spent on our shores, and made of them [seven years of

plenty; reaping large harvests of our native lore, and laying them up for the time to come.


In many a passage he sets about disabusing his countrymen of current fallacies on their part concerning English authors. He does it with a becoming consciousness of superior knowledge, of familiar acquaintance with our real claims and characteristics. Many persons in France," he says, "are still persuaded that Dr. Young is a great poet, and that there once lived a certain sublime bard of the name of Ossian." He can teach them a little better than that, and does so. Speaking of French translations of Shakspeare, after the Letourneur type, he says: "I assert that France, Italy, and Spain, who have read Shakspeare translated in this manner, have no knowledge of any two pages of Shakspeare." Again : "France," says he, compassionately, "reads Pamela' and drinks largely of Young. France is ignorant that Young made money by his tears, that he shared in the orgies of Mary Wortley Montague and of Wharton, and that he was the most mercenary of whining mendicants; or, again, that Richardson combined in his own person a great deal of the Tartufe with a little of the Avare. Generous and deluded France admires whatever comes from England." This misplaced generosity, this amiable delusion, M. Chasles has the means and the will to correct.

His critical remarks on our belles lettres extend over a wide surface. He has a good deal to say, and to the purpose, about Skelton, the satirical laureate of Henry VIII.about Shakspeare's predecessors, contemporaries, successors in the dramatic art; he passes sentence on Dryden and Nat Lee, on Swift, Sterne, Fielding, Walpole, and our eighteenth century literature in general, while most of the leading names of the nineteenth also pass under his review. With Sir Walter Scott he was personally acquainted, during his sojourn amongst us, and cordial though discriminating is his admiration of the great novelist-of his Shakspearian faculty of discovering vice latent in virtue, and of virtue in vice-his power of analysing and vivifying the characters at once of a fierce Balfour of Burley and a sublimely simple Jeannie Deans-his dispassionate views of diverse forms of life-his freedom from exaggeration, pretence, and rhapsody-his purity of moral tendency, his healthful, bracing freshness of thought and style. Byron he accounts the representative of the age's sufferings, vanity, bitterness, ennui, misery, impotent passion, aimless and hopeless violence, inappeasable discontent, morbid excitement followed by depression, and feverish irritability accompanied by disgust. "He was a coxcomb, haughty, vicious, pretentious, prejudiced, and bragging about some faults from which he was actually free; a dandy and a scoffer, capricious and resentful"—"a great man rather in point of style than of thought, a master in diction and colouring; like Rousseau, able to condense into one word that falls like a thunderbolt the power and anguish of emotion"-while his "morality" may be called the "résumé of Hume's and Bayle's; its only corollary, suicide." As Shakspeare had, as it were, summed up the middle ages, and announced modern analysis; as Molière had immortalised the good sense of the bourgeois classes; as Voltaire had represented the French

*"Du Génie de la Langue Anglaise."

† Ibid. § II. "Les Voyageurs Anglais dans les Salons de Paris."

mind, armed for the destruction of the olden world; so it was reserved for Byron to " express in sublime verses the mortal throes of civilisation, destroying itself, and struggling for new life from amid its own ruinsof passion, self-devouring and self-accursed-of social refinement aspiring to savage life-of Europe, proud of her past while abjuring it-of that despairing unbelief which fain would believe, and that impotent faith which becomes immersed anew in doubt."

Shelley and Keats are also treated of at some length, the latter with marked ability and fine critical insight. Professor Wilson (called by M. Chasles, Doctor Wilson, which is a mistake, and moreover Doctor Robert Wilson, which is another*) is pronounced neither the purest, nor the most concise, but certainly one of the most brilliant writers of the day: a less doubtful opinion than that Diderot and Jean Paul, Sterne and Charles Nodier seem to have contributed in forming his vari-coloured, sparkling, rapturous style. What Frenchman, some may ask, can pos sibly relish Christopher North? M. Chasles is no strait-laced Frenchman of the old régime, in his literary tastes; and he avows a genuine zest for this Scottish vieillard très-blanc et très-vert, and even for the wild work of criticism pursued in the Noctes. True, this dithyrambic and vagrant way of playing the critic is not, he allows, without its risks; but neither is the high and dry school. After all, he reminds his brethren, Diderot is the survivor of Fréron; Hazlitt and Coleridge are authorities, while the didactic writers of their age are ignored. "I prefer," he protests, "that crack-brained book of Cazotte's, or one line even

* M. Chasles we should doubt to be a Frenchman at all if he did not now and then make a slip in English orthography or onomatology. But, by comparison with others, he is on the whole singularly free from mistakes in this matter. His utmost errors generally extend no farther than the kind instanced above, where one of our glorious Johns is turned into a Doctor Bob-or than some slight alteration, addition, or omission of letters: thus Cowper is spelt Cooper, Spenser is Spencer, Jeffrey is Jeffreys (not always, however, though Southey, who called him Judge Jeffrey, would have loved to have it so), Collier is Collyer, Sir Thomas More is turned into Thomas Moore, Shaftesbury becomes Shaftsbury, &c. Two of James the Second's female victims on the Bloody Assize are called mistriss Lys and mistriss Grant, whom we have no great difficulty in recognising as Alice Lisle ("the Lady Álice") and Elizabeth Gaunt. Abraham Holmes too is turned into le major Holmer, and Percy Kirke into le colonel Kerk. But even trivial errors of this kind seldom occur; and of them some are perhaps imputable to the printer. But to those who, being familiar with Shakspeare, are further blessed with an ear, a memory, and a nervous system, it is disagreeable to find M. Chasles, when professedly quoting Gentle Willy's ipsissima verba, pervert

"With all my imperfections on my head"

into the sorry, scraggy ghost of the ghost's line,

"With all my sins on my head."

Nor do we relish M. Chasles's new reading of a celebrated saying of Dogberry's (by the way, a great favourite with M. Chasles, who expresses special admiration for ce magistrat subalterne, bon petit juge de paix, excellent homme, qui se nomme Dogberry; adding, of the man who would fain have been written down an ass, Il a deviné les antagonismes de Kant):-The phrase in question, as Shakspeare's countrymen read and relish it, is, "most tolerable and not to be endured:" but oh, what a falling off is there in M. Chasles's version!-"Le Dogberry de Shakspeare.... dirait, employant sa phrase ordinaire (!), qu'elle est most excellent and not to be endured." (L'Angleterre au XIXe siècle, p. 395.) As a zealous philologian, alone, we might have expected M. Chasles to catch at the "tolerable" and "not to be endured" of the original.

of that doctor Mathanasius, who is without common sense, to the stale and sterile seriousness of La Harpe." One of our critic's brethren in the craft, M. Ch. de Mazade, considers him to be in fact more than half an Englishman in his reflections, opinions, judgments, tastes, and modes of thought; all of which, he (the critic's critic) says, have been formed in England, adding that M. Chasles not only "abounds in English phrases and turns of speech," but is characterised by "that sort of taste compounded of the analytical and the imaginative" by which, in M. de Mazade's opinion, an essayist of London or Edinburgh may easily be recognised.

For his "Studies," literary and political, of England in the eighteenth century, M. Chasles disclaims any other title: they are not biographies, he says, nor pictures, but "Studies" only. In an age of greater simplicity he would have called them "Essays," or " Discourses:" but these titles he considers sacred to bygone ages, and to be reserved for such masters as a Machiavel, a Bacon, or a Montesquieu. The sketches collected under this head he may be thought to have arranged in a rather forced unity; his leading subject, for instance, the Earl of Shaftesbury, having died years before the eighteenth century opened, while Sir William Temple (another "study") missed it more narrowly (but then a miss is as good as a mile in space, and as a half-century in time), and

* In the volume on Men and Manners in the Nineteenth Century, M. Chasles dwells with interest on his early life in London, "in a little room near Hyde Park and Grosvenor-square." He recals with rapture the days passed on the banks of the Serpentine, with Byron's last poem, or Scott's new romance. The first balls at which he ever "assisted" were "those of Grosvenor-square." He formed acquaintance with several men of renown. Jeremy Bentham was one of them-"that La Fontaine among philosophers." M. Chasles was "touched by his evident sincerity, but dissatisfied with his doctrines, the offspring of ma. terialism and arithmetic." Coleridge (from Jerry to S. T. C.-what a transition!) was another: the young Frenchman pilgrimised to Highgate, and found the old man eloquent in the act of addressing a roomful, in a voice manly, mellow, musical: "the softened light of his gaze and the strong and rounded contours of his face recalled the physiognomy of Fox with more of tranquillity, that of Mirabeau with less of turbulence, and that of M. Berryer with a more abstract and dreamy cast. Like these three eminently gifted men, he possessed the power of sympathy, the orator's chiefest quality." S. T. C.'s discourse on this occasion included a learned and richly-coloured analysis of the dramatic poets of Greece. Anon he reviewed all the explanations offered by metaphysics of the problem of Life-expounding Hartley's vibratory theories (once his own), and treading with bold step on Berkley's enchanted ground; then again commenting (was Elia there?) on the fantastic Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle; quoting ore rotundo some choice passage from our old divines, and, with bowed head, from the Paradise of Dante. In subsequent interviews, Coleridge "condescended," says M. Chasles, "to point out to me, in several conversations which were at the same time monologues and dithyrambes, the capital features of his vast system." M. Chasles leaves him with the character of being "a sort of mystic Diderot"-"the Novalis of England."

To Charles Lamb our essayist was introduced by Valpy. On a June evening in 1818, Carlagnulus walked into Valpy's darksome study-"a swarthy elderly little man"-of whom "you could at first see nothing but the head, then a pair of large shoulders, then a delicate trunk (torse), and at last two legs fantastically thin, and indeed hardly perceptible. He had a green umbrella under his arm, and a very old hat came over his eyes." Le bon Lamb! "Intelligence, sweetness, melancholy, and gaiety, seemed to gush in torrents from his extraordinary countenance." Ce bon Lamb M. Chasles describes as a sort of La Bruyère, Addison, and Sterne-whom no Frenchman will, nor ought to attempt to, translate.

William III. only witnessed its first streaks of dawn. But M. Chasles regards Shaftesbury as the man whose hand indirectly formed and moulded our middle-class society in the eighteenth century. Shaftesbury he seems to consider blindly overlooked, or stupidly underrated, by our historians. Hume, Lingard, Hallam, he says, scarcely touch in their histories on the name of this mysterious state-craftsman: the name only occurs here and there in their pages, without explanation, and without relation to the events of which he was the animating spirit: as for Clarendon and Burnet, the former meets Shaftesbury only with the reproaches of an angered foe, the latter (a solemn blunderer) treats him well or ill, just as it suits the temper of his pen; and Rapin himself, though attached to Shaftesbury's party, by no means unravels all the manoeuvrings of his leader. M. Chasles endeavours to bring out the chancellor's figure in bolder relief; he dwells on his achievements as a political agitator, reformer, and conspirator; on his making of protestant Anglicanism the pivot of our national polity, and preparing the nation for the new representative system; the Test Act, the Exclusion Bill, the consolidated authority of the Grand Jury, the alliance of commercial interests with "Anglicanism," the powerful cohesion of the party which drove out James II., and gave victory to William III., and supported the new dynasty on the throne during a hundred and fifty years, these he traces directly to Ashley Cooper, the man who secured for his country the boon of Habeas corpus, who continued the work of Cromwell, and prepared the work of William III.,-Cromwell having sketched its outlines in the midst of public storms, and William completing it in the cabinet and on the field of battle.

In the brief survey of Sir William Temple is to be noticed a protest against the notion, that literary genius involves and implies practical or public talent. Mr. Carlyle proposes Burns as Great Britain's best possible premier. Napoleon himself declared that he would have made Corneille a minister of state, had the grand old Pierre lived under the Consulate and the Empire. Now, M. Chasles bids us examine literary genius under some of its ascertained practical aspects; to observe, for example, Dante, who, transported with wrath and revenge, can only curse, not conspire; Machiavelli, who, a consummate master of every kind of ruse, cannot hit upon one to procure him bread to eat; Bacon, who could give such admirable advice to James I., but allowed himself to be convicted of peculation; Shakspeare, who, after making his fortune in town, did not so much as become alderman or mayor of his own native Stratford; and Corneille, without a crown piece in his old age, and getting his stockings mended at the corner of a street. Whatever we may think of the felicity or appropriateness of M. Chasles' illustrations, his argument deserves a nota bene, in these latter days, and by readers of latter-day pamphlets. In the foregoing names he recognises intelligences which had absorbed in meditation the capacity of active life, whose thinking powers had usurped every other human faculty, noble existences whose very superiority was prejudicial to their secular interests, like those over-subtle gases employed by science, but which our lungs do not inhale. "I can fancy Corneille made Bonaparte's minister! What a pretty number of mistakes, oversights, scruples, distractions! The Emperor would have been glad to exchange him for the lowest of his clerks, upon whom he could depend Aug.-VOL. CIV. NO. CCCCXVI.

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