« ForrigeFortsæt »
wanting in the great cynic of the sixteenth century. He calls him the poet humorist, the child romancist, the somnambulist musician of our age.
Goethe he regards as one who, generous in youth, suffered in genius as well as character from that religion of Self, and that more than pagan doctrine of pantheistic indifference and impassible calm, which grew upon him in middle life and old age. A Voltaire in tone and influence-but not so militant, violent, litigious as the Frenchman-more fruitful in ideas, and with higher power to organise them-less sectarian and prejudiced. "Voltaire belonged to an age of fightings and destruction. Goethe came immediately after, on the border of a more reasonable age, an age less passionate, more desirous of moderation and peace, rather enamoured of the impartial than susceptible to the fanatical."+ Goethe is emphatically the artist-universal artist, plastic creator, working as artist (Torns), in the noblest sense of the word, with the elements presented by life and the world:-a poet-philosopher, artist-observer, synthetic-analyst; the first, alike in date and genius, of the pantheistic poets of modern Europe.
Spain has furnished M. Chasles (and us through him) with some pleasant occupation. He shows how the Spanish genius all at once usurped an exclusive empire at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and was propagated in France by a few reputable initiateurs, such as the minister Antonio Perez at the court of Henry IV., and the poet Marino at the Hôtel de Rambouillet. Marino is delineated with care and particularity; a personage challenging interest in France, as the once lion of the Rambouillet coterie, and indeed called by M. Chasles the "literary dictator of Europe," filling the same "brilliant place that Voltaire and Goethe were to occupy at a later day:" his writings making up a heterodox medley of the languishing voluptuousness of Venice and the Arabian inventiveness of Spain; joining a click-clack of words to sonorous phraseology, and extravagant similes to subtle conceits; but redeeming all these faults by an extraordinary clearness of diction, and a strange fertility of imagination. Frivolity, says the critic, is the character, the stigma of Marino's writings; he is a poetical trifler, without truce or limit to his trifling, without passion or elevation, seriousness or grandeur. But he is shown to have communicated a twofold impulse
Nor is Richter's irony, so fresh and free-hearted, akin to that of Swift and Voltaire. "If we followed out to the end the logical chain of their ideas, if we believed blindly in Voltaire and Swift, who show us the world as a prison filled with slaves who are killing one another, there is but one course we could take : namely, to get away with all possible haste from such a den of robbers. To no such despair does Richter's satire drive us. He, in his child-like, lyrical animation, sees man in multiform aspects; he sees in him angel and fiend, idiot and genius, worm of the earth and bright intelligence, object of pity and of laughter; he bids you weep for him, rally him, compassionate him, despise him, pardon him. In this respect, Richter approaches near to Cervantes: with both there is an absence of scorn and of hatred, an abundance of smiles and tears; the gaiety of both springs from an ingenuous sensibility. Never suppose they scorn their heroes; they love them tenderly; in their mockery is a mixture of pity and grief."-CHASLES: Etudes sur l'Allemagne. ("Le Lyrisme dans le Roman," § IV.)
† Ibid. "Goethe," § III.
"Lævis præter fidem sermo.”—Pallavicini.
to the authors of France. In his time, one party, consisting of Cyrano, Balzac, Scarron and Rotrou, &c., inclined to an imitation of the Spanish; another, headed by Voiture and Durfé, preferred Italian models both, then, were fain to allow authority to a poet who, like Marino, was Italian and Spaniard in one.
A noticeable section of the same volume concerns the comico-romantic adventures of Gozzi, who, towards the close of last century, managed to revive for a season this style of drama, half Spanish, half Venetian. His life is as curious as his works; and they are of a kind which Italy no longer relishes, and the memory of which, says M. Chasles, is fostered by Germany alone, that country ever enamoured of the fantastic; as in fact it is the dramatic tales of Gozzi, full of faëry and adventures, which served to inspire Tieck, Hoffmann, Lenz, and the whole school of Goethe, in their productions of a similar kind.
The "Studies" illustrative of life and literature in early and medieval Christendom, combine the results of much hard reading with the attractions of a picturesque style. A surprising amount of information is often conveyed in a narrow compass, and in the easiest way; insomuch that some readers of the lighter sort may incline to flatter themselves that there is, after all, a royal road to learning, and that they are travelling by it, right royally. In a note to his essay, entitled "The Interior of Guttemberg's Workshop," the last in the series, M. Chasles remarks that it "would require a volume to establish all the facts and all the assertions" of his text. The remark applies to most of the other essays, and is indeed a main characteristic of his authorship, which is distinguished by tact in summing up, in presenting a clear digest of multifarious topics, a lucid compendium of widely-ranging details. It applies to the review of Josephus-whom M. Chasles, considerably to our satisfaction, regards as an unprincipled knave, a selfish parasite, a heartless renegade; and treats accordingly. It applies to the notices of St. Cyprian, St. Jerome, and Sidonius Apollinarius,—to the historical survey of the Lower Empire, the claims of which to modern respect and gratitude are shown to have been unjustly depreciated,-and to the essays on the influence of Aristotle, the rise of the Christian drama and the modern romance, the career and writings of Dante, and the character of Neo-Platonism in its Italian development. It will apply moreover to the leading chapters devoted to ancient Greece and Rome; particularly to the preliminary essay on the phases of literary history and the intellectual influences of race; and in various degrees, to the sketches of Euripides, the character and influence of Cicero, Virgil, his life, genius, and translators, Woman in ancient Greece, &c.,-the last including an excursus in honour of Hypatia, whom M. Chasles styles an Alexandrian Madame de Staël, and the vain, pretentious Anna Comnena.
But it is time to close these hasty notes on our lively and suggestive essayist. One of our Quarterlies has called him a tedious writer, who can't find time to write with brevity and point. This will hardly occur to nine readers out of ten as an accurate report of his style. That style is vivacious, spirited, eminently French. It is that of a man who would rather be daring* than dull, flighty than ponderous, paradoxical than
* Rather daring, and eminently French, is such a passage as: "Jamais le poëte par excellence, Dieu qui," &c.-Jeunesse, &c., de Marie Stuart, p. 81.
common-place. He is fond of a dashing epithet, a graphic simile, a bold comparison. Burke he calls the Peter the Hermit of a new crusade against republican France. He descries a sort of Talleyrand bourgeois in that Franklin "whom Europe accounted a new Spartacus." Locke he calls the Sieyès, Shaftesbury the Mirabeau, of their time. Richardson's Lovelace he dubs the " Satan of private life,”—and the Grandison novel " a kind of Imitation of Jesus Christ' for the use of Gentlemen." Knox, attacking Mary Stuart from the pulpit, is a Bossuet-Marat. Shakspeare is a Molière-Eschylus. Johnson is " a walking dictionary, a moralist in folio." Shelley "a dithyrambic Spinozist." And so on. Knowles's play," The Wife," reminds him of one of Boucher's pictures, where you make no complaint of the trees being painted sky-blue and the cottages violet to correspond ;-it is a fiction embroidered upon silk, and passingly well shaded. Panurge, Pantagruel, and Gargantua, making sport, "in their colossal facetiousness," remind him of a herd of seals at play in the North Sea. The Rockinghams and Butes whom he reads of in Horace Walpole, remind him of a select society of mummies, enveloped in their old intrigues as if in faded wrappings which exhale, as one unrolls them, a churchyard odour. Shakspeare's marvellous skill to turn to account any subject he took in hand, reminds him of that Spanish painter, taken prisoner by the Moors, who, having neither marble to cut nor Madonna to worship, withdrew a billet from his hearth, and made of it a Blessed Virgin-Etc., ejusdem generis.
M. Chasles is not what is emphatically styled a reflective writerwhich, in the view of the commonalty, is often synonymous with a proser, twaddler, and sermoniser extraordinary. But though he does not stop by the way to indulge in long intervals of " reflection," he does reflect as he goes along, and occasionally drops a fragment of thought en passant, which you may stoop to pick up without prejudice to the " cause of progress." With two or three specimens of the manner of them, we wind up our accounts, but too irregularly kept, for the present month.
"The finest book in the world is but an incomplete fragment of human thought, a confused reflection of the man who conceived it. It is like the ruin of a ruin."†
Again: "The greater a man's superiority, the more are the difficulties presented to the vulgar eye by the complexity and eccentricity to which this very superiority gives rise. Manners and outward appearance are a criterion of character to a few experienced observers only; they are frequently more awkward, weak, and ridiculous in the superior man than in the common-place one. You might have lived with Cervantes, Molière, or Montesquieu, without a suspicion that it was Montesquieu, Molière, or Cervantes you were with."‡
Again: Nothing can be more childish than to discuss the abstract merit of aristocracy or of monarchy; it were as much worth while to dis
* Lovelace he elsewhere describes as less a man of the world, or brilliant rake, than a systematic seducer: "a Cromwell playing the part of Lauzun; a Mephistopheles turned into a Faublas."-Etudes Politiques.
Les Voyageurs Anglais, &c. § V.
cuss the abstract merit of costume in different latitudes. They are worth much or little, according to the climate."*
Study with attention every great social era, and you will invariably observe, on the one side, a parent idea, a dominant thought which mingles with all other ideas, circulates like the blood in the veins of society, animates it with its own life, and impels a general movement; on the other, a constant opposition fated to counterbalance this dominating influence and to restore an equilibrium ;—a law of reaction, inevitable and everlasting. Now-a-days that society has chosen utility for its foundation, the marvellous begins to resume its rights. When debased Rome came to dream only of luxury and debauchery, stoicism proclaimed its austere doctrines. Petronius and Thraseas were contemporaries."t
An ingenious and instructive comparison of the lives and writings of the Italian Folengo (Merlin Coccaïe, A.D. 1491-1544), the French Rabelais, and our English Skelton, suggests the reflection, that "in history, as in the case of literary studies, synchronism alone can substitute light for darkness; this comparative anatomy of national literatures dissipates all obscurities. What appeared isolated, unexpected, and without assignable cause, then becomes natural, necessary, and general. No longer have we to do with phenomena without antecedents and without correlatives, but with a body of facts which harmonise in one great system and explain its extent and its tendency."+
"I am unfortunate enough," says M. Chasles, on occasion of the death of Giovanno de' Medicis, "not to see the least proof of virtue or genius in the esteem, the tears, the affection, the regrets of men. Nero was as much deplored as Marcus Aurelius. Cartouche was deeply bewailed by his brigands. The brigands of the Grand Diable (G. de' Medicis) lamented the Grand Diable."§
Again: "Restored monarchs have always in history a false and equivocal look, whatever may be their spirit and address. A restoration is generally brought out by little except the enthusiasm of very weariness, and repentance for having purchased a trifling advantage at a serious loss. Can anything be more sad than the acclamation of a people addressing its prince: Take me again; I am tired of governing myself; this trade of yours knocks me up'?"||
Remarking that posterity has overlooked the cruelties of Augustus, because Virgil has given him a place among the stars,-and that the frailties of Louis XIV. have been dignified by the verses of Boileau, and the follies of Francis I. transformed to our eye by Margaret and Marot,—and the crimes of the Medicis forgotten in the éloges showered on them by Bembo, Pulci, Politian, and their fellows, M. Chasles apostrophises principalities and powers: "Beware of embroiling your selves with the masters of the pen and the pencil, O ye who govern the world; your success may depend upon yourselves, or upon circumstances; your renown depends upon them alone."¶
*De l'Histoire d'Angleterre. § V.
"Le Comte de Shaftesbury." § III.
+ Ibid. § V.
De l'Histoire d'Angleterre et de quelques Historiens Anglais. § III.
(CONTINUED FROM "THE RECEPTION OF THE DEAD.")
BY THE AUTHOR OF “THE UNHOLY WISH.”
You could see at a first glance that it was only a temporary bedchamber-a drawing-room converted into one, to serve some special occasion. Its carpet was of superior richness, for France; its chairs and sofa, handsomely carved, were covered with embossed purple velvet; its windowcurtains, of white flowered muslin, were surmounted by purple velvet and glittering yellow cornices; and fine paintings adorned the walls. The bed alone seemed out of place. It was of plain mahogany, a French bed, without curtains, and was placed in the corner which made the angle between the two doors, one of which opened on the corridor, the other on the adjoining room, a large, magnificent drawing-room, furnished en suite with the one in which the bed was.
On a couch, drawn before the fire, lay a young girl, once of great beauty, but now fallen away, white, and wasted. She panted for breath as she lay, and was evidently very near the grave. You need not be told -for you have met her before-that it was Adeline de Castella. Her dark brown eyes, still retaining the sweet, mournful expression which had ever characterised them, were fixed on the fire with an earnest, unchanging gaze, proving her to be deep in thought. The sick-nurse sat near the sofa, and Louise, the lady's maid, was busying herself, altering the position of the pillows of the bed.
"What's gone with the other pillow?" she called out.
"It's under mademoiselle," replied the nurse. "You can't have it
till she's moved into bed."
"I think I will go now, nurse," interrupted Adeline. "I am tired, and you have heaped so many things upon me that I feel smothered. The fire is very fierce."
"Shall I move the sofa further away, mademoiselle?"
"No," replied Adeline, "get me into bed. It is near seven.'
The nurse called Louise to assist her, and whilst they were removing her sitting-up clothes, Adeline suddenly fell back, apparently without life
"She has fainted," screamed Louise.
"She is taken for death," whispered the nurse.
Louise flew into a fit of anger and tears, abusing the nurse for her hard-hearted ideas. But the nurse was right.
"You had better summon the family, Mademoiselle Louise," persisted the nurse," and let the doctors be sent to. Though they can do nothing for her, poor young lady."
"She has not fainted," whispered Louise. "She is conscious." "No, no, it is no fainting-fit," was the brief answer. "I have seen more of these things than you have. She will rally a little, I dare say." No one went to bed that night at Signor de Castella's : it was a general scene of weeping, suspense, and agitation. All the family gathered at intervals in the drawing-room, and Mary Carr says that, to this hour, the