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history which does not mingle thought and philosophy with ardour and description.
La pensée philosophique," says he, “employée avec sobrieté n'est-elle pas nécessaire pour donner à l'histoire sa gravité, pour lui faire prononcer les arrêts qui sont du ressort de son dernier et suprême tribunal ? Au degré de civilization où nous sommes arrivés l'histoire de l'espéce peut-elle disparaitre entièrement de l'histoire de l'individu. Les vérités, éternelles bases de la societé humaine, doivent-elles se perdre dans des tableaux qui ne representent que des mœurs privées.”
"On the other hand," he continues, "history as a work is not a work of philosophy-it is a picture. We must join to our narrative the representation of the objects of which we speak, i. c. we must design and paint. We must give to our personages the language, the sentiments of their time, and not regard them through the medium of our own opinions and ideas, a fault which has been the principal cause of those distortions of facts which have disfigured history."—" Si prenant pour régle ce que nous croyons de la liberté, de l'egalité de la religion, de tous les principes poli-. tiques, nous appliquons cette régle a l'ancien ordre de choses nous fausons la verité; nous exigeons des hommes vivant dans cet ordre de choses ce dont ils n'avaient pas l'idée. Rien n'etait si mal que nous le pensons le prêtre, le noble, le bourgeois, le vassal, avaient d'autres notions du juste et de l'injuste que les nôtres; c'etait un autre monde, un monde sans doute moins rapproché des principes généraux naturels que le monde présent, mais qui ne manquait ni de grandeur ni de force, témoin ses actes et sa durée." Nothing, I think, can be more true, more just than the ideas which are here expressed, or than the principles which are here laid down,
The historian, to be perfect, should show at once the peculiarities and costume of each separate epoch, and the common feelings and the common passions of all epochs. He should paint the man of the thirteenth century, the man of the nineteenth, he should know
that each were men under different circumstances, but possessing similar propensities; he should show what is nature, what is her costume-her costume that ever varies—her naked figure, which is always the same. My object, however, is not to write a general criticism upon history, nor even a general criticism upon the present historians of France, for I find that I have already outstepped my limits, and that I have said nothing of M. Girardin, nothing of M. Michelet,* nothing of M. St. Aulaire, and his interesting picture of a time so interesting in the annals of France, so replete with the grace and the energy of the French character, só remarkable for uniting the chivalry of an age gone by with the grace of an age advancing. My object has simply been to show that history in France is in a new school-that the modern French historian follows the example of the great old French novelist and comedian and like Le Sage and Molière, attempts rather to paint than to explain. Why is this? Authors, since authors have mixed with mankind, have been modelled more or less by their public. The historian's public in the eighteenth century was, as I have said, a public of would-be philosophers and agreeable fine 'gentlemen; and the historian went trippingly along, now lecturing the one class, now chatting with the other. The historical style of the nineteenth century is different from the historical style of the eighteenth; but the historian's manner has not changed more than his readers have changed. He was formerly read by a clique-he is now read by a country.
It is not only that more men read now than they used to do this has not increased the number of those who disturb the dusty volumes in the royal library that treat of astrology and magic-it is not only that more men read than they used to do, but that more men read history--that more men naturally feel an interest in historical composition.
* I ought also, in that case, to have mentioned the very interesting narrative of Charles Edward, by M. A. Rihot, an author who is the more deserving of praise from an English critic as being the first French critic who introduced modern English literature into France.
History is in fact not interesting far beyond the pale of those whose actions make history, and whose fortunes are affected by it. History would not be widely interesting in a country where the great mass of the people were slaves and mendicants, without honours to gain or property to lose. History would be widely interesting in a country where the great bulk of the people were proprietors, and where there was no post in the state which every citizen might not reasonably hope to obtain. In the one case it is an idle speculation to be studied from curiosity; in the other it is a practical lesson to be looked to for examples. With the general diffusion of honours, of employments, and more especially with the general diffusion of property, on which the diffusion of honours and employments mainly depends, has been diffused the interest of history.
The small herd of encyclopædists and courtiers, who once listened to the historian, are now cut up, as it were, into an immense crowd of journalists, shopkeepers, soldiers, and mechanics.
This division and diffusion of property, bringing up a fresh class of feelings upon the surface of Franceinverting the usual order of events-creating a new society when we might have been looking to the mature caducity of an old one-turning an aristocracy of readers into a democracy of readers-has made the historian a popular orator where he was formerly a wit and a metaphysician. Addressing a more numerous, a more impassioned, a less reasoning class of readers than his predecessor, he has assumed a more vehement, a more impassioned, a more powerful style of writing.
Have spoken of History-Speak of the Drama-But one step from Racine to Victor Hugo and M. A. Dumas-" Hernani"-Proceed to "Lucrèce Borgia.'
I HAVE Spoken of history, that branch of French literature the least known to us, and in which the French of the modern day have most succeeded. I would now speak of the drama, that branch of French literature which we have most criticised, and in which the later successes of the French have been most disputed.
There are but two epochs in the French drama. Louis XIV. was on the throne, and in the declining shadow of one man* you yet saw the feudal vigour of the Fronde, and in the rising genius of another† you caught the first colouring of that royal pomp, of that Augustan majesty which reigns in the verse of Virgil and the buildings of Versailles. And all things were then stamped with the great kingly seal. The orator was in the chair what the writer was on the stage. This was a great period of the human mind, and since this period to our own, tragedy has taken but one giant stride. The genius which governed the theatre stood unappalled when the genius which had founded the throne lay prostrate. The reign of Robespierre did not disturb the rule of Racine. The republican Chenier, erect and firm before the tyranny of Bonaparte, bowed before the tyranny of the academy; the translations of Ducis were a homage to the genius of Shakspeare, but no change in the dramatic art.
In M. Delavigne you see the old school modernized, but it is the old school. I pass by M. de Vigny,‡ who
More known for his very remarkable romance, "Cinq Mars,” and the publication of Stello.
has written La Maréchale d'Ancre ;* I pass by M. Sou lier, who has written Clotilde;† I pass by the followers to arrive at the chiefs of the new drama, M. V. Hugot and M. A. Dumas,§ two young men-two rivals,
The plot of "La Maréchale d'Ancre," a title taken from the well known favourite of Mary de Medicis, turns upon passion which this lady smothers for a Corsican adventurer, the bitter enemy of Concini, her husband; the love of Concini for this Corsican's wife, whose name he is ignorant of; and the divided feelings of the Corsican himself, who at once hates and pursues Concini, and loves and relents when he thinks of Concini's wife. Another passion also works in the drama-the jealousy of the Corsican's wife, who finds out that her husband is in love with the maréchale, and appears in consequence as evidence against her on her trial for sorcery and witchcraft. This play, which falsifies history in making its heroine, the maréchale, beautiful and amiable, which is just what she was not, is written nevertheless with great spirit, and contains some very eloquent passages and powerful situations.
This is the subject of "Clotilde:" Christian, an adventurer, is to marry her on such a day, and receive with her a large fortune; but in order to do this he must show himself to be the possessor of a certain sum. To obtain this sum, he murders the Jew who would not lend it him. Clotilde, however, who is passionately attached to him, quits her father's house at the very time he commits this murder, in order to live with him even as his mistress; this she rather inexplicably continues to do after the murder has been committed. At last Christian, who is about as great a rascal as one could desire to meet, determines on marrying an intriguante who can make him secretary of embassy, and quitting Clotilde. Clotilde, in despair at this treachery, and acquainted by his dreams with the crime of Christian, informs against him. He is condemned to death. She is in despair, and forces her way into the prison to see him. "What have you brought me?" says Christian. "Poison," says Clotilde; and they poison themselves together. The play is full of absurdities, but powerfully written.
The father of M. Victor Hugo was a general. One of his relations of the same name still holds the same rank, and commands in one of the departments. In his early days his opinions were directly opposed to those he has since and now professes. On leaving college, he and his brother published a small newspaper of the same opinions as the "Censor;" it existed but a very short time. M. V. Hugo next published a novel which he had written while at college; afterward a variety of odes appeared, on the Virgins of Verdun, on La Vendée, on the death of Louis XVII., on the death of the Duc de Berry, on the baptism of the Duc de Bordeaux, and on the death of Louis XVIII., and also one on Napoleon.
M. Victor Hugo received a pension from Louis XVIII. Charles X. wished to increase this pension; M. V. Hugo, in a letter which I have seen, honourably refused this addition.
M. Dumas, the son of a general also, has written his own life, as a portrait taken from the gallery of "young France." This life is too interesting to be crowded into a note, and I hope to have another opportunity of alluding to it. Coming up to Paris to make his for