Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 9, No. 54, April, 1862
Part 5 out of 5
An' votin' we're prosp'rous a hundred times over
Wun't change bein' starved into livin' on clover.
Manassas done sunthin' tow'rds drawin' the wool
O'er the green, anti-slavery eyes o' John Bull:
Oh, _warn't_ it a godsend, jes' when sech tight fixes
Wuz crowdin' us mourners, to throw double-sixes!
I wuz tempted to think, an' it wuzn't no wonder,
Ther' wuz reelly a Providence,--over or under,--
When, all packed for Nashville, I fust ascertained
From the papers up North wut a victory we'd gained,
'T wuz the time for diffusin' correc' views abroad
Of our union an' strength an' relyin' on God;
An', fact, when I'd gut thru my fust big surprise,
I much ez half b'lieved in my own tallest lies,
An' conveyed the idee thet the whole Southun popperlace
Wuz Spartans all on the keen jump for Thermopperlies,
Thet set on the Lincolnites' bombs till they bust,
An' fight for the priv'lege o' dyin' the fust;
But Roanoke, Bufort, Millspring, an' the rest
Of our recent starn-foremost successes out West,
Hain't left us a foot for our swellin' to stand on,--
We've showed _too_ much o' wut Buregard calls _abandon_,
For all our Thermopperlies (an' it's a marcy
We hain't hed no more) hev ben clean vicy-varsy,
An' wut Spartans wuz lef' when the battle wuz done
Wuz them thet wuz too unambitious to run.
Oh, ef we hed on'y jes' gut Reecognition,
Things now would ha' ben in a different position!
You'd ha' hed all you wanted: the paper blockade
Smashed up into toothpicks,--unlimited trade
In the one thing thet's needfle, till niggers, I swow,
Hed ben thicker 'n provisional shinplasters now,--
Quinine by the ton 'ginst the shakes when they seize ye,--
Nice paper to coin into C.S.A. specie;
The voice of the driver'd be heerd in our land,
An' the univarse scringe, ef we lifted our hand:
Wouldn't _thet_ be some like a fulfillin' the prophecies,
With all the fus' fem'lies in all the best offices?
'T wuz a beautiful dream, an' all sorrer is idle,--
But _ef_ Lincoln _would_ ha' hanged Mason an' Slidell!
They ain't o' no good in European pellices,
But think wut a help they'd ha' ben on their gallowses!
They'd ha' felt they wuz truly fulfillin' their mission,
An', oh, how dog-cheap we'd ha' gut Reecognition!
But somehow another, wutever we've tried,
Though the the'ry's fust-rate, the facs _wun't_ coincide:
Facs are contrary 'z mules, an' ez hard in the mouth,
An' they allus hev showed a mean spite to the South.
Sech bein' the case, we hed best look about
For some kin' o' way to slip _our_ necks out:
Le''s vote our las' dollar, ef one can be found,
(An', at any rate, votin' it hez a good sound,)--
Le''s swear thet to arms all our people is flyin',
(The critters can't read, an' wun't know how we're lyin',)--
Thet Toombs is advancin' to sack Cincinnater,
With a rovin' commission to pillage an' slarter,--
Thet we've throwed to the winds all regard for wut's lawfle,
An' gone in for sunthin' promiscu'sly awfle.
Ye see, hitherto, it's our own knaves an' fools
Thet we've used,--those for whetstones, an't' others ez tools,--
An' now our las' chance is in puttin' to test
The same kin' o' cattle up North an' out West.
I----But, Gennlemen, here's a despatch jes' come in
Which shows thet the tide's begun turnin' agin,--
Gret Cornfedrit success! C'lumbus eevacooated!
I mus' run down an' hev the thing properly stated,
An' show wut a triumph it is, an' how lucky
To fin'lly git red o' thet cussed Kentucky,--
An' how, sence Fort Donelson, winnin' the day
Consists in triumphantly gittin' away.
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
_The Sisters, Inisfail, and other Poems._ By AUBREY DE VERE. London.
Whatever Mr. De Vere writes is welcomed by a select audience. Not taking
rank among the great masters of English poetry, he yet possesses a
genuine poetic faculty which distinguishes him from "the small harpers
with their glees" who counterfeit the true gift of Nature. In refined
and delicate sensibility, in purity of feeling, in elevation of tone,
there is no English writer of verse at the present day who surpasses
him. The fine instinct of a poet is united in him with the cultivated
taste of a scholar. There is nothing forced or spasmodic in his verse;
it is the true expression of character disciplined by thought and study,
of fancy quickened by ready sympathies, of feeling deepened and calmed
by faith. As is the case with most English poets since Wordsworth, he
invests the impressions received from the various aspects of Nature with
moral associations, and with fine spiritual insight he seeks out the
inner meaning of the external life of the earth. No one describes more
truthfully than he those transient beauties of Nature which in their
briefness and their exquisite variety of change elude the coarse grasp
of the common observer, and too frequently pass half unnoticed and
unfelt even by those whose temperament is susceptive of their inspiring
influences, but whose thoughts are occupied with the cares and business
of living. But it is especially as the poet of Ireland, and of the Roman
Church, that Mr. De Vere presents himself to us in this last volume;
and while, consequently, the subject and treatment of many of the poems
contained in it give to them a special rather than a universal interest,
the patriotic spirit and the fervor of faith manifest in them appeal
powerfully to the sympathies of readers in other countries and of other
creeds. "'Inisfail' may be regarded as a sort of National Chronicle,
cast in a form partly lyrical, partly narrative.... Its aim is to record
the past alone, and that chiefly as its chances might have been sung by
those old bards, who, consciously or unconsciously, uttered the voice
which comes from a people's heart." In this attempt Mr. De Vere has had
an uncommon measure of success. The strings of the Irish harp sound with
the cadences of fitting harmonies under his hand, as he sings of the
sorrows and the joys of Ireland, of the wild storms and the rare
sunshine of her pathetic history,--as he denounces vengeance on her
oppressors, or blesses the saints and the heroes who have made the land
dear and beautiful to its children. The key-note of the series of poems
which form this poetic chronicle is struck in the fine verses with which
it begins, entitled "History," and of which our space allows us to quote
but the opening stanza:--
"At my casement I sat by night, while the wind far off in dark valleys
Voluminous gathered and grew, and waxing swelled to a gale;
An hour I heard it, or more, ere yet it sobbed on my lattice:
Far off, 't was a People's moan; hard by, but a widow's wail.
Atoms we are, we men: of the myriad sorrow around us
Our littleness little grasps; and the selfish in that have no part:
Yet time with the measureless chain of a world-wide mourning hath
History but counts the drops as they fall from a Nation's heart."
One of the most vigorous poems in the volume is that called "The Bard
Ethell," and which represents this bard of the thirteenth century
telling in his old age of himself and his country, of his memories, and
of the wrongs that he and his land had alike suffered:--
"I am Ethell, the son of Conn;
Here I live at the foot of the hill;
I am clansman to Brian, and servant to none;
Whom I hated, I hate; whom I loved, love still."
Here is a passage from near the end of this poem:--
"Ah me, that man who is made of dust
Should have pride toward God! 'T is an angel's sin!
I have often feared lest God, the All-Just,
Should bend from heaven and sweep earth clean,
Should sweep us all into corners and holes,
Like dust of the house-floor, both bodies and
I have often feared He would send some
In wrath, and the nation wake up stone-blind!
In age or youth we have all wrought ill."
But a large part of the volume before us is made up of poems that do not
belong to this Irish series, and the readers of the "Atlantic" will find
in it several pieces which they will recognize with pleasure as having
first appeared in our own pages, and which, once read, were not to be
readily forgotten. Mr. De Vere has expressed in several passages his
warm sympathy in our national affairs, and his clear appreciation of
the great cause, so little understood abroad, which we of the North are
engaged in upholding and maintaining. And although in these days of war
there is little reading of poetry, and little chance that this volume
will find the welcome it deserves and would receive in quieter times in
America, we yet trust that it will meet with worthy readers among those
who possess their souls in quietness in the midst of the noise of arms,
and to such we heartily commend it.
_A Book about Doctors_. By J. CORDY JEAFFRESON, Author of "Novels and
Novelists," "Crewe Else," etc., etc. New York: Rudd & Carleton. 12mo.
Mr. Jeaffreson is not usually either a brilliant or a sensible man with
pen in hand, albeit he dates from "Rolls Chambers, Chancery Lane." He is
apt to select slow coaches, whenever he attempts a ride. His "Novels
and Novelists" is a sad move in the "deadly lively" direction, and his
"Crewe Rise" has not risen to much distinction among the reading crew.
In those volumes of departed rubbish he sinks very low, whenever he
essays to mount; but his dulness is innoxious, for few there be who can
say, "We have read him." His "Book about Doctors" is the best literary
venture he has yet made. It is not a dull volume. The anecdotes so
industriously collected keep attention alert, and one feels inclined to
applaud Mr. Jeaffreson as the leaves of his book are turned.
Everything about Doctors is interesting. Here are a few Bible verses
which it will do no harm to quote in connection with Mr. Jeaffreson's
"Honor a physician with the honor due
unto him for the uses which you have made
of him: for the Lord hath created him."
"For of the Most High cometh healing, and
he shall receive honor of the king."
"The skill of the physician shall lift up his
head; and in the sight of great men he shall
be in admiration."
"The Lord hath created medicines out of
the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor
It was no unwise thing in Mr. Jeaffreson to bring so many noble men
together, as it were into one family. What "names embalmed" one meets
with in the collection! Here are Sydenham, Goldsmith, Smollett, Sir
Thomas Browne, and a golden line of other Doctors, nearly all the
way down to our own time. (Our well-beloved M.D. [Monthly Diamond]
contributor is too young to be included.) Keats is among the worthies,
although he got no farther into the mysteries than the apothecary's
counter. Meeting with this interesting series of splendid medicine-men
leads us to muse a good deal about the Faculty, and to re-read several
good anecdotes about the great symptom-watchers of the past and the
When Sir Richard Blackmore asked the great Sydenham, "Prince of English
physicians," what he would advise him for medical reading, he is said to
have replied, "Read Don Quixote, Sir." Sensible and witty old man!
We are struck with the cheerful character of nearly all the M.D.s
mentioned in the volume, and are constantly reminded of the advice we
once read of an old Doctor to a young one:--"Moreover, let me tell you,
my young doctor friend, that a cheerful face, and step, and neckcloth,
and button-hole, and an occasional hearty and kindly joke, a power of
executing and setting a-going a good laugh, are stock in our trade not
to be despised."
"I may give an instance," says the same good-natured physician, "when
a joke was more and better than itself. A comely young wife, the
'cynosure' of her circle, was in bed, apparently dying from swelling and
inflammation of the throat, an inaccessible abscess stopping the way;
she could swallow nothing; everything had been tried. Her friends were
standing round the bed in misery and helplessness. '_Try her wi' a
compliment_,' said her husband, in a not uncomic despair. She had
genuine humor, as well as he; and an physiologists know, there is a sort
of mental tickling which is beyond and above control, being under the
reflex system, and instinctive as well as sighing. She laughed with her
whole body, and burst the abscess, and was well."
Mr. Jeaffreson's book might be better, but it might be worse. We cannot
forgive him for his "Novels and Novelists" and his "Crewe Rise," two
works which go far to prove their author a person of indefatigable
incoherency; but we thank him for the industry which brought together so
much that is very readable about Doctors.
_John Brent_. By THEODORE WINTHROP, Author of "Cecil Dreeme." Boston:
Ticknor & Fields. 16mo.
It is probable that we have not yet completely appreciated the value
of the bright and noble life which a wretched Rebel sharp-shooter
extinguished in the disastrous fight of Great Bethel. "John Brent" is
a book which gives us important aid in the attempt to form an adequate
conception of Winthrop's character. Its vivid pages shine throughout
with the author's brave and tender spirit. "Cecil Dreeme" was an
embodiment of his thoughts, observations, and imaginations; "John Brent"
shows us the inbred poetry and romance of the man in the grander form of
action. The scene is placed in the wild Western plains of America, among
men entirely free from the restraints of conventional life; and the
book has a buoyancy and brisk vitality, a dashing, daring, and jubilant
vigor, such as we are not accustomed to in ordinary romances of American
life. Sir Philip Sidney is the type of the Anglo-Saxon hero; but we
think that Winthrop was fully his match in delicacy and intrepidity, in
manly courage, and in sweet, instinctive tenderness. As to style, the
American far exceeds the Englishman. A certain conventional artifice and
dainty affectation clouded the clear and beautiful nature of Sidney,
when he wrote. The elaborate embroidery of thought, the stiff and
cumbrous Elizabethan _dress_ of language, with all its ruffles and
laces, make the "Arcadia" an imperfect exponent of Sidney's nature.
His intense thoughts, delicate emotions, and burning passions are half
concealed in the form he adopts for their expression. But Winthrop is as
fresh, natural, strong, and direct in his language as in his life.
He used words, not for ornament, but for expression. Every phrase is
stamped by a die supplied by reflection or feeling, and not a paragraph
in "John Brent" differs in spirit from the practical heroism which urged
the author to expose himself to certain death at Great Bethel. The
condensed, lucid, picturesque, and sharp-cut sentences, flooded with
will, show the nature of the man,--a man who announced no sentiments and
principles he was not willing to sacrifice himself to disseminate or
defend. A living energy of soul glows over the whole book,--swift,
fiery, brave, wholesome, sincere, impatient of all physical obstacles to
the operation of thought and affection, and eager to make stubborn facts
yield to the impatient pressure of spiritual purpose.
We cannot say much in praise of the plot of "John Brent," but it at
least enables the author to supply a good framework for his incidents,
descriptions, and characters. The plot is based rather on possibilities
than probabilities; but the men and women he depicts are thoroughly
natural. It would be difficult to point to any other American novel
which furnishes incidents that can compare in vigor and vividness
with some of the incidents in this romance. The ride to rescue Helen
Clitheroe from her kidnappers is a masterpiece, worthy to rank with the
finest passages of Cooper or Scott. The fierce, swift black stallion,
"Don Fulano," a horse superior to any which Homer has immortalized, is
almost the hero of the romance. That Winthrop, with all his sympathy
with the "advanced" ideas and sentiments of the reformers and
philanthropists of the time, was not a mere prattling and scribbling
sentimentalist, is proved by his glorious idealization of this
magnificent horse. He raises the beast into a moral and intellectual
sympathy with his human rider, and there is a poetic justice in making
him die at last in an attempt to further the escape of a fugitive slave.
The characterization of the book is original. Gerrian, Jake Shamberlain,
Armstrong, Sizzum, the Mormon preacher, are absolutely new creations.
Hugh Clitheroe may suggest Dickens's Skimpole and Hawthorne's Clifford,
but the character is developed under entirely new circumstances. As for
Wade and Brent, they are persons whom we all recognize as the old heroes
of romance, though the conditions under which they act are changed.
Helen, the heroine of the story, is a more puzzling character to the
critic; but, on the whole, we are bound to say that she is a new
development of womanhood. The author exhausts all the resources of his
genius in giving a "local habitation and a name" to this fond creation
of his imagination, and he has succeeded. Helen Clitheroe promises to be
one of those "beings of the mind" which will he permanently remembered.
Heroism, active or passive, is the lesson taught by this romance, and
we know that the author, in his life, illustrated both phases of the
quality. His novels, which, when he was alive, the booksellers refused
to publish, are now passing through their tenth and twelfth editions.
Everybody reads "Cecil Dreeme" and "John Brent," and everybody must
catch a more or less vivid glimpse of the noble nature of their author.
But these books give but an imperfect expression of the soul of Theodore
Winthrop. They have great merits, but they are still rather promises
than performances. They hint of a genius which was denied full
development. The character, however, from which they derive their
vitality and their power to please, shines steadily through all the
imperfections of plot and construction. The novelist, after all, only
suggests the power and beauty of the man; and the man, though dead, will
keep the novels alive. Through them we can commune with a rare and noble
spirit, called away from earth before all its capacities of invention
and action were developed, but still leaving brilliant traces in
literature of the powers it was denied the opportunity adequately to
* * * * *
To keep pace with the productions of foreign literature is a task beyond
the possibilities of any reader. The bibliographical journals of France,
Germany, Italy, and Spain weekly present such copious lists of new
works, that a mere mention of only the principal ones would far exceed
the limits we have proposed to ourselves. However, from the chaos of
contemporary productions it is our intention to sift, as far as lies in
our power, such works as may with justice be styled _representative_ of
the country in which they are produced. Ranging in this introductory
article through the year 1861, we shall limit ourselves to a few of the
contributions upon French literary history.
No branch of letters is richer at the present time than that in which
the writer, laying aside all thought of direct creativeness, confines
himself to the criticism of the works of the past or present, analyzing
and studying the influences that have been brought to hear upon the
poet, historian, or novelist, anatomizing literature and resolving it
into its elements, pointing out the action exercised upon thought and
expression by the age, and seeking the effects of these upon society
and politics as well as upon the general tastes and moral being of a
generation. Methods of writing are now discussed rather than put in
practice. We are in a transition age more than politically. Creative
genius seems to be resting for more marked and permanent channels to be
formed; so that, though every year gives birth to numberless works in
every branch of art, original production is rarer than the activity, the
restlessness of the time might lead us to expect.
In no country has literary criticism more life than in France. It
engages the attention of the best minds. No writer, whatever be his
speciality, thinks it derogatory to give long and elaborate notices
in the daily press of new books or new editions of old books. Thus,
Sainte-Beuve in the "Moniteur," De Sacy, Saint-Marc Girardin, Philarete
Chasles, Prevost-Paradol in the "Journal des Debats," not to mention the
numerous writers of the "Revue des Deux Mondes," the "Europeenne," and
the "Nationale," vie with each other in extracting from all that appears
what is most acceptable to the general reader.
M. Sainte-Beuve may be taken as a type of the avowedly professional
critic. Whatever he may accomplish as the historian of Port-Royal, it is
to his weekly articles, informal and disconnected as they are, that he
owes his high rank among French authors. These "Causeries du Lundi" have
now reached the fourteenth volume.[A] In the last we find the same easy
admiration, facility of approbation, and suppleness that enable him to
praise the "Fanny" of Feydeau, calling it a poem, and on the next page
to do justice to the last volume of Thiers's "Consulate and Empire,"
or to the recent publication of the Correspondence of Buffon. The most
important articles in the volume are those on Vauvenargues, on the Abbe
de Marolles, and on Bonstetten.
[Footnote A: _Causeries du Lundi_. Par C.A. Sainte-Beuve, de l'Academie
Francaise. Tome Quatorzieme. Paris: Garnier Freres. 12mo. pp. 480.]
Of quite a different school is M. Armand de Pontmartin, who, under the
titles of "Causeries du Samedi," "Causeries Litteraires," etc., has
now issued over a dozen volumes touching on all points of contemporary
letters, often very severe in their strictures. The last, "Les Semaines
Litteraires,"[B] contains notices of late works by Cousin, About,
Quinet, Laprade, and others, and concludes with an article on Scribe.
Pontmarlin represents the Catholic sentiment in literature. He measures
everything as it agrees or disagrees with Legitimacy and Ultramontanism.
His works are a continual defence of the Bourbons and the Pope. Modern
democracy he cannot pardon. Without seeking to deny the excesses and
shortcomings of his own party, he finds an explanation for all in the
levelling tendencies of the age. He cannot be too severe on the first
French Revolution and its results. "In letters," he tells us, "it has
led to materialism and anarchy, while the Bourbons personify for France
peace, glory," etc.
[Footnote B: _Les Semaines Litteraires_. Troisieme Serie des Causeries
Litteraires. Par Armand de Pontmartin. Paris: Michel Levy Freres. 12mo.
Pontmartin is an able representative of the side he has taken. He
believes in and ably defends those heroes of literature so well
characterized as "Prophets of the Past," Chateaubriand, De Bonald,
and J. de Maistre. His special objects of antipathy are writers
like Michelet and Quinet, pamphleteers like About, and critics like
The last he cannot pardon for his work on Chateaubriand,[C] published in
the early part of the year 1861. The time is past for giving a fuller
account of this remarkable production of the historian of Port-Royal.
Suffice it to say, that, though it deals in very small criticism indeed,
though its author seems to have made it his task to sum up all the
weaknesses of one the prestige of whose name fills, in France at least,
the first half of this century, yet there exists no more valuable
contribution to the history of literature under the first Empire. It has
been called "a work no one would wish to have written, yet which is read
by all with exquisite pleasure." Nothing could be truer.
[Footnote C: _Chateaubriand et son Groupe Litteraire sous l'Empire_.
Cours professe a Liege en 1848-1849, par C.A. Sainte-Beuve, de
l'Academie Francaise. Paris: Garnier Freres. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 410, 457.]
"Chateaubriand and his Literary Group under the Empire" is a course
of twenty-one lectures delivered by Sainte-Beuve at Liege, whither he
repaired soon after the Revolution of 1848 broke out in Paris. Fragments
of the work appeared in the "Revue des Deux Mondes," among others the
paper on Chenedolle, which forms the most interesting portion of the
second division. In this are to be found several original letters, now
published for the first time, casting much new light on the life of that
Of more general interest, however, are the pages on Chateaubriand
himself. It was the fate of this writer to be flattered beyond measure
in his lifetime, and now come the first judgments of posterity, which
deals with him no less harshly than it has already begun to deal
with another idol of the French people, Beranger. Sainte-Beuve has
constituted himself judge, reversing even his own adulatory articles,
as they may be read in the earlier volumes of the "Causeries." It is at
best an ungrateful task to dissect a reputation in the way in which we
find it done in the present work. It must seem strange to many a reader
that the very man who in early life could utter such sweet flattery, who
long was the foremost to bear incense, should now consider it his duty
"to seek the foot of clay beneath the splendid drapery, and to replace
about the statue the aromas of the sanctuary by the perfumes of the
boudoir." In spite of this, "Chateaubriand and his Literary Group" must
be ranked among the most remarkable of literary biographies. Here the
critic gives full scope to his inclination for minute analysis; the
history of the author of "Rene" explains his works, and these in turn
are made to tell his life,--that life so full of love of effect, and
constant painstaking to seem rather than to be. Even in his religious
sentiments the author of the "Genius of Christianity" appears lukewarm,
not to say more.
In comprehensive works on literary history France is far from being
as rich as Germany. Beyond the native literature little has been
accomplished; and even in this, works of importance may be counted on
the fingers. The past year saw the conclusion of Nisard's work, the most
comprehensive history of French literature. The fourth volume[D] is
devoted to the eighteenth century, and concludes with a few general
chapters on the nineteenth.
[Footnote D: _Histoire de la Literature Francaise_. Par D. Nisard, de
l'Academie Francaise, Inspecteur-General de l'Enseignement Superieur.
Tome Quatrieme, Paris: Firmin Didot Freres, Fils, et Cie. 8vo. pp. 584.]
The work of M. Gerusez, "History of French Literature from its Origin to
the Devolution,"[E] although it had the honor of being considered worthy
of the _prix Gobert_ by the French Academy, is far from satisfying the
requirements of general literary history. It may rather be considered
a systematic series of essays, beginning with the "Chansons de Geste,"
analyzing several poems of the cycle of Charlemagne, and followed by
successive independent chapters on the Middle Ages, the revival of
letters, and modern times down to the Revolution. It will be remembered
that in 1859 M. Gerusez published a "History of Literature during the
French Revolution, 1789-1800." This also obtained a prize from the
Academy,--much more deservedly, we think, than the last production, when
we consider the interest he cast over the literary efforts of a period
much more marked by action than by artistic productiveness of any kind.
The German writer Schmidt-Weiszenfels in the same year issued a work
with the pretentious title, "History of the Revolution-Literature of
France."[F] This is little more than a declamatory production, wanting
in what is most characteristic of the German mind, original research.
The "Literary History of the National Convention," [G] by E. Maron, is
devoted more to politics than to letters.
[Footnote E: Histoire de la Litterature Francaise, depuis ses Origines
jusqu'a la Revolution. Par Eugene Gerusez. Paris: Didier et Cie. 2 vols.
8vo. pp. 488, 507.]
[Footnote F: _Geschichte der Franzoesischen Revolutions-Literatur_,
1789-1795. Von Schmidt-Weiszenfels. Prague: Kober und Markgraf. 8vo. pp.
[Footnote G: _Histoire Litteraire de la Convention Nationale_. Par
Eugene Maron. Paris: Poulet-Malassis et De Boise. 12mo. pp. 359.]
To return to the volumes of M. Gerusez. It is rather a sign of poverty
in general literary history, that detached sketches, with little
connection beyond their chronological order, should have been deemed
worthy of the prize and the praises awarded to them. However, though
lacking in comprehensive views such as we have a right to expect from an
author who attempts to portray the rise, growth, and full expansion of
a literature, the work of M. Gerusez may be perused with pleasure and
profit by the student. It is clear and satisfactory in the details.
Thus, the pages devoted to the writers of the "Encyclopedie," though
few, may vie with any that have been written to set in their true light
men whose influence was so great on the generation that succeeded them.
If impartiality consisted in always steering in the _juste-milieu_, M.
Gerusez would be the most impartial of historians. As it is, we have to
thank him for a good book, regretting only that he has gone no farther.
Far otherwise is it with M. Saint-Marc Girardin. The eloquent Sorbonne
professor has seen his fame increase with every new volume of his
"Course of Dramatic Literature." We have now the fourth volume.[H] "A
Course of Dramatic Literature";--it is more. It is the history of the
expression of Passion among the ancients and the moderns, by no means
confined to the drama. The present volume, as well as the third,
published several years ago, is devoted to the analysis of Love as
expressed in different ages and by different nations, under the two
divisions of _L'Amour Ingenu_ and _L'Amour Conjugal_.
[Footnote H: _Cours de Litterature Dramatique._ Par Saint-Marc Girardin,
de l'Academie Francaise, Professeur a la Faculte des Lettres de Paris,
Membre du Conseil Imperial de l'Instruction Publique. Tome IV. Paris:
The first he had studied in the authors of antiquity in his third
volume, beginning in this with the episode of Cupid and Psyche in
Apuleius; then following up, through the moderns, the expression
of Ingenuous Love in Corneille, La Fontaine, Sedaine, Bernardin de
Saint-Pierre, Milton, Gessner, Voss, Andre Chenier, and Chateaubriand.
For the last he finds more blame than praise. Indeed, this
effect-seeking writer, with all his genius, seemed less fitted than any
one to express the natural and spontaneous. His Atala, who charms us so
at the first reading, deals in studied emotions. As to Rene, his is the
vain sentimentality parading its own impotency for higher feelings,
a virtual boasting of want of soul,--the sickly dissatisfaction of
Werther, without his passion for an excuse. M. Saint-Marc Girardin then
follows up his subject through later authors, even in Madame George
Sand and in Madame Emile de Girardin. He is particularly severe upon
Lamartine, that poet "who for more than thirty years seemed best to
express love as our century understands it," but who in Raphael
and Graziella destroyed, by disclosing too much, the power of his
On Conjugal Love the classic models are first consulted,--Oenone,
Evadne, Medea,--these characters being followed through the delineation
of modern dramatists. We know of no more exquisite criticism than
the pages devoted to Griseldis. Analyzing the accounts of Boccaccio,
Chaucer, and Perault, our author concludes with the play of "Munck
Bellinghausen." The last chapters, on "Love and Duty," are among the
most eloquently written in the volume. For style, M. Saint-Marc Girardin
is second to no living author of France.
In this course we find an evident predilection for the models of
antiquity. When a comparison is instituted between the ancients and the
moderns, we feel pretty certain of the result before the writer has
proceeded very far. Not that we ever find a systematic idolizing of all
that is classic merely. Far from it. Modern writers are not neglected.
In this particular a genuine service is done to critical literature. It
often seems as if literary lecturers and historians were attacked by an
aesthetic presbyopy. For them the present age never produces anything
worth even a passing remark. The masterpieces they notice must be old
and time-honored. Not so in the present studies on the passions. Ponsard
finds his place side by side with older names. After an appreciative
notice of the Lucretia of Livy, we find a comment on the Lucretia which
may have been played the week before at the Theatre Francais. Nor is
it a slight service done to contemporary letters, when a master-critic
turns his thoughts to works which, if they do not hold the first rank,
yet, by the talent of their authors and the nature of their subjects,
have attracted all eyes for a time. Such are the writings of Madame
George Sand. Of these, "Andre," "La Mare au Diable," and "La Petite
Fadette" are reviewed with praise in the work under consideration, while
the force of criticism is expended on "Indiana," "Lelia," and "Jacques."
* * * * *
Whatever claims the academician Victor de Laprade may have to poetic
talent, he certainly sinks below mediocrity when he attempts to
discuss the principles of the art he practises. Since it has been his
good-fortune to be numbered among the illustrious Forty he has several
times attempted literary criticism, but never so extensively as in
his last work, "Questions d'Art et de Morale."[I] This is a series of
discursive essays, a few upon art in general, the greater part, however,
restricted to letters; the whole written in a poetic prose not without a
certain charm, but wearisome for continuous reading.
[Footnote I: _Questions d'Art et de Morale._ Par Victor de Laprade, de
l'Academie Francaise. Paris: Didier et Cie. 8vo.]
The object of M. de Laprade is to defend what he calls "Spiritualism in
Art." He wages an unrelenting war against the modern school of Realism.
It is not the representation of visible Nature that the artist must
seek; his aim must be "the representation of the invisible." He grows
eloquent when he develops his favorite theories, and always succeeds in
interesting when he applies them successively to all the arts. As to the
author's political opinions, he takes no pains to conceal them. His work
is an outcry against equality and universal suffrage. He traces the
apathy of poetic creativeness in France to the sovereignty usurped
everywhere "by the inferior elements of intelligence in the State." He
seems to think, that, as humanity grows older, art falls from its divine
ideal. Of contemporary architecture, he says that it can produce nothing
original save railroad depots and crystal palaces. "A glass architecture
is the only one that fully belongs to our age." Music, the "vaguest and
most sensuous of all the arts," he regards as the art of the present.
The religious worship of the future appears to him "a symphony with a
thousand instruments executed under a dome of glass."
As to the purely literary essays of M. de Laprade, they may be read both
with more pleasure and more profit than those in which he attempts to
discuss the principles of aesthetics. "French Tradition in Literature,"
and "Poetry, and Industrialism," are full of suggestive thoughts, and,
coming in the latter half of the volume, make us forget the pretentious
nature of the first.
* * * * *
M. Gustave Merlet is a more modest opponent of some of the tendencies
of the age. He presents his first book to the public under the title,
"Realisme et Fantaisie,"[J] earnestly and loyally attacking the two
extremes of literature.
[Footnote J: _Le Realisme et la Fantaisie dans la Litterature_. Par
Gustave Merlet. Paris: Didier et Cie. 12mo. pp. 431.]
Two styles of writing, diametrically opposed in every particular, have
of late years flourished in the lighter productions of France. Some
there are who would seek to incarnate in letters Nature as it is,
without adornings, without ideal additions. The cry of the upholders
of this doctrine is: Truth in art, war against the freaks of the
imagination that colors all in unreal tints. The writers who have
adopted such sentiments have been termed "Realists," much to their
dissatisfaction. Balzac was the greatest of them. Champfleury may be
called the most strenuous supporter of the system. There is a certain
force, a false air of truth, in this daguerreotype process of writing,
that seduces at first sight. When a man of some genius, as Gustave
Flaubert in "Madame Bovary," undertakes to paint Nature, he sets details
otherwise revolting in such relief that the very novelty and boldness of
the attempt put us off our guard, and we are in danger of admitting as
beauties what, after all, are only audacities.
The other extreme into which the literature of the day in France has
fallen is an excess of fancy. A writer like Arsene Houssaye will write
his "King Voltaire" or his "Madame de Pompadour," or Capefigue his
"Madame de la Valliere," in which the judgment seems to have been
set aside, and historical facts accumulated in some opium-dream are
strangely woven into a narrative representing reality, with about as
much truth as Oriental arabesques, or the adornings of richly wrought
tapestry. This extreme is even more dangerous than the former, for it
makes of letters a mere plaything, and recommends itself to many by its
very faults. Paradox and overdrawn scenes usurp the place of the real.
The world presented by the exclusive worshippers of fancy is
little better than that "Pompadour" style of painting in which the
carnation-tipped checks of shepherds and shepherdesses take the place of
a too healthy Rubens-like portraiture. There are dainty, well-trimmed
lambs, with pretty blue favors tied about their necks, just like
_dragees_ and _bonbons_. As we wander among those opera-swains in silk
hose and those shepherdesses in satin bodices, their perfumes tire
and nauseate, till we fairly wish for a good breeze wafted from some
farm-yard, reconciled in a measure to the extravagances of the so-called
"school of Nature."
M. Merlet's subject, it may be seen, is of interest merely to the
student of the latest French literature. A more comprehensive study
would not have been out of place in his volume. To those who may be
interested in writers like Murger, Feydeau, Houssaye, and Brifaut, the
book is full of interesting matter. To the general reader it may be of
value as characterizing with fidelity some of the tendencies of French
* * * * *
We must not omit mentioning a work published in Germany on the
"Literature of the Second Empire since the _Coup d'Etat_ of the Second
of December, 1852."[K] The nature of this sketch could almost be
predicated with certainty from the state of feeling towards France in
the capital in which it was issued, and the encomiums it received from
the Prussian political press. The author, William Reymond, who has
proved himself no mean critic in some of his former essays upon the
modern productions of France, addresses himself almost exclusively to a
German public. His work, as he himself seemed to fear, is not calculated
for the taste of Paris, even if it were considered unobjectionable there
on the score of the political strictures that are introduced, whether in
the discussion of the last play or in the analysis of the last volume of
[Footnote K: _Etudes sur la Litterature du Second Empire Francais,
depuis le Coup d'Etat du deux Decembre._ Par William Reymond. Berlin: A.
Charisius. 12mo. pp. 227.]
The truth is, M. Reymond, with much apparent praise, very nearly comes
to the conclusion that the second Empire has no literature, and very
little philosophy is granted to it in the chapter, "What remains of
Philosophy in France." The Novel and the Theatre fare little better at
his hands. He has literally made a police investigation of what is most
objectionable in French letters, citing now and then some great name,
but dwelling with complacency on what is deserving of censure. The
influence of France, and of Paris in particular, on the tastes of the
Continent, irritates him. He seeks to impress upon his readers the
venality of letters and the general debasement of character and of
talent that are prevalent in that capital. Such is the spirit of these
"Etudes." The author has, unfortunately, not to seek far for a practical
corroboration of his theory, though it is but justice to say that the
verses he quotes as characteristic are far from being so. It is to be
feared that M. Reymond has rather sought out the blemishes. He has found
many, we admit. His readers will thank him for his clever exposition of
them, satisfied in many cases to accept the results he presents, without
feeling inclined to make such a personal investigation into the lower
regions of letters.
* * * * *
"The Political and Literary History of the Press in France,"[L] by
Eugene Hatin, is now concluded. As early as 1846, this author published
a small work, "Histoire du Journal en France." Since that time he has
devoted himself exclusively to the study of French journalism. Though
liberal in his views, he is not in favor of unlimited liberty of the
press. He believes it to be the interest of society that a curb should
be put on its excesses. "What we must hope for is a liberty that may
have full power for good, but not for evil."
[Footnote L: _Histoire Politique et Litteraire de la Presse en France._
Avec une Introduction Historique sur les Origines du Journal et la
Bibliographie Generale des Journaux, depuis leur Origine. Par Eugene
Hatin. Paris: Poulet-Malassis et De Boise. 8 vols. 12mo.]
The two volumes published in 1861 contain the history of journalism
during the latter part of the French Revolution, under the first Empire,
the Restoration, and the Government of July. The work may be said to
conclude with 1848, as less than twenty pages are devoted to the twelve
years following. In this, however, the writer has done all he could be
expected to do. This is no time for the candid historian to utter his
thoughts of the present _regime_ in France. Since the fatal decree of
the 17th of February, 1852, the press has had only so much of life as
the present sovereign has thought fit to grant it. Then it was that a
representative of the people uttered the words,--"We must overthrow the
press, as we have overthrown the barricades." Such were the sentiments
of the National Assembly,--not understanding, that, when it struck at
such an ally, it destroyed itself. And, indeed, it was but a short time
before the tribune shared the fate of journalism. Better things had been
hoped on the accession of the present Minister of the Interior, but as
yet they have not been realized.
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