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même exclamation. Le charme des plus distingués n'est il pas très-souvent ce que l'Italien a expressivement appelé morbidezza ? une douceur, une suavité maladive ; je ne sais quoi d'amorti, de languissant et de fondu; quelque chose entre la pensée et le rêve, entre le néant et l'être ; une voluptueuse défaillance de tous les éléments de la vie morale. Peut-on croire qu'une telle poésie ne soit pas malsaine ? N'est-ce pas une chose bien dangereuse que cette mélancholie égoiste, cette personnalité attendrie, dont quelques-uns de nos plus charmants poëtes sont tout pénétrés ? Et que peuvent ces molles réveries sinon nous désapprendre à vivre.'*

If want of masculine vigour and a healthy tone characterises nearly all Lamartine's poetry, it is not so with Beranger. He is always lively and charming, alike whether his topic is patriotic, amatory, or bacchantic. Generally simple, nearly always gay, sometimes bitterly sarcastic, he is always plain, easy, and manly ; we wish we could say that he was always decent. He is only a chansonnier, but a chansonnier of unrivalled merit.t

• Jeté sur cette boule,
Laid, chétif et souffrant,

* Vinet, vol. ii. p. 150. We recommend to the perusal of the reader who would appreciate M. Vinet's peculiar style of criticism, generally most beautiful and just, his remarks on the argument of Jocelyn,' vol. ii. p. 180—189.

† · Le Roi d'Yvetot,' written in 1813, is one of his prettiest and most characteristic songs :

. Il était un roi d'Yvetot

Peu connu dans l'histoire,
Se levant tard, se couchant tôt,

Dormant fort bien sans gloire.

Il faisait ses quatre repas

Dans son palais de chaume,
Et sur un âne, pas à

Parcourait son royaume.
Joyeux, simple, et croyant le bien,
Pour toute garde il n'avait rien

Qu'un chien.

• Il n'agrandit point ses états,

Fut un voisin commode,
Et, modèle des potentats,

Prit le plaisir pour code.
Ce n'est que quand il expira
Que le peuple qui l'enterra




Etouffé dans la foule,
Faute d'être assez grand :
Une plainte touchante
De ma bouche sortit;
Le bon Dieu me dit : Chante,
Chante, pauvre petit !-
Chanter, ou je m'abuse,
Est ma tache ici-bas.
Tous ceux qu'ainsi j'amuse,

Ne m'aimeront ils pas ?' Unhappily, there are many of Beranger's chansons which are neither quotable nor readable. “Je ne dirais, à leur propos,' observes M. Vinet, as justly as severely, “qu'un seul mot. • Faut-il quelque chose de moins que le puissance de l'habitude pour que nous puissions nous résoudre à classer parmi les cuvres littéraires, à mentionner parmi les créations dont * s'honore l'esprit humain, des chants dont les sujets sont • bannis de la conversation des honnêtes gens ? Est-il permi dechanter ce qu'on n'oserait pas dire, et la rime est-elle le sauf-conduit de toutes les licenses? . . . Dire le mal, c'est une manière de le faire ; et de mauvaises paroles, sur quelque air qu'on les chante, sont de mauvaises actions.'

Beranger has two or three characteristics which distinguish him from every other writer of his age and nation. One of these is the peculiar tone of his amatory verses. He treats and understands love as it was treated and understood in France before the publication of the Nouvelle Héloïse.' It is with him not a

• ' passion, scarcely a fancy, but a pleasure. He is never sentimental : all is gay, lively, piquant, pretty. Nothing is morbid, but, on the other hand, nothing is serious, in his representation of human tenderness. Again, patriotism, not passion, is the source of his inspiration. He is essentially, like Burns, the poet of the people; he speaks their language, he shares their feelings,he gives utterance to their ideas and emotions.

His style is wonderfully concise; every word is well-chosen, every word is clear, and there never is a word too much. He owes, probably, much both of his popularity and his merit to the circumstance that he is an unlearned man, and knows no language or literature but his own. Certainly of all the French poets, he is the only one of whom we never tire, and whom it is never an effort to read.

In no particular of its literary life does the period we are considering present a greater contrast with its predecessor than in the astonishing number and still more startling quality of its romance writers and novelists. Of prose writers of fiction the

vOL. CI. No. CCV.


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18th century produced only four* who survive or deserved to survive,- Le Sage, the Abbé Prevost, Rousseau, and Bernardin de St. Pierre ; and each of these were satisfied with giving birth to one, or at most two works. Gil Blas,' Manon Lescaut,'' La · Nouvelle Héloïse,' and Paul et Virginie,' are all that they have really bequeathed to us. The 19th century, on the contrary, counts its novelists by the score, and their productions by the hundred. Not to mention Madame Cottin, Mlle. Sophia Gay, Alfred de Vigny, and others, who were moderate both as to quantity and quality, there is Madame de Staël, the true inheritor of the mantle of Rousseau, whose Delphine will live long, and whose Corinne can never die. There is Chateaubriand, whose fictions, however, are, as we have said, , rather poems than romances. There is Victor Hugo, whose power of harassing delineation is almost as unequalled as his flagrant and exuberant abuse of it, and who in his · Hans * d'Island,'his' Bug-Jargal,' and more than all in his ‘Notre Dame

de Paris,' has given us a painful example of the finest faculties pressed into the service of the falsest theory and the worst taste. There is Eugene Sue, whose' Atar-gull,'* Les Mystères de Paris, and Mystères du Peuple,' have unhappily become notorious even here; whose conceptions and descriptions, powerful as they are, are regarded even among his own countrymen as having often transgressed the limits of permissible monstrosity. There are Balzac and Paul de Koch, Jules Janin, and others, of whose numerous romances it is hard to say whether we read them with most pain or admiration, as strange exhibitions of genius wallowing in the mire, -

Of talents made
Haply for high and pure designs,

But oft, like Israel's incense, laid

Upon unholy, earthly shrines. There is Alexander Dumas, with all his insane extravagance, perhaps the most readable of them all, whose marvellous fecundity resembles that of the rabbit or the Cochin-China fowl; a manufacturer rather than an artist; the stream of whose inspiration, though exhausted by the production of at least fifty volumes, dribbles on, still — a pump, no longer a fountain. Lastly, there is far the greatest of all since the author of Corinne,—the lady who writes under the pseudonyme of George Sand, - one

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We can scarcely class Voltaire among novelists. His · Nouvelles' were rather a series of satirical and philosophic tales, than romances. The author of Candide’must rank rather with the author of "Tristram Shandy,' than as a novelist proper.


of the most prolific authors of the day; the sterling stamp of whose genius is attested not by the number or the beauty of her tales, their deep thought, their still deeper tenderness, or their polished and perfect style; but by that characteristic which seems to be the exclusive prerogative of the highest order of intellect, by the fact that the current of her thought has become purer, profounder, serener, as it has flowed on; that she has gradually worked herself free from all the turbid and unlicensed sensuality which disfigured her earlier productions, and that a manlier tone, a better taste, and a higher morality have grown upon her year by year. There is yet a wide gulf which separates her from what we should wish to see her, and what she might yet become; but the woman who has traversed the space which separates • Consuelo,' and · La petite Fadette,' from Leone Leoni' or 'Indiana,' need despair of no other progress.

But the fictitious literature of the age in France is marked by another feature far more distressing than its exuberance. It is diseased to its very core.

Never before was so much talent perverted to such base uses. It is not only that the tone of sexual morality which it preaches is lax and low, that it expatiates with such complacency in equivocal positions and voluptuous delineations; that its whole tendency is to deaden the sense of duty and impair the vigour of the will; that everywhere sentiment is extolled and brought prominently forward while principle is ignored or thrust ignominiously into the background: of all this we have had examples before in literature far less morbid and less dangerous. It is that it addresses itself consciously and glaringly to palled appetites and distorted imaginations; that it proceeds on the assumption (which of course it thereby helps to realise) that all relish for what is chaste, simple, and serene is extinct in the hearts of its readers; and that recognising a demand for what is unnatural, extravagant, and bad, it sets to work to provide a supply without compunction and without stint. It is a banquet consisting solely of unwholesome stimulants and more unwholesome sweets. Each writer strives to surpass himself and to eclipse his rivals in the novelty and extravagance of the incidents which he heaps together; in his daring violations of every rule of taste, art, and morals; in his delineations of whatever can most startle, horrify, and shock. No situation is too grotesque, combination too improbable, no picture too revolting, to be admitted. Cela émeut: cela fait éprouver une sensation,' is the language of praise by which such writers are rewarded. Now, it is some inconceivable monster of iniquity, who passes in the world's eye as a saint, and receives the prize of virtue,' as in


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Atar-gull.? Now, it is some character utterly and desperately vicious, made interesting by some single virtue or some redeeming human affection, as in Le Roi l'amuse,' and 'Lucrecia Borgia' (which, however, are not novels, but dramas). Now, it is some angel of purity brought up in a brothel and a cabaret, as in · Les Mystères de Paris.' Now, it is some scene of prolonged and minutely pictured agony, as that of the priest hanging by the leaden spout from the turret of Notre-Dame, which slowly bends under him for many pages. And so on through a catalogue of monstrous, harrowing, unnatural conceptions, fitted for nothing, designed for nothing, but to rouse an exhausted fancy or goad a jaded sensuality.

This deplorable malady in so important and influential a branch of literature may, we think, be traced to two specific causes: of course there must have been other predisposing ones to have allowed it to attain so advanced a stage. The first is, probably, the convulsions and catastrophes in which the writers passed their youth and received their mental impressions. They came into a world which was still palpitating with the excitement of the greatest social earthquake which humanity had ever undergone. As soon as their young minds began to open to the transactions which were going on around them, the achievements of their great Emperor brought every day some new marvel to stimulate the fancy and to feed enthusiasm. The first narratives which fascinated their childhood were the thrilling and horrible but true romances of the first Revolution and the Reign of Terror. Much of their after life has been passed in the midst of perpetual alarm and startling vicissitudes. Thus from their infancy they had lived upon excitement. . Their education had been conducted in and by times in which the actual events of history beggared the creations of fiction. As it was with themselves, so it was with most of those whom they addressed. The attention which had been strained and wearied by the daily occurrences of that unquiet period, would flag over romances, unless those romances could serve up to them something more strange, more horrible, more sad, than what they had been ac

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* All these remarks, by the way, apply as forcibly to the modern French drama as to its romantic fictions.

+ L'excès' (says M. de Mazade) devient le refuge du talent de peu de foi ; l'observation émoussée et inhabile à ressaisir les vraies nuances de l'âme humaine, la gradation naturelle des sentimens, se jette à la poursuite d'un autre élément de succès, ramasse tout ce qui s'offre à elle de voluptés grossières à peindre, d'entrainemens effrénés à réproduire : elle contraste le goût des impurités et de souillures.' (De la Démocratie en Littérature.)

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