Page images
PDF
EPUB

the author will or will not be suc nation was beginning to embrace a cyni. cessful in his efforts 10 abate the he. cal philosophy, destined to shake the soreditary prejudices of the English ancient religion of the country was at

cial edifice to its very foundation. The against the French.

We are cer- tacked with irreverence, and public opin. tain that he has produced a book ion became deeply tainted with destrucwhich contains much information tive dogmas, unredeemed by the healing

principle of reconstruction. An intoxic that can be gleaned from no other cating passion for change, for subversion, single volume, and the tone of which seized society: it was the effect of the is healthful and elevated.

execrable vices and despotism of the reThe work is divided into ten chap gency, and of Louis XV. Two men, es. ters, to which the American editor the popular feeling, and therefore exer.

pecially, became the representatives of has appended some seventy pages cised a great influence on the eighteenth of notes, and a list of contemporane. century, and indirectly a no less great ous French writers. The first chap. ready assailed the empire of the classics,

one on the nineteenth. Voltaire had alter is introductory, in which the au- and 'Rousseau was preparing the basis thor gives at length his views of whereon a new and distinct literature what literature is, and of the princi- might be reared. Voltaire drew upon the ples by which he proposes to conduct wit; but Rousseau poured forth the effuhis critical review_with extended sions of a glowing yet morbid and incon. illustrations on both these points, gruous sensibility: the former wrote propresented in a pretty full skeich of fusely, merely 10 satisfy his thirst for glo.

ry, while the laller was stirred by the French literature as it has been and overflowing emotions of the heart. Volas it now is. His views of what taire by his works fostered the bias to inliterature is, and of the influence fidelity, standing in the van of others, which it exerts, may be seen iu the icule; Rousseau seemed, on the contrary,

his compeers in impious sarcasm and rid following passage.

to have consolations for even dismal skep

ticism; he exhorted to feelings of com. "Literature is indeed a most varied parative piety, and to the ever-fruitful and unbounded universe; it is not only, love of nature; the soul, in its attributes, according to the usual French definition, affections, pangs, was his exalted theme, the expression of society, but also its the subject that elicited the brightest emsa very life and soul. With its numerous anations of his genius. Thus was hernames, forms, and species, literature is alded the mighty convulsion: the revonot only a mirror reflecting society or na- lution burst forth'in all its wildness, and tional progress, but is also the breath that France was suddenly hurled into anarchy animales and vivifies a nation, arousing and barbarism. Happily it was not of it to life and greatness, or impelling it to long duration; the reign of terror, indeed, crime and anarchy. Literature may ei- covered the country with streams of ther be a powerful instrument for creation blood, and overturned the social edifice; and regeneration, or a fatal one for de. but soon after a new society, a youthful struction. Ages and nations may owe generation, arose from the ruinsma soci. their formation to books, as much as ety of orphans, united by the common books are engendered by ages and na- tie of misfortune, still bearing traces of tions. The heroic grandeur of Greece tears in their smiles. Everything then inspired Homer; but it was from Homer took a graver aspect-a character more that its civilization sprung."-p. 14. generous, certainly, but sombre in its hue;

for France was covered with tombs."After a brief account of the rise pp. 16, 17. of the literature of France in the

The times of Napoleon, he sketchmiddle ages, and of the plastic influences which it received from

es as follows: Montaigne and Pascal, he follows it “Under Bonaparte's sway, there was through the age of Louis XIV. to no time for literary progress; his incesthe eighteenth century. Of the lit

sant warfare was anything but favorable

to the development of literary intellect, erature of this century he thus and a new literature, an imperial literaspeaks :

ture, could not rise suddenly at his fiat,

as he actually desired, like a file of sol. “ The literary character of the eigh. diers, the creatures of bis will. Besides, leenth century is totally different: the the einperor's attention was more natu.

rally drawn towards the sciences, and his France, in its intellectual, moral and reign became the era of scientific pros. political condition. perity. The revolution had taken the lives of Lavoisier and Bailly on the scaf

He then gives to us the division fold; but Napoleon delighted to draw of the field, under the following around him and to honor such men as heads.-" Intellectual Philosophy, Monge, Laplace, Foureroy, Berthollet, Political Tendencies, History, Critiand Lagrange. Yet his endeavors to form a literary court were all in vain; or, at cism, Romance, Drama, and Pobest, it could but enumerate as its mem- etry.” bers, Arnault, author of Germanicus, Le

These are the topics on which mercier, author of Agamemnon, both classical dramatists, and a few others of the he dwells at sufficieni lengih, in the

it literary names succeeding chapters. It will be seen of his time—the two who have left in from these heads, that the author's delible traces on the nineteenth century view of literature is in no sense nar: - were, heart and soul, hostile to the usurpation and tyranny of the conqueror.

row or limited, but that he makes it I refer, of course, to M. de Chateaubriand to include all that is written on any and Madame de Staël. "The noble and chivalrous character and feelings of men, except the

subject which interests the thoughts of M. de Chateaubriand deserves to be respected by all; and it is undeniable, mathematical and physical sciences. that by his great work, Le Génie du The chapter on Intellectual PhiChristianisme, France received a sacred losophy comes first in order, and is stamp-a inoral baptism, if I may be al

First we lowed so to speak, which the lower class comprehensive and just. of her literary population has vainly have a brief sketch of the Physiostruggled to belie and to discard, by plun- logical or Sensualist School, next ging into excesses most odious and re

a more extended and what 10 most volting.”—pp. 22, 23.

Americans, will be a novel view of “ Madame de Stael was endowed with a force and vigor of understanding, a pow

the theologic or catholic school, as er of psychological analysis, which gleam exhibited in the works of de Maistre, brighily even in her novel of Corinne, de Lammenais, de Bonald, de Bal. amidst a mass of unnatural, affected scenes, lanche and d'Eckstein, and last of almost inconsistent with common sense. She stretched her faculties to seize and all the rise and formation of the depict the secret and intimate emotions eclectic school. We do not acqui. of the soul, pondering deeply on the re- esce in all the author's conclusions, ligious impulse conveyed by and's devout and oriental imagery, and but his criticisms of the several gave to the movement which he had al. schools are spirited and clear, and ready imparted to thought and feeling a in the main are correct, while in she exercised an extraordinary influence between the speculative opinions of powerful and happy stimulus. In short

, them all the very intimate connection over the literary revolution of the nineteenth century; nay, she, so eminently the several schools of philosophy, French in the chief characteristics of her and the principles of the people, is mind and imagination, became the in- clearly indicated. strument whereby the sway of German genius has been partially rivetted in

Chapters three and four, on PolitFrance. De l'Allemagne is the work by ical Tendencies, will be read with which Madame de Staël attained a liter. great interest, for the light which ary supremacy in her own country; it, ihey cast on the present condition of ful influence of that mocking spirit and things. These chapters and the endepreciating illiberality, which in France tire work were written before the had long tended to check and fetter ge- revolution of February and the Renius, rather than to invigorate morals or good taste.”-p. 25.

public; but the sketches which they

give of the writers, who for forty He then refers to the influence of years past have contended for abso, English writers upon France, par. lutism on the one side, and for liberal ticularly of Shakespeare, Ossian, principles on the other, are most Young and Lord Byron, and brings instructive. They show us that the us down to the present state of causes of the republic have been long

in preparation ; that they lie deeper opens with some just observations than the accidental division of the of the new office which criticism has chambers, or the unpopularity of a assured in modern times, and gives ministry, or the revolutionary fervor an extended notice of the most emi. of the mob. In this chapter, M. nent philosophical critics which de Bonald, Chateaubriand, Guizot, France has furnished, particularly Paul Courier, Béranger, M. de Lam- of Villemain. Sketches of the most enais, Si. Simon, Fourier, and above eminent writers for the periodical all, M. de Tocqueville, are the wri. press, and a summary account of ters, to whom the highest importance the French journals and newspapers is attached, as having, by successive conclude the chapter. strokes, or by a steady and continu- The sixth and seventh chapters ed influence, contributed to raise are devoted to history.

First are the thinking and sober portion of noticed the most eminent historians the French people, to a strong at of the new or philosophical school tachment for free institutions. of historians, together with an inter

Afier noticing these distinguished esting narrative of the causes which writers at length, the author sketches led to the formation of this school. more briefly, the struggles in the The most celebrated writers of this chambers after the restoration, and school, are Augustin Thierry, Guithe leading men who though few zot, Sisinondi, and Dulaure. The but strong, upheld the cause of free. literary career of each of these wri. dom against the crown. The most ters is described at some length, distinguished of these were Royer. their several works are criticised, Collard, Manuel, General Foy, and and their merits and defects are canBenjamin Constant. He gives sim. vassed. The historians of the Fa. ilar sketches of the leading states. talist school are then reviewed, of men since the revolution of 1830, whom the most eminent are Thiers particularly of M. Odillon Barrot, and Mignet. The peculiar princiCasimir Perrier, Dupin, Guizot, ples of ihis school are characierised Thiers, Arago and Berryer. The as they ought to be, by a Christian following passage is prophetic. critic, in the following passage. " We have spoken of the present oppo

* “ The historians imbued with sition party in the Chanıber of Deputies this principle, view all causes and effects (the Chamber of Peers is a complete nul. as possessed of one character through a lity). This parly is the most popular in long course of years; to them these seem, the nation; it often counterbalances and from their steady progression, to be indevanquishes the conservative party, and pendent of human action or control. An the ineasures it has in view are of vital impulse appears to be given, which beats importance to France-the most vital of down resistance and sweeps away all all, as we have said, the reform of the means of opposition; centuries succeed electoral system. The opposition in the to centurirs, and the philosopher sees the French Chamber of Deputies is the ex. same influence still potent, still undevi. pression of the democratic tendencies of ating and regular; to him, considering France; and it can not be doubted that, those ages at one view, following with despite the resistance of M. Guizot, Count rapid thonght the slow pace of time, a Molé, Marshal Soult, and others, it will century appears to dwindle to a point ; in time triumphantly obtain all it con- the individual obstructions and acceleralends for, and France will then be a com- tions which within that period had occur. plete democratic monarchy, unless any red to impede or advance the march of imprudence on the part of the crown or events, as they other enemies of democracy, provoke a

mind dwells upon the new conflagration, which will probably necessity or fatality of the advance, and be followed by a republic, by a European neglects what is all.important for pracwar, and by an immediate definitive sirug. tical purposes, namely, the consideration gle between the two principles, aristoc of how much, by human forethonght, this racy and democracy."--p. 169.

certain improvement might have been

aided. Thus the execrable excesses of The fifth chapter on criticism, the revolution are almost justified; they Vol. VI.

75

forgotten. The Sims are eliminated and

seem the result of a fatal necessity, with. ters of England and Germany, have out which French society could not have

furnished some of the noblesi speci. been regenerated. It will be readily un. derstood that such a doctrine must lead

mens of writing, which the language the inind into a frightful abyss. At every

of either of these countries can moinent the fatalist historian speaks of show. Their commanding influence the entrainement irresistible of revolution of their sharp discussions, of their ary times—of those sanguinary vapors that intoxicate and paralyze the volition eloquent sermons, of their meditaof man.

Such teneis, such excessive fa- tive essays, and of their devotional talism, we hold to be equally immoral poetry on particular generations, as and false. The mission of the historian, well as upon the formation of the as well as of the philosopher, is to inspire the human heari with the sacred idea of national character, can never be duty as bound up with liberty, and to en- overlooked, by a truly thorough and deavor at all times to exalt the dignity of liberal student of the history of either man, by inculcating detestation of crime and admiration of virtue.”—pp. 236-7.

of these nations. Luther, Melanch.

thon, Hooker, Barrow, Taylor, The descriptive historians or the Howe, Bates and Edwards of other narrators are then described and

generations—Herder, Schleierma. named, and the innumerable writers cher, Hall, Chalmers and Dwight, of of memoirs, &c. &c., are rapidly modern times, need only be named, noticed and dismissed.

to confirm the truth of this assertion. Chapter eighth is devoted to ro- In these two countries, theology is mance. In this chapter a very great regarded as “the haven and sabbath number of writers are named and of man's contemplations," and the poticed; the few writers who have grandest theme of all his scientific honored their genius by elevated inquiries. In France, it has never principles and pure emotion are de. had existence as an independent sci. servedly praised. The large num

ence. The acuteness of Pascal and ber whose works are of a mixed the eloquence of Bossuet and Mascharacter, and which are open to silon, are hardly exceptions to this more or fewer exceptions, are crit. remark, and besides, there are no icised with just discrimination ; and Pascals and Do Bossuets in modern the very great number who have France. nothing to redeem their corruption, We hardly need advert 10 the are spoken of as they deserve to be. cause. There can be no Theology

Chapters ninth andienth treat of po- in a country such as France has etry and the drama, and are equally been and yet continues to be. The thorough and faithful with the others. double despotism that has settled

The notes appended by the Amer. down upon that country, since the ican editor are many of them valu. sharp and fiery conflicts that followable, though their value is of a less ed the reformation, could not endure permanent character than the iext. the presence of such an invisible Much of the information is not read yet powerful foe. It stood as ready ily accessible. A single passage

at any moment, to repress and blight which indicates the religious sects the first beginning of its life, as the with which the editor sympathizes, guilty Herod was to strange the in might have been spared with better fant Jesus. In doing so it not only, taste.

cursed the nation, with the loss of One department of literature we civil liberty and of religious lopes, fail to see, which the comprehen. but it dwarfed its literature. For siveness of the author's plan would

we hold it true, that without an in. have required him to notice, if any vigorating theology, the higher kinds such literature were to be found in of literature dwindle and wither, and France. We mean the department the lower, though they may reach of theology. The theological wri. an unmatched perfection in refine

ment and grace, will yet lose their educators, she will be fit to be free, hearriness, their humor and their and when she is fit to be free, she good sense.

will be free indeed. It is with much cordiality that we France needs most of all a reli. greet this unpretending but valuable gion. We do not believe her so volume, and that we introduce it to atheistic and godless, as she is someour readers. We shall be greatly times represented. The best of peo. mistaken if many of those who read ple are sometimes the most quiet, it will not think the betier of French and there are doubtless many French. writers and of the French nation men, of whom lille is heard or said, than they have done heretofore. both in the Catholic and Protestant We have been persuaded for many churches, who seek after the Lord, years, that the tone of thought and if haply they may find him. Siill, of principle has been steadily rising France is giddy, worldly, and among the French people; and the thoughtless, and in the mass as we evidence furnished by the great num. fear, far enough from God. But ber of writers criticised in this vol. we have hope for her, not merely ume, ihat there are myriads of read. from the actual progress and success ers among the middle and higher which allends efforts that are appro. classes who are thoughtful in their priately evangelical, but also in the views of men and of books, and who increasing thoughtfulness and sobri. are made the wiserand better by what ety of the national mind, as shown they read, is gratifying and hopeful. in the more elevated character of its It is altogether impossible that a literature. We hope, in short, that people who have demanded such a as France thinks more earnestly, and literature as is the modern litera. is encouraged 10 think more earn. ture of France, and who have been estly by her writers, that boih readtrained by this literature, should not ers and writers will not only grope have many of substantial men among afier the truih, but will be led back its citizens, men who can be relied to the truth and to God. The change upon in the present crisis.

in this respect since the restoration, France is not all that it might be. is surprising, and hopeful, and it We have no confident faith in the prepares us to expect a revolution continuance of its republic-nor is in France that will by and by occur, it of much consequence to the lover which shall be worth more than of social and political freedom, a thousand days like those of the whether in its present condition it twenty.third and twenty-fourth of shall be governed by a military and of February, and which shall dedespotic president, or by one who is monstrate both to England and truly a citizen-king. But if France America, that France is worthy to can have great and good writers and be free.

LITERARY NOTICES.

Peter Schlemihl in America. Phil. the German tale by the same name.

adelphia : Carey & Hart. 1848. We do not greatly admire the man. 12mo, pp. 494.

agement of the story, and should

have been much better pleased, had This book bears a borrowed title. the author set off in an entirely in. Indeed the whole volume professes dependent way, and contrived for to be in some sort, a continuation of himself new machinery, rather than

« PreviousContinue »