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recompense to be given to the various instruments of the proposed revolt, occasion the following characteristic dialogue:—
"Stjan. Nota, Uallius, Afer, nos zélés orateurs >
Tibère. La préture en Sicile.
Du pain, les jeux du Cirque, un sacrifice aux Dieux." What an expressive image of the haggard features of tyranny!— The treasures of the state; its offices, property of proscribed citizens, the bread of indigent industry, and religion, all employed to gratify the passions of the despot, and to recompense the ruffians who are to execute his sanguinary purposes! There are other passages of the same import, expressed with great beauty and energy; the following is from a soliloquy of Tiberius:—
"Quel prestige maintient cet empire suprême
And farther, contemplating the servility of the patricians and
"Mais que sont désormais les pères de l'état?
The representation of this piece was prohibited by Bonaparte,
"Soldats de Tibère et non de la patrie," and other such lines with which it abounds, must have grated upon the sensitive nerves of the French emperor.
Chénier, in his Cassius and Brutus, or Last of the Romans, has imitated the second part of the Julius Caesar of Shakspeare.
s To say he has not equalled the sublime beauties of the original, does not cancel his claims to our admiration:—
"Non, si priores Maeonius tenet
He has substituted other beauties in their stead; his plan has besides the advantage of being more regular, and his characters are more consonant to authentic history. The interview of Brutus with Agrippa, a deputy of the Triumvirs, is altogether nobly described. The discourse of the latter is conveyed in vigorous and appropriate language:—
"Que prétend, dites-moi, ce language heroYque,
Chenier had undertaken a poetical translation of Sophocles, but death arrested him in the midst of his enterprise. He has left two pieces only, CEdipe Roi and CEdipe it Colonne, with some fragments; and the few comedies he has composed are said to be worthy of his reputation. In 1806, he published his Epitre a Voltaire, considered by the French critics as a chef-d'oeuvre of taste and poetry. In this piece, he passes in review the great men of the eighteenth century; special honours being conferred upon the philosopher of Ferney, whose labours he enumerates, and their influence upon the happiness of mankind; he concludes by asplendid eulogy of the value and immortality of genius:—
"Brisant des potentats la couronne éphém£re,
Et depuis trois mille ans Ilomcre respect^
Chenier is one of the small number of authors who write well in both prose and verse. His Discourse upon Public Instruction is held in high estimation; and his Tableau de la Littbraturt, which we have placed at the head of this article, ranks amongst the best compositions of the kind in the French language. The calumnious reports in relation to his political character, circulated during the revolution—his connivance at his brother's execution, and other such monstrous inventions, have been long since dis recommended by many and exquisite beauties and merits, about which there is no diversity of taste or sentiment . In all these compositions of Delille, there is more of elegance than of vigour; their force is often diminished by expansion, and their solidity by polish; at least, this is the cant of the critics; but when we have the form and grace of the stag, we need not envy the strength of the elephant, and for Virgil's grace we may dispense with Homer's sublimity.
Boufflers and Parny are called the honour of the modern French erotic poetry: the former is thus characterized by Delille:—
"Llionneur des Chevaliers, la flcur des Troubadours." Parny is often called by his countrymen the French Tibullus, and is generally mentioned by them with excessive admiration. His style, which is both elegant and natural, amuses by sprightliness and endless diversity. In his Eleonora, we find the most tender and voluptuous elegies; in his grotesque and whimsical poem in ridicule of the English, much attic wit and amiable pleasantry; and in his poem of Isnel, many beautiful images and graceful descriptions: but his Porte-fcuille volt, Paradis Perdu, and his celebrated Guerre des Dieux, though they are said to contain beauties of the first order, deserve only to be mentioned to the discredit of the author. Ridicule is an admirable and useful talent when employed upon its legitimate objects; but when used in disparagement of virtue or religion, it is detestable and pernicious, and demands explicit and unqualified censure. The common practice of throwing derision and jest upon subjects that are in their nature sacred, and of decrying glorious actions by the imputation of ignoble motives, is not only prejudicial to morals, but destructive of human greatness; extinguishing enthusiasm, which is the very source of elevated sentiments, and impairing the efficacy of education both by precept and example. For those who are addicted to this vice, we may quote, from the last words of Fontenelle, a remark very worthy of being treasured in the memory: "I have now lived (says he) almost an entire century upon this globe, and, thank Heaven, have not yet treated the smallest virtue with the smallest ridicule."
Legouve has' distinguished himself from the minor poets of his country, by an uncommon elegance of style and harmony of versification. His principal titles to notice are—Les Souvenirs, La Mblancolie, Le Mkrite des Femmes. His tragedies are not of the first order, but contain many interesting passages, and have had considerable success in representation. The best are La Mori d'Jibel, and Epicharis and Nero. Millevoye is another writer, much praised for melancholy sweetness, and harmony of style. His poems are La Peste de Marseilles, or Belzunce, the celebrated bishop sung by Pope and Voltaire, and
VJimour Maternel. He gained, besides, several academical prizes. The poetry of Vigte is not held in great estimation; it is affected and unnatural, and the leaven of the satire rather insipid. The following epigram, in form of an epitaph, was addressed by him to the National Institute:—
"Ci git qui fit des vers, les fit mal, et ne put,
One of the members replied:—
"Vig^e écrit qu'il est un sot
Vigee had not even the credit of being original, for Piron had said before him:—
"Ci git Piron qui ne fut rien,
Fontanes is a writer of undoubted excellence, both in prose and poetry. His funeral eulogy of Washington is well known in America. His poetical works are, a translation of the Essay on Man; Le jour des Moris, in which he asserts the reverence due to the sepulchre, and Le Verger, with an Epitre sur les Paysages, in which he has shown himself the worthy rival of Delille. He has left also an epic poem, yet unpublished, upon Greece, entitled La Grece sauvee, which is spoken of in terms of high praise by his fellow members of the Institute.
The celebrated Jibbi Maury was too much engaged in active politics, to attend to the business of an author. Being a smooth and plausible courtier, he usually found means of welcome to the reigning party; nor is it supposed that his honesty was any obstacle to his preferment . In former times, he was the champion of the Bourbons; and under the imperial government, the most ardent flatterer of Napoleon, who loaded him with honours. His treatise upon the Eloquence of the Pulpit, the only extensive work he has published, sustains the high opinion that was entertained of his genius and abilities. Bernardin de St. Pierre, without being an imitator of his illustrious favourites, has combined in a great measure, the vivid and animated style of Rousseau, with the elegant simplicity of Fenelon. His Studies of Nature, though they abound in scientific errors, every where delight by pleasing descriptions, and amiable philosophy. His Paul and Virginia, and Indian Cottage, are placed, by general consent, amongst the most justly popular productions of the French language.
In the department of novels, the French mostly give themselves the credit of superiority to other nations; but when we call to remembrance such names as Fielding, Richardson, Smollett, Goldsmith, and Sir Walter Scott, it may be difficult, even
Vol. I.—no. 2. 72