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M. de St. Lambert. She died in childbirth; and the following dramatic elegy was circulated all over Paris the week after that catastrophe.
'• M. de Chatelet.—Ah! ce n'est pas ma faute!
"M. de Voltaire.—Je l'avais prédit!
"M. de St. Lambert— Elle l'a voulu!"
Crebtllon the younger is naturally brought to our recollection by the mention of wit and indecency. We have an account of his death, and a just and candid estimate of his merits, in one of the volumes before us. However frivolous and fantastic the style of his novels may appear, he had still the merit of inventing that style, and of adorning it with much ingenuity, wit, and character. The taste for his writings, it seems, passed away very rapidly and completely in France; and long before his death, the author of the Sopha, and Les Egarement du Cœur et de l'Esprit, had the mortification to be utterly forgotten by the public. M. Grimm thinks this reverse of fortune rather unmerited; and observes, that in foreign countries he was still held in estimation, and that few French productions had had such currency in London as the Sopha. The reason perhaps may be, that the manners and characters which the French at once knew to be unnatural, might be mistaken by us for true copies of French originals. It is a little more difficult, however, to account for the fact, that the perusal of his works inspired a young lady of good family in this country with such a passion for the author, that she ran away from her friends, came to Paris, married him, and nursed and attended him with exemplary tenderness and affection to his dying day. But there is nothing but luck, good or bad—as M. Grimm sagely observes— in this world. The author of a licentious novel inspires a romantic passion in a lady of rank and fortune, who crosses seas, and abandons her family and her native country for his sake ;—while the author of the Nouvelle Heloise, the most delicate and passionate of all lovers that ever existed, is obliged to clap up a match with his singularly stupid chambermaid!
Of all the loves, however, that are recorded in this chronicle, the loves of Madame du Defiant and M. de Ponte-de-Vesle, are the most exemplary; for they lasted upwards of fifty years without quarrel or intermission. The secret of this wonderful constancy is, at all events, worth knowing; and we give it in the words of an authentic dialogue between this venerable Acmé and Septimius.
"Pom-de-Veele f—Madame?—Où ítes-vous? —Au coin de voire cheminée.—Couche les pieds sur les chenets, comme on est chez ses omis f— Oui, Madame.—II fnut convenir qu'il e^t peu de liaisons aussi anciennes que h noire—Cela est vrai.—II y a cinquante ans—Oui. cinquante ans passés —Et dans ce 1опц intcrvjillo aucun nuage, pee même l'apparence d'une brouillerie.—C'est ce que j'ai toujours admire.—Mais. Pont-de-Veele, cela ne viendrait-il point de ce qu'au fond nous ayons toujours Гме Tort induTéren* l'un à l'autre î— Cel.i se pourrait Ьн-м. .Madame"
The evening tliis veteran admirer died, ehe
came rather late to a great supper ¡л the neighbourhood ; and as it was known that she made it a point of honour to attend on him, the catastrophe was generally suspected. She mentioned it, however, herself, immediately on coming in ;—adding, that it V-as lucky he had gone off so early in the evening, as she might otherwise have been prevented from appearing. She then sate down to table, ami made a very hearty and merry meal of it!
Besides Pout-de-Vesle, however, this celebrated lady had a lover almost as ancient, in the President Henault—whom also she had the misfortune to survive; though he had the complaisance, as well as his predecessor, to live to near ninety years for her sake. The poor president, however, fell into dotage, before his death; and one day, when in thai state, Madame du Deffant having happened to ask him, whether he liked her or Madame de Castelmoron the best, he. quite unconscious of the person to whom he was speaking, not only declared his preference of the absent lady, but proceeded to justify it by a most feeling and accurate enumeration of the vice« and defects of his hearer, in which he grew so warm and eloquent, that it was quite impossible either to stop him. or to prevent all who were present from, profiting by the communication. When Madame de Chatelet died, Madame du Deffant testified her grief for the most intimate of her female acquaintance, by circulating all over Paris, the very next morning, the most libellous and venomous attack on her person, her understanding, and hei morals. When *he came to die herself, however, she met with just about as much sympathy as she deserved. Three of her dearest friends used to come and play cards every evening by the side of her couch—and as she chose to die in the middle of a very interesting game, they quietly played it out—аги! settled their accounts before leaving the apartment. We hope these little traits go near to justify what we ventured to say in the outset; of the tendency of large and agreeable society to fortify the heart ;—at all events, they give us a pretty lively idea of the liaisons thai united kindred souls at Paris. We might add to the number several anecdotes of the President Henault—and of the Baron d'Holbach, who told Helvetius, a little time before the death of the latter; that though he had lived all his life with irritable and indigent men of letters, he could not recollect that he had either quarrelled with, or done the small*» service to, any one among them.
There is a great deal of admirable criticism in this work, upon the writings and genius ol almost all the author's contemporaries—Dorat, Pirón, Millot, Bernard, Mirabeau. Moncra, Colardeau, and many others, more or less generally known in this country; nor do we know any publication, indeed, so well cale lated to give a stranger a just and comprehe sive view of the recent literature of France. The little we can afford to extract, however, must be hung upon names more notorious.
The publication of a stupid journal of Л/от
igné't Travels in Italy gives M. Grimm w>
opportunity of saying something of the Essays ot that most agreeable veteran. Nothing can be more just than the greater part of the fol'owing observations.
"Qooi-qu'il y ait dans ses Essai» une infinite de tait« d'anecdotes et de citations, il n'est pas difficile di? s'appercevoir que ses études n'étaient ni vastes ni prufoiidea. 11 n'avait guère iu que quelques popíes latins, quelques livres de voyage, et son Oènèque et soi Plutarque."
"De tous les auteurs qui nous restent de l'an. tiquité, Plutarque est, sans contredit, celui qui a rtL'ueiili !e plus de vérités de fait et de spéculation, tfes œuvres sont une mine inépuisable de lumières et de connaissances: c'est vraiment l'Encyclopédie de? anciens. ¡Montaigne nous en a donne la fleur, et il r a ajouté les réflexions les plus fines, et surMuÍ les résultats les plus secrets de sa propre expérience. Il nie semble donc que si j'avais à donner une idée de ses Essais, je dirais en deux mots que c'est un commentaire que Montaigne fit sur luimême en méditant les écrits de rlutarque. . .Je pense encore que je dirais mal: ce eerait lui prêter un projet. . ..Montaigne n'en avait aucun. En mettant la plume à la main, il paraît n'avoir songé qu'au Rhisir de causer familièrement avec son lecteur. Il li rend compte de ses lectures, de ses pensées, de ses reflexions, sans suite, sans dessein: il veut avoir le plaisir de penser tout haut, et il en jouit à son aise. Il cite souvent Pluiarque, parce que Plutarque était son livre favori. La seule loi qu'il semble s'être prescrite, c'est de ne jamais parler que de ce qui l'intéressait vivement: de là l'énergie et la vivacité de ses expressions, la grâce et l'originalité de son langage. Son esprit a cette assurance et reite franchise aimable que l'on ne trouve que dins ces enfans bien nés, dont la contrainte du inonde et de l'éducation ne gcna point encore les mouvemens faciles et naturels."
After a still farther encomium on the sound sense of this favourite writer, M. Grimm concludes—
"Personne n'a-t-il donc pensé plus que Montaigne? Je l'ignore. Mais ce que je croîs bien savoir, c'est que personne n'a dit avec plus de sim
"Qu'est-ce que toutes les connaissances humaines ï le cercle en est si borné! .... Et depuis ristre mille ans, qu'a-t-on fait pour l'étendre? Montesquieu a dit quelque part, qu'il travaillait à va livre de douze poses, qui contiendrait tout ce que n?** savons sur la Métaphysique, la Politique et la Morale, et tout ce que de grands auteurs ont oublié d<ins les vnlumes qu'ils ont donnés fur ces scienres
K Je snis très sérieusement persuadé qu'il
ne tenait qu'à lui d'accomplir ce grand projet."
Montesquieu, Buffon, and Raynal are thé only author?, \ve think, of whom M. Grimm ípeaks with serious respect and admiration. Great praise is lavished upon Robertson's CharleeV.—Young's Night Thoughts are said, and with justice, to be rather ingenious than pathetic; and to show more of a gloomy imajination than a feeling heart.—Thomson's Seasons are less happily stigmatized as excessively ornate and artificial, and said to »land in llip same relation to the Georgics, that the Lady of Loretto, with all her tawdry fi'ipry. bears to the naked graces of the Venus de Medici.—Johnson's Life of Savage is extolled as exceedingly entertaining—though the anther is laughed at, in the true Parisian las'e, fur Ttot having made a jest rf his hero.
—Hawkesworth's Voyages are also very much commended; and Sir William Jones' letter to Anquctil du Perron, is said to be capable, with a few retrenchments, of being made worthy of the pen of the Patriarch himself.—Mrs. Montagu's Essay on Shakespeare is also applauded to the full extent of its merits; and. indeed, a very laudable degree of candour and moderation is observed as to onr national taste in the drama.—Shakespeare, he observes, ia fit for us, and Racine for them; and each should be satisfied with his lot. and would do well to keep to his own national manner. When we attempt to be regular and dignified, we are merely cold and stiff; and when they aim at freedom and energy, they become absurd and extravagant. The celebrity of Garrick seems to have been scarcely less at Paris than in London,—their greatest actor being familiarly designated "Le Garrick François." His powers of pantomime, indeed, were universally intelligible, and seem to have made a prodigious impression upon the theatrical critics of France. But his aulhority is quoted by M. Grimm, for the observation, that there is not the smallest affinity in the tragic declamation of the two countries;—so that an actor who could give the most astonishing effect to a passage of Shakespeare, would not, though perfectly master of French, be able to guess how a single line of Racine should be spoken on the stage.
We cannot leave the subject of (he drama, however, without observing, with what an agreeable surprise we discovered in M. Grimm, an auxiliary in that battle which we have for some time waged, though not without trepidation, against the theatrical standards of France, and in defence of our own more free and irregular drama. While a considerable part of our own men of letters, carried away by the authority and supposed unanimity of the continental judges, were disposed to desert the cause of Shakespeare and Nature, and to recognize Racine and Voltaire, as the only true models of dramatic excellence, it turns out that the greatest Parisian critic, of that best age of criticism, was of opinion that the very idea of dramatic excellence had never been developed in France; and that, from the very causes which we have formerly specified, there was neither powerful passion nor real nature on their stage. 4After giving some account of a play of La Harpe's. he observes, "I am more and more confirmed in the opinion, that true tragedy, such as has never yet existed in France, must, after all, be written in prose; or at least can never accommodate itself to the pompous and rhetorical tone of onr stately versification. The ceremonious and affected dignity which belongs to such compositions, is quite inconsistent with the just imitation of nature, and destructive of all true pathos. It may be very fine and very poetical; but it is not dramatic :—and accordingly I have no hesitation in maintaining, that all our celebrated tragedies belong to the epie and not to the dramatic division of poetry. The Greeks and Romans had a dramatic verse, which did not interfere with simplicity or famili irity of diction ; bat as we have none, tve must make up our minds to compose our tragedies in prose, if we ever expect to have any that may deserve the name. What then?" he continues; "must we throw our Racines and Voltaires in the fire?—by no means;— on the contrary, we must keep them, and study and admire them more than ever ;— but with right conceptions of their true nature and merit—as masterpieces of poetry, and reasoning, and description ;—as the first works of the first geniuses that ever adorned any nation under heaven :—But not as tragedies. —not as pieces intended to exhibit natural characters and passions speaking their own language, and to produce that terrible impression wnich such pieces alone can produce. Considered in that light, their coldness and childishness will be immediately apparent ;— and though the talents of the artist will always be conspicuous, their misapplication and failure will not be less so. With the prospect that lies before us, the best thing, perhaps, that we can do is to go on, boasting of the unparalleled excellence we have attained. But how speedily should our boastings be silenced if the present race of children should be succeeded by a generation of men! Here is a theory," concludes the worthy Baron, a little alarmed it would seem at his own temerity, "which it would be easy to confirm and illustrate much more completely—if a man had a desire to be stoned to death before the door of the Theatre François! But, in the mean time, till I am better prepared for the honours of martyrdom, I must entreat you to keep the secret of my infidelity to yourself."
Diderot holds very nearly the same language. After a long dissertation upon the difference between real and artificial dignity, he proceeds,—<: What follows, then, from all this—but that tragedy is still to be invented in France ; and that the ancients, with all their faults, were probably much nearer inventing it than we have been ?—Noble actions and sentiments, with simple and familiar language, are among its first elements;—and I strongly suspect, that for these two hundred years, we have mistaken the stateliness of Madrid for the heroism of Rome. If once a man of genius shall venture to give to his characters and to his diction the simplicity of ancient dignity, plays and plaf ere will be very different things from what they are now. But how much of this," he adds also in a fit of sympathetic terror, "could I venture to say to any body but you! I should be pelted in the streets, if I were but suspected of the blasphemies I have just uttered."
With the assistance of two such allies, we shall renew the combat against the Continental dramatists with fresh spirits and confidence; and shall probably find an early opportunity to brave the field, upon that important theme. In the mean time we shall only remark, that we suspect there is something more than an analogy between the government and political constitution of the two countries, and the character of their drama. The tragedy of the Continent is conceived il. the very genius and
spirit of absolute monarchy—the same anuiría ¡ stateliness—the same slow moving of few persons—the same suppression of ordinary emotions, and ostentatious display of lofty sentiments, and. finally, the same jealousy of the interference of lower agents, and the same horror of vulgarity and tumult. When we consider too. that in the countries where this form of the drama has been established, the Court is the chief patron of the theatre. an<! courtiers almost its only supporters, \ve shall probably be inclined to think that this uniformity of character is not a mere accidental coincidence, but that the same causes which have stamped those attributes on the serious hours of its rulers, have extended them to those mimic representations which were originally devised for their amusement. In England, again, our drama has all along partaken of the mixed nature of our government.— persons of all degrees take a share in both. each in his own peculiar character and fashion: and the result has been, in both, a much greater activity, variety, and vigour, than was ever exhibited undera more exclusive system. In England, too, the stage has in general been dependent on the nation at large, and not on the favour of the Court;—and it is natural to suppose that the character of its exhibitions has been affected by a due consideration of that of the miscellaneous patron whose feelings it was its business to gratify and reflect. After having said so much about the stage, we cannot afford room either for the quarrel« or witticisms of the actors, which are reported at great length in these volumes—or for the absurdities, however ludicrous, of the "Diou de Danse" as old Vestris ycleped himself—or even the famous "affaire du Memuf which distracted the whole court of France at the marriage of the late King. We can allow only a sentence indeed to the elaborate dissertation in which Diderot endeavours to prove that an actor is all the worse for having any feeling of the passions he represents, and is never so sure to agitate the souls of his hearers as when his own is perfectly at ease. We are persuaded that thin is not correctly true;—though it might take more distinction« than the subject is worth, to fix precisely where the truth lies. It is plain we think.. however, that a good actor must have a capacity, at least, of all the passions whose language he mimics,—and we are rather inclined to think, that he must also have a transiera feeling of them, whenever his mim'cry is very successful. That the emotion should be very short-lived, and should give way to trivial or comic sensations, with very little interval, affords but a slender presumption against its reality, w:hen we consider how rapidly such contradictory feelings succeed each other, in light minds, in the real busmew of life. That real passion, again, never would be so graceful and dignified as the counter feited passion of the stage, is either an impeachment of the accuracy of the copy, or a contradiction in terms. The real passion oía noble and dignified character must ahvayf w dignified and graceful,—and if Окаг, when
»'•tually bleeding in the Senate-house, foldec his robe around aim, that he might fall with decorara at the feet of his assassins, why should we say that it is out of nature for a player, both to sympathise with the passions of his hero, and to think of the figure he makes in the eyes of the spectators? Stront conception is, perhaps in every case, attended with a temporary belief of the reality of its objects;—and it is impossible for any one to copy with tolerable success the symptoms of a ¡jowerful emotion, without a very lively apprehension and recollection of its actual presence. We have no idea, we own, that the copy can ever be given without some participalion in the emotion itself—or that it is possible to repeat pathetic words, and with the tiue tone and gestures of passion, with the same indifference with which a schoolboy repeats his task, or a juggler his deceptions. The feeling, we believe, is often very momentary; and it is this which has misled those who have doubted of its existence. But there are many strong feelings equally fleeting and undeniable The feelings of the spectators, in the theatre, though frequently more keen than they experience anywhere else, are in general infinitely lees durable than those excited by real transactions; and a luilicrous incident or blunder in the performance, will carry the whole house, in an instant, from sobbing to ungovernable laughter: And even in real life, we have every day occasion to observe, how quickly the busy, the dissipated, the frivolous, and the very youthful, can pass from one powerful and engrossing emotion to another. The daily life of Vollaire. we think, might have furnished Diderot with as many and as striking instances of the actual succession of incongruous emotions, as he has collected from the theatrical life of Sophie Arnoud, to prove that one part of the «nceeaeion must necessarily have been fictitious.
There are various traits of the oppressions »nd abuses of the government, incidentally noticed in this work, which maintains, on the whole, a very aristocratical tone of politics. (be of the most remarkable relates to no less a person than the Maréchal de Saxe. This great warrior, who is known never to have taken the field without a small travelling seraslio in his suite, had engaged a certain Maillle. Chantilly to attend him in one of his campaigns. The lady could not prudently 'iecline the honour of the invitation, because she was very poor; but her heart and soul were devoted to a young pastry cook of the name of Favart, for whose sake she at last broke out of the Marshal's camp, and look rvfuge in the arms of her lover; who reward*•! her heroism by immediately making her bis wife. The history of the Marshal's lamentation on finding himself deserted, is purely ridiculous, and is very well told; but "ur feelings take a very different character, *hen, upon reading a little farther, we find that this illustrious person had the baseness »nd brutality to apply to hie sovereign for a 'tore dt cachet to forte this unfortunate woman
from the arms of her lawful husband, and to compel her to submit again to his embraces,— and that the court was actually guilty of the incredible atrocity of granting such an order! It was not only granted, M. Grimm assures us, but executed,—and this poor creature was dragged from the house of her husband, and conducted by a file of grenadiers to the quarters of his highness, where she remained till his death, the unwilling and disgusted victim of his sensuality! It is scarcely possible to regret the subversion of a form of government, that admitted, if but once in a century, of abuses so enormous as this: But the tone in which M. Grimm notices it, as a mere foiblesse on the part of le Grand Maurice, gives us reason to think that it was by no means without a parallel in the contemporary history. In England, we verily believe, there never was a time in which it would not have produced insurrection or assassination.
One of the most remarkable passages in this philosophical journal, is that which contains the author's estimate of the advantages and disadvantages of philosophy. Not being much more of an optimist than ourselves, M. Grimm thinks that good and evil are pretty fairly distributed to the different generations of men; and that, if an age of philosophy be happier in some respects than one of ignor anee and prejudice, there are particulars in which it is not so fortunate. Philosophy, he thinks, is the necessary fruit of a certain experience and a certain maturity ; and implies, in nations as well as individuals, the extinction of some of the pleasures as well as the Follies of early life. All nations, he observes, bave begun with poetry, and ended with philosophy—or, rather, have passed through the region of philosophy in their way to that of stupidity and dotage. They lose the poetical passion, therefore, before they acquire the aste for speculation; and, with it, they lose all faith in those allusions, and all interest in hose trifles which make the happiness of the Brightest portion of our existence. If, in this advanced stage of society, men are less brutal, hey are also less enthusiastic;—if they are more habitually beneficent, they have less warmth of affection. They are delivered indeed from the yoke of many prejudices; but at the same time deprived of many motivée of action. They are more prudent, but more anxious—are more affected with the general nterests of mankind, but feel les? for their neighbours; and, while curiosity takes the ¡lace of admiration, are more enlightened, but ar less delighted with the universe in which hey are placed.
The effect of this philosophical spirit on the rts, is evidently unfavourable on the whole. Their end and object is delight, and that of >hilosophy is truth; and the talent that seeke о instruct, will rarely condescend to aim merely at pleasing. Racine and Molière, and îoilean, were satisfied with furnishing amusement to euch men as Louis XIV., and Colbert, and Turenne; but the geniuses of the present day pretend to nothing less than enlightening their rulers; and the same young men who would formerly have made their debut with a pastoral or a tragedy, now generally leave college with a new system of philosophy and government in their portfolios. The very metaphysical, prying, and expounding turn of mind that is nourished by the spirit of philosophy, unquestionably deadens our sensibility to those enjoyments which it converts into subjects of speculation. It busies itself in endeavouring to understand those emotions which a simpler age was contented with enjoying ;—and seeking, like Psyche, to have a distinct view of the sources of our pleasures, is punished, like her, by their instant annihilation.
Religion, too, continues M. Grimm, considered as a source of enjoyment or consolation in this world, has suffered from the progress of philosophy, exactly as the fine arts and affections have done. It has no doubt become infinitely more rational, and less liable to atrocious perversions; but then it has also become much less enchanting and ecstatic— much less prolific of sublime raptures, beatific visions, and lofty enthusiasm. It has suffered, in short, in the common disenchantment; and the same cold spirit which has chased so manv lovely illusions from the earth, has dispeopled heaven of half its marvels and its splendours.
We could enlarge with pleasure upon these just and interesting speculations; but it is time we should think of drawing this article to a close; and we must take notice of a very extraordinary transaction which M. Grimm has recorded with regard to the final publication of the celebrated Encyclopédie. The redaction of this great work, it is known, was ultimately confided to Diderot; who thought it best, after the disturbances that had been excited by the separate publication of some of th° earlier volumes, to keep up the whole of the last ten till the printing was finished; and then to put forth the complete work at once. A bookseller of the name of Breton. who was a joint proprietor of the work, had the charge of the mechanical part of the concern: but, being wholly illiterate, and indeed without pretensions to literature, had of course no concern with the correction, or even the perusal of the text. This person, however, who had heard of the clamours and threatened prosecutions which were excited by the freedom of some articles in the earlier volumes, took it into his head, that the value and security of the property misht be improved, by a prudent castigation of the remaining parts; and accordingly, after receiving from Diderot the last proofs and revises of the different articles, took them home, and, with the assistance of another tradesman, »cored out, altered, and suppressed, at their own discretion, all the passages which they in their wisdom apprehended might give offence to the court, or the church, or any other persons in authority—giving themselves, for the most part, no sort of trouble to connect the disjointed passages that were left after these mutilations—and sometimes soldering them together •••il h masses of their own stupid vulgarity.
After these precien? ameliorations were completed, they threw of the full impression; and, to make all sure and irremediable, consigned both the manuscript and the original proofs to the flames! Such, says M. Grimm, is the true explanation of that mass of impertinences, contradictions, and incoherence*, with which all the world has been struck, in the last ten volumes of this great compilation. It was not discovered till the very eve of the publication; when Diderot having a desire lo look back to one of his own articles, printed some years before, with difficulty obtained a copy of the sheets containing it from the warehouse of M. Breton—and found, to hi.« horror and consternation, that it had been garbled and mutilated, in the manner we have just stated. His rage and vexation on the discover)', are well expressed in a long letltr to Breton, which M. Grimm has engrossed in his register. The mischief however was irremediable, without an intolerable delay ai.d expense; and as it was impossible for the editor to take any steps to bring Breton to punishment for this "horrible forfait." without openly avowing the intended publication of a work which me court only tolerated by affecting ignorance of its existence, it \vas at last resolved, with many tears of rage ami vexation, to keep the abomination secret—at least till it was proclaimed by the indignant denunciations of the respective authors whcse works had been subjected to such cruel mutilation. The most surprising part of the story however is, that none of these authors ever made any complaint about the matter. Whether the number of years that had elapsed since the time when most of them had furnished their papers, had made them insensible of the alterations—whether thev btlieved the change effected by the base ha¡ .1 of Breton to have originated with Diderot. their legal censor—or that, in fact, the alterations were chiefly in the articles of the Baid Diderot himself, we cannot pretend to say. but M. Grimm assures us, that, to his astonishment and that of Diderot, the mutilated publication, when it at last made its appearance, was very quietly received by the injured authors as their authentic production, and apologies humbly made, by some of them. for imperfections that had been created by the beast of a publisher.
There are many curious and original anecdotes of the Empress of Russia in this book; and as she always appeared to advantage where munificence and clemency to individuaïs were concerned, they are certainly calculated to give us a very favourable impression of that extraordinary woman. We can only
¡ afford room now for one, which characterises the nation as well as its sovereign. A popular poet, of the name of Sumarokoff, had quarrelled with the leading actress at Moscow, and protested that she should never again
: have the honour to perform in any of his tragedies. The Governor of Moscow, however, not being aware of this theatrical feud, thought fit to order one of Sumarokoff's tragedies for representation, and aleo to command