페이지 이미지

put into the hands of the Emperor almost immediately after its publication, while he stood on the battle-field of Friedland, and saw his vanquished enemies flying before him. How far poetry might have been a seasonable relief after such a scene, or what may be the justice of Napoleon's criticism, it is not our purpose to enquire; but we believe that he glanced over the verses, exclaiming "Le Brun has here surpassed himself!" for he attributed the ode to the celebrated poet of that name; and we know that he ordered on the spot a pension of 6000 francs a year to the supposed author. A few days afterwards the mistake was discovered. The old poet had not his annuity confirmed on the occasion (although he subsequently got one to the same amount); and the youthful student was placed on the pension list for 1200 francs, a sum more suitable to his station, though not equivalent to his merit, if the Imperial valuation was correct.

Thus encouraged, Le Brun pursued with vigour the career which was opening out before him. He published, from time to time, a succession of odes, which all evinced a considerable degree of talent. He composed a poem for the Institute, and gained a prize from that body that essential step towards literary success in France, where the narrowed structure of poetic fame has been hitherto built on the cramped foundation of academic rule. He finally made that grand stride towards celebrity-the production of a successful tragedy; and having thus reached the term where the mass of French poets have been contented to end their struggles for a name, and begin their race of monotonous servility to the prejudices of established forms, the author before us felt, in his own strength, that he had only planted his foot on the outer bounds of the domain of which he was ambitious to become the possessor. The fame he coveted was not of that kind which is gained by the cultured mediocrity of common minds. His ambition was of a more extended and elevated range. Up to the period of the success of his tragedy of "Ulysse,” his mind, trained within the limits of classic study, had no conceptions beyond its beautiful but beaten paths. He felt, like most of his compatriot precedents, and the mass of his contemporaries, that devotion towards classic models, which, while creating a just apprehension of the minor duties of style and sentiment, caused a blindness to their chief merits-their freedom, their originality, and their natural truth. Le Brun, and the school to which he then belonged, felt deeply and justly impressed with the admiration which must ever be excited by the exquisite productions of Greek and Roman genius; but they forgot in their enthusiasm that what was admirable in their models was absurd in them; and La Harpe, for instance, in his retrospective imaginings of the effect produced on an Athenian audience, some thousands of years back, by the combinations of poetry, history, and the wonders of mythology, was blind to the fact that their reproduction in a Parisian theatre in the eighteenth century was burlesquing what he meant to honour. He did not feel that what we call classic, was in Sophocles romantic; or that "Philoctete" with his divine arrows, and Jupiter descending in a cloud, are in our eyes but the mockeries of Harlequin's wand, and the commonest of pantomimic tricks. It was, however, in the spirit of this misconception that Le Brun thought, and feit, and wrote. He had confirmed all his classical partialities by a tour through Italy and

VOL. IX. No. 52.-1825.


Greece; and he might have gone on to this day fancying Paris to be Athens, and Frenchmen to be Greeks, had not chance thrown before him some scattered volumes of translations from Shakspeare, Lord Byron, and Walter Scott. Dazzled by the splendid conceptions of the greatest of great minds, he looked for their brilliant yet subdued reflections in the fervour and variety of the other two. A new creation seemed open to the Frenchman. He gazed out upon enchantment— and boldly quitted "the Happy Valley" of his national restraints, to dare the perils of the world that spread before him. He studied English, and read Shakspeare stripped of his masquerade translation. He learned German and Spanish; and, filled with new notions and high aspirings, he pondered long and deeply as to the means of carrying into effect his designs against the idolized formalities of French tragedy. He made choice of a method, which was certainly wise, if success be a just criterion. Not venturing to introduce Shakspeare, in all his barbarian magnificence, to the nervous insipidity of Parisian taste; and not caring to cope with Ducis, in marring the conceptions while trimming down the genius of his master, he fixed upon the "Marie Stuart" of Schiller as the medium for his experiment. The play afforded ample field for working, not only on the national vanity, but on the chivalrous generosity of a French audience. Mary has always been wholly a heroine in France, because half a Frenchwoman; and though History may continue its "still small whisperings," they are not expected to be audible on the stage. The play was eminently successful; a change of scenery was suffered, without its being pronounced Melodrame; and Talma tolerated in a character that descends to a representation of natural feeling, without its being declared within the confines of comedy. This signal victory over the legioned prejudices of France, which, like their military prototypes, were thought invincible-till they were conquered, placed Le Brun at once on a height of reputation far above what he would have acquired as the translator, or adapter, of a German drama. The evident improvement of his versification kept pace with the enlargement of his ideas. "Ulysse" was principally remarkable for the odour of antiquity, in which the poet's thoughts were embalmed. The style was forcible and lofty, without being tinctured by declamation or conceit;-but a still happier tone is observable in "Marie Stuart." In the prize poem on "Le Bonheur de L'Etude," the author had shewn that the ornaments of style were not beyond his reach; but without the eclat of De Lamartine, or the elegance of Delavigne, his natural expression is rather nervous than refined. He may be sometimes charged with amplification, but more frequently with a too great sententiousness, the natural bent of his style leaning to strength rather than elegance.

The death of Napoleon in 1822 brought Le Brun again before the public, to chant the fall, as he had already "sung the glory," of his idol. The lyric poem which he published on that occasion, possesses charms for us infinitely greater than any of his other productions, and seems to be most truly what he describes it in his preface, the result of a spontaneous and involuntary movement. He says, "J'ai fait ces vers dans la solitude, à la campagne, au moment même, ou la surprennante nouvelle m'est arrivée. Ce n'est pas un sujet que j'aie choisi ni medité. J'ai été ému; mon émotion s'est repandue en vers, et ce

poéme s'est trouvé fait." The government of France shewed their estimate of the fine feeling which prompted this effusion, by taking from the poet his pension of fifty pounds a year, the only benefit he ever received from the sovereign to whose memory he sung a dirge. He is married, and lives a retired life, of moderate independence and quiet happiness.

Le Brun is soon again to come before the world. He has not only completed a series of lyric poems on Greece, but a play of his is now in rehearsal at the Theatre Français, which is meant to carry a step further than "Marie Stuart" the reformation, of which the author is most assuredly the prime mover.* The subject is one of those romantic stories which abound in the history of Spain; the title "Le Cid D'Andalouse."-Not venturing to give to this piece the hallowed title of tragedy, the author calls it a " comédie héroique ;" and we trust it may be a triumphant novelty in the present state of the French stage, and a fresh stimulus to the new-springing taste of France.

We cannot more agreeably conclude this article than by recording, that the principal influence in removing some objections of the censorship to the representation of this play proceeded from the interference of Monsieur de Chateaubriand-a pleasing, and not a solitary instance, that the literary mind of this ex-minister was too well filled, even when he was in power, to afford a cranny for the littleness of party prejudice.t


GREY mould'ring walls, relics of other days,
How Time hath laid her withering hand on thee,
As envious of thy greatness! Thus she lays
The proud and mighty low; nor leaves to see
So much of what has been to those who be;
Nor like the proud man in his fall, for thou
Hast still an honest friend left clingingly,
Bespeaking reverence for thy years, and now
An ivy garland wreathes thy venerable brow.

I stand where Wolsey stood, helpless and shorn
Of all his greatness-in his saddest hour-
His body bow'd down to the grave, though worn
Less with the lapse of years than loss of power:
For he had courted Fortune's highest dower,
And she had petted him; nor dream'd he then,
A face so clothed in smiles could ever lower-
That kings for sport do ever thus with men,
Raising them high, to hurl them down again.

* The influence of M. Le Brun's example has been already felt and followed up by several able disciples-Jouy, Arnault, Soumet, and others.

The tragedy of " Pierre de Portugal," lately produced at the Theatre Français, from the pen of M. Arnault fils, author of Regulus, owed its appearance entirely to the interference of M. de Chateaubriand; an interference alluded to in the author's preface, but not as explicitly acknowledged as could have been wished.


A DAY or two after the publication of a letter which I addressed to Mr. Brougham, on the subject of a London University, I received a message from a man of distinguished public character, pledging himself to raise 100,000l. for the project, and requesting me to draw up a plan for the establishment. Many other individuals, of substantial influence and respectability, have honoured me with the same request. I certainly think that it would be better for one person to prepare a digested plan of an university, which should be afterwards subjected to the revision and correction of a committee, than for a crowd of plans to be presented together:-but the commission for such an undertaking is of grave importance, and I should not think myself justified in setting about it unless I had a more general expression of consent from the public.

I think, however, that I shall do no injury to the success of the scheme by offering a few farther suggestions as to its propriety :—and the first suggestion which I take the liberty of making to its well-wishers is, to implore them not to take it up either with the outward aspect or inward feeling of party spirit. The cause has, or at least it ought to have, no connexion with politics; and whatever such connexion you give it, will be doing it a gratuitous injury. I have remarked, with regret, in some newspapers, that an university in the metropolis is demanded, on account of the alleged abuses of existing universities. Now, we demand it on no such account. The universities cannot help being distant from London. As little can they help its being possible for a youth to be maintained with the same comfort more cheaply at home, than where others have to profit by his board and lodging;-and they are equally blameless for the impossibility of preventing other and more serious evils, which naturally result, in spite of all human care, from young men being crowded together, at a distance from home, and removed from the wholesome restraints of domestic influence and endearment. Add to this, that the universities are overstocked, and in point of fact inaccessible to the middling classes of London. If then a body of Londoners were to associate and agree to petition Parliament for a charter to endow a great place of education, what language would it become them to address to Parliament?-Not surely a string of complaints against the two venerable abodes of English learning!-You could not assemble a small, much less a great body of London citizens, without meeting the most opposite opinions respecting the mode of education pursued at Oxford and Cambridge. But thousands of the inhabitants of London, I believe, agree in this point, that those places are too dear for their purses; and that it would be convenient if London had a cheaper and nearer place of education.-Wherefore, then, mix up this plain fact with either praise or blame of the two universities? It is unwise, unnecessary, and unjust. I even dislike predominating the establishment of an university on the Scottish plan. It has nothing in common with the Scottish universities, but the circumstances of the professors being chiefly maintained by fees from their pupils, and the youth being able to reside at home. But even at the Scottish universities the students are often from the country, and lodge in town, (an un

favourable circumstance); whereas London is sufficient to supply domesticated students, and we have a place better fitted than any Scottish town, to enjoy the benefits of united domestic and public education. Besides, the Scottish universities are, in certain respects, very defective, whilst the English and foreign universities are, in some points, more to be imitated than ours of the North. Let us abstain then from blending either polemic or national feelings with this proposal. What people choose to say or think about Cambridge or Oxford, we (the friends of the scheme) have no right to dictate. But if it be true that an university would be desirable in London, let that important truth rest simply on its own foundations, and let it not be pettishly deduced as a corollary from charges against Oxford and Cambridge. If those universities were even cheap places, they are still overstocked and of inconvenient access to the Londoners.

I now address myself not so much to the friends of the scheme, as to those who think unfavourably of it, or who may not have thought of it at all. The sanguine friends of the proposal tell me, that they consider all the objections urged against it as too ridiculous to be answered. I certainly regard the arguments of our opponents as very light; but still there are some of them connected with prejudices which are too pernicious to deserve the compliment of being treated with levity.

I have been asked, in the first place, if there are not plenty of places already existing for educating men for the learned and liberal professions. My answer is, that thousands who have not the honour of belonging to those professions, are nevertheless desirous of knowledge and education. The objecting question itself implies an opinion that if you educate the priest and lawyer and physician WELL, you need not trouble yourself farther about the liberal education of society. Bacon however has said, “ that man is but what he knows ;" and in this metropolis, from its enlightened bishop down to its intelligent mechanic, there is a general persuasion that man is elevated by knowledge and degraded by ignorance. At the same time the persuasion is still too far from being universal. I have spoken with men, themselves well educated, who have told me that a little learning is a dangerous thing, and have objected to the scheme because half-educated men are more apt to have crude notions than men not educated at all.

Before I admit the bad effects of a little learning and of half-education, I must know what is meant by those terms. If you mean by half-education, a man having been well taught only half the things that can be learnt, I should be glad to be entitled to-morrow to the denomination. But if you mean a smattering in many branches of knowledge without a tolerable knowledge of any one branch, I grant that crude ideas will be the probable result of such learning. Recollect, however, that this is not to be HALF-EDUCATED; it is to be MIS-EDUCATED, and we are proposing no place of MIS-EDUCATION. On the contrary, we propose a place where a man may be THOROUGHLY and CHEAPLY grounded in any single branch of learning or science, or in as many branches as he may choose. A great many prejudices on the subject of education arise from confounding two things, essentially opposite, namely, a scattered and confused acquisition of knowledge, and a small degree of knowledge properly acquired. A man may

« 이전계속 »