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matters so as to be a good deal unpopular in Spain: the English, on the contrary, are in high favour; and would be received everywhere on a footing more easy and familiar even than they already are, were it not that the Spanish gentry are a little out of humour, and, indeed, I must say, not unreasonably, with some of our countrymen, who, after having been most hospitably admitted to their tables, parties, &c. have acted more like spies than liberal travellers, by ridiculing, in their publications, those manners and customs for the knowledge of which they were beholden to that GENEROSITY, which ought to have made its errors sacred from their
Of the general contents of these volumes, embracing the theatrical anecdotes of forty years, it is obviously impossible for us to convey any idea to our readers. They will find them entertaining, and peculiarly fit for desultory perusal, for they may be opened any where without injury to the effect, and laid down without even the trouble of marking the page where the reader pauses. They smack somewhat, we must confess, of age; there is a little prosing, and an occasional feebleness; but these serve to give a sort of character to the book, which naturally belongs to a subject to which no young man could do justice. We are disposed to smile now and then at the importance attached to prologues and epilogues, which were never worthy of grave criticism, and have long been forgotten, and at the modest introduction of Mr. Boaden himself with dramas which no one but himself remembers. But, on the whole, the agreeable office has been well performed; and we seem as we read to listen to the unconstrained talk of an old lover of the drama, who recounts with enthusiasm the happy evenings of his life, and gives us vivid pictures of the great artists who have left us, and who can survive only in the descriptions of their early admirers.
The Home-bound Ship.
THE ship was homeward bound-the thrilling cry
Of "Land! our native land!" from tongue to tengue
With hope's wild tumults, as its echo rung-
Whilst in the shrouds aloft the sea-boy sung
The thoughts of welcome, and of home, sweet home!
But hark! e'en now, with awful change of cheer,
Of crashing contact with dread rocks below;
"The ship is sinking!" in deep tones of woe,
For succour, as the gurgling waters rise.
And must that glowing heart be whelm'd beneath
Unshrouded in its gloomy caverns sleep?
E'en now with fainting limbs, and labouring breath,
He strives-while thought of those who soon shall weep
In cureless anguish for his fate, comes o'er
His reeling eye grows dim, though from the strand
Of dauntless heroes, dances o'er the wave.
His own deliverance from a watery grave, Till his fond mother's joyful sob he hears, And reads his recent peril in her tears.
PRESENT FRENCH PROSE LITERATURE.
SAADI the Persian poet relates, in one of his charming compositions, that an Indian prince, who reigned over a wide extent of territory which was cursed with barrenness, applied to one of the good Genii, who told him that on the summit of a lofty mountain which rose in the midst of his parched and sterile domains, was a deep lake, the waters of which, if conducted into the plains by subterraneous canals, would remedy the evil of which he complained. The prince did not fail to follow the sage and friendly counsel. The mountain lake was soon diminished almost to exhaustion, while its waters meandered in countless streams through the hitherto arid districts.
This Oriental fable offers an apt illustration of the history of French literature. The great men of the age of Louis XIV, with their profound intellects, may be compared to the deep and capacious lake of which the Persian poet speaks; but whilst Corneille, Pascal, Moliere, La Bruyere, Racine, and La Fontaine wrote with a concentrated intensity of talent, and gave to the public in a few sheets the result of the reflections of a whole life, the rest of France, in a literary point of view, was as unproductive and arid as the sterile domain of the Indian prince. Voltaire at length came, and rendered literature popular in France; which popularity has so rapidly increased since his time, that at present there is scarcely a green-grocer in Paris who does not possess La Harpe's Course of Literature; and who, by constantly reading this narrowminded critic, is now enabled to string together certain conventional phrases sufficiently correct and apparently spirituel, by means of which he will ring you the critical changes upon all the writers of the universe, from Homer and Milton, down to Marivaux and the author of Werter. Didot the printer is not altogether guiltless of this wide-spreading of the waters of literature; for his stereotype editions enable the most slender-fortuned youth to acquire, for a matter of 70 or 80 frances, the chefs-d'œuvre of all the celebrated writers. Voltaire, the Revolution, and the stereotype editions, have thus rendered literature and literary judgment almost as common as the air we breathe; so that you cannot venture to make the shortest journey in a public coach without running the risk of hearing, from the veriest vulgarian amongst your fellow passengers, a learned comparison of the respective merits of Corneille and Racine, or a long-drawn parallel between the Henriade of Voltaire and the Æneid.
If, in the time of Louis XIV, one had spoken to a provincial Countess of Martial, she would have answered, like the Countess d'Escarbagnos in one of Moliere's comedies, that indeed she bought her gloves from Martial, confounding the Roman poet with the fashionable perfumer of the day. But to console one, and that most sufficiently, for the gross ignorance of the provincial Countess, one would have met in Paris with such a thinker as Pascal-such a preacher as Bossuet, and such a painter of manners as Moliere. All at present in France--and even in the south, the least enlightened part of the kingdom, every one has read Voltaire; but, as a drawback, you will find in Paris such a thinker as M. Ronald, such a sacred orator as M. de Boulogne, and such a painter of manners as M. Etienne. The French men of letters of the present day are des hommes à la mode, whose chief ambition is to
sparkle and create a sensation in a drawing-room, to be pointed out on the public promenades, to sport a tilbury at the Bois de Boulogne, and to get, by intriguing in the ministerial antichambers, a first clerkship in a public office, or some other lucrative situation. When, therefore, gentlemen can contrive to snatch a moment from their unintellectual occupations to write, their attention and labour are almost exclusively directed to polishing and arranging their style, lest ridicule should be thrown upon them by the journals for some hardy or unusual expression. Their minds, filled with the fear of this so dreaded ridicule, and occupied in endeavouring to eschew it, become incapacitated for laying that foundation of thought and sentiment, without which a literary production is little better than a fragile frost-work, that may dazzle for a moment, but which soon melts away under the strong light of examination. It is for the above-mentioned reason that modern French literateurs deal so abundantly in generalities, and puerile and vapid declamation, "full of sound and fury, (not the furor divinus) signifying nothing." To the greater part of the productions of the most popular writers of the day, may be applied the celebrated remark of Montesquieu, Le lecteur se tue à abreger ce que l'auteur s'est tué à alonger. Almost every one in France has the science of literature, but few have a talent for it. No literary productions can appear, from Naples to Edinburgh, of which a crowd of writers are not ready to render an account according to all the rules of La Harpe, and in the critical and conventional cant of the day. But venture, if you dare, to read any of the original (so called by courtesy) works of these universal crifics themselves, and you will find nothing but ideas, sentiments, and turns of expression that have crossed your mind's path a thousand and a thousand times. It is in vain that you seek, amidst this literary lumber, for any thing even original or striking.
Having devoted a portion of the last number of our work to a sketch of the existing state of French poetry, and meaning still to give our readers a view of its dramatic department, we will here throw a rapid glance over the various branches of prose literature, and point out, en passant, those men who form, or seem to form, exceptions to the sad truths we have just ventured to announce.
The best of the prose writers has the advantage, if such it be, of being the most finished hypocrite in France. Viscount Chateaubriand does not, probably, in the course of a year, write a single phrase which is free from a fallacy either in reasoning or sentiment; so much so that while reading him you are incessantly tempted to cry out "Just heavens! how false all this is! but how well it is written!" A few years ago M. Chateaubriand was a poor and unknown writer, until the thought struck him of bringing religion into fashion, and rendering piety agreeable to "ears polite." In this he succeeded; and the result to him has been a blue riband and the department for foreign affairs during two years. It was M. Chateaubriand who, in 1804, performed a true miracle, in rendering it possible for a fashionable equipage to draw up to a church door. He made the noble and the wealthy comprehend that hypocrisy was the shortest cut to consideration. An ambitious mother, who has her carriage and servants in waiting opposite some church à la mode, such as St. Roch or the Assumption, finds it an almost certain means of providing splendidly for her daughters; and this pious
method of match-making is now known to be so efficient, that there is to be seen every morning a file of ten or a dozen equipages drawn up before the above-mentioned churches. The masterpiece, as to style, of M. Chateaubriand, is the first seventy or eighty pages of a pamphlet entitled De la Monarchie selon la Charte. His chief-d'œuvre, in a purely literary point of view, is a little romance yet unpublished, called Les Abencerrages. A short time after his disgrace (as they call in France dismissal from office) a noble duke, one of his friends, asked him when he should publish the Abencerrages; to which he replied, "When I have a great deal of leisure, and not a crown in my pocket." His Genie du Christianisme-Itineraire à Jerusalem—and Martyrs, are still purchased, but not read. This clever writer is a hypocrite only while holding the pen or speaking in his public capacity, as a peer or a minister. In society he is a highly intellectual man, of the very best ton, and who would repel the imputation of being devout as a slur upon his rank and acquirements; and in the confidence of familiar intercourse he does not hesitate to make free with the pretensions of priests and princes. M. Chateaubriand was not intended by Nature for a statesman. He has too much of the generosity, prodigality, and recklessness of genius; and it is only amongst a people so light and laughter-loving as the French, that such a man could be turned into a minister.
After M. Chateaubriand, should be named a man, probably almost unknown in England, Paul Louis Courier, who was formerly a captain of horse artillery, and served in Egypt against the English, whom he detests. This excellent and original writer is considered in France as a second Pascal. It will be remembered that the "Provincial Letters" of Pascal, which, by their keen and biting satire, inflicted such incurable wounds upon the Jesuits, were published in detached sheets from month to month. After a like manner, and in a clear, rapid, popular, and humorous style, M. Courier has from time to time given to the world a brochure of a few pages. But for the last year we have had nothing publicly from him, as no bookseller could be found to hazard the publication. His masterpiece is an ironical letter from Louis XVIII. to the beloved Ferdinand of Spain. Next to this, for piquancy and naïveté, may be cited his petition for the peasants who were forbidden to dance, of which there were 10,000 copies sold in a very few days. His letter for the subscription for the Chateau of Chambord, conducted the author to the strong holds of St. Pelagie for two months. M. Courier's style, which is rapid, concise, humourous, naïf, and equally intelligible to the humblest as well as the loftiest capacity, offers a singular contrast to the ambitious, academical, and sometimes unlucid manner of Chateaubriand. Besides his talents, as an original writer, M. Courier has also the reputation of being one of the best Greek scholars in France. That part of his translation of Herodotus already published is highly esteemed.
M. de Jouy, is what is called in that country un homme aimable. In his earlier years he was what is termed a lady's man, and though time has now thinned his flowing hair, he is not altogether without pretensions in that way. In his literary career he has shewn more adroitness than genius, more savoir faire than originality or acquirements; for as a professed man of letters, and as an academician, he is singularly ignoM. Jouy, who was a fine-looking young man, made several cam