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zot, who was a Counsellor of State under M. de Cazes, lectures on History, and M. Cousin bolds forth with considerable elegance on the Philosophy of Plato. A great number of young men, and indeed many of every age, attend M. Cousin's course. They come away not much the wiser, though they give proof of their zeal and attention by repeating to every body who will listen to them long passages from their master's discourse. It must be confessed, however, that the intellectual impulse given to society during the present month by the contemporaneous lectures of MM. Cousin, Guizot, and Villemain, is very remarkable. The 'capacious rooms in which these gentlemen lecture are usually crowded two hours beforehand, 1. by youth in quest of instruction, and to whom the pursuit is agreeable enough, as long as it is fashionable ; , 2. by persons of mature age, possessing cultivated minds and varied knowledge, but who, notwithstanding, find time hang heavy on their hands—this class is very numerous in Paris ; 3. and lastly, by certain discreet gentlemen, who think it for their advantage to show themselves and attract the notice of their juniors. Indeed, to a man already known by some literary work, or by some transaction in the career of politics, the lectures of MM. Cousin, Villemain, and Guizot, afford an opportunity for keeping himself in the recollection of the public.
In the total absence of any good works, which we have this month to regret, I have been induced to speak to you of these three courses, which, next to politics, chiefly occupy the attention of our wealthy and literary classes, or the whole of the middle portion of good society: for I must not disguise the fact, that among the titled men who form our court-party, the philosophic and literary pursuits now so much in vogue, are regarded as nothing else than the outward signs of Jacobinism. Such, however, is the rage for these courses, that short-hand writers are employed to take down the several lectures. The bookseller pays for each lecture two hundred and fifty francs (about ten guineas) to the short-hand writer, and as much to the Professor to authorize the publication. This is quite a new thing in France; stenography with us having hitherto been solely employed in re porting political speeches.
These courses being so much the mode of the day, I could not neglect to visit them. I shall not, however, attempt to describe M. Cousin's. His ideas are so obscure, and in my opinion so contradictory, also, that I am persuaded the result of the exposition would be as fatiguing to the reader as the task of executing it to me. I must then choose between M. Guizot's course on History and M. Villemain's on Literature. While, however, M. Guizot in his general narrative blends much philosophy with his facts, his lectures are, upon the whole, dull. I must therefore try to give you some idea of the four last lectures of M. Villemain; and this Í am the more encouraged to do, as he often alluded to England. The spreading taste for romantic literature has brought Shakspeare into fashion; and when Shakspeare is introduced, all the writers of his nation naturally follow in his train.
But what will you think of my venturing to write to you about England, even though it be now a fashionable topic in France? What will you say on finding England probably disfigured by the pencil of a foreigner?
However, imagine to yourself a large hall besieged and crowded two hours before the time appointed for the commencement of the business. Suddenly a general burst of applause takes place, and a young man of thirtyeight, whose physiognomy is remarkable, is seen advancing to take the plain seat allotted to him. About thirty gentlemen, most of whom are perhaps anxious to appear to the assembled youth as being numbered among the most celebrated men of Paris, occupy seats placed around M. Villemain's chair, to these seats access can only be attained by a ticket given by the
Professor. The better to explain to you the enthusiasm of the audience, it is necessary to state, that though M. Villemain is far from being rich, he has refused a place of forty thousand francs per annum offered to him by the Ministry. The motive for this offer was the hope of the Ministers, that
by gaining over this popular Professor they would conciliate the young men of fashion, who form an imposing mass in Paris.
M. Villemain began by stating, in a voice slightly elevated, but which commanded profound attention, that he was about to enter on the history of French literature during its second period. In the first period, that is to say, under Lewis XIV. and the Regency from 1650 to 1730, our writers imitated the ancients, or rather fancied they imitated Sophocles and Euripides, while they were adapting their imitations to the taste of the ladies who fourished in the court of Lewis XIV. To insure success to Andros maque, both Madame de Sevigné and Madame de Montespan were to be pleased. In the second epoch of the first period of French literature to wards. 1700, the more direct objects of imitation were Corneille, Racine, Moliere, Fenelon, and La Bruyere ; but still the ancients were suffered to be imitated through them.
About 1730, the second period of French literature begins. Instead of imitating the ancients and the great geniuses which France had produced, the English became our models. They were imitated in every thing except in dramatic poetry. The reason of this exception will be evident enough, when it is recollected that during this period Addison, Thomson, Young, &c. gave to the London stage only tragedies, which were imitations of Racine.
Who gave the impulse to this rage for English imitation in France? Voltaire, who spent some years in London, and who on his return published his celebrated Lettres sur l'Angleterre, now forgotten, but which were read by every body during the first half of the reign of Lewis XV. The fine style of Lewis XIV.'s age carried with it a tone of gravity. The nation, tired of the hypocrisy of the Grand Monarque's Court, readily gave into all the excesses of the period of the Regency; and an administration, directed by the licentious Dubois and by women, was favourable to the reign of light prose. It was then that Voltaire, that genius truly French, propagated a taste for English literature. Another great genius, one of the most profound that France has produced, also lived for a considerable time in England, and in his works pronounced pompous eulogies on the Government of that country -eulogies which are now thought greatly exaggerated. But in 1740, this admiration of the constitution of England still farther spread the taste for English literature.
While dealing with the political, philosophical, and literary considerations which this part of his course presented, N1. Villemain managed very well; but his information is extremely limited ; and when he goes back to the middle ages, or even to the sixteenth century, he falls into the strangest blunders imaginable. He told us that “ Dante first awakened the mind of. his age.” The fact however is, that not less than forty celebrated writers of Florence and Bologna might be enumerated among the predecessors of Dante; and his contemporaries, the Professors of the University of Bologna, used to be listened to by thousands of auditors, just as M. Villemain is now. Independently of the great talents of the teachers, the scarcity of books was a powerful iuducement for poor students to attend the lectures of the Bologna professors, several of whom were, like Dante, Florentines, and flourished before him. One of the Villani has given us their lives, part in Latin, part in Italian. These opuscules, which were reprinted at Florence in 1822, are very curious. They show that Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona.
Soon after, M. Villemain adverted to Shakspeare. The following were his words:-“ Shakspeare gave at once origin to all, to nobleness, sublimity of language ; and dramatic imagination, whether in the pathetic or the comic.". Thus it appears, that our elegant Professor is unacquainted with any of the old English dramatists who were the predecessors or contemporaries of the Bard of Avon, and of whose works Mr. Gifford and others have published editions.
Diderot, one of the Encyclopædists, is perhaps not very extensively known in England. This celebrated man obtained a powerful influence over all who listened to his discourse. You may have read in the Confessions of Roussenu, how he inflamed the mind of that great writer. His constant
persecution by the Government added to the influence of Diderot. He was sent to the Bastille, and all the editions of his works were seized. Few of his works are now read, except Jaques le Fataliste, an admirable novel, though it contains four or five pages which rather offend against decorum: In Paris, the authority of Diderot over literature was immense, and he was passionately fond of Richardson's novels. Even now, in 1828, the publication of Clarissa Harlowe marks a moral epoch in the lives of most of our old gentlemen between fifty and sixty. If you wish to get them into a talk, ing key, you need only say something to revive their recollections of Lovelace, Clarissa, and Colonel Morden.
M. Villemain explained, in the most agreeable manner, the effect produced by Richardson on French literature. In a word, it was as decisive as that which is now operated by Sir Walter Scott. History is what we best know in France; and yet for all the histories which have been written within these ten years we are indebted to Sir Walter Scott. Had not the Scottish Baronet given us his novels in prose, these histories would have been still unpublished. I may mention, as the first in rank among them, M. Thierry's History of the Conquest of England by William of Normandy.
A proof of the levity of the French character might be drawn from the fate of the novel of Clarissa Harlowe. It was so much in vogue fifty years, ago, as to excite some jealousy even in Voltaire ; and now it is read by nobody. To the French of the present day, nothing appears so mortally dull as the interminable letters of Richardson. The recollection of the English printer's name is now only kept alive by a proverb. In speaking of a man who, by wishing to appear all perfection, becomes an intolerable piece of still life, it is common to say—“He is a Grandison.”
M. Villemain made some very just and striking observations, and related many very amusing things, in historically sketching the merits of Voltaire, Hume, Richardson, Sismondi, Barante, &c. But you are perhaps already well enough supplied with literary criticism. Next month I shall conclude what I have to say about M. Villemain. I hope I shall then be able to explain to you how it happens that the ideas of M. Cousin, which are to me unintelligible in consequence of his inconsistencies, nevertheless electrify all our youth of twenty, and even all our old men of fifty, whose heads are rather of the weaker order. M. Cousin's lectures are printed, and you may try to read them if you question my assertions. M. Cousin, however, has never sold himself to any Ministry: he was persecuted by the Jesuits, and thrown into prison at Dresden. I esteem him much, and am only sorry that I cannot comprehend him.
In our higher circles, all the youth of both sexes apply themselves to the English language. The same, indeed, may also be said of such of our married ladies who may have been about seventeen in the year 1813. We were without English books for about twenty years, and the study of English was a novelty, particularly to the Parisians, for whom La Fontaine made this celebrated verse :
“ Il nous faut du nouveau n'en fût il plus au monde." Our tragic actresses have grown old and ugly, and the public has got tired of them You may therefore conceive how this favours the repu-. tation of Miss Smithson, who seldom appears without making the female and many of the male part of the audience shed tears. Mr. Kemble has visited us, but has made no impression. He is considered about equal to such of our French actors as do not rise above mediocrity, Macready has also appeared, but his Macbeth is not liked. He places himself as if the pit were filled with painters. When Macready fancies he has got into a position full of grace--a grace, too, such as may be seen in the vignettes of our editions of Lalla Rookh and the Corsair,-he pauses and remains immoya! able, as if he wished to give the young artists time to sketch him.
Macready has played Virginius. As for the tragedy, it seemed very flat, i particularly in the first acts; but the two last acts made a powerful impresa, sion on the public. Mr. Knowles rose in estimation, and Macready was,
excellent : his acting in this part has however been the subject of much discussion. Many critics have blamed the slow and deliberate manner in which he kills his daughter. Would such be the action of a native of the south of Europe ?-of an inhabitant of Rome? In answer to these questions it has been replied, that Macready represents what an Englishman would be likely to do in a similar situation. But is it possible that a father in London or Edinburgh would appear thus calm, if his passion were so far roused as to impel him to kill his daughter to save her from the insults of such a tyrant as Appius? And, be this as it may, ought not our conception of such a situation to accord more with the feelings of an inhabitant of London, than of an ancient Roman whose character was formed by customs and a climate so very different from ours?
Such is in substance the theme on which the criticism of our fashionable circles is founded. Those who have been in England say, “Wait till Kean comes; you will then see a different sort of thing." Well, Kean bas arrived, but has failed to excite admiration. It is true also that Macready, who appeared very inferior to him in Macbeth, has only pleased us in the sentimental part of Virginius-in representing an ancient Roman whom excess of passion almost deprives of motion and speech. So that, after all, it is only Miss Smithson whose success has been uniformly remarkable. In playing the part of the widowed Queen of Edward, in Richard III. there was not a dry eye in the theatre when she parted with her children. It ought to be observed, however, that within these dozen years the show of maternal tenderness is quite the mode in France; and with us, fashion in any thing, whether good or bad, is all-powerful.
THE HEIRESS TO HER LOVER.
of them in London, 185.
proposal of a modern architect, ib.
defects of materials used in, ib.
the class so called, ib.--notice of “ Yes
Doings ;” opinion upon, 384.
187—miserable Almanacks published
Table-Talk Abroad, 51, 172, 347,
disgusting details of human crime in
merit of the Quarterly Review, 417.
's correction of Wordsworth, 185.
natives, 165-Klaas Stuurman, ib.
of free Hottentots, 171.
lin, ib.—his merits, 314-his talents,
315-a native of Clare, 316.
II. 393_III. 497.
man ; his integrity and patriotism
not duly estimated, 189.
theory of Columbus, ib. his success
deur of his discoveries, 296.
--description of the Desert, ib.—Mus-
gow Students, 274, 297.
monument to Mr. 190.
ment of the, 165-treatment of the