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One of them only (Dryden always excepted) showed talent, Sir John Denham, Charles the First's secretary. He was employed in public affairs, and after a dissolute youth, turned to serious habits; and leaving behind him satiric verse and party broad-jokes, attained in riper years a lofty oratorical style. His best poem, Cooper's Hill, is the description of a hill and its surroundings, blended with the historical ideas which the sight recalls, and the moral reflections which its appearance naturally suggests. All these subjects are in accordance with the nobility and the limitation of the classical spirit, and display his vigor without betraying his weaknesses; the poet could show off his whole talent without forcing it. His fine language exhibits all its beauty, because it is sincere. We find pleasure in following the regular progress of those copious phrases in which his ideas, opposed or combined, attain for the first time their definite place and full clearness, where symmetry only brings out the argument more clearly, expansion only completes thought, antithesis and repetition do not induce trifling and affectation, where the music of verse, adding the breadth of sound to the fulness of sense, conducts the chain of ideas, without effort or disorder, by an appropriate measure to a becoming order and movement. Gratification is united with solidity; the author of "Cooper's Hill," knows how to please as well as to impress. His poem is like a king's park, dignified and level without doubt, but arranged to please the eye, and full of choice prospects. It leads us by easy digressions across a multitude of varied thoughts. It shows us here a mountain, yonder a memorial of the nymphs, a classic memorial, like a portico filled with statues, further on a broad stream, and by its side the ruins of an abbey; each page of the poem is like a distinct alley, with its distinct perspective. Further on, our thoughts are turned to the superstitions of the ignorant middle ages, and to the excesses of the recent revolution; then comes the picture of a royal hunt; we see the trembling stag make his retreat to some ark covert

"He calls to mind his strength, and then his speed,

His winged heels, and then his armed head; With these t' avoid, with that his fate to meet;

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But fear prevails, and bids him trust his feet. So fast he flies, that his reviewing_eye Has lost the chasers, and t. s ear the cry."❤ These are the worthy spectacles and the studied diversity of the grounds of a noblema. Every object, moreover, receives here, as in a king's palace, al. the adornment which can be given tc it; elegant epithets are introduced to embellish a feeble substantive; the decorations of art transform the commonplace of nature : vessels are "floating towers;" the Thames is "the most loved of all the Ocean's sons; the airy mountain hides its proud head among the clouds, whilst a shady mantle clothes its sides. Among different kinds of ideas, there is one kingly, full of stately and magnificent ceremonies of self-contained studied gestures, of correct yet commanding figures, uniform and imposing like the appointments of a palace; hence the classic writers, and Denham amongst them, draw all their poetic tints. From this every object and event takes its coloring, because constrained to come into contact with it. Here the object and events are compelled to traverse other things. Denham is not a mere courtier, he is an Englishman; that is, preoccupied by moral emotions. He often quits his landscape to enter into some grave reflection; politics, religion, disturb the enjoyment of his eyes; in reference to a hill or a forest, he meditates upon man; externals lead him inward; im pressions of the senses to contempla. tions of the soul. The men of this race are by nature and custom esoteric. When he sees the Thames throw itself into the sea, he compares it with "mortal life hasting to meet eternity.' The "lofty forehead" of a mountain, beaten by storms, reminds him of "the common fate of all that's high or great." The course of the river suggests to him ideas of inner reformation: "O could I flow like thee! and make thy

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Strong without rage, without o'erflowing, | breeding now to speak good English,'


But his proud head the air, mountain hides
Among the clouds; his shoulders and his


A shady mantle clothes; his curled brows
Frown on the gentle stream, which calmly
While winds and storms his lofty forehead

The common fate of all that's high or great." There is in the English mind an inlestructible store of moral instincts, and grand melancholy; and it is the greatest confirmation of this, that we can discover such a stock at the court of Charles II.


says Wycherley, as to write good English, good sense, or a good hand." These Frenchified coxcombs * are compliment-mongers, always powdered perfumed, "eminent for being bien gantes." They affect delicacy, they are fastidious; they find Englishmen coarse, gloomy, stiff; they try to be and prate at random, placing the repu giddly and thoughtless; they giggle tation of man in the perfection of his wig and his bows. The theatre, which ridicules these imitators, is an imitator after their fashion. French comedy, like French politeness, becomes their These are, however, but rare open- model. They copy both, altering with ings, and as it were croppings up of out equalling them; for monarchical the original rock. The habits of the and classic France is amongst all na worldling are as a thick layer which tions, the best fitted from its instincts cover it throughout. Manners, con- and institutions for the modes of versation, style, the stage, taste, all is worldly life, and the works of an oratorFrench, or tries to be; they imitate ical mind. England follows it in this France as well as they are able, and go course, being carried away by the unithere to mould themselves. Many versal current of the age, but at a discavaliers went there, driven away by tance, and drawn aside by its national Cromwell. Denham, Waller, Ros- peculiarities. It is this common direccommon, and Rochester resided there;tion and this particular deviation which the Duchess of Newcastle, a poetess of the society and its poetry have prothe time, was married at Paris; the claimed, and which the stage and its Duke of Buckinghamshire served for a characters will display. short time under Turenne; Wycherley was sent to France by his father, who wished to rescue him from the contagion of Puritan opinions; Vanbrugh, one of the best comic playwrights, went thither to contract a polish. The two courts were allied almost always in fact, and always at heart, by a community of interests, and of religious and monarchical ideas. Charles II. accepted from Louis XIV. a pension, a mistress, counsels, and examples; the nobility followed their prince, and France was the model of the English Her literature and manners, the finest of the class age, led the fashion. We perceive in English writings that French authors are their masters, and that they were in the hands of all well-educated people. They consulted Bossuet, translated Corneille, imitated Molière, respected Boileau. It went so far, that the greatest gallants of them tried to be altogether French, to mix some scraps of French in every phrase. "It is as ill


* English Poets, vii. 236-7.


Four principal writers established this comedy-Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, Farquhar :† the first gross, and in the pristine irruption of vice; the others more sedate, possessing more a taste for urbanity than debauchery; yet all men of the world, and on their good priding themselves breeding, on passing their days at court or in fine company, on having the tastes and bearing of gentlemen "I am not a literary man," said Con greve to Voltaire, "I am a gentleman.' In fact, as Pope said, he lived more like a man of quality than a man of letters, was noted for his successes with the fair, and passed his latter years in the house of the Duchess of Marlborough. I have said that Wycherley, under Charles II., was one of the most fashionable courtiers. He served in the army for some time, as

* Etherege's Sir Fopling Flutter; Wycher ley's The Gentleman Dancing master, i 2. From 1672 to 1726.


the end, a second current seizes us and acts like the first. It is composed like the other, and with reference to the other. It throws it out by contrast, or strengthens it by resemblance. Here the valets repeat the dispute, then the reconciliation of their masters. In one place, Alceste, drawn in one direction through three pages by anger, is drawn in a contrary direction, and through Further on

did also Vanbrugh ard Farquhar ; nothing is more gallant than the name of Captain which they employed, the military stories they brought back, and the feather they stuck in their hats. They all wrote comedies on the same worldly and classical model, made up of probable incidents such as we observe around us every day, of wellbred characters such as we commonly meet in a drawing-room, correct and three pages, by love. elegant conversations such as well-tradesmen, professors, relatives, do bred men can carry on. This theatre,mestics, relieve each other scene after wanting in poetry, fancy, and adven- scene, in order to bring out in cleare tures, imitative and discursive, was light the pretentiousness and gullibility formed at the same time as that of of M. Jourdain. Every scene, every Molière, by the same causes, and on act, brings out in greater relief, com. his model, so that in order to compre- pletes, or prepares another. Every hend it we must compare it with that thing is united, and every thing is simof Molière. ple; the action progresses, and pro gresses only to carry on the idea; there is no complication, no incidents. One comic event suffices for the story. A dozen conversations make up the play of the Misanthrope. The same situ ation, five or six times renewed, is the whole of l'Ecole des Femmes. These pieces are made out of nothing. They have no need of incidents, they find ample space in the compass of one room and one day, without surprises, without decoration, with an arras and four arm-chairs. This paucity of matter throws out the ideas more clearly and quickly; in fact, their whole aim is to bring those ideas prominently forward; the simplicity of the subject, the progress of the action, the linking together of the scenes, to this every thing tends. At every step clearness increases, the impression is deepened vice stands out: ridicule is piled up, until, before so many apt and united appeals, laughter forces its way and breaks forth. And this laughter is not a mere outburst of physical amusement; it is the judgment which incites it. The writer is a philosopher, who brings us into contact with a universal truth by a particular example. We understand through him, as through La Bruyère or Nicole, the force of prej. udice, the obstinacy of conventionality, the h'indness of love. The couplets of his dialogue, like the arguments of therr treatises, are but the worked out proof and the logical justification of a preconceived conclusion. We philos

"Molière belongs to no nation," said a great English actor (Kemble); one day the god of comedy, wishing to write, became a man, and happened to fall into France." I accept this saying; but in becoming man he found himself, at the same time, a man of the seventeenth century and a Frenchman, and that is how he was the god of comedy. "To amuse respectable people," said Molière, "what a strange task!" Only the French art of the seventeenth century could succeed in that; for it consists in leading by an agreeable path to general notions; and the taste for these notions, as well as the custom of treading this path, is the peculiar mark of respectable people. Molière, like Racine, expands and creates. Open any one of his plays that comes to hand, and the first scene in it, chosen at random; after three replies you are carried away, or rather led away. The second continues the first, the third carries out the second, the fourth completes all; a current is created which bears us on, which bears us away, v hich does not release us until it is exhausted. There is no check, no digression, no episodes to distract our attention. To prevent the lapses of an absent mind, a secondary character intervenes, a lackey, a lady'smaid, a wife, who, couplet by couplet, repeat in a different fashion the reply of the principal character, and by means of symmetry and contrast keep us in the path laid down. Arrived at

ophize with him on humanity; we laugh at them. Arnolphe, Dandin think because he has thought. And Harpagon, are almost tragic charac he has only thought thus in the char-ters; and when we see them in the acter of a Frenchman, for an audience world instead of the theatre, we are of French men of the world. In him not disposed to sarcasm, but to pity we taste a national pleasure. French Picture to yourself the originals from refined and systematic intelligence, the whom Molière has taken his doctors most exact in seizing on the subordi- Consider this venturesome experimen nation of ideas, the most ready in talist, who, in the interest of science separating ideas from matter, the most tries a new saw, or inoculates a virus : fond of clear and tangible ideas, finds think of his long nights at the hospital, in him its nourishment and its echo. the wan patient carried on a mattress None who has sought to show us man- to the operating table, and stretching kind, has led us by a straighter and out his leg to the knife; or again im easier mode to a more distinct and agine the peasant's bed of straw in the speaking portrait. I will add, to a damp cottage, where an old dropsical more pleasing portrait,-and this is the mother lies choking, while her chilmain talent of comedy: it consists in dren grudgingly count up the crowns keeping back what is hateful; and ob- she has already cost them. You quit serve that which is hateful abounds in such scenes deeply moved, filled with the world. As soon as you will paint sympathy for human misery; you disthe world truly, philosophically, you cover that life, seen near and face to meet with vice, injustice, and every face, is a mass of trivial harshnesses where indignation; amusement flees and of grievous passions; you are before anger and morality. Consider tempted, if you wish to depict it, to the basis of Tartuffe; an obscene enter into the mire of sorrows whereon pedant, a red-faced hypocritical wretch, Balzac and Shakspeare have built: who, palming himself off on a decent you see in it no other poetry than that and refined family, tries to drive the audacious reasoning power which from son away, marry the daughter, corrupt such a confusion abstracts the masterthe wife, ruin and imprison the father, forces, or the light of genius which and almost succeeds in it, not by clever flickers over the swarm and the falls plots, but by vulgar mummery, and by of so many polluted and wounded the coarse audacity of his caddish dis- wretches. How every thing changes position. What could be more repel- under the hand of a mercurial Frenchling? And how is amusement to be man! how all this human ugliness is drawn from such a subject, where blotted out! how amusing is the specBeaumarchais and La Bruyère failed?* tacle which Molière has arranged for Similarly, in the Misanthrope, is not us! how we ought to thank the great the spectacle of a loyally sincere and artist for having transformed his sub. honest man, very much in love, whom ject so well! At last we have a cheer. his virtue finally overwhelms with rid-ful word, on canvas at least; we could icule and drives from society, a sad not have it otherwise, but this we have sight to see? Rousseau was annoyed How pleasant it is to forget truth! that it should produce laughter; and if what an art is that which divests us of we were to look upon the subject, not ourselves! what a point of view whict in Molière, but in itself, we should find converts the contortions of suffering enough to revolt our natural generos-into funny grimaces! Gayety has ity. Recall his other plots; Georges Dandin mystified, Géronte beaten, Arnolphe duped, Harpagon plundered, Sganarelle married, girls seduced, louts thrashed, simpletons turned financiers. There are sorrows here, and deep ones; many would rather weep than

* Onuphre, in La Bruyère's Caractères, ch. iii. de la Mode; Begears, in Beaumarchais a Mere Coupable.

come upo: us, the dearest possession of a Frenchman. The soldiers of Vil. lars used to dance that they might for. get they had no longer any bread. Of all French possessions, too, it is the best. This gift does not destroy thought, but it masks it. In Molière, truth is at the bottom, but concealed;

* Consultations of Sganarelle in the Médecin malgré lui.

he has heard the sobs of human trag as the phrase was, Philinte, Ariste, edy, but he prefers not to re-echo them. Clitandre, Eraste; there is no other It is quite enough to feel our wounds who can at the same time instruct and smart; let us not go to the theatre to amuse us. His talent has reflection for see them again. Philosophy, while it its basis, but it is cultivated by the reveals them, advises us not to think world. His character has honesty for of them too much. Let us enliven our its basis, but it is in harmony with th condition with the gayety of easy con- world. You may imitate him withou: versation and light wit, as we would transgressing either reason or duty; he the chamber of sickness. Let us cover is neither a coxcomb nor a roisterer. Tartuffe, Harpagon, the doctors, with You can imitate him without neglect outrageous ridicule: ridicule will make ing your interests or making yourself us forget their vices; they will afford ridiculous; he is neither an ignoramus us amusement instead of causing hor- nor unmannerly. He has read and cor. Let Alceste be grumpy and awk- understands the jargon of Trissotin ward. It is in the first place true, and Lycidas, but in order to pierce because our more valiant virtues are them through and through, to beat only the outbreaks of a temper out of them with their own arguments, to set harmony with circumstances; but, in the gallery in a roar at their expense addition, it will be amusing. His mis- He will discuss even morality and rehaps will cease to make him the mar-ligion, but in a style so natural, with tyr of justice; they will only be the proofs so clear, with warmth so genu. consequences of a cross-grained char-ine, that he interests women, and is acter. As to the mystifications of hus-listened to by men of the world. He bands, tutors, and fathers, I fancy that knows man, and reasons about him, we are not to see in them a concerted attack on society or morality. We are only entertaining ourselves for one evening, nothing more. The syringes and thrashings, the masquerades and dances, prove that it is a sheer piece of buffoonery. Do not be afraid that philosophy will perish in a pantomime; it is present even in the Mariage forcé, even in the Malade imaginaire. It is the mark of a Frenchman and a man of the world to clothe every thing, even that which is serious, in laughter. When he is thinking, he does not always wish to show it. In his most violent moments he is still the master of the house, the polite host; he conceals from you his thoughts or his suffering. Mirabeau, when in agony, said to one of his friends with a smile, "Come, you who take an interest in plucky deaths, you shall see mine!" The French talk in this style when they are depicting life; no other nation knows how to philosophize smart'v, and die with good taste.

This is the reason why in no other nation comedy while it continues comic, affords a moral; Molière is the only man who gives us models without getting pedantic, without trenching on the tragic, without growing solemn. This model is the "respectable man,"

but in such brief sentences, such living delineations, such pungent humor, that his philosophy is the best of entertainments. He is faithful to his ruined mistress, his calumniated friend, but gracefully, without fuss. All his actions, even noble ones, have an easy way about them which adorns them; he does nothing without pleasantness. His great talent is knowledge of the world; he shows it not only in the trivial circumstances of every-day life, but in the most passionate scenes, the most embarrassing positions. A noble swordsman wants to take Philinte, the "respectable man," as his second in a duel; he reflects a moment, excuses himself in a score of phrases, and "without playing the Hector," leaves the bystanders convinced that he is no coward. Armande insults him, then throws herself in his arms; he politely averts the storm, declines the reconciliation with the most loyal frankness, and without employing a single false hood, leaves the spectators convinced that he is no boor. When he loves Eliante,t who prefers Alceste, and whom Alceste may possibly marry, he

Amongst women, Eliante, Henriette, Elise. Uranie, Elmire.

† Compare the admirable tact and coolness of Eliante, Henriette, and Elmire.

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