Изображения страниц

the Iliad; it was the Iliad written in / away, and began :) move. Now that the style of the Henriade : by virtue of this robe is on he ground the critics this travesty the public admired it. pick it up, hang i: up in their museum They would not have admired it in the of ancient curiosities, so that everysimple Greek guise; they only consent body can see it, shake it, and try to ed to see it in powder and ribbons. It conjecture from it the feelings of the was the costume of the time, and it fine lords and of the fine speakers who was very necessary to put it on. Dr. wore it. Johnson in his commercial and academical style affirms even that the demand

V. for elegance had increased so much, that pure nature could no longer be It is not every thing to have a beauti borne.

ful dress, strongly sewn and fashion Good society and men of letters made able ; a man must be able to get into a little world by themselves, which had it easily. Reviewing the whole train been formed and refined after the man of the English poets of the eighteenth ner and ideas of France. They adopt century, we perceive that they do not ed a correct and noble style at the same easily get into the classical dress. This time as fashion and fine manners. They gold-embroidered jacket, which fits a held by this style as by their coat; ít Frenchman so well, hardly suits their was a matter of propriety or ceremony; figure; from time to time a too powerthere was an accepted and unalterable ful, awkward movement makes rents in pattern; they could not change it with the sleeves and elsewhere. For inout indecency or ridicule; to write, stance, Matthew Prior seems at first not according to the rules, especially sight to have all the qualities necessary in verse, effusively and naturally, would to wear the jacket well; he has been have been like showing oneself in the an ambassador to the French court, drawing-room in slippers and a dressing and writes pretty French impromptus ; gown. Their pleasure in reading. verse he turns off with facility little jesting was to try whether the pattern had poems on a dinner, a lady; he is galbeen exactly followed, originality was lant, a man of society, a pleasant story. only permitted in details ; a man might teller, epicurean, even skeptical like the adjust here a lace, there some embroid-courtiers of Charles II., that is to say, ered stripe, but he was bound scrupu- as far as and including political rog: lously to preserve the conventional uery; in short, he is an accomplished form, to brush every thing minutely, man of the world, as times went, with and never to appear without a new gold a correct and flowing style, having at lace and glossy broadcloth. The atten- command a light and a noble verse, tion was only bestowed on refinements; and pulling, according to the rules of a more elaborate braid, a more bril Bossu and Boileau, the string of my. liant velvet, a feather more gracefully thological puppets. With all this, we arranged; to this were boldness and find him neither gay enough nor reexperiment reduced; the smallest in- fined enough. Bolingbroke called him correctness, the slightest incongruity, wooden-faced, stubborn, and said there would have offended their eyes; they was something Dutch in him. His perfected the infinitely little. Men of manners smacked very strongly of those letters acted like these coquettes, for of Rochester, and the well-clad scamps whom the superb goddesses of Michael whom the Restoration bequeathed to Angelo and Rubens are but milk-maids, the Revolution. He took the first but who utter a cry of pleasure at the woman at hand, shut himself up with sight of a ribbon at twenty francs a her for several days, drank hard, yard. A division, a displacing of verses, fell asleep, and let her make off with a metaphor delighted them, and this his money and clothes. Amongst oth. was all which could still charm them. er drabs, ugly enough and always dirty, They went on day by day embroider. he finished by keeping Elizabeth Cor ing, bedizening, narrowing the bright and all but married her ; fortunately he classic robe, until at last the human died just in time. I lis style was like mind, feeling fettered, tore it, cast it his manners. When he tried to imi

tate La Fontaine's Hans Carvel, he | ard the Earl of Chesterfield's E.rs, by made it dull, and lengthened it; he Voltaire, are more brilliant but not could not be piquant, but he was biting ; more genuine productions.

On tag his obscenities have a cynical harsh- whole, with his coarseness, want of ness; his raillery is a satire, and in one taste, prolixity, perspicacity, passion, of his poems, To a Young Gentleman there is something in this man not in in Love, the lash becomes a knock- accordance with classical elegance. down blow. On the other hand, he He goes beyond it or does not attain was not a common roysterer. Of his it. two principal poems, one on Solomon This dissonance increases, and atten parap?rases and treats of the remark tive eyes soon discover under the regu. of Ecclesiastes, “ All is vinity.”. From lar clóak a kind of energetic and pre this picture we see forthwith that we cise imagination, ready to break through are in a biblical land: such an dea it. In this age lived Gay, a sort of La would not then have occurred to a boon Fontaine, as near La Fontaine as an companion of the Duke of Orleans, Englishman can be, that is, not very Regent of France. Solomon relates near, but at least a kind and amiable how he in vain "proposed his doubts good fellow, very sincere, very frank, to the lettered Rabbins," how he has strangely thoughtless, born to be duped, been equally unfortunate in the hopes and a young man to the last. Swift and desires of love, the possession of said of him that he ought never to have power, and ends by trusting to an “om lived more than twenty-two years. “In niscient Master, omnipresent King." wit a man, simplicity a child,” wrote Here we have English gloom and Eng- Pope. He lived, like La Fontaine, at lish conclusions. * Moreover, under the expense of the great, travelled as the rhetorical and uniform composition much as he could at their charge, lost of his verses, we perceive warmth and his money in South-Sea speculations, passion, rich painting, a sort of magnif. tried to get a place at court, wrote icence, and the profusion of an over- fables full of humanity to form the charged imagination. The sap in Eng- heart of the Duke of Cumberland,* and land is always stronger than in France ; ended as a beloved parasite and the dothe sensations there are deeper, and mestic poet of the Duke and Duchess the thoughts more original. Prior's of Queensberry. He had little of the other poem, very bold and philosophi- grave in his character, and neither many cal, against conventional truths and scruples nor manners. It was his sad pedantries, is a droll discourse on the lot, he said, "that he could get nothing seat of the soul, from which Voltaire from the court, whether he wrote for or has taken many ideas and much foul- against it.” And he wrote his own

The whole armory of the skep- epitaph: tic and materialist was built and fur

“ Life is a jest; and all things show it, nished in England, when the French

I thought so once; but now I know it." + took to it. Voltaire has only selected and sharpened the arrows. This poem This laughing careless poet, to revenge is also wholly written in a prosaic style, himself on the minister, wrote the with a harsh common sense and á Beggars' Opera, the fiercest and dirtiest medical frankness, not to be terrified of caricatures. $ In this opera they cut :y the foulest abominations. † Candide the throats of men in place of scratching

them ; babes handle the knife like the • Prior's Works, ed. Gilfillan, 1851:

rest. Yet Gay was a laugher, but .n a 'In the renotest wood and lonely grot, style of his own, or rather in that of his Certain to meet that worst of evils, thought

country. Seeing "certain young mea t Alma, canto ii. l. 937-978:

of insipid delicacy,” s Ambrose Philipe "Your nicer Hottentots think meet With guts and tripe to deck their feet ; # The

same duke who was afterwards nicaWith downcast looks on Totta's legs

named the Butcher." The ogling youth most humbly begs,

Poems on Several Occasions, by Mr. John She would not from his hopes remove Gay, 1745, 2 vols. ü. 141. At once his breakfast and his love. ...

See vol. iii. ch. iii. p. 81. Before you see, you smell your toast,

Š Poems on Several Occasions ; The Proeme And sweetest she who stinks the most." to 7 ho Shepherds Week, i. 64.


Let us go


for instance, who wrote elegant and to become in imaginatiou compatriots tender pastorals, in the manner of Fon- of such men. We have become user tenelle, he amused himself by parody- to the pictures of these drunken boobie ing and contradicting them, and in the whom Louis XIV. called " baboons,' Shepherd's Week introduced real rural to these red-faced cooks who clean fish. manners into the metre and form of the and to the like scenes. visionary poetry: “Thou wilt not find used to Gay; to his poem Trivia, 01 my shepherdesses idly piping on oaten the Art of Walking the Streets of Lon. reeds, but milking the kine, tying up don; to his advice as to dirty gutters, the sheaves, or if the hogs are astray, and shoes " with firm, well-hammerd driving them to their styes. My shep soles;” his description of the amours herd . . . sleepeth not under myrtle of the goddess Cloacina and a scaver. shades, but under a hedge, nor doth he ger, whence sprang the little shoe vigilantly defend his flocks from wolves, blacks. He is a lover of the real, has because there are none.'

."* Fancy a a precise imagination, does not see ob shepherd of Theocritus or Virgil, com-jects wholesale and from a general pelled to put on hobnailed shoes and point of view, but singly, with all their the dress of a Devonshire cowherd; outlines and surroundings, whatever such an oddity would amuse us by the they may be, beautiful or ugly, dirty or contrast of his person and his garments. clean. The other literary men So here The Magician, The Shepherd's likewise, even the chief classical Struggle, are travestied in a modern writers, including Pope. There is in guise. Listen to the song of the first Pope a minute description, with high. shepherd, “Lobbin Clout: "

colored words, local details, in which “ Leek to the Welch, to Dutchmen butter's comprehensive and characteristic feadear,

tures are stamped with such a liberal Of Irish swains potatoe is the chear; and sure hand, that we would take the Oat for their feasts, the Scottish shepherds author for a modern realist, and would

grind, Sweet turnips are the food of Blouzelind.

find in the work an historical docuWhile she loves turnips, butter I'll despise,

ment.* As to Swift, he is the bitterest Nor leeks, nor oatmeal, nor potatoe prize.” positivist, and more so in poetry than The other shepherd answers in the in prose. Let us read his eclogue on same metre; and the two continue, Strephon and Chloe, if we would know verse after verse, in the ancient manner, how far men can debase the noble pobut now amidst turnips, strong beer, etic drapery. They make a dishclout fat pigs, bespattered at will by modern of it, or dress clodhoppers in it; the country vulgarities and the dirt of a Roman toga and Greek chlamys do not northern climate. Van Ostade and suit these barbarians' shoulders. They Teniers love these vulgar and clownish are like those knights of the middleidyls; and in Gay, as well as with ages, who, when they had taken Conthem, unvarnished and sensual drollery stantinople, muffled themselves for a has its sway. The people of the north, joke, in long Byzantine robes, and went who are great eaters, always liked riding through the streets in these discountry fairs. The vagaries of toss-guises, dragging their embroidery in the pots and gossips, the grotesque out-gutter. burst of the vulgar and animal mind,

These men will do well ike the put them into good humor. A man knights, to return to their maior, to ti e must be a genuine man of the world or country, the mud of their ditches, and an artist, a Frenchman or an Italian, to the dunghill of their farm-yards. The be disgusted with them. They are the less man is fitted for social life, the product of the country, as well as meat more he is fitted for solitary life.' Ile and beer: let us try, in order that we enjoys the country the more for enjoy. may enjoy them, to forget wine, delicate ing the world less. Englishmen have fruits, to give ourselves blunted senses, always been more feudal and more fond Poems on Several Occasions; The Procme Louis XIV. and Louis XV. the worst

of the country than Frenchmen. Under to The Shepherd's Week, i. 66.

| Gay's Poems The Shepherd's Week; first * Epistle to Mrs. Blount, "op her leaving pastoral, The Squabble, p. 80.

the town.'





misfortune for a nobleman was to go to moisture t:ickli..g off.” * He perceives his estate in the country and grow objects so clearly that he makes them rusty there; away from the smiles of visible : we recognize the English land: the king and the fine conversatior of scape, green and moist, half drowned! Versailles, there was nothing left but to in Aoating vapors, blotted here and yawn and die. In England, in spite of there by violet clouds, which burst in artificial civilization and the charms of showers at the horizon, which they polite society, the love of the chase and darken, but where the light is delicately of bodily exercise, political interests dimmed by the fog, and the clear and the necessities of elections brought heavens show at intervals very bright the nobles back to their estates. And and pure : there their natural instincts returned.

* Th' effusive Scutb A sad and impassioned man, naturally Warms the wide air, and o'er the void of heaved

Breathes the big clouds with vernal showen self-dependent, converses with objects ; a grand gray sky, whereon the autumn Thus all day long the full-distended clouds mists slumber, a sudden burst of sun-Indulge their genial stores, and well-showered shine lighting up a moist field, depress Is deep enriched with vegetable life ; or excite him; inanimate things seem Till in the western sky, the downward sun to him instinct with life ; and the faint Looks out, effulgent, from amid the flush lignt, which in the morning reddens the of broken clouds, gay-shifting to his beam. fringe of heaven, moves him as much The illumined mountain ; through the fores,

The rapid radiance instantaneous strikes as the smile of a young girl at her first ball. Thus is genuine descriptive Shakes on the floods; and in a yellow mist, poetry, born. It appears in Dryden, in Far smoking o'er the interminable plain, Pope himself, even in the writers of Moist, bright, and green, the landscape laughs

In twinkling myriads lights the dewy gems. elegant pastorals, and shines forth in around." I Thomson's Seasons. This poet, the This is emphatic, but it is also opulent son of a clergyman, and very poor, In this air and this vegetation, in thi: lived, like most of the literary men of imagination and this style, there is a the time, on donations and literary sub, heaping up, and, as it were, an impasto scriptions, on sinecures and political of effaced or sparkling tints ; they are pensions ; for lack of money he did not here the glistening and lustrous robe vi marry; wrote tragedies, because trage nature and art. We must see them in dies brought in plenty money; and Rubens-he is the painter and poet of ended by settling in a country house, the teeming and humid clime; but we lying in bed till mid-day, indolent, con- discover it also in others; and in this templative, but a simple and honest magnificence of Thomson, in this exman, affectionate and beloved.

He aggerated, luxuriant, grand coloring, we saw and loved the country in its small- find occasionally the rich palette of est details, not outwardly only, as Rubens. Saint Lambert,* his imitator; he made

VI. it his joy, his amusement, his habitual All this suits ill the classical em. occupation; a gardener at heart, de- broidery. Thou.son's visible imitations lighted to see the spring arrive, happy of Virgil

, his episodes inserted to fill up te be able to add another field to his space, his invocations to spring, to the garden. He paints all the little things, muse, to philosophy, all these pedan without being ashamed, for they inter- tic relics and conventionalisms, produce Est him, and takes pleasure in the incongruity. But the contrast is much smell of the dairy.” We hear him

more marked in another way. The speak of the “insect armies,” and worldly artificial life such as Louis u when the envenomed leaf begins to XIV. had made fashionable, began to curl," † and of the birds which, fore.

weary Europe. It was found meagre seeing the approaching rain,“ streak and hollow; people grew tired of always their wings with oil, to throw the lucid acting, submitting to etiquette. They

• A French pastoral writer (1797-1803), who felt that gallantry is not love, nor mad. wrote, in imitation of Thomson, Zes Saisons.-rigals poetry, nor amusement happi

† Poetical Works of J. Thomson, ed. R. Bell, ness. They perceived that man is not Ass, a vols ; ü. Spring, 18.


t Ibid.

1 Ibid. no

Ibid. 19.

an ass


an elegant doll, or a dandy the maste - | Like Rousseau, he praised gravity, piece of nature, and that there is a patriotism, liberty, virtue ; rose from world beyond the drawing-room. A the spectacle of nature to the contemGenevese plebeian (J. J. Rousseau), a plation of God, and showed to man Protestant and a recluse, whom religion, glimpses of immortal life beyond the education, poverty, and genius had led tomb. Like him, in short, hé marred more quickly and further than others, the sincerity of his emotion and the spoke out the public secret aloud; and truth of his poetry by sentimental it was thought that he had discovered vapidities, by pastoral billing and cooni re-discovered the country,conscience, ing, and by such an abundance of religion, the rights of man, and natural epithets, personified abstractions, pom sentiments. Then appeared a new per- pous invocations and oratorica! tirades, sonality, the idol and model of his time, that we perceive in him beforehand the man of feeling, who, by his grave the false and ornamental style of character and liking for nature, con- Thomas, * David,t and the first French trasted with the man at court. Doubt. Revolution. less the man of feeling has not escaped Other authors follow in the same the influence of the places he has fre- track. The literature of that period quented. He is refined and insipid, might be called the library of the man melting at the sight of the young lambs of feeling. First there was Richardnibbling the newly grown grass, blessing son, the puritanic printer, with his Sir the little birds, who give a concert to Charles Grandison, † a man of princicelebrate their happiness. He is em- ples,an accomplished model of a gentle. phatic and wordy, writes tirades about man, a professor of decorum and morsentiment, inveighs against the age, ality, with a soul into the bargain. There apostrophizes virtue, reason, truth, and is Sterne too, a refined and sickly the abstract divinities, which are en- blackguard, who, amidst his buffoonergraved in delicate outline on frontis- ies and oddities, pauses to weep over pieces. In spite of himself, he con

an imaginary prisoner. $ tinues a man of the drawing-room and There is, in particular, Henry Mackenthe academy; after uttering sweet zie, "the Man of Feeling," whose things to the ladies, he utters them to timid, delicate hero weeps five or six nature, and declaims in polished periods times a day; who grows consumptive about the Deity. But after all, it is through sensibility, dares not broach through him that the revolt against his love till at the point of death, and classical customs begins ; and in this dies in broaching it. Naturally, praise respect, he is more advanced in. Ger-induces satire ; in the opposite manic England than in Latin France. camp we see Fielding, a valiant roysThirty years before Rousseau, Thom- terer, and Sheridan, a brilliant but son had expressed all Rousseau's senti- naughty fellow, the one with Blifi), aients, almost in the same style. Like the other with Joseph Surface, two him, he painted the country with sym- hypocrites, especially the second, not pathy and enthusiasm. Like him, he coarse, red-faced, and smelling of the contrasted the golden age of primitive vestry, like Tartuffe, but worldly, well simplicity with modern miseries and clad, a fine talker, loftily serious, sad corruption. Like him, he exalted deep and gentle from excess of tenderness, ove, conjugal tenderness, the union of who, with his hand on his heart and a souls and perfect esteem animated by tear in his eye, showers on the public desire, paternal affection, and all do his sentences and periods whilst he mestic joys. Like him, he combated soils his brother's reputation and le. contemporary frivolity, and compared bauches his neighbor's wife. When a the ancient republics with modern man of feeling has been thus created, States :

[ocr errors]

* Anthony Léonard Thomas (1732-1785) wrote “ Proofs of a people, whose heroic aims memoirs and essays on the character of cele

Soared far above the little selfish sphere brated men in highly oratorical and pompou Of doubting modern life.” *


† See the paintings of David, called La • Poetical Works of Thomson, Liberty, part Frtes de la Revolution.

See ante, p. 168.

§ See ante. Po 471


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »