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“ He calls to mind his strength, and then his
speed, One of them only (Dryden always His winged heels, and then his armed head; excepted) showed talent, Sir John With these ť avoid, with that his fate to Denham, Charles the First's secretary
But fear prevails, and bids him trust his feet. He was employed in public affairs, and
So fast he flies, that his reviewing eye after a dissolute youth, turned to Has lost the chasers, and t. s ear the cry." + serious habits; and leaving behind him These are the worthy spectacles and satiric verse and party broad-jokes, at the studied diversity of the grounds of tained in riper years a lofty oratorical a noblema'a. Every object, moreover, style. His best poem, Cooper's Hill, is receives here, as in a king's palace, al. the description of a hill and its sur: the adornment which can be given to roundings, blended with the historical | it; elegant epithets are introduced to ideas which the sight recalls, and the embellish a feeble substantive; the moral reflections which its appearance decorations of art transform the comnaturally suggests. All these subjects monplace of nature : vessels are in accordance with the nobility and “floating towers;” the Thames is the limitation of the classical spirit, “ the most loved of all the Ocean's and display his vigor without betraying sons ; the airy mountain hides its his weaknesses; the poet could show proud head among the clouds, whilst a off his whole talent without forcing shady mantle clothes its sides. Among it. His fine language exhibits all its different kinds of ideas, there is one beauty, because it is sincere. We find kingly, full of stately and magnificent pleasure in following the regular pro- ceremonies of self-contained and gress of those copious phrases in which stvdied gestures, of correct yet comhis ideas, opposed or combined, attain manding figures, uniform and imposing for the first time their definite place like the appointments of a palace; and full clearness, where symmetry hence the classic writers, and Denham only brings out the argument more amongst them, draw all their poetic clearly, expansion only completes tints. From this every object and thought, antithesis and repetition do event takes its coloring, because connot induce trifling and affectation, strained to come into contact with it. where the music of verse, adding the Here the object and events are combreadth of sound to the fulness of pelled to traverse other things. Densense, conducts the chain of ideas, ham is not a mere courtier, he is an without effort or disorder, by an appro- Englishman; that is, preoccupied by priate measure to a becoming order moral emotions. He often quits his and movement. Gratification is united landscape to enter into some grave with solidity; the author of “Cooper's reflection; politics, religion, disturb Hill,” knows how to please as well as the enjoyment of his eyes; in reference to impress. His poem is like a king's Ito a hill or a forest, he meditates upon park, dignified and level without doubt, man; externals lead him inward ; im. but arranged to please the eye, and pressions of the senses to contempla. full of choice prospects. It leads us tions of the soul. The men of this by easy digressions across a multitude race are by nature and custom esoteric of varied thoughts. It shows us here When he sees the Thames throw a mountain, yonder a memorial of the itself into the sea, he compares it with nymphs, a classic memorial, like a por- "mortal life hasting to meet eternity." tico filled with statues, further on a The “lofty forehead” of a mountain, broad stream, and by its side the ruins beaten by storms, reminds him of the of an abbey ; each page of the poem is common fate of all that's high or like a distinct alley, with its distinct per- great.” The course of the river sug. spective. Further on, our thoughts
are gests to him ideas.of inner reformation : turned to the superstitions of the igno. «O could I dow like theel and make thy rant middle ages, and to the excesses of the recent revolution; then comes the My great example, as it is my theme! picture of a royal hunt; we see the Though deep, yet clear, though gente yet 24 trembling stag make his retreat to some ark covert
English Ports, vii. 199.
Strong, without rage, without o'erflowing, breeding now to speak good English,'. full.
says Wycherley, as to write good But his proud head the air , mountain hides English, good sense, or a good hand.": Among the clouds ; his saoulders and his These Frenchified coxcombs * are com
sides A shady mantle clothes; his curled brows
pliment-mongers, always powdered. Frown on the gentle stream, which calmly perfumed, eminent for þeing bien flows;
'They affect delicacy, they While winds and storms his lofty forehead beat,
are fastidious; they find Englishmen The common fate of all that's high or great."* coarse, gloomy, stiff ; they try to be There is it the English mind an in- and prate at random, placing the repu:
giddly and thoughtless; they giggle lestructible store of moral instincts, tation of man in the perfection of his and grand melancholy; and it is the wig and his bows. The theatre, which greatest confirmation of this, that we ridicules these imitators, is an imitator can discover such a stock at the court after their fashion. French comedy, of Charles II. These are, however, but rare open. model. They copy both, altering with,
like French politeness, becomes their ings, and as it were croppings up.
of the original rock. The habits of the and classic France is amongst all na.
out equalling them; for monarchical 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 pro the 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
VI. wished to rescue him from the contagion of Puritan opinions ; Vanbrugh,
Four principal writers established one of the best comic playwrights, this comedy – Wycherley, Congreve, went thither to contract a polish. The Vanbrugh, Farquhar : † the first gross, two courts were allied almost always in and in the pristine irruption of vice; fact, and always at heart, by a com- the others more sedate, possessing munity of interests, and of religious more a taste for urbanity than debauchand monarchical ideas. Charles II. ery; yet all men of the world, and accepted from Louis XIV. a pension, a priding themselves
their good mistress, counsels, and examples ; the breeding, on passing their days at nobility followed their prince, and court or in fine company, on having France was the model of the English the tastes and bearing of .gentlemeri court. Her literature and manners,
"I am not a literary man,” said Con. the finest of the class age, led the greve to Voltaire, “I am a gentleman.' fashion. We perceive in English In fact, as Pope said, he lived more intings that French authors are their like a man of quality than a man of nasters, and that they were in the letters, was noted for his successes hands of all well-educated people. with the fair, and passed his latter They consulted Bossuet, translated years in the house of the Duchess of Corneille, imitated Molière, respected Marlborough. I have said that Wych. Boileau. It went so far, that the great- erley, under Charles II., was one of est gallants of them tried to be alto the most fashionable courtiers. He gether Fronch, to mix some scraps of served in the army for some time, as French in every phrase. “It is as ill- * Etherege's Sir Fopling Flutter; Wycher
ley's The Gentleman Dancing master, i :. * English Poets, vii. 336ng.
t Finm 167 to 1726.
did also Vanbrugh ard Farquhar ;| the end, a second current seizes us and nothing is more gallant than the name acts like the first. It is composed like of Captain which they employed, the the other, and with reference to the military stories they brought back, and other. It throws it out by contrast, or the feather they stuck in their hats. strengthens it by resemtíance. Here They all wrote comedies on the same the valets repeat the dispute, then the worldiy and classical model, made up reconciliation of their masters. In one of probable incidents such as we ob- place, Alceste, drawn in one direction serve around us every day, of well. through three pages by anger, is drawn bred characters such as we commonly in a contrary direction, and through meet in a drawing-room, correct and three pages, by love.
Further on elegant conversations such as well. tradesmen, professors, relatives, do bred men can carry on. This theatre, mestics, relieve each other scene aitei wanting in poetry, fancy, and adven- scene, in order to bring out in cle arci 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 relicf, 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: “Molière belongs to no nation," gresses only to carry on the idea ; there said a great English actor (Kemble); is no complication, no incidents. One
one day the god of comedy, wishing comic event suffices for the story. A to write, became a man, and happened dozen conversations make up the play to fall into France." I accept this of the Misanthrope. The same situ. saying ; but in becoming man he found ation, five or six times renewed, is the himself, at the same time, a man of the whole of l'Ecole des Femmes. These seventeenth century and a Frenchman, pieces are made out of nothing. They and that is how he was the god of have no need of incidents, they find comedy. “To amuse respectable peo ample space in the compass of one ple,” said Molière," what a strange room and one day, without surprises, task !” Only the French art of the without decoration, with an arras and seventeenth century could succeed in four arm-chairs. This paucity of matthat; for it consists in leading by an ter throws out the ideas more clearly agreeable path to general notions ; and and quickly; in fact, their whole aim the taste for these notions, as well as is to bring those ideas prominently the custom of treading this path, is the forward ; the simplicity of the subject, peculiar mark of respectable people. the progress of the action, the linking Molière, like Racine, expands and cre together of the scenes,-to this every ates. Open any one of his plays that thing tends. At every step clearness comes to hand, and the first scene in increases, the impression is deepened it, chosen at random; after three re. vice stands out: ridicule is piled up, plies you are carried away, or rather until, before so many apt and united led away. The second continues the appeals, laughter forces its way and first, the third carries out the second, breaks forth. And this laughter is not the fourth completes all; a current is a mere outburst of physical amusecreated wh'ch bears us on, which bears ment; it is the judgment which incites us away, v hich does not release us it. The writer is a philosopher, who until it is exhausted. There is no brings us into contact with a universal check, no digression, no episodes to truth by a particular example. We distract our attention. To prevent the understand through him, as through lapses of an absent mind, a secondary La Bruyère or Nicole, the force of prej. character intervenes, a lackey, a lady's- udice, the obstinacy of conventionality, maid, a wife, who, couplet by couplet, the h'indness of love. The couplets of repeat in a different fashion the reply his dialogue, like the arguments of of the principal character, and by therr treatises, are but the worked out means of symmetry and contrast keep proof and the logical justificatioa of a us in the path laid down. Arrived at preconceived conclusion. We philor
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 se:zing 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 tho speaking portrait. I will add, to a damp cottage, where an old dropsical more peasing portrait,--and this is the mother lies choking, * while her chil. main 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 fees 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 master. the wife, ruin and imprison the father, forces, or the light of genius which and almost succeeds in it, not by clever fickers 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 gr.at the spectacle of a loyally sincere and artist for having transformed his subhonest 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 Fas ity. Recall his other plots; Georges come upo: us, the dearest possession Dandin mystified, Géronte beaten, Ar- of a Frenchman. The soldiers of Vil. nolphe duped, Harpagon plundered, lars used to dance that they might for. Sganarelle married, girls seduced, louts get they had no longer any bread. of thrashed, simpletons turned financiers. all French possessions, too, it is the There are sorrows here, and deep best. This gift does not destroy ones; many would rather weep than thought, but it masks it. In Molière,
truth is at the bottom, but concealed ; • Onuphre, in La Bruyère's Caractères, ch. xü. de la Mode ; Begears, in Beaumarchais * Consultations of Sganarelle in the Medecia Mere Coupable.
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 othei 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 thi 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 amber of ckness. 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
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, an
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 but in such brief sentences, such living attack on society or morality. We are delineations, such pungent humor, that only entertaining ourselves for one his philosophy is the best of entertainevening, nothing more. The syringes ments. He is faithful to his ruined and thrashings, the masquerades and mistress, his calumniated friend, but dances, prove that it is a sheer piece gracefully, without fuss. All his actions, of buffoonery. Do not be afraid that even noble ones, have an easy way philosophy will perish in a pantomime; about them which adorns them; he it is present even in the Mariage forcé, does nothing without pleasantness. even in the Malade imaginaire. It is His great talent is knowledge of the the mark of a Frenchman and a man world; he shows it not only in the of the world to clothe every thing, even trivial circumstances of every-day life, that which is serious, in laughter. but in the most passionate scenes, the When he is thinking, he does not most embarrassing positions. A noble always wish to show it. In his most swordsman wants to take Philinte, the violent moments he is still the master “respectable man,” as his second in a of the house, the polite host; he con- duel; he reflects a moment, excuses ceals from you his thoughts or his himself in a score of phrases, and suffering. Mirabeau, when in agony, “ without playing the Hector," leaves said to one of his friends with a smile, the bystanders convinced that he is no “Come, you who take an interest in coward. Armande insults him, then plucky deaths, you shall see mine!" throws herself in his arms ; he politely The French talk in this style when averts the storm, declines the reconthey are depicting life; no other nation ciliation with the most loyal frankness, knows how to philosophize smart's, and without employing a single false and die with good taste.
hood, leaves the spectators convinced This is the reason why in no other that he is no boor. When he loves nation comedy while it continues Eliante,t who prefers Alceste, and comic, affords a moral; Molière is the whom Alceste may possibly marry, he only man who gives us models without getting pedantic, without trenching on * Amongst women, Eliante, Henriette, Elise, the tragic, without growing solemn. Uranie, Elmire.
| Compare the admirable tact and coolness of This model is the “respectable man,” | Eliante, Henriette. and Elmire.