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LONDON:
CHAPMAN AND HALL, 186, STRAND;

1843.

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ART. I.-Revue des Deux Mondes. (Criticisms on English Writers of Romance. By PHILARÈTE CHASLES.) Paris.

1839—1842. The mutual opinions entertained by French and English of each other, were in the last century universally admitted and agreed on. The Englishman was a sturdy, carnivorous, independent clown: the Frenchman a lantern-jawed skeleton (the epithet was applied to him as far back as Piers Plowman), soup-fed, lace-dizened, and pressed under the triple yoke of “popery, slavery, and wooden shoes." There was no mistaking the physical or moral characteristics of the two people. The Frenchman was irremediably gay, essentially volatile and saltatory: the Englishman, reserved and splenetic, even to suicide. Such were the stereotyped features of each race, when the Revolution drew its dark veil between them, and allowed but distant peeps at each other's deeds, ways, and thoughts.

When the veil or curtain was withdrawn, half a century had done its work on both. The Englishman, pent up in his splenetic island, had become, or at least was found to be, a very gay and pleasurable fellow, and a slender dandy withal. The division of property had in the mean time turned the Frenchman into pastures of his own, almost as fat as John Bull's; and he had become in consequence a grave and ruminant animal, with a protuberant oesophagus. 'As to fashion, taste, gait, appearance, every thing of course was topsyturvy. A powdered marquis was no more: perukes had vanished: and the only being that adhered to the queue, and other extraordinary appendages of the last century, was perhaps the Postilion: that representative of Progress being more behindhand and retrograde, than any other of his compatriots. In exterior setting forth, as in many more reVOL. XXX. NO. LIX.

2797

spects, military ideas had superseded all others. The moustachiod officer was in the highest sphere of fashion and notability. And women dressed to correspond: lacing up their chests like those of drum-majors, and placing their waists in and about the region of the hipbone, as hussars are wont to do. Civilian elegance, which had reached such a height in England, in France existed not. In 1815 Young France touched a razor once a week, and divers brushes of the toilet quite as seldom. Yet it was then the dynasty of dandies reigned in England. What was the surprise of the French, when fine specimens of this fraternity rolled over to Dessein's, and invaded the boulevards! The Moustache was dethroned, and in a very few months the little theatres began to ridicule the braggart soldier of the Empire. A learned essay was written, which the Institute refused to print, on the causes to which it was owing, that the genius of tailoring had passed in modern times from Italy to Spain; then from Spain to France; and lastly, in passing to England, had abandoned the Latin for the Teutonic race. The surprise of the French at this was as great as that of the Romans, when they first beheld their general Cecina exchange the toga .for a pair of Gallic trews and tartans: - quod versicolore sagulo, braccas, tegmen barbarum, indutus, togatos adloqueretur.

If such difference, mutual surprise, and misapprehension existed respecting external attributes and superficial humours, still greater was the surprise, when each began to examine the intellectual productions and progress of the other. For a Frenchman, during the first fifteen years of the century, to have known English literature was difficult; to have talked or written of it, impossible. Madame de Staël saw the first edition of her “ Germany" pounded in a mortar, because it praised the poetry and philosophy of the Germans. What would have befallen her, had she praised English men and letters, reminds one of the proverbial story of the Marseillais. A boy, walking peaceably down the street, receives from a Marseillais a rude kick, which leaves him sprawling. The boy rises, and with lamentation asks, what he had done to his aggressor to deserve such a blow. “What have you done to me !" responds the Marseillais. “ Only imagine what a kick you would have got had you done any thing to me!" Napoleon converted the Allemagne into pasteboard. Had it been an Angleterre, he would have done scarcely less than make an Auto-da-Fé of · book and authoress together.

Napoleon's exile of Madame de Stael sent her to England. This enabled her to make an early acquaintance with Waverley and Childe Harold, and through her means Byron and Scott

to their doo work, whithe poetry highes

poured over the Channel in a tide, that soon reached the farthest limits of Europe. French critics indeed at first withstood the invasion. The classic school of the Empire denounced the author of Waverley as a barbarian of the mad school of Shakspeare. And though Byron's admiration of Napoleon must have mollified them, their admiration of his genius was neither intelligent nor great. It was not for many years, and not till after the fighting of several pitched battles between classics and romantics, that the excellence® (very various !) of Byron, Göthe, Scott, and Moore were acknowledged. Their triumph was won in the most legitimate of ways; by translations; and by these translations finding sale and vogue even amongst a lower class of French readers, than that which enjoyed the originals in England.

The French (notwithstanding late adventures of Romancers on the Rhine) are not travellers, neither do they care to go forth to seek out the rarities and excellences of other nations. But they are generous enough to welcome these, when brought home to their doors. Thus from 1819 to 1825 a translation manufactory was set at work, which poured forth translations every monthe prose translations of the poetry, drama, philosophy, and literatur: of other countries. Even the highest names were associated with the scheme, and that of Guizot himself stands at the head of hundreds of volumes, some twenty of Shakspeare being of the number.

These translations were not confined to novels and dramas. Cousin introduced the French to Kant. Jouffroy translated Dugald Stewart and Reid. And the fiercest combats between the old school of imperial literature, and the new one of the rising generation, took place on the fields of metaphysics. Messrs. Jouy and his friends of the Constitutionnel, the Minerve, and the Pandore, were Voltairean, materialist, classic, epigrammatic. Their new antagonists started up as spirituelists, romanticists, and serious reasoners. Condillac was the ne plus ultra of the science of mind with the old school: supported by the physical theories of Cabanis and Broussaix, the latter of whom explained life by nervous irritation. Their antagonists translated Leibnitz, reprinted Descartes, brought back the current of French philosophy to its source, and asserted with Kant that consciousness was proof enough of soul. These doctrines were expounded in the Globe, an organ of the ideas of the rising generation, which was fast superseding the journals and the veteran writers of the imperial school.

The antagonism, which stretched into the profundities of metaphysics, was as great and as fierce in the walks of literature

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