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And happy (if aught happy here) as good!
This passage, all prejudice apart, I think intolerable, though it is one of the most beautiful in the French translation of Young's Night Thoughts by M. Le Tourneur. Is this the language of a father? Sweet harmonist or musician, as beautiful as sweet, and young as beautiful, and soft as young, and gay as soft, and innocent as gay! Is it thus that the mother of Euryalus deplores the loss of her són, or that Priam utters lamentations over the body of Hector ? M. de Tourneur has displayed much taste by converting Young's “birds, transfixed by Fate, who lovés e lojty 'mark," into a nightingale struck by the fowler's shot. It is a prodigious improvement, as may be instantly perceived. The means should always be proportioned to the object, and we ought not to use a lever for the purpose of raising a straw. Fate may dispose of an empire, change a world, elevate or throw down a great man, but Fate should not be employed in killing a bird. It is the durus arator, it is the feathered arrow which should be used to kill nightingales and pigeons.
It is not in this way that Bossuet speaks of Madame Henriette. “She has passed," says he, “from morning to evening like the herbs of the field. In the morning she flourished-oh, with what elegance! You know it. At night we saw her withered, and those strong expressions, by which the Scriptures almost exaggerate the insta
bility of human affairs, were precisely and literally verified in this Princess. Alas, we composed her memoirs of all that we could fancy most glorious. The past and the present were our guarantees for the future. Such was the history, of which we had formed the outline, and to complete our noble project, nothing was requisite but the duration of her life, which we did not think in any danger. For who could have supposed that years would be refus. ed to one of such vivacity in her youth? By her death our plan is totally destroyed in a moment. Behold her in spite of her great heart, behold this Princess_lately so much admired and beloved! See to what a state death has reduced her; and even these remains, such as they are, will soon disappear."
I should have liked to quote some pages of regularly supported beauty from the Night Thoughts of Young Such are to be found in the French translation, but not in the original. The Nights of M. Le Tourneur, and the imitation of M. Colerdeau are works in all respects different to the English one. The latter only possesses beauties scattered here and there, and rarely supplies ten irreproachable lines together. Seneca and Lucan may be sometimes traced in Young, but Job and Pascal never. He is not a man of sorrow--he does not please the truly unhappy.
Young declaims in several places against solitude ; so that the habit of his soul was certainly not an inclination to reverie.* The saints pursued their meditations in the deserts, and the Parnassus of poets is also a solitarý mountain. Bourdaloue intreated of the superior of his order permission to retire from the world. “I feel,” wrote he, “ that my frame grows feeble, and approaches towards dissolution. I have run my course, and thank Heaven, I can add that I have been faithful to my God. Let me be allowed to employ the remainder of my days in devotion to the Almighty, and in securing my own salvation. In retirement I shall forget the affairs of this world, and humble myself with contrition every day before my Maker.” If Bossuet, living amidst the magnificence of Versailles was able to diffuse a genuine and majestic species of sadness through his writings, it was because he found solitude in religion; because though his body was in the world, his soul was in a desert ; because his heart had found a sanctuary in the secret recesses of the tabernacle, because, as he himself said of Maria Theresa of Austria, he ran to the altar to enjoy humble repose with David ; because he shut himself, as that Princess did, in his oratory, where, in spite of the tumult of the court, he found the carmel of Elias, the desert of Saint John, and the mountain, which so often witnessed the sorrows of Jesus."
* The English reader will probably not have agreed with M. de Chateaubriand on several points discussed in this criticism. Young can never be said to have disliked solitude. Let him speak for himself :
« Oh lost to virtue, lost to manly thought,
Dr. Johnson, after having severely criticized Young's Night Thoughts, finishes by comparing them to a Chinese garden. For my own part, all I have wished to say is, that if we impartially compare the literary works of other nations with those of France, we shall find an immense superiority in favour of our own country. We always at least equal others in strength of thought, while we are certainly superior in point of taste ; and it should ever be remembered that though genius produces the literary offspring, taste preserves it. Taste is the good sense of genius, and without it the latter is only a silly species of sublimity. But it is a singular circumstance that this sure
criterion, by which every thing yields the exact tone it ought to yield, is still less frequently found than the creative faculty. Genius and wit are disseminated in about equal proportions, at all times; but there are only certain nations, and among these only particular moments, at which taste appears in all its purity. Before and after this moment, every thing fails either from deficiency or excess. It is for this reason that perfect works are so rare; for it is necessary that they should be produced in the happy hours of united taste and genius. This great junction, like that of certain heavenly bodies, appears only to take place after the lapse of several ages, and then endures only for a moment.
AFTER having spoken of Young, I proceed to a man who has made a schism in literature, who is idolized by the country which gave him birth, admired throughout the North of Europe, and placed by some Frenchmen at the side of Corneille and Racine.
It was Voltaire, who made France acquainted with Shakspeare. The opinion, which he at first formed of English tragedy, was, like most of his early opinions, replete with justice, taste, and impartiality. In a letter to Lord Bolingbroke, written about the year 1730, he ob. served “ the tragedy of Julius Cæsar, which has been the delight the traces With what pleasure did I see, while in London, of your nation for a century and a half !” On another occasion he said : “ Shakspeare created the English stage. He had a genius abounding with vigorous conception ; he was natural and sublime, but he did not possess a single spark of taste, or the least knowledge of rules. I shall make a bold assertion, but a true one, when I state that this author spoiled the English stage. There are such beautiful scenes, such grand and terrible passages in his monstrous farces, which are called tragedies, that his pieces have always been performed with great success.”
Such were the first decisions of Voltaire as to Shakspeare ; but when an attempt was made to set up this great genius as a model of perfection, when the masterpieces of the Greek and French drama were declared inferior to his writings, then the author of Merope perceived