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apon foreign thought was very great. It was, after all, the most marked manifestation of the spirit of the day.
Strangely enough, however, the Revolution produced but little immediate effect upon French literature. Perhaps this was because its strength exhausted itself in the field of political change. And after it came the great wars, which also absorbed the thoughts. In other countries the great move. ment of which the French Revolution was a part acted more immediately on literature. It might have done so in France if some timely concessions had made the uneasy population become more peaceably inclined.
concessions were thought of. The careless court of Louis XV. contented itself with a shrug of the shoulders : “ Après nous le Déluge ! ”—which was terribly borne out by succeeding events. And this lack of sympathy between rulers and ruled did much to steer the movement into the channel of physical rather than mental outbreak. The Revolution of itself did not break the chains of classicism by which France was bound.
Classicism should be “pseudo-classicism.” This adherence to false classic ideas was the distinguishing mark of the eighteenth-century literature in France. The country had always inclined towards classic models. The canons of taste imposed by the masters of literature demanded that exactness—that clean-cut quality-in form and thought which was claimed to be the characteristic feature of classical
literature. Hence, we see the French drama-for instance-corresponding as closely as possible to the Greek drama. The “unities" are carefully observed. In form, the most common metre was the “ Alexandrine,” or line of twelve syllables. This is found throughout the whole range of French poetry, and is peculiarly adapted to that clearness which is necessary to classic form. To point the case, it is only necessary to mention the French dislike of the English Shakespeare—who was absolutely and essentially opposed to classicism, and who has only one play (The Tempest) which at all realizes the classic ideal. Him the French dramatists called a barbarian—which was quite natural, from their point of view.
Now, the classic spirit was introduced into France at the time of the Renaissance-towards the close of the fifteenth century. And its influence was dominant in French literature until 1769. Then there began to be signs of its decay upon the appearance of Rousseau. Very feeble the indications were, at first; but they increased in vigor, until, in 1830, the stronghold of classicism was captured by the champions of romanticism. It is necessary to insist upon the importance of this date; the whole history of the nineteenth-century literature in France hinges upon “1830." The beginning of the century, then, was practically a transition stage between the tenure of the classic ideal and the triumph of romanticism.
Not more than the name can be mentioned of JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU (1712–1778), who originated the romantic movement and whose influence was very great abroad as well as at home. The period following the death of Rousseau, covering the Revolution (1789), the first Empire (1804), and part of the Restoration (1814), was lacking in literary achievement. The two leading names are Chateaubriand and Madame de Staël. Their work fills a gap which is otherwise rather void. It has been said that they are the first “modern” French authors—that the nineteenth-century literature may fairly begin with them.
FRANÇOIS RENÉ DE CHATEAUBRIAND was born (1768) at Saint Malo in Brittany, on the north coast of France. He was first intended for the navy. In 1786 he obtained a sub-lieutenancy in the army. Five years afterwards he made a journey to North America, but, hearing how the Revolution was go. ing in his own land, returned thereto (1792). Royalist in his sympathies, he joined the “emigrants," who were assembled at Coblentz to the number of 80,000 men. He served for a short time on the Royalist side, was wounded and went to England, where he lived in poverty. He returned to France at the beginning of Napoleon's power. In 1797 be issued an essay On Revolutions Ancient and Modern. 1801 saw the publication of Attila and the following year the issue of the Genius of Christianity The former was, in a way, a type of the latter, which was in effect a defence of the Christian religion, and contained also a number of historical illustrations of Christian life. It won the notice of Napoleon and a second edition is dedicated “to the First Consul, Citizen." The writer obtained some political preferment; then, horrified by Bonaparte's indefensible execution of the Duc d'Enghien, he resigned his position. Shortly afterwards he made a trip to the East, the literary results of which were The Martyrs (1809), and the Journey from Paris to Jerusalem (1811). The former has been called “a prose epic” and deals with the early Christian period. Its sub-title-Triumph of the Christian Religion-gives an idea of the motif. Upon Chateaubriand's election to the Academy, Napoleon refused to sanction his inaugural speech. This roused Chateaubriand's undying enmity.
His pure literary work may be said to have terminated with the Restoration. The remainder of his life was spent partly in politics, where he was not very successful, partly in “the contemplation of his own influence.” Ile died in Paris (1848). His position is important. His writings produced a strong sentiment in favor of the romantic school. Their brilliant style and method was in marked contrast to the quiet treatment characteristic of some of his opponents of the classic persuasion, and his eloquence was very effective. So marked, indeed, was his influence that it is not far wrong to consider him--after Rousseau-the direct inaugurator of the romantic movement in French literature. Another interesting point should be mentioned : Chateaubriand “invented modern melancholy.” He was the first exponent in France of that “Maladie du Siècle," which we have seen in The Sorrows of Young Werther, and in the work of Lord Byron, who was in this respect a pupil of the Frenchman. Again, Chateaubriand reopened for French delight the storehouse of natural beauty. By the fine coloring of his descriptions, and by the breadth of his scenic allusion, he restored and widened the French feeling for Nature. It will easily be seen what essentially romantic traits are those of color, warmth and feeling. Posthumously (1849) there appeared an autobiography, Memoirs from the Tomb, which is ranked high among his writings.
The work (all prose) of MADAME DE Staël was more liberal, more cosmopolitan than that of Chateaubriand. Her influence on contemporary ideas was threefold, according to a late critic-she preserved the best element in the spirit of the eighteenth century, she brought French taste again into sym pathy with foreign literatures, and she founded the principle of what we to-day call Woman's Rights. These phases of her work were developed respectively in the Letters on J. J. Rousseau (1788); Of Germany (1810); and her novels; such as Delphine (1802) and Corinne (1807)—the last practically protest against woman's lot in modern society."