Imágenes de página

of view it presents a very animating prospect : a prospect which should gladden the heart of every Christian.'

The divines to whom Mr. R. alludes may be warm-hearted or rather warm-fancied, but they cannot be judicious; because sound judgment would restrain them from indulging in such vague conclusions.

[ocr errors]

CORBES PONDENCE. • Mr. Cary presents his compliments to the Editor of the Monthly Review, and begs leave to submit for his consideration the following statement with reference to the critique on the translation of Dante in the last Review ; which Mr. C. will take it as a favour if the Editor will allow to appear at the conclusion of the next Review. First, That wherever Thou and You, Thine and Your, have seemed to be indiscriminately used, the former of each always relates only to the person addressed, the latter to others also; in which respect the original has been strictly followed; one instance may suffice for all:

Se tu ben la tua Fisica note
Tu troverai, non dopo molte carte,
Che l'arte, vostra, &c.

Inferno, C. xi. Secondly, That the word MEDICINE is used as a word of three syllables by Shakspeare, Much ado about Nothing, A. 3. S. 2., and impulse accented on the latter syllable by Milton, P. L. B. 9. v.530., and by Dryden, as quoted in Johnson's Dictionary under the word impulse; and thirdly, That Beatrice has been invariably made to consist of four syllables, as it does in the Italian.'

In reply to Mr. Cary's polite note, we beg leave to state, Ist, that, in many of the instances of the indiscriminate use of the singular and plural pronoun, no change of persons is apparent ; 2dly, that no obsolete authority will justify any needless departure from the generally approved accentuation of the present day; and, 3dly, that if Beatrice must be uniformly read as consisting of four syllables, some of the lines in which it occurs exceed the bounds of legitimate rhythm.

M. R. is informed that we have not seen the work to which the note with that signature refers.

We are obliged to postpone the consideration of other letters.

Our readers are requested to observe that the APPENDIX to this Volume of the Review will be published on the 1st of June, with the Number for May; and to give directions to their booksellers for its transmission with that Number, since otherwise they will probably not receive it, and their setts will be incomplete.









[ocr errors]

ART. I. Cours de Belles Lettres, &c. ; i.e. A Course of Fine

Literature, by J. G. Dubois FONTANELLE, Professor of Belles Lettres, and of History, &c. &c. 4 Vols. 8vo. Paris. 1813. Imported by De Boffe. Price 2l. 8s. L' ITERARY history is become the favourite topic of the Con

tinent; and perhaps the time is only now arrived for treating it with settled propriety. The extensive comparison, which modern reading has instituted between the master-pieces of different nations, has shaken those prejudices which locally assigned an undue value to the works of some eminent writers : men of different sects and countries have entered the lists of controversial criticism ; and we now know from experience how much delights essentially, and how much -accidentally, in each of the greater works of art. The boasts of idolatrous admiration are every where consigned to contempt ; and faults and beauties are described in relative proportion and with definite precision. Sulzer's Theory of the Fine Arts had the merit of founding in Europe the reformation of literary taste ; and his countrymen the Germans have been especially active in marshalling with completeness, and in appreciating with equity, the enduring trophies of poetry and prose.

M. FONTANELLE, with something less than German erudia tion, undertakes a course of Fine Literature ; for thus, we App. Rey. VOL. LXXVI.


presume, our language can express the gallicism belles lettres, as well as the term Fine Arts corresponds to that of Beaux Arts *. His lectures were delivered in the central school of the departe ment of Isère, at Grenoble, and were first addressed in 1798 to official pupils : but a mixed audience of both sexes crowded to partake the instruction. The author is since dead ; and his executors publish the lectures from a manuscript, in which are some lacuna indicating the intention of future interpolations.

The preface is whimsically thrown into the form of a dialogue, and apologizes for publishing after Laharpe ; whose analogous production is here characterized as incomplete, and whose judgment is described as narrowed by the prejudices of the old school. In fact, it is concerning the drama that Laharpe was principally worthy of attention ; and, since the work of Schlegel, all other dramatic criticism is become superfluous. The present author concludes his preliminary address by obSerring, that he has been less solicitous to offer new than to furnish just ideas ; that the principles of the good, the fair, and the true, are to be sought in nature, and have been already Tecognized by philosophy, and that to collect and to ratify the sentiments of predecessors will form a better pledge for soundness of instruction, than to aim at surprize by rash innovation.

Section i. sketches a general history of the progress of the arts and sciences. Nothing is said of Hebrew writ, which, until it was translated into Greek, produced no effect on European culture : nor is Greek literature investigated back to its cradle, which seems to have been Miletus, but is traced as usual from Athens to Alexandria, and thence to Constantinople. Roman literature is described in order. Then is noticed the Tevival of letters; with the progress of illumination from Italy to Spain, to France, to England, and to Germany. A curious question here occurs, viz. which of the four languages, Italian, French, English, or German, has stocked Europe with the greater mass of permanent and classical writings?

The second section treats in general of fine literature, and appears to us originally to have formed the introductory lecture; since it opens with an address to the audience, and preserves a much more oratorical form than the preceding historic sketch. The author professes to take Quintilian for his model and guide; and to endeavour to diffuse his comments over the entire mass of extant literature, in the manner of the Institutes. We meet with the ingenious observation that it is beauty which preserves truth; and that every idea, however just, is in danger

* A similar work, by M. Breton, was reported in the Appendix to Vol. lxxii. and to Vol. Ixxii. (N. S.) of our Review.


of becoming useless to mankind, of being neglected or forgotten, until it has been attractively framed by the poet or the orator. Those ideas only are kept in circulation among the influential minds of a community, which have been fixed into the master-pieces of composition. The gem, until it is set glimmers as vainly and obscurely as in the unfathomed caves of ocean. Habitually to shun the very perusal of mediocrity, to consult only the great writers, and to converse exclusively with the perennial minds of the human race, is a counsel here given; which, though it be frequently repeated, is practically too much neglected.

A third lecture sketches the syllabus of the entire course; introducing also a panegyric on that system of public instruction which had been recently organized by the republican government of France, and under which M. FONTANELLE had ob, tained his professorial chair. Writers who have distinguished themselves in grammar, philosophy, or history, are not to be discussed in the ensuing course, the field being sufficiently comprehensive without them.

A fourth lecture treats of eloquence, and collects many traits of concise and sudden impression, such as the dramatist is required to make. "The sparks of expression,' says the author,

proceed from the glow of feeling : where the sensibility is great, the language will be strong: when you become moved, you

will move others.' In the fifth lecture, which is intitled an abridged history of thought, the faculties of animals are compared with those of man; and the question of Lucretius is agitated, whether we have eyes for sight, or sight for eyes. Condillac is the metaphysical writer chiefly followed. — Lecture vi. sketches the progress of writing : but this, as well as the preceding lecture, appears to us to wander from the topic, and to undertake investigations which rather belong to the antiquary and the metaphysician than' to the aesthetic philosopher. Here the introductory portion of the book terminates; and the lessons henceforth become graver and longer : the way is more beaten, and the stages are more distant.

Eloquence constitutes the first grand division. The funeral sermons of the Ægyptians are mentioned as the earliest recorded efforts of premeditated oratory; and the laudations of the Romans, which were borrowed from them, sometimes included women *. The harangues of Demosthenes carried deliberative

*. Pro auro ad liberandam a Gallis Romam collato, gratie actæ, honorque additus, ut earum, sicut virorum, post mortem esset laudatio." Liv.: 1. y.

Gg 2

eloquence, eloquence, as the orations of Cicero carried forensic eloquences to the highest attainable perfection. A list of the principal 'funeral orations of the French is given, in which Bossuet especially is stated to have excelled: he is, however, rather deficient in imagination. The eulogy of Marcus Aurelius by Thomas is more justly praised.

Under the head Rhetoric, M. FONTANELLE treats first of invention. The best preparation always consists in reading two or three compositions by eminent writers, similar in their purpose and form to that which is intended. A silent transplantation of the common-places, a solemn parody of the peculiar ornaments, will usually result; and thus the mind applies the antient model to the new occasion. An apt illustration is the use made of Pausanias by the modern author of the travels of Anacharsis. Cicero advises the orator to stock his memory with general observations and maxims applicable to all ordinary topics, and to interweave them on each specific occasion. It is also frequently useful to writers to translate, from foreign tongues, scraps that are remarkable for diction or for sentiment, and to insert such imported beauties in domestic composition. Plagiarism is one of the most convenient and most common figures of rhetoric; and it is chiefly blame-worthy when the borrowers take more than their new purpose requires, when they remove the cobwebs with the furniture, and, as Plautus expresses it, “ rem auferunt cum pulviculo."

Imagination is the ensuing topic; it forms the chief instrument of invention. A concise view is given of the different mythologies which it has created : Rousseau and Diderot are compared ; and much excursive matter is introduced concerning the origin of society.

Disposition, or as we should say, arrangement, is next taught. In works of science and philosophy, - in what are called dry studies, -arrangement may be formal, and method obvious: but, in proportion as a work aspires to be oratorical or poetical, the distribution of the parts must be less pedantic, and appear to result from a growing zeal in the author's mind rather than from a preconceived plan. The plot of the Æneid, or the order of those incidents which compose its fable, is so far grossly unskilful, that the more interesting portions occur in the early part of the poem. A like inversion of the law of climax also mars the tragedy of the Cid, the latter acts of which decline in impressiveness.

Discourse is subdivided into its usual parts. The exordium, or beginning, is first discussed, and Rousseau's admirable introduction to the Savoyard vicar's confession of faith is cited as an exemplary passage. An appearance of negligence, of careless


« AnteriorContinuar »