Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

Le graveur a placé Voltaire

Entre La Beaumelle et Freron;
Ce serait vraiment un calvaire,

S'il s'y trouvait un bon larron.A third part of the course of lectures is allotted to lyric poetry, and a fourth to didactic, which terminates the third volume of the work.

In Volume IV. the apologue, or Æsopian fable, is first treated. The loquacity of Gay is censured, and the delicacy of Pignotti is applauded: but La Fontaine is preferred to either.

The Tale next comes under notice. Ovid's Metamorphoses are criticized as a collection of tales: to La Fontaine the palm is undeservedly given before Voltaire ; and Wieland, who surpassed both, is not even mentioned.

A chapter is allotted to Miscellanies, in which some sonnets are quoted : they are the three well-known but not admirable specimens which appear in every French book of criticism, from Desbarreaux, Fontenelle, and Deshoulieres. Has no modern poet added a single good sonnet to the old and narrow list? — The following. verses, addressed by Voltaire to the Princess Ulrica Eleonora, sister of Frederic the Second, then King of Prussia, are quoted as an instance of happy audacity :

« Souvent un peu de verité

Se mêle au plus grossier mensonge.
Cette nuit, dans l'erreur d'un songe,

rang des rois j'etais monté ;
Je vous aimais alors, et j'osais vous: le-direr!
Les dieux à mon reveil ne m'ont pas tout oté ;

Je n'ai perdu que mon empire.
They were thus translated into Latin by the Chevalier de
Modène :

Sepe aliquid veri secum mendacia ducunt.
Hâc nocte in somno, demens, regnare putavi ;
Te ardebam, Princeps ; audebam dicere. Mane,

Amisi imperium ; non abstulit omnia numen." The third division treats in a cursory manner of history and of romance. The novelists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries pass in amusing review; and a lecture is consecrated to epistolary writing, and another to translation. Finally oceurs some enumeration of the best books and authors concerning the theory of criticism : in which line, the Latin and French writers are familiar to M. FONTANELLE, but not those who adorn the other modern European languages.

This course constitutes a good introduction to French literature, the master-pieces of which are indicated with few omis

sions,

II

sions, and are appreciated with relative justice. Concerning antient literature, however, the information is scanty and ordinary; and it repeats, without corrective animadversion, the notices and judgments of Rollin and Laharpe. Of the modern languages, the author is probably acquainted only with the Italian; since his criticisms pervade sufficiently the writings in that tongue, but do not embrace the English and German poets with an air of equal familiarity. We observe many repetitions, both of opinion and of exemplification, which, had the lecturer lived to be his own editor, would no doubt have disappeared from his work : we detect also, some deficiencies; the chapter on Songs, for instance, is so vacant, that we suspect the author to be no thorough son.of. Anacreon, but somewhat deaf to the charms of melody.

The earlier. French critics, are deservedly forgotten; the Batteux, and Bossus, and Rollins, being laid aside by the rising or risen generation. Voltaire produced that revolution in French taste which occasioned their works to pass away. With an air of adherence to established reputations, he undermined many; he sank Virgil, he lifted Tasso, he narrowed the list of popular classics in, every department, and he annihilated all the mystical literature. Since his time, Diderot, Marmontel, and Laharpe, who were much his friends, have attained rank as writers, on criticism, and have contributed to diffuse and to sanction the judicious innovations of Voltaire, M. FONTANELLE also, is of this new school; and he is much freer from the prejudices of French taste, and from the trammels of French art, than Boileau or Corneille: but this relative victory over antient and local bigotry, though it may elevate him high among French, may leave him low among other European critics. That which is liberality at Paris may be narrowness of mind at Weimar; and, for want of studying Sulzer, Lessing, Manso, and Schlegel, M. FONTANELLE may have remained behind the spirit of his age, and may want the comprehensive glance of an accomplished judge of composition. Madame de Stael alone among French writers appears to us to have acquired the taste of the times; and to possess sufficient plasticity of genius to enter into the master-works of different nations on their appropriate principles. We surmise, therefore, that M. FONTANELLE will obtain higher rank at home than in neighbouring countries; and that he will rather be consulted and followed for that which relates to the literature of the south, than for his remarks on the productions of the northern nations.

ART.

ART. II. Les Vers dorés de Pythagore expliqués, &c.; ise. The

Golden Verses of Pythagoras explained, and now first translated into harmonious French Verse ; preceded by a Discourse on the Essence and Form of Poetry among the principal Nations of the Globe, addressed to the Class of the French Language and Liter. ature, and to that of Antient History and Literature, in the Institute of France. By FABRE-D'OLIVET. 8vo. Paris. 1813 Imported by De Boffe. Price 125. THE He end and aim of the philosophy of Pythagoras were to in

struct men, to purify them from their vices, to deliver them from their errors, to bring them back to virtue and truth, and, after having conducted them through all the gradations of intellectual improvement, to make them similar to the immortal gods. For this purpose, Pythagoras divided his doctrine into two parts; by the first, his disciples are counselled to purg themselves from every stain, to pierce the darkness of ignorance, and to attain virtue ; by the second, he employed his virtu thus acquired in uniting himself with the divinity, by whose means he arrived at perfection. These two divisions are strongly defined in the Golden Verses. Hierocles, who appears to have grasped their whole meaning, palpable and mysterious, designates them in his Commentaries by two words; which, according to his explanation, convey all the doctrine of Pythagoras, viz. Purification and Perfection. In conformity with the above plan, the Golden Verses are divided into Ilaparxeun, Preparation ; Katapois, Purification; and Tecions, Perfection. With the first of these divisions we may dispense; indeed it is hypercritical and pedantic, as any reader will perceive who is accustomed to the more ordinary divisions of these celebrated

verses.

The appellation Golden is conferred on these lines according to the general usage of the antients, who compared every thing with gold which they conceived to be intrinsically beautiful ; thus by the Golden Age they impressed the idea of an age of virtue and of happiness; and by the Golden Verses, verses comprizing all that is pure and moral in the regulation of life. These verses were attributed to Pythagoras, not as their author, but because the favoured disciple, who reduced his precepts to a metrical conciseness, was known to have composed them in exact conformity with the dictates of his master. The name of this disciple was Lysis. After the death of his master, when his enemies in the moment of their triumph had raised at Crotona that terrible persecution which cost the lives of so many Pythagoreans, who were crushed under the ruins of their school, Lysis, fortunately escaping from these disasters, retired into Greece; where, in his ardour for the sect whose tenets

these same pages

he had embraced, he drew up the formulary of his master's doctrine.

M. FABRE-D'OLiver professes to have followed the Greek text, according to the commentary of the younger Casaubon, and interpreted into Latin by Curterius. We have many internal evidences, however, for assuming that the Latin translation has formed the basis of the present French version. The dissertation which precedes the verses, and which mars the fair face of one hundred and seventy-five octavo pages, is, according to the custom of the works of this day, a strange farrago of fine things said on every earthly subject, purporting to be a dissertation on the essence and form of

poesy.

For the glorious indefinite, for grave absurdity, for prolix pertness, for reading ill-directed and worse-applied, for serene dulness, conscious of but never smiling at its own vacuity, we may boldly match

with
any

effusion of antient or of modern Jore. Another author, if unacquainted with Greek metre and Greek derivation, would have concealed his ignorance for a breathing time, by submitting the revision of the press to a more skilful eye : but M. FABRE-D'Olivet, with an unsuspecting frankness, scruples not to grace even his title-page with two false quantities :

Αείσω συνετούς, θύρας δ' επίθεσθε βέβηλοι. This is honest; and in the same happy indifference for trifles, he prints διακεινία for διάκειται. - ήμαρταδος for αμαρταδος. προ σπιπλες for προσπιπίες. - λαθυπερθεν for καθυπερθεν. κ.τ.λ. In a long work, we are not surprized at a few errors: but, when a volume extending to 467 pages is devoted to the elucidation of 70 lines, it is no great exaction to demand that every single word composing the thesis should be, strictly speaking, Greek. With all allowance for human error, however, we are disinclined to extend our clemency to ostentatious ignorance that glories in its own bombast. We will treat our readers with a few Greek derivations. Ilomis is derived from the Phoenician word phohe, a voice, mouth, language, discourse; and from ish, a superior being:—'Eupuôixn, from the Phænician robe, vision, brightness, evidence; and dich, any thing that instructs, or marks out:- 'Hpaxañs, from herr, which in Dutch signifies a master; and alles, the whole. Instead of Dutch, the author calls it Phoenician. - Meyehaos, from men, the faculty of reason; and aosh, the principal agent:- EFOTONOS, from aphor, a passionate burst, a whirlwind ; and phohe, a discourse, as before :- EuMotos, from mola, accomplished; and phoh, which latter word does wonders with the author:-'Ouempos, from mara, a focus of light:- Tparodice, from spamus, rough;

and

and wing a song. These little jewels will be found scattered through pages 16. 38. 54. 56. 61. 72, 73. 79.; and the adventurous in quest of such riches will find them equally dispensed in many

other parts of the work. Having offered this treat to the voluptuous in metre and etymology, we close the book, all attractive as it may be to the literary class to which it is addressed ; tearing ourselves away from the magic of its contents, with a profound sense of the obligation under which we have been placed by its author, for much unexpected diversion.

ART. III. Vie Publique et Privée, &c. ; i. e. The Public and Pri.

vate Life of Louis XVI., with an Historical Narrative of Queen Marie Antoinette, Madame Elizabeth, the Duchess of Angoulême, and the late Dauphin. By M. A. With an Introduction by M. de

Sales. Small 8vo. pp. 446. Paris. 1814. WE

Te need scarcely observe that this volume was published

before the unfortunate brother of the equally unfortunate sovereign, who is the object of it, had been obliged a second time to quit his native land ; and that a degree of interest attached to it at the time of its appearance which will now be considerably abated. We shall, however, make a concise report of it, because it is on the whole a much better compilation than the majority of the productions of the French press, which are evidently manufactured with a view to a temporary sale. The writer begins with some general observations on the character of Louis XVI., and proceeds to fill up the body of his narrative with a detail of the principal events of his reign. The twelve years from 1775 to 1787 exhibited little beyond the ordinary routine of government-affairs : but the convocation of the States-General was a prelude to a scene of difficulty, far beyond the troubles which had fallen to the lot of any monarch in modern history. The author has devoted himself, however, more to an account of the personal behaviour of Louis, than to an explanation of the general course of the Revolution. begin with some extracts from the passages relating to his earlier years.

• Louis XVI. was tall, well proportioned, and possessed of unusual bodily strength; his mother being of the electoral family of Saxony, whose stature is well known to be considerably beyond the ordinary size. His lips, like those of most of the Bourbons, were somewhat thick; and in his latter years he had begun to grow rather corpulent, without losing his good looks. On a first meeting, his manner was somewhat reserved, but a farther intercourse seldom failed to place his amiable disposition in a striking light. He was remarkably temperate, having been accustomed in his youthful years

to

We

« AnteriorContinuar »