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than from satiety, is evident from an observation of Madame Necker de Saussure, that her cousin's long dormant taste for natural beauty was awakened on her visit to Italy, and became conspicuous in her subsequent compositions. The mansion alone, however, (no very remarkable object, marked on the roof 1722,) was sufficient to recall, and add a zest before untasted to the thousand anecdotes of which it is the
I thought of it as the Hall of Odin, resounding with boisterous but good-humoured argument—as the social resort of our own Gibbon, and many an intellectual brother-as the scene of filial and paternal affection—and, above all, as the retirement of a virtuous minister. The garden-walk beneath its range of poplars recalled the frequent conversations between father and daughter, which the latter describes as having taken place there ;-where the aged statesman, in the still infantine simplicity of his heart, expressed, in tears, his confidence, “that the French would yet do bim justice ere he died.”
Madame de Staël was of that noble order of beings, for whom it is impossible to be selfish. Endowed, like all minds of genius, with a reflective and egotistic habit of thought, her feelings were too strong to allow themselves to be absorbed in so narrow a space.
The circumstances of her life, too, conduced to such an end—but in vain. Early and disproportionately married, and on that account, as well as perhaps from want of personal attractions, deprived of the only true solace of high-wrought minds, she transferred to her parent the sum of her baffled affections, and spent in paternal love the ardour which might have been more naturally and more happily placed. I cannot look upon
her devotion to her father, extreme even to the ridiculous, in any other light than as one of those amiable deceptions which passionate minds so often practise upon themselves, exemplifying the true, but by no means, as it is supposed, libertine maxim of Marmontel, Quand on n'a pas ce que l'on aime, il faut aimer ce que l'on a, like the
“Nympholepsy of some fond despair," a cheat to occupy and keep alive the warm impulses of the heart. Happy are those who, like De Staël, can find such substitutes to keep the mind from preying upon itself. Literature too is a solace, but literature embitters, as much as it sweetens. It is but a medium that heightens pain as well as pleasure, and even poetry itself is too unsubstantial to answer and satisfy the cravings of the passionate spirit. De Staël did wisely: she gave up her whole soul to politics towards the latter part of her life ; and this more from chance than design. Her interest in her father's fame first drove her to it ; her love of social pre-eminence and her consequent rivalry with Bonaparte fixed her in it; and at length, like her filial feelings in early years, it came to absorb every other consideration.
As a politician, Madame de Staël is looked down upon by some, in part deservedly: she had too much of the woman and the idealist for such pursuits. Nevertheless her influence has been great.
Her writings have matured and ameliorated that, of which Rousseau sowed the seeds. Through them, there is a feeling and a soul in politics, extending even to the most opposite parties, which before was not at all; and but for her, what had been produced by Rousseau would have died away. After him a new order of things sprang up, to which his manual
is inapplicable. De Staël revived and regenerated the sacred spirit, and the tongues and pens of Europe breathe fresh from her school:
“The philosophic progress of the human race,” says she, “ought to be marked by four different eras : the heroic ages, which gave birth to civilization; patriotisın, which was the glory of antiquity ; chivalry, which was the old warlike religion of Europe ; and the love of liberty, whose era commences towards the epoch of the Reformation.”-De l'Allemagne.
The expansiveness of her soul is evident in the object of all her writings. None of them narrow, none of them ever private. She preached an eternal crusade against selfishness—against selfishness of affection in her early works, and against selfishness of political principle in her later. Her very epigrams tended to some great and national end. Of the many that assailed her, she took not the least notice, with the great exception of her arch-enemy Napoleon, whom still she attacks more as the public despot than the private foe. In his misfortunes she was generous, and did not conceal her interest; nor was he backward, upon his return, in expressing his gratitude for such 'unlooked for commiseration.
But our judgment of De Staël is not to be taken either from her politics or criticism, both of which for the most part she borrowed from the society around her, mingling with them, however, the poetical leaven of her own imagination. The " Considerations" afford" an example, in how poetical a dress the principles of political party may be exhibited ; and the “ Allemagne" another, how a very superficial share of knowledge on a given subject may be redeemed by the force of hazardous eloquence. Even the critical judgments of Corinne are not a little unworthy of the poetess, crowned in the Capitol. It is by her woman's genius she must be estimated—by her feeling, her ardour of conception and expression-her curious knowledge of the human heart-in fine, by her poetry, for, after all, the best poetry the French have, is their prose.
“I feel myself a poet,” says Corinne, “not only when a happy choice of rhymes or of syllables, or a happy combination of images, strikes my auditors, but when my soul becomes elevated, -when it feels the most sovereign disdain for selfishness or baseness ;-in short, when a noble action is more easy to me.
It is then that my verses grow sublime. I am a poet, whilst I admire, whilst I despise, whilst I hate, not from personal motives, but for the dignity of the human race,” &c.
If this be the definition of a poet, De Staël needed not to put into execution her intentional epic of Cæur de Lion. Her claims to the laurel, like Rousseau's, were independent of rhyme.
To us, English, who have fortunately kept these two departments of literature more distinct, and who have visited with a condemnation perhaps too severe any attempts at blending them together, such an union is not agreeable. With the languor of prose we have the affected point and brilliancy of poetry; there is neither the ease of one, nor the pleasant rhyme and regular harmony of the other. Hence the works of Madame de Staël, though delightful reading for a few pages, are wearisome to peruse for any length of time uninterruptedly. Her style is too epigrammatic for a continuance, and, like strong liquors, in order to be enjoyed, requires time or dilution. This most likely was
owing to her love of talking in preference to writing. Her thoughts flowed for the tongue rather than the pen,—they are too ambitious for the solitary reader, and seem to require a brilliant saloon with an assembly of elegant and quick-sensed auditors to give them due reception and applause. As to the purity and correctness of her style, we leave the consideration to those verbal hypercritics, that swarm in Italy and France, who think their literary lives well spent in preserving the purity of national diction, without adding a single new idea to national thought. If the writings of Madame de Staël be not French, as some have asserted, all to be said is, that they are something far superior. An entertaining and acute writer, Mr. Simond, has discussed this censure in his late “ Voyage en Suisse," on the occasion of his visiting Coppet :
“. J'entends dire que le style de Madame De Staël n'est pas Français : en serait-on surpris ? Rousseau aussi avait le style refugié. Notre langue et notre littérature, usées comme la vielle monnaie, ne presenteront bientot plus qu'une surface polie, d'où l'empreinte aura totalement disparu. Toute originalité en est bannie aussi complétement que la nature l'est de nos jardins ; et le style légitime, en compartimens et tirés au cordeau comme parterres, ne saurait s'écarter de l'allée droite et de la plate-bande : ainsi entravés de règles et chargés de fers, que nous nous sommes forgés, on nous voit reduits, que l'on me passe le paradoxe, à chercher l'originalité en traduction. N'est il pas étrange que le même peuple qui, depuis trente ans, se joue des formes établies et des précédens en matière de lois et de gouvernement, n'est jamais osé faire, en littérature, un seul pas sans y être autorisé par l'usage, et veuille toujours soumettre la génie à cette legitimité, dont il fait si peu de cas en politique.”
“ There are a thousand anecdotes,” continues Simond,“ related concerning this celebrated woman during her youth, of her natural maladresse, and of the many errors into which she was led by her short sight, confiding temper, and energy of affection.” Indeed, there is scarely any one of whom so many interesting anecdotes are told : she has herself preserved a great number, all displaying her character in the most amiable light, yet without the least tincture of vanity or affectation displayed in the relation. She is, perhaps, the only author who has written volumes upon herself without being ever egotistic. The “ Dix Années d'Exil” is one of the most amusing books any where to be met with on this account. It is the only work she has left, written with the most perfect ease. It contains the primal idea of almost every striking thought in her more laboured work of the “ Considerations ;” and also presents a full picture of her mind, even to its most secret foibles. There is even a little personal vanity allowed to manifest itself in it, which never escaped in her other compositions. Her views of foreign countries, manners, character, and society, are much more just in this little sketch than either in the Italie, or Allemagne. They are the first impressions--but the first impressions of one experienced in such things. And the force and justice of every remark confirm me in an old opinion I entertained concerning books of travels, &c.--that they should be written hot, quick, while new perceptions were fresh, but that this should be not on the first visit but the second. In her Italie and Allemagne, scenic description is either totally overlooked, or else laboriously and ambitiously worked up; whereas in Russia, Norway, and those parts of Europe, which she describes carelessly at the moment of first beholding them, the pictures are spirited and vivid as the life. It is impossible to forget her account of her Russian journey,—the interminable roads, scarce varied even by the triste bouleau, or melancholy birch; the rapid courier, bouncing on his wooden seat, the only fellow-voyager to be met with ; the wooden huts and palaces intermingled; and, above all, the fêtes given her at St. Petersburgh, where “the wind of the North whistled through the flowers of the South:"—these are pictures not to be equalled by the eloquence of her “ Corinne.”
At length she arrived in England, and thence witnessed the most sudden overthrow that ever continent was subjected to by fortune. Her perplexity in these times of change and crisis ; her ignorance what to expect, or even what to hope, is in some instances amusing. A very comical part of her character is her continual struggle to be patriotic, which she thought a duty, and the direct opposition to all such feelings into which she was every now and then led by her love of truth and ardour of expression. Most of her eloquent panegyrics upon England, Italy, and Germany, are cut short in their highest flight from some qualm arising from this cause. In the midst of her enthusiastic praise, she recollects that a reserve is due to her chosen country, France, and thus she winds up a brilliant paragraph with a lame and unnatural sort of a salvo. This is very evident in the dangerous task she undertook in “ Corinne,” of placing an English and a French gentleman side by side, and making them act and speak according to their national characters. As for myself, in spite of Corinne's predilection, I think Nelville a most stupid mortal, and give my vote for the French hero with all my heart. In the Germany, her enthusiasm in favour of the German poets and philosophers often led her into the same quan. dary: after a long argument, that evidently implies a contempt for all French tragedy, she politely concludes with a reserve in favour of Racine. Madame de Staël possessed too great a genius to be of any country, and it is pity that she did now know this.
The frame in disease, and the spirit in pain;
Like the shades of old Eden reviving again ;
Though the cloud of the storm from thy sky hath been driven ;
As if newly transplanted from Heaven :-
For the curse of the slave hangeth o'er him ;
And he loves not the country that bore him.
Oh! leave me the cliff dark and hoary;
Alfieri's POLITICAL COMEDIES.* The comic irony of the play rests entirely on the mock election of a king of Persia made by a horse; and a most renowned election it is ; gravely handed down to us by certain credulous historians, and happily turned by our poet against monarchy. Hence the elector-horse is not the least conspicuous personage in the piece; and, now he is unexpectedly seized with such a cruel disorder, the household of Darius (who, blind mortals! are unable to foresee the glorious issue) are, in the beginning of the third act, filled with mourning and confusion. Darius weeps like a child by the side of the invalid, and has solemnly vowed to Mithras a sacrifice of twelve noble steeds if his favourite is restored to health. A statesman, a warrior, and a free-thinker, to play the infant for a petted brute! to descend to womanish vows and vulgar superstitions !
“ Ma già, quand' è il pericolo,
Tutti allor si ricordano de' humi.” “ But when danger is nigh, all men are mindful of Heaven," observes his wife, the pious, domineering Parisa, who is by no means displeased to see the vaunted philosophy of her husband brought to so low an ebb—a little trait of the female character, which is usually not slow in seizing every new foible of man as a means of more easily ruling him. She has, however, penetrated still deeper into the credulity of Darius where his interest is concerned. She knows that he wears about his person, and highly values, a horoscope, which he obtained when he accompanied Cambyses into Egypt, and which is thus expressed :
L“ Dario, in ver grande sarai,
Si in buon punto a cavallo salirai,” “ You shall be a very great man, Darius, if you mount your horse in proper time.” This prediction and the fate of Chesballeno are so closely connected in the mind of Darius, that, were he to lose his horse prematurely, he would give up his expected greatness as lost likewise. Parisa is puzzling her brain to cure the fated steed. She determines to advise with the high priest of Mithras, who, smelling out that the crown is likely to fall to the lot of Darius, clings closer to him than to any of his competitors, and loses no time to settle his priestly bargain. He has demanded a private audience of Parisa, in which he is interrupted by a visit from Pafima, the daughter of Orcanes, who comes to intrude upon the heavy thoughts of his patroness. This visit contributes nothing to forward the plot, and only shews how the usurping Magian was detected. The account of Patima is quite similar to that which is given by pretended historians'; but the poet has improved it into a striking exbibition of the circumstances, both laughable and shocking, upon which the destiny of a whole nation must depend, when it is decided within the walls of a dining-room or bed-chamber, amidst the collision of the petty passions and domestic whims of a single over-powerful family. Then comes the high priest; upon whose entrée at the house of Darius, Pafima looks with a jealous and disconcerted eye—this mysterious personage being a frequenter of the mansion of
* Continued from page 272.