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des morceaux admirables.' Thirty-three years afterwards, writing to Horace Walpole and defending himself from the charge of despising Shakspeare, he observes; “I said, it is true, long ago,

that if Shakspeare had lived in the time of Addison, he would have united to his own genius the elegance and purity which render Addison so admirable. I said that his genius was his own; his faults those of his age. In my opinion he is pre* cisely like Lope de Vega and Calderon. His genius is fine

but uncultivated; no regularity, no bienséance, no art—but * mingling vulgarity with grandeur, buffoonery with sublimity : . he is the Chaos of tragedy, in which there are a hundred * gleams of light.' This, we believe, was his deliberate opinion; and such as we find in his careful criticisms.

In 1776, however, a man was found intrepid enough to translate Shakspeare, adroit enough to secure the subscription of royal personages, and — ô comble d'horreur ! — barbarian enough to proclaim Shakspeare le dieu du théâtre! This was too much for Voltaire ; whose pretensions to bé • le dieu du théâtre' himself were considerable. His anger was now unappeasable: and it broke out in invectives of ludicrous vehemence. Le Tourneur, the translator, was un misérable,' an impudent • imbécile,' and even “un faquin. The following outburst is amusing • Have you read two volumes by that creature (Le • Tourneur) in which he wishes to make us accept Shakspeare as . the sole model of true tragedy? He calls him the god of the

stage! He sacrifices all the French without exception to his • idol, as in days of yore they sacrificed pigs to Ceres. . . . Do ' you not feel an intense hate towards this impudent idiot? Will

you sit down under such an affront to France? .... The • horrible part of it is that the monster has followers in France;

and—as the crown of this calamity and horror-I it was who first mentioned Shakspeare; I it was who showed France . the pearls I had found on this enormous dungheap! Little did • I think that I should one day help to trample on the crowns

of Racine and Corneille, and to ornament with them the brows of a barbaric player. A fortnight afterwards he resumes his wrath : "The abomination of desecration is in the Temple • of the Lord. Lekain, who is as angry as you are, tells me

that almost all the young men of Paris are for Le Tourneur. I have seen the end of the reign of reason and good taste. I shall die leaving France barbarian.' To Laharpe he wrote about the same time : .I know very well that Corneille has • great faults; I have said so but too often; but they are the • faults of a great man; and Rimer (Rymer) might well say * that Shakspeare was nothing but a miserable ape. His violence,

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increasing under its own contortions, at last foams at the mouth. According to his next letter — 'the Gilles and Pierrots of the

St. Germain Fair, fifty years ago, were Cinna and Polyeucte . in comparison with the persons of that drunkard Shakspeare, whom Le Tourneur calls the god of the stage! . . It is impossible (he says afterwards) that any man not absolutely .mad could in cool judgment prefer such a Gilles as Shakspeare to Corneille and Racine. Such an infamous opinion could

only spring from sordid avarice running after the guineas !!! And there is more in the same style.

The indignation thus exhaled in familiar letters was far from being exhausted in these private channels. He addressed a remonstrance to the French Academy, in terms so violent that it was thought necessary to qualify the language before it could be read to the members. The delusion of the public was alleged to consist in an anglomania, which, not content with placing du * rost bif' on French tables, dared to prefer Shakspeare to Corneille. Voltaire makes a poor appearance as a critic on this occasion. Instead of grasping the real subject, he merely notices some indecent and trivial expressions, and certain anachronisms, which were doubtless enormities in the eyes of the Forty. He opposes Boileau's dictum to Shakspeare's neglect of the unities. He compares the opening of · Bajazet' with the opening of Romeo and Juliet: - two scenes which admirably illustrate the respective art of the two kinds of drama, but which Voltaire, overlooking the possibility of there being more than one kind of drama, satisfies himself with contrasting, and bids the Academy decide. *A Scotch judge,' he adds, who has published “ Ele• “ments of Criticism,” in three vols., in which there are some delicate and judicious reflections, has nevertheless been unfortunate enough to compare the first scene of that monstrosity, “Hamlet,"

with the first scene of that chef-d'æuvre “ Iphigénie.” He af* firms that the beautiful verses of Arcas are not worth the reply

of the sentinel, “ there's not a mouse stirring.” Yes, a soldier • may indeed reply thus in the guard room; but not on the stage, before the highest persons in the kingdom, who express themselves nobly, and before whom we must express ourselves in the same

style. This is a very significant sentence: and we beg the rcader to bear it in mind. Voltaire sums up as follows: •Let the • Academy then decide whether the nation which has produced • “ Iphigénie” and “ Athalie” ought to abandon them for men * strangling women on the stage, for porters, for witches, buf

foons, and drunken priests; whether our court, so long re* Downed for its politesse and taste, ought to be converted into an • alehouse; and whether the palace of a virtuous sovereign ought

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• to be a place for prostitution.' The pamphlet which he published under the pseudonyme of • Jerome Carré' must be well known to most of our readers. It is a lively examination of “Hamlet' and of the Orphan' du tendre Otwai; but it is only a variation of the eternal theme about Shakspeare's vulgarity and want of art.

Returning now to the question at issue, it is easy to perceive that it has been ill argued, on both the French and the English side; and that the mpwTov bevoos of the argument has been a total forgetfulness of the differences of national taste, disposition, manners, and education. The French have not spoken more absurdly of the English drama, than the English of that of France. Both have set up an arbitrary standard. Thus, Voltaire, after giving a sarcastic account of · Hamlet,' says: 'We cannot have a

more forcible example of the difference of taste among nations. • How shall we speak after this of the rules of Aristotle, and the three unities, and the bienséances, and the necessity of ' never leaving the scenc empty, and that no person should go * out or come in without a sensible reason! How talk after this,

of the artful arrangement of the plot, and its natural develop'ment; of the expressions being simple and noble; of making • princes speak with the decency which they always have, or

ought to have; of never violating the rules of language! It • is clear that a nation may be enchanted without giving oneself

such trouble.'* This is said, of course, in irony. But if we take it seriously, much confusion will disappear: For we will venture, very seriously, to ask :- If a civilised and intelligent nation can be enchanted from age to age, in spite of the absence of certain conditions supposed to be necessary, does that not show the fallacy of supposing them to be necessary ? Does it not prove these conditions to be accidental, not essential: to depend upon the tastes and manners of the nation, not upon the principles of dramatic art? All that Voltaire's objections amount to is this: in England, people are interested at the theatre by dramatic effects; in France, the people can only be delighted by effects more purely literary. Good: but if the public be equally interested, the object of the dramatist is equally attained; and thus both French and English tragedy are, and ought to be, respectively admired.

Not to inquire too curiously into the causes of the distinction, we may take it as a fact, that the French are more sedulous in their attention to the elegancies and graces of life, and that the English are more practical and earnest : the French have a

* Quoted by Mr. Knight in his · History of Opinion.'

more lively fancy, the English a richer imagination. If they excel in filagree, and we in machinery, the reason must lie either in a radical difference of mental organisation, or in Pascal's alternative -- that, as habit is a second nature, nature may be only a first habit. Without drawing odious comparisons concerning different kinds of merit, we must admit that the French have at all times exhibited more culture and more regard for literature as literature, than ourselves : And in the drama this has been remarkably the case. Something, no doubt, is owing to the way in which the drama originated in each country. In England it grew out of a popular amusement, and has always addressed itself to the nation at large. In France it owed its existence to the court; and has never ventured to suppose itself addressing any but highly cultivated audiences. If the theatre is now the property of all Frenchmen, not so the tragic drama. What the classic performances by the templars in old days to scholarly audiences were to the popular performances of

Ralph Royster Doyster' and Gammer Gurton's Needle,' which were open to all comers; such is the tragedy of Racine and Corneille, at the present day, to the drames of the Porte St. Martin and the Ambigu Comique. The attempt to introduce Greek plays into England failed; for England, as M. Philarète Chasles says, ' a fait de son théâtre un amusement populaire, et 'une représentation confuse, profonde, et forte, des actions de la • vie humaine.' In France, however, the scholarly attempt succeeded. Jodelle's Cléopatre captive,' performed in the presence of Henry II., so captivated that monarch that he gave five hundred crowns to the author. Paris followed the king's taste; and the • Mysteries' were replaced by imitations of the antique drama. • C'est de cette source obscure et faible que remonte la tendance . classique de notre théâtre.'.

A lettered audience of course demanded literary excellencies which no popular audience would have cared for. And literature has ever been somewhat pedantic, or at least sensitive to the censure of pedants. Every spectator at a drama of Corneille or Racine was a critic, and had the 'rules' by heart. Those who wonder how it is that the lively volatile French can patiently endure the tedium of the long tirades and longer dialogues in their classic plays, forget that they are, as Théophile Gautier happily expressed it, “la nation la plus sensée dans ses plaisirs, • et la plus folle dans ses affaires.' The importance they have attached to 'rules' has in all ages been excessive. We may smile

Chasles : Etudes sur le XVI. siècle, p. 130. A volume of piquant and erudite criticisms.

when we read Corneille's declaration that the rules of Aristotle are for all times and for all people; et certes je serais le premier

que condammerais le Cid s'il péchait contre ces grandes et sou• veraines maximes que nous tenons de ce philosophe :' And yet, in spite of our license, what English dramatist would dare to produce a tragedy in four acts, or a tragedy in rhyme ?

Classical and imitative in its origin, the French drama has in the end become national. Shakspeare is not more the darling and the despair of English poets, than Corneille and Racine are of the French. Meanwhile, no two nations differ more widely in their artistic taste than the French and English; and this has made their criticism so onesided. We use the word in no depreciatory sense, when we say that French art is more conventional than ours : For art is necessarily conventional in its forms: and great part of poetry is a departure from the language of real life. All primitive poetry, including Homer, is rude and careless in its expression; it has a large admisture of the prosaic, and much of the language is only separated by rhythm from the language of ordinary life. So also in primitive music we find a preponderance of those ordinary intervals which characterise speech, and which are unmelodic. As nations advance in culture, poetry becomes more and more artistic, less and less simple and spontaneous; until at last refinement is carried to an excess which causes a reaction in favour of simplicity. Few persons will now prefer the · Æneid' to the • Iliad ;' yet no one conversant with the two can deny that the former is in one sense more a work of art than the latter. In the use of language, Homer is often rude and prosaic; Virgil always delicately vigilant, though not always impressive. That he has employed more art' to produce his effects than Homer found necessary, is as obvious as that a trim garden was fashioned by a different hand from that which created a wild and picturesque ravine. We do not say the garden is more enchanting, - far from it; but it has the charm which labour, felicitously employed, always produces on the worker, man.

All poetry then being a departure from nature-otherwise it would be nature and not art—the very delicate question arises : How far is the departure allowable? The whole difference between the French and English schools lies in their different estimate of the degree. Our poetry is to theirs what our gardens are to theirs: a closer imitation of nature, with a greater disregard for mere technical excellencies. In an English garden you have a sense of artistic arrangement; but man's share in the production of this effect is not intrusively forced on your

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