Imatges de pÓgina

on his own honourable efforts, he became the mere slave of his will did as his eminence directed him, and instead of following, as a man of real genius would have done, the impulses of his muse wherever she invited him, and indulging himself in the vein of writing dictated by his own imagination, he suffered himself to be driven by the cardinal who, in this instance, and perhaps it is the only one to be enumerated in his life, is allowed to have been correct. His eminence advised Scudery never to write a play in prose. In this be was right, because Scudery wrote in a vitious inflated style, formed upon that of Seneca: but on the death of the cardinal, an event by which our poet was liberated from all control, and when therefore he had no longer any fear of indulging the bent of his own inclination, he gave the rein to his fancy, such as it was, and wrote Axiane in prose. It is impossible to say how much better he might or might not have written, had he been left all along to the free exercise of his own natural genius; but whether it was that his genius, by being so long fettered, had lost its powers, or that his mind was naturally crippled and imbecile, his Axiane was immediately damned, and with it the name of its author sunk into oblivion. Finding his own deficiency,—perhaps despairing of the public taste being sufficiently refined to relish his composition and perceiving that his mean cooperation with Richelieu to destroy the fame of Corneille, had brought him into general disrepute, he yielded to the persuasion of his friends, and abandoned dramatic writing for the rest of his life, though he lived full four and twenty years after.

SCARRON, the celebrated burlesque writer, well known as the author of the comical romance, lived at this time.-Deformed, licentious, volatile, and filled with a rich vein of comic humour, he was, at the age of twenty-seven, nailed down to the exercise of his genius by the total loss of the use of his lower limbs. He was forty-one years of age when a young lady actually married him, and made a sacrifice of her person, which was recommended by exquisite beauty, and by extreme youth, she being only sixteen years of age, to a heap of deformity, imbecility, and caprice. This young lady, whose name was Frances D'Aubigne, afterwards received the title of Maintenon, from an estate of that name, purchased for and presented to her by Lewis the Fourteenth, who, though two years younger than herself, privately married her in 1686, at which time she had been twenty-five years a widow; Scarron, her husband,

having died in 1660. The pleasantry which enlivened the conversation of Scarron was transfused into all his compositions. Few persons pretending to taste have neglected to read his "Comical “Romance, or Adventures of a Company of Strolling Players,” which is replete with sterling humour. His travestie of Virgil's Eneid is less known, but abounds with humour also. His first dramatic piece, called Jodelet, or the Maitre Valet, was brought out in 1745, and four other comedies followed within the space of four years. The last of these, called l'Heretier Ridicule, so amazingly tickled the fancy of the young king of France, Lewis XIV., when only twelve years of age, that he had it performed three times in one day.

In 1653, Scarron brought out his Don Japhet D'Armenie, which he laid at the feet of the young king with the following whimsical dedication prefixed to it.



Any other bel-esprit but myself would have begun with telling your majesty that you are the greatest king upon earth; that you were more knowing in the art of reigning at fourteen years old than the oldest graybeard; that you are the best made among men, much more among kings; and in short that you have nothing to do but to stretch out your arms and touch the top of mount Lebanon, and as much farther as you please. All this is very handsome and virtually true; but I shall say nothing of it here. I shall only say that since your power is so great, I intreat you to use it to do me a little good; for if you were to do me a little good I should be much merrierif I were much merrier, I should write merrier comedies-if I were to write merrier comedies, you would be more diverted-and if you were more diverted, your bounty would not be thrown away. All this seems so very reasonable that I am persuaded I should think the conclusion fair, even were 1 as great a king as your majesty, instead of a poor miserable devil as I really am, but nevertheless

Your majesty's very obedient

And very faithful subject and servant,


In 1654, Scarron brought out his l'Ecolier de Salamanque. This comedy occasioned a quarrel between him and Boisrobert, which continued to rage, to the end of their lives, with the most virulent rancour. It is not always that victory and right are on the same side. This once however they were so; for Scarron was unfairly treated by Boisrobert, and Boisrobert had sufficient cause to repent

his having put the invenomed wit of Scarron into active exertion against him.

It seems that Scarron was in the habit of reading over his works to his particular friends and acquaintances: Boisrobert was one of these, and to him as well as others l'Ecolier de Salamanque was read, by parcels as it was composed, with great glee and satisfaction to the author and to his auditors. Boisrobert was from the very beginning greatly taken with the circumstances of the play, treasured up all the parts as he heard them read, and as he received the plot and incidents by piecemeal, went home and worked upon them, and that too with such despatch and effect that he had built a perfect play upon the foundation supplied by the unsuspecting cripple; and, before the original was finished, brought it out without scruple, hesitation, or remorse, under the name of the Genereux Enemis. Nor was this all: for T. Corneille, brother of the illustrious Peter, who also wrote plays, founded upon Boisrobert's stolen Genereux Enemis another play, which he called the Illustres Enemis, and this copy also came out before Scarron's original, which, of course, had to encounter a twofold disadvantage. When l'Ecolier de Salamanque appeared, Boisrobert had the audacity as well as the baseness to decry its merit, and to vilify Scarron publicly for stealing it from him; and did it so pertinaciously and plausibly, that if there had not been other witnesses of our poet's claim, his title to it would in all probability have never been acknowledged by the public.

Scarron resented this, and fell upon Boisrobert with all the force and acumen which genius could lend to anger. Having infinitely more wit, and being moreover a much more vigorous and elegant writer than his treacherous adversary, he dealt out his resentment against him in a style so lively, pointed with such bitter invective, and imbued with such invenomed satire, that the unhappy culprit never ceased to feel the effects of his perfidy till the grave put an end to his troubles, which was in 1662, two years after the death of Scarron.

The same year that Scudery brought out his Axiane, a curious dramatic poet, of the name of LA SERRE, produced a tragedy called Sainte Catherine, and in the succeeding year another called Thesee. He wrote besides five other plays-all of which were abominably bad, but had great success through the influence of cardinal Richelieu. These exertions of the cardinal to counteract

the effects of truth, and to resist nature itself, were made not to serve La Serre so much as to injure Corneille.

This admired poet and chosen friend and agent of the great Richelieu, La Serre, may be considered as one of the most extraordinary of that fraternity of oddities, the scribblers of the world. He was librarian to the next brother of Lewis the Thirteenth, and in that station contrived to pick out from different books a quantity of literary materials, which he patched up together without method or coherence, and, writing a large quantity of heterogeneous trash in this way, got the name of an author. He had the sagacity, however to know his own deficiencies, and the cunning, rather than the candour, to acknowledge them; avowing, with much seeming pleasantry, that his propensity to writing was nothing more nor less than the mere cacoethes scribendi, which, as it turned to good account, he indulged in order to engage the regards of his very profitable patron, the cardinal. One day, having attended to a very long and tiresome public discourse, he embraced the orator as he descended from the rostrum, and exclaimed " My dear friend, I really did not think it possible!"-"What?" asked the other. "What!" replied La Serre," why you have uttered more nonsense in one hour than I have been able to write in twenty years; and yet I have worked hard for it too."

He used to say that he boasted one advantage over every other author: "I get rich," said he, "by writing wretched productions, while men of merit are dying of hunger." In this acknowledgment there was more candour than truth: for the thing often happens at all times and in all countries.

Another of the curiosities of the poetical corps of that day, and who, for his singular merit, was honoured with the favour of cardinal Richelieu, was GAUTIER de la CarPRENEDE. He was the author of Cassandra, Cleopatra and Pharamond, dull and tedious romances, now forgotten, and of thirteen dramatic pieces, which, for a long time, have had to boast of the same comfortable oblivion. Owing to patronage (for he was one of the gentlemen in ordinary to the king, and was patronized by the cardinal) he enjoy. ed a sort of temporary reputation. Having one day read a comedy of his, called Clariente, to Richelieu, the cardinal observed that the piece was tolerably good, but that some of the expressions were lache. Sir, said the author, in the true Gascon style, I would

have your eminence to know that nothing lache* ever belonged to the house of Calprenede!

Already Boisrobert has been mentioned. He, in 1646, brought out l'Inconnue, which he took from the Spanish of Calderone; and in 1650, La Jalouse de Elle Meme, translated frome Lope de Vega.

ISAAC BENSERADE, who wrote about this time, was an author of merit, and produced three plays. This gentleman was born of a noble family in Normandy, in 1612, and designed for the church, of which there was every seeming reason to suppose he would be a very respectable member. But a destiny of a far different kind overruled the project of his parents: for falling in love with Mademoiselle BELLEROSE, a beautiful girl and a favourite actress, he deserted the church for the airy hall of the muses, and cultivated his theatrical business with astonishing zeal and industry. He did not, however, confine his labours to the drama, but attempted every thing nothing came amiss to him; so that from the obscurity and poverty into which his love had sunk him, he rose to popularity and wealth. He too was noticed by Richelieu, to whom he was said to be related, and from whom he acquired a pension.As a poet, his talents were such that he divided the applauses of the town with Voiture. In the last part of his life he retired to Gentilly, where he employed himself in works of piety, and translated almost all the Psalms. He came by his death, which happened at the age of eighty years, in the following extraordinary manner.

He was so afflicted with the stone that he reluctantly submitted to the operation of cutting, in the doing of which the surgeon happening to puncture an artery was so alarmed for fear of the consequences that he ran away instead of checking the effusion of blood, and the unfortunate patient expired in the arms of his confessor.

ROUTROU, whom we have mentioned before, and who was the only poet that maintained even a temporary rivalship with Corneille, brought out ten pieces during the period we speak of, and no doubt possessed all the requisites of a dramatic poet of eminence. He knew character, he understood the conduct and arrangement of dramatic story, and possessed strong powers of discrimination. He

Lache, applied to writing, means loose, negligent-Applied to men, it means cowardly.

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