Imatges de pàgina

Priam utters lamentations over the body of Hector? M. de Tourneur has displayed much taste by converting Young's birds, transfixed by Fate, who loves a lofty mark,” into a nightingale struck by the fowler's shot. It is a prodigious improvement, as may be instantly perceived. The means should always be proportioned to the object, and we ought not to use a lever for the purpose of raising a straw. Fate may dispose of an empire, change a world, elevate or throw down a great man, but Fate should not be employed in killing a bird. It is the durus arator, it is the feathered arrow which should be used to kill nightingales and pigeons.

It is not in this way that Bossuet speaks of Madaine Henriette. “She has passed,” says he, “ from morning to evening like the herbs of the field. In the morning she flourished-oh, with what elegance! You know it. At night we saw her withered, and those strong expressions, by which the Scriptures almost exaggerate the instability of human affairs, were precisely and literally verified in this Princess. Alas, we composed her memoirs of all that we could fancy

most glorious. The past and the present were our guarantees for the future. Such was the history, of which we had formed the outline, and to complete our noble project, nothing was requisite but the duration of her life, which we did not think in any danger. For who could have supposed that years would be refused to one of such vivacity in her youth? By her death our plan is totally destroyed in a moment. Behold her-in spite of her great heart, behold this Princess lately so much admired and beloved ! See to what a state death has reduced her; and even these remains, such as they are, will soon disappear.

I should have liked to quote some pages of regularly supported beauty from the Night Thoughts of Young. Such are to be found in the French translation, but not in the original. The Nights of M. Le Tourneur, and the imitation of M. Colerdeau are works in all respects different to the English one.

The latter only possesses beauties scattered here and there, and rarely supplies ten irreproachable lines together.; Seneca and Lucan may be sometimes traced in

Young, but Job and Pascal never. He is not a man of sorrow he does not please the truly unhappy.

Young declaims in several places against solitude ; so that the habit of his soul was certainly not an inclination to reverie,* The saints pursued their meditations in the deserts, and the Parnassus of poets is also a solitary mountain. Bourdaloue intreated of the superior of his order permission to retire from the world. “ I feel,” wrote he,

" that


grows feeble, and approaches towards dissolation. I have run my course, and thank Heaven, I can add that I have been faithful to my God.-Let me be allowed to employ the remainder of my

* The English reader will probably not have agreed with M. de Chateaubriand on several points discussed in this criticism. Young can never be said to have disliked solitude. Let him speak for himself :

66 Oh lost to virtue, lost to manly thought,
Lost to the noble sallies of the soul,

Who think it solitude to be alone!

Communion sweet, communion large and high !" &c.


days in devotion to the Almighty, and in securing my own salvation. In retirement I shall forget the affairs of this world, and humble

myselt with contrition every day before my Maker.” If Bossuet, living amidst the magnificence of Versailles was able to diffuse a genuine and majestic species of sadness through his writings, it was because he found solitude in religion ; because though his body was in the world, his soul was in a desert; because his heart had found a sanctuary in the secret recesses of the taber. nacle, because, as he himself said of Maria Theresa of Austria, he ran to the altar toenjoy humble repose with David ; because he shut himself, as that Princess did, in his oratory, where, in spite of the tumuli of the court, he found the carmel of Elias, the desert of Saint John, and the mountain, which so often witnessed the sorrows of Jesus.”

Dr. Johnson, after having severely criticized Young's Night Thoughts, finishes by comparing them to a Chinese garden. For my own part, all I have wished to say is, that if we impartially compare the literary works of other nations with those of France, we sball find an immense superiority in favour of our own country. We always at least equal others in strength of thought, while we are certainly superior in point of taste; and it should ever be remembered that though genius produces the literary offspring, taste preserves it. Taste is the good sense of genius, and without it the latter is only a silly species of sublimity. But it a singular circumstance that this sure criterion, by which every thing yields the exact tone it ought to yield, is still less frequently found than the creative faculty. Genius and wit are disseminated in about equal proportions, at all times ; but there are only certain nations, and among these only particular moments, at which taste appears in all its purity. Before and after this moment, every thing fails either from deficiency or excess. It is for this reason that perfect works are so rare ; for it is necessary that they should be produced in the happy hours of united taste and genius. This great junction, like that of certain heavenly bodies, appears only to take place after the lapse of several ages, and then endures onlyfor a moment.

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