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Failing thy spirit. . . . Let us enter now.
(From Library of the World's Best Literature.)
The dramatic works comprise, besides Cromwell and Hernani, Marion Delorme (1830) (at first suppressed), Marie Tudor (1833), Ruy Blas (1838). The principal novels were : Bug Jargal (1818), which bears the same relation to his development as The Robbers to that of Schiller ; Les Misérables (1862), Toilers of the Sea (1866); Notre Dame de Paris has been mentioned. Good samples of his power are found in the descriptions of the convicts for the galleys in Les Misérables, and of the fight with the devil-fish in The Toilers of the Sea. His political writings were not of much political value. Of his miscellaneous work a critical volume on William Shakespeare takes bigh rank. Hugo is the typical French poet and novelist. He lived to see the cause for which he fought absolutely triumphant, and for a number of years occupied a position of somewhat lonely pre-eminence.
The next writer among the leaders was the critic of the movement. CHARLES AUGUSTIN SAINTE-BEUVE was born at Boulogne in 1804. If Hugo led the van by the immense power and range of his creative genius, Sainte-Beuve explained the raison d'être of romanticism by his rare critical ability. He wrote some mediocre verse, but his position as a critic is that by which he must be judged—for he was the most notable critic of our time. Sainte-Beure was
educated first at Boulogne, then in Paris. For a time be studied medicine; but he was soon called to assist on Le Globe newspaper, which had been founded by one of his former teachers. To its staff he was admitted in 1824, and for it he wrote his first series of articles on French Literature of the Six. teenth Century. These were collected and published in 1828 under the title View of French Poetry of the XVI. Century. The Revue de Paris was started about the same time and Sainte-Beuve contributed an article on Boileau, the critical autocrat of the later sixteenth century. In 1831 the Review of Two Worlds (Revue des Deux Mondes) was founded in emulation of the former and Sainte-Beuve transferred his allegiance, taking a leading part in this famous magazine from the very first. He went to Switzerland in 1837 and gave an important series of lectures at the University of Lausanne. Three years later he received a library appointment in Paris, which was of financial value to him and enabled him to widen the range of his study at leisure. In 1848 the overthrow of the monarchy by the Republicans ended for a time his peaceful prosperity. In 1849 he began, in The Constitutionnel, the famous series of Monday Causeries. His connection with the Constitutionnel was preserved for three years; then he went to Le Moniteur, where the Monday letters were continued. In 1859 he was made Com. mander of the Legion of Honor after having twice refused the dignity. In 1862 he commenced the publication of a series of New Mondays in Le Con stitutionnel. The last years of his life were embittered by painful illness. He died in 1869, and all Paris thronged to his funeral. Of himself he had said, in words as simple as true : " Devoted to my profession as critic I have tried to be more and more a good, and, if possible, an able, workman." A workman indeed, but of the highest skill and in the richest materials.
Sainte-Beuve's critical method was absolutely different from anything that had gone before. In the first place, it was founded upon different principles. The plan of French critics—nay, of critics in general--before his advent had been the narrow method of judging all literary work according to certain hard and fast rules either handed down in critical tradition or evolved by the critic himself. If a poem or a play did not conform to these requirements so much the worse for it. Thus, anything new, anything“ irregular," was damned by that very fact. But Sainte-Beuve based criticism upon a thorough and careful knowledge of literature in general; thus avoiding the possibility of a narrow point of view, thus gaining true catholicity of taste without which criticism cannot be just. This was the surest foundation on which to build. The fine and broad taste of Sainte-Beuve inaugurated a new era in literary criticism. A second mark of his method was that he regarded not so much the ab. stract idea of what a work in poetry or prose ought to be, as the question of the author's object in writing it. This, it will be seen at once, is a fairer means of getting at the intrinsic value of the production than the mode of measurement by an absolute, unvarying standard. It comes much nearer to answering the essential question—is the work good or bad !
Sainte-Beuve's critical writings may be divided into three periods: the first, from 1824 to 1837, when he went to Lausanne. His work during this time is largely of a combative character—as was necessary for a man who was upsetting all the old canons of criticism. The next period ran from 1837 to 1850, and was signalized by but little literary production. He was at Lausanne and at Liége, and was lecturing. He completed his History of Port Royal, on which he had been engaged many years. This was a series of most valuable critical and historical articles dealing with the authors of Port Royal and the works put forth by that famous association. The third division covered the last nineteen years of Sainte-Beuve's life--1850–69. By English critics it is regarded as the most important of all; French authorities, on the other hand, do not coincide with this view. This was the period of the famous Monday Causeries. Upon these the critic used to spend immense energy; in fact, his strength was worn out by his excessive care in this respect. They covered a very extended field, and in their critical excellence have probably never been surpassed. The work of Sainte-Beuve was of the greatest value in forming correct taste and setting a standard of literary criticism.
The three novelists of the romantic movement may well be taken together. They were Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), George Sand (1804–1876), Alexandre Dumas (1806–1870). HONORÉ DE BALZAC was the most important. He received a good education and began life in a lawyer's office. This gave a distinct color to his literary work in after years. Law was not at all to his liking and he soon entered the field of literature. For some time he wrote under a nom de guerre and unsuccessfully. But all the time he was unconsciously gathering material, and a successful novel appeared in 1829. Thereafter, for the rest of his life, he poured forth a stream of fiction, original, vivid, full of power. His tireless energy and fertility, however, brought him no adequate return while he lived, either in money or fame; only since his death has his true position been given him. He toiled terribly all his days, and just at the end was settling down to enjoy the rewards of long literary activity-and of his faithful love-when the hand of death struck him down.
The immense output of Balzac was by himself grouped chiefly under the general head of The Human Comedy. This name indicated his lifework: to present a picture of the manners and customs of his times. This he has done; in fact he has given a wonderfully intricate representation of life itself. Therefore, he is the greatest of French