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Madame de Staël, born in 1766, was a daughter of Necker, the great minister of finance, who did so much for the involved affairs of the Revolutionary epoch. Her life was eventful. She fled from France upon the execution of Louis XVI. and his queen. Shortly after her return she fell into disfavor with Napoleon, who could not appreciate persons of high spirit when they refused to bow to his own imperious personality. Again she left her country, and during the next few years travelled in Germany and Italy. In 1810 she was once more exiled from Paris, whither she had returned. 1813 found her in England after a leisurely tour through Russia, Finland and Sweden. After the Restoration she was enabled to reappear in her native land with no further fear of continuing her somewhat theatrical "duel" with Napoleon. She retired to her estate at Coppet, on the Lake of Geneva, in 1816, where she was visited by Lord Byron ; but she went to Paris for the winter. Here she died in March, 1817. She was a remarkable figure and had immense influence in her own day. Her personality was characterized by one of the strongest traits of the time-sensibilité, overstrained sentimentality. It will be remembered that this spirit crops out both in German and in English literature. With Madame de Staël the outcrop is in life as well. She was a writer of considerable talent, but her mind was receptive rather than original. She caught ideas from all sides and gave them forth with grace and vigor. Chateau
briand tried to bring back an appreciation of the light and color of other days-to clear the vision of his time; Madame de Staël aimed at inculcating broader views of liberalism and progress. She was most prominent as a letter writer, and some of her other works were: Ten Years of Exile and Consideration of the French Revolution (both 1818).
We may place the opening of the nineteenthcentury literature in France with the publication of The Genius of Christianity in 1802. "It is with Chateaubriand that a really new period begins, and for once in history, by the greatest of hazards, it happens that the opening of the period coincides with that of a new century." And perhaps it will not be fanciful to consider the period between the Restoration and "1830" as a transition period. It contains remains of the old classical tradition side by side with the energetic but nondescript efforts at reform of the early romanticists such as the two just mentioned. We now come upon two more writers, of greater importance, but still belonging to the transition epoch, because they do not evidence the absolute and entire neglect of classicism which came in with the outburst of 1830.
First of these is PIERRE JEAN DE BÉRANGER. He was born at Paris in 1780. He seems to have been in opposition to the government in 1814, in 1830, and in 1852-the "Second Empire"; a position which has caused doubt in the minds of critics, some defending his independence, and others holding that
he displayed unfairness and lack of good faith. Béranger was essentially a song-writer and has been compared to Burns, with whom, however, he has little in common beyond his popularity among the lower classes. His works consist entirely of chansons, dealing particularly with wine and women. Here again there is dispute among the authorities. One critic says there is nothing of the really popular element in his songs, that they are simply expression of whatever is bourgeois in the French character, that it is difficult to term him a poet. Another speaks of the lively wit of his best work, of its “remarkable pathos; its sound common-sense;. its thorough humanity and wholesome natural feeling." One calls him a writer who has never been surpassed for the skill with which he turned his popularity to the utmost account; the other says his popularity has always been immense, and that he deserved it. The middle course is not easy to steer between these two opinions. Certain it is that during his funeral a mark of high esteem was paid by the assembling of thousands of people, who crowded the roofs and balconies as the procession passed, and cried: "Honneur! honneur, à Béranger." He died in 1857. Volumes of his Songs were published at various intervals between 1815 and the year of his death, when the last collection appeared.
This is a stanza from his ballad, The King of Yvetot -Thackeray's version, by the way:
There was a king of Yvetot,
Of whom renown hath little said,
And dawdled half his days a-bed;
Sing ho, ho, ho! and he, he, he!
The next name is the most important before Hugo -ALPHONSE PRAT DE LAMARTINE. He was eleven years younger than Béranger. Although he lived long after the triumph of romanticism in 1830 (dying in 1869), he does not belong strictly to the men who were directly concerned in the great change. Lamartine was a royalist, his father narrowly escaping execution during the Reign of Terror. After leaving school he went to Italy, and upon the Restoration received a good position in the army. This, however, was not in accordance with his taste, and he entered the diplomatic field. He was attaché to the French Embassy at Naples, and chargé d'affaires at Florence. In 1829 he was elected to the Academy. He resigned his official position shortly after the July revolution (1830). He started on a journey to the East, but returned upon his election by the Chamber of Deputies, and entered political life. It is said that his poetical ability was devitalized—at any rate for a time-by this step. In 1848 he was at the summit of his political power; but it was at the cost of his literary influence. He became famous as an orator. Soon afterwards he
retired into private life. He met with a good deal of trouble towards the close of his life, and wrote incessantly. Much that he produced, however, was of little more than temporary value. Two years before his death he received a large grant from the government of Napoleon III. This was sufficient to enable him to end his days in comfort.
Lamartine, like Béranger, is not granted the same position by all critics, and this difference leads to a slight confusion on the part of the average reader. Perhaps, after all, the best criterion is found in the man's influence for good upon his time, and in the judgment of critics of his own country in succeeding generations. Judged by this, Lamartine ranks very high. His first work appeared in 1821-a collection of poems called Méditations. The book had a great success; which went to show that the classic influence was waning fast, for the poems were a return to the purely romantic treatment of themes such as nature and love. The Death of Socrates (1823) was followed in the same year by the New Meditations. The latter has been termed "at once the noblest and most voluptuous work in French poetry." The Last Canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage was issued in 1825, when the originator of Childe Harold was at the height of his fame-always more continental than English. In 1836 and 1838 respectively were published Jocelyn, and The Fall of an Angel. They were intended for portions of a single great epic poem which was never completed. Jocelyn