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raised to their divinity by the fairest mined by the scanty light which the
and polemic controversies which enThe influence of the ancient romance gaged the attention of the German lite, had now reached its meridian, which it rati, stood alike hostile to the cultivawas soon destined to pass---to rise no tion of fictitious history; when, after a more! It was not the inimitable satire long interregnum, the Genius of literary of Cervantes that broke the long power- fiction again made her irresistible claims ful spell exercised over the mind and the to public notice and popular admiration. imagination by the romantic fictions of The agent of her revived influence was darker ages; for it is rational to believe still destined to be a woman; and Mathat no individual effort of the human demoiselle de Scuderi, while she guidmind could effect so powerful and so ed the public taste, contributed to the universal a revolution in human opi- enjoyments of private society in the nion: it was rather the natural and evi. most polished circle of France. The dent progress of society in knowledge romances of this lady became the faand civilization, which slowly effected vourites of a whole generation, and the this striking change in the popular and ill-founded praises of many of her illusliterary taste of Europe; and the bold- trious contemporaries give her an inness with which Cervantes ventured to terest with posterity, which her works ridicule its obvious folly, is a presumptive alone would never have obtained for proof that that folly no longer existed in her. Ménage calls her the inventress of its primary and original force: while even “ l'amour de tendresse,” and infinitely the admirable satirist, tinctured by the extols her works above those of her lingering error, whose redemption he friends Voiture and Balzac; while more laboured to effect, evidently betrayed than one illustrious character of that day that above all his other and his abler of false taste spoke, wrote, and acted works he gave the decided preference to throughout their whole lives, like the his own romance of “Sigismonde," and heroes of her unnatural romances ; of thus unconsciously evinced that his this, the most striking and distinguishwarm imagination and early habits of ed example is given in the romantic feeling still remained true to a cause character of the interesting Duc de from which his cooler judgment had Guise, the lover of the beautiful Du long deserted. Gay, brave, and gallant, Ponts, the favourite maid of honour to he was himself the hero of a sad ro- Anne of Austria, and the hero of his mance; and the smile which so fre- day and country. Spanish gallantry quently beams upon the work of the and Spanish romances were about this author, is involuntarily dimmed by the period introduced together into the first tear which the heart gives to the fate of circles of French society, which assemthe man: for who ever yet enjoyed bled at the Hotel de Sable and the Hotel the exquisite humour of his knight and de Rambouillet, names now consecrated Fris squire, and sighed not to remember to immortal ridicule in the inimitable that the page on which their inimitable “ Precieuses” of Moliere. This influcharacters were traced was only illu- ence was naturally increased by the cha.
racter and mamers of the then reigning soon shed a new light on fictitious hisqueen, who brought with her to Paris tory: it was no longer confined to incithe saine notions of gallantry and lite- dent and adventure ; it became the merature as distinguished the Court of Ma- dium of more abstract subjects, and drid. Speaking of the leading societies Marivaux, Crebillon, Monhy, Prevot, of Paris, Madame de Motteville observes, and Riccoboni, mingled with their inthrat at that period—“On trouvoit une genious fictions, discussions of sentisi grande délicatesse dans les comédies, ment, and observations upon men and nouvelles, et tous les autres ouvrages, manners, which presented to the reader en vers et en prose, qui venoient de Ma- a cheap experience of the world without drid, qu'ils avoient conçu une haute paying the tax of a purchase too often idée de la galantrie que les Espagnols so dearly made. But this state of fictiavoient appris des Mores.” With the tious history now detailed, is solely apton of the society of the Hotel de Ram- plicable to France. In England the bouillet and its gallantry died away the progress of novel-writing was less rapid solemn love and much of the celebrity as well as less interesting, and the few of the romances of the Demoiselle de works of that nature which appeared Scuderi, even during the reign of Louis were tinctured with the bad taste and the Fourteenth ; but her success had corrupt morals that prevailed in the been too brilliant to leave her destitute Court of Charles II. and which long of a crowd of imitators, and the Durfés, left its noxious taint hehind it. It is in the Calprenedes, the Orrerys, and the unfolding the stronger operations of the Barclays, endeavoured to perpetuate a mind—it is in scientific research or phistyle of composition which had scarcely losophic disquisition, that the English any other merit than its originality; for language best displays its energetic and these long-winded but short-lived ro- copious powers. Rich in the expresmances, almost as wild as their Gothic sions adapted to the lofty boldness of predecessors, were still more incongru- epic poetry, it affords a less appropriate ous and infinitely less natural. And it medium for the developement of refined seemed the unaccountable ambition of sentiment, for the minute analysis of their authors to blend the heroic charac- tender emotion, for those varieties of ters of antiquity, with the barbarous manner, those shades of eharacter, which customs of the middle ages, and the are exhibited in the intimate intercourse manners of the existing day. Thus in of social life, and to which the delicate the romance of “ Cassandra,” Alexan- nuance of the French, the most artificial der is at once the hero of Macedon, a of European languages, is so exquisitely knight of the round table, and a petit adapted. The genius of the English mattre of the formal French court of the language was stamped by the character of day in which its ponderous tomes were the nation, and peculiarly adapted to composed.
the bold, free epic energy, of the old To these voluminous but ephemeral Gothic romance. Long therefore did productions succeeded another species English readers resist the influence of of fictitious history of a very different that sentimental sorcery to whose excharacter: Coarse, "humorous, and na- pression their language was so inadetural, it formed a striking, contrast to quate, and which rendered the pages of the false refinement and high-wrought the French Novelists always so interestsentiment of the “Clelias,” the “ Polex- ing, and, frequently, so dangerous. anders," and "Cleopatras” which had The national. taste of the English, preceded it, and from its imitation of the more alive to details of humour than of local and familiar stile of Boccacio, and passion, more anxious to be amused Geraldo, it borrowed the title affixed to than to be touched, produced a class of their works, and was called “Novel” novel-writers peculiarly their own. Posby its authors.
terity, from whose judgment there is no Cervantes boasted that he was the appeal, has placed the immortal Fielding first who wrote Novels in the Spanish at their head, and Tom Jones” belanguage; and Scarron may be deem longs as much to England the laned the founder of novel-writing in guage in which it is composed * The France. Segrais and Le Sage improved, dignity of novel-writing seemed now to while they adopted, the tone of his com- hare reached its summit, and the hisposition; and Madame La Fayette added torian, the poet, and the philosopher, to it all the delicate refinement in which her predecessors were so deficient. The * Fielding received £700 for
“ Tom progress of polite literature in Europe Jones,” an immense sum for that day.
alike enlisted beneath the brilliant bank at the shrine of a tutelat saint, and
be found less dangerous than at the present momost powerful and decisive. Then igno- ment: the political state of Europe, the rance knows no limit to improbability; most awful and most extraordinary in and, by a wild imagination, that which the annals of time; the general and pubis not even known to be possible, will lic anxiety which it excites; the unifrequently be admitted as true. Thus versal diffusion of knowledge; the high in the middle ages, when the monks cultivation of moral taste, the clear exburied in their convents the little learn- position of moral duties, (both to be ing possessed in Europe, the people and found even in those works adapted to the nobility, if they read at all
, read the tender capacity of childhood,) the solely with a view to their amusement subjection of the imagination to expandor to their religion, and found their pro- jed reason-in a word, the present refined pensity to the marvellous equally grati- and enlightened state of society, becomes hed in the legend of the saint, or the 'the guide of public taste, the guardian adventures of the hero; and so deeply of public manners; and were such ficwere their imaginations imbued, and tions now to appear as disgraced the age their minds governed by the romantic sof Charles II. and Louis XIV. they
by subject alike sought to pass their youth mon consent of society; and their auin the field-their age in the cloister. thors, covered with infainy, would exThus, even so late as the day of Charles cite only abhorrence for those eflusions the Fifth, we find the hero of his age, which once promised them immortality. and the emperor of nations, retiring from Whoever now writes to please the public the pomp of a throne to the privacy of taste, should at least bring to the ardua cell, hanging up the sceptre of royalty ous task an educated mind, and a polish
edrstyley if he hopes to be read, at: ex may and can no longer i produce that pects to be tolerated. And with respect powerful and general effect which once to the higher attainments that belong extended its influences power society at alone to native genius, public judgment large ; but it may, in an individual in is no less fastidious than public taste'; stance, and perhaps too, frequently does, and no splendour of diction, or magniti- produce a false refinement, but little cence of imagery, 'can sanction the cha- adapted to the state of humanity, and racter which is unnatural, or the inci- an intense application to its pages may dent which is improbable. But though at a certain period of life so assimilate the tendency of fictitious history has, the moral habits and perceptions to the from the nature and state of things, lost dreams of poetic incident, and the illus much of its force and power, enough of sions of romantic sentiment, , as wholly its influence still remains to give the to disqualify the visionary actor for that novelist a higher motive to excellence scene in which he is destined to perform: than what the mere gratification of a while natural sensibility, excited by a public literary appetite awakens. perpetual recurrence of fictitious distress,
One would willingly hope, for the may finally terminate in an imaginary honour of human nature, that there is and morbid sympathy; and the feelings no abstract wickedness upon earth ; and accustomed to receive a series of passive that no one ever wrote for the mere pur- impressions, may, eventually, become pose of corrupting society, or deceived rather exquisite than useful, and conothers, without being at the moment de tribute to a refined and selfish luxury ceived himself. But it must be admitted rather than to the performance of a pothat it is not enough the intention sitive and active duty. should be pure, and the object laudable; Gothic fictions, like Gothic manners, the means also by which both are to were rude, but active in their tendency; be effected should be cautiously consi- and if they misled the imagination, they dered, and arranged with a view to the did not endanger the heart, if they disgeneral and probable effect; and perhaps ordered the fancy, they did not enervate it is in this particular instance that ficti- the character. But modern fictions top tious history may be deemed to produce faithfully accominodate themselves, to the strongest influence on modern man- the sofiness and indolence, ofmodern ners. Satisfied with the purity of the habits ; and may therefore contribute to moral ineulcated, the incautious and the indulgence of passive impressions, youthful reader may give up an ardent and to an excessive refinement in, taste imagination to scenes seductive in their and feeling, until their votary, oppressed arrangement and dangerous in their con- by this mental disease, reaches the last templation. Vice may appear to smile degree of human misery, and finding with the loveliness of virtue, even on that he has to live among the selfish and ber, road to retribution; the passions the prejudiced, the illiberal or the yulmay become awakened, ere the mind gar, will become the
prey of disappointhas been convincerl, and the eye may ment and disgust. Dragged into the have dwelt upon the unveiled images of common occurrences of daily life, he human frailty, until the once chaste will submit with gloomy reluctance to mind is at last familiarized with their “the flat reality;" and if necessitated to deformity, the sensitive delicacy of in- mingle in the business and bustle of an nocence blunted, even in its pursuit of uninteresting world, the conduct he will virtue, and the principles have lost their adopt will frequently have less reference stability, even while the heart is yet to his own peculiar situation, than to pure, and the life still sinless.
some fancied state of which he has read, Nor is this the only evil to be appre- and in which he actually supposes himhended from the influence of fictitious self to be placed. So long as fictitious history on modern manners. The se- history shall have its origin in the elodentary education of youth of both mentary principles of human nature, it sexes, so different from the activity of re- may be considered like the source from moter ages, the indolence and luxury of whence it springs, a “mingled web of existing modes, may give peculiar force good and ill together," alike capable of to a style of composition which ad- producing effects beneficial or injurious dresses itself so seducingly to the fancy to manners, according to the existand to the heart. Fictitious history ing state of society, and to the moral may indeed no longer form a hero or a feeling, the principles, and genius, of saint, or impose the belief of a flying those who present themselves to pubdragon or'a powerful necromancer; it lic notice as , the authors of com
positions so popular in all ages and goodness and human felicity is the great in all countries. The historian may and primary object of those who seek to mislead as to facts in which we have no instruct by endeavouring to pleased to fonger either interest or concern ; but the infuse the precepts, of wisdom through novelist holds the key of the human' the medium of imagination, and to give ! heart, and governs the spring of the hu- to the dryness of truth the persuasive i inan passions ; /his spell reaches the pri- accents of pleasure, the influence of ficvacy of domestic retirement, insinuates titious history on modern manners must its magic into the most secret incidents be as beneficial to the morals of society of life, mingles its 'influence with our as conducive to its amusement. It inay feelings and our thoughts, and frequent- delight the fancy by poetic description, ly becoines a standard by which we it may cultivate the mental taste by re.. ineasure our own characters, and appre. fined sentiment, it may excite our disciate our own situations. Thus many gust for all that is low or illiberal ; it an amiable woman has claimed a fatal may elevate our views of moral excel feeling as her own, which she borrowed lence, and give to the mind a tone of unconsciously from the impassioned ten- dignified elegance impracticable to the derness of Heloise; and many an ines- influence of sordid meanness; it may timable youth has become the victim of soothe the feelings which the world! a morbid sensibility which perhaps he may have ruffled, and meet the heart had never known, had he never read which the world may have disappointed ; “ Werter." But, opposed to these in- it may assume the poble character of
, , answered, that a great proportion of latent love of country; it may give a the liberality, benevolence, and virtue, safer experience of the world than an'. to be found in the modern world, may actual intercourse with its scenes could have been added to the sum of human bestow; and it may inculcate by pre excellence by the influence of those cept, by illustration, and by example, popular compositions, which, though that nothing so effectually promotes the sometimes defective in their execution, moral improvement and moral happiness or erroneous in their means, are almost of our nature, as a strict performance of universally intended in their object to those active and indispensable duties promote the cause of virtue and morali- connected with our various stations in iy, to add at once to the harmless stock this life, and on the cultivation or negat of public amusement, and to extend the lect of which, it may rationally be in source, of social happiness. As long, ferred, our hopes must be founded of therefore, as the proinotion of human that life which is to come.
Ridendo dicere verum quid vetat ? At the Four Elements. From the Press of the Four Seasons. 4444. “NO! it is in vain I struggle against her bodkin, I believe.” “Come, come, it: the demon of ennui will kill me at no railing against the superstitions of last," I exclaimed, as I threw down the the Highlands,” he replied'; “ these are second volume of The Monastery. “You very serious things in Scotland, I assure see I cannot get through with it--stuck you, where second-sight has been proved quite fast in the middle." “Is it the io exist by ocular demonstration. The laziness of the author, or yourself, that au:hor, I am told, piques himself upon is in fault here?” answered my friend, these jeux d'imagination, and has half who seemed maliciously to enjoy my imbibed the principle upon which they perplexity. “Of both, I believe, for are founded.” Why, to be sure, he they say he was as confoundedly tired set off in a deuced hurry back again to with writing before he had done as ...,” the North before London had half ex(here I yawned)—"As you are of read- hausted her adıiration of .....” (here I ing, I suppose." "Just my meaning, yawned and stretched myself again.) but rather more politely expressed; for,
_“Of his wonderful genius, I suppose seriously, though I oped the wide and you mean.". “Just so; and explain my ponderous jaws of weariness, I am by other meaning, my dear friend, too. no means tired of your company; you “Well, then, you mean to insinuate must attribute it to the White Lady and that, Mr. Cleishbotham of Gander