Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/346

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once or twice a month "pour parler Francais." Yet, we regret to say that America, for whom we fought, America, our sister republic, is, of all great nations, the most indifferent to French culture. The small number of Frenchmen in this country, the bad reputation of a few international places of amusement in Paris—some under English management—a small, noisy literature exclusively for the Boulevards and the export trade, perhaps also the enormous influence of Germany, whose friendliness to France was none of the warmest—all these factors have led many Americans to neglect France, her people and her language. America was, I believe, the first great nation to restrict the use of French as the diplomatic language, and she is perhaps the only one at the present day where more students learn German than French.

However, in the rest of the world—for there is a rest of the world—French maintains its position. It is curious to notice that foreigners are much more sanguine than the French themselves about its future. At the Liège congress for the diffusion of the French language, a Bussian, Novicow, led the optimists, against our great medieval philologist, Paul Meyer, probably lost in his regrets for the glorious thirteenth century. Nivarol was never more complimentary to us than H. G. Wells, Gubernatis, Valera or Max Nordau.

Professor Brand er Matthews believes that the larger intellectual and financial opportunities of English will lure ambitious writers away from their language and their people. He gives Maarten Maartens as an example. This tendency is not new, and French, in the past, could point with pride to many such transfuges, from Brunetto Latini to Frederic of Prussia. And that power of attraction is not spent. For anything except a sensational novel or a volume of sermons, French offers at least as good financial opportunities as English, a more independent and better trained body of critics, a more open-minded, more discriminating reading public. That is why, not only in the days of Chaucer and in the days of Gibbon, but in this twentieth century of ours, so many foreign authors have adopted French as their vehicle. And not only critics and novelists, but poets—which supposes an extraordinary degree of familiarity with the language: Belgians of Teutonic origin, like Verhaeren, Maeterlinck, Eodenbach; Eumanians, like Bolinteano, Hasdeu, Macedonsky, Stourdza, Helen Vacaresco; Greeks like Parodi and Papadiamantopoulos (Jean Moreas); the Cuban JoseMaria de Heredia, perhaps the greatest of them all; English poets—Swinburne, Oscar Wilde, Mary Eobinson (Mme. DarmesteterDuclaux); finally true-born Americans—Francis Viele-Griffin from Virginia, Stuart Merrill from Long Island, both doing excellent work:

. . . J'en passe, et des meilleurs!

Pour trois qui vous viendraient, il m 'en viendrait soixante.