The First Half of the Seventeenth Century/Chapter 6< The First Half of the Seventeenth Century(Redirected from The First Half of the Seventeenth Century/French Verse and Prose)
FRENCH VERSE AND PROSE.
waning of the pleiad. malherbe—purity and correctness—verse. disciples—maynard—racan. social forces—hôtel de rambouillet—academy. independents—théophile de viau—saint-amant—mlle. de gournay and mathurin régnier. vincent voiture. heroic poems. prose-romances—d'urfé—'l'astrée'; camus—exemplary tales; heroic romance—gombauld's 'endymion'—gomberville's 'polexandre'—la calprenède—elimination of the marvellous—romantic history—madeleine de scudéry—culmination of "préciosité"—boileau's dialogue 'les héros de roman.' realism and burlesque in romance—sorel—'le berger extravagant'—'francion'—lannel—cyrano—scarron. shapers of modern french prose—balzac and the cult of style; descartes—rationalism and lucidity;—pascal—the way of the intellect and the way of the heart. the 'memoirs'—de retz and la rochefoucauld—philosophy of the 'fronde'—'les maximes.'
The poets of the Pleiad attempted more than they Waning of
the Pleiad. were able to achieve. The ambitious programme of Du Bellay issued in no great and permanent result. There was no Pindar and no Virgil in their ranks, no Petrarch and no Milton. The fame even of the great Ronsard was to be shortlived. In spite of the vigorous protests of a Régnier and a Mademoiselle de Gournay, it melted before the scornful glance of Malherbe, "le grammairien en lunettes et en cheveux gris"; and even now that time has redressed the injustice of the seventeenth century, he survives, not as the rival of Pindar and Virgil, but as the writer of some charming sonnets and songs, the poet of "Mignonne, allons voir si la rose." And it is by poems in the same vein that every one of the band is represented in such a collection as Crépet's. They breathed an Italian gravity and sweetness into French poetry which was not without its effect on the work even of their immediate successors; but they produced no poetry of such great and shining merits as to justify to these successors the violence they did in more than one way to the genius of the language and to the French love of sense, logic, and order.
Both these principles found in François Malherbe (1555-1628), the son of a Norman "conseiller," an ardent and even fanatical adherent and champion. Of his life little need be said here. He served under Henri d'Angoulême. His merits as a poet were made known to Henri IV. by Cardinal du Périer, on the death of whose daughter Malherbe had written the most beautiful, in its dignified pathos, of all his poems; and from 1605 to his death he was laureate—and no poet was ever more essentially and entirely a laureate poet—to Henri, to Marie de Médicis, to Richelieu, and to Louis XIII.
Malherbe's earliest work was probably Ronsardist in character, but he soon discovered, like Pope, that his way to fame lay through "correctness," and no poet ever became a more thorough-going disciple and prophet of thatPurity. useful if limited doctrine. The "poetic" which he taught, mainly through his criticism of Desportes (on whose work he made a close-running "commentaire"), and which he practised in his slowly elaborated Odes, was in part the protest of one imbued with a passionate jealousy for his native tongue, her idiom and nuances, against the innovations and licences of the Pleiad. Du Bellay and Ronsard had dreamed of creating a poetic style distinct in diction and idiom from the language of every day. Malherbe bluntly declared that for poetry, as for prose, the only rule was "proper words in proper places," and that the arbiter of propriety was usage. The "'crocheteurs du port au Foin' were," he said, "his masters in language." Racan reports the saying and Régnier ridicules the doctrine; but both in practice and theory Malherbe admitted the restraining principle of elegance. It was not the usage of the street but of the court which was his norm. Many of Malherbe's other rules, especially his prosody, are an expression of that spirit of order which was soon to become dominant in France, and which already took the form of reverence for rule as rule, which is its greatest vice—the introduction into literary art of the spirit of social etiquette.
To recommend his reforms Malherbe's poetry had, besides correctness, as its most positive excellence,Verse. a rich and sonorous versification. The famous lines in the Consolation à Monsieur du Périer sur la Mort de sa Fille—
"Et, rose, elle a vécu ce que vivent les roses,
L'espace d'un matin"—
are the most poetical Malherbe ever wrote. The thought even of his finest laureate poems is commonplace if quite appropriate so far as it goes. One feels that each ode was probably drafted in prose before being elaborated in sonorous verse; for the splendour of the verse is the redeeming virtue of his work. He invented no new stanzas, but selected and embellished those of the Pleiad which were best suited to his oratorical style. But whether the stanza be a long one made up of octosyllabics, or a shorter one in Alexandrines, Malherbe's verse at its best has a pomp and clangour which it would be difficult to surpass. The ode Pour le Roi, written on the Rochelle expedition, is perhaps the finest example of the "grand vers"—
"Je suis vaincu du temps; je cède à ses outrages;
Mon esprit seulement, exempt de sa rigueur,
A de quoi témoigner en ses derniers ouvrages
Sa premiere vigueur."
In the same strain, and with equal dignity, he writes in what is his favourite ode stanza:—
"Apollon à portes ouvertes
Laisse indifféremment cueillir
Les belles feuilles toujours vertes
Qui gardent les noms de vieillir;
Mais l'art d'en faire les couronnes
N'est pas su de toutes personnes;
Et trois ou quatre seulement,
Au nombre desquels on me range,
Peuvent donner une louange
Qui demeure éternellement."
Malherbe was not the immediate founder of any important school of poetry. Of his "sons," as Jonson Maynard and
Racan. would have called them—the young poets who gathered around him to receive his lectures on good French and permissible rhymes—the most important, François Maynard (1582-1646) and Honorat de Bueil, Seigneur de Racan (1589-1670), are but minor bards. Maynard, who in his earliest volume had followed in the footsteps of the Pleiad and composed Italianate Amours, Élégies, Pastorales, and Vers Spirituels, became the most faithful disciple and follower of his master in theory and practice. He insisted that the sense in every line should be complete, a rule fatal to lyrical inspiration, and his odes are strings of well-hammered commonplaces. He cultivated, besides the sonnet, the rondeau and the epigram. On his epigrams he rather plumed himself, but Malherbe declared that they wanted point. La Belle Vicille is perhaps the only poem he wrote in which there is a spark of passion. Racan was a careless writer, but with more of grace and charm than Maynard. He paraphrased the psalms in a variety of metres. There are touches of beautiful description in Les Bergeries, of which we shall have to speak again, and he composed some delightful odes in the lighter Epicurean vein of Horace. The best is probably the Stances beginning "Tircis, il faut penser à faire la retraite," which, like Jonson's To Sir Robert Wroth, are a happy echo of Horace's "Beatus ille." His more ambitious odes are mere imitations of Malherbe's. Other disciples of Malherbe are little more than names.
The fact is, the influence of Malherbe's reform was not fully felt at once. It acted perhaps immediately in a negative way, helping with other influences to Classicism
advanced. extinguish the lyric spirit that had inspired the poetry of the Pleiad, despite its pedantries and extravagances. But his creed of purity, correctness, dignity, and harmony did not receive whole-hearted allegiance until, from the ferment of the first half of the century, the classical ideal took shape in the work of Corneille and the poets and dramatists who belong to the next volume of this series. It was opposed from two sides. Mademoiselle de Gournay, the devoted friend and editor of Montaigne, and the vigorous and poetic satirist Mathurin Régnier, who has been discussed by Mr Hannay, denounced him vigorously from the standpoint of the Pleiad. Malherbe's doctrine and practice consisted, they declared, in
"proser de la rime, et rimer de la prose."
On the other hand, even in the circles which accepted Malherbe's condemnation of the Pleiad, the influence of Marie de Médicis and the prevalent admiration of Tasso, Guarini, Marino, and Italian poetry and criticism generally, made fashionable a taste for conceit and confectionery alien to the purer style of Malherbe.
Nevertheless, the influences which were to bring in time the triumph of classicism were either actually at work or rapidly taking shape. First and foremost of these is the social. The close of the civil wars made Paris the centre of a distinguished and brilliant society, in which poets and men of letters began for the first time to move, not in the feudal position of dependants on some great noble, as even Ronsard had done, but on a footing of equality. If rationalism, which was growing and was soon to take definite shape in the work of Descartes, may be described as the formal cause of the classical literature of the age of Louis XIV., the influence of polite society was the efficient, supplying the power which subordinated the individual, and imposed the rules of order, clearness, and dignity with all the rigour of social etiquette.
The opening of the seventeenth century is accordingly hardly less distinctly marked as an epoch by the The Hôtel. arrival in Paris of Malherbe (1605), by the publication or D'Urfé's L'Astrée (1605), or the definitive establishment of Valleran de Léconte's company at the Hôtel de Bourgogne (1607), than by the rebuilding of the Hôtel Rambouillet (1607). Catherine de Vivonne, the daughter of a French ambassador at the Papal court and his Italian wife Julia Savelli, had, when little more than twelve, married Charles d'Angennes, Marquis de Rambouillet. Her sensitive and refined nature was repelled by the licentious morals and camp manners of the court of Henri IV., and after the birth of her eldest daughter, the celebrated Julie, she withdrew from court, rebuilt the Palais Pisaui as the Hôtel Rambouillet in a style which revolutionised domestic architecture, and drew around her all who were most eminent in rank, in power, and in intellect; enlisting them in the common cause of decency, refinement, and dignity.
The heroic and the elegant were the cult of the Hôtel, and of the society which it represented and reformed. The heroic spirit of the early century, its idealisation of freedom regarded not as licence but as the power of the will to rise superior to passion and circumstances, is expressed most perfectly in Descartes' Traité des Passions and Corneille's great tragedies. It was in the pursuit of elegance that the influence of a now decadent Italy—of Guarini and Marino, as well as the Spanish Guevara—made itself felt, and set the stamp of "préciosité" on conversation and literature. In France, as in England, as in Italy, as in Spain, poetry, lyric and dramatic, was infected by the passion for conceits—not the metaphysical scholastic conceits with which Donne lightened and darkened English poetry, but the Marinistic conceit, super-refined, super-elegant, super-absurd refinements of compliment and flattery. But what was a symptom of decadence in Italian poetry was in French literature—like euphuism at an earlier stage in English—a symptom of a higher concern about style. The preciousness which Moliére finally laughed out of fashion had by that time done its work in helping to refine and elevate the language of conversation and literature. Many of the phrases, it has often been pointed out, which Somaise collected in his Dictionnaire des Précieuses (1660), are simply felicitous and elegant expressions which have become part and parcel of literary French.
Among the poets most enamoured of conceit are some in whom lingered the fancy, picturesqueness, Théophile. and lyrical inspiration which Malherbe banished from French poetry. Théophile de Viau (1591-1626), whose philosophic "libertinism" connects him with an older generation, has many conceits besides the famous dagger which blushed for its crime, and generally they are poetical as well as precious.
"Si tu mouilles tes doigts d'ivoire
Dans le cristal de ce ruisseau,
Le Dieu qui loge dans cette eau
Aimera s'il en ose boire"
comes from a poem. La Solitude, full of feeling and fancy and music, and Théophile can, at his best, build verses with the skill of Malherbe. But he is very unequal, and his odes to great men are as vapid and wearisome as the majority of such pieces at the time.
There is something of the same fancy and picturesqueness, mingled with tasteless conceits, in the earliest work—La Solitude and Le Contemplateur—of Saint-Amant (1594-1661), famous for his debaucheries, who visited England in 1643 with the Comte d'Harcourt, and wrote in l'Albion: caprice héroï-comique, a not very flattering account of her people, and their troubles. Saint-Amant's most characteristic work, however, is his detailed, realistic, Dutch-like pictures of convivial and tavern life, as the Cabarets, Le Poète crotté, Fromage, Gazette du Pont-Neuf, and his experiments in mock-heroic suggested by Tassoni's poem. In this rather tedious kind the best work was done by Paul Scarron, whose Typhon and Virgile travesti are still known.
The representative poet of elegant conceit and badinage, the cleverest writer of "vers de société," Voiture. was Vincent Voiture (1598-1648). The son of a wine-merchant in Amiens, who was also a money-lender, young Voiture, introduced to Paris society under the protection of the Comte d'Avaux and Cardinal de la Valette, became by his wit and literary facility the darling of the Hôtel. In the service of Gaston d'Orléans he saw campaigning, and visited Spain and the Low Countries, and Richelieu sent him as far as Rome; but he remained always a child of Paris. He was not professedly a poet or a man of letters, but simply an "honnête homme," who wrote occasional verses and letters to his friends and patrons. In short, he employed talents that might have done greater work to make himself the most amusing member of the society in which he moved. To amuse and to pay compliments is the sole aim of his poems as of his letters. How coarse the badinage could be which the refined Hôtel enjoyed may be seen from the wickedly witty stanzas to a lady who had the misfortune to be overturned in a carriage. His complimentary verses are very high-flown, and abound in the conventional mythology which Théophile deprecated, but they are kept from being frigid by the vein of humour which pervades them. Voiture can mingle flattery and badinage with the most airy playfulness—
"Julie a l'esprit et les yeux
Plus brillant et plus radieux,
Que l'astre du jour et midi,
Elle a tout en perfection,
Hors qu'elle a trop d'aversion,
Pour les amants et les souris,
It is in this airy spirit that he composed most of his rondeaux—a form which had been too much neglected after Marot by the serious poets of the Pleiad. The famous Ma foi is a good example, and so is Un buveur d'eau; but in Dans la prison he strikes a more serious note, and in En bon Français he uses the form to attack Godeau with vivacity and point. Of his sonnets, the best known is the "Il faut finir mes jours en l'amour d'Uranie," over the respective merits of which and of the sonnet in octosyllables, Job, of Isaac Benserade (1612-1694), the graceful poet of the king's "ballets mythologiques," a lively discussion went on for some time in the circle of the Hôtel. His verse-epistles are easy, natural, and gay. The most philosophic and felicitous is that to the Prince of Condé "sur son retour d'Allemagne" on the vanity of posthumous fame. "Préciosité" or Marinism found in the verse of Voiture its best escape from frigidity and tediousness in the confessedly humorous extravagance of social compliment and badinage: unredeemed by the salt of wit, it soon cloyed and disgusted. But the decay of the lyric spirit, of which "préciosité" and the measured eloquence of Malherbe were both alike symptoms, proved complete. Artificiality was expelled from French poetry not by the reawakening of a purer and deeper poetic inspiration, but by the growing respect for good sense, logic, and order, and the consequent development in the drama of a style lucid and rhetorical rather than picturesque and lyrical. Of this style the great perfecter and master in the first half of the century was Pierre Corneille, of whose dramatic work we shall speak at length in the next chapter. Corneille's non-dramatic verse consists of a complete paraphrase of the De Imitatione Christi, which he composed during the years that he had abandoned the stage, similar paraphrases of other hymns and religious poems, and some occasional verses. The sonorous eloquence of Corneille's poetry is not in harmony with the deep and quiet inwardness of the Imitation, and he gives too often merely a flamboyant paraphrase. But when the poet's imagination is moved, Corneille's verse, as in the drama, has an incomparable élan, an elevation of soul as well as style and rhythm, which raises it far above the level of Malherbe's—
"Parle, parle, Seigneur, ton serviteur écoute;
Je dis ton serviteur, car enfin je le suis;
Je le suis, je veux l'être, et marcher dans ta route
Et les jours et les nuits.
. . . . . . .
Parle donc, ô mon Dieu! ton serviteur fidèle,
Pour écouter ta voix, réunit tons ses sens,
Et trouve les douceurs de la vie éternelle
En ses divins accents.
Parle pour consoler mon âme inquiétée;
Parle pour la conduire à quelque amendement;
Parle, afin que ta gloire ainsi plus exaltée,
Corneille's occasional verses have the inequality of all his poetry. His compliments are dull and awkward when he has not his heart in what he says. But if that is touched, the fierté cornélienne at once gives them, not the sublimity of Milton's great references to his blindness and his perils, but a stateliness and arrogance that is singularly impressive in its way. Such are the lines Au Roi on the performance of his tragedies, which are spoiled only by the last line; and such also are the famous Stances à la Marquise, in which he bids her remember that old though he be, it is to his love she will owe her celebrity in years to come,—
"Chez cette race nouvelle
Où j'aurai quelque crédit,
Vous ne passerez pas pour belle
Qu'autant que je l'aurai dit.
Pensez-y, belle Marquise;
Quoiqu'un grison fasse effroi,
II vaut bien qu'on le courtise
Quand il est fait comme moi."
A strange phenomenon in the decadence of the deeper poetic spirit, which had animated the sixteenth-century poets down to d'Aubigné and was still active in England and Holland, is the appearance The Heroic
Poem. of quite a number of elaborate epics—poems that of all others demand the greatest intensity of imagination to vivify and sustain. Lemoyne's Saint Louis (1651-53), Scudéry's Alaric (1654), the notorious La Pucelle of Chapelain (1656), Saint-Amant's Moyse Sauvé (1653), and Godeau's Saint Paul (1654), are only some of the epics in from fifteen to forty-two cantos, on subjects heroic and sacred, which appeared during the first half of the century. The explanation is to be found partly in the taste for the heroic, which was one aspect of the movement to elevate and refine social taste,—an aspect most perfectly reflected in the work of "le grand Corneille,"—in great measure in the enthusiasm felt for the "heroic poem" of Italian literature and critical theory. It was a natural mistake to think that a better knowledge of poetic theory should produce better poetry, and the "rules" which critics and scholars had deduced from Aristotle, regarded as the mouthpiece of reason, were taken very seriously indeed. When this critical spirit came in contact with genius, as in the shaping of Milton's Paradise Lost and Corneille's tragedies, the result was interesting in the highest degree, whatever view we may take as to its influence on the final outcome. When the genius was wanting, the result is merely pedantic and tedious. The "correct" epics of the Renaissance are, with the exception of Milton's, more dead than the "correct" Senecan tragedies. Of those mentioned, the Saint Louis of the Jesuit Lemoyne— who was, Boileau declared, too much of a poet to speak ill of, to much of a madman to praise—is the best, flamboyant but imaginative in its descriptions, and sonorous in versification.
The ideals of refined gallantry, of exquisite heroism, which ruled in the Hôtel de Rambouillet and penetrated polite society, are most fully portrayed in the long prose romances, pastoral and heroic, whose period of growth and efflorescence is just the sixty years with which this volume deals. The earliest of these, the famous pastoral romance L'Astrée of Honoré d'Urfé, the first part of which appeared in 1607, was, indeed, one of the main sources of these ideals, shaping as it did the life and spirit of the Hôtel.
Honoré d'Urfé (1568-1625), brought up in Forez, on the banks of the "belle et agréable rivière de D'Urfé. Lignon," which he has made the scene of his romance, had an eventful career. At the age of twelve or thirteen he became, at his parents' instance, a knight of Malta and took vows. He was educated by the Jesuits at Tournon, and was well versed in philosophy, mathematics, and languages, including Italian, Spanish, and German. Tradition says that in boyhood he formed an attachment for the fair Diane de Châteaumorand—the original of the shepherdess Astrée—who about 1574 became the wife of his brother Anne. The marriage was annulled by the Pope in 1598. D'Urfé was released from his vows in the following year, and in 1600 the two were wedded. It has been customary of late to distrust the story of an early attachment, and to assert that after their marriage they lived apart from one another; but the researches of Abbé Reure have shown that the latter statement is not true, and there is no inherent probability in the hypothesis that an affection had sprung up between the two in the earlier years of her nominal marriage. D'Urfé's pastoral poem, the Sirène, and the Astrée were both coloured by his own experience.
The part which d'Urfé took in the wars of the League procured him more than one imprisonment, and compelled him to spend most of his later years at the court of Savoy, a rendezvous of all the most celebrated Italian poets. He himself wrote an epic on the fortunes of the House of Savoy—La Savoysiade, of which a fragment was published in 1621,—and his principal work combined Italian and Spanish influences in a way that appealed powerfully to his country and generation. The Astrée was one of the sources of the ideal in which Italian refinement and elegance were blended with the heroic French temper of the early seventeenth century.
For the influence of the Astrée was in great measure due to the time at which it appeared. As with Lyly's Euphues, its dynamic was greater than its intrinsic value. The most widely read romance before the appearance of d'Urfé's work was the Amadis of Gaul, the link which connects the heroic romances of the seventeenth century with the otherwise forgotten mediæval epic and romance. The chivalrous tone of the Amadis was fully appreciated by the Hôtel de Rambouillet and Madame de Sévigné; and its popularity was not at once eclipsed by the Astrée. But there was nothing in the Amadis and its imitations to satisfy that demand for a greater refinement of manners and a more ideal conception of love of which the foundation of the Hôtel was an expression, and it was just this which the Astrée supplied.
The chief source of the Astrée was the famous pastoral romance of Jorge de Montemayor of which Mr Hannay has given an account; but it is also indebted to the Aminta, the Pastor Fido, and other Italian pastoral dramas; while the general plan of the work and the chivalrous episodes which d'Urfé, like Sidney, interweaves with the pastoral, derive from the Amadis. The main story of Celadon and Astrée—their love, their misunderstanding and separation, his life of seclusion in the forest and service of Astrée in the disguise of a shepherdess, and the heroic achievement which leads to the recognition—is told in flowing and rhythmical prose, interspersed with poems and interrupted by more than thirty other love-stories. The action proceeds with the leisureliness of the sun across an orchard wall. Refined and adoring love is the key-note of the whole, broken only by the lively sallies of the inconstant Hylas, the most brightly drawn character in the romance. As a pastoral, Koerting thinks, the Astrée is inferior to the Diana, but as a romance superior. The reader's interest is more happily enlisted for the hero and heroine and their fortunes. The secondary characters are better grouped around these. Compared with Sidney's Arcadia, the Astrée is a more harmonious whole. D'Urfé allowed no interest, whether of chivalrous incident or poetic style, to usurp upon the portrayal of refined, devoted, and elevated love-sentiment. And d'Urfé's love, high-flown as it is, is not so much a mere code of gallantry as it became in his followers and in the tragi-comedies, "amour postiche, froid et ridicule," a pretext for absurdly heroic resolutions and refinements of casuistry and eloquence. There is no passion in the love which d'Urfé paints, but there was some degree of beauty in the sentiment, and of elevation in the morality which gained the admiration not only of the Hôtel but of so fine a critic of the heart as Saint Francis of Sales.
The admiration of Saint Francis was shared by his friend and follower, Jean-Pierre Camus (1582-1652), Bishop of Belley, and it was not against the Astrée so much as the continuations and imitations of Amadis de Gaule, which the Astrée superseded, that his moral and religious romances were directed. Nor are they Christian pastorals, as is sometimes said, but rather "novelle" more or less expanded,—exemplary novels, as Cervantes called his,—stories of incidents in real life narrated with a moral purpose, but with very considerable realistic vividness and psychological skill. What he claims as the special merit of his work is their truth, in which respect he contrasts them with "ces Histoires fabuleuses, ces livres d'amour, ces Romans, ces Bergeries, ces Chevaleries et semblables fadaises." The incidents of some, as La Mémoire de Darie (1620) or Diotrèphe, Histoire Valentine (1624), may have been drawn from actual experience; of others, as Palombe ou La Femme Honorable (1624), which was republished in 1853, the source is probably to be discovered in Italian and Spanish "novelle." The last has points of contact with the story of Romeo and Juliet.
Neither the religious romance, however, nor the political, of which an example was given in Barclay's Heroic
Romances. Latin Argenis (1626), proved in any degree rivals to the romance of love and gallantry. D'Urfé successors were Jean-Ogier de Gombauld (1576-1666), Marin le Roy, Sieur de Gomberville (1600-1674), Gautier de Costes, Chevalier de la Calprenède (1609-1663), and Madeleine de Scudéry (1608-1701), as well as many lesser lights such as François de Molière and Pierre de Vaumorière. They did not follow d'Urfé in choosing the pastoral convention to set forth their ideals of heroism and refinement. The Astrée was the source of many pastoral and gallant love-plays; but the taste for the heroic and the historic, traceable to political and social conditions perhaps, but also to the admiration of Spanish literature and the study of Plutarch, shaped the romance, as it did tragi-comedy and ultimately tragedy, and the general plan of these endless works traces the heroic adventures of lovers by sea and land—combines, in short, the chivalrous incidents of the Amadis with the refined gallantry of the Astrée and the Hôtel. Historical epochs and characters are introduced, but the result is the wildest romantic travesty of history. All the heroes of antiquity, the Persian Cyrus and the Roman consul Brutus, the savage Tomyris and the chaste matron Lucretia, are equally gallant and refined, equally familiar with the geography of the "pays de tendre," all equally ready to compose high-flown speeches and madrigals. In these romances, as already in the Astrée, an additional interest for curiosity was provided by the introduction of "déguisements," the adumbration in the dramatis personæ of contemporary characters. But the persons are so indistinctly and so romantically delineated that this additional interest is for us infinitesimal. The heroic romances are valuable reflections of the ideals and affectations of the day, but they cannot be used to throw light on incidents or characters.
Gombauld. Of the authors mentioned, Gombauld stands somewhat by himself. His Endymion (1624) is a pale allegory of his respectful and a little absurd affection for Marie de Médicis. Gomberville's Polexandre (1637) is the first example of the seventeenth-century heroic romance proper. The Polexandre retains much of the wilder improbabilities of the Amadis type, which, with the Greek romances and the fabulous geography still prevalent, was its principal source. The style is swollen and affected. Cytherée is even more indebted to the Greek, and equally wild and confused. It was La Calprenède Gomberville. and the Scudérys who gave the heroic romance the form which was most closely in touch with the predilections of the age.
La Calprenède, a Gascon by birth and temper, and a successful dramatist, in his Cassandre (1642-45) and Cléopâtre (1647) and Faramond (1661) eliminated the supernatural marvels of the Polexandre, and interwove his La Calprenède. stories of exalted love and heroism with historical names and events. They are endlessly long, one love-story passing into another in the most bewildering fashion, and all of a monotonous sameness; but his episodes are woven, as had never been done before, into a converging series, which ends in not one but a group of happy weddings. Honour and gallantry are the sole motives which in La Calprenède's romances, as in his own and other contemporary tragi-comedies and tragedies, determine the course of history. Occasionally, it has been pointed out, the heroes are involved in something of the same conflict of motives which forms the dramatic centre of Corneille's tragedies, but the conflict is developed on purely conventional and heroic lines.
La Calprenède's scheme was followed by the Scudérys, Georges and Madeleine, of whom the latter was the principal partner. In Ibrahim ou l'Illustre Bassa (1641), Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus (1649-1653), Scudéry. and Clélie ou Histoire Romaine (1654), the heroic, pseudo-historical romances reached a climax and expired. The cult of precious sentiment could no further go. Turks, Persians, and early Romans, who were French statesmen, authors, and précieuses in disguise, palled upon a generation whose watchword was "good sense," and who were beginning to prefer Racine to Corneille. Madame de Sévigné was in 1675 still an enthusiastic reader of La Calprenède, carried away by the beauty of the sentiments, the violence of the passions, and the success of the heroes' redoubtable swords; and she shared the taste with the analytic and cynical La Rochefoucauld. But her tone is apologetic, and the last word on the heroic romance was spoken by Boileau. Its further development in the psychological romances of Marie de Lafayette belongs to the succeeding volume.
The absurdity of the long-winded love romances, palpable enough to us,—although the idealisation of Realistic
Romance. amorous passion in the novel is, still, more widely popular than psychological analysis and dramatic action,—was also palpable to many shrewd minds of the generation which produced and admired these romances. From almost the beginning of the century a counter-current of realistic and satirical story, dealing with life as it is, and not as the Hôtel de Rambouillet loved to imagine it, ran side by side with the more fashionable stream. Here also the influence of Spain was dominant. The picaresque romance, of which a full and trenchant description has been given by Mr Hannay, is the main source of the French realistic and satiric romances, although the best of the latter excel their originals as paintings of manners and as humorous amusing stories. This does not, of course, apply to the imitation of Cervantes. Le Berger Extravagant is the work of an acute and interesting mind, but it will not bear comparison for a moment with Don Quixote. The deeper influence of that great work was not felt till a later period.
Setting aside Barclay's Latin Euphormio (1603) and D'Aubigné's Aventures du Baron de Fœneste (1617-20), which belong in the main to the satirical, fantastic, pedantic literature of the revival of learning, the first sketch of a realistic romance may be found in Théophile de Viau's Fragments d'une Histoire Comique, written probably about 1620, which, besides its biographic interest, is a fresh and taking picture, so far as it goes, of young men and their ways in the seventeenth century. But the most elaborate and conscious exponent of realism in opposition to the idealism of the heroic and pastoral romances was Charles Sorel (1599-1674), the author of the Histoire Comique de Francion (1622, greatly enlarged in 1646), Le Berger Extravagant (1627), and Polyandre (1648).
Of Sorel's life we know next to nothing, though Guy Patin has left an interesting description of the "short, Sorel. fat man with long nose and short-sighted eyes." His earliest work was a conventional love romance, L'Orphise de Chrysante (1616), and some shorter novelle in the same vein; but, thereafter, he became as thorough-going a champion, in theory and practice, of realism in fiction as any Zola of to-day. "L'histoire, véritable ou feinte, doit représenter au plus près du naturel; autrement c'est une fable qui ne sert qu'à entretenir les enfans au coin du feu, non pas les esprits mûrs." That is the doctrine in the rigid application of which Sorel condemns all romances from the Iliad to Sidney's Arcadia and d'Urfé's Astrée.
This ridicule of romance is the sole purpose of Le Berger Extravagant, which was intended to be the Don Quixote of the pastoral. There is much that is clever and amusing in its fantastic absurdities, but Sorel failed altogether to appreciate the noble art by which Cervantes preserves our respect and affection for the knight in his absurdities and misfortunes. Lysis, the hero of Sorel's romance, the son of a Paris shopkeeper, who has crazed his brains by reading pastorals, has no quality that claims esteem or interest.
In Francion Sorel conducts the picaresque hero, whose life he details from childhood, through an endless series of adventures, which afford an opportunity for the satiric portrayal of different classes—courtiers, pedants, peasants, Paris rogues, lawyers, and men of letters. We owe to Sorel a striking picture of the darker side of literary life in the seventeenth century, such as his great successor Smollett and many others were to give of the same life a century later. "Déguisements" were a feature of the realistic as of the romantic novel, and Malherbe, Balzac, Racan, and other authors are adumbrated in different persons who come under the author's lash. In Polyandre, which remained unfinished, he began with the same realistic and satiric purpose a picture of middle-class life, a forerunner of Furetière's Roman Bourgeois.
The principal fault of Sorel's, as of wellnigh all these realistic novels, is that they want the romance interest entirely. The incidents may amuse, the pictures of manners and the satire instruct, but the pleasure proper of the novel is not given unless the centre of our interest be the character and fortunes of the hero and those with whom his fate is involved. The pastoral and heroic romances, despite their absurdities, succeeded in arousing suspense in their readers. This is the chief advance that d'Urfé's made on earlier pastoral romances; and there can be no doubt that lady readers at any rate followed the fortunes of Oroondate, of the illustrious Bassa, and of Cyrus with the same acute sympathy as a later generation felt for Pamela and Clarissa. No realistic romance of the seventeenth century, excepting Don Quixote and, perhaps, Le Roman Comique, has a hero for whose fate we care two straws.
We cannot do more than mention Lannel's Roman Satyrique (1624), whose chief interest was its personages déguisés; the striking La Chrysolite ou le Secret des Romans (1627) of André Mareschal, entitled by Koerting the first French psychological romance, which describes with unusual power a series of incidents, and traces these to their source in the character of the dramatis personæ; or the Page disgracié (1619, pub. 1640), an interesting biographical fragment by the dramatist Tristan l'Hermite. Especially original and interesting are the fantastic romances of Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655), collected as the Histoire Comique des États et Empires de la Lune. Cyrano's discoveries in the moon and the sun, suggested by Lucian and others, including a couple of English writers of the century, have had many sequels down to the days of Jules Verne and Mr Wells. But the most popular realistic romance of the period was the Roman Comique (1651) of Paul Scarron (1610-1660), famous as the husband of Madame de Maintenon, for the physical sufferings he endured with courage and gaiety, and as the author of the Virgile Travesti and some comedies in the same burlesque vein. Scarron's romance, suggested by a Spanish one, and containing several interpolated stories translated from that language, was left unfinished. It owes its popularity to the delightful gaiety with which the story is told,—if Sorel makes one think of Smollett, Scarron has a touch of Fielding,—the distinctness and interest of the characters, and also to the fact that the author succeeds to some extent in enlisting our sympathies for his hero, the wandering actor Le Destin. His story is doubtless of a kind more proper to the heroic than the realistic romance; but it may be questioned whether some degree of idealism, some heightening of the principal characters, is not essential to the success as romance even of the most realistic story.
The first fifty years of the seventeenth century witnessed the formation and one might almost say Prose style. the stereotyping of French prose as it has been spoken and written ever since. "The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries," says M. Faguet, "had prose writers and poets of genius writing in a fluctuating language, which they created as they used, which was not yet fixed and destined to remain the common patrimony of succeeding generations. The language as it can be spoken, and should be written, has for two and a half centuries been that which appears with the Cid for poetry, with the Provinciales for prose." We cannot here do more than endeavour to describe the ideals which directed the efforts of the three great shapers of perhaps the most perfect medium for the lucid communication of thought which has been formed since the age of Plato and Demosthenes.
The Malherbe of French prose was Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac (1597-1664), the "Grand EpistolierBalzac. de France." He visited Holland as a young man with Théophile, and wrote a Discours politique sur l'état des provinces unies, the liberal sentiment of which he repudiated later, and he spent a couple of years at Rome as agent for the Cardinal de la Valette. Thereafter he withdrew from public life, settled at his country-seat on the Charente, and spent his life in elaborating and polishing his letters and occasional treatises, political, religious, and critical, of which the most ambitious were Le Prince (1632) and the Socrate Chrestien (1652). His letters had begun to attract attention as early as 1618, and they were the admiration of the Hôtel Rambouillet long before the author was introduced there. The first collection appeared in 1624.
Balzac was as devoted to style for its own sake as Malherbe, and had the same narrow oratorical ideal of correctness, the same devotion to order, dignity, and sonorous rhythm. "Ce n'est pas assez," he says in the Socrate Chrestien, "de savoir la Théologie: il faut encore savoir écrire, qui est une seconde science." It was to this "seconde science" that Balzac dedicated his life as steadily as did Descartes to the rational explanation of the universe; and the result was that in his letters and dissertations French oratorical prose attained almost at once to formal perfection of structure and rhythm. It owed this development in some measure to the very barrenness of Balzac's thought. It is well for a writer to have something to say, but for one whose chief function is to attune his medium it is also well not to have too much. Balzac could hardly have made his periods so uniformly musical if he had been striving to utter the thoughts of Montaigne or Descartes. But by Montaigne Balzac's work would have been described as "Lettres vuides et descharnées qui ne se soustiennient que par un délicat chois de mots entassez et rengez à une juste cadence." He excelled in just those things which the former detested in letter-writing,—"une belle enfileure de paroles courtoises," "à bienvienner, à prendre congé, à remercier, à saluer, à presenter mon service et tels compliments verbeux des lois ceremonieuses de nostre civilité."
Balzac's dissertations are strings of sonorously elaborated commonplaces. The one theme on which he writes with freshness and with his eye on the object is literature. He was not such an educated critic as the dry and pedantic Chapelain; but in his letter to Scudéry on the Cid, in his criticism of Heinsius's Herodes Infanticida, and in his remarks on paraphrasing and the sublime simplicity of the Old Testament, he is sound in principle, while in more than one place he writes imaginative and eloquent appreciations. The following sentences on Saint Chrysostom might almost have been written by Sainte-Beuve of Saint François de Sales: "Avec un commentaire de deux syllabes, avec un petit mot qui tempère la rigueur des choses, avec une particule de charité, qui adoucit les menaces de la justice, il défriche les plus dures et les plus sauvages expressions. Il console et rassure les esprits que le texte de Saint Paul avait effrayés. Partout où il passe il laisse des traces de blancheur et une impression de lumière."
Balzac is essentially the man of letters, the prose artist and nothing more. The second great shaperDescartes. of classical French prose was more interested in the lucid and logical exposition of his thought than in the cadence of his periods. The life and work of René Descartes (1596-1650) belong more properly to the history of philosophy than of literature. Educated by the Jesuits, he served as a volunteer under Maurice of Nassau and the Duke of Bavaria. It was when in winter quarters in Germany that he conceived his "method," and tested it by elaborating the application of algebra to geometry. He visited Switzerland and Italy, and returned to Paris in 1625, where he spent two years hidden from his friends, immersed in study and reflection. In 1629 he migrated to Holland, which became his headquarters until 1649, when he accepted the invitation of the Queen of Sweden and removed to Stockholm, where he died in the following year. The famous Discours de la Méthode was published at Leyden in 1637. A great part of his subsequent writing consisted of replies to objections and learned correspondence. The Traité des Passions, written for Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate in 1649, was published in 1650.
Descartes is the greatest and completest representative of the rationalism which was the chief though Rationalism. not the sole factor in the formation of classical literature in France. He did on a larger scale and in the region of philosophy the work of selection and ordering which Malherbe and Balzac were doing for style in verse and prose. The famous method of the Discours, the cultivation of doubt not for its own sake but that from it may emerge the "clear and distinct" first principles of a rational system of knowledge, stands in the same relation to the eclectic and sceptical thought of Montaigne as Malherbe's and Balzac's ideal of style to that writer's rhetorical canon, "c'est aux paroles à servir et à suivre et que le Gascon y arrive si le François n'y peut aller." The attempt has even been made to represent the classical ideal as the æsthetic expression of the Cartesian philosophy, but as M. Lanson justly says, Cartesian æsthetic would reduce art to science, identifying beauty with truth. Rational and ordered truth is an important constituent of the classical ideal in French literature and criticism, but it is not the whole of that ideal, which includes the dignity and elegance that mark it as the product of a polite and cultured society nourished on the literature of antiquity. Descartes' own style has little emotional quality. It is clear, precise, and occasionally felicitous in figure, but the sentences are long and weighted with subordinate clauses,—the adequate reflection of the author's methodical comprehensive thought and purely intellectual purpose. He had not Balzac's desire to rouse admiration, and the only persuasion he sought was intellectual conviction, so that there is no place in his style for elaborate colour or cadence.
It was the wish to gain the heart and the will as well as the understanding which gave to Pascal's style a more shining clearness than Descartes' in Pascal. dealing with equally abstract themes, a higher eloquence than Balzac's, and a suppleness and variety which no French prose had obtained previously and in which it has remained unsurpassed. Blaise Pascal's (1623-1662) life, and its intimate connection with his writings, have been made the subject of many critical investigations, and eloquently summarised by Chateaubriand. The early development of his mathematical genius, and his researches and discoveries in mathematics and physics; his conversion and that of his family, under the influence of the Jansenist Guillebert, curé of Rouville, in 1646; his "worldly period," in which he opposed the pious desire of his sister to enter Port Royal, and turned from the study of geometry to the study of men, under the guidance of de Méré and Milton as well as Montaigne; his passionate return to religion and settlement at Port Royal in 1653; the composition and publication of the Lettres Provinciales (1656), begun as a defence of Arnauld but passing after the third letter into an ironical and overwhelming exposure of the casuistry of the Jesuits; his last years of illness, during which were composed the Pensées, notes for a great defence of Christianity,—these are the principal moments, and they need not be more than recalled here. Besides some scientific letters, only the Lettres Provinciales were published in his lifetime. The Pensées were arranged and issued by Port Royal in 1670.
Pascal reflected as carefully as Bacon on the art of persuasion, and neither the method which he pursued in the Lettres Provinciales nor that which he adumbrated in the Pensées was attained by haphazard. He was at one with Montaigne in his scorn of eloquence cultivated for its own sake,—eloquence such as Balzac's, "qui nous destourne à soy,"—and in his love of a style which is "la peinture de la pensée." "Quand on voit le style naturel," says Pascal, "on est tout étonné et ravi car on s'attendait de voir un auteur et on trouve un homme." Where he parts company with Montaigne is in the importance he attaches to order, as necessary to the definite purpose which inspired all he wrote, as the former's style—"desreglée, descousu, et hardy"—was in harmony with his detached and sceptical survey of life. To Pascal a new disposition of the matter made the matter new; and as to the best disposition Pascal was at one with Descartes. The ideal order is the order of demonstration which geometry follows. But few men are guided by the understanding; and the premises for many of our conclusions are too subtle and complex to be isolated and fixed in definitions. To judge aright of many things in life we require "finesse," "l'esprit de justesse," tact, and to persuade we require to possess the art of pleasing. "L'art de persuader consiste en celui d'agréer plutôt qu'en celui de convaincre, tant les hommes se gouvernent plus par caprice que par raison." The heart is reached by another way than the mind: "Jésus Christ, Saint Paul ont l'ordre de la charité, non de l'esprit; car ils voulaient échauffer, non instruire." Thus eloquence excluded for its own sake returns as a legitimate instrument with which to awaken the love of God and the hatred of evil. And Pascal's eloquence is unsurpassed. The shining clearness, the unerring dialectic, the humour, the irony, the grave expostulation of the Lettres Provinciales, are unequalled in literature since the Platonic dialogues; and fragmentary as the Pensées are, the style, as the subject permits, is in parts even more vibrating and imaginative. The description of man, a nothing between two infinites; of his pursuit of diversion to escape from himself; the image of the reed that thinks, have the force and beauty of the finest passages of the Republic. In Plato's and Pascal's eloquence there is no shadow of the rhetoric "qui nous destourne à soy." In Pascal's hands French prose became a medium of such lucidity and precision, such delicacy and resource, that to a foreigner it seems as though it were almost impossible for a Frenchman to write obscurely.
The egotism of French aristocratic society, vividly reflected in all the literature of this period, the "Moi!Memoires. et c'est assez" which Corneille's tragedies exalt, but which was to Pascal hateful ("Le Moi est haïssable"), the proof of man's corruption, the source of his miseries, of the contradiction which makes him, in order to gratify self, seek in endless diversion an escape from self,—nowhere is this so nakedly painted as in the Memoirs of the early seventeenth century, especially those which describe the confused, frivolous, and criminal intrigues and wars of the Fronde. "Tous les hommes se haïssent naturellement l'un l'autre," says the sombre Jansenist, like the English materialist Hobbes; and certainly patriotism, loyalty, and fidelity were unknown to the princes, cardinals, generals, and great ladies who struggled with Mazarin, and with one another, for power, money, and privilege. There was no lack of intrigue and self-seeking among the courtiers who gathered round Charles at Oxford. "It cannot be imagined," says Clarendon, "into how many several shapes men's indispositions were put, and the many artifices which were used to get honours, offices, preferments, and the waywardness and perverseness which attended the being disappointed of their own hopes." But when all that a cynical critic can say has been said of cavalier dissoluteness and intrigues, and of the negotiations of the Scotch and of the Army with Charles, there remains a vast moral difference between the war of principles in England—principles on which, in the last resort, neither Charles nor the Presbyterians nor the Army would yield—and the tragi-comedy of the Fronde, when the only persons whom self-interest made loyal to France were the Austrian Queen Mother and the Italian Minister.
The difference is felt acutely when one turns from Clarendon's dignified and moving narrative, or Cromwell's turgid but earnest letters, to the most brilliant of the many memoirs of these years—those of the libertine, ambitious, intriguing, demagogic Cardinal de Retz, and the more impersonal narrative of the equally egotistic and intriguing, but more reflective, critical Hamlet-like Duc de la Rochefoucauld.
The Mémoires of Jean-François-Paul de Gondy, Cardinal de Retz (1613-1679), are not to be trustedDe Retz. with regard to anything which it was for his interest to falsify; but they give, nevertheless, a vivid picture of events and actors, and of his own character and motives. A libertine who entered the Church to secure his family rights in the Archbishopric of Paris, a turbulent and ambitious temperament, a restless and intriguing mind, a born demagogue, De Retz's life was one long conflict for power, for the office of first minister, which he never attained. His style reflects his lucid, unquiet mind. It is not classical French prose. It wants the delicacy, the studied ease and grace of the writers whose style was moulded by the Provinciales and by the salons. But it is vigorous, coloured, and pointed. His narrative is vivid; his expositions of policy lucid and comprehensive; his character-sketches discriminating and piquant masterpieces.
Among the actors in the first Fronde whom De Retz portrays is François VI., Duc de la Rochefoucauld La Rochefoucauld. (1613-1689). "Il y a eu du je ne sais quoi en M. de la Rochefoucauld.... Il a toujours eu une irrésolution habituelle; mais je ne sais même à quoi attributer cette irrésolution.... Il n'a jamais été guerrier, quoiqu'il fut très soldat. Il n'a jamais été par lui-même bon courtisan, quoiqu'il ait eu toujours bonne intention de l'être. Il n'a jamais été bon homme de parti, quoique toute sa vie il y ait été engagé." "Cet air de honte et de timidité que vous lui voyez dans la vie civile s'était tourné, dans les affaires, en air d'apologie." Not less an egotist than De Retz or more averse to intrigue, La Rochefoucauld was less the man of action and of will. Vanity and passion, rather than ambition for power, involved him in the intrigues and crimes of the Fronde. He was under the influence of women. And when his hopes were shattered, he did not spend his last days like De Retz in trying to find new methods, but digested his disappointment in a philosophy of human nature.
La Rochefoucauld's Mémoires are written in the third person, in a colder and more detached tone than De Retz's, and in a more elaborately elegant and balanced style. His portraits are drawn with vivacity, and show as might be expected subtlety and insight. But La Rochefoucauld did a greater service for posterity than write a history of the Fronde. He crystallised the impressions which the experience of those years had left on his mind in a small collection of Maximes (1665-1678) which sombre wisdom and perfection of form have made a classic.
The difference between the English and the French wars is not more clearly seen from a comparison of Les Maximes. the memoirs than from a study of the philosophic sediment which these wars left behind them in the literature of either country. The most direct effect of the English rebellion and revolution is seen in the political speculations of Hobbes and Locke; and in the cult of moderation in feeling, especially religious and moral feeling, of which the chief spokesman is Addison. Addison's sweet reasonableness is not quite the same thing as Boileau's good sense, for there is in it less of clear reason and more of feeling,—feeling which in Steele has already in it the germ of sensibility. The effect of the French wars is not seen in works on political theory. A war in which no principles were involved created no theoretical problems. Nor did it awaken humanitarian sentiment. That came later, and came from England. The fruit of the Fronde was a clearer insight into human nature, and a somewhat sombre philosophy, a philosophy which detected in every virtue the alloy of self-interest.
This philosophy, which runs through the work of some of the greatest writers of the period treated in the following volume of this series, is presented in its quintessence in the Maximes of La Rochefoucauld. "Les vertus se perdent dans l'intérêt, comme les fleuves se perdent dans la mer." That is the first principle from which his maxims are deduced, and it is a principle so universal that it is difficult to draw any deduction from it which experience of life and one's own heart will not verify. And La Rochefoucauld's aphorisms have been brought to the test of experience, the experience of reflection and observation. They are models of wit as Johnson defined it, not "what oft was thought," for the shock they give proves that they are not mere platitudes, but "that which though not obvious is upon its first production acknowledged to be just."
In style La Rochefoucauld's ideal is that of Balzac and the Précieuses. He cultivated the art of writing as "une seconde science." The Maximes were as regards their form a product of the salons, which after the Fronde took the place of the Hôtel de Rambouillet. Each salon cultivated some special form—letters, madrigals, portraits. At that of Madame de Sablé, which La Rochefoucauld frequented, the fashion was maxims, and it was under the influence of the critical spirit which was at work in society that he chiselled, polished, and pointed his aphorisms. In La Rochefoucauld's prose "préciosité," of which there is just a trace in some of the Maximes, passed into the perfection of classical prose, the right word in the right place, and no word that is unnecessary.
- Petit de Julleville, Histoire de la Langue et de la Littérature française des Origines à 1900, Paris, 1896-1900; Lauson, Histoire de la Littérature française, Paris, 1896; Nisard, Histoire de la Littérature française, Paris, 1844; Saintsbury, A Short History of French Literature, Lond., 1898; Dowden, A History of French Literature, Lond., 1897; F. Brunetière, Manuel de la Litt. franç., Paris, 1898; Lotheissen, Geschichte der französischen Litteratur im XVIIten Jahrhundert, Wien, 1877, 2nd ed. 1897; Sainte-Beuve, Tableau de la Poésie française et du Théâtre français au XVIe Siècle, the Port Royal passim, and essays in the Causeries de Lundi, &c.; Théophile Gautier, Les Grotesques; Faguet, Dix-Septième Siècle, Études Littéraires, Paris, 1893; Brunetière, Études Critiques, &c., the series of monographs, Les Grands Écrivains français, Paris. Selections from the poets with introductory notices in Crepets, Les Poètes français, Paris, 1861.
- The annotated copy of the Œuvres de Philippe Desportes, Paris, 1600, passed into Balzac's hands, who in a letter to Conrart (1653) describes the characters of the "commentaire": "Je vous dirai . . . que j'ai ici un exemplaire de ses œuvres marqué de la main de feu M. de Malherbe et corrigé d'une terrible manière. Toutes les marges sont bordées de ses observations critiques." Ferdinand Brunot, in La Doctrine de Malherbe, Paris, 1891, has extracted from Malherbe's comment his views on poetry, style, and correct idiom. See also Malherbe, by the Duc de Broglie (Les Grands Écrivains de la France), and the Œuvres Complètes de Malherbe, par M. L. Lalanne (Les Grands Écrivains de la France, 6 vols.), Paris, 1862-69.
- Œuvres Poétiques, ed. Gaston Garrisson, 2 vols., Paris, 1885.
- Œuvres Complètes, &c., ed. Tenant de Latour (Bibliothèque Elzevirienne), Paris, 1857.
- Later Renaissance, pp. 308, 309.
- The authority of polite society in letters and taste was recognised later in a peculiarly formal and French manner by the institution of the Académie Française. This famous institution originated in some meetings of literary and learned men at the house of Conrart (1603-1675), the first secretary to the Academy, who, though well read in Spanish and Italian, was ignorant of Greek and Latin. The group included Jean Chapelain (1595-1674), the most authoritative critic though the most unfortunate poet of the first half of the century, who did more than any one else to make observation of the Unities a law for French tragedy, but was also one of the last to read and confess his enjoyment of the mediæval romances, and withal a précieux of the précieux in his poetic diction and pedantic gallantry. Others were Antoine Godeau (1605-1672), a prolific poet, amorous, and later religious; Jean de Gombauld (1599?-1666), also a minor poet; Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin, dramatist, and one of Richelieu's most trusted coadjutors; and the Abbé de Boisrobert, also a dramatist and friend of Richelieu. It was at the suggestion of Boisrobert that the informal gathering was made by the great Minister the nucleus of the authorised Academy, March 1634. Among those whom they added to their number were Maynard, Saint-Amant, Racan, Balzac, Benserade, and Voiture.
The aim of the Academy was that which had guided Malherbe in his criticism and composition, to promote purity, dignity, and elegance—the aspects of strength and beauty which polite society approves—in French prose and verse. Usage in word and idiom was to be settled; and eloquence was to be heightened and refined, not, as Du Bellay and Ronsard had prescribed, by enriching the language with borrowings and coinages, but by distinguishing between expressions which are dignified and elegant and those which have contracted meanness "by passing through the mouths of the vulgar." A Dictionary, a Rhetoric, a Poetic were mooted, but of these only the first, and that on a smaller scale than had been planned, was published, and not until 1693. The first occasion on which the Academy asserted its authority was when, at the dictation of Richelieu, Chapelain arraigned the "correctness" of the first great French classical tragedy, the Cid (Sentiments de l'Académie sur le Cid).
- Œuvres Complètes, ed. M. Alleaume, 2 vols., Paris, 1855-6.
- Œuvres Complètes, par M. Ch. L. Livet, Paris, 1855. (Bibl. Elz.)
- Œuvres, nouvelle édition, par Amedée Roux, Paris, 1858.
- To the histories and essays cited above add Koerting's Geschichte des französischen Romans im XVIIten Jahrhundert, Oppeln u. Leipzig, 1891, on which the following paragraphs are mainly based. The literary sources of the seventeenth century heroic romance Koerting finds in the Amadis, the Greek romances, and the pastoral literature of Italy and France. The social and personal factors, however, are of the greatest importance. See some lectures on Le Roman français au XVIIe Siècle, by Professor Abel Lefranc, reported in the Revue des Cours et Conférences for 1904-5. Koerting gives exhaustive analyses of the chief romances which are difficult of access. A slighter work is Le Breton's Le Roman, &c., Paris, 1890.
- Nouvelle édition, &c., par Em. Colombey, Paris, 1858.
- Le Roman comique, &c., nouvelle édition, &c., par Victor Fournel, Paris, 1857.
- Les Œuvres de M. de Balzac (2 tom.), Paris, 1665. Difficult to procure. Additional letters were edited by Tamizey de Larroque, Paris, 1835.
- Opera Omnia, Amst., 1670-83. Œuvres Complètes, &c., ed. Victor Cousin, 11 vols., Paris, 1824-26. Œuvres inédites, &c., ed. Foucher de Careil, Paris, 1859-60. Œuvres, &c., ed. C. Adam et P. Tannery, 1897, in progress. A centenary edition. For studies, see bibliographical note in Petit de Julleville, vol. iv., and Histories of Philosophy generally.
- Innumerable editions of the Provinciales, e.g., Havet, Paris, 1885. Fauchère in the Grands Écrivains de la France, 2 vols., Paris. Of the Pensées, the first that went back to the manuscript was that of Faugère in 1844, which was succeeded eight years later by Havet's, with an elaborate commentary. The last is that by Brunschvieg in the Grands Écrivains de la France, Paris, 1905. There is a smaller one by the same editor of the Pensées et Opuscules, Paris, 1900, with full connecting biography and comment. Sainte-Beuve's Port-Royal is a fascinating study of the religious milieu in which Pascal's thought took shape, and of Pascal himself. Another invaluable study is by Boutroux (Grands Écrivains français), and one by Sully Prudhomme has just appeared.