The International (magazine)/Volume 1/Our authors
Julius Zeyer, the Bohemian novelist and poet, and author of the story, "Phenicia's Sin," (see page 147 of this number) is a native of Prague, and was educated at the University in that city. His home is now in the small village of , although he lives a great deal in France, Spain and Italy, in each of which countries he selects some pretty, picturesque village from time to time as a temporary place of abode. He draws material for his works mostly from other countries than his own, and for this reason is not as popular at home as are some writers who are greatly his inferiors. He has, however, produced one large work that is distinctly Bohemian, a dramaticCatherine II. of Russia. One marked feature of Zeyer's works is his excess of imagery. All manner of brilliant images seem to crowd upon his imagination until the reader becomes almost weary of constant word-painting. He is a worshipper of the beautiful for its own sake; he loves it, dreams of it, and all other things are to him as if they had no existence. His subjects are mostly classical and historical, and he seems to feel that he is not to blame if he finds more beauty in the dim old past than in the practical life of modern times. He is first and last a poet. He has a great admiration for Biblical poetry, and regards Solomon's song as the finest love poem ever written. Taking that as a basis, together with other parts of the Bible, he wrote "Sulamis," a drama that
is a great favorite in the National Theatre of Prague. All his writings are pure—pure to ordinary readers; and though his poems are at times very sensual, they never go beyond the bounds of propriety. Although he is a man of very decided principles, a zealous patriot, and one whose character is so irreproachable that his enemies can find nothing against him, he does not use his pen to advance any theory, or to teach any doctrine. His early education was entirely in German, that being the language of the family; but when he learned that his ancestors were Czechs, and not Germans, he became a zealous Bohemian patriot. He does not employ his genius, however, in helping his countrymen to fight their present national battles; and his patriotism is, therefore, not rewarded by as great popularity as his friends think he deserves.
Jean Baptiste Adolphe Ferland (see page 172), a Canadian priest, and for many years Professor of History in the Laval University, Quebec, was born at Montreal in 1805, and died at Quebec in 1865. He takes rank amongs the foremost Canadian men of letters, his work being chiefly historical. His "Cours d'Histoire" is an admirable compendium of the history of Canada from 1534 to 1663. His style is marked by wit and sprightliness, showing an occasional flavor of delicate humor. Two of his works—"The Wizard of Anticosti" and another—were characterized by M. Rameau, a celebrated French critic and the author of "La France aux Colonies," as follows: "The Episode of 1759" and "L' Histoire de Gamache" of M. Ferland can sustain a comparison as models of style, and in finish of execution, with the most delicate sketches, the most exquisite paintings, the highly finished pastels of Prosper Merimee and of Octave Feuillet.
M. J. M. Le Moine, himself a writer of prominence, relates the following anecdote upon this subject: When the French writer already quoted, M. Rameau, was in Quebec, he was asked what he thought of the best Canadian writers.
"Sir," replied he, "let me tell you of an incident that occurred in Paris last winter. I was already acquainted with Canadian literature, and invited some literary men to hear the reading of chapters from two new books that they had never seen before. After the reading, I requested them to tell me where the books could have been written. ′Why, in Paris, of course; where else?′ they replied. ′None but Parisians could write such French.′ ′Well, gentlemen,′ I said, ′you are much mistaken. Those books were written on the banks of the St. Lawrence, at Quebec. Etienne Parent and the Abbé Ferland are the writers.′"