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ART. VJ. Mademoiselle de Tournon, par l Auteur 'Adèle de
Sénange. 2 vol. Paris, 1820.
urable to the art of the popuse, who study anh
The present state of France, though full of promise with re
spect to her commercial and political advancement, is not very favourable to the immediate interests of her literature, The minds of a great part of the population are still too unsettled for such calm pursuits, and to those, who study any thing politics is so new a study, that we cannot wonder it should take the lead of all others, and draw most of the thinking spirits of the day into its vortex. Accordingly we find that, out of the circle of this tempting theme-which they pursue with all the freshness, as well as the rawness of schoolboys—there is but little original produced in any department of literature; and the Press is chiefly employed in circulating either new editions of long-established works, or translations from the popular writers of other countries. In the field of poetry, where it might be expected that the excitements of the Revolution would have called forth something at least bold and new, France has been long without even a candidate for Fame; and M. Chateaubriand, who has written nothing but prose, is the only real poet she at present possesses. There has appeared, indeed, within the last year, a little work entitled Méditations Poétiques,' which has been profusely lauded in certain circles, but which appears to us a very unsuccessful attempt to break through the ancien régime of the French Parnassus, and transplant the wild and irregular graces of English poetry into the trim parterre of the Gallic Muse. What this author's notions of sublimity are, may be collected from the first stanza of one of his Méditations.'
Lorsque du Créateur le parole féconde,
Des germes du Chaos,
Rentra dans son repos.
Va, dit-il, &c. &c.
When the Deity saw what a world he had fram'd
He turn'd from his work with disdain;
And return'd to his slumbers again;
M. Chateaubriand himself, in his interesting work, - Les Martyrs,' which contains more bright pictures and fanciful thoughts than are to be found, perhaps, in any one poem in his language, yet shows, throughout his unlucky descriptions of Hell and of Paradise, how dangerous it is for a Frenchman to meddle with the sublime. The following scene (worthy only of the Petites Danaïdes), is supposed to take place during a council held by Satan.
"A ce discours de l'Esprit le plus profondément corrompu de l'abîme, les Démons applaudirent en tumulte. Le bruit de cette lamentable joie se prolongea sous les voûtes infernales. Les réprouvés crurent que leurs persécuteurs venoient d'inventer de nouveaux tour. mens. Aussitôt ces ames, qui n'étoient plus gardées dans leurs bûchers, s'echappèrent des flammes, et accoururent au conseil ; elles trainoient avec elles quelque partie de leurs supplices : l'une son suaire embrasé, l'autre sa chape de plomb, celle-ci les glaçons qui pendoient à ses yeux remplis de larmes, celle-la les serpens dont elle étoit dévorée. Les affreux spectateurs d'un affreux Sénat prennent leurs rangs dans les tribunes brûlantes. Satan lui-même appelle les spectres gardiens des ombres ........“ Remettez, s'écrie-t-il, ces coupables dans les fers, ou craignez que Satan ne vous enchainé avec eux.”!
He is not more fortunate in revealing to us the mysteries of the other region. Thus, describing a part of the Cité de Dieu,' he says,
Là sur-tout s'accomplit, loin de l'œil des Anges, la mystère de la Trinité. L'Esprit qui remonte et descend sans cesse du Fils au Père, et du Père au Fils, s'unit avec eux dans ces profondeurs impénétrables. Un triangle de feu paroît alors à l'entrée du Saint des Saints : les globes s'arrêtent de respect et de crainte, l'Hosanna des Anges est suspendu, les milices immortelles ne savent quels seront les décrets de l'Unité vivante, elles ne savent si le Trois Fois Saint ne va point changer, &c. &c. .......... Quand les essences primitives se séparent, le triangle de feu disparoit : l'Oracle s'entr'ouvre, et l'on aperçoit les trois Puissances.'
After all, however, our own Milton's actual artillery, and the • broad extinguisher' with which Dryden furnishes the hand of Omnipotence, for the purpose of putting out the fire of London, leaves us but little right to reproach M. Chateaubriand, in particular, for this disparagement of things divine,—this profane familiarity, which a too close approach to sacred subjects has, in all times and all writings, produced.
In the dramatic department-in addition to those countless • minora sidera' which twinkle out their gay and brief existence on the Boulevards—there have lately appeared two or three successful tragedies; and though, in Marie Stuart,'
Queen Elizabeth is represented as finding herself at the gates of Fotheringay Castle, during the course of a morning's ride from London, and Mary, from the same accommodating spot, is enabled to catch a view of the mountains of Scotland, this tragedy is, upon the whole, of a superior order; and contains verses worthy of the admirable manner in which that fine actress, Mademoiselle Duchesnois, recites them.
In novel writing—which brings us more directly to the subject of the present article-since the death of Madame Cottin, and of the inimitable author of Corinne, as little has been done as in the other walks of literature. Madame de Genlis still writes, but, of late, rather to edify than amuse; and she is at present, we understand, most laudably employed in weeding infidelity out of the works of Voltaire, and writing Jean Jacques Rousseau all over again. Madame de Souza herself, the author of the novel before us, has been, if we mistake not, a long time idle. Reposing upon the fame which she acquired as Comtesse de Flahaut, this is, we believe, the first wreath with which she has circled her present name. • Adèle de Sénange,' one of the earliest of her productions, is the story of a young English nobleman, Lord Sydenham, a sort of wandering, melancholy philosopher of twenty-two, who, in the act of extricating a young lady out of an overturned carriage at Paris, is struck with her beauty, and falls violently in love with her. In the interval, however, between this and their subsequent interview, she becomes the wife of M. de Sénange, a gouty old gentleman of seventy, who, having once had a platonic affection for the young Lord's grandmother, and promised her, at parting, that if ever chance should throw any of her children (including, of course, grandchildren) in his way, he would act as a father to them, is delighted to take this opportunity of fulfilling a promise made half a century before, and invites Lord Sydenham to spend the summer at his country-house at Neuilly. The natural consequence of this somewhat rash step of the kindhearted old gentleman, whose character, indeed, throughout, excites much more compassion and respect than it is, in general, the lot of these prédestinés to inspire, is an instant and ardent attachment between his wife and the young Englishman; and as, in the present times, the scale of familiarities and indecorums has been measured and graduated by such grave authority, that even bishops themselves must now be completely learned on the subject, it will not be difficult to ascertain at how high a point above zero the temperature of the following scene is to be rated. • Adèle m'écoutait avec une espèce de ravissement. Elle était
si émue que, lorsque j'eus cessé de parler, elle laissa tomber
bien teman of seves the wife of this and their love with hezris, jis
< sa tête sur moi. Nos visages se touchèrent; nos larmes se con
fondirent, mes bras l'entouraient encore. Je la pressai contre s mon cour, en me promettant intérieurement de respecter en elle la femme de mon ami.'
The difficulties and struggles to which such a passion gives rise, are at length happily terminated by a fit of apoplexy, which seizes on the old gentleman on discovering the secret of the lovers; and he dies, generously enjoining that they should marry each other, after the decent interval of a year's mourning for his loss. This novel is in letters—the least popular form, perhaps, into which a novel can be thrown. Young persons, the chief consumers of such articles generally, prefer the straight-forward sort of narrative to which they have been accustomed from their nurseries; and we confess ourselves young enough to be entirely of their opinion. Neither do we very much approve of the plan of making heroes or heroines tell their own stories. Besides the incompleteness which it necessarily entails upon their history-leaving them still alive and at large for new adventures, after the reader has done with them- they are generally supposed to be grown old when they relate their adventures; which matter-of-fact anticipation, as in the case of Marivaux's Marianne, disturbs, at every step, all the illusion and interest of the narrative. Instead of accompanying, in fancy, this young creature through her first moments of bloom and ignorance, we are continually reminded of the wise and withered personage she is now become; and when, describing her having held out her hand to some admirer, she adds in a parenthesis, et je
l'avais belle,' this unfortunate past tense throws the occurrence so very far back, that we cannot help being disenchanted of a considerable part of our interest in it.
• Emilie et Alphonse,' another of Madame de Souza's novels, is also in letters; and, in a similar manner, turns upon the misfortunes of a young lady, who unluckily marries the wrong man, being violently and irrecoverably in love with another. It displays, like all that the fair author has written, an acute knowledge of that part of the world which is called Society.-The follies even of her own sex assume a grace and charm in her description of them, and their coquetry becomes of that kind which a French poet describes
1. • La coquetterie
? S'épure en passant par son cæur.' The process, by which an innocent young married woman may be transmuted into a heartless lady of fashion, (a result like that at which Lavoisier arrived in reducing diamonds to carbon), is developed with mạch skill in the experiments of Madame d'Artigue upon the character of Emily-who, having committed the faute of forgetting her husband, is near falling into the crime of forgetting her lover also. She is, however, saved in time from utter worthlessness, by a circumstance which hardly would have occurred to a male philosopher, as likely to produce such a seasonable reformation. The accidental smell of a little fan of sandal-wood-her lover having once had a little walking-stick of the same odorous material-so completely dissipates, at a whiff, all the collected fumes of vanity, that, bidding adieu to the rouge, flounces, and furbelows of this world, she takes to love, sentiment, and mousseline blanche' again. She is not, however, in the end, so lucky as Adèle de Sénange; for, though the lover performs his duty, by wounding the husband mortally in a duel, the husband, at the same moment, returns the compliment, and poor Emily is obliged to end her days in a convent, without either.
We cannot help considering this sort of stories, where married ladies are brought into such unconjugal situations, as very perilous things, in every sense of the word ;-yet female writers have always been fond of them, from the Royal Intrigues of Madame la Fayette, down to Madame Cottin's loves of the Manufacturers in Claire d’Albe. We remember, too, some years ago, a novel by one of our own countrymen, in which the heroine (Rhoda, we believe, she is called) loves one man, marries a second, and intrigues with a third- au reste, charmante
personne'--and having at length driven her husband, who is, as usual, the best sort of man in the world, to blow out his brains, retires from her capacity of heroine, at the end, upon a handsome independence of three thousand a year. .
The story of Eugénie et Mathilde' is, perhaps, more artfully constructed than any that Madame de Souza has hitherto produced. The time of the events is during the first years of the French Revolution; and the struggles of an uncloistered nun with her vow of singleness, affords, if not the chief, the most touching source of its interest. The characters of the three sisters-the prim, rigid Ernestine, qui dès quinze ans « on eût voulu rejeunir'-the capricious, but affectionate and natural Mathilde, who, when expostulated with on any of her faults, thinks it enough to answer gaily je suis comme cela' - and the gentle and sensitive young nun, Eugénie, whose sacrifices to another world are enhanced by her susceptibility of the best affections of this all these various portraits are touched with a delicacy, a discrimination and a truth, which throw an air of perfect reality over the painful story to which they belong.
There yet remains to be noticed, in this brief retrospect of