A History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century
by Henry A. Beers
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Another work which corresponds roughly with Percy's "Reliques," as the "Nibelungenlied" with Macpherson's "Ossian," was "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" (The Boy's Magic Trumpet), published in 1806-8 by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim, with a dedication to Goethe. This was a three-volume collection of German songs, and although it came much later than Percy's, and after the imitation of old national balladry in Germany was already well under way, so that its relation to German romanticism is not of an initial kind, like that of Percy's collection in England; still its importance was very great. It influenced all the lyrical poetry of the Romantic school, and especially the ballads of Uhland. "I cannot sufficiently extol this book," says Heine. "It contains the sweetest flowers of German poesy. . . . On the title page . . . is the picture of a lad blowing a horn; and when a German in a foreign land views this picture, he almost seems to hear the old familiar strains, and homesickness steals over him. . . . In these ballads one feels the beating of the German popular heart. Here is revealed all its sombre merriment, all its droll wit. Here German wrath beats furiously the drum; here German satire stings, here German love kisses. Here we behold the sparkling of genuine German wine, and genuine German tears."

The German romantic school, like the English, but more learnedly and systematically, sought to reinforce its native stock of materials by motifs drawn from foreign literatures, and particularly from Norse mythology and from Spanish romance. Percy's translation of Malet: Gray's versions from the Welsh and the Scandinavian: Southey's "Chronicles of the Cid" and Lockhart's translations of the Spanish ballads are paralleled in Germany by William Schlegel's, and Uhland's, and others' studies in old Norse mythology and poetry; by Tieck's translation of "Don Quixote" [18] and by Johann Dietrich Gries' of Calderon. The romanticists, indeed, and especially Tieck and A. W. Schlegel, were most accomplished translators. Schlegel's great version of Shakspere is justly esteemed one of the glories of the German tongue. Heine affirms that it was undertaken solely for polemical purposes and at a time (1797) when the enthusiasm for the Middle Ages had not yet reached an extravagant height, "Later, when this did occur, Calderon was translated and ranked far above Shakespeare. . . . For the works of Calderon bear most distinctly the impress of the poetry of the Middle Ages, particularly of the two principal epochs, knight-errantry and monasticism. The pious comedies of the Castilian priest-poet, whose poetical flowers had been besprinkled with holy water and canonical perfumes . . . were now set up as models, and Germany swarmed with fantastically pious, insanely profound poems, over which it was the fashion to work one's self into a mystic ecstasy of admiration, as in 'The Devotion to the Cross'; or to fight in honour of the Madonna, as in 'The Constant Prince.' . . . Our poetry, said the Schlegels, is superannuated. . . . Our emotions are withered; our imagination is dried up. . . . We must seek again the choked-up springs of the naive, simple poetry of the Middle Ages, where bubbles the elixir of youth." Heine adds that Tieck, following out this prescription, drank so deeply of the mediaeval folk tales and ballads that he actually became a child again and fell to lisping.

There is a suggestive analogy between the position of the Warton brothers in England and the Schlegel brothers in Germany. The Schlegels, like the Wartons, were leaders in the romantic movement of their time and country, and were the inspirers of other men. The two pairs were alike also in that their best service was done in the field of literary history, criticism, and exposition, while their creative work was imitative and of comparatively small value. Friedrich Schlegel's scandalous romance "Lucinde" is of much less importance than his very stimulating lectures on the "History of Literature" and the "Wisdom and Languages of India";[19] and his elder brother, though an accomplished metrist and translator, was not successful in original verse. But this resemblance between the Wartons and the Schlegels must not be pressed too far. Here, as at many other points, the German movement had greater momentum. The Wartons were men of elegant scholarship after their old-fashioned kind, a kind which joined the usual classical culture of the English universities to a liberal—and in their century somewhat paradoxical—enthusiasm in antiquarian pursuits. But the Schlegels were men of really wide learning and of depth in criticism. Compared with their scientific method and grasp of principles, the "Observations" and "Essays" of the Wartons are mere dilettantism. To the influence of the Schlegels is not unfairly attributed the origin in Germany of the sciences of comparative philology and comparative mythology, and the works of scholars like Bopp, Diez, and the brothers Grimm. Herder[20] had already traced the broad cosmopolitan lines which German literary scholarship was to follow, with German thoroughness and independence. And Heine acknowledges that "in reproductive criticism, where the beauties of a work of art were to be brought out clearly; where a delicate perception of individualities was required; and where these were to be made intelligible, the Schlegels were far superior to Lessing." The one point at which the English movement outweighed the German was Walter Scott, whose creative vigour and fertility made an impact upon the mind of Europe to which the romantic literature of the Continent affords no counterpart.

The principles of the Schlegelian criticism were first communicated to the English public by Coleridge; who, in his lectures on Shakspere and other dramatists, helped himself freely to William Schlegel's "Vorlesungen ueber dramatische Kunst und Litteratur." [21] Heine denounces the shallowness of these principles and their failure to comprehend the modern mind. "When Schlegel seeks to depreciate the poet Buerger, he compares his ballads with the old English ballads of the Percy collection, and he shows that the latter are more simple, more naive, more antique, and consequently more poetical. . . . But death is not more poetical than life. The old English ballads of the Percy collection exhale the spirit of their age, and Buerger's ballads breathe the spirit of our time. The latter, Schlegel never understood. . . . What increased Schlegel's reputation still more was the sensation which he excited in France, where he also attacked the literary authorities of the French, . . . showed the French that their whole classical literature was worthless, that Moliere was a buffoon and no poet, that Racine likewise was of no account . . . that the French are the most prosaic people of the world, and that there is no poetry in France." It is well known that Coleridge detested the French, as "a light but cruel race", that he undervalued their literature and even affected an ignorance of the language. The narrowness of Schlegelian criticism was only the excess of Teutonism reacting against the previous excesses of Gallic classicism.

The deficiency of creative imagination in the Schlegels was supplied by their disciple Ludwig Tieck, who made the "Maehrchen," or popular traditionary tale, his peculiar province. It was Wackenroder who first drew his attention to "those old, poorly printed Volksbuecher, with their coarse wood-cuts which had for centuries been circulating among the peasantry, and which may still be picked up at the book-stalls of the Leipzig fairs." [22] Tieck's volume of "Volksmaehrchen" (1797) gave reproductions of a number of these old tales, such as the "Haimonskinder," the "Schoene Magelone," "Tannhaeuser," and the "Schildbuerger." His "Phantasus" (1812) contained original tales conceived in the same spirit. Scherer says that Tieck uttered the manifesto of German romanticism in the following lines from the overture of his "Kaiser Octavianus":

"Mondbeglaenzte Zaubernacht, Die den Sinn gefangen haelt, Wundervolle Maehrchenwelt, Steig auf in der alten Pracht!"

"Forest solitude" [Waldeinsamkeit], says Boyesen,[23] "churchyards at midnight, ruins of convents and baronial castles; in fact, all the things which we are now apt to call romantic, are the favourite haunts of Tieck's muse. . . . Tieck was excessively fond of moonlight and literally flooded his tales with its soft, dim splendour; therefore moonlight is now romantic. . . . He never allows a hero to make a declaration of love without a near or distant accompaniment of a bugle (Schalmei or Waldhorn); accordingly the bugle is called a romantic instrument."

"The true tone of that ancient time," says Carlyle,[24] "when man was in his childhood, when the universe within was divided by no wall of adamant from the universe without, and the forms of the Spirit mingled and dwelt in trustful sisterhood with the forms of the Sense, was not easy to seize and adapt with any fitness of application to the feelings of modern minds. It was to penetrate into the inmost shrines of Imagination, where human passion and action are reflected in dim and fitful, but deeply significant resemblances, and to copy these with the guileless, humble graces which alone can become them. . . . The ordinary lovers of witch and fairy matter will remark a deficiency of spectres and enchantments, and complain that the whole is rather dull. Cultivated free-thinkers, again, well knowing that no ghosts or elves exist in this country, will smile at the crack-brained dreamer, with his spelling-book prose and doggerel verse, and dismiss him good-naturedly as a German Lake poet." "In these works," says Heine, "there reigns a mysterious intenseness, a peculiar sympathy with nature, especially with the vegetable and mineral kingdoms. The reader feels himself transported into an enchanted forest; he hears the melodious gurgling of subterranean waters; at times he seems to distinguish his own name in the rustling of the trees. Ever and anon a nameless dread seizes upon him as the broad-leaved tendrils entwine his feet; strange and marvellous wild flowers gaze at him with their bright, languishing eyes; invisible lips mockingly press tender kisses on his cheeks; gigantic mushrooms, which look like golden bells, grow at the foot of the trees; large silent birds sway to and fro on the branches overhead, put on a sapient look and solemnly nod their heads. Everything seems to hold its breath; all is hushed in awed expectation; suddenly the soft tones of a hunter's horn are heard, and a lovely female form, with waving plumes on head and falcon on wrist, rides swiftly by on a snow-white steed. And this beautiful damsel is so exquisitely lovely, so fair; her eyes are of the violet's hue, sparkling with mirth and at the same time earnest, sincere, and yet ironical; so chaste and yet so full of tender passion, like the fancy of our excellent Ludwig Tieck. Yes, his fancy is a charming, high-born maiden, who in the forests of fairyland gives chase to fabulous wild beasts; perhaps she even hunts the rare unicorn, which may only be caught by a spotless virgin."

In 1827 Carlyle[25] published translations of five of Tieck's "Maehrchen," viz.: "The Fair-Haired Eckbert," "The Trusty Eckart," "The Elves," "The Runenberg," and "The Goblet." He mentioned that another tale had been already Englished—"The Pictures" (Die Gemaelde). This version was by Connop Thirwall, who had also rendered "The Betrothal" in 1824. In spite of Carlyle's recommendations, Tieck's stories seem to have made small impression in England. Doubtless they came too late, and the romantic movement, by 1827, had spent its first force in a country already sated with Scott's poems and novels. Sarah Austin, a daughter of William Taylor of Norwich, went to Germany to study German literature in this same year 1827. In her "Fragments from German Prose Writers" (1841), she speaks of the small success of Tieck's stories in England, but testifies that A. W. Schlegel's dramatic lectures had been translated early and the translation frequently reprinted. Another of the Norwich Taylors—Edgar—was the translator of Grimm's "Haus- und Kinder-Maehrchen." Julius Hare, who was at school at Weimar in the winter of 1804-5, rendered three of Tieck's tales, as well as Fouque's "Sintram" (1820).

It is interesting to note that Tieck was not unknown to Hawthorne and Poe. The latter mentions his "Journey into the Blue Distance" in his "Fall of the House of Usher", and in an early review of Hawthorne's "Twice-Told Tales" (1842) and "Mosses from an Old Manse" (1846), at a time when their author was still, in his own words, "the obscurest man of letters in America." Poe acutely pointed out a resemblance between Hawthorne and Tieck; "whose manner," he asserts, "in some of his works, is absolutely identical with that habitual to Hawthorne." One finds a confirmation of this apercu—or finds, at least, that Hawthorne was attracted by Tieck—in passages of the "American Note-Books," where he speaks of grubbing out several pages of Tieck at a sitting, by the aid of a German dictionary. Colonel Higginson ("Short Studies"), a propos of Poe's sham learning and his habit of mystifying the reader by imaginary citations, confesses to having hunted in vain for this fascinatingly entitled "Journey into the Blue Distance"; and to having been laughed at for his pains by a friend who assured him that Poe could scarcely read a word of German. But Tieck did really write this story, "Das Alte Buch: oder Reise ins Blaue hinein," which Poe misleadingly refers to under its alternate title. There is, indeed, a hint of allegory in Tieck's "Maehrchen"—which are far from being mere fairy tales—that reminds one frequently of Hawthorne's shadowy art—of such things as "Ethan Brand," or "The Minister's Black Veil," or "The Great Carbuncle of the White Mountains." There is, e.g., "The Elves," in which a little girl does but step across the foot-bridge over the brook that borders her father's garden, to find herself in a magic land where she stays, as it seems to her, a few hours, but returns home to learn that she has been absent seven years. Or there is "The Runenberg," where a youth wandering in the mountains, receives from a sorceress, through the casement of a ruined castle, a wondrous tablet set with gems in a mystic pattern; and years afterward wanders back into the mountains, leaving home and friends to search for fairy jewels, only to return again to his village, an old and broken-down man, bearing a sackful of worthless pebbles which appear to him the most precious stones. And there is the story of "The Goblet," where the theme is like that of Hawthorne's "Shaker Bridal," a pair of lovers whose union is thwarted and postponed until finally, when too late, they find that only the ghost or the memory of their love is left to mock their youthful hope.

But the mystic, par excellence, among the German romanticists was Novalis, of whose writings Carlyle gave a sympathetic account in the Foreign Review for 1829. Novalis' "Hymns to the Night," written in Ossianic prose, were perhaps not without influence on Longfellow ("Voices of the Night"), but his most significant work was his unfinished romance "Heinrich von Ofterdingen." The hero was a legendary poet of the time of the Crusades, who was victor in a contest of minstrelsy on the Wartburg. But in Novalis' romance there is no firm delineation of mediaeval life—everything is dissolved in a mist of transcendentalism and allegory. The story opens with the words: "I long to see the blue flower; it is continually in my mind, and I can think of nothing else." Heinrich falls asleep, and has a vision of a wondrous cavern and a fountain, beside which grows a tall, light blue flower that bends towards him, the petals showing "like a blue spreading ruff in which hovered a lovely face." This blue flower, says Carlyle, is poetry, "the real object, passion, and vocation of young Heinrich." Boyesen gives a subtler interpretation. "This blue flower," he says, "is the watchword and symbol of the school. It is meant to symbolise the deep and nameless longings of a poet's soul. Romantic poetry invariably deals with longing; not a definite formulated desire for some attainable object, but a dim mysterious aspiration, a trembling unrest, a vague sense of kinship with the infinite,[26] a consequent dissatisfaction with every form of happiness which the world has to offer. The object of the romantic longing, therefore, so far as it has any object, is the ideal. . . . The blue flower, like the absolute ideal, is never found in this world, poets may at times dimly feel its nearness, and perhaps even catch a brief glimpse of it in some lonely forest glade, far from the haunts of men, but it is in vain to try to pluck it. If for a moment its perfume fills the air, the senses are intoxicated and the soul swells with poetic rapture." [27] It would lead us too far afield to follow up the traces of this mystical symbolism in the writings of our New England transcendentalists. One is often reminded of Novalis' blue flower in such a poem as Emerson's "Forerunners," or Lowell's "Footpath," or Whittier's "Vanishers," or in Thoreau's little parable about the horse, the hound, and the dove which he had long ago lost and is still seeking. And again one is reminded of Tieck when Thoreau says: "I had seen the red election birds brought from their recesses on my comrades' strings and fancied that their plumage would assume stranger and more dazzling colours in proportion as I advanced farther into the darkness and solitude of the forest." Heinrich von Ofterdingen travels to Augsburg to visit his grandfather, conversing on the way with various shadowy persons, a miner, a hermit, an Eastern maiden named Zulma, who represent respectively, according to Boyesen, the poetry of nature, the poetry of history, and the spirit of the Orient. At Augsburg he meets the poet Klingsohr (the personification, perhaps, of poetry in its full development). With his daughter Matilda he falls in love, whose face is that same which he had beheld in his vision, encircled by the petals of the blue flower. Then he has a dream in which he sees Matilda sink and disappear in the waters of a river. Then he encounters her in a strange land and asks where the river is. "Seest thou not its blue waves above us?" she answers. "He looked up and the blue river was flowing softly over their heads." "This image of Death, and of the river being the sky in that other and eternal country" [28]—does it not once more remind us of the well-known line in Channing's "A Poet's Hope"—

"If my bark sink, 'tis to another sea";

or of Emerson's "Two Rivers":

"Thy summer voice, Musketaquit, Repeats the music of the rain, But sweeter rivers pulsing flit Through thee, as thou through Concord plain"?

But transcendentalism is one thing and romanticism is another, and we may dismiss Novalis with a reminder of the fact that the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, once published at Concord, took for its motto a sentence from his "Bluethenstaub" (Flower-pollen): "Philosophy can bake no bread, but she can procure for us God, freedom, and immortality." [29]

Brentano and Von Arnim have had practically no influence in England. Brentano's most popular story was translated by T. W. Appell, under the title, "Honour, or the Story of the Brave Casper and the Fair Annerl: With an Introduction and Biographical Notice" (London, 1847). The same story was rendered into French in the Correspondant for 1859 ("Le Brave Kasperl et la Belle Annerl"). Three tales of Arnim were translated by Theophile Gautier, as "Contes Bizarres" (Paris, 1856). Arnim's best romance is "Die Kronenwaechter" (1817). Scherer testifies that this "combined real knowledge of the Reformation period with graphic power"; and adds: "It was Walter Scott's great example which, in the second decade of this century, first made conscientious faithfulness and study of details the rule in historical novel-writing." Longfellow's "German Poets and Poetry" (1845) includes nothing from Arnim or Brentano. Nor did Thomas Roscoe's "German Novelists" (four volumes), nor George Soane's "Specimens of German Romance," both of which appeared in 1826.

The most popular of the German romanticists was Friedrich Baron de la Motte Fouque, the descendant of a family exiled from France by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and himself an officer in the Prussian army in the war of liberation. Fouque's numerous romances, in all of which he upholds the ideal of Christian knighthood, have been, many of them, translated into English. "Aslauga's Knight" appeared in Carlyle's "Specimens of German Romance" (1827); "Sintram," "Undine," and "Der Zauberring" had been translated even earlier. "Thiodolf the Icelander" and others have also been current in English circulating libraries. Carlyle acknowledges that Fouque's notes are few, and that he is possessed by a single idea. "The chapel and the tilt yard stand in the background or the foreground in all the scenes of his universe. He gives us knights, soft-hearted and strong-armed; full of Christian self-denial, patience, meekness, and gay, easy daring; they stand before us in their mild frankness, with suitable equipment, and accompaniment of squire and dame. . . . Change of scene and person brings little change of subject; even when no chivalry is mentioned, we feel too clearly the influence of its unseen presence. Nor can it be said that in this solitary department his success is of the very highest sort. To body forth the spirit of Christian knighthood in existing poetic forms; to wed that old sentiment to modern thoughts, was a task which he could not attempt. He has turned rather to the fictions and machinery of former days." Heine says that Fouque's Sigurd the Serpent Slayer has the courage of a hundred lions and the sense of two asses. But Fouque's "Undine" (1811) is in its way a masterpiece and a classic. This story of the lovely water-sprite, who received a soul when she fell in love with the knight, and with a soul, a knowledge of human sorrow, has a slight resemblance to the conception of Hawthorne's "Marble Faun." Coleridge was greatly fascinated by it. He read the original several times, and once the American translation, printed at Philadelphia. He said that it was beyond Scott, and that Undine resembled Shakspere's Caliban in being a literal creation.

But in general Fouque's chivalry romances, when compared with Scott's, have much less vigour, variety, and dramatic force, though a higher spirituality and a softer sentiment. The Waverley novels are solid with a right materialistic treatment. It was Scott's endeavour to make the Middle Ages real. The people are there, as well as chevaliers and their ladies. The history of the times is there. But in Fouque the Middle Ages become even more unreal, fairy-like, fantastic than they are in our imaginations. There is nothing but tourneying, love-making, and enchantment. Compare the rumour of the Crusades and Richard the Lion Heart in "Der Zauberring" with the stalwart flesh-and-blood figures in "Ivanhoe" and "The Talisman." A wavering moonshine lies all over the world of the Fouque romances, like the magic light which illumines the Druda's castle in "Der Zauberring," on whose battlements grow tall white flowers, and whose courts are filled with unearthly music from the perpetual revolution of golden wheels. "On the romantic side," wrote Richter, in his review of "L'Allemagne" in the Heidelberg Jahrbuecher for 1815, "we could not wish the Briton to cast his first glance at us; for the Briton—to whom nothing is so poetical as the common weal—requires (being used to the weight of gold), even for a golden age of poetry, the thick golden wing-cases of his epithet-poets; not the transparent gossamer wings of the Romanticists; no many-coloured butterfly dust; but, at lowest, flower-dust that will grow to something."

Another Spaetromantiker who has penetrated to the English literary consciousness is the Swabian Ludwig Uhland, the sweetest lyric poet of the romantic school. Uhland studied the poems of Ossian, the Norse sagas, the "Nibelungenlied" and German hero legends, the Spanish romances, the poetry of the trouveres and the troubadours, and treated motives from all these varied sources. His true field, however, was the ballad, as Tieck's was the popular tale; and many of Uhland's ballads are favourites with English readers, through excellent translations. Sarah Austin's version of one of them is widely familiar:

"Many a year is in its grave Since I crossed this restless wave," etc.

Longfellow translated three: "The Black Knight," "The Luck of Edenhall," and "The Castle by the Sea." It is to be feared that the last-named belongs to what Scherer calls that "trivial kind of romanticism, full of sadness and renunciation, in which kings and queens with crimson mantles and golden crowns, kings' daughters and beautiful shepherds, harpers, monks, and nuns play a great part." But it has a haunting beauty, and a dreamy melody like Goethe's "Es war ein Koenig in Thule." The mocking Heine, who stigmatises Fouque's knights as combinations of iron and sentimentality, complains that in Uhland's writings too "the naive, rude, powerful tones of the Middle Ages are not reproduced with idealised fidelity, but rather they are dissolved into a sickly, sentimental melancholy. . . . The women in Uhland's poems are only beautiful shadows, embodied moonshine; milk flows in their veins, and sweet tears in their eyes, i.e., tears which lack salt. If we compare Uhland's knights with the knights in the old ballads, it seems to us as if the former were composed of suits of leaden armour, entirely filled with flowers, instead of flesh and bones. Hence Uhland's knights are more pleasing to delicate nostrils than the old stalwarts, who wore heavy iron trousers and were huge eaters and still huger drinkers."

Upon the whole it must be concluded that this second invasion of England by German romance, in the twenties and early thirties of the nineteenth century, made a lesser impression than the first irruption in, say, 1795 to 1810, in the days of Buerger and "Goetz," and "The Robbers," and Monk Lewis and the youthful Scott. And the reason is not far to seek. The newcomers found England in possession of a native romanticism of a very robust type, by the side of which the imported article showed like a delicate exotic. Carlyle affirms that Madame de Stael's book was the precursor of whatever acquaintance with German literature exists in England. He himself worked valiantly to extend that acquaintance by his articles in the Edinburgh and Foreign Review, and by his translations from German romance. But he found among English readers an invincible prejudice against German mysticism and German sentimentality. The romantic chiaroscuro, which puzzled Southey even in "The Ancient Mariner," became dimmest twilight in Tieck's "Maehrchen" and midnight darkness in the visionary Novalis. The Weichheit, Wehmuth, and Sehnsucht nach der Unendlichkeit of the German romanticists were moods not altogether unfamiliar in English poetry. "Now stirs the feeling infinite," sings Byron.

"Now more than ever seems it rich to die, To cease upon the midnight with no pain,"

cries Keats. But when Novalis, in his Todessehnsucht, exclaims, "Death is the romance of life," the sentiment has an alien sound. There was something mutually repellent between the more typical phases of English and German romanticism. Tieck and the Schlegels, we know, cared little for Scott. We are told that Scott read the Zeitung fuer Einsiedler, but we are not told what he thought of it. Perhaps romanticism, like transcendentalism, found a more congenial soil in New than in Old England. Longfellow spent the winter of 1835-36 in Heidelberg, calling on A. W. Schlegel at Bonn, on his way thither. "Hyperion" (1839) is saturated with German romance. Its hero, Paul Flemming, knew "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" almost by heart. No other German book had ever exercised such "wild and magic influence upon his imagination."

[1] Besides the authorities quoted or referred to in the text, the materials used in this chapter are drawn mainly from the standard histories of German literature; especially from Georg Brandes' "Hauptstroemungen in der Litteratur des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts" (1872-76); Julian Schmidt's "Geschichte der Deutschen Litteratur" (Berlin, 1890); H. J. T. Hettner's "Litteraturgeschichte" (Braunschweig, 1872); Wilhelm Scherer's "History of German Literature" (Conybeare's translation, New York, 1886); Karl Hillebrand's "German Thought" (trans., New York, 1880); Vogt und Koch's "Geschichte der Deutschen Litteratur" (Leipzig and Wien, 1897). My own reading in the German romantics is by no means extensive. I have read, however, a number of Tieck's "Maerchen" and of Fouque's romances; Novalis' "Hymns to the Night" and "Heinrich von Ofterdingen"; A. W. Schlegel's "Lectures on Dramatic Literature" and F. Schlegel's "Lucinde"; all of Uhland's ballads and most of Heine's writings in verse and prose; a large part of "Des Knaben Wunderhorn," and the selections from Achim von Arnim, Clemens Brentano, and Joseph Goerres contained in Koch's "Deutsche National Litteratur," 146 Band (Stuttgart, 1891). These last include Brentano's "Die Erfindung des Rosenkranzes," "Kasperl und Annerl," "Gockel und Hinkerl," etc., and Arnim's "Kronenwaechter," a scene from "Die Paepstin Johanna," etc. I have, of course, read Madame de Stael's "L'Allemagne"; all of Carlyle's papers on German literature, with his translations; the Grimm fairy tales and the like.

[2] "Gedanken ueber die Nachahmung der Griechischen Werke in der Malerei und Bildhauerkunst," 1755. "Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums," 1764.

[3] "Laocoon," 1766.

[4] See vol. i., chap. xi.; and particularly pp. 383-87.

[5] See vol. i., pp. 422-23.

[6] Novalis' and Wackenroder's remains were edited by Tieck and F. Schlegel. Arnim married Brentano's sister Bettina—Goethe's Bettina.

[7] E.g., Tieck's "Der Gestiefelte Kater," against Nicolai and the Aufklarung.

[8] As to the much-discussed romantic irony, the theory of which played a part in the German movement corresponding somewhat to Hugo's doctrine of the grotesque, it seems to have made no impression in England. I can discover no mention of it in Coleridge. Carlyle, in the first of his two essays on Richter (1827), expressly distinguishes true humour from irony, which he describes as a faculty of caricature, consisting "chiefly in a certain superficial distortion or reversal of objects"—the method of Swift or Voltaire. That is, Carlyle uses irony in the common English sense; the Socratic irony, the irony of the "Modest Proposal." The earliest attempt that I have encountered to interpret to the English public what Tieck and the Schlegels meant by "irony" is an article in Blackwood's for September, 1835, on "The Modern German School of Irony"; but its analysis is not very eingehend.

[9] An English translation was published in this country in 1882. See also H. H. Boyesen's "Essays on German Literature" (1892) for three papers on the "Romantic School in Germany."

[10] Gentz, "The German Burke," translated the "Reflections on the Revolution in France" into German in 1796.

[11] See also in the same tract, Burke's tribute to the value of hereditary nobility, and remember that these were the words of a Whig statesman.

[12] Dream books, medicine books, riddle books, almanacs, craftsmen's proverbs, fabulous travels, prophecies, legends, romances and the like, hawked about at fairs.

[13] For Stolberg see also vol. i., pp. 376-77.

[14] "Ludwig Tieck": Introductions to "German Romance."

[15] Brentano's fragment "Die Erfindung des Rosenkranzes," begun in 1803, deals with the Tannhaeuser story.

[16] "Kinder and Hausmaehrchen" (1812-15). "Deutsche Sagen" (1816). "Deutsche Mythologie" (1835).

[17] See vol. i., pp. 375-76.

[18] "If Cervantes' purpose," says Heine, "was merely to describe the fools who sought to restore the chivalry of the Middle Ages, . . . then it is a peculiarly comic irony of accident that the romantic school should furnish the best translation of a book in which their own folly is most amusingly ridiculed."

[19] F. Schlegel's declamations against printing and gun powder in his Vienna lectures of 1810 foretoken Ruskin's philippics against railways and factories.

[20] See vol. i., pp. 300, 337, 416.

[21] Vide supra, p. 88. A. W. Schlegel was in England in 1823. Tieck met Coleridge in England in 1818, having made his acquaintance in Italy some ten years before.

[22] Boyesen: "Aspects of the Romantic School."

[23] Ibid.

[24] "Ludwig Tieck," in "German Romance."

[25] "German Romance," four vols., Edinburgh.

[26] A. W. Schlegel says that romantic poetry is the representation (Darstellung) of the infinite through symbols.

[27] "Novalis and the Blue Flower."

[28] Carlyle.

[29] Selections from Novalis in an English translation were published at London in 1891.


The Romantic Movement in France.[1]

French romanticism had aspects of its own which distinguished it from the English and the German alike. It differed from the former and agreed with the latter in being organised. In France, as in Germany, there was a romantic school, whose members were united by common literary principles and by personal association. There were sharply defined and hostile factions of classics and romantics, with party cries, watchwords, and shibboleths; a propaganda carried on and a polemic waged in pamphlets, prefaces, and critical journals. Above all there was a leader. Walter Scott was the great romancer of Europe, but he was never the head of a school in his own country in the sense in which Victor Hugo was in France, or even in the sense in which the Schlegels were in Germany. Scott had imitators, but Hugo had disciples.

One point in which the French movement differed from both the English and the German was in the suddenness and violence of the outbreak. It was not so much a gradual development as a revolution, an explosion. The reason of this is to be found in the firmer hold which academic tradition had in France, the fountainhead of eighteenth-century classicism. Romanticism had a special work to do in the land of literary convention in asserting the freedom of art and the unity of art and life. Everything that is in life, said Hugo, is, or has a right to be in art. The French, in political and social matters the most revolutionary people of Europe, were the most conservative in matters of taste. The Revolution even intensified the reigning classicism by giving it a republican turn. The Jacobin orators appealed constantly to the examples of the Greek and Roman democracies. The Goddess of Reason was enthroned in place of God, Sunday was abolished, and the names of the months and of the days of the week were changed. Dress under the Directory was patterned on antique modes—the liberty cap was Phrygian—and children born under the Republic were named after Roman patriots, Brutus, Cassius, etc. The great painter of the Revolution was David,[2] who painted his subjects in togas, with backgrounds of Greek temples. Voltaire's classicism was monarchical and held to the Louis XIV. tradition; David's was republican. And yet the recognised formulae of taste and criticism were the same in 1800 as in 1775, or in 1675.

A second distinction of the French romanticism was its local concentration at Paris. The centripetal forces have always been greater in France than in England and Germany. The earlier group of German Romantiker was, indeed, as we have seen, united for a time at Jena and Berlin; and the Spaetromantiker at Heidelberg. But this was dispersion itself as compared with the intense focussing of intellectual rays from every quarter of France upon the capital. In England, I hardly need repeat, there was next to no cohesion at all between the widely scattered men of letters whose work exhibited romantic traits.

In one particular the French movement resembled the English more nearly than the German. It kept itself almost entirely within the domain of art, and did not carry out its principles with German thoroughness and consistency into politics and religion. It made no efforts towards a practical restoration of the Middle Ages. At the beginning, indeed, French romanticism exhibited something analogous to the Toryism of Scott, and the reactionary Junkerism and neo-Catholicism of the Schlegels. Chateaubriand in his "Genie du Christianisme" attempted a sort of aesthetic revival of Catholic Christianity, which had suffered so heavily by the deistic teachings of the last century and the atheism of the Revolution. Victor Hugo began in his "Odes et Ballades" (1822) as an enthusiastic adherent of monarchy and the church. "L'histoire des hommes," he wrote, "ne presente de poesie que jugee du haut des idees monarchiques et religieuses." But he advanced quite rapidly towards liberalism both in politics and religion. And of the young men who surrounded him, like Gautier, Labrunie, Sainte-Beuve, Musset, De Vigny, and others, it can only be affirmed that they were legitimist or republican, Catholic or agnostic, just as it happened and without affecting their fidelity to the literary canons of the new school.[3] The German romanticism was philosophical; the French was artistic and social. The Parisian ateliers as well as the Parisian salons were nuclei of revolt against classical traditions. "This intermixture of art with poetry," says Gautier,[4] "was and remains one of the characteristic marks of the new school, and enables us to understand why its earliest recruits were found more among artists than among men of letters. A multitude of objects, images, comparisons, which were believed to be irreducible to words, entered into the language and have stayed there. The sphere of literature was enlarged, and now includes the sphere of art in its measureless circle." "At that time painting and poetry fraternised. The artists read the poets and the poets visited the artists. Shakspere, Dante, Goethe, Lord Byron, and Walter Scott were to be found in the studio as in the study. There were as many splotches of colour as of ink on the margins of those beautiful volumes that were so incessantly thumbed. Imaginations, already greatly excited by themselves, were heated to excess by the reading of those foreign writings of a colouring so rich, of a fancy so free and so strong. Enthusiasm mounted to delirium. It seemed as if we had discovered poetry, and that was indeed the truth. Now that this fine flame has cooled and that the positive-minded generation which possesses the world is preoccupied with other ideas, one cannot imagine what dizziness, what eblouissement was produced in us by such and such a picture or poem, which people nowadays are satisfied to approve by a slight nod of the head. It was so new, so unexpected, so lively, so glowing!" [5]

The romantic school in France had not only its poets, dramatists, and critics, but its painters, architects, sculptors, musical composers, and actors. The romantic artist par excellence was Eugene Delacroix, the painter of "The Crusaders Entering Jerusalem." "The Greeks and Romans had been so abused by the decadent school of David that they fell into complete disrepute at this time. Delacroix's first manner was purely romantic, that is to say, he borrowed nothing from the recollections or the forms of the antique. The subjects that he treated were relatively modern, taken from the history of the Middle Ages, from Dante, Shakspere, Goethe, Lord Byron, or Walter Scott." He painted "Hamlet," "The Boat of Dante," "Tasso in Bedlam," "Marino Faliero," "The Death of Sardanapalus," "The Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha," "The Massacre of the Bishop of Liege," and similar subjects. Goethe in his conversations with Eckerman expressed great admiration of Delacroix's interpretations of scenes in "Faust" (the brawl in Auerbach's cellar, and the midnight ride of Faust and Mephistopheles to deliver Margaret from prison). Goethe hoped that the French artist would go on and reproduce the whole of "Faust," and especially the sorceress' kitchen and the scenes on the Brocken. Other painters of the romantic school were Camille Roqueplan, who treated motives drawn from "The Antiquary" and other novels of Walter Scott;[6] and Eugene Deveria, whose "Birth of Henry IV.," executed in 1827, when the artist was only twenty-two years of age, was a masterpiece of colouring and composition. The house of the Deveria brothers was one of the rallying points of the Parisian romanticists. And then there was Louis Boulanger, who painted "Mazeppa" and "The Witches' Sabbath" ("La Ronde du Sabbat" [7]); and the water-colour painter and engraver, Celestin Nanteuil, who furnished innumerable designs for vignettes, frontispieces, and book illustrations to the writers of the romantic school.

"Of all the arts," says Gautier, "the one that lends itself least to the expression of the romantic idea is certainly sculpture. It seems to have received from antiquity its definitive form. . . . What can the statuary art do without the gods and heroes of mythology who furnish it with plausible pretexts for the nude, and for such drapery as it needs; things which romanticism prescribes, or did at least prescribe at that time of its first fervour? Every sculptor is of necessity a classic." [8] Nevertheless, he says that the romantic school was not quite unprovided of sculptors. "In our inner circle (cenacle), Jehan du Seigneur represented this art, austere and rebellious to the fancy. . . . Jehan du Seigneur—let us leave in his name of Jean this mediaeval h which made him so happy and made him believe that he wore the apron of Ervein of Steinbach at work on the sculptures of Strasburg minster." Gautier mentions among the productions of this Gothic-minded statuary an "Orlando Furioso," a bust of Victor Hugo, and a group from the latter's romance, "Notre Dame de Paris," the gipsy girl Esmeralda giving a drink to the humpback Quasimodo. It was the endeavour of the new school, in the arts of design as well as in literature, to introduce colour, novelty, picturesqueness, character. They studied the great Venetian and Flemish colourists, neglected under the reign of David, and "in the first moments of their fury against le poncif classique, they seemed to have adopted the theory of art of the witches in 'Macbeth'—Fair is foul and foul is fair",[9] i.e., they neglected a traditional beauty in favour of the characteristic. "They sought the true, the new, the picturesque perhaps more than the ideal; but this reaction was certainly permissible after so many Ajaxes, Achilleses, and Philocteteses."

It is not quite so easy to understand what is meant by romanticism in music as in literature. But Gautier names a number of composers as adhering to the romantic school, among others, Hippolyte Monpon, who set to music "the leaping metres, the echo-rimes, the Gothic counter-points of Hugo's 'Odes et Ballades' and songs like Musset's 'L'Andalouse'—

"'Avez vous vu dans Barcelone,'

"He believed like us in serenades, alcaldes, mantillas, castinets; in all that Italy and that Spain, a trifle conventional, which was brought into fashion by the author of 'Don Paez,' of 'Portia,' and of the 'Marchioness of Amalgui,' . . . 'Gastibelza, the Man with the Carabine,' and that guitar, so profoundly Spanish, of Victor Hugo, had inspired Monpon with a savage, plaintive air, of a strange character, which long remained popular, and which no romanticist—if any such is left—has forgotten." A greater name than Monpon was Hector Berlioz, the composer of "Romeo and Juliette" and "The Damnation of Faust." Gautier says that Berlioz represented the romantic idea in music, by virtue of his horror of common formulas, his breaking away from old models, the complex richness of his orchestration, his fidelity to local colour (whatever that may mean in music), his desire to make his art express what it had never expressed before, "the tumultuous and Shaksperian depth of the passions, reveries amorous or melancholy, the longings and demands of the soul, the indefinite and mysterious feelings which words cannot render." Berlioz was a passionate lover of German music and of the writings of Shakspere, Goethe, and Scott. He composed overtures to "Waverley," "King Lear," and "Rob Roy"; a cantata on "Sardanapalus," and music for the ghost scene in "Hamlet" and for Goethe's ballad, "The Fisher." He married an English actress whom he had seen in the parts of Ophelia, Portia, and Cordelia. Berlioz en revanche was better appreciated in Germany than in France, where he was generally considered mad; where his "Symphonic fantastique" produced an effect analogous to that of the first pieces of Richard Wagner; and where "the symphonies of Beethoven were still thought barbarous, and pronounced by the classicists not to be music, any more than the verses of Victor Hugo were poetry, or the pictures of Delacroix painting." And finally there were actors and actresses who came to fill their roles in the new romantic dramas, of whom I need mention only Madame Dorval, who took the part of Hugo's Marion Delorme. What Gautier tells us of her is significant of the art that she interpreted, that her acting was by sympathy, rather than calculation; that it was intensely emotional; that she owed nothing to tradition; her tradition was essentially modern, dramatic rather than tragic.[10]

Romanticism in France was, in a more special sense than in Germany and England, an effort for freedom, passion, originality, as against rule, authority, convention. "Romanticism," says Victor Hugo,[11] "so many times poorly defined, is nothing else than liberalism in literature. . . . Literary liberty is the child of political liberty. . . . After so many great things which our fathers have done and which we have witnessed, here we are, issued forth from old forms of society; why should we not issue out of the old forms of poetry? A new people, a new art. While admiring the literature of Louis XIV., so well adapted to his monarchy, France will know how to have its own literature, peculiar, personal, and national—this actual France, this France of the nineteenth century to which Mirabeau has given its freedom and Napoleon its power." And again:[12] "What I have been pleading for is the liberty of art as against the despotism of systems, codes, and rules. It is my habit to follow at all hazards what I take for inspiration, and to change the mould as often as I change the composition. Dogmatism in the arts is what I avoid above all things. God forbid that I should aspire to be of the number of those, either romantics or classics, who make works according to their system; who condemn themselves never to have more than one form in mind, to always be proving something, to follow any other laws than those of their organization and of their nature. The artificial work of such men as those, whatever talents they may possess, does not exist for art. It is a theory, not a poetry." It is manifest that a literary reform undertaken in this spirit would not long consent to lend itself to the purposes of political or religious reaction, or to limit itself to any single influence like mediaevalism, but would strike out freely in a multitude of directions; would invent new forms and adapt old ones to its material, and would become more and more modern, various, and progressive. And such, in fact, was the history of Victor Hugo's intellectual development and of the whole literary movement in France which began with him and with De Stendhal (Henri Beyle). This assertion of the freedom of the individual artist was naturally accompanied with certain extravagances. "To develop freely all the caprices of thought," says Gautier,[13] "even if they shocked taste, convention, and rule, to hate and repel to the utmost what Horace calls the profanum vulgus, and what the moustached and hairy rapins call grocers, philistines, or bourgeois; to celebrate love with warmth enough to burn the paper (that they wrote on); to set it up as the only end and only means of happiness; to sanctify and deify art, regarded as a second creator; such are the donnees of the programme which each sought to realise according to his strength; the ideal and the secret postulations of the young romanticists."

Inasmuch as the French romantic school, even more than the English and the German, was a breach with tradition and an insurrection against existing conditions, it will be well to notice briefly what the particular situation was which the romanticists in France confronted. "To understand what this movement was and what it did," says Saintsbury,[14] "we must point out more precisely what were the faults of the older literature, and especially of the literature of the late eighteenth century. They were, in the first place, an extremely impoverished vocabulary, no recourse being had to the older tongue for picturesque archaisms, and little welcome being given to new phrases, however appropriate and distinct. In the second place, the adoption, especially in poetry, of an exceedingly conventional method of speech, describing everything where possible by an elaborate periphrasis, and avoiding direct and simple terms. Thirdly, in all forms of literature, but especially in poetry and drama, the acceptance for almost every kind of work of cut-and-dried patterns,[15] to which it was bound to conform. We have already pointed out that this had all but killed the tragic drama, and it was nearly as bad in the various accepted forms of poetry, such as fables, epistles, odes, etc. Each piece was expected to resemble something else, and originality was regarded as a mark of bad taste and insufficient culture. Fourthly, the submission to a very limited and very arbitrary system of versification, adapted only to the production of tragic alexandrines, and limiting even that form of verse to one monotonous model. Lastly, the limitation of the subject to be treated to a very few classes and kinds." If to this description be added a paragraph from Gautier's "Histoire du Romantisme," we shall have a sufficient idea of the condition of French literature and art before the appearance of Victor Hugo's "Odes et Ballades" (1826). "One cannot imagine to what a degree of insignificance and paleness literature had come. Painting was not much better. The last pupils of David were spreading their wishywashy colours over the old Graeco-Roman patterns. The classicists found that perfectly beautiful; but in the presence of these masterpieces, their admiration could not keep them from putting their hands before their mouths to cover a yawn; a circumstance, however, that failed to make them any more indulgent to the artists of the new school, whom they called tattooed savages and accused of painting with a drunken broom." One is reminded by Mr. Saintsbury's summary of many features which we have observed in the English academicism of the eighteenth century; the impoverished vocabulary, e.g., which makes itself evident in the annotations on the text of Spenser and other old authors; the horror of common terms, and the constant abuse of the periphrasis—the "gelid cistern," the "stercoraceous heap," the "spiculated palings," and the "shining leather that encased the limb." And the heroic couplet in English usage corresponds very closely to the French alexandrine. In their dissatisfaction with the paleness and vagueness of the old poetic diction, and the monotony of the classical verse, the new school innovated boldly, introducing archaisms, neologisms, and all kinds of exotic words and popular locutions, even argot or Parisian slang; and trying metrical experiments of many sorts. Gautier mentions in particular one Theophile Dondey (who, after the fashion of the school, anagrammatised his name into Philothee O'Neddy) as presenting this caractere d'outrance et de tension. "The word paroxyste, employed for the first time by Nestor Roqueplan, seems to have been invented with an application to Philothee. Everything is pousse in tone, high-coloured, violent, carried to the utmost limits of expression, of an aggressive originality, almost dripping with the unheard-of (ruissilant d'inouisme); but back of the double-horned paradoxes, sophistical maxims, incoherent metaphors, swoln hyperboles, and words six feet long, are the poetic feeling of the time and the harmony of rhythm." One hears much in the critical writings of that period, of the mot propre, the vers libre, and the rime brise. It was in tragedy especially that the periphrasis reigned most tyrannically, and that the introduction of the mot propre, i.e., of terms that were precise, concrete, familiar, technical even, if needful, horrified the classicists. It was beneath the dignity of the muse—the elegant muse of the Abbe Delille—Hugo tells us, to speak naturally. "She underlines," in sign of disapprobation, "the old Corneille for his way of saying crudely

"'Ah, ne me brouillez pas avec la republique.'

"She still has heavy on her heart his Tout beau, monsieur. And many a seigneur and many a madame was needed to make her forgive our admirable Racine his chiens so monosyllabic. . . . History in her eyes is in bad tone and taste. How, for example, can kings and queens who swear be tolerated? They must be elevated from their royal dignity to the dignity of tragedy. . . . It is thus that the king of the people (Henri IV.) polished by M. Legouve, has seen his ventre-saint-gris shamefully driven from his mouth by two sentences, and has been reduced, like the young girl in the story, to let nothing fall from this royal mouth, but pearls, rubies, and sapphires—all of them false, to say the truth." It seems incredible to an Englishman, but it is nevertheless true that at the first representations of "Hernani" in 1830, the simple question and answer

"Est il minuit?—Minuit bientot"

raised a tempest of hisses and applause, and that the opposing factions of classics and romantics "fought three days over this hemistich. It was thought trivial, familiar, out of place; a king asks what time it is like a common citizen, and is answered, as if he were a farmer, midnight. Well done! Now if he had only used some fine periphrasis, e.g.:

"——l'heure Atteindra bientot sa derniere demeure.[16]

"If they could not away with definite words in the verse, they endured very impatiently, too, epithets, metaphors, comparisons, poetic words—lyricism, in short; those swift escapes into nature, those soarings of the soul above the situation, those openings of poetry athwart drama, so frequent in Shakspere, Calderon, and Goethe, so rare in our great authors of the eighteenth century." Gautier gives, as one reason for the adherence of so many artists to the romantic school, the circumstance that, being accustomed to a language freely intermixed with technical terms, the mot propre had nothing shocking for them; while their special education as artists having put them into intimate relation with nature, "they were prepared to feel the imagery and colours of the new poetry and were not at all repelled by the precise and picturesque details so disagreeable to the classicists. . . . You cannot imagine the storms that broke out in the parterre of the Theatre Francais, when the 'Moor of Venice,' translated by Alfred de Vigny, grinding his teeth, reiterated his demands for that handkerchief (mouchoir) prudently denominated bandeau (head-band, fillet) in the vague Shakspere imitation of the excellent Ducis. A bell was called 'the sounding brass'; the sea was 'the humid element,' or 'the liquid element,' and so on. The professors of rhetoric were thunderstruck by the audacity of Racine, who in the 'Dream of Athalie' had spoken of dogs as dogs—molossi would have been better—and they advised young poets not to imitate this license of genius. Accordingly the first poet who wrote bell (cloche) committed an enormity; he exposed himself to the risk of being cut by his friends and excluded from society." [17]

As to the alexandrine, the recognised verse of French tragedy, Victor Hugo tells us,[18] that many of the reformers, wearied by its monotony, advocated the writing of plays in prose. He makes a plea, however, for the retention of the alexandrine, giving it greater richness and suppleness by the displacement of the caesura, and the free use of enjambement or run-over lines; just as Leigh Hunt and Keats broke up the couplets of Pope into a freer and looser form of verse. "Hernani" opened with an enjambement

"Serait ce deja lui? C'est bien a l'escalier Derobe."

This was a signal of fight—a challenge to the classicists—and the battle began at once, with the very first lines of the play.[19] In his dramas Hugo used the alexandrine, but in his lyric poems, his wonderful resources as a metrist were exhibited to the utmost in the invention of the most bizarre, eccentric, and original verse forms. An example of this is the poem entitled "The Djinns" included in "Les Orientales" (1829). The coming and going of the flying cohort of spirits is indicated by the crescendo effect of the verse, beginning with a stanza in lines of two syllables, rising gradually to the middle stanza of the poem in lines of ten syllables, and then dying away by exactly graded diminutions to the final stanza:

"On doute La nuit— J'ecoute Tout fuit, Tout passe: L'espace Efface Le bruit." [20]

But the earlier volume of "Odes et Ballades" (1826) offers many instances of metrical experiments hardly less ingenious. In "La Chasse du Burgrave" every rime is followed by an echo word, alike in sound but different in sense:

"Il part, et Madame Isabelle, Belle, Dit gaiement du haut des remparts: 'Pars!' Tous las chasseurs sont dans la plaine, Pleine D'ardents seigneurs, de senechaux Chauds."

The English reader is frequently reminded by Hugo's verses of the queer, abrupt, and outre measures, and fantastic rimes of Robert Browning. Compare with the above, e.g., his "Love among the Ruins."

"Where the quiet coloured end of evening smiles Miles and miles On the solitary pastures where our sheep, Half asleep," etc.

From the fact, already pointed out, that the romantic movement in France was, more emphatically than in England and Germany, a breach with the native literary tradition, there result several interesting peculiarities. The first of these is that the new French school, instead of fighting the classicists with weapons drawn from the old arsenal of mediaeval France, went abroad for allies; went especially to the modern writers of England and Germany. This may seem strange when we reflect that French literature in the Middle Ages was the most influential in Europe; and that, from the old heroic song of Roland in the eleventh century down to the very popular court allegory, the "Roman de la Rose", in the fourteenth, and to the poems of Villon in the fifteenth, it afforded a rich treasure-house of romantic material in the shape of chronicles, chansons de geste, romans d'aventures, fabliaux, lais, legends of saints, homilies, miracles, songs, farces, jeuspartis, pastourelles, ballades—of all the literary forms in fact which were then cultivated. Nor was this mass of work entirely without influence on the romanticists of 1830. Theophile Dondey, wrote a poem on Roland, and Gerard de Nerval (Labrunie) hunted up the old popular songs and folklore of Touraine and celebrated their naivete and truly national character. Attention was directed to the Renaissance group of poets who preceded the Louis XIV. writers—to Ronsard and "The Pleiade." Later the Old French Text Society was founded for the preservation and publication of mediaeval remains. But in general the innovating school sought their inspiration in foreign literatures. Antony Deschamps translated the "Inferno"; Alfred de Vigny translated "Othello" as the "Moor of Venice" (1829), and wrote a play on the story of Chatterton,[21] and a novel, "Cinq Mars," which is the nearest thing in French literature to the historical romances of Scott.[22] Chateaubriand and Victor Hugo were both powerfully impressed by Macpherson's "Ossian." Gerard de Nerval made, at the age of eighteen, a translation of "Faust" (1828), which Goethe read with admiration, and wrote to the translator, saying that he had never before understood his own meaning so well. "It was a difficult task at that time," says Gautier, "to render into our tongue, which had become excessively timid, the bizarre and mysterious beauties of this ultra-romantic drama. . . . From his familiarity with Goethe, Uhland, Buerger and L. Tieck, Gerard retained in his turn of mind a certain dreamy tinge which sometimes made his own works seem like translations of unknown poets beyond the Rhine. . . . The sympathies and the studies of Gerard de Nerval drew him naturally towards Germany, which he often visited and where he made fruitful sojourns; the shadow of the old Teutonic oak hovered more than once above his brow with confidential murmurs; he walked under the lindens with their heart-shaped leaves; on the margin of fountains he saluted the elf whose white robe trails a hem bedewed by the green grass; he saw the ravens circling around the mountain of Kyffhausen; the kobolds came out before him from the rock clefts of the Hartz, and the witches of the Brocken danced their grand Walpurgisnight round about the young French poet, whom they took for a Jena student. . . . He knows how to blow upon the postillion's horn,[23] the enchanted melodies of Achim von Arnim and Clement Brentano; and if he stops at the threshold of an inn embowered in hop vines, the Schoppen becomes in his hands the cup of the King of Thule." Among the French romanticists of Hugo's circle there was a great enthusiasm for wild German ballads like Buerger's "Lenore" and Goethe's "Erl-King." The translation of A. W. Schlegel's "Vorlesungen ueber Dramatische Kunst und Litteratur," by Madame Necker de Saussure, in 1814, was doubtless the first fruits of Madame de Stael's "Allemagne," published the year before. Gautier himself and his friend Augustus Mac-Keat (Auguste Maguet) collaborated in a drama founded on Byron's "Parisina." "Walter Scott was then in the full flower of his success. People were being initiated into the mysteries of Goethe's 'Faust,' . . . and discovering Shakspere under the translation, a little dressed up, of Letourneur; and the poems of Lord Byron, 'The Corsair,' 'Lara,' 'The Giaour,' 'Manfred,' 'Beppo,' 'Don Juan,' were coming to us from the Orient, which had not yet grown commonplace." Gautier said that in le petit cenacle—the inner circle of the initiated—if you admired Racine more than Shakspere and Calderon, it was an opinion that you would do well to keep to yourself. "Toleration is not the virtue of neophytes." As for himself, who had set out as a painter—and only later deviated into letters—he was all for the Middle Ages: "An old iron baron, feudal, ready to take refuge from the encroachments of the time, in the castle of Goetz von Berlichingen." Of Bouchardy, the extraordinary author of "Le Sonneur de Saint Paul," who "was to Hugo what Marlowe was to Shakspere"—and who was playfully accused of making wooden models of the plots of his melodramas—Gautier says that he "planned his singular edifice in advance, like a castle of Anne Radcliffe, with donjon, turrets, underground chambers, secret passages, corkscrew stairs, vaulted halls, mysterious closets, hiding places in the thickness of the walls, oubliettes, charnel-houses, crypts where his heroes and heroines were to meet later on, to love, hate, fight, set ambushes, assassinate, or marry. . . . He cut masked doors in the walls for his expected personage to appear through, and trap doors in the floor for him to disappear through."

The reasons for this resort to foreign rather than native sources of inspiration are not far to seek. The romantic movement in France was belated; it was twenty or thirty years behind the similar movements in England and Germany. It was easier and more natural for Stendhal or Hugo to appeal to the example of living masters like Goethe and Scott, whose works went everywhere in translation and who held the ear of Europe, than to revive an interest all at once in Villon or Guillaume de Lorris or Chrestien de Troyes. Again, in no country had the divorce between fashionable and popular literature been so complete as in France; in none had so thick and hard a crust of classicism overlain the indigenous product of the national genius. It was not altogether easy for Bishop Percy in 1765 to win immediate recognition from the educated class for Old English minstrelsy; nor for Herder and Buerger in 1770 to do the same thing for the German ballads. In France it would have been impossible before the Bourbon restoration of 1815. In England and in Germany, moreover, the higher literature had always remained more closely in touch with the people. In both of those countries the stock of ballad poetry and folklore was much more extensive and important than in France, and the habit of composing ballads lasted later. The only French writers of the classical period who produced anything at all analogous to the German "Maehrchen" were Charles Perrault, who published between 1691-97 his famous fairy tales, including "Blue Beard," "The Sleeping Beauty," "Little Red Riding-Hood," "Cinderella," and "Puss in Boots"; and the Countess d'Aulnoy (died 1720), whose "Yellow Dwarf" and "White Cat" belong to the same department of nursery tales.[24]

A curious feature of French romanticism was the way in which the new-found liberty of art asserted itself in manners, costume, and personal habits. Victor Hugo himself was scrupulously correct and subdued in dress, but his young disciples affected bright colours and rich stuffs. They wore Spanish mantillas, coats with large velvet lapels, pointed doublets or jerkins of satin or damask velvet in place of the usual waistcoat, long hair after the Merovingian fashion, and pointed beards. We have seen that Shenstone was regarded as an eccentric, and perhaps somewhat dangerous, person when at the university, because he wore his own hair instead of a wig. In France, half a century later, not only the perruque, but the menton glabre was regarded as symptomatic of the classicist and the academician; while the beard became a badge of romanticism. At the beginning of the movement, Gautier informs us, "there were only two full beards in France, the beard of Eugene Deveria and the beard of Petrus Borel. To wear them required a courage, a coolness, and a contempt for the crowd truly heroic. . . . It was the fashion then is the romantic school to be pale, livid, greenish, a trifle cadaverous, if possible. It gave one an air of doom, Byronic, giaourish, devoured by passion and remorse." It will be remembered that the rolling Byronic collar, open at the throat, was much affected at one time by young persons of romantic temperament in England; and that the conservative classes, who adhered to the old-fashioned stock and high collar, looked askance upon these youthful innovators as certainly atheists and libertines, and probably enemies to society—would-be corsairs or banditti. It is interesting, therefore, to discover that in France, too, the final touch of elegance among the romantics was not to have any white linen in evidence; the shirt collar, in particular, being "considered as a mark of the grocer, the bourgeois, the philistine." A certain gilet rouge which Gautier wore when he led the claque at the first performance of "Hernani" has become historic. This flamboyant garment—a defiance and a challenge to the academicians who had come to hiss Hugo's play—was, in fact, a pourpoint or jerkin of cherry-coloured satin, cut in the shape of a Milanese cuirass, pointed, busked, and arched in front, and fastened behind the back with hooks and eyes. From the imperturbable disdain with which the wearer faced the opera-glasses and laughter of the assembly it was evident that it would not have taken much urging to induce him to come to the second night's performance decked in a daffodil waistcoat.[25] The young enthusiasts of le petit cenacle carried their Byronism so far that, in imitation of the celebrated revels at Newstead, they used to drink from a human skull in their feasts at le Petit Moulin Rouge. It had belonged to a drum-major, and Gerard de Nerval got it from his father, who had been an army surgeon. One of the neophytes, in his excitement, even demanded that it be filled with sea water instead of wine, in emulation of the hero of Victor Hugo's novel, "Han d'Islande," who "drank the water of the seas in the skull of the dead." Another caput mortuum stood on Hugo's mantelpiece in place of a clock.[26] "If it did not tell the hour, at least it made us think of the irreparable flight of time. It was the verse of Horace translated into romantic symbolism." There was a decided flavour of Bohemianism about the French romantic school, and the spirit of the lives which many of them led may best be studied in Merger's classic, "La Vie de Boheme." [27]

As another special feature of French romanticism, we may note the important part taken by the theatre in the history of the movement. The stage was the citadel of classical prejudice, and it was about it that the fiercest battles were fought. The climacteric year was 1830, in which year Victor Hugo's tragedy, "Hernani, or Castilian Honour," was put on at the Theatre Francais on February 25th, and ran for thirty nights. The representation was a fight between the classics and the romantics, and there was almost a mob in the theatre. The dramatic censorship under Charles X., though strict, was used in the interest of political rather than aesthetic orthodoxy. But it is said that some of the older Academicians actually applied to the king to forbid the acting of "Hernani." Gautier has given a mock-heroic description of this famous literary battle quorum pars magna fuit. He had received from his college friend, Gerard de Nerval—who had been charged with the duty of drumming up recruits for the Hugonic claque—six tickets to be distributed only to tried friends of the cause—sure men and true. The tickets themselves were little squares of red paper, stamped in the corner with a mysterious countersign—the Spanish word hierro, iron, not only symbolizing the hero of the drama, but hinting that the ticket-holder was to bear himself in the approaching fray frankly, bravely, and faithfully like the sword. The proud recipient of these tokens of confidence gave two of them to a couple of artists—ferocious romantics, who would gladly have eaten an Academician, if necessary; two he gave to a brace of young poets who secretly practised la rime riche, le mot propre, and la metaphore exacte: the other two he reserved for his cousin and himself. The general attitude of the audience on the first nights was hostile, "two systems, two parties, two armies, two civilizations even—it is not saying too much—confronted one another, . . . and it was not hard to see that yonder young man with long hair found the smoothly shaved gentleman opposite a disastrous idiot; and that he would not long be at pains to conceal his opinion of him." The classical part of the audience resented the touches of Spanish local colour in the play, the mixture of pleasantries and familiar speeches with the tragic dialogue, and of heroism and savagery in the character of Hernani, and they made all manner of fun of the species of pun—de ta suite, j'en suis—which terminated the first act. "Certain lines were captured and recaptured, like disputed redoubts, by each army with equal obstinacy. On one day the romantics would carry a passage, which the enemy would retake the next day, and from which it became necessary to dislodge them. What uproar, what cries, cat-calls, hisses, hurricanes of bravos, thunders of applause! The heads of parties blackguarded each other like Homer's heroes before they came to blows. . . . For this generation 'Hernani' was what the 'Cid' was for the contemporaries of Corneille. All that was young, brave, amorous, poetic, caught the inspiration of it. Those fine exaggerations, heroic, Castilian, that superb Spanish emphasis; that language so proud and high even in its familiarity, those images of a dazzling strangeness, threw us into an ecstasy and intoxicated us with their heady poetry." The victory in the end was with the new school. Musset, writing in 1838, says that the tragedies of Corneille and Racine had disappeared from the French stage for ten years.

Another triumphant battlefield—a veritable fete romantique—was the first representation in 1831 of Alexandre Dumas' "Anthony." "It was an agitation, a tumult, an effervescence. . . . The house was actually delirious; it applauded, sobbed, wept, shouted. A certain famous green coat was torn from the author's back and rent into shreds by his too ardent admirers, who wanted pieces of it for memorabilia." [28]

The English reader who hears of the stubborn resistance offered to the performance of 'Hernani' will naturally suppose that there must have been something about it contrary to public policy—some immorality, or some political references, at least, offensive to the government; and he will have a difficulty in understanding that the trouble was all about affairs purely literary. "Hernani" was fought because it violated the unities of place and time; because its hero was a Spanish bandit; because in the dialogue a spade was called a spade, and in the verse the lines overlap. The French are often charged with frivolity in matters of conduct, but to the discussion of matters of art they bring a most serious conscience. The scene in "Hernani" shifts from Saragossa to the castle of Don Ruy Gomez de Silva in the mountains of Arragon, and to the tomb of Charlemagne at Aix-la-Chapelle. The time of the action, though not precisely indicated, covers at least a number of months. The dialogue is, in many parts, nervous, simple, direct, abrupt; in others running into long tirades and soliloquies, rich with all the poetic resources of the greatest poet who has ever used the French tongue. The spirit of the drama, as well as its form, is romantic. The point of honour is pushed to a fantastic excess; all the characters display the most delicate chivalry, the noblest magnanimity, the loftiest Castilian pride. Don Ruy Gomez allows the King to carry off his bride, rather than yield up the outlaw who has taken refuge in his castle; and that although he has just caught this same outlaw paying court to this same bride, whose accepted lover he is. Hernani, not to be outdone in generosity, offers his life to his enemy and preserver, giving him his horn and promising to come to meet his death at its summons. There is the same fault here which is felt in Hugo's novels. Motives are exaggerated, the dramatis personae strut. They are rather over-dramatic in their poses—-melodramatic, in fact—and do unlikely things. But this fault is the fault of a great nature, grandeur exalted into grandiosity, till the heroes of these plays, "Hernani," "Marion Delorme," "Le Roi d'Amuse," loom and stalk across the scene like epic demigods of more than mortal stature and mortal passions. But Hugo was not only a great dramatist and a great poet, but a most clever playwright. "Hernani" is full of effective stage devices, crises in the action which make an audience hold its breath or shudder; moments of intense suspense like that in the third act, where the old hidalgo pauses before his own portrait, behind which the outlaw is hidden; or that in the fifth, where Hernani hears at first, faint and far away, the blast of the fatal horn that summons him to leave his bride at the altar and go to his death. The young romantics of the day all got "Hernani" by heart and used to rehearse it at their assemblies, each taking a part; and the famous trumpet, the cor d'Hernani, became a symbol and a rallying call.

No such scene would have been possible in an English playhouse as that which attended the first representation of "Hernani" at the Theatre Francais. For not only is an English audience comparatively indifferent to rules of art and canons of taste, but the unities had never prevailed in practice in England, though constantly recommended in theory. The French had no Shakspere, and the English no Academy. We may construct an imaginary parallel to such a scene if we will suppose that all reputable English tragedies from 1600 down to 1830 had been something upon the model of Addison's "Cato" and Johnson's "Irene", or better still upon the model of Dryden's heroic plays in rimed couplets; and that then a drama like "Romeo and Juliet" had been produced upon the boards of Drury Lane, and a warm spurt of romantic poetry suddenly injected into the icy current of classic declamation.

Having considered the chief points in which the French romantic movement differed from the similar movements in England and Germany, let us now glance at the history of its beginnings, and at the work of a few of its typical figures. The presentation of "Hernani" in 1830 was by no means the first overt act of the new school. Discussion had been going on for years in the press. De Stendhal says that the classicists had on their side two-thirds of the Academie Francaise, and all of the French journalists; that their leading organ, however, was the very influential Journal des Debats and its editor, M. Dussant, the general-in-chief of the classical party. The romanticists, however, were not without organs of their own; among which are especially mentioned Le Conservateur Litteraire, begun in 1819, Le Globe in 1824, and the Annales Romantiques in 1823, the last being "practically a kind of annual of the Muse Francaise (1823-24), which had pretty nearly the same contributors." All of these journals were Bourboniste, except Le Globe, which was liberal in politics.[29] The Academy denounced the new literary doctrine as a heresy and its followers as a sect, but it made head so rapidly that as early as 1829, a year before "Hernani" was acted, a "Histoire du Romantisme en France" appeared, written by a certain M. de Toreinx.[30] It agrees with other authorities in dating the beginning of the movement from Chateaubriand's "Le Genie du Christianisme" (1802). "Chateaubriand," says Gautier, "may be regarded as the grandfather, or, if you prefer it, the sachem of romanticism in France. In the 'Genius of Christianity' he restored the Gothic cathedral, in the 'Natchez' he reopened the sublimity of nature, which had been closed, in 'Rene' he invented melancholy and modern passion."

Sprung from an ancient Breton family, Chateaubriand came to America in 1790 with the somewhat singular and very French idea of travelling overland to the northwest passage. He was diverted from this enterprise, however, fell in with an Indian tribe and wandered about with them in the wilderness. He did not discover the north-west passage, but, according to Lowell, he invented the forest primeval. Chateaubriand gave the first full utterance to that romantic note which sounds so loudly in Byron's verse; the restless dissatisfaction with life as it is, the longing for something undefined and unattainable, the love for solitude and the desert, the "passion incapable of being converted into action"—in short, the maladie du siecle—since become familiar in "Childe Harold" and in Senancour's "Obermann." In one of the chapters[31] of "Le Genie du Christianisme" he gives an analysis of this modern melancholy, this Byronic satiety and discontent, which he says was unknown to the ancients. "The farther nations advance in civilization, the more this unsettled state of the passions predominates, for then our imagination is rich, abundant, and full of wonders; but our existence is poor, insipid, and destitute of charms. With a full heart we dwell in an empty world." "Penetrate into those forests of America coeval with the world; what profound silence pervades these retreats when the winds are husht! What unknown voices when they begin to rise! Stand still and everything is mute; take but a step and all nature sighs. Night approaches, the shades thicken; you hear herds of wild beasts passing in the dark; the ground murmurs under your feet; the pealing thunder rebellows in the deserts; the forest bows, the trees fall, an unknown river rolls before you. The moon at length bursts forth in the east; as you proceed at the foot of the trees, she seems to move before you on their tops and solemnly to accompany your steps. The wanderer seats himself on the trunk of an oak to await the return of day; he looks alternately at the nocturnal luminary, the darkness, and the river; he feels restless, agitated, and in expectation of something extraordinary; a pleasure never felt before, an unusual fear, cause his heart to throb, as if he were about to be admitted to some secret of the Divinity; he is alone in the depth of the forests, but the mind of man is equal to the expanse of nature, and all the solitudes of the earth are not too vast for the contemplations of his heart. There is in man an instinctive melancholy, which makes him harmonise with the scenery of nature. Who has not spent whole hours seated on the bank of a river, contemplating its passing waves? Who has not found pleasure on the seashore in viewing the distant rock whitened by the billows? How much are the ancients to be pitied, who discovered in the ocean naught but the palace of Neptune and the cavern of Proteus; it was hard that they should perceive only the adventures of the Tritons and the Nereids in the immensity of the seas, which seems to give an indistinct measure of the greatness of our souls, and which excites a vague desire to quit this life, that we may embrace all nature and taste the fulness of joy in the presence of its Author." [32]

The outbreak of the Revolution recalled Chateaubriand to France. He joined the army of the emigrees at Coblentz, was wounded at the siege of Thionville, and escaped into England where he lived (1793-1800) until the time of the Consulate, when he made his peace with Napoleon and returned to France. He had been a free-thinker, but was converted to Christianity by a dying message from his mother who was thrown into prison by the revolutionists. "I wept," said Chateaubriand, "and I believed." "Le Genie du Christianisme" was an expression of that reactionary feeling which drove numbers of Frenchmen back into the Church, after the blasphemies and horrors of the Revolution. It came out just when Napoleon was negotiating his Concordat with the Pope, and was trying to enlist the religious and conservative classes in support of his government; and it reinforced his purposes so powerfully that he appointed the author, in spite of his legitimism, to several diplomatic posts. "Le Genie du Christianisme" is indeed a plea for Christianity on aesthetic grounds—an attempt, as has been sneeringly said, to recommend Christianity by making it look pretty. Chateaubriand was not a close reasoner; his knowledge was superficial and inaccurate; his character was weakened by vanity and shallowness. He was a sentimentalist and a rhetorician, but one of the most brilliant of rhetoricians; while his sentiment, though not always deep or lasting, was for the nonce sufficiently sincere. He had in particular a remarkable talent for pictorial description; and his book, translated into many tongues, enjoyed an extraordinary vogue. The English version, made in 1815, was entitled "The Beauties of Christianity." For Chateaubriand undertook to show that the Christian religion had influenced favorably literature and the fine arts; that it was more poetical than any other system of belief and worship. He compared Homer and Vergil with Dante, Tasso, Milton, and other modern poets, and awarded the palm to the latter in the treatment of the elementary relations and stock characters, such as husband and wife, father and child, the priest, the soldier, the lover, etc.; preferring Pope's Eloisa, e.g., to Vergil's Dido, and "Paul and Virginia" to the idyls of Theocritus. He pronounced the Christian mythology—angels, devils, saints, miracles—superior to the pagan; and Dante's Hell much more impressive to the imagination than Tartarus. He dwelt eloquently upon the beauty and affecting significance of Gothic church architecture, of Catholic ritual and symbolism, the dress of the clergy, the crucifix, the organ, the church bell, the observances of Christian festivals, the monastic life, the orders of chivalry, the country churchyards where the dead were buried, and even upon the superstitions which the last century had laughed to scorn; such as the belief in ghosts, the adoration of relics, vows to saints and pilgrimages to holy places. In his chapter on "The Influence of Christianity upon Music," he says that the "Christian religion is essentially melodious for this single reason, that she delights in solitude"; the forests are her ancient abode, and her musician "ought to be acquainted with the melancholy notes of the waters and the trees; he ought to have studied the sound of the winds in cloisters, and those murmurs that pervade the Gothic temple, the grass of the cemetery, and the vaults of death." He repeats the ancient fable that the designers of the cathedrals were applying forest scenery to architecture; "Those ceilings sculptured into foliage of different kinds, those buttresses which prop the walls and terminate abruptly like the broken trunks of trees, the coolness of the vaults, the darkness of the sanctuary, the dim twilight of the aisles, the chapels resembling grottoes, the secret passages, the low doorways, in a word everything in a Gothic church reminds you of the labyrinths of a wood, everything excites a feeling of religious awe, of mystery, and of the Divinity." The birds perch upon the steeples and towers as if they were trees, and "the Christian architect, not content with building forests, has been desirous to retain their murmurs, and by means of the organ and of bells, he has attached to the Gothic temple the very winds and the thunders that roll in the recesses of the woods. Past ages, conjured up by these religious sounds, raise their venerable voices from the bosom of the stones and sigh in every corner of the vast cathedral. The sanctuary re-echoes like the cavern of the ancient Sibyl; loud-tongued bells swing over your head; while the vaults of death under your feet are profoundly silent." He praises the ideals of chivalry; gives a sympathetic picture of the training and career of a knight-errant, and asks: "Is there then nothing worthy of admiration in the times of a Roland, a Godfrey, a Coucey, and a Joinville; in the times of the Moors and the Saracens; . . . when the strains of the Troubadours were mingled with the clash of arms, dances with religious ceremonies, and banquets and tournaments with sieges and battles?" Chateaubriand says that the finest Gothic ruins are to be found in the English lake country, on the Scotch mountains, and in the Orkney Islands; and that they are more impressive than classic ruins because in the latter the arches are parallel with the curves of the sky, while in the Gothic or pointed architecture the arches "form a contrast with the circular arches of the sky and the curvatures of the horizon. The Gothic being, moreover, entirely composed of voids, the more readily admits of the decoration of herbage and flowers than the fulness of the Grecian orders. The clustered columns, the domes carved into foliage, or scooped out in the form of a fruit-basket, offered so many receptacles into which the winds carry, with the dust, the seeds of vegetables. The house-leek fixes itself in the mortar, the mosses cover rugged masses with their elastic coating; the thistle projects its brown burrs from the embrasure of a window; and the ivy creeping along the northern cloisters falls in festoons over the arches."

All this is romantic enough; we have the note of Catholic mediaevalism and the note of Ossianic melancholy combined; and this some years before "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," and when Byron was a boy of fourteen and still reading his Ossian.[33] But we are precluded from classifying Chateaubriand among full-fledged romanticists. His literary taste was by no means emancipated from eighteenth-century standards. In speaking of Milton, e.g., he says that if he had only been born in France in the reign of Louis XIV., and had "combined with the native grandeur of his genius the taste of Racine and Boileau," the "Paradise Lost" might have equalled the "Iliad."

Chateaubriand never called himself a romantic. It is agreed upon all hands that the expressions romantisme and litterature romantique were first invented or imported by Madame de Stael in her "L'Allemagne" (1813), "pour exprimer l'affranchissement des vieilles formes litteraires." [34] Some ten years later, or by 1823, when Stendhal published his "Racine et Shakspere," the issue between the schools had been joined and the question quite thoroughly agitated in the Parisian journals. Stendhal announced himself as an adherent of the new, but his temper was decidedly cool and unromantic. I have quoted his epigrammatic definition of romanticism.[35]

In this brochure Stendhal announces that France is on the eve of a literary revolution and that the last hour of classicism has struck, although as yet the classicists are in possession of the theatres, and of all the salaried literary positions under government; and all the newspapers of all shades of political opinion are shut to the romanticists. A company of English actors who attempted to give some of Shakspere's plays at the Porte-Saint-Martin in 1822 were mobbed. "The hisses and cat-calls began before the performance, of which it was impossible to hear a single word. As soon as the actors appeared they were pelted with apples and eggs, and from time to time the audience called out to them to talk French, and shouted, 'A bas Shakspere! c'est un aide de camp du duc de Wellington.'" It will be remembered that in our own day the first representations of Wagner's operas at Paris were interrupted with similar cries: "Pas de Wagner!," "A bas les Allemands!," etc.

In 1827 Kemble's company visited Paris and gave, in English, "Hamlet," "Romeo and Juliet," "Othello," and "The Merchant of Venice." Dumas went to see them and described the impression made upon him by Shakspere, in language identical with that which Goethe used about himself.[36] He was like a man born blind and suddenly restored to sight. Dumas' "Henry III." (1829), a drame in the manner of Shakspere's historical plays, though in prose, was the immediate result of this new vision. English actors were in Paris again in 1828 and 1829; and in 1835 Macready presented "Hamlet," "Othello," and "Henry IV." with great success. Previous to these performances, the only opportunities that the French public had to judge of Shakspere's dramas as acting plays were afforded by the wretched adaptations of Ducis and other stage carpenters. Ducis had read Shakspere only in Letourneur's very inadequate translation (revised by Guizot in 1821). His "Hamlet" was played in 1769; "Macbeth," 1784, "King John," 1791; "Othello" (turned into a comedy), 1792. Mercier's "Timon" was given in 1794; and Dejaure's "Imogenes"—an "arrangement" of "Cymbeline"—in 1796. The romanticists labored to put their countrymen in possession of better versions of Shakspere. Alfred de Vigny rendered "Othello" (1827), and Emile Deschamps, "Romeo and Juliet" and "Macbeth."

Stendhal interviewed a director of one of the French theatres and tried to persuade him that there would be money in it for any house which would have the courage to give a season of romantic tragedy. But the director, who seemed to be a liberal-minded man, assured him that until some stage manager could be found rich enough to buy up the dramatic criticism of the Constitutionnel and two or three other newspapers, the law students and medical students, who were under the influence of those journals, would never suffer the play to get as far as the third act. "If it were otherwise," he said, "don't you suppose that we would have tried Schiller's 'William Tell'? The police would have cut out a quarter of it; one of our adapters another quarter; and what was left would reach a hundred representations, provided it could once secure three."

To this the author replied that the immense majority of young society people had been converted to romanticism by the eloquence of M. Cousin.

"Sir," said the director, "your young society people don't go into the parterre to engage in fisticuffs [faire le coup de poing], and at the theatre, as in politics, we despise philosophers who don't fight." Stendhal adds that the editors of influential journals found their interest in this state of things, since many of them had pieces of their own on the stage, written of course in alexandrine verse and on the classic model; and what would become of these masterpieces if Talma should ever get permission to play in a prose translation of "Macbeth," abridged, say, one-third? "I said one day to one of these gentlemen, 28,000,000 men, i.e., 18,000,000 in England and 10,000,000 in America, admire 'Macbeth' and applaud it a hundred times a year. 'The English,' he answered me with great coolness, 'cannot have real eloquence or poetry truly admirable; the nature of their language, which is not derived from the Latin, makes it quite impossible.'" A great part of "Racine et Shakspere" is occupied with a refutation of the doctrine of the unities of time and place, and with a discussion of the real nature of dramatic illusion, on which their necessity was supposed to rest. Stendhal maintains that the illusion is really stronger in Shakspere's tragedies than in Racine's. It is not essential here to reproduce his argument, which is the same that is familiar to us in Lessing and in Coleridge, though he was an able controversialist, and his logic and irony give a freshness to the treatment of this hackneyed theme which makes his little treatise well worth the reading. To illustrate the nature of real stage illusion, he says that last year (August, 1822) a soldier in a Baltimore theatre, seeing Othello about to kill Desdemona, cried out, "It shall never be said that a damned nigger killed a white woman in my presence," and at the same moment fired his gun and broke an arm of the actor who was playing Othello. "Eh bien, this soldier had illusion: he believed that the action which was passing on the stage was true."

Stendhal proposes the following as a definition of romantic tragedy: "It is written in prose; the succession of events which it presents to the eyes of the spectators lasts several months, and they happen in different places." He complains that the French comedies are not funny, do not make any one laugh; and that the French tragic dialogue is epic rather than dramatic. He advises his readers to go and see Kean in "Richard" and "Othello"; and says that since reading Schlegel and Dennis (!) he has a great contempt for the French critics. He appeals to the usages of the German and English stage in disregarding the rules of Aristotle, and cites the great popularity of Walter Scott's romances, which, he says, are nothing more than romantic tragedies with long descriptions interspersed, to support his plea for a new kind of French prose-tragedy; for which he recommends subjects taken from national history, and especially from the mediaeval chroniclers like Froissart. Nevertheless, he does not advise the direct imitation of Shakspere. He blames Schiller for copying Shakspere, and eulogizes Werner's "Luther" as nearer to the masterpieces of Shakspere than Schiller's tragedies are. He wants the new French drama to resemble Shakspere only in dealing freely with modern conditions, as the latter did with the conditions of his time, without having the fear of Racine or any other authority before its eyes.

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