A Short History of French Literature, by George Saintsbury

Chapter 1.



The history of the poetry of the seventeenth century in France naturally and necessarily opens with Malherbe, though he was forty-five years old at its beginning, and considerably the senior of Regnier, who has been included among the poets of the Renaissance. François de Malherbe224 was born at Caen in 1555, being the eldest son of his father, another François de Malherbe, and both on the father's and mother's side of noble family. He was educated at his native town, in Germany and in Paris, and when he was twenty-one he entered the army. He married in 1581, and had three children, two of whom died young — a circumstance not immaterial in connection with his most famous poem, which is a 'Consolation' to a certain M. du Périer, whose daughter Marguerite had died in her youth. He seems to have written verses tolerably early, but, exercising on himself the same rigid principles of criticism which he applied to others, he preserved none or hardly any of them. It was not till he was past forty that his best-known poems were written, and the whole amount of his surviving work is not large. During the first two-thirds of his life he was not rich, for his patrimony was scanty, and the death of the Grand Prior, Henri d'Angoulême, to whom he had attached himself, deprived him of the chances of preferment. But in 1605 he was presented to Henri IV.; he soon afterwards received various places, and for more than twenty years was a court favourite, and in a way the autocrat of poetry. He died in 1628.

It has been said that Malherbe's poetical work is by no means voluminous: a small volume of two hundred pages, not very closely or minutely printed, contains it all; and ingenious persons have calculated that as a rule he did not write more than four or five verses a month. Nor even of this carefully produced, and still more carefully weeded, result is there much that can be read with pleasure by a modern student of poetry. The verse by which Malherbe is best known,

Et, rose, elle a vécu ce que vivent les roses,

is worth all the rest of his work, and it can hardly be said to be more than a very graceful and touching conceit. But Malherbe's position in the history of French poetry is a very important one. He deliberately assumed the functions of a reformer of literature; and whatever may be thought of the result of his reforms, their durability and the almost entire acquiescence with which they were received prove that there must have been something in them remarkably germane to the spirit and taste and genius of the nation. His first attempt was the overthrow of the Pléiade. He ridiculed their phraseology, frowned on their metres, and, being himself destitute of the romantic inspiration which had animated them, set himself to reduce poetry to carefully-worded metrical prose. The story is always told of him that he went minutely through a copy of Ronsard, striking out whatever he disapproved of; and when some one pointed out the mass of lines that were left, that he drew his pen (presumably across the title-page, for it is not obvious how else he could have done it) through the rest at one stroke. The insolent folly of this is glaring enough, for Malherbe is not worthy as a poet to unloose the shoe-latchet of Ronsard. But the critic had rightly appreciated his time. The tendency of the French seventeenth century in poetry proper was towards the restriction of vocabulary and rhythm, the avoidance of original and daring metaphor and suggestion, the perfecting of a few metres (with the Alexandrine at their head) into a delicate but monotonous harmony, and the rejection of individual licence in favour of rigid rule. The influence of Boileau came rapidly to second that of Malherbe, and the result is that not a single poet — the dramatists are here excluded — of the seventeenth century in France deserves more than fair second-class rank. La Fontaine, indeed, was a writer of the greatest genius, but, though the form which his work takes is metrical, the highest merits of poetry proper are absent. La Fontaine, too, was himself, though an admirer of Malherbe, a rebel to the Malherbe tradition, and delighted both in reading and imitating the work of the Renaissance and the middle ages. But he is always clear, precise, and matter-of-fact in the midst of fancy, never attaining to the peculiar vague suggestiveness which constitutes the charm of poetry proper.

The School of Malherbe.
Vers de Société.

It was, however, impossible that so large a change should accomplish itself at once, and signs of mixed influences appear accordingly in all the poetical work of the first half of the century. Cardinal du Perron, Malherbe's introducer at court, was himself a poet of merit, but rather in the Pléiade style. His Temple de l'Inconstance, though rougher in form, is more poetical in substance than anything, save a very few pieces, of Malherbe's. Chassignet displayed some of the same characteristics with a graver and more elegiac spirit. Gombaud is chiefly remarkable as a sonneteer. The two most famous of the actual pupils of Malherbe were Maynard and Racan. Maynard was a diplomatist and lawyer of rank, who was born at Toulouse in 1582, and died in 1646. His work is miscellaneous, and not very extensive, but it shows that he had learned the secret of polished versification from Malherbe, and that he was able to apply it with a good deal of vigour and of variety. Honorat de Bueil, Marquis de Racan225, was the author of a pastoral drama, Les Bergeries, founded on, or imitated from, the Astrée of D'Urfé, of an elaborate version of the Psalms, and of a considerable number of the miscellaneous poems, stances, odes, épitres, etc., which were fashionable. Racan, though his amiable private character and the compliance of his principal work with a fashionable folly of the time have caused him to be somewhat over-estimated traditionally, was a thoroughly pleasing poet, with a great command of fluent and melodious verse, a genuine love of nature, and occasionally a power of producing poetry of a true kind which was shared by few of his contemporaries. The remarkable author of Tyr et Sidon, Jean de Schélandre, produced, besides his play, a considerable number of miscellaneous poems; but he was a thorough reactionary, avowed his contempt of Malherbe, and studied, not without success, Ronsard and his own coreligionist Du Bartas as models. One of the most original, though at the same time one of the most unequal poets of the early seventeenth century, was Théophile de Viaud, often called Théophile226 simply. He, too, was a dramatist, but his dramas do not do him much credit, their style being exaggerated and 'precious.' On the other hand, his miscellaneous poems, though very unequal, include much work of remarkable beauty. The pieces entitled 'La Solitude,' 'Sur une Tempête,' and the stanzas beginning 'Quand tu me vois baiser tes bras,' have all the fervour and picturesqueness of the Pléiade without its occasional blemishes of pedantic expression. Théophile was a loose liver and an unfortunate man. He was accused, justly or unjustly, of writing indecent verses, was imprisoned, and died young. All the poets hitherto mentioned were writers of miscellaneous verse, who, except in so far as they held to the elder tradition of Ronsard or the new gospel of Malherbe, can hardly be said to have belonged to any school. Towards the middle of the century, however, two well-defined fashions of poetry, with some minor ones, distinguished themselves. There was, in the first place, the school of the coterie poets, who devoted themselves to producing vers de société, either for the ladies, or for the great men of the period. The chief of this school was beyond all question Voiture227. This admirable writer of prose and verse published absolutely nothing during his lifetime, though his work was in private the delight of the salons. That it should be, under the circumstances, somewhat frivolous is almost unavoidable. But, especially after the cessation of the great flow of inspiration which had characterised the sixteenth century, it was of no small importance that the art of perfect expression should be cultivated in French. Voiture was one of those who contributed most to the cultivation of this art. His letters are as correct as those of Balzac, and much less stilted; and of his poetry it is sufficient to say that nothing more charming of the kind has ever been written than the sonnet to Uranie, which stirred up a literary war, or the rondeau 'Ma foi c'est fait de moi.' This last put once more in fashion a beautiful and thoroughly French form, which it had been one of the worst deeds of the Pléiade to make unfashionable. The chief rival of Voiture was Benserade, a much younger man, whose sonnet on Job was held to excel, though it certainly does not, that to Uranie. Benserade was of higher birth and larger fortune than Voiture, and long outlived him. He was a great writer of ballets or masques, and not unfrequently, like Voiture, showed that a true poet underlay the fantastic disguises he put on. Around these two are grouped numerous minor poets of different merit. Boisrobert, the favourite of Richelieu and the companion of Rotrou and Corneille in that minister's band of 'five poets;' Maleville, who in one of the sonnet-tournaments of the time, that of the Belle Matineuse, was supposed to have excelled even Voiture; Colletet, whose poems make him less important in literature than his Lives of the French poets, which unfortunately perished during the Commune before they had been fully printed; Gomberville, more famous as a novelist; Sarrasin, an admirable prose writer, and a clever composer of ballades and other light verse; Godeau, a bishop and a very clever versifier; Blot, who was rather a political than a social rhymer; Marigny, who was also famous for his Mazarinades, but whose satirical power was by no means the only side of his poetical talent; Charleval, whose personal popularity was greater than his literary ability; Maucroix, the friend of La Fontaine; Segrais, an eclogue writer of no small merit; Chapelle, an idle epicurean, who derives most of his fame from the fact of his having been intimate with all the foremost literary men of the time, and from his having composed, in company with Bachaumont, a Voyage in mixed prose and verse, the form of which was long very popular in France and was imitated with especial success by Anthony Hamilton and Voltaire; Pavillon, who deserves a very similar general description, but who gave no such single example of his abilities: all belong to this class.

Epic School. Chapelain.

Side by side with the frivolous school, but in curious contrast with it, there existed a school of ponderous epic writers, the extirpation of which is the best claim of Boileau to the gratitude of posterity. The typical poets of this class are Georges de Scudéry, the author of Alaric, and Chapelain, the author of the Pucelle. Scudéry was a soldier and a man of considerable talent, who lacked nothing but patience and the power of self-criticism to produce really good work. Like his more famous sister, he had invention and literary facility. His plays are not without merit in parts, and his epic of Alaric, amidst astonishing platitudes and extravagances, has occasional good lines. But Chapelain is by far the most remarkable figure of the school. He was bred up to be a poet from his earliest age, and by a stroke of luck, impossible in less anomalous times, he was taken at his own valuation for years. La Pucelle was quoted in manuscript, and anxiously expected for half a short lifetime. It only appeared to be hopelessly damned. There are passages in it of merit, but they are associated with lines which read like designed burlesques. The onslaughts of Boileau have created a kind of reaction in favour of Chapelain with some who disagree with Boileau's poetical principles: but he is not defensible. His odes are indeed tolerable in parts; not so the Pucelle, save, as has been said, in occasional lines. The Clovis of Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin is worse than the Pucelle. On the other hand, the Père le Moyne in his St. Louis, taking apparently Du Bartas as his model, produced work which, if not very readable as a whole, manifests real and very considerable poetical talent. Lastly, Saint Amant in the Moïse Sauvé showed how far below himself a clever writer may be when he mistakes his style.

Bacchanalian School. Saint Amant.

Saint Amant228, who, to do him justice, did not call Moïse Sauvé an epic but an 'idylle héroique,' is the link between this school and a third composed of purely convivial poets, who even in this century furnished work of remarkable excellence, and who produced a numerous and brilliant progeny in the next. Saint Amant's Anacreontic poems are of great merit. Of the same class was Saint Pavin, who was not merely a free liver, but a member of the small but influential free-thinking sect which preceded and gave birth to the Philosophes of the next century. This time, moreover, was the period of a curious literary trick, the resuscitation or forging of the convivial poems of Oliver Basselin by a Norman lawyer of the name of Jean le Houx. A genuine and contemporary Basselin, in the person of a carpenter named Adam Billaut, produced some notable work of the same kind. Unfortunately the Anacreontic poetry of this time suffers from the too frequent coarseness of its language; a fault which indeed was not fully corrected until Béranger's days.

La Fontaine.

The members, however, of all these schools have long lost their hold on all but students of literature, and, with the exception of La Fontaine and Boileau, it is not easy to mention any non-dramatic poet of the seventeenth century who has kept a place in the general memory. Jean la Fontaine229 was born at Château Thierry in Champagne in the year 1621, and died at Paris in 1695. His father held a considerable post as ranger of the neighbouring forests, an office which passed to his son. La Fontaine seems to have been carelessly educated, but after a certain time literature attracted him, and he began to study in a desultory fashion, without however, as it would appear, being himself tempted to write. At the age of six-and-twenty he married Marie Héricart, a girl of sixteen, who is said to have been both amiable and beautiful, and not long afterwards he was left his own master by his father's death. He was suited very ill by nature either to fill a responsible office or to be head of a house. The well-known stories of his absence of mind, his simplicity, his indifference to outward affairs, have no doubt been exaggerated, but there is, equally without doubt, a foundation of fact in them. On the other hand, though the most serious charges against his wife seem to rest on no foundation, it is certain that she had little aptitude for housewifery. After a time the household was broken up, though there was offspring of the marriage. A division of goods was effected, and husband and wife separated, not to meet again except on visits and for brief spaces of time, though they seem to have remained on perfectly friendly terms. La Fontaine went to Paris, and very soon attracted the notice of Fouquet, the magnificent superintendent of the finances, who gave him a pension of a thousand livres and made him a member of his literary household. Here La Fontaine began to write. At the downfall of Fouquet he was constant to his friend, and produced the best-known of his miscellaneous poems, the 'Pleurez, Nymphes de Vaux230.' The misfortune unsettled him for a time, and he travelled about. But returning to his native place, he was taken into favour by the Duchess of Bouillon, and this was the beginning of a series of patronages which lasted till the end of his life. Once more visiting Paris, he became a favourite with many men and women of rank, and began his serious literary work by producing the first part of his Contes. The remaining parts and the Fables appeared at intervals during the remainder of his life. His second visit to Paris brought about his traditional association with Boileau, Molière, and Racine, the four meeting at regular intervals, either in taverns or at lodgings in the Rue Vieux Colombier. During the later years of his life La Fontaine was a confirmed Parisian. His office at Château Thierry had been sold, and he was the guest of various hospitable persons, the chief of whom was Madame de la Sablière. In 1668 appeared the first part of the Fables with universal approval. But the free character of the Contes, and still more the association of La Fontaine with some of the freethinkers who were in ill-repute with the king's spiritual advisers, retarded his admission to the Academy. When Colbert died, La Fontaine and Boileau were the two candidates; an awkward accident, considering their friendship, and the fact that the court was as decidedly for Boileau as the Academy itself for La Fontaine. The latter was elected, but the king delayed his assent, and even seemed likely to exercise a veto, when fortunately a second vacancy occurred, and Boileau being elected, both were approved by the king, Boileau warmly, La Fontaine with the grudging terms 'Vous pouvez recevoir La Fontaine; il a promis d'être sage.' A curious warning of a similar tenor was contained in the 'Discours de Réception.'

La Fontaine's work is considerable, including many miscellaneous poems, the romance of Psyche, and various dramatic attempts which were more or less failures. But the Contes and the Fables are the only works which have held their ground with posterity, and it is upon them that his reputation is justly based. The first part of the Contes appeared at the extreme end of 1664231, the second in 1667, the third in 1671, but the author added pieces in successive editions. The first part of the Fables appeared in 1668, dedicated to the Dauphin, the second in 1679, dedicated to Madame de Montespan, the third in 1693, dedicated to the Duc de Bourgogne, who is said to have been taught by Fénelon to delight in La Fontaine, and to have sent him just before his death all the money he had. The two books are complementary to each other, and La Fontaine's genius cannot be judged by either alone. It has been remarked that he was a diligent though apparently a very desultory reader. He read the Italians, and, apparently with still more relish and profit, the works of the old French writers, to whom the Italians owed so much. The spirit of the Fabliaux had been dead, or at any rate dormant, since Marot and Rabelais; La Fontaine revived it. Even purists, like his friend Boileau, admitted a certain archaism in lighter poetry, and La Fontaine would in all probability have troubled himself very little if they had not. His language is, therefore, more supple, varied, and racy than even that of Molière, and this is his first excellence. His second is a faculty of easy narration in verse, which is absolutely unequalled except perhaps in Pulci and Ariosto, while it is certainly unsurpassed anywhere. His third distinguishing point is his power of insinuating, it may be a satirical point, it may be a moral reflection, which is also hardly equalled and as certainly unsurpassed. In the authors whom La Fontaine followed, either deliberately or unconsciously, the models of his tales and his fables were indiscriminately mingled; but he separated them by so rigid a line that, while there is hardly a phrase in his Fables which is not suited virginibus puerisque, the Contes are not exactly a book for youth. In the latter the author has taken subjects, always amusing but not unfrequently loose, from the old fabulists, from Boccaccio, from the French prose tale-tellers of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles and similar collections, from Rabelais, from a few Italian writers of the Renaissance, and has dressed them up in the incomparable narrative of which he alone has the secret. Where he treads in the steps of the greatest writers he is almost always best. 'Joconde' supplies the opportunity of a remarkable comparison with Ariosto; 'La Fiancée du Roi de Garbe' of a still more remarkable comparison with Boccaccio. In this latter respect the palm of vivid and varied narration is with La Fontaine, but he misses something of the spirit of the original in his portrait of Alaciel; indeed La Fontaine's weakest point is in the comparatively pedestrian character of his treatment. He has little romance, and in translating, not merely the Italians but such countrymen and women of his own as the authors of the Heptameron, he loses the poetical charm which, as has been pointed out, graces and saves the morality or immorality of the Renaissance. Therefore, despite the wonderful variety and vivid painting of the Contes, presenting a series of pictures which for these qualities have few rivals in literature, the disapproval with which censors more rigid than Johnson (whose excuse of Prior will fairly stretch to Prior's original) have visited them is not altogether unjustifiable.

The Fables, with hardly less excellence of the purely literary kind, are fortunately free from the least vestige of any similar fault. La Fontaine, instead of in the smallest degree degrading the beast-fable, has, on the contrary, exalted it to almost the highest point of which it is capable. Not many books have made and kept a more durable and solid reputation. The few dissentient voices in the chorus of eulogy have been those of eccentric crotcheteers like Rousseau, or sentimentalists like Lamartine. It is, indeed, impossible to read the Fables without prejudice and not be captivated by them. As mere narratives they are charming, and the perpetual presence of an undercurrent of sly, good-humoured, satirical meaning relieves them from all charge of insipidity. La Fontaine, like Goldsmith, was with his pen in his hand as shrewd and as deeply learned in human nature as without it he was simple and naïf.

Something has to be said of the form and strictly poetical value of these two remarkable books — as remarkable, let it be remembered, for their bulk as for their excellence, for between them they cannot contain much less than 30,000 verses. The measure is almost always an irregular mixture of lines of different lengths, rhyming sometimes in couplets, sometimes in interlaced stanzas, which La Fontaine established as the vehicle of serio-comic narration. For this, in his hands, it is extraordinarily well fitted. As for the strictly poetic value of the work, it is perhaps significant that though he is, taking quantity and excellence together, the most important non-dramatic writer of verse of the whole century in France, he is rarely thought of (out of France) as a poet. A poet, indeed, in the highest sense of the word he is not. He has hardly any passion, evidences of it being almost confined to the elegy to Fouquet and, perhaps, as M. Théodore de Banville pleads, to the 'Faucon' and 'Courtisane Amoureuse' of the Contes. He has no indefinite suggestion of beauty; even his descriptions of nature, though always accurate and picturesque, being somewhat prosaic. He may be said to be a prose writer of the very first class who chose to write in verse, and who justified his choice by a wonderful technical ability in the particular form of verse which he used. There is no greater mistake than the supposition that La Fontaine's verse-writing is mere facile improvisation.


Nicolas Boileau232, who was long known in France as the 'Law-giver of Parnassus,' and who, perhaps, exercised a more powerful and lasting influence over the literature of his native country than any other critic has ever enjoyed, was born at Paris on All Saints' Day, 1636. His father held the post of registrar of one of the numerous courts of law, and his family had legal connections of wide range and long date. He himself was brought up to the law, but had not the least inclination for it; and at his father's death, which happened exactly when he attained his majority, his inheritance was considerable enough to allow him to do as he pleased. The family was a large one, and, according to a custom of the time, the brothers, or at least some of them, were distinguished by additional surnames. That which Nicolas took — Despréaux — was, at any rate during his youth, more frequently used than his patronymic, and has continued to be applied to him indifferently, thereby causing some odd blunders on the part of ignorant people. He himself sometimes signed Despréaux and sometimes Boileau-Despréaux. Besides law, he had also studied theology, and, though he never took orders, he enjoyed for a considerable time a priory at Beauvais, the profits of which, however, he returned when he definitely abandoned the idea of the church as a profession. He very early made attempts in literature, and when he was a man of seven- or eight-and-twenty, he joined La Fontaine, Racine, and Molière in the celebrated society of four. Social and literary criticism was even thus early his forte, and his first collections of Horatian satire were published in 1666, though, owing to the influence of Chapelain, the royal privilege was shortly after withdrawn from them. Boileau, however, soon became a great favourite with the king, as, though in actual conversation he retained his natural freedom of speech, he did not hesitate to use the most grovelling flattery of expression in verse. Pensions and places were given to him freely, so that, his own property being not inconsiderable, he was one of the few wealthy men of letters of the day. He was kept out of the Academy for some time by the fact that he had libelled half its members and was unpopular with the other half, but the royal influence at last got him in in 1684. In his later years the morose arrogance, which was his chief characteristic, increased on him, and was doubtless aggravated by the bad health from which he suffered during the whole of his long life. He died in 1711, having outlived all his friends except Louis himself.

Boileau's works consist of twelve satires, of the same number of epistles, of an Art Poétique, of the Lutrin, a serio-comic poem, of two odes, and of three or four score epigrams and miscellaneous pieces in verse, with a translation of Longinus on the Sublime, some short critical dissertations, and a number of letters in prose. With the exception of the Lutrin it will be observed that almost all his poetical work is very closely modelled on Horace. His satire is extremely clever, but, as necessarily happens when the frame and manner of one time are used for the circumstances of another, it is altogether artificial. The Horatian satire is nothing if not personal, and as Boileau (even more than Pope, who strongly resembles him) had a bad heart, his personalities are unusually reckless and offensive. Thus in a couplet against parasites he inserted at one time the name of Colletet (son of the Colletet mentioned above), at another that of Pelletier, though both were notoriously free from the vice, and guilty of no fault except poverty and a disposition to produce indifferent verse. Boileau's crusade, too, against the minor poets of his day was unfortunately followed by his own production of a ridiculous ode, excellently burlesqued by Prior, on the taking of Namur in 1692 by the French. This, with certain pieces of Young's, is perhaps the most glaring example extant of how a writer of great talent and literary skill may combine the basest flattery with the most abjectly bad verse. But where he confined himself to his proper sphere, Boileau exhibited no small power. He was, in fact, a slashing reviewer in verse, and there has rarely been so effective a practitioner of the craft. Narrow as was his idea of poetry, it was perfectly clear and precise, and, as his pupil Racine showed, he could teach it to others with the most striking success. Le Lutrin, too, is a poem which, in a rather trivial kind, is something of a masterpiece. Its subject, the quarrel of a chapter of ecclesiastics about the position of a lutrin (lectern), afforded Boileau plenty of opportunity for introducing that sarcasm on the upper middle classes which was his forte; the verse is polished and correct, the satire, though rather facile and conventional, agreeable enough. His satires and epistles are full of striking traits evidently studied from the life, but he is always personal and almost always artificial, never rising to the large satiric conception of Regnier or of Dryden. So, too, most of the stories which are recorded of him (and they are many) are stories of ill-natured remarks. In his heart of hearts he knew and acknowledged the greatness of Corneille, yet formally and in public he could not refrain from directing unjust satire at the veteran whose masterpieces had been produced when he was in his cradle, in order to exalt his own pupil Racine, whom he privately owned to be simply a very clever and docile rhymester. He himself was very much the same with the exception of the docility. His good sense, his talents, his eye for the ludicrous — except in his own work — were admirable, and the ill-nature of his satires, with their frequent injustice and the strange ignorance they display of all literature except the Latin classics and French and Italian contemporary authors, does not prevent their being excellent examples of French and of the art of polite libelling. It is probable that Boileau might have fared better but for his inconceivable folly in attempting, in the Namur ode, a style for which he had not the least aptitude, and for the parrot-like monotony with which Frenchmen before 1830, and even some of them since that date, have lauded and quoted him and accepted his dicta. But the most lenient estimate of him can hardly amount to more than that he was an excellent writer of prose and pedestrian verse, a critic of singular acuteness within a narrow range, and a satirist who had a keen eye for the ludicrous aspect of things and persons, and a remarkable skill at reproducing that aspect in words.

Minor Poets of the later Seventeenth Century.

The list of poets of the century has to be completed by some of more or less importance who flourished in the later days of Louis XIV., and, in some few cases, outlived him. Brébeuf might have been mentioned before, as he was Boileau's elder, and, dying young, did not reach even the most brilliant period of the reign. But he is unlike any of the three schools who have been described, and his language is more modern than that of most of the poets who wrote before or during the Fronde. His principal work is a translation of the Pharsalia, in which both the defects and the merits of the original are represented with remarkable fidelity. Boileau, who found fault with his fatras obscur, allowed him frequent flashes of genius, and these flashes are rather more frequent than might be supposed, being also of a kind which Boileau was not usually inclined to recognise. Brébeuf is decidedly of what may be called the right school of French poets, though he is one of the least of that school. His minor poetry displays the same characteristics as his translation, but is of less importance. Madame Deshoulières, still more unjustly criticised by Boileau, is unquestionably one of the chief poetesses of France; indeed, with Louise Labé and Marceline Desbordes Valmore, she is almost the only one of importance. Her poems, like those of most of her contemporaries, are of the occasional order, and have too much in them that is artificial, but frequently also they have real pathos and occasionally not a little vigour. 'Le Songe' is a very admirable ode, having some of the characteristics of the English Caroline school. Racine himself, independently of his dramas, and the choruses inserted in them, wrote some poetry, chiefly religious, which has his usual characteristics of refinement in language and versification. Anthony Hamilton has left some verses (notably an exquisite song, beginning 'Celle qu'adore mon cœur n'est ni brune ni blonde') as dainty and original as his prose. At the end of the century two poets, whose names always occur together in literary history, the Abbé de Chaulieu and the Marquis de la Fare, close the record. They were not only alike in their literary work, but were personal friends, and not the worst of Chaulieu's pieces is an elegy on La Fare, whom, though the older man of the two, he survived. They were both members of the libertine society of the Temple, over which the Duke de Vendôme presided, and which, somewhat later, formed Voltaire. The verses of both were strictly occasional. Chaulieu, like many men of letters of the time, published nothing during his long life, though his poems were known to French society in manuscript. Besides the verses on La Fare, Chaulieu's best poem is, perhaps, that 'On a Country Life' (the author being an inveterate inhabitant of towns). La Fare, on the other hand, is best known by his stanzas to Chaulieu on 'La Paresse,' which he was well qualified to sing, inasmuch as it is said that during many years of his long life he did nothing but sleep and eat. The verses of the two continued to be models of style, and (in a way) of choice of subject, during the whole eighteenth century. Macaulay's rhetorical description of Frederic's verses, as 'hateful to gods and men, the faint echo of the lyre of Chaulieu,' is not quite just in its suggestion. Chaulieu, and still more La Fare, wrote very fair occasional poetry. One curious application of verse during this century requires mention in conclusion. This was the Gazette, or rhymed news-letter, in which the gossip of the day, the diversions of the court, etc., were recorded for the amusement and instruction of great persons in the most pedestrian of octosyllables. The chief writer of these trifles, which are very voluminous, and which have preserved many curious particulars, was Loret, who was succeeded by Robinet, Boursault, Laurent, and others.

224 Ed. Lalanne. 5 vols. Paris, 1862 67; also (poems only) conveniently by Jannet. Paris, 1874. Besides his verse Malherbe wrote some translations of Seneca and Livy, and a great number of letters, including many to Peiresc, a savant of the time who is best known from Gassendi's Life of him.

225 Ed. Latour. 2 vols. Paris, 1857.

226 Ed. Alleaume. 2 vols. Paris, 1855.

227 Ed. Ubicini. 2 vols. Paris, 1855.

228 Ed. Livet. 2 vols. Paris, 1855.

229 This is in reality the beginning of the second line of the poem, though it is often quoted as if it were the first.

230 Ed. Moland. 7 vols. Paris, 1879. Also ed. Regnier, vol. i. Paris, 1883.

231 In previous editions this date was, by an oversight, wrongly printed as 1662. M. Scherer in correcting it has himself made a probable mistake in giving '1665.' That date is on the title-page, but the achevé d'imprimer is dated Dec. 10, 1664, and as a second edition was finished by Jan. 10, 1665, it is practically certain that the book was out before the end of the year.

232 Ed. Fournier. Paris, 1873.


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