Infomotions, Inc.Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the cosmopolitan spirit in literature. A study of the literary relations between France and England during the eighteenth century, by Joseph Texte ... Tr. by J.W. Matthews. / Texte, Joseph, 1865-1900

Author: Texte, Joseph, 1865-1900
Title: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the cosmopolitan spirit in literature. A study of the literary relations between France and England during the eighteenth century, by Joseph Texte ... Tr. by J.W. Matthews.
Publisher: London : Duckworth and Co.; New York, The Macmillan Company, 1899.
Tag(s): rousseau, jean-jacques, 1712-1778; literature, comparative french and english; literature, comparative english and french; rousseau; richardson; clarissa; voltaire; sur; france; eighteenth century; journal encyclopedique; literature; genius; novel
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Authorised Translation 
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In token of gratitude 

r J 6 C - > -.: 


IN submitting this translation of my book, Jean-Jacques 
Rousseau et le cosmopolitisme litteraire, to the English 
public, mention should be made of the fact that a con- 
siderable number of errors have been corrected in view 
of the present edition. Several books and articles 
published during the past three years have been laid 
under contribution, as will be seen by reference to the 
notes. In short, I have done my best to bring this 
translation up to the level of the latest publications 
upon this immense subject. 

Nevertheless, having said so much, I am fully aware 
that the book must needs still present more than one 
lacuna. Studies in the comparative history of modern 
literatures involve, by reason of their complexity, peculiar 
difficulties, which have hitherto prevented them from 
attaining the development they deserve and are destined 
to receive in the future. Those, at any rate, who have 
prosecuted researches of this nature, will know how 
especially difficult it is to be complete in the matter 
of bibliography. I have repeatedly been made aware 
of this fact while writing this essay in comparative 
literature, and am still more sensible of it now that the 
book is about to appear in a new form. 

I must acknowledge that I have incurred obligations 


towards more than one of the critics who have spoken 
of this book. I would at any rate tender my thanks 
to Mr W. M. Fullerton for his constant sympathy, 
and to my translator, Mr J. W. Matthews, for the 
conscientious care which has enabled him to correct 
certain errors in points of detail, particularly in the 
matter of quotations. 


LYON, January 1899. 


"THERE exist two entirely distinct literatures," wrote Madame 
de Stael in the closing year of the eighteenth century, " that 
which springs from the South and that which springs from the 
North " : on the one hand, the group of romance literatures, 
derived from the Latin tradition, with the literature of France as 
its chief representative ; on the other, the group of " Northern," 
that is to say Germanic and Slavonic, literatures, free or so, at 
least, thought Mme. de Stael from this absorbing Latin in- 
fluence, "the most remarkable" among them, in her opinion, 
being the literature of England. 

To-day, however, we no longer divide the literatures of 
Europe, with the same assurance as did Mme. de Stael, into two 
groups separated by a hard and fast line. We have learnt that 
among " Southern," no less than among " Northern " literatures, 
there are essential distinctions to be drawn. In a word, we have 
multiplied the data of the problem, and obtained glimpses of 
more complex solutions. Have we shaken ourselves free from 
the central idea of Mme. de Stael's theory ? Have we given up 
contrasting Latin with non-Latin tradition, Southern literature 
with Northern, " humanism " as we say now-a-days with 
" exoticism," or " cosmopolitanism " ? 

Clearly, we have not. Quite recently a brilliant discussion 
was started upon this question, to-day more real than ever 
before as to the influence of the " Northern literatures " and of 
"cosmopolitanism" upon the literature of France, and all who 
took part in it, whether opponents of " exoticism " or its parti- 
sans, were agreed in distinguishing the " Latin tradition " from 
what M. Jules Lemaitre has wittily named " septentriomania." 1 

1 Articles, by M. Jules Lemaitre on " L'influence des litteratures du Nord " 
(Revue des Deux Mondes, December 1894), by M. Melchior de Vogue on the 
"Renaissance latine" (^.-January 1895), by M. Andre Hallays on "L'influence 



M. E. Faguet, a few months earlier, seeking a definition for the 
"classical" spirit, declared that the direction which French 
literature is henceforth to take is at the present moment disputed 
by two conflicting influences, namely, humanism on the one hand 
and exoticism on the other. 1 

Is France to remain faithful to that veneration for antiquity to 
which the national intellect has adhered for three or four cen- 
turies ? Or will she allow herself to be carried away by the 
movement which, for a hundred years and more, has been urging 
her in the same direction as literatures which are younger and 
more independent of classical tradition ? Will she come back to 
Greece, to Rome, to the French classics ? Or will she turn to 
England, to Germany, to Russia, to Norway, in short, to the 
North ? Since the question can be asked, it is clear that the 
distinction formerly drawn by Mme. de Stael still holds good in 
substance : whether founded upon reason or not, her theory has 
been, for nearly a hundred years, one of the leading ideas of 
nineteenth century criticism. 

But how did that theory come to be formulated ? What are 
the facts upon which it was based ? How, and where did it 
arise, and under the influence of what circumstances ? Such is 
the problem which I have attempted to solve. 

It seemed to me that the origins and successive forms of the 
influence of the classical spirit upon the French genius had been 
studied repeatedly and at great length, but that the origins of 
the cosmopolitan spirit, which had assailed and threatened to 
supplant that influence, had been less frequently and very 
inaccurately dealt with. 

What then was it that cosmopolitanism, or " exoticism," 
represented at the outset? Few of the historians of French 
literature have asked themselves the question. By some of the 
greatest, Nisard for instance, it has been evaded; others have 
touched lightly upon it, as a side issue, when treating of the 

des litteratures etrangeres " (Revue de Paris, February 1895). See also M. F. 
Brunetiere's essay : Le cosmopolitisme et la litterature nationals, reprinted in Etudes 
critique sur fhistoire de la litterature franfaise, 6th series. 

1 Study on Alexandrinism (Revue des Deux Mondes, May 1894). 


origins of romanticism or of Mme. de Stael. The majority, 
after devoting a few hurried pages to the anglomania or the 
" germanomania " of the romantic school, assert that this 
fashion had no very great vogue, and hasten, as Nisard 
expressed it, to " restore the true guides of the French spirit,'* 
namely, the ancient writers, to their rightful place. 

Unfortunately, however, the present is an age in which the 
French mind, rebelling rightly or wrongly against the 
counsels of criticism, refuses adherence to its old masters, 
and when as Emile Hennequin observes French literature 
1 'is less than ever adequate to express the prevailing senti- 
ments of French society." Not only so, but French society 
" has found its own feelings more faithfully expressed, and 
has taken greater pleasure, in the productions of certain foreign 
writers of genius, than in those of the poets and novelists to 
whom it has itself given birth." Whence it follows that between 
minds there exist " voluntary bonds, at once more free and 
more enduring than the long-established community of blood, of 
native soil, of speech, of history and of custom, by which nations 
appear to be formed and divided." 1 The question of race is 
therefore at the basis of the question of cosmopolitanism ; it is 
the existence of the national genius of France that exoticism 
leads us to consider, at anyrate in so far as this genius is 
conceived as the lawful and privileged heir of the genius of 

In the present work I have endeavoured to determine the 
origins of this movement, and it has seemed to me necessary to 
go back not merely, as is usually done, to the romantic school, 
but to the eighteenth century and to Rousseau. 

True, it was the romanticists who, if I may say so, let loose the 
cosmopolitan spirit in France ; but the master of all the romantic 
school, as well of Mme. de Stael, the man whose aspirations 
they did but formulate, whose influence they did but extend and 
strengthen was Rousseau. He it was who, on behalf of the 
Germanic races of Europe, struck a blow at the time-honoured 

1 E. Hennequin, Ecri-vains /ranches, p. iii. Cf. H. M. Posnett, Comparative 
Literature (London , 1886), book iv., ch. i (What is World-literature /'). 


supremacy of the Latin races. It was he who, in the words of 
Mme. de Stael, united in himself the genius of the North with 
the genius of the South. It was from the day when he wrote, 
and it was because he had written, that the literatures of the 
North unfolded themselves to the French mind, and took posses- 
sion of it. Jean-Jacques, said Mme. de Stael once more, although 
he wrote in French, belongs to "the Teutonic school"; he 
impregnated the national genius with " foreign vigour." Employ- 
ing the same idea, and giving it greater precision, M. de Vogue 
has recently said : " There is one very cogent argument, and one 
only, which can be brought against those who would see in 
French romanticism a product of foreign influences, and that is 
that the germ of all our romanticism exists in Rousseau. But 
this precious fellow, who is lawful father to Bernardin and 
Chateaubriand, and grandfather to George Sand and the rest of 
them, actually has the presumption to be a Swiss. Has he not a 
very strongly marked foreign appearance, one 'which in many respects is 
already of a northern cast, even on his first irruption in the midst 
of French tradition ? It is painful to have to confess it, but in 
order to defend ourselves from the reproach of having been 
poisoned with German and English virus, we are constrained to 
recognize that Swiss blood has, for a century past, been flowing 
through our inmost veins." 

The whole object of this book is to exhibit Rousseau as the 
man who has done the most to create in the French nation both 
the taste and the need for the literatures of the North. 

In the first place I have endeavoured to show that Rousseau 
profited greatly by the influence which had been exercised in 
France, ever since the commencement of the eighteenth century, 
by " the most remarkable of the Germanic nations " the only 
one, in fact, of which that century acquired a thorough knowledge 
namely, England. During the interval between his arrival in 
Paris in 1744 and the publication of La Nouvelle Heldise in 1761, 
English influence strengthened its hold upon the French alike in 
science, in philosophy, in the drama and in fiction. A con- 
temporary, struck with the current of ideas which connected the 
two countries during those decisive years, remarked that if at 


that time France had brought a telescope to bear upon the things 
of the mind the instrument would have been constantly directed 
towards England; and Buckle once declared that this union of the 
French with the English intellect was " by far the most important 
fact in the history of the eighteenth century." l I have studied 
the origins of this movement ; I have tried to show how the 
revocation of the Edict of Nantes, by driving the national 
genius abroad, if I may say so, paved the way for the advent 
of the Northern literatures, and I have reminded the reader of 
the way in which the work of Protestant criticism was carried 
on by Muralt, Voltaire and Prevost, all of whom Rousseau- 
had read and closely studied. Disseminated by these men of 
talent or of genius, English influence had, at the moment when 
Jean- Jacques began to write, become a power. It was the secret 
hope of all who, more or less vaguely, were dreaming of a revival 
of French literature. To Diderot, the friend of Rousseau, and 
to the whole of Diderot's school, England seemed the home of 
liberty of thought : " The Englishman," wrote one of them,, 
borrowing both metaphor and thought from Rousseau, " never 
bows his head to the yoke which the majority of men bear with- 
out a murmur, but prefers freedom, however stormy, to tranquil 
dependence." 2 

This stormy freedom of the English genius was destined to 
captivate Jean-Jacques. By his foreign descent, his religious 
convictions, and his literary aspirations, he was sooner or later 
to feel himself drawn towards this eighteenth century Salentum. 
We shall see the extent to which it actually fascinated him, 
and how his admiration for England, while it did not in 
his own mind take the form of a protest against the classical 
tradition of France, was rendered such by force of circum- 

But the anglomania of his contemporaries was not enough 
for Rousseau. His most celebrated work is in part an imitation 
of a famous English novel. Every writer of his day remarked 
that, as an English critic has expressed it, the soul of Clarissa 

1 History of Civilization, vol. ii. p. 214. 

2 Journal encyclopedique , April 1758. 



had " transmigrated into the heroine of La Nouvelle He/oise." 1 
I have endeavoured to specify Jean- Jacques' debt to Richardson, 
and to show why the latter, too little known at the present day, 
is the precursor of the former in the history of European litera- 
ture. The whole of the bourgeois literature of modern times, 
and this is saying a great deal, has sprung from this English 
novel, and, as has been excellently observed, " it is undeniable 
that Clarissa Marlowe stands to La Nouvelle He/oise in this same 
relation as La Nouvelle He/oise stands to Werther, Rene and Jacopo 
Ortis" 2 For the first time a great English writer had served as 
model for one of the great writers of France. Can we wonder 
that Rousseau's contemporaries remarked the fact as a sign of 
the times ? 

Thus Rousseau felt an instinctive admiration for the English, 
and imitated them. He was the brilliant personification of all 
that was most original and most independent in the English 
genius. Thomson sang the praises of nature thirty years earlier, 
and with no less feeling, than he ; twenty years before the 
publication of La Nouvelle Heloise Young had given expression 
to that "enchanting sorrow" which so charmed Saint-Preux , 
while old Ossian revealed the sweet springs of melancholy 
simultaneously with Rousseau. The works of these writers 
made their appearance in France when his literary career was 
at its height. In truth, he owes them nothing. But their 
influence became blended with his ; in them French readers, 
betweeen 1760 and 1789, found the same aspirations, the same 
unrest, the same lyricism as they had found in Rousseau, 
everything, in short, which they thirsted for but had failed to 
discover in the classical literature of France. How could they 
help being struck with the kinship between the genius of 
Rousseau and that of the northern writers ? How could they 
help regarding this as an instance, to use the expression of a 
contemporary, of " cross-fertilization " in the intellectual sphere ? 
Was it not inevitable that Mme. de Stael should have said that 

1 Leslie Stephen, Hours in a Library, ist ed., p. 68. 

2 Marc Monnier, Jean-Jacques Rousseau et les etrangers, in Rousseau juge par les 
Genevois (faujourd'hui (Geneva, 1879). 


he had infused the French intellect with " foreign vigour," since 
it was from his school that it learned to enjoy foreign works in 
preference to those of purely French origin ? If the idea was 
an illusion, we can at any rate both account for it and excuse it. 

It was through this school that of Rousseau and the English 
that our fathers learned to appreciate what Mme. de Stael 
calls " the genius of the North." They became, or began to be, 
"cosmopolitans"; that is to say, they grew weary of the pro- 
tracted supremacy of the literatures of antiquity. The ancients, 
wrote the author of De la Litterature not long afterwards, 
"leave little regret" behind them, and five-and-twenty years 
later the romantic school, through the medium of Stendhal, 
added the opinion that "spite of all the pedants, Germany and 
England t wi// ivin the day against France" - 1 

It is true that cosmopolitanism did not take shape as a theory 
until after the Revolution, with Mme. de Stael. I hope I have 
succeeded in showing that as an aspiration, already well-defined, 
it dates from the previous century, and that, in contrasting the 
Teutonic with the Latin genius, the new criticism simply 
carried the revolution effected by Rousseau to its inevitable 
consequence. The influence of the northern literatures has 
increased or diminished during the past century in proportion 
to that of Jean- Jacques ; the reason being that the former is 
but the latter in another form. 

It should further be observed that the French were not 
awakened all at once to an interest in northern literature. 
Just in the same way eighteenth century France failed to under- 
stand Shakespeare, and the critics treated this as a proof of its 
inability to appreciate the literatures of other nations. Not 
only, however, is it difficult to recognize Shakespeare in the 
crude versions of that day, 2 but between the eighteenth century 
and Shakespeare there is something more than the mere differ- 
ence of race, there is the gulf that separates two epochs. Not 

1 Stendhal, Racine et Shakespeare (1823), p. 246. 

2 Observe that down to 1776, the year in which the first volume of Letourneur's 
version appeared, the only manner in which French readers could become ac- 
quainted with Shakespeare was through the grotesque parody of La Place. See 
J. J. Jusserand, Shakespeare en France sous Vanc'ien regime (Paris, 1898). 


all at once did the French mind, which could no longer ap- 
preciate either Ronsard or Rabelais, succeed in understanding 
the English Renaissance. 

Nevertheless, even in the eighteenth century, it both under- 
stood and appreciated the novels of Richardson and Sterne, 
and the poetry of Young, Thomson, and Ossian, all of them 
thoroughly English writers and anything but " classical." They 
form the escort of Rousseau, who is greater than them all. 
Some are his models, others his predecessors or contemporaries. 
All are bound to him by a family likeness : Mme. de Stael 
constantly speaks of "Rousseau and the English", and she is 
right. The cosmopolitan spirit was born, during the eighteenth 
century, of the fruitful union between the English genius and 
that of Jean- Jacques. 

Such is the thesis of the present work. 

The reader will be good enough to observe that I do not 
identify the cosmopolitan spirit with the influence of any one 
in particular of the literatures of Europe. The chief place is 
allotted to England, because she was the first, and, for a century, 
practically the only, country to exercise an influence upon France. 
Of German literature nothing was known during the eighteenth 
century beyond a few names, and Gessner was the only writer 
with whom Rousseau was acquainted. Those who read Werther 
or the Robbers, which owed their inspiration to him, could discern 
in them one more proof of the kinship between his genius and 
that of the Germans. Only a few of the more inquiring minds 
paid any attention to the writings of " the Danes and Swedes " 
mentioned by Mme. de Stael. England was thus the first 
country to exercise an influence upon France ; an influence which 
gave the cosmopolitan movement the tendency it has maintained 
throughout the present century namely, to raise a protest, in 
the name of foreign and modern literature, against the influence 
of the classical spirit. 

But is there such a thing as a " classical spirit," a " French 
spirit," or an "English spirit"? And what right have we to 
distinguish a "Germanic" from a "Latin" genius? Are not 
these expressions simply empty formulas, which have no real 


import, and but faintly disguise the vagueness of the ideas for 
which they stand ? I confess that more than once, in the course 
of these pages, I have asked myself this disturbing question. 

"There are naturally," said Taine in a famous passage, 
" varieties of men, just as there are varieties of bulls and 
horses ; there are the brave and intelligent, and there are the 
timid and feeble-minded ; those who are capable of lofty con- 
ceptions and productions, and those who cannot go beyond rudi- 
mentary ideas and inventions ; some who are especially fitted for 
certain kinds of work, and more richly endowed than others with 
certain instincts, just as certain races of dogs are better qualified, 
some for running, some for fighting, some for the chase, and 
some for the protection of houses and flocks." l Taine was the 
successor of Mme. de Stael, and since his day the history of 
literature has been above all an ethnological problem. 

But since Taine wrote these lines we have learnt to distrust 
the more positive conclusions which some writers have attempted 
to draw from moral ethnography, assuredly the most difficult and 
the most complex of all the sciences. Nay, in many intelligent 
minds, this distrust has turned into absolute scepticism. Only 
recently the author of a splendid work upon Robert Burns asserted 
that the idea of race is " fluctuating, ill-established, and open to 
dispute." Admissible, perhaps, in the physical sphere, that idea 
is unreliable in the moral sphere, and for two reasons : firstly, 
because there is nothing to show that a few differences in physical 
characteristics, faint and superficial as these, moreover, are, such 
as the outline of the nose, and the colour of the eyes or hair, 
carry with them differences, and important differences, in the 
intellectual system ; and, in the second place, because the 
psychology of races seems still more problematic. You cannot 
obtain a conception of the soul of a portion of humanity by 
merely supplementing certain ethnological labels with a few 
vague adjectives." 2 

These are specious objections, and I confess they do not strike 
me as conclusive. 

1 Introduction to English Literature. 

2 Angellier, Robert Sums, vol. i. p. vii. 


In the first place, we are not here concerned with " the colour 
of the eyes" or "the shape of the nose." It is allowable to 
speak of the "French spirit" or of " the Italian genius " because, 
in Italy as well as in France, a long succession of writers of 
talent or of genius have had a certain more or less definite idea 
of this national " genius " and this national " spirit." Whether 
that idea was true or false is of little consequence; even an 
illusion may produce good results. Enough that from the whole 
assemblage of French or Italian works it is possible to select 
certain common features which differentiate them from the pro- 
ductions of Spanish or English writers. The excellent observa- 
tion made by Nisard in respect to his own history, that it was 
possible " only because there exists a clear conception of the 
French intellect," might without hesitation be applied to French 
literature. In other words, this conception or, if you will, this 
illusion is the collective work of all those who for centuries 
past have wielded the pen in France, and the reason why the 
French spirit exists is simply that hundreds and thousands of 
writers have willed that it should exist. Could Robert Burns 
be called " the great poet of Scotland," if he ha.d not set before 
himself a certain ideal of the " Scotch genius " ? It has been 
maintained that, in his poems, he shewed himself independent of 
the necessities of race and blood. But while this may be, we 
must at least admit that with all the strength of his soul he be- 
lieved in the originality of his country that he gloried in being, 
through an act of his own free will, a " child of Scotland." 

Doubtless, the idea of race, like so many other ideas essential 
to science of any kind like that of heredity, or that of moral 
liberty is neither absolutely clear nor perfectly definite in range. 
Does it therefore follow that there is no reality which corre- 
sponds to it ? Not only would such a hypothesis contradict 
every scientific notion of things, but it would also infallibly land 
us in the strangest paradoxes, and when Taine expressed the 
idea that race is " the primary source of historical events " he did 
but enunciate a law from which it will long be impossible for the 
history of literature to escape. By eliminating this essential 
notion of race, we surrender, at the very outset, all possibility of 


accounting for anything beyond the individual. But what is the 
individual without his environment ? What is Dante without 
Italy, Burns without Scotland, Ibsen without Norway ? The 
inadequacy, the futility, of any attempt to study the genius of 
these men without paying due regard to the idea of race, is 
palpable. On the other hand, will any one deny that the 
literature of Greece, taken as a whole, represents an entirely 
distinct type of the human intelligence ? Will anyone maintain 
that the whole mass of the works which have been written in 
Latin might equally well be attributed either to the Arabians or 
to the Chinese ? Could the Alhambra be the work of the 
architect of the Parthenon, or the Discobolus of a Hindoo 
sculptor ? Those who scoff at the absurdity of such questions 
thereby admit that the history of literature and art is before all 
things an ethnographical problem. Nisard, in his account of the 
literary productions of France, states that his aim was to write 
" the history of the French mind." He was right. A history 
of French literature which did not set that aim before it would 
be no more than a shapeless congeries of materials. 

It is thus in vain to point out the obscurity of the conception of 
race, to protest that genius removes all barriers, or to expose the 
dangers and difficulties of the " psychology of peoples " ; there is 
no escaping the fact that this idea of race is now, and long will be, 
the guiding principle of all fruitful historical research. " Human- 
ity," said Vigny, " is delivering an interminable discourse, and 
every distinguished man is one of the ideas it expresses." When, 
therefore, the historian studies a man, he is studying humanity ; 
but in order to go back to the origins of humanity, he must of 
necessity study the ethnological group to which the man belongs. 
For each nation, in its turn, utters a portion of the " interminable 
discourse" delivered by humanity. 

But in reality it is only the discourse of humanity that can 
be called "interminable." The discourse which each nation 
delivers lasts, on the contrary, only a few centuries at most. 
It is this fact that enables the historian of Greece or Italy to 
speak with confidence of a Greek genius or a Latin spirit. These 
nations have said their say, and we can determine the nature of 


their genius. Their civilizations are dead and gone ; they are 
organisms whose evolution has run its course. How much easier 
it is to study them than to examine a living civilization, the 
development of which will continue for centuries ! By what 
right, logically speaking, can we give a definition of the French 
or of the German spirit, so long as there is a Germany or a 
France still in existence ? What science authorizes us to 
classify, to judge and to define that which still lives and moves, 
and every day advances towards an end of which we cannot as 
yet obtain a glimpse ? In a few centuries the vital force of our 
race may have exhausted itself j we, in our turn, may have 
ended our discourse ; and then, and then only, will it be alto- 
gether permissible to say what we were. Meanwhile we are 
confined to conjectures and to probabilities. 

Such is one reason for caution. Here is another. 

The races of men are no more invariable and no more proof 
against the intrusion of alien blood than are the species of ani- 
mals : interbreeding takes place between them, as between those 
species, and thereby they become transformed. " For the past 
eight or ten centuries there ;has been, in a sense, a traffic or 
interchange of ideas from one end of Europe to the other," so 
that Germany has been nourishing itself upon French thought, 
England upon German thought, Spain upon Italian thought, 
and each of these nations successively upon the thought 
of all the rest. The study of a living being is to a large 
extent the study of its relations to its neighbours. Similarly 
not a literature can be found of which the history does not 
carry us beyond the frontiers of its native country. Look 
where we will among modern literatures, it is always the same 
story of alternate lendings and borrowings ; as Voltaire said : 
" Almost all literary work is imitation. ... It is with books as 
with the fire on our hearth-stones : we obtain kindling from our 
neighbours, light our own fire with it, pass it on to others, and 
it becomes the property of all." There is, as it were, a fluid 
form of matter which flows successively into different moulds, 
runs from mind to mind, and always, as it passes on to the next, 
carries with it a fresh principle of life and movement. 


The difficulty of these racial problems having been ascertained, 
it is none the less incumbent upon the historian of literatures, and 
of modern literatures in particular, to treat each one of them, " not 
as an entirely distinct and self-contained history, but as a branch 
of European literature in general." l This is what I have en- 
deavoured, to the best of my ability, to do, in these pages, for 

In their moral no less than in their political life, nations have 
their periods of concentration and expansion. I have attempted 
to show that for a century and a half the cosmopolitan spirit in 
literature has manifested itself in the reaching out of the French 
mind, according to the example set by Rousseau, towards the 
literatures of northern Europe. 

The present volume owes much to the teaching and advice 
of M. Ferdinand Brunetiere. He has said somewhere that it 
" would be well to subordinate the history of individual litera- 
tures to the general history of the literature of Europe." It is 
his opinion that " by adopting this standpoint in our study of 
the history of French literature, we shall find it no less original, 
and least of all less classical," but we shall assuredly "recon- 
struct it in part." Such, also, was my own opinion, and still is. 
Now that I have experienced the difficulties of the undertaking, 
and have had my own incapacity fully brought home to me, I 
cannot but feel the deepest gratitude to the generous teacher, 
but for whose encouragement these pages would never have 
been written, and whose instruction has been one of the chief 
favours I have received at the hands of fortune. Would that 
this book were less unworthy of the interest he has taken 
in it. 

I wish also to acknowledge the useful advice I have received 
from M. J.-J. Jusserand, from my old master, M. A. Beljame, 
professor at the Sorbonne, and from the professors of Oxford 
University generally, who have made me their grateful debtor. 

1 F. Brunetiere, Revue des Deux Mondes, loth May 1891. 


It gives me much pleasure to add to these names those of 
M. E. Ritter, M. H. Carre, and above all that of the late 
M. Guillaume Guizot, who was generous enough to place at my 
disposal his manuscript notes upon the literary relations between 
England and France during the eighteenth century. 

LYON, April 1895. 

Uable of Contents 



3800& I 


Chapter I 


I. Ignorance of the seventeenth century with regard to England Pre- 
judices and prepossessions Ignorance of the language Instances of 
English books which were known in France during the seventeenth 
century Why these instances prove nothing Paramount influence of 
humanism ..... ... 

II. The French colony in London Propaganda of the refugees on behalf 

of English philosophy and English political institutions . . 14 

III. Their works of travel Their newspapers In what sense can it be said 
that the Dutch reviews aided the birth of the cosmopolitan spirit in 
literature? Bayle, Le Clerc, and Basnage Multiplication of inter- 
national reviews Their hostility to antiquity They pave the way for 
English literature La Roche, La Chapelle, Maty French imitators 
of the refugees: Dubos, Destouches, Desfontaines Inferiority and unim- 
portance of their work in comparison with that of Protestant criticism ^^ 

Chapter II 


I. Prevost and Voltaire were themselves preceded by the Swiss, Beat de 
Muralt, the author of the Lettres sur les Anglais et les Fran^ais (1725) 
Muralt's character Wherein he carried on the work of the refugees, 
wherein he went beyond them His illusions His opinions on English 
literature and the English intellect Great success of his book : Muralt 
and Desfontaines His influence on Rousseau . . . -37 




II. Admiration of the abbe Prevost for English ideas ; he assists in diffus- 
ing them His two visits to England His translations His cosmo- 
politan novels : Memoires d'un homme de qualite and Histoire de Cleveland 
His magazine, Le Pour et Contre (1732-1740): the author's aim and 
method England occupies a large share of its space . . .44 

III. Voltaire and the Lettres anglaises (1734) Importance of the book in 
Voltaire's life His intercourse with men of letters during his stay in 
London Knowledge of the language His efforts to awaken interest 
in English matters Origin of the Lettres anglaise : they consist of 
two books ........ 56 

IV. Insufficiency of Voltaire's information ; his wilful inaccuracy The 
pamphleteer injurious to the critic Why this book is nevertheless of 
the highest importance in the history of the influence of England 
Voltaire encourages imitation of English works . . .66 

Chapter III 


I. Circumstances which contributed to the diffusion of the cosmopolitan 
spirit during the first half of the century Decline of the patriotic idea 
Exhausted state of the national literature . . . 76 

II. Spread of the scientific spirit, and its literary results . . .82 

III. The work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in its relation to the influence of 

England ; in him the Latin genius is combined with the Germanic . 87 


Chapter I 


I. Origins of Rousseau's genius : what it owes to Geneva, and through 

Geneva to England Its exotic character . . . .89 

II. Rousseau, like his contemporaries, an admirer of England Freedom of 
the English intellect Respect felt by Frenchmen of the eighteenth 
century for English virtue . . . . . .96 

III. How these features come to be found also in Rousseau Whence did he 
derive his notions concerning England ? Muralt's influence over him 
English manners in La Nouvelle Helo'ise Milord Bomston, or the 
Englishman Rousseau's work reflects the anglomania of his age . 102 


Chapter II 



1. Rousseau's early associations in Paris : Diderot and the admirers of 
England. . . . . . . . . in 

II. His first studies in English : Pope, and his popularity Influence of his 
commonplace philosophy upon his age and upon Rousseau Daniel de 
Foe: success of Robinson Crusoe . . . . . . 115 

III. Rousseau's admiration for English literature directed mainly to the 
bourgeois variety Why ? Because of his literary tendencies His admira- 
tion for the English drama : translation of The London Merchant (1748) 128 

Chapter III 


I. Greatness of the English novel in the eighteenth century Its success 

upon the continent Fielding Immense popularity of Richardson . 142 

II. Why the French public went into raptures over English fiction Why, 
with Rousseau, it rated it more highly than the works of Lesage, 
Prevost and Marivaux Wherein the French novelists, and Marivaux 
in particular, had anticipated Richardson and Rousseau . .150 

III. Provost translates Richardson (1742, 1751, 1755-56) Importance of 

these translations Their value . . . . . .160 

Chapter IV 


I. Defects of Richardson's novels Reasons for their success Wherein 

they are opposed to classical art . . . . .165 

II. Wherein the realism of the author of Clarissa Harlo'we consists His 

lack of distinction His brutality His power . . . .170 

III. Richardson a delineator of character He is an inferior painter of the 
manners of good society, and an excellent painter of middle-class 
manners: Lovelace, Pamela, Clarissa . . . . .180 

IV. His moral ideas ; his preaching Fond of casuistry and the discussion 

of moral problems . . . . . . J 93 

V. His sensibility The place of love in his works Emotional gifts . 199 
VI. Magnitude of the revolution effected by Richardson in the art of 

fiction ......... 105 


Chapter V 



I. Success of English novels in France Richardson is read and imitated 
by every member of Rousseau's circle Controversy with regard to 
English novels Diderot's Eloge de Richardson Voltaire takes the other 
side Richardson's influence upon the French novel . . . 209 

II. Rousseau's admiration for him He had Richardson in mind while 
writing La nouvelle Helo'ise The resemblance between Htlo'ise and Clarissa 
a commonplace of eighteenth century criticism Reasons for this . 227 

III. Analogy between the two works in point of design, characters, use of 
the epistolary form, and devotion to reality as exemplified in middle- 
class life .... . 233 

IV. Analogy between the two writers in point of religion How Rousseau, 
following Richardson's example, transformed and elevated the novel . 241 

V. Wherein he surpassed his model : feeling for nature, conception of love, 
melancholy The success of Helo'ise increased the fame of Clarissa Har- 
loive Richardson and the romantic school .... 249 



Chapter I 


I. Development of English influence in the latter half of the century 

Intercourse with England Influence of English manners . . 256 

II. Growth of the cosmopolitan idea Diffusion of the English language 

and literature : newspapers and translations .... 262 

III. Wherein Rousseau assisted the movement The revolution accom- 
plished by him in criticism Manner in which he effected the union 
of Germanic with Latin Europe ..... 271 

Chapter II 


I. Sterne and the sentimental novel Sterne, like Rousseau, brought 
sentimental confession into fashion His visit to Paris His amours 
The " culte du moi " ....... 277 

II. The eighteeenth century failed to understand his humour, but appre- 
ciated the way in which, like Rousseau, he affected to talk of himself, 
and to be deeply touched by his own condition Nature and extent of 
the influence exerted by his work in France . . . .281 


Chapter III 



I. The love of nature Rousseau's English predecessors Thomson : his 

talent Gessner Their popularity in France .... ^^^ 
II. Melancholy English melancholy proverbial in France Popularity of 
Gray Young and the Night Thoughts : the man and his work ; his 
popularity ........ 300 

III. Mournful feelings inspired by the past Macpherson and Ossian 
Origins of Celtic poetry The fame of Ossian European How he fared 

in France . . . . . . .".314 

IV. In what way the success of these works was assured by Rousseau . 331 

Chapter IV 


I. How it was that in the eighteenth century cosmopolitanism was 
nothing more than an ill-defined aspiration Reaction of the classical 
spirit, due to Voltaire and his school ; inadequacy and inferiority of 
classical criticism Revival of ancient literature at the approach of 
the Revolution . . . . . . . -335 

II. The Revolution restores the respect for antiquity Intellectual rupture 
with the Teutonic nations Decrease of the literary influence of 
Rousseau But the springs which the Revolution had exhausted were 
rendered afresh accessible to the French mind by the emigration . 346 

III. Publication of De la Literature (1800) It was the expression at once 
of the cosmopolitan spirit and of the influence of Rousseau Its origin 
mainly traceable to English influence It was the last production of 
eighteenth century criticism The author's judgment upon the classical 
spirit What she has to set up in its place Cosmopolitanism becomes 
a literary theory Triumph of the influence of Rousseau, and of the 
northern literatures . . . . . -355 


INDEX . . . . . . . . .381 

Boofe i 


Chapter I 


I. Ignorance of the seventeenth century with regard to England Prejudices and 

prepossessions Ignorance of the language Instances of English books which 

were known in France during the seventeenth century Why these instances 

prove nothing Paramount influence of humanism. 

II. The French colony in London Propaganda of the refugees on behalf of English 

philosophy and English political institutions. 

III. Their works of travel Their newspapers In what sense can it be said that 
the Dutch reviews aided the birth of the cosmopolitan spirit in literature ? 
Bayle, Le Clerc, and Basnage Multiplication of international reviews Their 
hostility to antiquity They pave the way for English literature La Roche, 
La Chapelle, Maty French imitators of the refugees : Dubos, Destouches, 
Desfontaines Inferiority and unimportance of their work in comparison with 
that of Protestant criticism. 

THE revocation of the Edict of Nantes was something more 
than a religious or political event of great importance in the 
history of France. It was productive also of far-reaching 
effects upon her intellectual destinies. For with the revocation 
began that movement of thought which opened the French 
mind to a comprehension of northern literature. 

When Louis XIV. condemned four hundred thousand of his 
subjects, men of an active and enquiring turn of mind, to live 
beyond the confines of France, and principally in lands where 
Teutonic tongues were spoken, he did not suspect that his action 
would tend towards a thorough transformation of the national 
genius. It was, nevertheless, in consequence of the revocation 


that French thought was brought in contact, first of all with 
England, and afterwards with Germany. As interpreters be- 
tween the Germanic and Latin sections of Europe, the refugees 
were most industrious, and from the heart of the Low Countries, 
of Great Britain, of Brandenburg, and of Switzerland, Protestant 
criticism strove, for two centuries, to bring Frenchmen into com- 
munication with the mind of Europe. 

Begun by the refugees, and carried on by Prevost and Voltaire, 
this propaganda on behalf, more particularly, of English litera- 
ture, had important consequences. Its effects began to make 
themselves felt about the middle of the eighteenth century, 
that is to say, at the moment when Jean- Jacques Rousseau 
was revolutionizing French literature. As a critic of that age 
expressed it, "it had long been impossible to doubt that the 
intermixture of races improves every species, both animal and 
vegetable," and " the experiment which for thirty years had 
been made upon a neighbouring country, namely, England," had 
afforded a clear proof that " the crossing of minds, which have 
also their races," may result in fertility. 1 

It appears to me that Rousseau derived more benefit from this 
"crossing" between the French and English minds than has 
commonly been supposed. In briefly recalling the nature of the 
propaganda carried on by the refugees, and of that of their 
French imitators, we shall therefore be studying the very origins 
of the revolution which he effected. 

In order to estimate its importance we must transport our- 
selves in spirit to the seventeenth century, and recall to mind 
the contempt professed by the more outspoken writers of that 
epoch for the literatures of the Northern countries, and especially 
for the people which Mme. de Stael described as " the most 
remarkable of the Germanic nations." 

It was through England that France was brought into con- 
tact with non-Latin Europe. Now, of all European countries, 

1 Garat, Memoires sur Suard, vol. i., p. 153. 


England was the one with which Frenchmen of the grand siecle 
were least acquainted. They regarded it with suspicion on 
account of its religion, and with detestation on account of 
its political history. Attached as they were to Catholic and 
monarchical tradition, the " English tragedies," to use the 
expression of Descartes, had filled them with alarm. Mme. de 
Motteville speaks of Cromwell and his crew as " rebel savages." 
" Guilty nation," cried Bossuet, " more turbulent within its own 
borders and in its own havens than the ocean which washes its 
shores ! " How could men who, according to Saumaise, were 
" more savage than their own dogs," and were still regarded 
by Frenchmen with the inveterate rancour engendered by the 
wars of the middle ages, 1 be thought capable of poetry or 

But little acquainted with the English, the French despised 
them without scruple. Their contempt was returned with 
interest. Sir William Temple forbade his daughter to marry 
a Frenchman, " because he had always had a deep hatred of that 
nation on account of its proud and impetuous character, so little in 
harmony with the slavish dependence in which it is kept at home." 2 
And if the English accuse the French of servility, they are in 
turn accused by the French of a savage disposition and senseless 
pride. " Pride and stupidity are their only manners ; their least 
absurd caprices are full of extravagance," said Saint-Amant of 
the English, and he spoke de visit, having seen " the malignant 
Roundheads, to whom the very throne is an object of suspicion," 3 
at work in their own country. 

Two migrations of English royalists, in 1649 and 1688, did 
not suffice to close this gulf between the two peoples. One 
would have thought it might have been bridged by the curiosity 
of travellers. But we have every reason to know that Frenchmen 
of the grand siecle were but little given to travel. Rare indeed 
were the writers who, like Malherbe or Descartes, had crossed 
the northern or eastern frontier. Italy was visited, and Spain ; 

1 See M. Langlois's study on Les Anglais au moyen age (Revue historique, 1894). 

2 A. Babeau, Les voyageurs en France, p. 99. 

3 V Albion (CEu-vres, ed. Livet, vol. ii., p. 439). 


but no one ventured to cross the Channel. When, in 1654, 
Father Coulon, a Jesuit, published one of the earliest guides for 
travellers in England possibly the first to appear in the French 
language l this ancestor of Baedeker and Joanne did not disguise 
from his readers the difficulty of the undertaking, and had to 
appeal to the most celebrated instances in order to encourage 
them. "Once the dwelling-place of saints and angels, England 
is now the infernal abode of parricides and fiends. For all that, 
however, she has not changed her nature ; she still remains 
where she was, and just as in the lower regions the justice of 
the Almighty is associated with pity, so in this hateful island 
you may observe at the same time the traces of ancient piety, and 
the commotions and disturbance caused by the brutality of a 
people excited, spite of their Northern stupidity (sic), to the 
verge of madness." Scarcely an attractive picture. Accordingly, 
Coulon feels the necessity of providing his reader with some 
consolation. " Since in former days Julius Caesar had the 
courage and the curiosity to embark from the shore of Calais 
in order to seek a new world beyond our seas, and to add to 
his empire provinces which nature has separated from our 
dominions by another element, our traveller need not fear to 
cross over to England nor to entrust himself to the winds and 
to fortune, which formerly brought that ruler of the universe in 
safety to the port of Dover." He would therefore follow Julius 
Caesar to England, but he would make no stay in the island. 
" I do not recommend any reader to penetrate very far into the 
country, for nature has subjected it to a very sorry climate, and 
placed it, as it were, at the extremity of the world, in order to 
forbid our entry. It would be better to set out once more for 
France." 2 

1 Lejidele con ducteur pour le voyage d'Angleterre, by the sieur Coulon. Paris, Gervais 
Clouzier, 1654, nmo. In the sixteenth century had appeared Le guide des chemins 
d'Angleterre,fort necessaire a ceux qui y voyagent . . . [by Jean Bernard, Secretary of 
the King's Chamber]. Paris, Gervais Malot, 1579, 8vo. 

2 About the same time a certain sieur de la Boullaye Legoux published a few 
notes on England, which he had visited in 1643. He mentions as his friends: 
" Charles Stuart, first of the name, king of England," and " Mme. Cromwell, 
widow of the late Oliver Cromwell, of London." (See Rathery, Des relations sociales 
et intellectuellcs entre la France et I'Angleterre, 4th part.) 


Most men, in that day, held the same opinion as Coulon, and 
spared themselves the trouble of " setting out once more for 
France " by never crossing her frontier. The majority, like Guy 
Patin, regarded travelling as " a disturbance of body and mind 
to no purpose whatever." 1 Such writers as had visited England 
during the previous century for instance, Brantome, Ronsard, 
Monchrestien, Bodin, Henri Estienne, La Noue, and du Bartas 
had commonly done so for diplomatic purposes, or in the train of 
a great personage. 

The few men of letters who, in the seventeenth century, 
crossed the English Channel, were travellers almost in spite of 
themselves, and certainly had little curiosity concerning English 
literature. Such were Voiture, 2 Gabriel Naude, who went to 
collect books for Mazarin's library, Puget de la Serre, whose 
duties as historiographer obliged him to follow Marie de 
Medicis, 3 Theophile de Viaud, who sought refuge in England 
for his own safety, Pavilion, d'Assoucy, Jean de Schelandre, 
Chappuzeau, almost all literary adventurers, upon whom, with 
the possible exception of Schelandre, English literature seems to 
have made no impression whatever. Saint- Amant, in some very 
inferior lines, 4 said of the Englishman, " he has nevertheless the 
audacity to boast of his own rhymesters ; to his mind they are 
better than either Vergil or Horace. In comparison with a 
Janson [Ben Jonson], Seneca is but an insipid poet, destitute of 
either power or melody, and the famous Euripides has neither 
grace nor workmanship." And of some lines of English poetry 
he said : " Enough that they are in English ; they shall be re- 
duced to ashes." Pavilion expects to find England a wild region, 
covered with virgin forests, and is amazed to discover " never a 

1 From the way in which he mangles proper names it would appear doubtful 
whether Coulon himself ever crossed the straits. Exeter becomes Exceste, Bristol, 
firestel, the Thames, la Tamesc, etc 

2 Cf. Li vet, Precieux et Precieuses, vol. i;, p. 191. 

3 See the account of Marie de Medicis' entry into London, by Puget de la Serre : 
the event occurred in 1639. (tf- Edward Smith, Foreign Visitors in England, p. x.) 

4 Cf. Albion, caprice hero'i-comiqne, dedicated to Mgr. le Marechal de Bassompierre, 
composed in 1644, and published by M. Livet in his edition of Saint- Amant, 1855, 
vol. ii 


bridge or a gate to defend, not a single castle to storm, no 
wrongs to redress nor robbers to chastize ; in fact not the veriest 
young spark to draw sword against." " But for the few young 
ladies on palfreys whom one meets from time to time, I should 
never have believed myself in the kingdom of Great Britain, so 
changed seems everything in England since the days of King 
Artus." 1 Le Pays who received the nickname of "Voiture's 
ape" and was so ill-treated by Boileau remarks the ferocious 
nature of English dramatic representations, but does not mention 
any author or any piece by name. 2 

Nor were the French less ignorant of the language than of 
the country. Who should have been at the pains to acquire it ? 
Europe spared them the trouble of speaking foreign languages 
by using their own. Etienne Pasquier had already remarked 
that there was not a nobleman's mansion in the whole of 
Germany, England, and Scotland but had its French tutor. 
French, in the seventeenth century, was, after Latin, the inter- 
national language. It was in French that Bacon wrote to the 
Marquis d'Effiat, and Hobbes to Gassendi. The foreign 
languages taught in the schools of Port Royal were Spanish 
and Italian. 3 In the scheme of studies drawn up by Richelieu 
for the grammar school he intended to found in his native town, 
we find no subjects represented beyond " the comparison of the 

1 Letter to Mme. de Pelissari. CEuvres de M. Pavilion, Paris, 1720, I2mo, p. no. 

2 Amitiez, amours et amourettes, by M. Le Pays, 3rd edn., Paris, 1665, izmo. p. 
202. " You are aware, sir, that the rules of dramatic art, as we understand them, 
will not allow the tragic events of a play to be enacted before the eyes of the spec- 
tator. Our poets understand the gentleness of our disposition, and never permit 
blood to be spilt upon the stage. . . . Quite otherwise is it with English poets, 
who, in order to pander to the humour and inclination of their audience, always in- 
troduce scenes of bloodshed, and never fail to embellish their pieces with the most 
horrible catastrophes. In every play that is produced some one is either hung, torn 
in pieces, or assassinated. And it is at such passages that their women clap their 
hands and burst into laughter." As further instances of accounts of travel in the 
seventeenth century, I may mention that of a journey by the Due de Rohan : Voyage 

fait en Van 1600 en Italie, Allemagne, Pays JSas, Angleterre et Ecosse (Amsterdam, 1646, 
i 2mo), and the volume by Charles Patin entitled : Relations historiques et curieuses de 
voyages en Allemagne, Angleterre^ Hollande, Boheme, Suisse, etc., by C. P. (Rouen, 1676, 

3 Lantoine, Histoire de Venseignement secondaire en France au xvii e siecle, p. 181. 


Greek, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish languages." The 
writers of the day, Mme. de Sevigne, Racine, Corneille, La 
Fontaine, read Spanish or Italian, and sometimes both ; but for 
the Teutonic languages they cared nothing whatever. La 
Bruyere and Saint-Simon are quoted as having known something 
of German. So late even as 1665 the Journal des savants was 
unable to find anyone who could contribute an account of the 
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. " The English," 
wrote Le Clerc, " have many good works ; it is a pity that authors 
in that country seldom write any language but their own." x 

English was regarded as a barbarous jargon. Corneille used 
to show his friends, as a curiosity, an English translation of Le 
Cid, which he kept in a cabinet along with translations of the 
same work into Turkish and Sclavonian. Jean Doujat, the 
lawyer, who was believed to know all the languages of Europe ; 
La Mothe le Vayer, who had married a Scotchwoman ; Regnier 
Desmarais, who, in his grammar, introduces a few comparisons 
with English ; the sieur de la Hoguette, who had visited 
England, had met Bacon, and was acquainted with some English 
novels, 2 were mentioned as having a knowledge of the language. 
Fenelon, Ramsay's friend, says vaguely : "I hear that the 
English do not mind what words they use, provided they suit 
their purpose. They borrow them from their neighbours 
wherever they find them." 3 Sorel, in his Francion, obtains a 
cheap success with a burlesque of the jargon spoken by an 
English lord. 4 

Nevertheless, even in the seventeenth century there existed 
works devoted to the teaching of English. From Gabriel 
Meurier, through Festeau and Miege, down to Louis Oursel 
and Boyer, various grammarians had turned their attention to 
the language. 5 One of them, Claude Mauger, in a grammar 

1 Rathery, part iii. 2 Ibid. 

3 Lcttre a I* Academic, iii. 4 Francion, bk. ii., pp. 70-72. 

5 Gabriel Meurier's work (Traite pour apprendre a parler francois et anglois) dates 
from 1653. The Alphabet anglois of Louis Oursel is dated 1639 (Rouen, 8vo, 32 pp.). 
The same writer's Grammere angloise bears the same date (Rouen, 1639, 8vo, 205 pp.). 
Festeau's Noui>elle grammalre anglaise belongs to 1672. The Dictionnaire anglais- 
francais et francais-anglais of Miege is dated 1685. 


which passed through thirteen editions, boasts, for the benefit 
of his English readers, of having associated with some of the 
best minds of Port Royal, who had placed his work in their 
library. 1 

These works, however, were designed for the use of those 
engaged in business. Boyer, in the grammar which he published 
in 1700, was the first to proclaim that there is " something both 
of Sophocles and of Aeschylus in Shakespeare." But Boyer was 
a refugee, and his grammar, as well as his dictionary, belongs to 
the eighteenth century. Adrien Baillet, as M. Jusserand has 
pointed out, had already alluded to Shakespeare in his Jugements 
des Savants, published at Paris in 1685-86, but he men- 
tioned his name only, without giving any appreciation of his 
work. 2 

Very few were the English books which found their way 
into France before 1700; a few translations from Latin, More's 
Utopia and Barclay's Argents ; certain historical works, such as 
those of Burnet or Ricaut, the latter of whom, through the 
medium of a translation, supplied Racine with the historical 
materials of his Bajazet ; 3 almost the whole of Bacon, whose 
Essays were rendered into French in 1611 by a certain Jean 
Baudouin, 4 and some of the writings of Hobbes ; as regards 
imaginative works, Godwin's Man in the Moon, and The Discovery 
of a New World, by John Wilkins, both of them known to 
Cyrano de Bergerac, and translated, the one* by Jean Baudouin 
in 1648, and the other by the sieur de la Montagne in 1655 ; a 
novel by Greene, and Sidney's Arcadia such were the principal 

1 " I assure you that there are no Words nor Phrases in my Grammar but are very 
Modish, for I was every day with some of the ablest Gentlemen of Port Royal, who 
assured me that my Grammar is in their Library." Cf. the notice at the end of 
the Grammaire angloise, expliquee far regies generates, by Claude Mauger, professor 
of languages, Bordeaux, not dated. The thirteenth edition bears the date 

2 See M. Jusserand's articles on Shakespeare en France sous fancien regime (Cosmopolis, 
1896 and 1897). 

3 Histoire de I'etat present de V empire ottoman, trans, by Briot. Paris, 1670, 4to. 

4 See the list of these translations in Charles Adam's Philosophic de Francois Bacon. 
To M. Adam's list should be added the translation of the De augmentis, by the sieur 
de Golefer, the royal historiographer. Paris, 1632, 4*0. 


English works which found their way across the Channel in the 
seventeenth century. 1 

The Arcadia alone became famous, on account of the reputa- 
tion of its author. Two translators disputed the honour of 
introducing it to the French public. D'Urfe appears to have 
read it ; Balzac praises the author ; Sorel criticises it ; while 
Boisrobert and Marechal had recourse to it for the subjects of 

But all these translations, which we mention as curiosities 
merely, did not affect French literature to any appreciable extent. 
On the contrary, it was the French tragedies, romances and 
comedies that were finding their way abroad at this period, and 
were exerting a strong influence beyond the borders of France. 2 
It would be difficult to name more than one or two seventeenth- 
century works, the subjects of which were taken from English 
books. Jean de Schelandre was possibly acquainted with Shake- 
speare ; La Fosse, in his Manlius, has undoubtedly imitated 
Otway, and La Fontaine appears to have borrowed the subject 
of Un Animal dans la lune from Hudibras. Of English literature, 

1 L'homme dans la lune, an imaginary journey to the Moon, by Dominique Gonzales 
[Jean Baudouin], Spanish adventurer. Paris, 1648, 8vo. 

Decouverte d'un nouveau monde, designed to show that there is an inhabitable world 
in the moon ; and a discourse intended to make plain the possibility of getting 
there, together with a treatise on the planets. London, 1640, 8vo. 

Le monde dans la lune, by the sieur de la Montagne. Rouen, 1655, ^ vols. i2mo. 

Histoire tragique de Pandosto, roi de Boheme, et de Bellaria safemme; together with the 
Amours de Dorastus et de Favina, translated from English into French by L. Regnault. 
Paris, 1615, I2mo (mentioned by Lenglet-Dufresnoy, Bibliotheque des romans, 

p. 44). 

Mention is also made of certain Memoires du chevalier Hazard, traduits de I'anglais 
sur T original manuscrit, Cologne, 1603, I2mo, which I have been unable to identify. 
{Bibliotheque des romans, March 1779.) 

Le Blanc (Lettret, i., 33) speaks 01 a translation of J. Hall's Quovadis, to which 
no date is assigned. Numerous translations of J. Hall's works were published at 
Geneva in the course of the seventeenth century. Thomas Browne's Religio Medici 
was translated (from the Latin) by Nicolas le Febvre in 1668. The Eikon Basilike, 
translated by Porree, appeared at Rouen in 1649. 

With reference to translations of the Arcadia, see J. Jusserand, The English Novel, 
p. 282. The Arcadia figured in the library of Fouquet. 

2 Cf. Beljame, Le public et les hommes de lettres en Angleterre, p 14 et seq. J. Jus- 
serand, The English Novel, chap. vii. 


its general characteristics and essential features, cultivated minds 
had no idea whatever, and it was from Addison that Boileau 
heard of the existence of English poetry. 

Saint-Evremond alone, among the critics of his time, has 
spoken of it with a measure of understanding. Obliged to live 
in London, the friend of Waller, Buckingham, and D'Aubigny 
succeeded at any rate in forming a fairly accurate idea of the 
English genius, if he never obtained a knowledge of the 
language. He showed much acuteness in detecting the strong 
and the weak points of the English drama. He does not, it is 
true, make mention of Shakespeare, or at any rate he alludes to 
him only in a vague and cursory manner. 1 But he names Ben 
Jonson, whose Catilina and Sejanus, as also several of his comedies, 
he had read or seen acted. In the year which saw the produc- 
tion of Phedre, he spoke in favourable terms of the English 
drama, which " appeals too strongly to the senses," but possesses 
fresh and vigorous beauties to which French tragedy cannot 
attain. 2 Above all, though the information he acquired was not 
always very exact, his mind became broadened by contact with 
a new literature so entirely different from the French. Though 
never more than a literary amateur, he was a man of an open 
and comprehensive mind ; with Fontenelle he perceived that 
" different varieties of ideas are like plants and flowers which 
do not thrive equally well in every kind of climate," 3 and like 
him would have been ready to add : " Possibly our soil is 
no better suited to the reasoning of the Egyptians than it is to 
their palm-trees." 4 

But Saint-Evremond, like Fontenelle, is an isolated example. 

1 Letter to Mme. de Mazarin, 1682. (CEuvres melees de Saint-fivremond, ed. 
Giraud, vol. Hi., p. 186). 

2 Sur Us tragedies, 1677. Ed. Giraud, vol. iii., p. 368. 
^ Digression sur les anciens. 

4 Cf. Saint-fivremond, Dissertation sur Alexandre, ed. Giraud, vol. i., p. 295 : " One 
of the great faults of our nation is that we judge everything in reference to it, even 
to the extent of calling those of our compatriots who have not the bearing and 
manners characteristic of their country strangers in their own land ; hence we are 
justly reproached with being unable to judge of things otherwise than by their rela- 
tion to ourselves." Cf. vol. i., p. 109, and vol. ii., p. 385. 


Taken as a whole, seventeenth-century France remained closed 
to the literatures of the Northern nations or rather to the 
only one of those literatures with which it might have formed 
acquaintance. For her, the map of intellectual Europe was 
limited by the Alps, the Rhine, and the English Channel. 
Beyond these boundaries was desert-land and darkness. Away 
yonder, in the regions of the North, dwelt a coarse-minded race 
of men who led a sort of vegetable existence and were for ever 
incapable of rising to the idea of an art stamped with their own 
individuality or of independent thought. " You must at least 
confess," says one of Father Bouhours's characters, "that refine- 
ment of mind knows neither country nor race ; that is to say 
that, just as of old there were men of refined intellect among 
the Greeks and Romans, so are there now among Frenchmen, 
Italians, Spaniards, Englishmen, and even Germans and Musco- 
vites." His companion indignantly replies : " A strange pheno- 
menon, forsooth, would that be intellectual refinement in a 
German or a Muscovite. If there are such men in the world 
they must be of those who never show their faces without 
astonishing people. Cardinal du Perron once said, speaking of 
Gretser the Jesuit : " He has quite a refined mind for a German ; 
as though a cultured German were a prodigy." " I acknow- 
ledge," Ariste interrupted, " that cultivated minds are somewhat 
rarer in cold countries, because nature is there more languid and 
mournful, so to speak." " You should rather acknowledge," 
said Eugene, " that intellectual culture, as you have defined it, 
is entirely incompatible with the coarse temperament and clumsy 
frames of northern peoples." l 

What would Father Bouhours have said if he had been in- 
formed that a day would come when those " clumsy frames " 
and " coarse temperaments " would be the envy of French 
writers, and when this "languid, mournful nature" would be 
triumphantly contrasted with the bright sunshine of Italy ? 
" Our native prejudice," writes La Bruyere, " combined with 
our national pride, makes us forget that reason belongs to all 
climes alike, and that there is correct thinking wherever men 

1 Les Entretiens d' Ariste et d" 1 Eugene, new edn., Amsterdam, 1671, pp. 231-132. 


exist. We should not like to be similarly treated by those 
whom we call barbarians ; and if there is any barbarism in us, it 
consists in our being amazed when we find other people reason- 
ing as we do." In truth this " prejudice " was very strong, even in 
the nobler minds of that century. Not that the genius of the 
French nation was regarded as the highest manifestation of the 
genius of humanity , but that curiosity and admiration, instead of 
being attracted by works of foreign origin, were directed to those 
of antiquity. They were extended, if one may say so, not in 
space but in time. So powerful was the charm of antiquity that 
very few minds dreamed of breaking away from their time- 
honoured habit of fond veneration for it. Reverence for the 
humanities had become, as it were, the very substance of the 
French mind, and the history of human genius seemed to con- 
sist of but three stages : Athens, Rome, and Paris. Beyond 
these, beyond the three great epochs adorned by the brilliant 
names of Pericles, Augustus, and Louis XIV., classical criticism 
finds no age worthy of mention save that of Leo X., the glorious 
aftermath of the classical harvest. Across the periods of gloom 
these bright ages join hands and supplement each other. In the 
course of human progress they stand out like so many glittering 
beacons, which but render the dark intervals of the road still 
more obscure. 

Are we then to make it a reproach to the men of the seven- 
teenth century to the genius of a Bossuet, to the open mind of 
a Fenelon, to the sober reason of a Boileau that their concep- 
tion of the world's intellectual history was what it was ? We 
should, indeed, be strangely simple if we did. Not only did 
historical circumstances beyond human control conceal from them 
the prodigious efflorescence of English literature in the sixteenth 
century, and the manner in which the German genius blossomed 
forth into poetry during the middle ages ; not only had Northern 
Europe, during their own time, produced nothing at all com- 
parable to the literature of France, but the humanism with 
which they were imbued condemned them to remain strangers 
to everything that was not inspired by ancient models. Those 
even who revolted against the superstitious belief in antiquity, 


such as Desmarets, Perrault, and Lamotte, did not dream of 
setting up foreign, in opposition to classical, models. Whatever 
they themselves may have thought, the works which they contrast 
with those of antiquity are imitations of the antique ; with the 
Greek epic they compare the French, and, with ancient tragedy, 
modern. The quarrel as to the ancients and the moderns is thus 
a quarrel between Rome and Paris, and Perrault would have 
been very much astonished if the name of Spenser or of Milton 
had been introduced into the discussion. There was, in truth, 
no question of replacing the established principles of art by fresh 
ones ; above all, none of substituting a new for an obsolete con- 
ception of man. It was merely a question of finding out whether 
progress was still possible on the lines marked out by Homer, 
Vergil and Sophocles, and whether or not mankind was con- 
demned to remain subject to these masters. But to inquire 
whether other models could not be set up in opposition to 
these ; whether, somewhere in the world, a different art had 
not been realized by men of genius of another stamp, was a thing 
of which no one dreamed ; and to this, in the quarrel concerning 
ancient and modern writers, which might have had beneficial 
results, was due the weakness of those who supported the 
moderns. In the works which they compare with the classics, 
in the dramatic productions of Racine or Moliere works which, 
though almost as perfect as their models, do not aim at throwing 
them into oblivion, but glory, on the contrary, in carrying on 
their tradition antiquity itself is born again to a new life. The 
purest element in the genius of these moderns is still the genius 
of antiquity. Of a literature entirely free from classical con- 
tamination, a spontaneous growth untainted by any germs of 
foreign origin in the heart of the national soil, Perrault could 
have no idea, and could only have had, if for an antiquity ap- 
parently so little dissimilar from the age of Louis XIV. had been 
substituted either the art of the middle ages or the literature 
of the North. The cult of the humanities would have had to 
be indeed it actually needed to be replaced or supplemented 
by the cosmopolitan spirit. 

Louis XIV. once had the curiosity to enquire whether there 


were any writers and men of learning in England. The reply 
of his ambassador in London, the Comte de Comminges, was 
that " the arts and the sciences seem at times to forsake one 
country in order to do honour to another in its turn. At the 
present they have made their home in France, and if any vestiges 
of them are yet left in England, they are only to be found in 
the works of Bacon, Morus, and Bucanan, and coming to a later 
period, in those of a certain Miltonius, whose writings have 
made his name more infamous than those of the executioners 
and assassins of the English king." l 

In the seventeenth century the whole of France, or very 
nearly the whole, held the same opinion as the Comte de 
Comminges. The nation was blinded by its literary supremacy. 
To use the vigorous language of a contemporary, it " was under 
the happy conviction that everything that was not French ate 
hay and walked on four legs," when a momentous historical 
event altered at once the political map and the intellectual 
frontiers of the continent, and prepared the way, in opposition 
to the Latin section of Europe, for the rise of the Germanic 
and Anglo-Saxon races. 


The revocation of the Edict of Nantes had a two-fold effect. 
In the first place, it marked a pause in the diffusion of French 
influence abroad ; England, a Protestant nation, and destined 
ere long to become to some extent Dutch and Calvinistic as 
well, assumed in consequence of the revocation an attitude of 
opposition to the group of Catholic states represented by France. 
In the second place, it established on the borders of France, 
and especially in Great Britain and the Low Countries, colonies 
of men whose liberal minds were embittered and sharpened by 
exile, and whose curiosity became increasingly attracted to their 
adoptive countries, to which they were already drawn by re- 
ligious and political sympathy. 

England, the uttermost territory of the old continent, "that 

1 Cf. J. Jusserand, /<? Roman anglais , p. 37. 


heroic land," as Michelet 1 calls it, was the chief asylum of the 
refugees. Some estimate the number of those who came over 
at seventy thousand, others at eighty thousand 2 ; and it may 
be safely asserted that they repaid British hospitality in a liberal 
manner, not only by the importation of their industrial skill, 
but also by their determined and fruitful efforts to spread abroad 
in France the science, the philosophy, and the literature of their 
adopted country. 

Before 1 688, the colony of refugees in London had been but 
small : Charles II. was not fond of them and did not make them 
welcome. But in 1688 they flocked to London. There they 
found an asylum, pensions, and places : Desmaizeaux received 
an Irish pension, Justel was appointed librarian to the king. 
They very soon became the defenders of the new government, 
and its advocates in opposition to the rest of Europe. Protected 
by the Whigs and zealously opposed to Sacheverell and the 
Tories, they took their share also in the internal politics of 
England, and were not long in forming a party. When, in 
1709, their friends the Whigs introduced in parliament a bill 
for their naturalisation, harmony of disposition had already 
rendered it an accomplished fact. Why, however, should 
their British zeal have driven some of them to lend their 
financial support to their adoptive country against that which 
they had quitted ? 

It is in this colony of Protestants in London which flourished 
from 1688 to 1730, or thereabouts that we must seek the 
original nucleus of that body of men whose limited but singularly 
restless and well-informed intelligence made them the most active 
agents of the cosmopolitan spirit in the world of science and of 
letters, and whose unwearying mediocrity peculiarly fitted them 
for the dissemination of knowledge in a popular form. Many of 
them became so far anglicised as to win for themselves a place in 
English literature. Among these were Pierre Antoine Motteux, 

1 Michelet, Histoire de France, vol. ii., p. 90. 

2 Cf. Weiss, Histoire des refugies frotestants de France, vol. i., p. 272. See also 
Sayous, Histoiredela litterature franfaise a I 'Stranger, 1853, 2 vols. ; Rathery, 4th article, 
and an article in the Revue Britannique (May 1868). 


who wrote plays in English which were produced with some 
success, and founded a monthly magazine called The Gentleman * ; 
and Abel Boyer, who started a review named The Postboy, wrote 
an English tragedy, and compiled a dictionary of the language. 
Most of them spoke English, could write it if necessary, and 
were on familiar terms with the writers of the day. In London 
they used to meet at the The Rainbow Coffee-House in the neigh- 
bourhood of Mary le Bone, and there they formed one of the 
earliest agencies in Europe for the supply of information on 
English affairs. Doubtless Voltaire sat at their table during his 
stay in London, and profited by the experience of those who 
frequented The Rainbow. 

The doyen of these gatherings, Pierre Daude, a clerk of the 
Exchequer, was a fervent admirer of Bacon, had translated 
Chubb, and was looked upon as a sort of oracle on points of 
English philosophy and theology. 2 Such another was " the 
celebrated M. de Moivre," the friend and disciple of Newton, 
no less well-informed, if we may believe one who had personal 
knowledge, 3 upon Corneille and Racine than upon Newton and 
Leibnitz, and " consulting grammarian to all the translators and 
critics of the place." All had the encyclopaedic spirit. They 
discussed everything at The Rainbow, and kept abreast of all the 
knowledge of the day. There, by the side of theologians like 
Colomies or Misson, of an orientalist like de la Croze or a 
historian like Rapin de Thoyras, you might see Durand, historian, 
poet and authority on numismatics ; Cesar de Missy, preacher ; 
Le Clerc, one of the leading journalists of the time ; or the 
honest and excellent Coste, the translator of Locke. In this 
grave and studious circle we can discern the dawn of the spirit 
of the eighteenth century, less inquisitive concerning literature 
than concerning science, but eager above all things to take in, 
with however superficial a glance, the whole field of human 
knowledge. " It were much to be desired," wrote Le Clerc in 

1 Cf. Beljame, Le public et es hommes de lettres, Bibliographic. 

2 See the eulogium on Daude in the Bibttotheque Britannique, 1733, vol. i., 
pp. 167-183. 

3 Le Blanc, Lrttres, vol. i., pp. 77 and 142; vol. iii.. p. 86. 


1703, 1 "that, since the mind of man is very limited and the 
duration of life so short, each man would devote himself to one 
particular kind of reading and study. It must be confessed that 
by the opposite practice nothing is brought to perfection, and 
life is frittered away. . . . But how can it be helped ? The 
sciences, especially those which are concerned with facts, such 
as history and criticism, and all the others which are related to 
them, are so intimately connected together that we are compelled 
to study them in connection with one another, and that, do what 
we will, we find ourselves launched upon an inexhaustible ocean 
of reading. Besides, it is impossible to quench the natural 
curiosity of the human intellect, which, as a rule at any rate, 
desires instruction in every branch of knowledge." 

These facts namely, that they were industrious, inquiring 
and withal superficial explain how it was that the refugees in 
England and in Holland were such excellent journalists. They 
compiled, translated and made excerpts. They were the most 
indefatigable translators and adapters the eighteenth century had 
seen : not even " the inevitable M. Eidous himself," as Grimm 
calls him, could compete with them. Armand de la Chapelle 
kept up the Bibliotheque anglaise for ten years, gave active assist- 
ance to the Bibliotheque raisonnee des savants de I* Europe a sort of 
international tribune which, for five-and-twenty years was the 
organ of Protestant Europe translated Ditton's Discourse con- 
cerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and, as a recreation, Steele's 

Desmaizeaux, the same who was the soul of the gatherings at 
The Rainbow, wrote biographies of Bayle, Boileau, and Saint- 
Evremond, contributed to all the newspapers in Holland and 
London, acted as the non-official correspondent of the Journal des 
savants and of Leibnitz, made translations for booksellers, wrote 
lives of Chillingworth and Hales in English, issued the unpub- 
lished works of Clarke, Newton, and Collins and all without 
prejudice to an enormous private correspondence which lies 
buried in the archives of the British Museum. " He is the man 
who knows all the eminent persons : he writes to them, receives 

1 Bibliotheque ckoisie, introductory remarks. 


letters from them, and is indefatigable in their service." l He 
was a literary factotum. Editor, translator, compiler and 
journalist, Desmaizeaux belonged to no one country ; he was a 
citizen of learned and thinking Europe. 2 

There were many like him; some of them serious-minded men, 
fully convinced of the lofty nature of their task, others mere 
literary adventurers, like Themiseul de Saint-Hyacinthe, the half- 
starved author of the Chef-d'oeuvre (Pun inconnu, who after having 
served, if we may believe Voltaire, as a dragoon during the per- 
secution of the French Protestants, had crossed over to England, 
there had been converted, had translated Robinson Crusoe, and 
though always a destitute wanderer, had been nominated a 
member of the Royal Society of London. 

It was English philosophy that the refugees, who were fol- 
lowers of Bacon and Locke, endeavoured first of all to render 
popular upon the Continent. From the English colony in 
Amsterdam Locke met with an enthusiastic reception. Several 
of his writings were published in the Bibliotheques of Le Clerc, 
and a certain " extract from an English work as yet unpublished, 
entitled A philosophical essay concerning the understanding . . . con- 
tributed by Mr Locke," 3 appeared first of all in the Bibliotheque 
Universelle. It was Pierre Coste, one of the refugees, who pub- 
lished the earliest translations of the master, in particular one of 
the Essay on the Human Understanding, in 1700, and who, as tutor 
in the house of Lady Masham, shared her admiration for the 
philosopher, attended him during his last moments, and closed 
his eyes. The Dutch newspapers made the first undisguised 
attempt to disseminate Locke's principles in France, and attacked 
the philosophy of Descartes with the weapons of sarcasm. 4 Lastly, 
it was Le Clerc who, upon the death of the master, printed a 
panegyric upon him in his paper, and wreathed his memory with 
respectful homage. 5 Thus the refugees assumed the responsi- 

1 Sayous, Le xviii e siecle a I'etranger, vol. i., p. 16. 

2 See the article Desmaizeaux in la France protestante. 

8 Bibliotheque universel/e, January 1688 : the abstract contains 92 pages. 

4 Cf. Bibliotheque ancienne et moderne, iv. 230 ; xiii. 225. 

5 This " historic eulogium of the late Mr Locke " will be found in the " (Euvres 

de M Locke," Amsterdam. 1732, 2 vols. i2mo. 


bility before Europe for the spread of " English philosophism." 
They made themselves its apostles, if not its martyrs, and it 
was not without good reason that after having made mention 
of Locke, Clarke and Newton, " the greatest philosophers 
and the best writers of their time," Voltaire associated 
with these illustrious names the now more modest name of 
Le Clerc. 1 

Liberals in philosophy, the refugees adhered also, and with 
zeal, perseverance and bitterness, to liberalism in politics. 2 
Through their agency a knowledge of the English constitution 
was diffused throughout Europe. The English revolution had 
already given rise to a sort of theoretical republicanism in France. 
About 1650, a breath of liberty had passed over Europe. Ccelum 
ipsum respublicaturit) it was said in Germany. "At that epoch," 
says a contemporary, 3 " there was more controversy concerning the 
right of kings than ever before, owing to the case of the English 
sovereign. Hence, both in private conversation and in public 
speeches, numberless tirades against kings, as though they were 
so many tyrants." It was said that Retz had even taken the 
trouble to have a narrative of the revolutions in Great Britain 
written by one of his own men, Salmonet the Scotchman, " in 
order to teach every one the proper method of procedure." 4 
But the horror occasioned by the revolution of 1649 outweighed 
the sympathy it inspired, even among the opponents of 

That of 1688, on the contrary, gave shape to these aspirations, 
and provided them with a programme, while at the same time it 
formed at the very doors of France, in London and at the Hague, 
two active centres for the diffusion of parliamentarian principles. 
In England the refugees openly acted as the champions of 
Liberalism in politics. Timid at times on theological questions, 

1 Lettres anglaises, vii. 

2 Le Blanc, Lettres, vol. iii., p. 243 : " We might condemn the satirical disposition 
which the refugees contracted among our neighbours, did not the misfortunes which 
embittered them render it in a manner excusable ; but we cannot excuse the English 
for judging us by what are merely idle declamations." 

3 Alexander Morus to Mestrezat, quoted by Rathery, loc. cit. 

4 Cf. a letter by Mazarin, Rathery, third part. 


they were daring in their praises of the English government. 
On this point the Journal Litteraire published at the Hague is 
most instructive. The pulpit was no less loud in its praises of 
William III., nor did it deny itself either threats or the hope of 
revenge. " If ever," said Cesar de Missy, in a sermon preached 
at the French chapel in the Savoy, 1 " we have been seen sitting 
together beside the waters of an unclean Babylon, that Babylon 
was France, our step-mother, and not England, which is for us 
a second fatherland, and worthy of that beautiful name, a Judaea, 
a Jerusalem, a Zion. . . . Happy banks watered by the Thames ! 
If ever the persecuted religion could compare you in any respect 
to Babylon, it would be because from you as from Babylon there 
might come forth a Cyrus or a Darius to restore the sanctuaries 
which a Nebuchadnezzar has pillaged and overthrown." 

Accordingly the Protestant journalists openly lent their assist- 
ance to every scheme of reform which was mooted in France. 
They were in full sympathy with the Polysynodie of the Abbe de 
Saint-Pierre. Having neither a Republic nor a Parliament to 
which they might appeal, they aroused public opinion on political 
questions, and prepared it for the boldest solutions. 

It was by them that the first history of English institutions 
was written. Gregorio Leti, Larrey, and especially Rapin de 
Thoyras obtained a knowledge of the facts from the English 
themselves. " But for the French, and for Rapin de Thoyras, 
the English would never have had a general history of their own 
nation." 2 In fact, Rapin's English history, which appeared, in 
eight volumes, at the Hague in 1724, marked an epoch, and long 
remained a classic. Rapin, who was a nephew of Pellisson, and had 
fought at the battle of the Boyne, had become, by aid of the royal 
favour, tutor to the sons of Lord Portland, and had turned his 
thankless office to account by observing aristocratic society in Eng- 
land from a near standpoint. His book, which is really the history 
of the growth of the power of Parliament, was in truth the first 
philosophical treatise on British institutions. Translated by 
Tindal, nephew of the deist, it aroused the liveliest curiosity 

1 Sayous, op. cit., i. 24. 

2 Le Blanc, Lettres, vol. Hi., p. 71. 


in England. No book did more to make Europe acquainted 
with Great Britain. 1 

Little by little these efforts of the refugees produced their 
effect. The greatness of England, contrasted with the decline 
of France, attracted everyone's attention to the Government of 
William of Orange. It is true that by its politics and its religious 
tradition the bulk of the French nation still remained in sympathy 
with the Stuarts, and one only needs to glance through the 
novels of Prevost through Cleveland, for example to see that, 
as Michelet phrased it, " France kept a corner of her heart for 
little Joas, I mean the Pretender." 2 

Gradually, however, " the Jacobite spirit, that unhealthy 
passion for intrigue and gallantry," lost ground. Fenelon, who 
derived his knowledge of the English Constitution from the 
Scotchman Ramsay, was already dreaming of a form of Govern- 
ment which should leave " kings all-powerful for good, and 
powerless for evil," 3 and Ramsay informs us that " the English 
Constitution, which he believed to possess this merit, pleased 
him better than any other." 4 With the arrival of the Regency 
and the conclusion of the English alliance this sympathetic 
influence grew stronger. Montesquieu says somewhere that 
in the days of his youth ministers " knew no more of England 
than a child six months old," 5 but from 1715 this ceased to be 
true. Even the public began to follow English politics some- 
what closely, and to make enquiries concerning the English 
theories of civil government which had been popularized by the 
refugees. 6 In certain minds the ideas of Locke were making 
their way. A few years later d'Argenson wrote : " Fifty years 

1 On Rapin de Thoyras, cf. the judgment of Voltaire ; Lettres anglais es^ end of 
Letter xxii. in the edition of 1734. 

2 Histotre de France^ vol. xv. , p. 46. 

3 It will be observed that the formula was appropriated word for word by Vol- 
taire. Lettres anglaises, viii. 

* Vie de Fenelon. , 

6 Notes sur V Angleterre (CEirures comfletes, ed. Lefevre, 1839, vol. ii., p. 484). 
6 In lyoz, at the Hague, Samson translated Algernon Sidney's Discourse on Civil 
Government^ vols. 8vo), which was afterwards read by Rousseau. Scheurleer and 
Rousset translated Mrs Manley's Atlantis, a satire upon the authors of the Revolu- 
tion of 1688 (1714-16, 3 vols. 8vo), &c. 


ago the public had no curiosity as to political news. . . . Now, 
however, English reasonings on politics and on liberty have 
crossed the sea, and are being adopted here : on all subjects we 
are growing more philosophical." l The Entresol Club was the 
meeting-place of anglomaniacs, " who like to discuss everything 
that goes on " ; there the Dutch gazettes and English news- 
papers could be read, and Bolingbroke was to be met. The 
attention of Frenchmen was aroused with regard to our neigh- 
bours. The propaganda of the refugees, aided by circumstances, 
was bearing fruit. 2 


But the Dutch, English, and Swiss Protestants did more than 
merely disseminate a knowledge of English philosophy and the 
principles of English politics ; they also made the French public 
acquainted with the manners, the science, and the literature of 
their neighbours. The earliest narratives of travel in England 
were the work of Protestants. 

Even in the seventeenth century, so early as 1664, Samuel 
Sorbiere had expressed himself frankly, indeed too much so, 
with regard to the English. The author of a version of 
More's Utopia, and the friend, correspondent and translator of 
Hobbes, Sorbiere had offended the sensibilities of the English 
by a certain expression of opinion on the Comte d'Ulfeld, who 
had married an illegitimate daughter of the King of Denmark, 
and also by reproaching them " with not being so attached to 
their sovereigns as might be desired." In consequence of this 
imprudence, the book was suppressed and the author exiled to 
Nantes. It also brought upon him the severe censure of 
Voltaire. He speaks of " the late M. Sorbiere, who, after 

1 Remarques en lisant, 1750. (Bibliotheque elzevirienne). 

2 On the influence of English political ideas in France, see especially Buckle's 
History of Civilisation. Observe that English Freemasonry was introduced into 
France during the Regency, and that it rapidly became a centre for the dissemina- 
tion of liberal and philosophic principles. The good Abbe Le Blanc mentions a 
society of drinkers and freethinkers as existing in 1745 : " Its orgies," he says, " are 
its principal mysteries." (Lettres, vol. i., p. 35.) In 1738, moreover, they had 
been condemned by the Pope 


spending no more than three months in London, and knowing 
nothing of either the language or the customs of the country, 
had thought proper to publish an account which was simply a 
satire upon a nation of which he was entirely ignorant." 1 Vol- 
taire, however, was here no less unjust than inaccurate. 2 The 
Relation (Pun voyage en Angleterre is in no sense a satire ; taking 
into account the date of its publication, it was one of the earliest 
properly grounded appreciations of the English mind to appear 
in the French language. For the most part, indeed, it was 
a favourable one. Sorbiere is exceedingly courteous in his 
remarks on the nobility of the English character, and finds it 
" not unlike that of the ancient Romans." He calls attention 
to the wonderful prosperity of a country where " you never 
see a countenance which excites your pity, nor a garment 
which betrays destitution," and as he passes through the rural 
districts "the hue of the grass seems to him brighter than 
elsewhere." He anticipates Taine in his enthusiasm for Eng- 
land's gardens and beds of flowers, her parks where " wander 
great herds of deer," the luxuriance of her trees, and of the 
hedges which intersect the landscape. 

He cannot sufficiently admire English science. He was most 
faithful in attending the meetings of the Royal Society, and 
describes its organisation in great detail. He associated with 
the most prominent physicists, and is loud in praise of the in- 
dependence of their thought. He cultivated the acquaintance 
of Hobbes, and Wallis showed him over the Oxford colleges. 

He passed, it is true, a somewhat hasty judgment upon 
English books, " which contain," he said, " nothing but dis- 
connected rhapsodies." But he makes some exceptions, and 
writes: "I have been very glad to let Frenchmen see that 
wit, good sense, and eloquence are to be found everywhere." 3 
Of the English drama, in particular, and long before the oft- 
quoted Saint-Evremond, he spoke with discrimination. After 

1 Preface to the Ess at sur la poesie epique, edn. of 1727. Cf. Bengesco, Bibliographie 
de foltaire, vol. ii., p. 5. 

2 Cf. on Sorbiere's travels, the Journal des Savants, 1709, Supplement, p. 43 2> 

3 P. 172. 


remarking the appearance of the stage, the " green cloth " 
which covers it, the lavishness of the decorations, and the music 
which is played in the intervals between the acts, he adds : 
11 Their comedies would not be received in France with the 
same approbation as in England. Their poets pay no attention 
to uniformity of place, or to the rule that the action should 
be limited to twenty-four hours. They write comedies ex- 
tending over five-and-twenty years, and after representing the 
marriage of a prince in the first act, they forthwith exhibit all 
the great deeds of his son, and take him to many different 
countries. They pride themselves especially on the accuracy 
with which they depict passion, vice, and virtue, and in this 
they succeed tolerably well. To portray a miser they make 
a man perform all the meanest actions characteristic of various 
ages, occasions and professions ; it matters nothing to them 
that the result is a medley, because, say they, they only attend 
to one part at a time, and pay no attention to the total effect." 

Sorbiere acknowledges, however, that he does not understand 
English. But for one who spent no more than a few weeks on 
the farther side of the channel he did not waste his time, what- 
ever Voltaire may say. 

Sorbiere's Relation dates from 1664, and was reprinted two 
years later. Misson's Memoires et observations faites par un voyageur 
en Angleterre appeared in 1668, and Remarque s sur F Angleterre faites 
par un voyageur, by Le Sage de la Colombiere, in 1715. These 
two authors were Protestants. The former, an ex-member of 
the Parlement de Paris and son-in-law of Mme. de la Sabliere, 
was a refugee in London in 1 688, and there occupied an import- 
ant position in the religious world ; 1 his work, though somewhat 
heavy, contained an abundance of information, and was translated 
into English. 2 The latter, a descendant of Agrippa D'Aubigne, 
after a ten years' residence in England as tutor, wrote the first 
French book in which the physical theories of Newton were pre- 

1 Sayous, Dix-huitieme siecle a V stronger , vol. i., p. 10. 

2 Mr Misson's Memoirs and Observations in his travels over England . . . translated by 
Mr Ozell. London, 1719, 8vo Cf., on Misson's book, Journal des Savants, 1699, 
p. 127. 


sented in a connected fashion, 1 and collected in a slender volume 
a certain number of observations, often trivial and sometimes 
coarse, upon English manners. 

But it is chiefly to the gazettes and newspapers of the refugees 
that we must turn to find a real mine of information on all matters 
relating to England. 2 In these delicately printed little volumes, 
which may be reckoned by the hundred, and, as their title-pages 
inform us, were published either at the Hague, at Amsterdam, 
or in London ; in the reviews published by Le Clerc, La Chapelle 
or Maty the first imperfect patterns of our modern reviews 
are to be found the earliest studies of English, and also of 
German, literature that were written in French. 

Not, it is, true, in Bayle' s Nouvelles de la Republique des lettres ; 3 
which is mainly a theological and scientific magazine, treating, 
moreover, of few but French and Latin books. Nevertheless, 
pursuing a practice destined to spread, the Nouvelles had already 
their London correspondents, who contributed reports of scientific 
events, of Boyle's experiments, of the meetings of the Royal 
Society, and of the latest publications in astronomy, geography, 
or medicine. One of these communications terminates as fol- 
lows : " Whence it will be seen that England alone could furnish 
sufficient material every month to fill a larger journal than ours 
with notices of good books, of which however practically none 
are to be seen in Holland. This is a case of negligence on the 
part of our booksellers, which it is to be hoped they will 
repair." 4 

Bayle's successors responded to this appeal. Le Clerc, a man 

1 Le M'ecamsme de I' esprit, by Le Sage de la Colombiere. Geneva, 1700 (cf. Sayous, 
xviii e siecle, vol. i., p. 103). 

2 In reference to the Dutch Gazettes, cf. Kcenen, Histoire des refugies franfais aux 
Pays-Bas, Leyden, 1846; Ch. Weiss, Histoire des refugies protestants de France; E. 
Hatin, Les Gazettes de Hollande, 1865, 8vo, and Histoire de la fresse, by the same 
writer ; also the two works by Sayous, especially La Literature franfaise a P'etranger, 
vol. ii., p. zy et seq, 

8 Nouvelles de la Republique des lettres, by Bayle and others. Amsterdam, March 
1684 to June 1718, 56 vols. izmo. The portion written by Bayle ends with 
February 1687, and has been reprinted in his (Euvres completes. His successors 
were La Roque, Jacques Bernard, Barrin, and Le Clerc. 

4 June 1685. 


of prudence and of weight, who may be regarded as the second 
founder of Protestant journalism, thought it his duty to do what 
he could, in the Bibliotheque universelle, to remove the ignorance 
of the public on the subject of England. " How few are the 
people," he writes, " on this side the sea, who have a knowledge 
of English. Yet the language contains a multitude of good 
books, still untranslated, and apparently destined to remain so, 
of which it would be highly beneficial to the public to have at 
least some knowledge." l Le Clerc therefore exerted himself to 
supply the want. But literature was not his strong point ; he 
had " too much calvinistic and socinian arrogance," as Boileau 
roundly informed him, to concern himself with trivial matters. 
Thus, when he speaks of English books, it is of scientific 
treatises, books on history, or philosophical works like those of 
Hobbes. Only by accident does he so far forget himself as to 
speak of Addison's travels in Italy. 2 On the other hand he never 
wearies of praising, in his successive miscellanies, 3 the commercial, 
maritime and political greatness of England. 

More of a scholar than either Bayle or Le Clerc, Basnage de 
Beauval, the third member of the triumvirate which laid the 
foundations of international journalism, carried on the Nouvelles 
de la Republique des lettresf and, in an indiscriminate fashion, 
devoted several numbers to Hobbes, Sherlock, Locke, Boyle, and 
W. Temple, 5 to the dispute between Jeremy Collier and Dennis 
on the moral condition of the stage, to Milton, 6 and to Milton's 
later poems. 7 He possessed a more open mind than his famous 
rivals. Above all, he had more zeal, and in opposition to 
Father Bouhours warmly took up the defence of " Germany, 
which had produced so many great men, and had invented so 
many of the arts necessary to life." 8 

1 Bibliotheque universe/It, vol. xxvi., preface. 2 Bibliotheque choisie, 1707, vol. xi., 198. 

3 Bibliotheque universelle et historique, Amsterdam, 1686-93, 26 vols. 12,1110; Biblio- 
theque choisie, Amsterdam, 1703-13, 27 vols. I2mo; Bibliotheque anctenne et moderne , 
Amsterdam, 1714-27, 26 vols. i2mo. On England see, especially, vol. i. of the 
Bibliotheque Universelle, pp. Il8-lZO. 

4 In his Histoire des outrages des savants, Rotterdam, i68"7-i7C>9, 24 vols. I2mo. 

5 In reference to this, cf> a passage on the English character, June 1692. 

6 July 1698. 7 February 1699. 8 January 1700. 


The success of these publications in Paris, and the relish with 
which they were read by La Fontaine, are well known. 1 Is it 
improbable that through them, at some time or other, the name 
of Milton caught the heedless eye of a Boileau or a Racine ? 

The more we learn of the history of these Dutch journals, the 
more of their space do we find allotted to studies of foreign, and 
especially of English, literature. " To a country so prolific of 
great men," we read in the Histoire critique de la Republique des 
lettres? " we can but render all the justice that is her due. 
When a nation has made us acquainted with so many fine works 
as has Great Britain, we cannot allow them to remain for ever 
unknown to the rest of Europe." In short, certain men of letters 
in France became irritated at last by the anglomania of the Dutch 
journalists, and thought to correct public opinion by showing 
" that the French were not so degenerate as was pretended in 
Holland." With this object, the Bibliotheque fratifaise was 
founded by De Sauzet, Bernard, Camusat, Granet, and the 
abbe Goujet, but its duration was very brief. 

The number of what may be called European reviews, on 
the contrary, continued to increase. All were due to the same 
spirit, and had the same end in view, namely, to break down 
the barriers between nations, and to prepare the way for a sort 
of international literature. It may, indeed, be doubted whether 
these efforts at dissemination were altogether disinterested ; too 
often love of Europe was, in reality, nothing more than hatred 
of France. But it cannot be denied that they were very active. 
From the Bibliotheque raisonnee des ouvrages des savants de F Europe? 
down to the Nouvelle bibliotheque ou Histoire litter air e des principaux 
ecrits qui se publientf and including among others P Europe savantef 
and rHistoire litteraire de fEuropef the series of encyclopaedic 

1 Lettre a M. Simon de Troyes. 

2 Utrecht, 1712, vol. i., preface. 

3 By La Chapelle, Desmaiseaux,Van Effen, Saint-Hyacinthe. Amsterdam, 1728-53, 
52 vols. i2mo. 

4 By Chaix, Barbeyrac, d'Argens, La Chapelle, etc. The Hague, 1738-44, 19 
vols. i2mo. 

5 By Saint-Hyacinthe, Van Effen and others. The Hague, 1718-20, 12 vols. 8vo. 

6 By Van Effen, 1726, 6 vols. 8vo. 


miscellanies, the mere titles of which suffice to indicate their 
aim and scope, extended over more than fifty years. 

Not one of these magazines will bear reading to-day. Their 
style is "Protestant" to the last degree; their criticism desti- 
tute of elegance ; their humour ponderous. But their informa- 
tion is singularly copious and accurate. 

When they indulge in satire, these journalists of Holland are 
terrible ; their irony resembles a blow from a club. Of this 
type was their manifesto in the dispute concerning the ancients 
and the moderns, the once-famous Chef cfoeuvre d'un inconnu, the 
idea of which they derived from Swift and from the Spectator. 
They wished to ridicule those would-be critics " who will not 
allow that any classical author ever thought incorrectly, or ever 
gave an inaccurate or trivial explanation." Swift, Pope, and 
Arbuthnot used to divert themselves at the expense of Bentley, 
the philologist, by supplying commentaries after their own 
fashion to lines of Vergil, inter pocula. The Spectator had pub- 
lished a skit of this sort a slender shaft, and launched by no 
disrespectful hand upon the partisans of the ancients. In the 
hands of Themiseul de Saint-Hyacinthe and his friends this shaft 
becomes a paving-stone. 

The passage to be explained being taken from a song sung by 
the daughter of a carpenter at the Hague : 

" L'autre jour Colin malade 

Dedans son lit, 
D'une grosse maladie 
Pensa mourir," 

the commentary is as follows: " ' 111,' that is to say, * not well,' 
or as the gentlemen of the French Academy observe, ' sensible 
of some derangement, some alteration in his health.' Colin 
therefore was ' ill ' ; not, however that his health was disordered 
by fever, or some other sickness which would demand the ser- 
vices of a doctor of medicine. He was exactly what is called 
in familiar language, out of sorts, or, in vulgar phrase, un- 
commonly queer. This complaint of Colin's brings to mind that of 
Seleucus Nicanor or Nicator "... and behold our explanatory 


note in a fair way to spread itself, as notes will, over twenty 

Such, when they try to be amusing, is the humour of the 
journalists of Holland a third-rate imitation of Swift. As a 
rule, however, their tone is serious. Nothing of this sort is to 
be found in the whole series of the Journal Litteraire, which, 
founded at the Hague by Sallengre, Sgravesande, and Van 
EfFen, attempted to take up the work relinquished by Basnage. 1 
Here, by way of compensation, as in all these " gazettes," a 
great abundance of English literature is to be found. In meta- 
physics, the writers are followers of Locke, in science of Bacon 
and Newton, in politics of the Parliament. This is a truly 
cosmopolitan review ; it has correspondents everywhere : at 
Brussels, at Leipzig, at Hamburg, at Cambridge, and in Italy. 
It is also as the title promises a literary review. It contains 
a lengthy comparison between English and French poetry, 2 and 
extracts from The Spectator, The Tale of a Tub, and Gulliver. 
Swift had an especial attraction for its writers. They delighted 
in his withering and somewhat unseemly jests, his sardonic 
laughter, his bitter mockery. Montaigne, likewise, they studied 
for the sake of his scepticism, Rabelais for his gaiety, Fontenelle 
for his irony. Like their contemporaries, they warmly espoused 
the side of the modern against the classical writers. 

We have good grounds for believing that the English portion 
of these periodicals was responsible for their success, for maga- 
zines were shortly established which were especially devoted to 
England. "It is a country," said Michel de la Roche, the 
editor of the Bibliotheque anglaise? " where the arts and sciences 
are as flourishing as in any other part of the world ; in England 
they are cultivated in an atmosphere of liberty." La Roche had 
first of all attempted, in his Memoirs of Literature ', 4 to introduce 
French productions to the English public. The scheme proving 
unsuccessful, he applied himself with great zest to the opposite 

1 The Hague, 1713-36 (with several interruptions), 24 vols. izmo. 

2 Vol. ix. 

8 Or Histoire litteraire de la Grande- Bretagne, Amsterdam, 1717-28, 15 vols. I2mo. 
4 1710-14, 4 vols. 410. 


task. The Biblioth'eque anglaise, however, bade fair to meet the 
same fate as the Memoirs, when it fell into the hands of the 
industrious Armand de la Chapelle, who extended its scope, 
while making, at the same time, his reservations with regard to 
English taste. " There are perhaps few countries," he wrote, 
" where poetry is more deserving of public attention than it is 
in England, and if the English language were more common, 
foreigners would be surprised to find that it contains so many 
fine pieces of every description of poetry, with the possible 
exception of the dramatic, in which the taste of the English is 
still, to my mind, too singular." The excellent La Chapelle's 
wits were as dull as his pen ; nevertheless he died not un- 
regretted. De la Roche meanwhile had founded some new 
Memoir es litter air es de la Grande Bretagne mainly scientific, in 
spite of their title, 1 while Desmaizeaux, Bernard, and others 
started the Biblioth'eque britannique. They professed a thorough 
knowledge of English and of English affairs. Jordan, who 
happened to be in London when their magazine first appeared, 
declares that the authors are men of ability, and have a perfect 
acquaintance with the language. 2 Their magazine, written in 
London and published at The Hague, affirms with justice that 
" England is more fertile than any other country in works dis- 
tinguished by the freshness, the singularity and the boldness of 
their opinions ; and that this is due to the fact that the English 
are free to examine everything and to refuse any court of appeal 
save that of reason." 3 

Repeatedly interrupted, the work of popularization undertaken 
by the refugees was resumed again and again with extraordinary 

The Biblioth'eque britannique ceased to appear in 1747. Three 
years later, a renewed attempt was made by one of the most 
interesting of all these journalists, Doctor Maty. The son of a 
pastor at Utrecht, who had been excommunicated by the Synod 

1 1720-24, The Hague, 16 vols. izmo. 

2 Histoire (fun voyage litteraire fait en 1733, p. 159' 

* Bibliotheque Britannique ou histoire des ouvrages des savants de la Grande- Bretagne, the 
Hague, 1733-475 25 vols. izmo. 


of the Walloon Church of The Hague and had taken refuge in 
England, young Maty had lived in that country from the age 
of twenty-two years. Being a doctor, his aim in establishing a 
journal was chiefly to keep up with the work of English surgeons. 
But he included also " good English literature and well seasoned," 
as a critic of the time expressed it. 1 His Journal britannique ex- 
tended to twenty-four volumes. He sought also, excellent man 
that he was, " to stimulate all men to a love of truth and virtue," 
and declared that " every thoughtful person was his friend." 
Fully master of his subject, and capable of writing English with 
facility, he nevertheless regretted that he had not been able to 
naturalise his tongue as well as his heart. 2 Gibbon, who speaks 
of him in most grateful terms, 3 asserts that "the author of the 
Journal britannique sometimes rises to the level of the poet and 
the philosopher." On obtaining a post at the British Museum he 
gave up his journal. But his son founded a review which was 
destined to make Englishmen acquainted with Europe. Cos- 
mopolitanism was plainly a virtue common to the Maty family. 

When Maty retired, several writers disputed the position he 
had vacated. De Joncourt established a Nouvelle biblioth'eque 
anglaise ;^ de Mauve resumed the Journal britannique, and con- 
tinued it for two years; 5 while in 1767-1768 Gibbon and 
Deyverdun published two volumes of Memoires litteraires de la 
Grande Bretagne? in which Chesterfield and Hume manifested 
an interest, the latter even assisting it with his pen. Respecting 
Deyverdun, Gibbon bears witness that " his critical knowledge 
of our language and poetry was such as few foreigners have 
possessed." 7 

Not only, however, was Gibbon scarcely the man for so thank- 

1 Clement, Les Cinq annees litteraires, vol. iii., p. 145. Cf, Memoires de Trevoux, 
December 1750 and February 1751. 

2 Letter to Gibbon, Hatin, Histoire de la presse, vol. ii., p. 435. 

3 Memoires, vol. i. p. 126. 

4 The Hague, 1756-57, 3 vols. izmo. 

5 I know nothing of this series beyond the mention made of it by Pictet in his own 
Bibliotheque britannique (vol. ii., 1796, pt. V.). 

6 Cf. Memoirs of Ed-ward Gibbon, chap, xviii. 

7 Ibid., vol. i., p. 102. 


less a task, but the public at the period we have reached was 
so fully informed on English matters, and by men of such 
eminence, that an obscure compilation by two unknown men 
had little chance of making its way. Here again the unweary- 
ing efforts made by journalists in Holland had led to important 
results, and their patient labour during more than half-a- 
century had opened up fresh vistas to the gaze of a curious 

Not content with giving accounts of English works in their 
periodicals, the refugees devoted themselves with untiring zeal 
to the work of translation. From the earliest years of the cen- 
tury the " demon translator," as Grimm called him, raged as 
furiously as the " demon novelist." Every member of the clan 
of refugees was engaged in the translation or adaptation of some 
English book. The occupation provided a livelihood and gave 
a kind of status in the world of letters. Justus Van Effen, who 
rendered some dozens of volumes into prolix and inaccurate lan- 
guage, was mourned by his colleagues as though he had been a 
French writer. 1 It is only fair, however, to say that to him 
Frenchmen are indebted for the first version of Robinson Crusoe. 

We have no intention of introducing here the tedious and in- 
terminable catalogue of translations by Van Effen and his col- 
leagues, but shall be content to remark that the refugees very 
soon acquired the habit of translating the more important works 
produced in English as soon as they were published. Collins's 
Discourse of Freethinking appeared in 1713, and was rendered into 
French in 1714. Shaftesbury's Letter concerning Enthusiasm, pub- 
lished in 1708, was translated in the same year. Very few 
works of note, especially of those on philosophical subjects, 
escaped the attention of the refugees. Those which were not 
immediately translated, such as Mandeville's Fable of the Bees, 
were analysed at length. 2 

That Shakespeare and the great poets of the sixteenth century 
received but rare and scanty notice need not surprise us. The 

1 See a panegyric on Van Effen in the Bibliothequefranfaise of 1737. 

2 Bibliotheque raisonnee des ou-vrages des savants de P Europe, vol. iii., 1729, p. 402 
ft seq. 


English themselves paid scarcely any attention to them. 1 But 
the whole of contemporary literature was conscientiously 
analysed, adapted, or translated. Addison and Steele were 
especially favoured : the Spectator was translated in 1714, the 
Guardian in 1725, the Freeholder in 1727, the Tatler in 1734. 
Boyer translated Addison's Cato in 1714* and the Journal des 
Savants contains a notice of it. 2 About the same period Pope's 
Essay on Criticism found two translators or imitators, 3 and both 
the book and its author were mentioned in the journals. 4 Swift's 
works crossed the channel scarcely less quickly. Several of them 
were advertised in the Journal litteraire 5 so early as 1713, and the 
same review printed portions of Gulliver and The Tale of a Tub. 
In 1720 the Biblioth'eque anglaise translated the "Proposal for 
correcting, improving and ascertaining the English Tongue." 6 
Van Effen's translation of The Tale of a Tub appeared at the 
Hague in the following year, and five years later, that of a 
satire on the practice of introducing dedications. In 1727 
Desfontaines, following the example of the refugees, trans- 
lated Gulliver, which had appeared in the preceding year. 
Robinson Crusoe, as has been seen already, was translated in 
1720, the year after its publication. 7 

These examples suffice to show the activity of the refugees. 
It may be said without hesitation that they were familiar with 
the whole of contemporary English literature, and that through 

1 Boyer, however, as has been already observed, mentions Shakespeare in his gram- 
mar (1700) together with Ben Jonson, Dryden and Milton, and. moreover, he prefers 
Dryden. In 1716 the Journal litterairt (vol. ix.) devoted an article to Shakespeare, 
quoting Hamlet, Richard III., Henry VIII., and Othello. 

2 1 71 4, p. Betsey. 

3 Essai surla Critique, imite' de M. Pope [by Robeton, councillor and private secre- 
tary to the late King of England]. London and Amsterdam, 1717. (Cf. Memoires 
de Trevoux, August 1717). Essai sur la critique, imite de 1'anglais de M. Pope, by 
J. Delage. London, 1717. 

4 Cf. Bibliotheque ancienne et moderne, vol. vii., part i. ; Journal des savants, July 1717 ; 
Bibliotheque anglaise, 1719, part ii. 

5 May and June 1713. 6 Vol. viii., part i. 

7 Lenglet Dufresnoy (De Vusage des romans) attributes this translation to Saint- 
Hyacinthe. The writer of the panegyric on Van Effen mentioned above, attri- 
butes it, from the middle of the first volume onwards, to the latter. The translation 
is, besides, anonymous. 



them France was made acquainted with all its most important 
productions. Through them too this knowledge was spread far 
and wide. When the abbe Dubos visited London in 1698 and 
in 1702, he associated with the refugees, and particularly with 
Moivre, 1 and it was to them, doubtless, that he was indebted 
for that smattering of foreign literature which is discernible in 
his Reflexions sur la poesie et la peinture. 

In his book Dubos quoted from a few English poets, among 
them Butler, the author of Hudibras? He also translated, in a 
magazine published at the Hague, some scenes from Addison's 
Cato? But his taste remained thoroughly French. " Though 
I often visit other countries," he wrote, " in order to become 
acquainted with their opinions, I do not surrender the opinions I 
hold as a Frenchman. Like Seneca I can say : Soleo saepe in aliena 
castra transire non tanquam transfuga sed tanquam explorator." 

A few years later than Dubos, Destouches visited London, 
whither he accompanied cardinal Dubois. He resided there from 
1717 to 1723, and contracted a highly romantic marriage with a 
young Scotchwoman. 4 

Probably the refugees welcomed him no less warmly than 
they welcomed Dubos, and, a few years later, Voltaire. Des- 
touches, who seems to have been acquainted with Addison, 
borrowed from him, as is well known, the subject of his Tambour 
nocturne, an adaptation of The Drummer, and, under the title of 
Scenes anglaises, translated several scenes from The Tempest of 
Dryden and Davenant. But the Scenes anglaises did not appear 
until 1745, and the Tambour nocturne was not played before 1762. 
Thus the part played by Destouches in bringing English works 
to the knowledge of the French public was insignificant. 

It was otherwise with the abbe Desfontaines, the most active 
if not the most illustrious rival of the refugees in France before 
Voltaire and Prevost. Desfontaines' ambition, or one of the 
least of his ambitions, was to be, as it were, the recognised 

1 Le Blanc, Lettres, vol. i., p. 142. 2 Part i., section 18. 

8 The first three; see Nouvelles litteraires (the Hague, October 1716), vol. viii., 
p. 285. Cf. in the same periodical (January 1717) two letters on Cato by Boyer. 

4 Cf. Desnoiresterres, Voltaire et la societe franfaise, vol. i., p. 215 Villemain, 
Tableau de la litterature au xviiie siecle, 1 2th lesson. 


authority for introducing English works to the public notice. 
The translator of a pamphlet by Swift, The Grand Mystery, or 
the Art of Meditating over an House of Office, Desfontaines also 
(1727) either rendered Gulliver into French, or pretended to 
have done so ; for there are fair grounds for believing that 
this version is by a certain Abbe Markan. 1 What is certain is 
that the irascible critic, for all his pretensions, had a very 
poor knowledge of English, 2 and Voltaire did not deny himself 
the pleasure of convicting him of it. This did not, however, 
prevent him from corresponding with Swift, nor even from 
writing a sequel to Gulliver? which met with very little success. 
" Oh ! as to the new Gulliver" wrote Lenglet-Dufresnoy, "it is 
from beginning to end invented and manufactured by M. 1'abbe 
Desfontaines." 4 Lastly, the abbe translated Fielding's Joseph 
Andrews, but the result is scarcely more creditable to his 
knowledge than is his Gulliver. 

Thus, during the first thirty years of the century, the refugees 
remained the most industrious, the best informed and the most 
highly qualified of all those who devoted themselves to the task 
of popularizing English literature. 

What they lacked was ability. They were compilers and 
abstractors, but not writers. Their part was to rough-hew the 
materials which have been worked up by more eminent men, and 
this is no contemptible function. They were the humble pre- 
decessors of a Voltaire and a Prevost. But it was necessary to 
say, since it has too often been forgotten, that the work of the 
latter was rendered possible only by the persevering labour of 
the former. 

1 E. Nisard, Les enncmis de Voltaire^ p. 49. 

2 Cf. Clement, Les cinq annees litteraires, vol. i., p. 6 1. Voltaire had commissioned 
Desfontaines to translate his Essay on The Epic from the English. Desfontaines 
made an error in every line (cf. the letters to d'Argens, igth Nov. 1736, and to 
Thieriot, I4th June 1717). If we may believe Voltaire, he understood the language 
so little, that when required to give an account of Berkeley's Alciphron, which is an 
apology for Christianity, he took it for an atheistical production. (Letter to 
Cideville, zoth September 1735.) 

3 Le Nouveau Gulliver on Voyage de Jean Gulliver^ jils du Capitaine Gulliver, translated 
from an English manuscript by M. 1'abbe D. F. Amsterdam, 1730, 2 vols. izmo. 

4 Bibliotheque dei Romans^ p. 342. 

Chapter II 


I. Prevost and Voltaire were themselves preceded by the Swiss, Beat de Muralt, the 
author of the Lettres sur let Anglais tt Us Frattfais (1725) Muralt's character 
Wherein he carried on the work of the refugees, wherein he went beyond 
them His illusions His opinions on English literature and the English 
intelligence Great success of his book : Muralt and Desfontaines His 
influence on Rousseau. 

II. Admiration of the abbe Prevost for English ideas ; he assists in diffusing them 
His two journeys to England His translations His cosmopolitan novels : the 
Memoires d'un homme de qualite and i'ffistoire de Cleveland His magazine, La Pour 
et Centre (1732-1740) : the author's aim and method England occupies a large 
share of its space. 

III. Voltaire and the Lettres anglaises (1734) Importance of the book in Voltaire's 
life His intercourse with men of letters during his stay in London Know- 
ledge of the language His efforts to awaken interest in English matters 
Origin of the Lettres philosophiques : they consist of two books. 

IV. Insufficiency of Voltaire's information ; his wilful inaccuracy The pamphleteer 
injurious to the critic Why his book is nevertheless of the highest importance 
in the history of the influence of England Voltaire encourages imitation of 
English works. 

BETWEEN 1725 and 1740 three men were responsible, in varying 
degrees, for the work of directing the attention of the French 
public, aroused by Protestant criticism during the early part of 
the century, towards England. 

One of them, now entirely forgotten, the author of a lively 
and agreeable collection of letters which made some stir in its 
day, was Beat de Muralt, a Protestant of Berne, who carried on, 
if he did not anticipate, the work of the refugees, and is very 
closely connected with them. Another, much more celebrated, 
became, through his novels, his journal, and certain famous 
translations, one of the warmest champions of the new literature 


then being introduced into France. This was the abbe Prevost. 
The third, and by far the greatest, has given an account of his 
work in the following words : " I was the first to make French- 
men acquainted with Shakespeare ; I translated passages from 
him forty years ago, as well as extracts from Milton, Waller, 
Rochester, Dryden, and Pope. I can assure you that before my 
time there was not a man in France who had a knowledge of 
English poetry, while Locke had scarcely been heard of." l 
And certainly the author of the Lettres anglaises is entitled to 
claim such credit as may be due to one who, by dint of his own 
genius and notoriety, imbued Frenchmen with a veneration for 
the philosophy, the political science and the literature of England. 
But he has no excuse for forgetting or concealing what he owes 
to those who preceded him. For if the Lettres anglaises or 
philosophiques were published in 1734, Muralt's Lettres sur les 
Anglais et les Fran pis had appeared in 1725, while the most 
important of Prevost's novels, as well as the first volume, at any 
rate, of Le Pour et Contre are likewise anterior to them. Voltaire, 
in short, provided " a brilliant summary," as Sainte-Beuve ex- 
pressed it, of what had been said of England by other writers 
before him. But, besides drawing freely upon the works of 
his predecessors, he neglects to mention that others had already 
aroused the attention of the public and had prepared the way. 


" Now that we are reprinting everything," wrote Sainte- 
Beuve, " we certainly ought to reprint the letters of M. de 
Muralt : they deserve it. He was the first to say many things 
which have since been repeated less plainly and less frankly." 2 

1 Voltaire to Horace Walpole, I5th July 1768. 

2 On Muralt see the excellent monograph by M. de Greierz : Beat Lud-wig von 
Muralt (Frauenfeld, 1888, 8vo) ; an article by M. E T Ritter in the Zeitschrlftfur 
neufranzosische Sprache und Literatur (1880), and various documents published by 
same author, especially an account of Muralt's religious ideas, in the Etrennes 
chretiennes for 1894. See also the histories of French literature in Switzerland 
by M. Godet and M. Virgile Rossel (the latter of which contains a complete 
bibliography). Lastly, I may venture to refer the reader to an article in the 


Plain, frank, and withal somewhat eccentric : such, in truth, 
was ' this atrabilious Swiss/ as he was called in his own 

A Bernese of Protestant family, by education half French, 
half German, and born on the border line between two civili- 
zations, he was well qualified thoroughly to understand them 
both. Employed as a soldier in the French service, he became 
tired of the military profession, and, crossing over to England, 
noted down his impression of the country, during 1694 and 
1695, for the benefit of a friend. Returning to Switzerland 
he embraced pietistic ideas of a very exalted type, and having 
provoked his expulsion first from Berne and then from Geneva, 
took shelter at Colombier, where, after his mysticism had in- 
volved him in an extraordinary adventure, he died. " You read 
Muralt," St Preux writes to Julie : " remark his end, lament the 
extravagant errors of that sensible man." l 

To these " extravagant errors " we owe certain religious 
works, now, deservedly it would seem, forgotten. 2 

Muralt's reputation, however, rests not on these works but 
on his Lettres sur les Anglais et les Franfais et sur les voyages? 
frequently reprinted during the eighteenth century, and even 
under the Revolution. There are six letters on England 
and as many on France ; both groups are written from a some- 
what Protestant standpoint, but with a shrewd pen, and one a 
hundred times more vivid than those of Basnage de Beauval 
and Van EfFen. "When he wrote these charming pages, Muralt 
was not yet under the influence of the ideas which so entirely 
altered the course of his life during its later years, and almost 

Revue tfhistolre litteraire de la France (January 1894), in which I have spoken of 
Muralt more at length. Since the publication of the first edition of this book, 
two fresh editions of Muralt's Lettres have appeared (Berne and Paris, 1897), one 
with notes in French by M. E. Ritter, the other with notes in German by M. de 

1 Nouvelle Helo'ise, vi. 7. Eloisa (published by Hunter, Dublin, 1761), letter 159. 

2 L* instinct divin recommande aux hommcs, 1717 ; Lettres sur F esprit fort, 1728 ; Lettres 
fanatiques, 1739. Muralt also left some fables, and collaborated with Marie 

3 (Geneva) 8vo. Possibly the book was on sale as early as 1724. (Cf. Bibliotheque 
francaise, vol. iv., part ii., pp. 70-81). 


led him to withhold his book from publication for conscientious 
reasons. 1 He was fond of observing, and of recording what he 
saw with all the charm he could command. " Immediately a 
Frenchman enters another country," he writes, " he cannot 
contain himself for amazement at the spectacle of a whole 
nation differing from himself, and flees from the sight of so 
many horrors." Muralt endeavours not to be a Frenchman in 
that respect. He is no less distrustful of his countrymen's 
insatiable relish for intellectual smartness, whereby the nation 
is made " the perpetual subject of ridicule." He would have 
solidity, of the Bernese or even of the English type, without 
pedantry : " I think I had rather be a worthy Englishman than 
a worthy Frenchman ; but it would perhaps be less uncomfortable 
to be a worthless Frenchman than to be a worthless Englishman. 
I had also rather meet a deserving Frenchman than a deserving 
Englishman, just as it would give one more pleasure to find 
a treasure in gold pieces, which could be turned to immediate 
account, than to find it in ingots, which would first have 
to be converted into coin." 2 A discerning mind withal, keen 
and incisive, and strangely curious with regard to everything 
except "trifles" by which must be understood whatever is 
merely a source of gratification, and does not contribute in 
any way to the inner life. If he happens to speak of comedy, 
it is to say that " grave people have even been seen, not only 
to derive amusement from it, but even to speak of it as seriously 
as though it were a matter of importance." Behold him therefore 
supported by excellent authority, and entitled to laugh without 
too many scruples. But it was because there was no French 
" levity " about him that he was able, in 1694, to form an 
admirable estimate of the English genius, such as had never 
before been formed in the French language. 

It is true that he carried courtesy a little too far in his praise 
of English "liberty" and British "virtue" those generous 

1 Muralt was sixty years old when the entreaties of his friends induced him to 
consent to its publication. But his letters had almost attained celebrity before they 
were printed, and one of them had appeared in the Nouvelles littcraires at the Hague 
(May 171 8). 

2 Letter IV. 


illusions of the eighteenth century. "His mind is French," 
said the abbe Le Blanc, referring to him, " but his heart is 
English." l But whatever Le Blanc may say, it was because his 
mind as well as his heart was somewhat English that Muralt 
gave so flattering a definition of the moral and intellectual 
temperament of Englishmen. He gives a careful statement of 
their origins Saxon, Norman and Latin. He observes their 
manners, their sports and even their vices from a close stand- 
point, and as a man of caution and experience. He investigates 
their arts and manufactures. He is captivated by their ingen- 
uousness and their fidelity, and even by the savage element in 
their character. " May we not venture to say that a nation 
requires some fierceness in order to guard itself against slavery, 
just as one must be born a misanthrope in order to keep himself 
an honest man ? Reason alone cannot have great influence over 
men ; it needs, I think, a touch of fierceness to sustain it." 2 
How attractive this "fierceness" and "misanthropy" were 
shortly to appear to the frivolous French nature, and how far 
Muralt is here in advance of his age, the age of Jean-Jacques, 
who, moreover, was his convinced admirer ! The French spirit 
" consists mainly in the art of making much of trifles." The 
English spirit is more precise, more solid, more free, and 
more simple. 3 " England is a country of reserve and com- 

Muralt, like the refugees, is a modern, though timid and of 
narrow tastes. He speaks cleverly of Boileau, and considers 
that the French know scarcely anything of great poetry. He 
professes to despise " genius of an inferior order," and believes 
that to clothe common thoughts in beautiful language is to give 
us the semblance of poetry, but not poetry itself." Unfortunately 
he has not made it sufficiently clear that the English are more 

1 Lettres, vol. i., p. 87. 2 Edition of 1725, p. 55. 

a Cf. p. 65. "The epithet 'good man' is never taken in bad part among the 
English, whatever the tone in which it is pronounced : so far from it that when they 
wish to praise their own nation highly they mention their 'good-natured people,' 
people of a pleasant disposition, of whom they maintain that neither the name nor the 
reality is to be met with elsewhere." Rousseau appropriated this observation from 
Muralt (Amite, 1. ii. note 26). 


truly poets than the classical writers of France. 1 Like Saint- 
Evremond he does not go back to the fountain-heads, to Shake- 
speare though he makes casual mention of him or to Spenser. 
He confines himself to Ben Jonson, whom he compares and finds 
inferior to Moliere, " though a truly great poet in certain 
respects." One of the reasons which he gives for the inferiority 
of the English as regards comedy is, however, of considerable 
weight : "In France characters belong to general types, and 
comprise each a whole species of men, whereas in England, 
where every one lives as he pleases, the poet finds scarcely any 
but individual characters, which are extremely numerous, but 
cannot produce any striking effect." 2 A sound and fruitful 
idea ; it is to be regretted that the author did not follow it 

But, to tell the truth, he was not sufficiently well acquainted 
with English dramatic literature. He judges it as a moralist, and 
a severe one. It offends his good sense and his conscience. 
" Humour," or, as he calls it, "houmour" is merely the faculty of 
" turning our ideas of things topsy-turvy, and thereby rendering 
virtue ridiculous and vice attractive." His judgment of Shadwell 
and Congreve is precisely that which would have been passed 
upon them by Rousseau. 

Of English tragedy he has spoken to better purpose, revealing 
to his reader, or at any rate perceiving for himself, its savage 
grandeur. " England is a country of passions and catastrophes. 
. . . Moreover, the genius of the nation is for the serious ; its 
language is powerful and concise." What a pity that they fall 
into the same errors as the French, and present us with a 
be-ribboned Achilles and a Hannibal in powdered wig ! No 

1 Further, it is essential to remember that Muralt was in England in 1694 or 
1695. He represented England, as Sainte-Beuve said, " in all its crudeness under 
William, and before it had time to become refined under Queen Anne." He does not 
mention either Pope or Addison, nor did he put any finishing touches to his book 
before it was published. 

2 Edn. of 1725, p. 23. Saint-fivremond had already remarked that English 
comedy is not " a mere love-intrigue, full of adventures and amorous conversation, as 
in Spain or in France ; it is a representation of ordinary life with all the variety of 
temper and the differences of character which are to be found in men." De la 
comedie anglais e. 


historical colour, no sustained solemnity ; an offensive mixture 
of the comic and the tragic, and spectacles which only excite 
disgust : " It appears to me that poets who possess true genius, 
and are capable of rousing the feelings, ought not to have 
recourse to instruments of torture." Such instruments are too 
much in evidence upon the English stage. 

Muralt's extremely well-expressed resume of his own estimate of 
the English intelligence was widely appreciated during the eigh- 
teenth century. " I must not forget to tell you," he says, " that the 
English prosecute the sciences with much success, and that there 
are many good writers among them on every kind of subject. 
This does not seem to me surprising ; they feel themselves free ; 
they do as they like ; they are fond of using their reason , they 
do not observe that urbanity in conversation and that attention 
to manners by which the intellect may be squandered and im- 
poverished. . . . There are people among the English who think more 
deeply and entertain more of these profound thoughts than intelligent men 
of other nations. But it appears to me that as a rule they lack 
both refinement and simplicity, and I think you would find their 
imaginative works over-weighted with thought." Does it there- 
fore follow that they are wanting in imagination ? " Most of 
them possess it, but its fire resembles that of their coke ; it is 
powerful, but yields little light." l Here again, why has he not 
explained what he meant by means of examples ? Certainly 
no one, in 1694, could have given the French nation a more 
complete and well-founded opinion on a subject still so new. 

Muralt's intention was merely to give a sketch. Incomplete 
as it was however, his sketch achieved a brilliant success. The 
book was translated into English 2 and read in Germany. 3 But it 
was in France, more especially, that the collection of letters 
made its way. Never, before Muralt suggested it, had the 
question of the intellectual supremacy of England been brought 
before the public as a whole. His presumption in doing so was 

1 First letter. 

2 Letters describing the Character and Customs of the English and French nations ... by 
M. de Muralt, a gentleman of Switzerland. Second edition, London, 1726, 8vo. 

8 See Hirzel's edition of Haller's poems (Frauenfeld, 1882). 


great, and was thought extreme. His criticism of French 
" politeness" gave offence. "Our author is guilty of a para- 
dox," says the Biblioth'eque fran false, 1 " when he refuses to hear 
of anything but good sense, as though good sense were incom- 
patible with politeness." The Journal des savants devoted two 
long articles to an abstract of the book. 2 The majority of the 
author's critics, while fully recognising his originality, held that 
his position was indefensible. A Jesuit, the reverend father de 
la Sante, professor of rhetoric at the college of Louis-le-Grand, 
felt it his duty to refute it in a public oration. 3 Desfontaines 
caught the infection and published an Apologle du caracfere des 
Anglais et des Franfaisf in which he sharply criticised the author's 
errors and disputed his conclusions, while, at the same time, 
he acknowledged his merit in somewhat singular terms : " I was 
very pleased to find a thinking Swiss. With regard to certain 
nations we have, it must be confessed, ridiculous prejudices. So 
I am beginning to conceive of philosophers on the summits of 
the Alps, just as I have for some time been imagining poets from 
Astrakhan or Norway. This Swiss, who has thoughts in his 
head, is not, if you please, a Frenchman in disguise, nor a Swiss 
'spectator' 5 ; he is a Swiss, a real Swiss, but a Swiss who is 
at once both an Englishman and a Frenchman, that is to say, his 
mind has been formed by intercourse with these two nations. 
As a Swiss he has both good sense and simplicity, as an English- 
man plenty of depth and penetration ; as a Frenchman animation 
and a certain amount of subtlety." The merit of Muralt's mind, 

1 Vol. iv., part ii., pp. 70-82, and vol. vi., part i. 5 pp. 102-1*3. 

2 August 1726. Cf. Bibliotheque des livres nouveaux (September, October, and 
December 1726); Journal litteraire de la Haye, 1731, vol. xviii., pp. 50 and 240; 
Mercure Suissc, March 1733, November and December 1736 ; Lettres juives of d'Argens, 
letter 68 or 72 according to the edition referred to ; Clement, Les cinq annees 
litteraires, ist March 1751, and 3oth December 1752. 

3 28th January 1728 (Mercure de France, May 1728). It is clear that, three 
years after its publication, the excitement aroused by Muralt's book had not 
yet subsided. 

4 Ou observations sur le livre Intitule : Lettres sur les Anglais et les Franfais et sur les 
voyages, avec la defense de la sixieme satire de Despreaux et la justification du bel esprit 
fran^ais [the last two pieces are by Brumoy], Paris. 1726, i2mo. 

5 An allusion to the imitations of Addison which were so numerous at that time. 


namely its cosmopolitan character, a rare quality at that period, 
was thus discerned by Desfontaines with considerable accuracy. 

Nevertheless, he is foolish enough to reproach Muralt with 
certain supposed errors ; and incurs in consequence a smart 
rebuke from Voltaire. " Is there a fresh edition of a wise and 
clever book by M. de Muralt, who does so much honour to 
Switzerland . . . forthwith the abbe Desfontaines takes his pen, 
abuses M. de Muralt, whom he does not know, and pronounces 
a sweeping judgment upon England, which he has never seen." 1 

Voltaire was an admirer of Muralt " the wise and clever M. 
de Muralt," as he calls him once more in the Lettres ang/aises. 2 He 
certainly made him his guide in his first studies in English. " M. 
de Muralt's letters," wrote one who knew, 3 " are highly ap- 
preciated here by all sensible people. Those who inveigh 
against the depravity of taste and style in France delight to 
extol this book as a model of beauty, vigour and simplicity." 
Jean-Jacques, in his turn, praised that " wise man," " the sober 
Muralt," and borrowed from him, as we shall see, on more than 
one occasion. 

Thus Muralt, in company with the refugees, to whom he is 
closely allied, was among the first in France to institute a com- 
parison between the French and the English intellect, and to 
show a preference for the latter. And since he was in addition 
a writer of talent, the success of his Lettres, published nearly 
ten years earlier than the Lettres anglaises, should be noted as 
a symptom. 


Stimulated by Muralt, public curiosity with regard to England 
soon found fresh nourishment in the cosmopolitan novels of the 
abbe Prevost. 

The abbe had twice sought refuge in England ; the first time 

1 Memoire du sieur de Voltaire: Works, published by Moland, vol. xxiii., p. 32. 
It will be observed that the passage was written in 1739, subsequently to the Lettres 
anglaises, and to Voltaire's residence in England. 

2 Beginning of letter xix. (suppressed in later editions). 

3 A letter from Jacob Vernet to Turrettini, dated Paris, yth March 1726 ; quoted 
by M. E. Ritter. 


in 1728, after his rupture with the Benedictines of Saint-Ger- 
maine des Pres. On that occasion he remained there until 1731,* 
and appears to have enjoyed the delights of his first residence to 
the full, as well as the intoxication of recovered freedom. Em- 
ployed as secretary or tutor in the house of an English peer, he 
seems to have been obliged through a " love affair " to leave 
both his " agreeable position" and the country he had found so 
attractive. 2 

He returned thither in 1733, this time in the society of a young 
lady who had accompanied him from Holland. He has complained 
of the cold manner in which, on account of this circumstance, he 
was received by the refugees, who, on the occasion of his first 
visit, had probably welcomed the unfrocked Benedictine, so rest- 
less-minded and inquisitive, with open arms. 3 " He is a shrewd 
man," wrote Jordan, who saw him in London in 1733, " and has 
a knowledge not only of polite literature but also of theology, 
history and philosophy. ... I will say nothing of his conduct, 
nor of a criminal action of which he has been guilty in London. 
. . . It is no business of mine." 4 Whatever this mysterious crime 
may have been, Prevost, who was obliged to live in England and 
to earn his own living, became more completely anglicised than 
any other writer of the eighteenth century. He acquired a 
thorough knowledge of the language, and henceforth worked 
as a salaried translator of English books. Not to mention in this 
place his celebrated versions of Richardson, he rendered into 
French Van Loon's History of the Low Countries as illustrated by 
their Coinage, the Travels of Robert Lade, Middleton's History of the 
Life of Cicero, Hume's History of the House of Stuart, Dryden's 
tragedy All for Love. His Histoire des voyages is itself nothing 
more than an adaptation of a book by Green, 5 just as his 

1 The exact date of his return is unknown. One of his letters, dated loth Nov- 
ember 1731, was written from the Hague. See the book upon Uabbe Prevost, by 
M. H. Harrisse, p. 150. On the zoth June 1731, Prevost witnessed the first per- 
formance of Lillo's London Merchant in London. 

2 See M. Brunetiere's fine study of Prevost : Etudes critiques, vol. Hi., p. 195. 

3 Prevost translated Van Loon's History in conjunction with Van Eifen. 

4 Jordan, Histoire (fun voyage litteraire fait en 1 733s p. 148. 

^ A neiv general collection of voyage t and travels. London, 1 745 "47* 


novel Almoran et Hamet is merely an adaptation from J. Hawkes- 

Thus Prevost made abundant use of his knowledge of the 
English language, which he seems to have written and spoken 
with facility. 1 

But, above all, he took a keen interest in the country, in its 
customs, laws and literature. Naturally inquisitive with regard 
to foreign nations, he endeavoured to introduce in his earlier 
novels almost every country in Europe. The originality of the 
Memoires d?un homme de qualite, written during his first residence in 
England, consists not so much in their romantic but disconnected 
thread of action, which is constantly hindered by unexpected 
incidents, as in the representation of foreign manners German, 
Spanish or Italian, as well as Turkish, Dutch, and English. It 
is all very well for him to write contemptuously : " I leave to 
geographers, and to those who only travel from curiosity, the task 
of supplying the public with descriptions of the countries they 
have traversed. The narrative I write consists only of actions 
and feelings." 2 The real novelty of the book consists, if not in 
the physical, at any rate in the moral geography, if I may say so, 
of the countries traversed by its hero. 

But if there was nothing very new in making a few rough, 
and moreover conventional, sketches of Spain in the manner of 
Lesage, or in venturing, like Montesquieu, to describe the 
manners of a harem, assuredly there was considerable novelty in 
aspiring to give us "an idea of German pleasures and Teutonic 
gallantry," or, better still since here Prevost was drawing from 
life of the character and manners of the English. In this re- 
spect, these Memoires (Tun homme de qualite, which obtained so 
great a success in their day, are quite peculiarly instructive. 
Few books have done so much to create among Frenchmen a 
knowledge, to quote the author's own words, of " a country 
which other European nations esteem less highly than it deserves, 
because they are not sufficiently acquainted with it." 3 And few 

1 There is an English letter from Prevost to Thieriot extant (CEuvres de Voltaire, 
vol. xxxiii., p. 467). 

2 Memoires (Tun homme de qualite (CEuvres choisies, vol. i., p. 330). 

3 Vol. ii., p. 237. 


writers have laboured so earnestly to remove " certain childish 
prejudices, common to most men, but especially to the French, 
which lead them to arrogate to themselves a superiority over 
every other nation in the world." 1 

England occupies an important place in the Memoires. First of 
all, we have some attractive pictures of manners and customs ; a 
masquerade in the Haymarket, an English ball, a description of 
London, a " gladiatorial contest," or, more precisely, a boxing- 
match, followed by a bout with sabres, " a kind of school 
where," according to the indulgent narrator, " youths are trained 
to be courageous, and to despise death and wounds." 2 Here, 
again, is a full account of a journey through England, full of 
shrewd and accurate observations, 3 and vivid as a picture. The 
description of Tunbridge Wells is a historical document : we 
learn from it that a cup of coffee costs threepence, chocolate the 
same ; there are balls where " lively shopgirls rub elbows with 
duchesses," and where love-adventures are plentiful. " If this 
enchanting place had existed in the times of the ancients, they 
would never have said that Venus and the Graces dwelt in 
Cythera." The work is almost a guide-book, more especially 
for those who are in search of adventures of a certain kind. 

But Prevost does not forget to inquire about more serious 
matters. He acquires information concerning the poets, quotes 
Milton, Spenser, Addison and Thomson, and remarks the 
prosperity of the drama : "I have seen several of their plays, 
which appeared to me not inferior to those of Greece or France. 
I will even go so far as to say that they would surpass them, if 
their poets paid more attention to the rules of construction ; but 
as regards beauty of sentiment, whether tender or sublime, and 
that tragic power which stirs the heart to its depths and never 
fails to arouse the passions of the most torpid soul ; in respect 
also of the power of expression, and the art of conducting events 
or contriving situations, I have read nothing, either in Greek or 
in French, superior to the English drama." 4 He mentions 
Shakespeare's Hamlet, Dryden's Don Sebastian, Otway's Venice 

1 Vol. ii., p. 251. 2 Qf. vol. ii., pp. 281, 288, 289, 326. 

3 Book xi. 4 Vol. ii., pp. 270-71. 


Preserved, and a few comedies by Congreve and Farquhar the 
very examples afterwards employed by Voltaire in his Lettres, 
and possibly suggested to him by Prevost's novel. It will also 
be observed that Prevost saw all these plays acted, and derived 
" infinite satisfaction" from their representation. 

His freshest and most enthusiastic pages have reference to the 
national character. Considering that Muralt does not belong to 
France, Prevost was really the first French writer to become 
fascinated with that free, wise, philosophical and in other 
respects quite ideal England which was the Salentum of the 
eighteenth century. Everything connected with the country 
delighted him its air of liberty to begin with. " What a 
lesson to see a lord or two, a baronet, a shoemaker, a tailor, a 
wine-merchant and a few others of the same stamp," all seated 
together round the same table in a coffee-house and chatting 
familiarly, pipe in mouth, on matters of public interest ! Verily, 
" the coffee-houses are, as it were, the seat of English liberty." l 
It is true that the common people are somewhat coarse. But it 
is also true that " there is no country where one finds such 
integrity, such humanity, and such sound notions of honour, 
prudence and happiness as among the English. Love of the 
public weal, a taste for practical science, and a horror of depen- 
dence and of flattery, are virtues which are almost innate in these 
fortunate people ; they descend from father to son like an 
inheritance." The English, in short, are " one of the first 
nations in the universe." 

Then follows a comparison between English, French and 
Spaniards. It is worth noting that Spain is very harshly treated 
by Prevost : she was gradually sinking in public estimation, and 
had to pay dearly for the long spell of good fortune she had 
enjoyed in France 2 from Corneille to Lesage. The Frenchman, 
fascinating as he is on first acquaintance, does not improve as 
he becomes better known. The Englishman, though somewhat 
rough, is the only one who promises much to observant eyes. 

1 Vol. i., p. 193. 

2 See M. Morel Fatio's curious study of the vicissitudes of Spanish influence in 
France. {Etudes sur I'JEsfagne. ) 


" His is a wholesome exterior and we feel at "once that there is no 
hidden depravity beneath it. When we get to know him as he 
is within, we find nothing but robust and perfect parts equally 
satisfactory to the eye and for use. ... In short, the English 
virtues are as a rule lasting ones, because they are founded on 
principles ; and those principles are the product of a happy 
disposition and an uncorrupted reason." l 

But if such be the case, whence this people's evil reputation ? 
It is due, in the first place, to their bloody and terrible history ; 
yet does it greatly differ, in this respect, from that of other 
nations ? In the next place, being separated from the rest of the 
world by " a dangerous sea " toto divisos orbe Britannos they 
are less known, because less seen. " People seldom travel in 
England," or so at least Prevost assures us, and consequently 
they form incorrect conceptions of its inhabitants. You must 
know them in their own country. Then perhaps, like the 
author of Manon Lescaut, you will desire to see " all who are 
dear to you " resemble the English. 

Here the author's feelings are aroused. He is carried away by 
enthusiasm, and he too exclaims, Ofortunatos nimium! "Happy 
isle, and happy, too happy inhabitants, if they are truly conscious 
of all their advantages of climate and situation ! What do they 
lack of all that can render life comfortable and enjoyable ? As 
regards the aspect of nature, their summer is not excessive in 
point of heat, nor is the cold of their winter extreme. Their 
soil produces in abundance everything they require for their 
own use. They can do without the goods of their neighbours ; 
nevertheless they add to their own possessions all the rarest and 
most precious productions of every country in the world. . . . 
Are they less fortunate in the moral sphere ? They have 
successfully defended their liberty against all the assaults of 
tyranny. To all appearance it is established upon impregnable 
foundations. Their laws are wise and easy to understand. 
There is not one of them but ministers to the public weal ; nor 
is the public weal in England a mere name which serves to 
disguise the injustice and violence of those who hold the reins 

1 Vol. ii., pp. 247-252. 


of power : every citizen is fully acquainted with his own rights ; 
the people have theirs, the limits of which they never transgress, 
just as the power of the great is defined by bounds they dare 
not overstep. Nor do the English enjoy less freedom in religious 
matters. They have recognised that every form of compulsion 
is a violation of the spirit of the Gospel. They know that the 
human heart is the kingdom of God. . . . Accordingly, virtue 
with them never consists in cant and affectation. . . . Religion 
in England, in the towns and even the humblest villages, finds 
its expression in hospitals for the sick, homes of refuge for the 
aged of both sexes, schools for the education of children, in 
short, in a thousand tokens of piety and of zeal both for country 
and religion. Would not any sensible man prefer these wise and 
religious institutions to our convents and monasteries where, as 
is only too well known, an idle and useless life is sometimes 
honoured with the name of hatred of the world and of con- 
templation of heavenly truths ? " 1 

But for the last sentence in which the malignity of the 
unfrocked monk is too clearly apparent should we not think 
we were reading a page from Fenelon or Bernardin de Saint- 
Pierre, describing some Salentum or marvellous Ile-de-France ? 
And is it not true that in 1729, in a book which was favourably 
received by the public, England was represented as an Ultima 
Thule where the happiness of the race was realised in love and 
fellowship through the free play of the human faculties ? 

His vein once discovered, Prevost worked it freely in his 
other novels. 2 In particular, the Philosophe anglais, ou Histoire 
de Monsieur Cleveland, jils naturel de Cromwell, which was pub- 
lished from 1732 to 1739, is simply an exaltation of British 
virtue. Having extolled the virtues of the people, he deemed it 
needful to exhibit them in action, and this is the main object of 
these six large volumes, wherein a whole chapter of the history 
of England under Cromwell and Charles II. is in a manner 

1 Vol. ii., pp. 379-381- 

2 Cf. The Lettres de Mentor a unjeune seigneur. London [Paris], 1764, izmo. The 
author inquired into the condition of poetry in England and in France, into the 
progress of education in the two countries, etc. 


novelized. The hero of the book, the philosopher Cleveland, is 
a sort of romantic Montesquieu, with a fondness for travel. 
Never for a moment, as he crosses continent or sea, does his 
philosophy fail him. In the depths of misfortune, in the heart 
of American solitudes, among savages who murder his dearest 
friends, and devour or so, at least, he supposes his own 
daughter, Cleveland, unmoved, meditates, observes and enacts 
laws. Nothing can be more curious than his profession of faith, 
in which there has been remarked a foretaste, as it were, of 
that of the Savoyard vicar. 1 

Nor can anything be more singular than the methods he 
employs in order to civilize the savages and turn them into so 
many philosophers. Cleveland has but one weakness, and that 
a thoroughly English one. He is haunted by the idea of 
suicide ; he has the spleen : " a kind of wild frenzy more common 
among the English than among other European nations. . . . 
The most dangerous and terrible of diseases." Nevertheless, 
after a fearful struggle Cleveland gets the better even of the 
spleen. How else could he be worthy of the names of philosopher 
and Englishman ? 

At the very moment when he was publishing Cleveland, 
Prevost had plunged into a new enterprise, the sole and acknow- 
ledged aim of which was the diffusion of English thought in 
France : he had founded Le Pour et Contre? There was novelty 
in the undertaking ; in the words of Prevost's biographer, it 
" bore no resemblance to the journals of the period." 3 Accord- 
ingly it achieved a great success. But the author took it into 
his head to endanger the success of the magazine by employing 
Le Fevre de Saint-Marc, a second-rate compiler, as his assistant. 4 
The public, whom Prevost had intended to mislead, was not to 
be deceived. He was obliged to resume the pen, 5 and did 

1 Book vii. Cf. Brunetiere, Etude sur Prevost. 

2 Le Pour et Contre was issued from 1733 to 1740, and comprises 20 volumes. 

3 Cf. The Essai sur la vie de I 1 abbe Prevost, prefixed to the CEuvres choisies. 

4 Editor of Boileau, Chaulieu and Malherbe, and author of an Abrege chronologique 
de VHisto'ire de L? Italic. 

5 To satisfy his readers Prevost himself says, "The greater part of the second 
volume and the whole of the eighteenth are not by me " (vol. xx., p. 335). 


not again lay it down until the journal reached its seventeenth 
volume. At this point he once more became weary of his task, 
and did not return to it until the beginning of the nineteenth 

Of the twenty volumes of which the entire series of his 
journal consists, only the first four were composed in London. 
Prevost had, in fact, returned to France, and, thanks to the 
protection of the Prince de Conti, obtained the right to resume 
the dress of a secular priest. Employed as chaplain to the 
prince, he continued to edit his journal, with the assistance of 
his literary correspondents in London, but, it was said, in a less 
independent manner than formerly through his inability to with- 
stand the influence of his fellow-journalists. 1 

However this may have been, the success of his miscellany 
was beyond doubt. Spurious copies were issued in Holland, 
" without my knowledge," says Prevost, " and with additions 
of which some are extremely ridiculous." His competitors grew 
angry when they saw themselves left behind : and the hot- 
tempered Desfontaines supplanted by Prevost in the coveted 
work of popularising English information, and unable to deny 
the attractiveness of the magazine contested the author's 
veracity. He accused him more especially of speaking about 
England not de visu, but according to the reports of travellers, 
such as Camden and others. 2 This treacherous insinuation was 
apparently without foundation. 3 The public remained faithful 
to Prevost. 4 

In Le Pour et Contre it discovered an encyclopaedic review, 
more varied, amusing, and genuinely literary than the Dutch 
journals upon which it had been modelled. In truth, if the art 
of arousing public attention by every manner of means is one 

1 Bibliothequefranfaise, vol. xxix., p. 155. 

2 Observations sur let ecrlts modcrnes, vol. i., p. 328. 

3 Prevost seems to have travelled about England a good deal; in vol. vii. of 
Le Pour et Contre (p. 241) he informs his readers that he has just returned from a nine 
months' journey through the provinces of the United Kingdom, and promises an 
account of it in two volumes, which never appeared. However, he made use of his 
reminiscences in his novels (cf. Memoires d'un homme de qualite, book xi.). 

4 Cf. the Mercure for December 1733, October 1735, etc. 


of the journalist's professional virtues, Prevost may claim an 
honoured place in the annals of modern periodical literature. 
The information accumulated in his magazine is of the utmost 
variety. He forgets neither fashions, sports, theatres, nor wit 
and humour; not even "medical chat" and the "correspondence 
column." As its title promises, his journal really is a "periodical 
publication of a novel character in which all matters of interest 
to public curiosity are fully treated." He gratified the taste for 
exact, varied, copious and up-to-date information which was 
growing up in France at that period. No less than twelve 
objects does he set before himself, among which the character 
of " ladies distinguished by their merit," and " well-established 
facts which appear to transcend the power of nature," are among 
those of first importance. He supplies items of current informa- 
tion and chronicles of the day. Prescriptions for the small-pox 
or apoplexy, volcanic eruptions, Egyptian mummies, gigantic 
aloes, "love-intrigues" and erotic verses, tittle-tattle, and 
" echoes from the fashionable world," are all alike grist for his 
mill. "Why should I prefer one reader to another? If you 
publish a work do you not thereby declare that you write to 
please everybody ? " * A candid confession. Still more frank 
and characteristic even of another age is the modesty of the 
editor, who is obliged to speak of everything when he knows 

" Though by no means versed in the 'writings of metaphysicians, any 
more than in geometry and algebra, of 'which I confess I understand 
practically nothing, I venture to-day to impart to my readers a few 
reflections on the divisibility of matter and its existence, and on 
the nature of the souls of the lower animals, of man, and of 
superior intelligences." 2 His courage as a reviewer is such that 
he does not shrink either from the abbe Nollet's experiments on 
phosphorus, from Newton's physics, or from equally abstruse 
problems in algebra. 

But though Prevost pays considerable attention, perhaps too 
much, to matters of trifling interest, he does not lose sight of 
his main object. " An entirely original feature of this paper 

1 Vol. ii., p. 38. 2 Vol. xiii., p. 169. 


will be the publication, in each issue, of some special fact re- 
specting the genius of the English, the curiosities of London 
and of other parts of the island, the progress they are every day 
making in science and in art, and even at times of translations 
of the finest scenes from their plays." 1 Is not London, in fact, 
"a point of convergence, as it were, for all the wonders and 
curiosities the world contains" 2 a sort of intellectual capital of 
the universe ? Nor does he intend in any sense to vindicate the 
English ; he speaks " simply as a historian who wishes to make 
them known." 3 The method proved highly effective. He himself 
states that he has an advantage over his competitors "in being 
able to give to the subject of his articles, and even to a single 
thought, a novelty of expression, an English colouring, if the 
words be allowed, which cannot fail to hit the taste of the 
French." 4 In fact he hits it so truly that he is overwhelmed 
with letters and questions, some on art, some on science, some 
on the fashions ; he is unable to cope with them, and is fairly 

On manners, customs, and anecdotes of private and public 
life, he is inexhaustible. He mentions the popular singers of 
the day, and the dancers, Farinelli and Mile. Salle. He retails 
the petty rumours of the political world. " A thousand times" 
he is entreated to give an exact translation of the official report 
of a parliamentary debate. He resolves to do so, translates the 
report of a sitting, and makes quite a hit. On other occasions 
he has to give an account of the English fauna and flora, scenery, 
natural curiosities, the fluctuations of public opinion, the differ- 
ences of scientific men, and the controversies of theologians. 

But his most brilliant successes were the " short pieces or 
fragments of foreign literature." These were the rarest speci- 
mens in the collection, as the author, who was well aware 
of the fact, informs his readers. 

He knows that the French have everything to learn. While 
Moliere is being played in London, and also Brutus and Zaire ; 
while French novels are being read and plundered, Frenchmen 

1 Vol. i., pp. io- 1 1. 2 Vol. iii., p. 50. 

3 Vol. viii., p. 315. 4 Vol. iii., p. 50. 


are scarcely acquainted with a single English production. Yet 
in London, " ten thousand copies of a good book are easily sold 
in a month. ... A book of which four hundred copies are 
bought creates a sensation in Paris." l What could be more 
convincing ? What is one to think of a nation which in three 
months, from December ist to March ist, turns out "a hundred 
and fourteen works of various sizes ? " 

Too often, it is true, neither "grace nor subtlety" can be dis- 
covered in this mass of books. Yet how numerous are their 
original beauties ! The ancient poets, such as Chaucer and 
Gower, who are little read even by the English themselves, 
receive no more than a passing allusion, as curiosities. But in 
compensation he makes all the more of Shakespear (sic.). 1 This 
great writer, the son of "a woollen manufacturer," possessed true 
genius. Of ancient writers he knew very little, certainly, but 
what of that ? Had it been otherwise he would doubtless have 
lost some of " the vehemence, the impetuosity, the fine frenzy, 
if the expression be allowed, which flash forth even from his 
least striking productions." He is a very great poet. Then 
follows an examination of The Tempest, which in France would 
be considered a ridiculous play, of The Merry Wives of Windsor, 
of Othello, and, lastly, of Hamlet. Here Prevost's taste revolts ; 
" an extraordinary rhapsody," he exclaims, " in which it is 
impossible to distinguish either form or probability." Yet he 
had read it and had detected the author's genius. 

Elsewhere Prevost deals with the life of Milton, 2 not with- 
out inaccuracies, the most serious of which occurs when he 
makes it a reproach against the author of Paradise Lost, that he 
died " free from all religious ties." His treatment of Dryden 
is better, and shows more knowledge. Translations are given 
of Alexander's Feast and Cleopatra, the latter, to the despair, it 
should be said, of certain readers, filling several numbers of 
the journal. 3 Doubtless they preferred the anecdotes of living 
writers Addison, Dennis, Tindal, Bentley , Berkeley, and others 
with which Prevost enlivens his pages. A translation of Steele's 
comedy, The Conscious Lovers, or, according to Prevost's version, 

1 Vol. ii., p. 272. 2 Vol. xii., p. iz8. 3 Nos. 62, 82, and 96-101. 


V amour confident de lui-meme l ; a review of Pope's letters ; an 
abstract of Glover's Leonidas, a " masterpiece of English poetry," 
which was shortly afterwards translated ; some scenes from 
Fielding's Miser ; a few short pieces by Swift, such as Martinus 
Scriblerus Peri Bathos* all was novel, stimulating, and gratifying 
to the curiosity. 

Prevost was thus very conscientious in the pursuit of his calling 
as literary chronicler. He kept opinion in a state of healthy 
activity. He established a connection between Paris and London. 
When his journal ceased to appear it was keenly regretted. If 
Prevost ever mapped out a programme of life and this is ex- 
tremely doubtful he could say, when he laid down his pen, 
that the first part of his task was accomplished. Following 
Muralt, and anticipating, by a brief interval, Voltaire, he had 
naturalized the taste for English literature in France. But in 
thus making himself its champion he had contracted towards 
his readers a debt of honour, which he discharged as is well 
known with the greatest talent and success, by translating 


In the year which witnessed the publication of Pour et Contre 
there had appeared in London, in its earliest form, the famous 
book which, by modifying its character, had definitely impressed 
the influence of the English genius upon France, namely, the 
Lett res phihsophiques of Voltaire. 

In every respect the Lettres phihsophiques or anglaises for 
Voltaire made use of both titles is a work of the first import- 
ance. From its publication dates the commencement of that 
open campaign against the Christian religion which was destined 
to occupy the whole of the century ; thence, too, the attack upon 
political institutions ; thence, also, and above all, the rise of that 
new spirit, contemptuous of questions of art, critical, eager for 
reform, combative and practical, which concerned itself rather 
with political and natural science than with poetry and elo- 

1 Nos. 109 et seq. 2 Vol. xiii. 


quence, and was interested, before all things, in literature dealing 
with the active side of life and the diffusion of knowledge. The 
Lettres anglaises are the patent of majority of the eighteenth 

They mark, also, a decisive advance in the growth of English 
influence. On this point we may trust to contemporary evidence. 
" This work," says Condorcet, " was, with us, the starting- 
point of a revolution ; it began to call into existence the taste 
for English philosophy and literature, to give us an interest in 
the manners, the politics and the commercial knowledge of the 
English people, and to spread their language among us." * Voltaire 
may at least be credited with having added a seasoning of wit, 
animation and cynicism to certain truths scattered among the 
writings of his predecessors, but up to that time not familiar to 
the public. This is why, however strongly he may have re- 
pudiated it later, Voltaire was largely responsible for the anglo- 
mania of his epoch. 

He had come to England at thirty-two, the age of intellectual 
maturity, and under the best conditions for deriving the utmost 
profit from his enforced residence there ; prepared already to 
understand the English mind by his previous relations with 
several Englishmen of worth Lord Stair, Bishop Atterbury, the 
merchant Falkener, and particularly Bolingbroke, in close ac- 
quaintanceship with whom he had, as he himself expressed it, 2 
"learned to think"; and, above all, prepared by the deadly 
affront put upon him by M. de Rohan-Chabot and by his 
momentary scorn for France to welcome with enthusiasm any- 
thing which did not remind him of his ungrateful country. His 
visit to England was a turning-point in his life. Hitherto a poet 
and nothing else, his exile and misfortune now sealed him a 
philosopher. "It is M. de Voltaire's good fortune," wrote a 
contemporary, " that he- has visited England. . . . The poetic 
gift of this author has long been apparent to every one. But no 

1 Vie de Voltaire. 

2 To Thieriot, izth August 1737. Cf. also his letter of znd January 17*3 to the 
same person. He had been introduced to Bolingbroke in 171 9, and had visited him, 
and Mme. de Villette as well, at La Source. 


one had thought of classing him among the thinkers and the 

reasoners." l 

The remark is of the greatest importance. For it renders it 
beside the point to maintain that in reality the genius of Voltaire 
owed less to England than has been supposed ; to observe, with 
Michelet, 2 that all the scepticism of the English was already to 
be found in Bayle, in Fontenelle, in Chaulieu or in La Fare j and 
to recall, with M. Brunetiere, the " impiety " of Voltaire's early 
life, his first associations, his early reading, his maiden verses, 
the Society of the Temple, the patronage of Ninon, the Epitre h 
Uranie, and many other unanswerable arguments which show 
clearly that even before 1726 Voltaire was no longer a believer. 
It will never be proved that his residence in England did not 
broaden, stimulate and temper his intelligence, nor that it did 
not endow him with that authority which was still wanting to 
the author of Mariamne and flndiscret. Certainly it was not 
from the English that Voltaire learned to doubt all religious 
truth. Before ever he read Tindal or Collins he had written : 
" Our priests are not what a foolish populace supposes ; their 
learning rests on the foundation of our credulity." 3 "Let us 
trust in ourselves alone," was his conclusion ; " let us view 
everything with our own eyes ; 'tis they are our tripods, our 
oracles, our gods." 4 Before ever he set foot in England he 
had breathed in France the atmosphere of a country already 
destitute of religion, and of a capital concerning which Madame 
wrote : " I do not believe there are a hundred people in Paris, even 
if we take into account ecclesiastics as well as men of the world, 
who possess a sincere faith in Christianity or have any belief in 
our Saviour : the thought makes one shudder." 5 Finally, before 
he fled from M. de Rohan-Chabot, he had already found mental 

1 Bibliothequefranfaiie, on Histoire litteraire de la France, vol. xx., 1735, p. 190. 

2 Histoire de France, vol. xvi., p. 70: "What does he owe to the English deists ? 
Less in reality than has been supposed. He is far more dependent on our own 
free-thinkers of the seventeenth century, on the doctrines of the Gassendists and of 
Bernier, Moliere, Hesnault, Boulainvilliers, &c." The same view is maintained by 
Lanfrey (L'Eglisect les philosophes au xviii 6 sieclt). 

3 (Edife, iv. i. 4 Ibid., ii. i. 

5 Quoted by M. Brunetiere, Revue des Deux Mondes, ist November 1890. 


sustenance in Bayle's " incomparable dictionary," as Locke calls 
it, 1 the arsenal whence all the sceptics of the eighteenth century, 
English and French alike, had taken their weapons. The 
Dictionnaire critique had twice been translated into English, and 
even sold in parts to encourage its circulation, 2 and Toland, 
Collins, Tindal and others, not to mention Bernard de Mandeville, 
had borrowed unsparingly from " the greatest dialectician who 
ever wrote." 3 

But if the English deists are undoubtedly the disciples of the 
French free-thinkers of the seventeenth century and of Bayle, 
does it therefore follow that they merely imitated them ? Because 
Locke had recourse to Bayle, shall we conclude that he invented 
nothing himself? And, to speak more generally, because public 
opinion in France between 1700 and 1730 was gradually throwing 
off the fetters of Catholicism, are we therefore to conclude that 
in point of religious belief it had arrived at the same indepen- 
dence as England ? Such an idea would be strangely paradoxical. 
" There is no religion in England," wrote Montesquieu, in the 
record of his travels. " If any one mentions religion, everybody 
begins to laugh. Someone having said, during my own stay 
there, * I hold that as an article of faith,' everybody began 
laughing." Montesquieu evidently exaggerates. But there is 
truth in Muralt's statement that there was a certain indefinable 
air of finality, composure and resolution in the scepticism of the 
cultured classes among the English which was wanting in the 
frivolous unbelief of the French : "In point of religion, you 
would almost say that every Englishman has made up his mind 
either to have it in earnest or to have none at all, and that 

1 Cf. Le Clerc, in the Bibliotheque ancienne et moderne, vol. xiii., p. 458. 

2 Desfontaines, Lettre d'une dame anglaise, at the end of the translation of Fielding's 
Joseph Andrews. Concerning English translations of Bayle, cf. Histoire des outrages 
des savants, June 1709, p. 284 ; Bibliotheque britannique, vol. iv., p. 176, and vol. i., 
p. 460. The earlier of the two translations was of an inferior order. The second, 
enlarged and more accurate, began to appear in 1734 under the title: A General 
Dictionary, Historical and Critical, in which a New and Accurate Translation of 
that of the celebrated Mr Bayle is included. . . . London, 1734, folio. The 
authors of the adaptation are John Peter Barnard, Thomas Birch, John Lockman, 
George Sale. A life of Bayle by Desmaizeaux is prefixed. 

3 Voltaire, Poemc sur Lisbonne, Preface. 


England, in distinction from other countries, contains no 
hypocrites." l In France, liberty of thought, however widely 
spread, was not, as in England, a part of the national spirit ; it 
shrank from displaying itself openly and did not adopt the same 
aggressive attitude. In this respect, therefore, Voltaire found 
England in advance of his native country. Similarly, he 
discovered in English books a new and complete philosophy, 
very positive and precise, of which only the germ was to be 
found in Bayle. This philosophy Voltaire rendered popular in 
France. It is true that the refugees had already published 
translations or abstracts of Herbert, Blount, Shaftesbury, Toland, 
Tindal and Collins. Not only, however, were these translations 
done in that harsh and inaccurate style which the refugees had 
contracted in a foreign land, 2 but they^were not read beyond the 
limits of a very small circle. Voltaire absorbed the substance of 
them, and transmitted it to the public in general. We find the 
author of (Edipe and the Henriade writing a Traite de metapbysiqite, 
which is an abridgment of Locke, and publishing Elements de la 
philosophic de Newton. In this sense, then, England gave Voltaire, 
the wisely and worldly-minded sceptic, an entirely fresh char- 
acter that of a philosopher. His unbelief derived substance 
from English philosophy. In the phrase of Mr John Morley, 
" Voltaire left France a poet, he returned to it a sage." 3 

What is certain is that during the three years, or thereabouts, 
which he spent in England, he gave evidence of remarkable 
activity of mind. 4 Through the agency of Bolingbroke, the 
first to receive him as his guest, and also of Bubb Doding- 

1 Lettre sur les Anglais et les Franga'n^ p. 16. 

2 Tabaraud, Histoire du philosophisme anglais, vol. ii., p. 338. 

3 Voltaire, p. 58. See Taine, Literature anglaise, vol. iv., p. 215: "The entire 
arsenal of the sceptics and materialists was built and furnished in England before the 
French arrived : Voltaire merely selected his arrows there and fitted them to the 
string." All his contemporaries were of the same opinion ; see especially Condorcet, 
Vie de Voltaire ; Garat, Memoir -es sur guard, vol. ii. ; Tabaraud, Histoire du philosophisme 
anglais ; and the unknown author of the Preservatif contre fanglomanie (1757). 

4 On his residence in England, see Churton Collins, Bolingbroke and Voltaire in 
England, and Mr A. Ballantyne's recent book. Voltaire's visit to England, which does 
not add much to the foregoing. Voltaire's stay seems to have extended from 3oth 
May 1726 to February or March 1729. 


ton and Falkener, the doors alike of Tory, Whig and middle- 
class society were at once opened to admit him. Of the Eng- 
lish political world which treated him, moreover, in princely 
fashion by subscribing ^2000 towards the Henriade 1 he 
obtained a close view too close, indeed, if slanderers be 
credited. 2 The king granted him a private audience, and 
Queen Caroline gave him permission to dedicate the famous 
epic to herself. 

Petted by the official world, Voltaire also associated much 
with men of science. He attended Newton's funeral in March 
1727, made the acquaintance of the great man's niece, Mrs 
Conduit, questioned his medical adviser, and, in short, made 
a close investigation of Newtonianism, the most important of 
all English novelties. Meanwhile he attended the meetings of 
the Royal Society, of which he was afterwards elected a member, 
and acquired a knowledge of the latest advances in science. He 
rendered himself familiar with religious and philosophical con- 
troversies, obtained information concerning the Quakers, and 
visited Andrew Pitt at Hampstead. He read the philosophers, 
ransacked, or glanced through, Locke, " the sagacious Locke," 
Bacon, of whose works he never obtained an adequate knowledge, 
Chubb, Tillotson, Berkeley, Woolston and Tindal. With these, 
and with Clarke, whose " metaphysical imagination " appalled 
him, he became friendly. In the society of " these intrepid 
defenders of natural law " he contracted new and fruitful habits 
of thought. 

He knew almost all the great English writers, concerning 
whom Desmaizeaux and the starveling Saint-Hyacinthe 
whose relations with him very soon became somewhat strained 
had doubtless given him more than one piece of useful 
information. He visited Pope at Twickenham, and owing to 
his still imperfect knowledge of English, their interview was 
rather an awkward one ; this, however, did not prevent them 

1 Michelet errs in stating that Voltaire only received " a few guineas from the 
queen " (vol. xvi., p. 69). Longchamp and Wagnere {Memoires sur Voltaire , vol. ii., 
p. 492) even speak of ^6000 as the proceeds of the subscription and the sale. 

2 He was accused of having played the spy. (See a letter from Bolingbroke to 
Mme. de Terriole, in Churton Collins.) 


from afterwards becoming intimate. 1 He knew Swift fairly 
well, and spent three months with him at Lord Peterborough's 
house : when Swift thought of visiting France, Voltaire offered 
him a letter of introduction to M. de Morville, while Swift, on 
his part, wrote a preface for Voltaire's Essai sur la poesie epique? 

At Dodington's house he met Young, not yet the author of 
the Night Thoughts, and Thomson, who charmed him with " the 
grandeur of his genius and his noble simplicity." 3 He went 
much to the theatre, witnessed performances of Shakespeare, 
which filled him " with ecstasy," 4 became friendly with Colley 
Cibber, met Gay, who showed him The Beggar s Opera before 
it was produced, and paid to Congreve a visit which has ever 
since remained famous, though to Voltaire it was disappointing 
by reason of the affectation which led the old dramatist to insist 
on being treated as a gentleman rather than as a poet. 5 

In short, there was scarcely a single distinguished writer of 
the period with whom circumstances did not bring him into 
contact. If he took no pains to make the acquaintance of Daniel 
de Foe, it was because de Foe avoided even his own countrymen 6 
and friends, and possessed, moreover, an evil reputation. But 
he sought information both with regard to famous writers of the 
past, such as Addison and Dryden, and to living authors of less 
celebrity, such as Garth and Parnell. 7 

And, lastly, he made himself familiar with the language. He 

1 Villemain (Tableau de la litterature du xviii e siecle, yth lesson) echoes a very 
doubtful anecdote in reference to this subject. Voltaire having uttered some coarse 
jest at the expense of the catholic religion, Pope rose abruptly and left the room in 
indignation. Owen Ruffhead (Life of Pope, p. 156) repeats the story. Goldsmith 
(Miscellaneous Works, vol. iv., p. 24) maintains, on the contrary, that the interview 
was a cordial one. It seems safest to admit, with Duvernet, that owing to the 
inability of Voltaire to speak English, and of Pope to speak French, the interview 
was slightly embarrassed. On the other hand Voltaire asserts that he has " lived a 
good deal " with Pope. Voltaire continued to correspond with him after his return 
to France (cf. A Ballantyne, op. cit., pp. 86-90). 

2 Bengesco, Bibliographic de Voltaire, vol. ii., p. 4. 

3 Ballantyne, p. 99. 4 Discours sur la tragedie. 

5 Lettres anglaises, edn. of 1734, letter xix. Cf. Johnson, Life of Congreve. 

6 MintO, Daniel de Foe, p. 165. 

7 From Parnell Voltaire borrowed the story of the hermit in Zadig. He trans- 
lated the earlier part of Garth's Dispensary. 


had already, when confined in the Bastille, devoted himself to 
mastering its elements, and Thieriot had sent him English books. 
While in England he applied himself to it with ardour, and 
attended the theatre assiduously, the book of the play in his 
hand. 1 He very soon managed to read English and to write it, 
but he had more difficulty in speaking the language ; after 
eighteen months' residence he still understood it very imperfectly 
in conversation. 2 At a later period he confessed to Sherlock 
that although he was perfectly sensible of its harmony, he had 
never been able to master it thoroughly. 3 On the other hand 
he wrote letters in English to his friends, especially to Thieriot, 
and composed verses in the language. 4 

It was in English that he wrote the first act of Brutus 5 and 
Charles XII? He became so accustomed to think in English 
that, if we may believe him, he found it difficult to think in his 
mother-tongue. He even undertook the work of an English 
writer : it was in that language that he published his Essal sur 
les guerres dvi/es de France and the Essai sur la poes'ie epique, " a 
mis-shapen English embryo" which he afterwards recast in a 
French form, 7 both pieces being so correct and even elegantly 
written that a good judge has proposed to include Voltaire 
among the number of English classics. 8 

Throughout his life Voltaire retained his liking for the lan- 
guage, which he never altogether mastered, though he was 
always ready to use it. At Cirey, which he jocosely called 
Cireyshire, he wrangled in English with Mme. de Graffigny, so 

1 A. Ballantyne, pp. 48-49. 

2 Cf. Avis au lecteur, prefixed to the Essai sur la poes'ie epique^ reprinted by Bengesco 
(vol. ii., p. 5). 

3 Lettres d'un voyageur anglais^ xxv. 

4 These will be found in Ballantyne, pp. 68-69. 

5 Goldsmith gives a fragment of this earliest version (Worh, ed. Cunningham, 
vol. iv., p. 20). 

6 Some of these notes are in the Bibliotheque Nationale. 

7 An Essay upon the civil Wars of France. Extracted from curious Manuscripts. And 
also upon the Epick poetry of the European nations from Homer down to Milton, by M. de 
Voltaire. London, 1717, 8vo. The copy given by Voltaire to Sir Hans Sloane is in 
the British Museum, and contains a dedication. 

8 M. Churton Collins, p. 265. Spence, it is true, asserts that Voltaire was as- 
sisted by Young (Ballantyne, p. 53). 


that the servants might not understand. He talked English with 
Franklin, and said to Mme. Denis, when she complained that she 
could not follow him: "I confess I am proud of being able to 
speak Franklin's language." He was acquainted even with its least 
becoming expressions : Pennant the naturalist, who visited him at 
Ferney in 1765, found him perfectly familiar with English oaths. 1 

The accusation brought against him by Desfontaines, and 
later by Mme. de Genlis, of being absolutely ignorant of the 
language of Shakespeare, is therefore unjust. 2 Though his know- 
ledge of it became less accurate as he grew old, he always had as 
thorough a mastery of it as any French writer of the eighteenth 
century. And considering that ignorance of the English idiom 
had previously been almost universal, and with some even a 
source of pride, Voltaire's knowledge of it, when he returned to 
France in 1729, was no small testimony to his originality. 

Nor did his pre-occupation with London and with England 
cease upon his return to France. He corresponded with Boling- 
broke, Pope, Gay, Lord Hervey, Falkener, Pitt and Lord 
Lyttelton. The link was formed, never again to be broken. 
Throughout his life Voltaire remained deeply and sincerely 
grateful to the country which had welcomed him during his 
exile. Even when he was concerned and irritated at the influence 
of England upon literature, he continued to receive Fox, Beckford, 
Boswell, Sherlock, Wilkes and as many more, at Ferney, with 
an affability no less untiring than their curiosity. Ferney, as 
Voltaire delighted to prove, was one of the most hospitable 
houses in Europe to all who bore an English name. When 
Sherlock visited him, Voltaire enjoyed pointing out upon the 
shelves of his library the works of Shakespeare, Milton, Con- 
greve, Rochester, Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke and others as well 
objects of his youthful admiration to which he had remained 
faithful in maturer years. 

The zeal with which, after 1729, he devoted himself to 
praising the English is only too well known. His efforts, it is 

1 Cf. A. Ballantyne, p. 50 a seq. 

2 J^oltairomanie, pp. 26, zj and 46. Memoires, vol. iii., p. 362. Cf. also Baretti, 
in his letter to Voltaire concerning Shakespeare. 


true, were not entirely disinterested : " What ! Is England the 
only land in which mortals dare to think ? O London, rival of 
Athens ! O happy land ! As you have expelled your tyrants, so 
too have you driven out the shameful prejudices which warred 
against you. England is the country where everything may be 
said and every deed be rewarded as it deserves." 1 

Nevertheless, interested as it was, Voltaire's admiration was 
perfectly sincere. Even to Thieriot, an intimate friend, he 
wrote : "I add my weak voice to all the voices of England in 
order to create some impression of the difference there is between 
their liberty and our bondage, between their enlightened security 
and our foolish superstition, between the encouragement which 
the arts receive in London and the shameful oppression beneath 
which they languish in Paris." 2 

It was just at this time that he dedicated Brutus to Boling- 
broke, and Zaire to Falkener, using, in the latter case, terms 
so enthusiastic that the public took offence. But his boldest 
stroke was the publication of the Lettres anglaises. 

The project had been formed long before. Some of the letters 
seem to go back to the early days of his exile. The greater 
part of them had been written between the close of 1728 and 
that of 1 732.3 So early as 1727 he publicly announced his 
intention of writing an account of his journey, and, in view of 
this undertaking, invited communications concerning Newton, 
Locke, Tillotson, Milton, Boyle and others. 4 It was not, how- 
ever, until he had returned to France that he carried out his 
design. The framework was ready to hand, in the letters he 
had addressed to Thieriot, at the latter* s request, concerning the 
manners and customs of the country. 5 They were simply 
modified, completed, and arranged in strict sequence. 

1 Lines on the death of Mile. Le Couvreur, 1731. 2 ist May 1731. 

3 The book was almost finished in September, and was completed in November 
(Letters to Formont, September and November 1732). In December he submitted 
the letters on Newton to the criticism of Maupertuis. 

4 Notice to the reader in the English edition of the Essai sur la poesie epique : M. 
Bengesco has translated this curious fragment, which Voltaire suppressed in subsequent 
editions (Bibliographic, vol. ii., p. 5). 

5 Cf. Bengesco, vol. ii., p. iz, and Voltaire to Cideville, I5th December 1731. 



The reader will be familiar with the difficulties placed by the 
censor in the way of printing the book. Voltaire then sent his 
manuscript to Thieriot, who happened to be in London, and he 
had the work translated by a man named Lockman. The 
English edition was brought out in London, during August 
1733. Prevost assures us that it met with great success. 1 
However that may be, it was reprinted in the same and the 
following years in Dublin, Glasgow and London. 

The French edition did not appear until the next year, when 
it was published by Jore, and placed on sale in April. 2 In spite 
of what Voltaire has said, it does not materially differ from the 
English one. 3 

It is needless to recall here the scandal created by this famous 
work, and the decree of loth June 1734 condemning it to 
be burnt, as " calculated to encourage licence of a kind most 
dangerous to religion and to the order of civil society." No 
single book, of all Voltaire's writings, caused a more lively 
agitation or provoked more controversy. 

The Lettres anglaises contain, in fact, two works : a pamphlet 
philosophical, political and religious, and a study of England. 
With the pamphlet we are not here concerned except in so far 
as it distorts the study which the author intended to write. 


It would be a waste of time to attempt to prove that 
Voltaire's ill-feeling perverted his judgment. The whole of 
the earlier part of his book is simply a satire. The four 
letters on the Quakers are a coarse attack upon religion, and 
do not pretend to be anything else. Elsewhere, however, 
the author is either careless, or ill-informed, or deliberately 

1 Pour et Contre, vol. i., p. 242. Cf. Voltaire to Formont, letter 359 in Moland's 
edition, and to the abbe de Sade, 29th August 1733. 

2 Beuchot wrongly asserts the existence of an edition published in 1731. 
8 To Cideville, 4th January 1732. 


His commonest error is that of exaggerating characteristics. 
He is well enough aware that he is writing a panegyric and not 
drawing a portrait. 

Just as Tacitus had his Germany, so Voltaire has his England, 
too beautiful to be true as, indeed, his contemporaries assured 
him. To one it seemed that Voltaire was not master of his 
subject, 1 and to another that, while the Lettres might be 
" amusing " reading, " it was a question whether the facts were 
always accurate, the reflexions always true, the criticism always 
just." 2 Such was the opinion of Prevost, who was one of 
the first to read the book. Such too is our verdict upon it 

On the subject of the religious condition of England, and 
upon toleration and liberty of thought, there are palpable and 
deliberate exaggerations. But there are exaggerations also on 
less burning topics : on commerce, for instance, and the cir- 
cumstances of men of letters. 

If we may believe Voltaire, there is nothing more enviable 
than the condition of literary men in this land^ of freedom. A 
sweet spirit of brotherhood reigns between the poet and the 
peer. The surest way to attain any lofty position is to write an 
ode or a treatise on moral philosophy. Did not Addison become 
a Secretary of State ? Newton, Warden of the Mint ? Prior, an 
ambassador ? Swift, an Irish dean ? Did not Pope make ^8000 
by a translation of Homer ? And the lesson becomes still more 
instructive if it be added that Prior was a " waiter at a tavern," 
and that he owed his good fortune to the Earl of Dorset, himself 
a " good poet and a bit of a drunkard," who discovered him 
in his tavern reading Horace. Lastly, were not actresses, 
provided they had genius, buried at Westminster by the side 
of such as Newton ? 

But Voltaire makes no mention of the facts, which he might 
have witnessed with his own eyes, that a poet like Thomson had 
to sell his verses for a mere trifle in order to buy shoes ; that 
Savage, without a roof to shelter him, was forced to spend the 

1 Jordan, Histoire <fun voyage lift er air e fait en 1733, p. 1 8 6. 

2 Pour et Centre, Nos. xi., xii., and xiii. 


night in the streets ; that Johnson, at the beginning of his 
career, once went forty-eight hours without food ; in short that 
the poet painted by Hogarth, living in a miserable lodging, 
forced to wear his dressing-gown while his wife mends his only 
pair of breeches, was a figure not unknown to reality. 1 In the 
years between 1726 and 1729, the good times when Priors were 
ambassadors and Addisons ministers were past and done with. 
This Voltaire knew, yet he has not mentioned it. 

The reasons are that he is before all things a pamphleteer, and 
that he is writing a satire. A good critic 2 has reproached him 
with having spoken very unjustly of English institutions, with 
having made no effort to understand the machinery of English 
government, and with having failed to perceive the relation 
between that government and the genius of the race. This is to 
forget that Voltaire is rather satirizing his own country than 
writing a historical study. 

He was neither very accurate nor very scrupulous in speaking 
of English literature. But since he was better acquainted with 
it than with English politics, and not only had a very sincere 
admiration for it, but keenly appreciated the pleasure of making 
it known to his fellow-countrymen, it happens that the literary 
portion of the book is the best even to-day. 

It is certainly too discursive. Voltaire was a rapid writer. 
He says that Shakespeare was living two centuries before 1734. 
He takes a scene in Venice Preserved, which is a satire upon 
Shaftesbury, for a simple piece of comedy merely from want 
of careful reading. In a picture of contemporary literature he 
forgets to mention The Spectator, which first appeared in 1711, 
Robinson Crusoe, which belongs to 1719, and Thomson's Seasons, 
the first canto of which appeared in the year of his arrival in 
England. He scarcely mentions Gulliver, and, in the first edition, 
he did not even make any allusion to the Essay on Man, which 
was published in I73 1 - 

Hence it follows that the picture is seriously incomplete. 
Worse still, it is also seriously and wilfully inaccurate. What 

1 Beljame, Le public et les hommes de lettres, pp. 364-377. 

2 Mr John Morley in his fine study on Voltaire. 


are we to say, for example, of this pretended translation this 
thoroughly " philosophical " version of Hamlefs soliloquy : 

On nous menace, on dit que cette courte vie 
De tourments eternels est aussit6t suivie. 
O mort ! moment fatal ! affreuse eternite ! 
Tout coeur a ton nom seul se glace epouvante". 
Eh ! qui pourrait sans toi supporter cette vie, 
De nos f>r ef res menteurs benir Vhytoocrisie ? * 

Really, who ever thought of finding Shakespeare in this 
predicament ? 

Would the reader like to know why the English, who have 
appropriated so freely from Moliere, have never imitated or 
translated Tartuffel "The subject of it could not possibly be 
a success in London : the reason being that men derive very 
little enjoyment from portraits of people they do not know." 
The remark is smart, but is it legitimate criticism ? 

There is an art of quotation which is itself a process of satire ; 
and of this art Voltaire was a master. If he desires to prove 
that English noblemen cultivate letters, there falls from his pen 
a quotation from Lord Hervey, which happens to be a picture of 
ecclesiastical life in Italy. 

Les monsignor, soi-disant grands, 
Seuls dans leurs palais magnifiques, 
Y sont d'illustres faineants 
Sans argent et sans domestiques. 

This is slightly impertinent. Still, it was necessary to give an 
idea of the " somewhat lusty " imaginations of these English. 
But Voltaire goes further, and places his own friends in uncom- 
fortable positions. Take his appreciation of Swift's Tale of a Tub : 
" In this country, which certain other European countries find so 
odd, it is not considered at all strange that, in his Tale of a Tub, 
the reverend Swift, dean of a cathedral, should have ridiculed 
Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism ; he claims in excuse that 
he has not meddled with Christianity itself. He pretends that if he 
has given a hundred birch-strokes to the children, he has respected their 
father ; but certain very fastidious people thought the rods must have been 
1 (Euvres,ed. Moland, vol. xxii., p. 151. 


so long that they reached even the father." l If this is not treachery, 
what is it ? And what is to be said of an insinuation which 
ranks Swift among the philosophers whose very name threw him 
into a rage ? But Voltaire, as a friend of Swift, felt no stings of 
conscience, and in his letter " on the English authors who have 
written against religion," does not scruple to place both Jeremy 
Taylor, one of the glories of Anglicanism, and Dean Swift, who 
would certainly have felt little flattered to find himself in such 
company, 2 by the side of theologians like Warburton and 

If, therefore, we set aside such of Voltaire's opinions on 
English literature as may have been prompted by wilful mis- 
conception and bad faith, the residue of impartial and com- 
prehensive criticism is of small extent. It should be said, how- 
ever, that this part at any rate is interesting and, in certain 
respects, distinctly novel. If literary criticism is the art of 
understanding foreign works in themselves and for themselves, 
there are in the Lettres anglaises two or three chapters in which 
Voltaire's keen and enquiring mind was genuinely critical. 

His early taste in English literature was for the poets of the 
Restoration : Rochester, Waller, Dorset, and Roscommon, all of 
whom he quotes. Though very French in flavour, they were 
almost unknown in France. In a translation of an extract from 
one of Rochester's satires, Voltaire seeks to give his reader some 
idea of " the impetuous freedom of English style." His success 
is open to question, but his intention, at any rate, was good. 

With one of the strangest and certainly one of the most 
characteristically English productions of the same period, namely, 
Butler's Hudibras, he was more fortunate. Butler's ponderous 
raillery, the ferocious insolence of his sneering laughter, his 
art of cutting up history and life into colossal caricatures an 
art which implies much individuality, however inferior it may 
be in type had evidently a great attraction for Voltaire. He 
conies very near to putting Butler above Milton. In the ability 

1 Vol. xxii., p. 175. 

2 On Swift, see the fifth of the Lettres , a S. A. le prince de . . . (vol. xxvi., p. 
489), and the letter to Mme. du Deffand, i3th October 1759. 


to excite laughter the author of Hudibras is unrivalled : "A 
man whose imagination contained the tenth part of the comic 
spirit, good or bad, which reigns in this work, would still 
be very amusing." 1 In comparison with such a masterpiece 
the French Menippean Satire is " of very indifferent quality." 
The platitudes of the poem ; the obscenity, the strange com- 
bination of frivolity and ponderous buffoonery, the musty odours 
of kitchen and stable, which render Butler's work, considered 
as a poem, odd and almost monstrous nothing of all this 
repelled Voltaire. He chuckled without scruple at Butler's 
noisy puppets, disporting himself with all the menials and 
applauding Hudibras, who 

Tout rempli d'une sainte bile, 
Suivi de son grand ecuyer, 
S'echappa de son poulailler, 
Avec son sabre et 1'Evangile. 2 

In the same way he relished the spicy and cynical English 
comedy of the Restoration. He liked its blunt naturalness, and 
the almost impudent fidelity with which it depicted every-day 
life. True, its naturalness was not altogether free from coarse- 
ness, nor its portraiture from vulgarity. Yet coarseness and 
vulgarity were after all characteristics of English manners, and 
it was upon their manners that the English had founded their 
comedy. Their climate was productive of misanthropy, and so, 
by means of Wycherley's pen, they placed misanthropes upon 
the stage. This implied, no doubt, a lack of " delicacy " and 
" propriety." It was a little too " daring for French manners," 
and the English drama was no school of all the virtues. It had 
to be acknowledged, however, that it was " the school of wit 
and of good comedy." Classical by the higher side of his mind, 
Voltaire always had a secret fondness for coarse pleasantry, 

1 Letter xxii. 

2 A paraphrase of two lines in Hudibras (canto i.) : 

Then did Sir Knight abandon dwelling, 

And out he rode a colonelling. (Bonn's Library edn., p. 4.) 

Voltaire was always fond of Hudibras; cf. Nichols, Illustrations of the eighteenth 
century, vol. Hi., p. 722. 


which found abundant satisfaction in the plays of Wycherley, in 
Congreve or in Swift, the "Rabelais of England," whose 
works had " a strange and inimitable flavour," and whose humour 
Voltaire was one of the few Frenchmen to appreciate to the full. 
" One who has read classical authors only," he wrote, " despises 
everything written in a living language ; and the man who knows 
no language save his own is like those who, never having left 
the French court, pretend that the rest of the world is of little 
consequence, and that anyone who has seen Versailles has seen 
everything." * Voltaire at the time when he was writing the 
Lettres anglaises made a very sincere effort to see, and to see 
correctly, something beside Versailles. 

There is therefore no occasion to congratulate him on having 
understood Pope, whose " subjects, for the most part, are 
general and appeal to all nationalities " ; we may rather praise 
his concise, but significant, appreciation of the tragic poets of 
England, who, "barbarous" as they are, exhibit nevertheless 
" surprising flashes in the midst of their darkness." He has 
well observed that if the language or the imagination of 
Shakespeare appears to us " unnatural," it is because his style 
is " too close an imitation of the Hebrew writers, who are full 
of Asiatic inflation." Voltaire was undoubtedly the first French 
critic to point out this affinity between the British genius and 
the genius of the Bible the chief of English books. He was 
vaguely aware how foreign was the poetry of England to the 
French spirit, and how closely it was bound to the soil which 
had witnessed its birth : " The poetic genius of the English has 
hitherto resembled a thickly-growing tree of nature's own plant- 
ing, which puts forth a thousand branches at random, and grows 
vigorously, yet irregularly. If you attempt to do violence to 
nature, and to trim it after the fashion of the trees in the garden 
at Marly, it will die." This is rather to suggest a clue than to 
prove by evidence. To tell the truth, Voltaire says scarcely 
anything definite concerning English poetic literature, least of 
all anything which had not been said before. The few pages 
of Shakespeare which he translates are very inadequate speci- 

1 Essai sur la poesie epique, chap. i. 


mens. The Lettres philosophiques , we must repeat, are not a 
synopsis of English literature : any one who looked to find in 
them a sketch of that literature in 1730 would be greatly 
disappointed. But by way of compensation they created the 
desire to be acquainted with it, and that was the main thing. 
Partly out of spite and partly from genuine admiration, Voltaire 
not only introduced English taste, but also constituted himself 
its apologist, though a few years later he atoned for his action 
by opposing that taste and retracting his own declarations. 
What was better, he praised with warmth, and was easily 
aroused to ardour. " M. de Voltaire," said the Dutch 
gazettes, 1 " is not of those cold judges who have intellect 
and nothing else, and are rendered insensible to the delights 
of admiring, and of having their feelings aroused, by the 
pleasure they take in criticizing. He praises the fine pieces 
of which he speaks, as a man, and a man of genius." 

And this is why the Lettres anglaises remain an epoch in the 
history of criticism. Prepared by the refugees, and unsettled 
by Muralt and Prevost, opinion was definitely won over by 
Voltaire. The ten years which followed the publication of 
the Lettres assured the success of English literature in France. 
Four years later, J. B. Rousseau recognised with regret the 
progress of " this miserable English spirit, which has insinu- 
ated itself into our midst during the past twenty years." 2 
About the same time the abbe du Resnel, the translator of 
Pope, shows clearly that the study of English is gaining 
ground in France, and that the most famous English writers 
are no longer unknown to Frenchmen. He adds, it is true, 
that " this liaison, as it may be called, is still too recent " to con- 
vince him " that the two nations are really ready to harmonize 
with one another," and regrets the discredit into which Italian 
books are falling. 3 Five years later, however, Goujet declares 
that " English poetry is scarcely less known to-day than that of 

1 Bibliotheque britannique, 1733, vol. ii., pp. 121-2. 

2 Letter to Louis Racine, Brussels, i8th May 1738. 

3 Les principes de la morale et du gout, translated from the English of Mr Pope. 
Paris, 1737, 8vo, p. xxiii. 


the Italians or the Spaniards." 1 The Memoires de Trevoux 
state that France had become " a very good friend to English 
literature," and express concern at the fact. 2 The Correspondance 
litter air e remarks that the vogue of translations from English " is 
lasting longer than such fashions usually last in this country." 3 
In 1755 Freron writes: "Barely forty years ago a man who 
ventured to speak of English tragedy and comedy would 
have been hissed in fashionable society. ... It has been a 
great surprise to us to find that this nation is the equal 
of ours in genius, its superior in power, and its inferior only 
in subtlety and elegance." 4 I may be excused for quoting 
so much evidence of a revolution of such importance in French 

There was still, according to the point of view which we 
adopt, either one more step to be taken, or one more error to 
be committed. Now that curiosity with regard to English 
works had been thoroughly aroused, it remained to recommend 
them for imitation. From this consequence Voltaire did not 

Of what does the history of literature consist but of imitation 
and borrowing ? Montesquieu borrows from Mariana, Boiardo 
from Pulci, Ariosto from Boiardo. The English have frequently 
pilfered from the French without making any acknowledgment. 
Books are like " the fire on our hearths." We obtain kindling 
from our neighbours, light our own fire with it, hand it on 
to others, and it becomes common property. The fortunate ones 
are those who manage to borrow in season ! Since therefore the 

1 Bibliotheque frang aise, vol. vii., p. 189. " Our intercourse with the English, our 
study of their language, the eagerness of our writers to translate their works, are so 
many different ways in which a knowledge of the style and genius of their poetry 
has been rendered easier for us." Cf. Silhouette, Introduction to the translation of 
Pope's Essay on Man. London, 17415 4to. 

2 October 1749. Cf. L 1 Esprit da journalistes de Trevoux. Paris, 1771, vol. ii., 
p. 491 : " It may be said that the productions of this country are sowing among 
us the germs of all the unbridled opinions which have made as many ungodly 
Christians in England as bad citizens." 

3 ist August 1753. 

4 Journal etr anger, September 1755, p. 4. See also La Harpe, Court de litter -ature, 
vol. Hi., p. 208. 


English have profited largely by works in the French language, 
" we, who have lent to them, ought to borrow from them in our 
turn." 1 

Coming, as it did, at the right moment, this advice was 

1 Vol. xxii., p. 177, note. In 1756, Voltaire suppressed this passage, feeling, 
doubtless, that his advice had been followed too faithfully. 

Chapter III 


I. Circumstances which contributed to the diffusion of the cosmopolitan spirit during 
the first half of the century Decline of the patriotic idea Exhausted state of 
the national literature. 

II. Spread of the scientific spirit, and its literary results. 

III. The work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in its relation to the influence of England ; 

in him the Latin genius is combined with the Germanic. 


THE refugees and Muralt, Voltaire and the abbe Prevost had 
prepared opinion in France for the influence of English literature, 
and by means of this influence, for that also of other Northern 
literatures. They all contributed, some with full consciousness 
and intention, others from simple intellectual curiosity and with- 
out any calculation of the consequences their action might entail, 
to impair the venerable prestige of classical literature by afford- 
ing the French mind a glimpse of a literature which to all 
appearance at any rate was absolutely indigenous, was profoundly 
original, and, instead of being founded on tradition, tended 
exclusively in the direction of progress. 

"It seems," wrote Gottsched in 1739, " that the English are 
setting themselves to drive the French out of Germany." l In 
France the invasion of English literature took place more slowly. 
Nevertheless, between 1700 and 1760, approximately speaking, 
a few of those who aspired to educate the masses were promoting 

1 Manuscript letter preserved in the Zurich Library and quoted by M. de Greierz, 
in his Muralt. 


the cross-fertilization of the two literatures. Many circum- 
stances assisted them in their endeavour. 

In the first place, it must be admitted, the decay of the 
patriotic idea. " The eighteenth century," it has been justly 
said, " was neither Christian nor French." l That is why, no 
less in literature than in everything else, it failed to maintain 
what for two centuries had been regarded as the national tradi- 
tion. It is curious that the periods of the recrudescence of 
anglomania should coincide exactly with our most painful defeats 
or most disastrous treaties. Our admiration of England was 
never more lively than in 1748 and 1763, or thereabouts, and 
during the war with America. During the seven years war, it 
reached fever-heat. In vain did a few patriots raise their voices 
in denunciation of " that detestable country, the horrible resort 
of the savages of Europe, where reason, humanity and nature are 
unable to make their voices heard." 2 In vain did the press pour 
forth its pamphlets and satires. We read in a poem issued 
in 1762 : "Blood-nurtured tigers ! Your Lockes and Newtons 
never taught you such barbarous lessons as these. From them 
arose your imperishable renown ; they have absolved you from a 
Cromwell's crimes." 3 

The author of a Petit catechisme politique des Anglais, par de- 
mandes et par reponsesf endeavours to rouse the national senti- 
ment over the Port Mahon affair : " How do we define the 
science of government ? " the English are supposed to be asked. 
"It is the practical knowledge of everything that is unjust 
and dishonest. What is natural right ' ? It is an ancient code 
of law implanted in the human heart, which we have just 

1 E. Faguet, xviii e siecle, preface. 

2 Les Sauvages de I" Europe. Berlin, 1750. (See the Journal encyclopedique, 1st June 

3 D'Arnauld, A la Nation, 1762. 

4 1756. (Journal encyclopedique, September 1756). See also the Adreisc a la nation 
anglaise, a patriotic poem, by a citizen, Paris, 1757, nmo: "It has been thought 
permissible," says the author, in language which is highly significant, " to tell the 
truth boldly to a nation which tells it so frankly to its own kings " ; and La differ- 
ence du patriotisms national chez let Fran$ais et chez les Anglais (by Basset de la Marelle. 
Paris, 1766) in which the author calls attention very decidedly to the decline of the 
patriotic sentiment. 


amended in accordance with patterns only to be found in 
Barbary. . . . What is a treaty ? The thing for which we 
care less than for anything else in the world. What are 
boundaries ? We have not the slightest desire to know. 
What are friends ? What we shall never possess." 

Friends they possessed, nevertheless, and very warm ones. 
Gibbon, who visited Paris in 1763, writes: "Our opinions, our 
manners, and even our dress were adopted in France ; a ray of 
his nation's glory illumined every Englishman, and he was always 
supposed to be a patriot and a philosopher born." 1 " What did 
you think of the French ? " Voltaire once asked Sherlock. " I 
found them agreeable, intelligent and refined," his guest replied. 
" I only noticed one fault in them : they imitate the English too 
much." 2 Immediately after the conclusion of the disastrous 
peace which deprived France of her fairest colonies, Favart cele- 
brated the union of the two peoples in his Anglais h Bordeaux : 
" Courage and honour knit nations together, and two peoples 
equal in virtue and intelligence throw down the barriers their 
decrees have raised, that they may be for ever friends." 3 So 
strangely feeble was the national sentiment that these lines were 
applauded to the skies, and their author dragged on to the stage 
and loudly cheered. 

We must therefore note, as one of the causes which assisted 
the diffusion of anglomania, the decline of the patriotic idea. 

By a strange inconsistency, the virtues which the French 
admired in their neighbours were just those in which they them- 
selves were most deficient. They envied the patriotism of the 
English, with all its fierceness and brutality. 4 Even in 1728, 
Marivaux expressed his astonishment at these inconsistencies in a 

t) ch. XV. 2 Lettres (funvoyageur anglais , p. 135. 

3 The treaty of Paris was concluded in February. The play was produced in 
March 1763. The author submitted it to the English ambassador, who altered its 
title, and caused the performance to be preceded by that of Brutus, " a patriotic 
tragedy in the English style." In consequence of this disgraceful success, the 
Journal encyclofedique says : " The author formulates the charge that at Paris the 
English are represented as a great and generous nation which seeks to rival the 
French in talent and in virtue, an accusation which the public endorses by its 
applause." (ist March 1763.) 

4 Cf. Bolingbroke's Letters on Patriotism, translated by the Comte de Bissy. 


delightful passage : "It is an amusing nation ours; its vanity 
is not like the vanity of other peoples ; they are vain in a per- 
fectly natural fashion ; they don't strive to be subtle with it as 
well ; they think a hundred times more of what is made in their 
own country than of anything made anywhere else on earth ; 
there is not a trifle they possess but is superior to everything we 
have, no matter how beautiful j they speak of it with a respect 
they dare not fully express for fear of spoiling it ; and they be- 
lieve they are quite right, or, if ever there are times when they 
do not believe it, they are careful not to say so, for, if they did, 
where would be the honour of their country ? There is some 
sincerity in vanity of this sort. . . . But as for us Frenchmen, 
we cannot let well alone, and have altered all that ; our vanity, 
forsooth, is of a much more ingenious sort, we are infinitely 
more cunning in our self-conceit. Think highly of anything 
made in our own country ! Why, whatever should we come to 
if we had to praise our fellow-countrymen ? They would get too 
conceited, and we should be too much humiliated. No, no ! It 
will never do to give such an advantage to men we spend all 
our lives with, and may meet wherever we go. Let us praise 
foreigners, by all means ; they will never be rendered vain by it. 
. . . Behold your portrait, Messieurs les Franfais. One would 
never believe how a Frenchman enjoys despising our best works, 
and preferring the silly nonsense which comes from a distance. 
' Those people think more than we do/ says he, speaking of 
foreigners : and at heart he doesn't believe it, and if he thinks he 
does I assure him he is mistaken. Why, what does he believe 
then ? Nothing ; but the fact is men's self-conceit must be kept 
alive. . . . When he ranks foreigners above his own country, 
however, Monsieur is no longer a native of it, he is the man of 
every nation" 1 the cosmopolitan. 

To be a citizen " of every nation," not to belong to one's 
" native country " this was the dream of French writers in 
the eighteenth century, and that is why " the silly nonsense 
which comes from a distance " met with such success. Is it not 
a mark of the " philosopher " to possess just this absolute de- 

1 L' Indigent philosophe, 5th No. (1728). 


tachment from that national bond which may very well be one 
of the most absurd prejudices handed down from early ages ? 
Where Marivaux was mistaken was in seeing in it nothing more 
than a fashion. It was one of the most profound tendencies of the 
age, one of its essential characteristics. Now that which dis- 
tinguishes nations from one another, that which differentiates 
races, is, strictly, literature or art, that is to say, the expression 
of their manners and inherent genius. What unites them, on 
the other hand, is the philosophical or scientific spirit. Art is 
infinitely various, philosophy is one. The relativity of the 
former is opposed to the universality of the latter. And, by a 
natural consequence, as the influence of science increases, the 
power of art wanes. 

These two results were verified in the earlier half of the 
eighteenth century. 

Its first twenty years were, in a literary sense, barren. They 
witnessed little more than the liquidation of the grand siec/e. 
One by one the survivors of the great epoch passed away ; in 
1704 Bossuet and Bourdaloue, in 1706 Bayle, in 1707 Vauban and 
Mabillon, in 1711 Boileau, and in 1715 F^nelon and Malebranche, 
as well as Louis XIV. The prominent writers of the eighteenth 
century, on the other hand, were but just coming into existence : 
Duclos was born in 1704, BufFon in 1707, Cresset and Mably in 
1709, Rousseau in 1712, Diderot and Raynal in 1713, Helvetius, 
Vauvenargues and Condillac in 1715, d'Alembert in 1717, 
Freron in 1718, Marmontel, d'Holbach and Grimm in 1723. 
Fontenelle alone and herein lies his originality formed, with 
Lesage, a connecting link between the two centuries. Montes- 
quieu, Voltaire, Marivaux and Prevost were just taking the 
field, and indeed already opening fire. 

But if the period witnessed the disappearance of many figures 
in the literary world, it was marked also by the publication of 
many posthumous works ; Bourdaloue's sermons, in 170? 5 tne 
Politique tiree de VEcrlture Sainte, in 1709 ; the Memoires of Retz, 
in 171? 5 tne Dialogues sur I" 1 eloquence de la chaire, in 1718 ; 
followed by the Traite de la connalssance de Dieu et de soi-meme 
(1722), the Memoires of Mme. de Motteville (1723), the Lettres 


of Mme. de Sevigne (1726), the Elevations sur les Mysferes and 
the Traite de la concupiscence (1727 an d I73 1 )* The contempt 
with which these belated works were received by those har- 
bingers of the century, the Dutch journals, was worth seeing. 
Obviously the years of waiting seemed tedious and empty. 
Opinion was wavering between a slowly dying admiration and 
a vague and as yet unsatisfied need of something fresh ; there 
was an anxious expectation of the advent of a new literature for 
which the works of Englishmen provided a timely satisfaction. 

For if, by a sort of posthumous vitality, the seventeenth century 
was being lengthened out into the early years of the eighteenth, 
the new spirit did not as yet assert itself in any decisive work. 
(Edipe did not make its appearance until 1718, nor the Lettres 
persanes until 1721. Old and effete types of literature still 
dragged out a painful existence. It is impossible, without the 
indulgent spirit of their contemporaries, to become warmly in- 
terested in the tragedies of Crebillon and Lagrange-Chancel. 
In comedy the protracted influence of Moliere was wearing itself 
out in the last works of Boursault and Regnard and in the 
earlier ones of Dufresny and Destouches. Turcaret afforded a 
solitary exception in 1709? and even this piece, so far as form 
was concerned, remained entirely in accordance with tradition. 

In history likewise, as also in moral and political philosophy, 
these years were unproductive. A few of Massillon's sermons 
gave a foretaste of a new eloquence, one better adapted to the 
age, savouring more of the present world, less solid also, and 
less religious than those of Bossuet's school and Bourdaloue's. 
Imaginative literature was in a languid condition : the one 
exception, Gil Bias, began to appear in 1715. The Memoires du 
chevalier de Gramont, one of the very few works of importance 
belonging to this unfruitful period, were written by a foreigner, 
and were, moreover, among the books which did most to spread 
a knowledge of England among the French. 

I have shown how the refugees endeavoured to turn the 
sterility of French literature to account in their effort to compel 
Frenchmen to admire the literature of a neighbouring country, 
and how they succeeded, if not in naturalising it in France, at 



any rate in arousing attention with respect to it. That literature 
was destined gradually to become the refuge of all who were 
disgusted with the barrenness of the classical art of France ; and 
all that the latter was to lose the literature of England was 
destined to gain. 


Another influence which prepared the way for the success of 
English works in France was the scientific and philosophical 

Even in the seventeenth century England had seemed to be the 
home of experimental science. So early as 1665 the Journal des 
savants declared that " fair philosophy was more flourishing 
there than anywhere else in the world." x Chapelain, speaking 
of the English, wrote to Vossius : " They are learned, inquiring 
and open-minded, and you need scarcely expect anything of them 
but what is good." 2 "The English," wrote Father Rapin a 
few years later, " by virtue of that penetrative genius which is 
common among them, are fond of methods which are deep, 
abstruse and far-fetched ; and by reason of their inveterate 
liking for work, are still more devoted than other nations to 
the observation of nature." 3 So, La Fontaine : < The English 
are deep thinkers : in this respect their intellect corresponds with 
their temperament \ given to examine every subject thoroughly, 
and skilful in experiment, they extend the empire of science in 
every direction." 4 

The great name of the man of whom it has been said that he 
was " in a sense the type, or the proof-engraving, of the English 
genius" 5 the name of Bacon, symbolized all the aspirations then 
beginning to be aroused by the empirical sciences, and afterwards 
so magnificently realised by Newton. Is it any wonder that the 
man who spoke so eloquently of progress, and so contemptuously 

1 30th March 1665. 

2 Lettres de Chapelain, ed. Tamizey de Larroque, vol. ii., p. 393. 

3 CEuvres, 17x5, vol. ii., p. 365. The passage was written in 1676. 

4 Le Renard anglais ^ published in 1694. 

5 Garat, Memoires sur Suard, vol. ii., p. 45. 


of tradition, who considered that " we ought to look, not to 
the darkness of antiquity, but to the light of nature, for our 
discoveries," should have been in the eyes of a d'Alembert, 
" the greatest, the most universal, and the most eloquent of 
philosophers." * And the hopes of Bacon were realised by 
Newton. In Voltaire's phrase, the heavens declared the glory of 
the author of the Principia and the Optics. English science, every 
day more glorious, appeared to the contemporaries of Voltaire 
and Maupertuis as the greatest revival of the human intellect 
since ancient times. It did more for the glory of the English 
genius than all the Addisons and the Popes together. The 
experimental or Baconian method triumphantly resisted the dis- 
tinctively French method of Descartes. "I believe," wrote Le 
Clerc, " that the world is beginning to abandon that positive 
manner with which Descartes, who is responsible for it, used 
to set forth his conjectures in place of demonstrations ; you 
do not find a single man of learning who is such a systematiser, 
so to speak, as he was. The English, in particular, are more 
averse to it than any other people." 2 

Henceforth from 1700 to 1740 the whole " English party" 
gathered themselves together under the name of Newton, 
from Maupertuis, the first Frenchman to become an avowed 
" Newtonian," 3 to Voltaire, who spread the new physics with so 
much eloquence. 4 " Many of our learned men," writes a witness 
in 1745, "have ranged themselves already beneath the English 
banner. . . . How pompously they extol everything which 
comes to us from that country ! How eagerly they seek to 
make proselytes ! To hear fanatics of this sort there are no 
real men except the English : not a step can be taken in phil- 
osophy or in letters without a knowledge of their tongue : 
according to them it is the key to all the sciences -, they look 

1 Discours preliminaire de V Encyclopedic, 

2 Letter to Louis Tronchin, Sayous, La /literature francaise a I'etranger, vol. ii., p. 41. 

3 Discours sur la Figure des astres, 1732. Cf. d'Alembert, Discours preliminaire. 

4 The Optics was translated by Coste in 1722. The Eloge of Newton, by Fon- 
tenelle, dates from 1727. The Elements de la philosophic de Neivton, by Voltaire, 
from 1738. The Epitre LI., to Mme. du Chatelet, written in 1736, appeared in the 
same year. 


upon it as the only rich language, upon English methods of 
thought as the only correct ones, and on the English manner of 
life as the only one that is reasonable." 1 

And so the homage paid to English science, by turning all 
eyes upon the country of Newton, preceded and prepared the 
way for the worship of Shakespeare and Richardson. It is less 
difficult to bring men together upon the ground of science, 
which knows no country, than upon that of art, which cannot so 
easily become universal and human. 

But this evolution of the spirit of the age had still other 
results, even upon literature. It was in the school of Bacon, 
Locke and Newton that the French mind, up to that time full 
of respect for ancient models, and, under their influence, con- 
vinced of the superiority of art to science, forgot both its 
admiration for the ancients and its respect for art itself. 

" Poetry is ingenious nonsense," said Newton. " All specula- 
tions on this subject," Locke had written, " however curious or 
refined or seeming profound and solid, if they teach not their 
followers to do something either better or in a shorter and 
easier way than otherwise they could, or else lead them to the 
discovery of some new and useful invention, deserve not the 
name of knowledge (or so much as the vast time of our idle 
hours to be thrown away upon such an empty idle philosophy). 
They that are studiously busy in the cultivating and adorning 
such dry barren notions are vigorously employed to little 
purpose, and might with as much reason have retained, now they 
are men, the babies they made when they were children." 2 
This is exactly the spirit of the eighteenth century : contempt 
for all needless speculation, absolute indifference to problems, 
the solution of which does not directly affect our happiness in 
this world, exclusive concern with physical or moral comfort. 
Our business in this world, in Locke's opinion, is not to know 
all things, but to know those alone which concern the manage- 
ment of our own lives. To French thinkers of the seventeenth 
century, to Pascal and Descartes, it had seemed that the object 

1 Le Blanc, Lettres, vol. i., p. 63. 

2 Locke, De Arte Medico, Shaftesbury papers, series viii., No. 2. 


of life was something outside of life itself, that human thought 
found its dignity in projecting itself, if one may say so, without 
limit. Baconism confined thought and science to the present 
existence. It maintained that there were ingenious yet useless 
truths which, like stars " too remote from our sphere, afford us 
no light." l The one solid fact was the necessity to which we 
are subjected of improving our present condition, of obtaining 
control over matter, of rendering it our docile and useful slave. 
Beyond that, all was idle fantasy. " When a man employs 
himself," writes Johnson, " upon remote and unnecessary 
subjects, and wastes his life upon questions which cannot be 
resolved, of which the solution would conduce very little to the 
advancement of happiness ; when he lavishes his hours in cal- 
culating the weight of the terraqueous globe, or in adjusting 
successive systems of worlds beyond the reach of the telescope ; 
he may be very properly recalled from his excursions by this 
precept [Be acquainted with thyself], and reminded that there is 
a nearer Being with which it is his duty to be more acquainted ; 
and from which his attention has hitherto been withheld by 
studies to which he has no other motive than vanity or 
curiosity." 2 

Such a conception as this carries with it a contempt for 
everything in the nature of mere amusement, intellectual 
diversion, or superfluous thought. Poetry becomes " ingenious 
nonsense." The rationalism of a Locke will tolerate literature 
only as a modest clothing for ideas. The anglomaniacs, who, 
according to Voltaire, profess a great respect for " the four 
rules of arithmetic, and good sense," contrast that "rough 
ingenuity" which makes the English the Michael Angelos, 
as it were, of literary art, with the " easy elegance " of the 
French, who may be described more modestly as its Raphaels. 3 
Casting aside all respect for models, they hold with Bacon 
that it is an "idle and useless thing to make the thoughts 
of man our principal study." Locke never studied books ; 
he endeavoured to establish " the experimental physics of the 

1 Lettres anglais es, xxiv. 2 The Rambler, No. xxiv. 

3 Garat, Memoir es sur SuarJ, vol. ii., p. 48. 


soul," l and thus provided a notable example of what modern 
thought, independent of all tradition, should be. 

In 1740, however, Locke and the English notwithstanding, the 
French public was still amusing itself with its tragedies, operas 
and frivolous verses. It applauded those who amused it, and was 
even yet the gayest and most volatile people in the world, the 
" whipped cream of Europe," to use the words of Voltaire. 
But, little by little, it began to feel a sense of shame, and to 
compare itself with the inhabitants of neighbouring countries. 
A Frenchman of this type would find himself a giddy-brained 
creature when weighed against a Bacon, a Newton, or even the 
" sagacious Addison " or the "respectable dean Swift." He would 
consider that "purity of language" and a "polished style" can 
only " serve to set one off in the world, and give one the reputa- 
tion of a scholar," 2 ends which are of very little consequence. 
At any rate, many men of sound intelligence were soon to acquire 
a conviction that the bounds of literature were but narrow, and 
that the " imitation of nature in her beauty seems confined 
to certain limits which one or two generations at most very 
quickly attain." 3 

France, in short, to borrow once more the actual language of 
contemporary writers, " owes to England the great revolution 'which 
has taken place in her literature. . . . How many excellent works, 
in place of the ingenious trifles which have come at last to 
be valued at no more that their true worth, have appeared in 
recent years upon the useful arts upon agriculture, the most 
indispensable and therefore the first of all, upon commerce, 
finance, manufactures, navigation, and the colonies, in short upon 

1 D'Alembert, Discours preliminaire. 

2 Locke's Journals, as quoted in The Life of John Locke, "with extracts from his 
Correspondence, Journals, and Commonplace Book, by Lord King, 2 vols. 8vo, 1830. 
" Purity of language, a polished style, or exact criticism in foreign languages thus 
I think Greek and Latin may be called, as well as French and Italian and to spend 
much time in these may perhaps serve to set one off in the world, and give one the 
reputation of a scholar ; but if that be all, methinks it is labouring for an outside ; 
it is at best but a handsome dress of truth or falsehood that one busies oneself 
about, and makes most of those who lay out their time this way rather as fashion- 
able gentlemen than as wise or useful men." Vol. ii., p. 176. 

3 D'Alembert, Discours preliminaire. 


everything which can contribute to render peoples more happy 
and States more flourishing." 1 

Thus did the French spirit join hands with the English upon 
the ground of a common ideal. Before the two nations adopted 
identical modes of feeling and imagination, the regularity of their 
scientific and philosophical intercourse had accustomed them 
to a kind of intellectual alliance. Whilst Voltaire and Prevost 
were striving to acclimatize English literature among the French, 
France was learning to look more and more towards the North 
for inspiration and guidance. " From the English," wrote 
Voltaire to Helvetius, " we have adopted annuities, Consolidated 
Funds, depreciation funds, the construction and management of 
vessels, attraction, the differential calculus, the seven primitive 
colours, and inoculation. Insensibly we shall adopt their noble 
freedom of thought, and their profound contempt for the twaddle 
of the schools." 2 


Such was the negative influence, if one may say so, of the 
English mind upon France, at the time immediately following the 
publication of the Lettres philosophiques. No great literary work 
had as yet achieved a decisive conquest of the public taste. But 
the public asked nothing better than to be taken captive. By 
mere force of attachment to tradition, it remained faithful to 
ancient models, but its attachment was without zeal and without 
conviction. " The productions of a healthy antiquity," wrote 
Freron sadly, "are no longer consulted. The finest geniuses of 
Rome and Athens are scarcely known by name." 3 The abbe 
Le Blanc complained that a contempt, for which there was no 

1 Journal encyclopedique, April 1758. Cf. the Journal etranger, April 1754: "A day 
will come when custom will demand that a man shall be well-informed, observant, 
capable of reasoning, and of appropriate discussion upon a natural phenomenon, just 
as the tone of to-day leads us to speak with discernment on any subject connected 
with the agreeable arts, to pronounce a subtle yet ready opinion upon a poetical 
work, or to criticise a dramatic production." 

2 1 5th September 1763. Cf. to Mme. du Deffand, i7th September 1757. 

3 Lettres sur quelques ecrits de ce tempi , vol. ii., p. 134. 


justification, had given place to a " blind prepossession," and 
having given evidence of the advance of anglomania, he expressed 
the hope that the worship of new gods might not cause the old 
ones to be forgotten. 1 

France having thus become acquainted with England the two 
nations having been brought into contact, it merely remained 
to infuse the French mind with all that was best in the minds of 
Englishmen, or, if the expression be preferred, to unite the first 
of the Latin with the greatest of the Germanic nations of Europe 
a task which was accomplished by the Swiss, Jean-Jacques 

1 Lettres, vol. ii., p. 234. Cf. vol. Hi., p. 227. 

ffioofe II 


Chapter I 


I. Origins of Rousseau's genius : what it owes to Geneva, and through Geneva to 

England Its exotic character. 

II. Rousseau, like his contemporaries, an admirer of England Freedom of the 
English intellect Respect felt by Frenchmen of the eighteenth century for 
English virtue. 

III. How these features come to be found also in Rousseau Whence did he derive 
his notions concerning England ? Muralt's influence over him English 
manners in La Nouvelle Heldise Milord Bomston, or the Englishman 
Rousseau's work reflects the anglomania of the age. 


No writer of his age was better* fitted by the circumstances of 
his origin to effect a union between the Germanic and the Latin 
sections of Europe. 

" There is something English," said Doudan, " in the 
Genevan nature." However just the remark may be, one 
would hesitate to apply it to Rousseau swept by the current of 
life, as he was in early youth, far away from his native town 
had he not himself dwelt upon the idea with satisfaction. 
Voltaire irreverently said of Geneva that it imitated England as 
the frog imitated the ox : it was the Gille of the English 
nation. 1 What seems absurd to him is for Rousseau a ground 
of national pride. " The manners of the English," he says, 
" have reached even so far as this country ; and the men, living 

1 Quoted by Ballantyne, op. cit., p. 283. Letter to George Keate. 



more separate from the women than with us " Saint-Preux is 
the speaker " contract among themselves a graver turn, and 
have more solidity in their discourse." l Some part, therefore, 
of their gravity, their Grtindlichkeit, came to the Genevans from 
beyond the Channel. Hence, as Jean-Jacques has said, that 
" dogmatical and frigid air " which conceals ardent passions. 
Hence too, in conversation, " their habits of speaking at a most 
inordinate length, of introducing preliminary statements, or 
exordiums, of indulging in affectation and stilted phrases - 9 and 
hence, also, their want of facility, and their entire lack of that 
artless simplicity which expresses the feeling before the thought, 
and so enhances the value of what is said." How many of their 
characteristics, if Rousseau's portrait of the Genevans be studied 
afresh, will be seen to be either English or such as one would 
expect of the English people ! 

The truth is, as he observes, that the relations between the 
two nations had always been most intimate. A religious com- 
munity was formed at Geneva in the sixteenth century by the 
Englishmen who were persecuted and banished by Mary Tudor, 
and John Knox was a disciple of Calvin. Great Britain, on her 
part, protected the little republic in better days, gave a welcome 
to distinguished Genevans, and readily entrusted them with posi- 
tions in the army and the church. 2 Founded on similarity of 
genius and religion, this intercourse became, in the eighteenth 
century, still more close. Debating clubs were formed at 
Geneva, with a membership half Genevan, half English. 3 
Sismondi informs us that the Genevans wrote in French, but 
" read and thought in English," and Napoleon found fault with 
them for knowing the latter language " too well." At no 
period was the intercourse between Great Britain and Rousseau's 
native country more intimate than during the eighteenth century. 

1 Nouvelle Heloise, vi. 5. 

2 Two Casaubons became church dignitaries, while four men of the name of 
Prevost distinguished themselves, among others, as superior officers in the English 
army, &c. (Cf. A. Bouvier, Le protestantisme a Geneve. Paris, 1884.) 

3 Cf. M. Pictet's book, Pictet de Rochemont, p. 61. See also Sismondi, Con- 
siderations sur Geneve dans ses raff arts avec V Angleterre et les Atats protestants. London, 



Many Genevan pastors officiated in the churches of the refugees. 
Several Genevan scholars became members of the Royal Society 
of London, and Newton corresponded with Abauzit. Delolme, 
Francis d'lvernois and Mallet du Pan made it their business to 
propagate a knowledge of the British constitution in Europe. 
Many prominent Genevans, such as Alphonse Turretin, 
Tronchin, Andre de Luc, de Saussure, and before their time the 
renowned and " venerable Abauzit," whose wisdom and genius 
Rousseau extolled in such extravagant language, had studied 
at English universities. The first book of the eighteenth 
century on the subject of England was by a Genevan, Le Sage 
de la Colombiere. And it was from Geneva, also, the centre of 
cosmopolitan tendencies in Europe, that Marie-Auguste and 
Charles Pictet first issued the Bibliothlque britannique, the true 
successor to the cosmopolitan reviews established by the 
refugees, and designed, according to the intention of its original 
editors, to spread English ideas wherever the French tongue 
was spoken. 1 

Those, therefore, who were prejudiced in favour of things 
English had always a partiality for Geneva, and without attribut- 
ing to this fact any direct influence on the formation of the 
genius of Rousseau, we may nevertheless point out seeing that 
he himself so loudly proclaimed his Genevan origin how far 
his country was herself indebted to the English genius. 

Geneva's debt to the genius of England, however, was but a 
part of her total debt to the Teutonic genius. " To be born a 
Frenchwoman," wrote Mme. de Stael, " with a foreign character, 
with French tastes and habits, and the ideas and feelings of the North, 
is a contrast which ruins one's life." Now this contrast or 
alloy is the very basis of the Genevan mind, the intellectual 
portion of which is Latin, while the soul is Germanic ; and hence 
it is that between France and Geneva there have arisen the 
strangest and, at times, most painful misunderstandings. The 

1 Concerning the establishment of this periodical see M. Pictet's book, Pictet de 
Rochemont (Georg, 1892, 8vo, p. 53 et j^gr.). Pictet's design was to " commend 
England to public notice, and to suggest her as a model for her neighbours." He 
hopes to make his review " an oasis for English ideas." 


defect which, in the words of the subtlest and most ingenious of 
her writers, Geneva can never pardon in the French mind is its 
absolute inability to recognise " personal dignity and the majesty 
of conscience," or to conceive of " personality as supreme and 
conscious of itself." l It is worth while to recall the strange and 
incautious parallel he draws between the Germanic and the Latin 
mind : " The thirst for truth is not a French passion. In every- 
thing appearance is preferred to reality, the outside to the inside, 
the fashion to the material, that which shines to that which 
profits, opinion to conscience. . . . All this is probably the 
result of an exaggerated sociability, which weakens the soul's 
forces of resistance, destroys its capacity for investigation and 
personal conviction, and kills in it the worship of the ideal." 2 
Too sociable and trained to too strict a uniformity, the French 
mind is mistrustful of the individual. It looks with suspicion on 
isolated convictions, and insists that the stamp of the whole com- 
munity shall be affixed to every idea entertained by its separate 
members. It has a veneration for " the current coin of the 
intellectual realm." 

The expression is severe and profoundly unjust, but it might 
have been used by Jean-Jacques. Like Muralt, like Rousseau, 
like Benjamin Constant, Amiel was following the pure Germanic 
tradition. And what more has Rousseau said, on many and 
many an admirable page, than Amiel says here ? In contrast to 
a France which he deemed too thoroughly Latin, too deeply 
Catholic, he determined to be Protestant and Genevan to the 
core. He too aspired to exalt the dignity of the individual. It 
was to the individual consciousness that he made appeal. He 
destroyed, so far as he was able to do so, the moral and in- 
tellectual currency. 

I am not forgetting that through one of his ancestors he was 
of French family, and by blood, therefore, half a Frenchman. 
But was he French by virtue of the influences to which he was 

1 Amiel, Journal intime, vol. ii., p. 92; vol. i., p. 87. (Mrs Humphry Ward's 
translation, p. 17*.) 

2 Amiel, Journal intime, vol. ii., p. 1 86. (Mrs Humphry Ward's translation, 
p. iio.) 


subjected in childhood and youth ? The Gallic stock from 
which he sprang had been " re-tempered by the Reformation." 1 
If we are to believe one of those who know him best, he had 
been infused with the purest essence of Germanic protestantism. 
Through Mme. de Warens, a disciple of the pietist Magny, he 
would acquire the main principles of Spener and the German 
pietists. Romanic pietism, Magny and Mme. de Warens would 
thus prove to be " three links uniting Germanic thought and 
piety with Rousseau's religious ideas." A sentiment of pro- 
found and habitual devoutness, great independence in the face 
of traditional authority, signal indifference to disputes on points 
of dogma, an ever-present sense of the Deity and of an eternal 
future, the practice of religious meditation such were the char- 
acteristics of this sort of protestant quietism, 2 which would form 
a direct link between the spiritualism of Rousseau and the re- 
ligious traditions of Germany. Of this, however, I do not feel 
confident ; I cannot forget a certain disturbing phrase employed 
by Jean- Jacques. 3 

But it is none the less true that Rousseau, though of French 
extraction, only half belongs to France. Foreign critics commonly 
look upon him as the most German of Frenchmen, if not indeed as 
the most English. He was, at any rate, a cosmopolitan. Looking 
at the question broadly, it will readily be granted that he was the 
embodiment of all the depth, the variety and the individuality 
with which protestantism, when it was no longer confined to 
France, was able to imbue the French mind. Contrasted with the 
classical literature of the French, a literature not only essentially 
sociable in character, but finding in society at once the bond of 

1 See H. F. Amiel, in the interesting volume entitled Rousseau juge par les Genevois 
efaujourd'hui, p. 30, and, on Rousseau's ancestors, M. E. Ritter (Lafamille et lajeunesse 
de J. J. Rousseau, 1896). 

2 E. Ritter, Magny et le pietisme romand, Lausanne, 1894, and Revue des Deux Mondes, 
1 5th March 1895. 

3 Nou-velle Helotse, vi. 7. Saint-Preux laments the " aberrations " of Muralt, who 
had become a pietist and persuades Julie not to read the Instinct dlvin. Rousseau 
adds the following note concerning the pietists : " A class of crazy people who con- 
ceived the notion of living as Christians and following the Gospel to the letter, 
closely resembling the Methodists in England, the Moravians in Germany, the 
Jansenists in France, at the present day," 


connection between its branches, and its principal and almost its 
only theme, Rousseau seems to be a paradox. One marvels that 
he should have comprehended it ; one doubts whether he loved 
it. " Egotism," he said, " is excluded as scrupulously from the 
French drama as from the writings of Messieurs de Port-Royal ; 
and the passions of the human heart never speak, but with all the 
modesty of Christian humility, in the third person." l 

Now it is the first person that Rousseau employs, never the 
third. No genius was ever more individual, more lyrical, and 
therefore less French in the sense in which the classic authors 
of the language understood the word. The NouveUe Helo'ise, as 
was justly remarked by Mme. de Stael, " sets forth the character- 
istics of a man's genius, not those of a nation's manners." 2 The 
same might be said of most of his books : they depart entirely 
from the French classical tradition. The work of a foreigner, 
they are singularly at variance with the practice of French 
classical art. They are its absolute antithesis : its very negation 
even. They have deprived those who have sought inspiration 
from them of the power of comprehending it. 

How easily one pictures him on the other hand as taking his 
place in the genealogy of English literary art ! How thoroughly 
he belongs to it by his deep sense of " inward dignity," by his 
love of detail and his close observation of trifles, by his love of 
that " home " which he so passionately extolled, and by his 
yearnings after nature the nature which Thomson had dis- 
covered thirty years before him ! Prone to morbid revelation of 
the self, is he not the compatriot of Swift ? Is he not, in virtue of 
the richness and abundance of the poetic element in his nature, of 
the school of Milton or of Gray ? Fond of melancholy reverie, 
how closely akin he would have been, had the spirit of his age 
permitted it, to Shakespeare ! True, these racial problems are 
obscure, and words can but faintly express the complexity of 
what we dimly perceive. But if it is true that Romanticism was 
" a kind of rebellion against the spirit of a race steeped in the 
Latin tradition," 3 who was it that added to it not only the fer- 

1 Nouvelle Heldise, ii. 17. 2 De la litterature, i. 15. 

3 F. Brunetiere, devolution de la foesie lyrique, vol. i., p. 178. 


ment of revolt, but also this germ of exoticism, if not the man of 
whom it has been said that though French by language he was a 
foreigner by genius, because he had derived his talent entirely 
" from the depths of his own soul ? " 1 

What is certain is that in the history of the growth of cosmo- 
politan tendencies, Rousseau occupies the first place. Between 
Europe of the North and Europe of the South he was the mighty 
link that bound the genius of the one to that of the other. 
Rousseau accomplished what neither the refugees, nor Prevost, 
nor Voltaire had succeeded in doing ; he inoculated the French 
mind, by the unaided power of his own genius, with a full com- 
prehension of these new beauties. He transformed not French 
taste only, but even French conceptions of art \ and it happened 
that this new notion of art, as distinguished and set forth by him 
for all to see, corresponded exactly with the idea which the en- 
deavours of English writers had been tending to realise since the 
beginning of the century. What Richardson and Pope, Thomson 
and Macpherson had attempted, and to some extent accomplished, 
was by him perfected and completed with all the power of a 
genius superior to theirs. From them he derives, and with them, 
in the history of European literature, he is allied. If it cannot be 
said that he is a disciple of each one of them, he at least carried 
on their labours. He completed and crowned their work. Like 
them he was sensitive and profoundly religious, deeply poetic 
and intensely lyrical. 

In like manner it was England next to Geneva that he loved 
the best. To his contemporaries it seemed that the Nouvelle 
He/oise, in which England occupies such an important place, was 
coloured, as it were, with an English tint. Before considering 
how far Rousseau was indebted to certain English writers, and 
wherein his thought ran parallel to that of others, we must 
therefore inquire what he thought of England, and whether he 
shared, in respect to her, the infatuation of his contemporaries. 

1 Mme. de Stael, De I'Allemagne^ V. I. 



It is not in its literature only that the influence of one nation 
over another makes itself manifest, nor in the mere imitation of 
works that literary influence finds its expression. Such influence 
consists also, and principally, of those currents of opinion, those 
mysterious trains of thought and feeling, which at certain 
periods impel one people towards another people, France of 
the sixteenth century towards Italy the land of beauty, France 
of the seventeenth towards Spain the land of heroism, 
France of the early part of the present century towards Ger- 
many " the land of thought," as it was called by Mme. de 
Stael. Nor is it merely, in such cases of international influence, 
some particular book or writer that commands admiration ; it is 
an aggregate of works, a particular literary or moral aspiration, 
a certain ideal of life, a collective soul, the heart and the mind of 
a nation. It is not enough, therefore, to ask, in respect of these 
influences : what did Frenchmen know of Italy in 1550 ? Of 
Spain in 1630 ? Of Germany in 1815 ? Of England in 1760 ? 
What they knew of these nations was not always what they liked 
in them. And what they liked in them did not always accord 
with the reality. A certain idea of the Greek genius, true 
enough no doubt, inspired Racine, and gave him a love for 
Greece; a very different, though by no means false, conception 
of the same genius inspired Andre Chenier, and gave him an 
affection for another Greece, no less real than the first, yet 
appreciably different. To be influenced by a foreign nation, 
therefore, certainly implies a knowledge of it, but usually also a 
knowledge which is maimed and incomplete. Captivated by a 
few striking and essential features, admiration overlooks what 
seems to be either inconsistent with them or of less importance. 
Such was the case of those who lived in the eighteenth century 
with regard to England. They admired an ideal England, 
because they resolved that she should correspond with their 

" English," said La Harpe, " was introduced among us with 
the taste for philosophy, which was then beginning to develop ; 


and we were acquainted with Bacon, Locke, Addison and Shaftes- 
bury before we had read Pope and Milton." l Accordingly, the 
first characteristic in English works to strike the attention of men 
in the eighteenth century was the boldness of thought and the 
profound genius they revealed. " Those people think more 
than we do," said Marivaux ironically. But Voltaire, quite 
seriously, wrote : " Everything proves that the English are 
bolder and more philosophical than we are " ; 2 Diderot, in one of 
his early works represents England as " the country of philoso- 
phers, systematisers and men of inquiring mind." 3 BufFon is 
never weary of expressing his admiration for " this sensible and 
profoundly thoughtful nation," and even goes so far as to say 
that " Fenelon, Voltaire and Jean- Jacques would not make a 
furrow one line in depth on a head so massive with thought 
as that of Bacon, that of Newton, or happily for us that of 
Montesquieu." 4 

Such was the verdict passed by the great minds of the age. 
But public opinion had forestalled them. " The English," 
wrote the translator of The Tale of a Tub, " are extremely 
deficient in restraint and moderation not only as regards conduct 
and manners, but also in their turn of mind : their wanton 
imagination entirely exhausts itself in comparisons and meta- 
phors " ; and he makes it a reproach to them that by their 
singularity they depart from the " noble simplicity " of the 
ancients. 6 This quality of independence in English thought 
sometimes sheds a vague perfume of heresy over English works : 
in one of Prevost's novels we find the English philosophers, 
Hobbes and Toland, relegated to one particular corner in a 
library, along with " curious " and prohibited volumes, such as 

1 Cours de /literature, vol. Hi., p. 224. 

2 Lettres anglaises, xi. Cf. to Helvetius, 26th June 1765 : " We in France are not 
made to be first in the race for knowledge : we get our truths from elsewhere." 
See also the letters to Mme. du DefFand, I3th October 1759 ; to Helvetius, 25th 
August 1763, and to Marmontel, ist August 1769. 

3 Lettre sur les aveugles^ ed. Tourneux, vol. i., p. 312. 

4 Letter to Mme. Necker, 2nd January 1777. 

5 Le Conte du Tonneau, by Jonathan Swift. Translated from the English, the 
Hague, 1732, vol i., preface. 



those of Vanini, Cardan and Paracelsus. 1 But the depth of the 
English genius was also becoming a commonplace of criticism, 
and even of conversation. In a pleasing comedy by Boissy, 
produced immediately after the publication of Muralt's Lettres 
sur les Anglais et les Franfais and seven years earlier than that of 
the Lettres philosophiques, the author who, by the way, has 
manifestly borrowed from Muralt's work puts the following 
declaration into the mouth of one of his characters : " ' Good 
sense is simply the common sense which is possessed by the man 
in the street, and belongs to all countries alike. But intellectual 
refinement is found only in France. France, so to speak, is its 
native soil, whence we supply it to all the other nations of 
Europe. The refined intelligence hovers gracefully above its 
subject, culling only its bloom. It is wit that makes a man 
agreeable, sprightly, gay, merry, amusing, the charm of a party, 
a good talker, full of pleasant banter in fine, a Frenchman. 
Good sense, on the other hand, weighs down the matter it deals 
with under the impression that it is sounding it thoroughly ; it 
handles everything in a tedious, methodical manner. It is good 
sense which makes a man dull, pedantic, melancholy, taciturn, a 
bore, the plague of a party, a moraliser, a dreamer in short, 
an . . . ' ' An Englishman, you mean ? ' ' Good manners 
forbade me to put it quite so plainly, but you have hit it.' ' In 
fact, according to you an Englishman has good sense, but no 
wit.' ' Very good ' ' And a Frenchman wit, without common 
sense.' ' Capital.' " Whence it follows " that the English 
are profound without being brilliant." 2 

From the moment when the hare-brained de Polinville 
expressed this idea on the French stage, down to the period 
when Rousseau began to write, respect for English depth and 
seriousness had been steadily growing in France. One does not 
wonder that a second-rate critic should be amazed at " reasonings 
so vast that one would take them for the operations of a super- 
human intelligence." 3 But one cannot, without surprise, read 

1 Memoires <fun homme de qualite, vol. Hi., p. 1 1. 

2 Le Franfais a Londres (1727), scene xvi. 

3 The Abbe Millot, introduction to a translation of the Essay on Man, 


in d'Argenson' s Journal that " the English nation is philosophical, 
it consists of men who think much and constantly ; we may see 
it in their books." x These books, it is true, are destitute of 
art ; their matter is disconnected, ex abrupto. But they contain 
" fresh ideas and great penetration," and they are " free from the 
commonplace." D'Argenson adds that the only men of real 
originality and individuality that he knew in France were those 
men of letters who had frequently visited England : namely, 
Voltaire which is perhaps correct, and the abbe Le Blanc 
which is paradoxical, to say the least. 

But if the English were applauded for the independence of 
their thought, and if there was already a disposition to admit 
that " the English mind is a mind of a different stamp, created 
by itself," 2 they were no less admired for their high spirit. 

From England, the land of freedom, there blew, as d'Argenson 
said, " the breath of liberty." Voltaire had greatly admired 
the strength of the English middle class, Montesquieu the 
excellence of the constitution and of public morals. In Le 
Franfais a Londres the merchant Jacques Rosbif, puffed up with 
his own importance, assumed the character of a philosophising 
rustic who speaks his mind to the ruling classes : " What do I 
care for an imaginary nobility ? The honest folk are the true 
nobles ; nothing is really plebeian except vice." The terrible 
irony with which Voltaire handled the subject in his Lettres 
anglaises is only too well-known. He satirizes the country 
squires who come up from the depths of their province, a name 
ending in ac or ilk their only fortune, and play the part of slaves 
in a minister's antechamber. He extols the honest merchant who, 
in the seclusion of his office, gives orders on Surat or Cairo and 
contributes to the happiness of the world. 3 He does more ; he 
dedicates Zaire " to Mr Falkener, an English merchant." The 
idea seemed funny, and the Comedie Italienne put upon the 
stage " Mr Falkener, or the honest merchant." Voltaire took 
up the challenge, and, in a second dedication which, to his satis- 
faction, he was able to address to " M. le Chevalier Falkener, 

1 Journal et memoires, October 1747 (ed. Jannet, v. 23*). 

2 Garat, Memoires sur Suard, vol. i., p. 70. 3 Letter x., Sur le commerce. 


English Ambassador to the Ottoman Porte," had the pleasure of 
once more humbling the national pride, which could not conceive 
how a merchant could become a legislator, a good officer, or a 
public minister. Could the reader possibly find any difficulty in 
believing that the Royal Exchange in London was " a more re- 
spectable place than many courts ? " Or could he really be so 
blind as not to acknowledge that the occupation of wool-merchant 
was the highest of all professions ? 

Voltaire's assertions, in which he possibly had no very strong 
belief, were substantiated by Montesquieu. Imagine a nation of 
an unusual character, unambitious of conquest, thinking nothing 
of military men, and a great deal of " civil titles " ; imagine this 
people invested with the empire of the sea, situated in the centre 
of the commercial world of Europe, and bringing to its transac- 
tions a good faith and integrity never exhibited by others ; 
imagine it blessed with a virtuous nobility, an active and chari- 
table clergy, a well-informed and industrious populace ; attribute 
to it further an ingrained habit of judging men solely by their 
real qualities, and of neglecting the false splendour of idleness in 
favour of solid worth ; conceive, lastly, in the intellectual pro- 
ducts of this nation the work of men of meditation, " 'who have 
thought in solitude" a " bold and original spirit of discovery," 
the fruit of a certain fierce integrity of disposition and would 
not such a nation be the happiest of all ? In short, and here the 
author throws off the mask, "this is the nation which, more than 
any other, has succeeded in making the best use of three great 
possessions : religion, commerce and freedom." * 

So magnificent a panegyric from such a pen set the seal de- 
cisively upon English virtue, which became one of the idols of 
the age. In vain a few obscure voices were raised in protest 
against the " astounding metamorphosis " which was turning 
every one's head. What ! a nation formerly regarded as the in- 
carnation of arrogance, jealousy, selfishness, and cruelty the 
modern Carthage was now represented as all that was generous, 
magnanimous and humane ! " What a reckoning that great man, 
the renowned, the illustrious Voltaire will have to pay before 

1 Esprit des lots, book xix., ch. xxvii., and book xx., ch. viii. 


God for the vast host of those whose heads he has turned ! " l 
But the infatuation was too strong : a journalist of the day, criti- 
cising one of Jean-Jacques' expressions, wrote : " As an untamed 
courser erects his mane, paws the ground, and struggles violently 
at the mere approach of the bit, whereas a horse that has been 
broken in patiently endures both switch and spur, so the English- 
man refuses to bow his head beneath a yoke which the greater 
part of mankind endure without a murmur, and prefers the most 
stormy liberty to peaceful subjection." 2 

The illusion was a gross one, or, to say the very least, the 
exaggeration was palpable. Looked at closely, eighteenth-cen- 
tury England appears anything but the privileged home of virtue 
and honour. Its nobility is brutal and dissolute, its clergy ignor- 
ant, its justice venal : Fielding's novels abound in characteristic 
and only too faithful touches which give us but a sorry idea of 
the upper classes at that time. 3 Montesquieu himself observed 
that in England "money was held in sovereign estimation, while 
virtue was scarcely esteemed at all." 4 Yet he too gave way 
before the general enthusiasm, which amazed even the English 
themselves. " We may be dupes to French follies," wrote 
Horace Walpole, " but they are ten times greater fools to be 
the dupes of our virtue." 5 

In truth, admiration magnified and transformed everything. 
The brutality of the English was a matter of common repute, 
but it was regarded as a sign of energy; "nature in England 
seems to be more 'vigorous and straightforward than among the 
French"* "It is there that you will find true love of duty and 
respect, tender reverence for parents, unqualified submission to 
their will. ... An English village maiden is a kind of celestial 
being." 7 This is the tone taken by novels of the period. A 
certain survival of barbarism was not displeasing. Lord Carlisle 

1 Preservatif contrc I'anglomanit, Minorca and Paris, 1757. 

2 Journal encyclopedique, April 1758. 

3 An English critic, Mr Forsyth, has composed an entire picture of the period out 
of material supplied by its novels alone (Cf. Forsyth, Novels and Novelists). See also 

4 Notes sur f Angleterre. 5 Letters, vol. iv., p. 119. 
6 D'Arnaud, (Euvres, vol. i., pp. xv.-xvi. 7 Ibid. 


wrote from France : " They think we are very little altered since 
the days of Julius Caesar ; that we leave our clothes at Calais, 
having no further occasion for them," and that every Englishman 
conceals his nakedness by means of a sunflower, " like the prints 
in Clarke's Caesar." l This touch of barbarism gave additional 
flavour to insular virtue, and the Danubian peasant only preached 
the better for being a Danubian. The French were under the 
spell of the English sensitiveness, of that virginity of heart and 
senses by which the source of great emotions, exhausted in the 
gay youths of France by scepticism and pleasure, is kept unim- 
paired. " However vivid," it was said, "the colours in which 
Southern passions are painted, neither Italy nor Spain can produce 
examples as grand and tragic as those of England." 2 

Philosophical, contemplative, passionate : such was the impres- 
sion of the English produced on the mind of a French reader 
towards the middle of the century. Such too was the conception 
gathered of English literature : a literature produced by men of 
discernment and sombre disposition, dialecticians by nature and 
in the highest degree philosophical. All these features may be 
summed up in a single characteristic : individualism. In contrast 
to a people in whom all native originality has been obliterated by 
over-sociability, and all relief worn down by constant friction, 
England presented the spectacle of a lusty and vigorous nation, 
whose genius, like a freshly struck medal, still retained all its 
brilliant distinctness of outline. 


ROUSSEAU shared the admiration of his contemporaries, and gave 
expression to it in the most eloquent form. 

At Les Charmettes he had read the Lettres philosophiques with 
deep interest. There, too, he had discovered a few English 
books the Essay on the Understanding and the Spectator , 3 and 

1 G. Selivyn and his contemporaries, by J. Heneage Jesse, vol. ii., p. 202. 

2 Journal etranger, June i 755, p. 237. 

3 See the Confessions : OEuvres, ed. Hachette, vol. viii., p. 78. 


had begun to study the English language. Mme. de Warens 
had taught him to love Bayle and Saint-Evremond : " Her 
taste, if I may say so, was of a somewhat Protestant character ; 
she talked of no one but Bayle, and thought very highly of 
Saint-Evremond, who had died long before in France." From 
the latter Rousseau, too, may have derived a few ideas con- 
cerning England. He had certainly read the novels of Prevost, 
and especially Cleveland, with passionate interest. 

At Paris, in 1744, he was brought into contact with all 
the literary men who were interested in English matters : 
Marivaux ; Desfontaines, who assisted him with his counsel 1 ; 
Saurin, the future author of a drama called Beverley, an imitation 
of Edward Moore ; Grimm, a man of open mind and inquisitive 
with regard to foreign topics ; Prevost, " a most amiable and 
simple character, the author of writings inspired by a warm dis- 
position and well worthy of immortality," 2 who was introduced 
to him in the house of Mussard, a fellow-countryman, at Passy ; 
above all, Diderot, the anglophile, whose mind was already 
turned, as it remained throughout his life, to England, the land 
of his dreams. An atmosphere so propitious to everything that 
came from beyond the Channel did much to strengthen in 
Rousseau the sympathies which he afterwards expressed with 
such warmth. 

He read the Esprit des Lois on its first appearance, and, in 
1756, the Lettres sur les Anglais et les Francois of Muralt, who was 
not only his fellow-countryman, but in more than one respect 
his precursor. The book was sent him by Deleyre ; 3 he had a 
great admiration for it and borrowed from it extensively ; indeed 
most of his ideas concerning England were derived from Muralt. 
But he was also indebted to him for several reflexions in the Lettre 
sur les spectacles. " Virtue," Muralt had written, speaking of 
comedy, " is held up as a spectacle for popular curiosity ; men 
relegate it to the theatre as its only appropriate sphere, and all 
these fine feelings seem to them as remote from ordinary life as 

1 Cf. H. Beaudoin, Jean- Jacques Rousseau, vol. i., p. 154. 2 Confessions, ii., 8. 

3 Letter of 2nd November 1756 (cf. Streckeisen Moultou ; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 
ses amis et ses ennemis^). 


the dresses and postures of the theatre are from those they see 
in their own homes." x " The theatre," said Rousseau, " has its 
own rules, maxims and morality, as well as the dress and diction 
which are peculiar to it. These things, it is said, would not do 
for us at all, and we should think it just as absurd to adopt our 
hero's virtues as to speak in verse and put on a Roman toga." 
Nor does he make the least attempt to disguise the fact that he 
has borrowed j indeed he refers to his author on the following 
page. 2 

Rousseau borrowed largely from Muralt in the Nouvelle 
Helo'ise, where he frequently mentions him by name. 3 He kept 
Muralt's book before him when writing his descriptions of 
Parisian manners. Sometimes it is an opinion on French con- 
versation that he appropriates, sometimes a criticism on the 
French intellect. " You read Muralt," Saint-Preux writes to 
Julie 5 " I indeed read him, too ; but I make choice of his 
letters, you of his Divine instinct. But remark his end, lament 
the extravagant errors of that sensible man." 4 It was this 
" sensible man " who suggested certain of Rousseau's reserva- 
tions concerning the English character: "I know," he wrote, 
" the English are very boastful of their humanity and of the 
kindly disposition of their nation, calling themselves 'good- 
natured people ' ; but, shout this as loud as they will, no one 
repeats it after them." 5 The expression, as we have seen, 
is taken from Muralt. 6 

It is Muralt again who often suggests to him the very 
terms in which to express his fervent admiration. "I have 
taken a liberty with the English nation," he wrote to Mme. 
de Bouiflers, " which it never forgives in any one, least of 

1 Letter v. 

2 See M. L. Fontaine's excellent edition of the Lettre sur les spectacles, pp. 135 and 
136. " It is a mistake, said the solemn Muralt, to expect an author to represent the 
actual relations of things upon the stage," &c. : an allusion to a passage in Muralt's 
fifth letter. 

3 Cf. the passages quoted above, and vi., 7. 

4 Nouvelle Hcloite, vi., 3. 5 Emile, book ii. 

6 Letter iv. He also borrows from Muralt (letter v.), a few ideas upon English 
juries which he expresses in the letter of 4th October 1761, to M. d'Offreville ; and 
a passage in the Lettres ecrites de la Montagne, letter v. (Cf. letter iv. of Muralt). 


all in foreigners, namely, that of saying the worst of them as 
well as the best." l To tell the truth, however, he had spoken 
well of them much more frequently than he had spoken ill. 

He liked the fierce patriotism of the English. " The only 
nation of men" he calls them, " which remains among the various 
herds that are scattered over the face of the earth." 2 Rousseau's 
Swiss are proud of their nationality : they lead the life of the 
Genevan or of the peasant of the Valais, and live it with pride. 
" It is a fine thing to have a native-land ; God help those who 
think they possess one, but in reality have nothing more than a 
land to dwell in ! " 3 Now the English have the faults of their 
nationality : they are Genevans hailing from beyond the Channel, 
reserved and unapproachable, neither hospitable nor frank. 
" We must agree in their favour, however, that an Englishman 
is never obliged to any person for that hospitality he churlishly 
refuses others. Where, except in London, is there to be seen any of 
these insolent islanders servilely cringing at court ? In what country, 
except their own, do they seek to make their fortunes ? They 
are churlish, it is true, but their churlishness does not displease 
me, while it is consistent with justice. I think it is very 'well they 
should be nothing but Englishmen, since they have no occasion to be 
men." 4 

It is interesting to note that Muralt had felt obliged to make 
a few reservations concerning the brutality of English vices. 
Rousseau extenuated them, if he did not actually make them a 
subject of commendation. A comparison of the two passages is 
instructive. "Their women," Muralt had written, " easily give 
way to tender feelings, they make no great effort to conceal them, 
and ... are capable of the greatest firmness for the sake of a 
lover ; in spite of this they are gentle, almost entirely without 

1 August iy6z. On the English constitution, see the Contrat Social and the 
Gouvernement de Pologne, ch. X. 

2 Nouvelle Helotse, vi. This and many other of the quotations from La Nouvelle 
Helo'ise are taken from a translation published by Hunter, Dublin, 1761. 

3 Jbld., Vi., 5 . 

4 Nouvelle Hetoise, ii., 9. Rousseau returns to the same idea and the same expres- 
sions in Emile, book v. : " Englishmen never try to get on with other nations. . . . 
they are too proud to go begging beyond their oiun borders, &c. 


cunning and artifice, natural in conversation, and little spoiled 
by the flattery of the men, who only devote to them a very small 
portion of their time. Most Englishmen, in fact, prefer wine 
and gaming. ... It is quite true that when they fall in love 
their passion is violent : with them, love is no weakness to be 
ashamed of, but a serious and important matter, in which the 
alternative to success is often enough the loss of reason or of 
life." l " English women," says Rousseau, " are gentle and 
timid ; English men, harsh and ferocious. . . . With this excep- 
tion, the two sexes are closely similar. Each likes living apart 
from the other ; and each sets great store by the pleasures of the 
table. . . . They both indulge in play, but 'without extravagance, 
and both make a merit of it rather than a passion : both have a great 
respect for honourable conduct ; both esteem conjugal fidelity [Muralt 
had not said so much] ; . . . both are silent and reserved, diffi- 
cult to arouse, yet violent in their passions : for both of them 
love is a terrible and tragic affair, involving, said Muralt, no less 
than the loss of reason or of life. . . . Thus both sexes are more 
self-collected, less given to indulge in frivolous imitation, have 
more relish for the true pleasures of life, and think less of ap- 
pearing happy than of being so." 2 

In writing his novel, Rousseau was careful to place certain 
scenes in an English setting, and was complimented thereon by 
all his contemporaries. 

In the Heloise there is a "morning spent in the English 
fashion," with which he was undoubtedly very well satisfied. 
What is the English fashion of spending a morning ? Rousseau 
describes it as a state of contemplation, a silent commun'on, " a 

1 Letter iii. 

2 Lettre sur let spectacles. It will be observed that the severe expression which 
occurs in the Confessions : " I never liked either England or the English," was written 
subsequently to Rousseau's residence in England, and, consequently to the persecu- 
tion to which he thought he was subjected there. It is not a sober opinion, but an 
outburst of ill-humour. Moreover, Rousseau himself makes a formal recantation of 
the expression in Rousseau juge de Jean- Jacques (Premier dialogue, note"). Speaking of the 
English nation, he writes : " It has been too often misled concerning me for me not to 
have been sometimes mistaken concerning it," and he speaks of choosing an English- 
man as confidant, in order " to repair in a properly attested manner the evil I may 
have thought or said of his nation." See also the Third Dialogue (vol. ix., p. 280). 


motionless ecstasy," which the light French temperament would 
find unendurable. Here again his account is merely an ampli- 
fication of a passage from Muralt : " The English," the philoso- 
pher of Berne had said, " have seen plainly enough that people 
who speak for the sake of speaking seldom fail to talk nonsense, 
and that conversation should be an exchange of sentiments, not 
of words ; and since, on this assumption, matter for conversa- 
tion is not always forthcoming, it sometimes happens that they 
are silent for a long time together." 1 This is precisely the 
way of spending the morning described by Rousseau. Madame 
de Wolmar's friends find it delightful to hold their peace for 
two hours at a time, passing the morning " in company and in 
silence ; tasting at once the pleasure of being together, and the 
sweetness of self-recollection." 2 Rousseau had been greatly 
impressed by this picture, and accordingly selected it as the 
subject of one of the engravings executed for his book by 
Gravelot : the persons represented are taking tea and reading 
the newspapers or at anyrate holding them in their hands. 
Observe the "air of sweet and dreamy contemplation" in the 
three onlookers : Julie in particular " is evidently in a delicious 
ecstasy." 3 

To-day this strikes us as somewhat trivial. Such, however, 
was not the opinion of Rousseau's contemporaries. They had a 
lively appreciation of the " morning spent in the English fashion " 
just as they delighted in Julie's English garden. " The men 
who have produced the grand and colossal scenes of Shakespeare 
and the whimsical figures of Hudibras show the effects of the 
same spirit in their gardens, just as they do in morals, medicine 
and philosophy." The whole of the eighteenth century agreed 
with the opinion here expressed by the Prince de Ligne. 4 
Grimm declared that whenever he left an English garden he felt 
as deep an emotion as on coming away from the theatre after 

1 i., 4. 2 v., I. 3 (Euvres, vol. v., p. 97. 

4 Coup (fail sur lesjardins. Cf. the same author's Coup a"ail lur Bel-QLil ; Le Blanc, 
Leitres, vol. ii., p. 63 (which Rousseau appears to have read) ; de Chabanon, Epitre 
sur la manie des jardins anglais, 1775 ; Masson, Le jar din anglais, a poem in four cantos, 
translated into French, 1789 ; Delille, &c. See also Vitet, Etudes sur les beaux-arts, 
vol. ii. 


seeing a tragedy. 1 Julie's Ely see, conceived in the " English 
style " invented by Kent, the landscape-gardener, was immensely 
popular, and for long enough there was not a good sentimental 
novel published which had not its grove, its avenue of trees and 
its " arbour." Therein none of man's handiwork was to be 
seen ; everything was the work of nature. The garden was a 
simple orchard ; not a foreign plant within it. Here was a thick 
and verdant carpet of turf, wild and garden thyme, marjoram, 
" thickets of rose-trees," and " masses of lilac," festoons thrown 
carelessly from tree to tree, wild yet delicious fruits, a back- 
ground of verdure which produced the effect of a forest, yet con- 
sisted merely of creepers and parasitic plants, and a stream which 
displayed its meanderings to the best advantage. The birds, 
" inseparable mates," encouraged the mind to yield itself to the 
sweetest sentiment in nature. Everywhere there was moss, and 
Lord Edward had sent from England the secret of making it grow. 
Symmetry there was none, for it is nature's enemy, nor fine 
prospects, for " the taste for views and distances arises from the 
propensity of most men to find enjoyment only in places where 
they are not." Muralt had repeated the story that Le Notre, 
when summoned to London by Charles II. in order to beautify St 
James's Park, declared that all his art could not rival its simplicity. 2 
Rousseau, who borrows from him this anecdote, also found in the 
English garden the realisation of the ideal he had conceived. 3 

Nor is it the manners and the setting only, that have something 
English about them ; what is more significant, the most sympa- 
thetic character in the story is Lord Edward, " or the English- 
man," as he is called in the brief description the author wrcle for 
the engravings. 

About his person you observe " an air of grandeur which 

1 Ed. Scherer, Melchior Grimm, p. 254. 

2 Letter yi. See all the concluding portion of the letter, on English scenery. 
Observe that in Rousseau's chapter (Nouvelfe Helo'ise, iv., u)Lord Cobham's garden 
at Staw, which he criticises, is a " Chinese," not an English, garden. 

3 Garat, in his Memoires sur Suard, speaks of England "where so many landscapes 
resemble those of the Helo'ise, though they have not the same May sunshine " (vol. 
ii., p. 157). A fine specimen of the nonsense a man may write under the influence 
of a preconceived idea. 


proceeds rather from the soul than from rank " ; the stamp of a 
somewhat fierce courage and of a virtue not free from austerity, 
and a " grave and stoical " bearing beneath which " he conceals 
with difficulty an extreme sensibility ; he wears the dress of an 
English lord without ostentation, and carries himself with just a 
touch of swagger. Mentally, Lord Edward is sensitive and phil- 
osophical, a worthy countryman of both Richardson and Locke. 1 
His conversation is sensible, racy and animated. He betrays 
more energy than grace, and to Julie it seems at first that there 
is "something harsh about him." 2 He is quick-tempered, and 
avoids like the plague " the reserved and cautious politeness 
which our young officers bring us from France." He provokes 
Saint-Preux to a duel brutally enough ; but when he has per- 
ceived his fault he is sufficiently generous to ask pardon on his 
knees before witnesses. For after all, as Muralt said, is it not 
well-known that English bravery " never descends to duelling," 
and that in that " sensible country " men have a loftier idea of 
honour ? 3 Besides " in this honest Englishman natural humanity 
is not impaired by the philosophical lack of feeling common to 
his nation." 

When in Italy Lord Edward had fallen passionately in love, 
and in the most romantic manner : deprived of the friendship of 
Saint-Preux, he was not proof against a sudden assault upon his 
senses and his heart. 4 He falls a victim to the charms of Julie at 
first sight, and prides himself on his sensibility : " it was by way 
of the passions " he says artlessly, " that I was led to philosophy." 
At the same time he is greatly interested in painting and music, 
especially, like Jean-Jacques himself, in Italian music. 

1 Many features of Lord Edward's character are reminiscences of the portrait of 
Cleveland. Prevost's novel was read by Jean-Jacques with passionate interest. 
(Confessions, i., 5.) 

2 Nou-velle He/oi se, i., 44. 3 Letires, p. 4. 

4 See the short novel entitled Les Amours de Milord Edouard, which forms a sequel to 
the He/oi'se. Contemporaries were much engrossed with Rousseau's story. See Les 
Aventures d* Edouard Bomston, pour servir de suite a la Nouvelle Helo'ise, Lausanne, 1780, 
and the Lettres d'unjeune lord a une religieuse italienne, imitated from the English [by 
Mme. Suard], Paris, 1788. See also Letters of an Italian Nun and an English gentleman, 
translated from the French of J. J. Rousseau, London, 1781, I2mo, which, in spite of 
dates, seems to be a translation of the preceding. 


But to mention the more dignified aspects of this figure, drawn 
by Rousseau with so much partiality. 

A " veneer of stoicism " is thrown over all Bomston' s actions. 
He can be solemn when confronted with serious events : to 
Saint-Preux, who sacrifices everything to love, he says, " Throw 
off your childhood, my friend, awake ! Surrender not your 
entire existence to the long lethargy of reason " ; and, rallying 
him upon his weakness : " Your heart, my dear fellow, has long 
deceived us as to your intelligence ! " l Ah, Bomston ! Is this 
the tone of a philosopher ? Can wisdom consistently express itself 
in language at once so turgid and so bitter ? Again, would a 
prudent man advise a young girl, as you do, to fly from her father's 
roof in company with her tutor ? This spoils Lord Edward for 
me. I prefer him in the famous letter on suicide, even if he does, 
to some extent, presume upon his privilege of being English : 
" Mine is a steadfast soul ; I am an Englishman. I know how to 
die, because I know how to live, and to suffer as a man." It is a 
good thing to have a native land, but not quite such a good thing 
to sing its praises so loudly. " We are not the slaves of our 
monarch, but his friends ; not the tyrants of the people, but 
their leaders. . . . We allow none to say : God and my sword, 
but simply God and my right" We may excuse Bomston, since 
it is Jean-Jacques who is speaking through his mouth, and 
making him say all these fine things. Lord Edward, happily for 
Rousseau, is not a real Englishman. 

Yes, Bomston, " generous soul, noble friend," you were but 
the sincerest and most artless expression of the anglomnia of 
Jean-Jacques Rousseau ! 

1 N. H., v., i. 

Chapter II 

I. Rousseau's early associations in Paris : Diderot and the admirers of England. 
II. His first studies in English : Pope, and his popularity Influence of his common- 
place philosophy upon his age and upon Rousseau Daniel Defoe : success of 
Robinson Crusoe. 

III. Rousseau's admiration for English literature is directed mainly to the bourgeois 
variety Why ? Because of his literary tendencies His admiration for the 
English drama ; translation of The London Merchant (1748). 

ROUSSEAU'S early studies in English were those of the majority 
of his contemporaries : the authors he had read at Les Charmettes 
were Locke and Addison. Pope, Milton, Richardson's novels, 
Robinson Crusoe, and a few other works of less importance, were 
probably read during his second residence in Paris. We may 
believe, though without positively asserting so much, that he 
was among the earliest French admirers of some of these mas- 
terpieces. Knowing how greatly he appreciated it, we cannot 
help believing that he read Pamela, immediately after its first 
appearance in Paris, in 1742. Just at that moment he was very 
intimate with Desfontaines, and we know that Pamela involved 
Desfontaines in a very unpleasant affair. 1 And what is more 
probable than that Prevost, whom he frequently met during 
I75 1 * talked to him of Clarissa Harloiue, which had appeared in 
the original in 1748, and had just been translated into French 
with what enthusiasm, the reader will recollect by Prevost 
himself? Finally, we cannot doubt that Diderot, Diderot the 
anglophile, with whom Rousseau became intimate immediately 
he arrived in Paris, drew his attention to some of the English 

1 See below, p. 109. 


works which at that time were beginning to make a great 

It is important here to remember that Diderot, whose ac- 
quaintance Rousseau had made in 1741, when he first came to 
Paris, remained his literary confidant for sixteen years the 
decisive years of Jean-Jacques' life, and those which witnessed 
the elaboration of his greatest works. There were similarities 
between them in point of age, taste and fortune : Diderot, like 
Rousseau, was poor and of humble birth ; like him, of a sensi- 
tive disposition and musical. Diderot had his Nanette, Rousseau 
had his Therese, and intercourse between the two households 
was frequent. It will be remembered how the two proposed to 
take a walking tour in Italy with Grimm. The reader knows 
how they conceived the plan of starting a newspaper together, to 
be edited by each alternately, called the Persifleur, which, how- 
ever, did not survive its first number. And every one will 
recollect the friendship which Rousseau manifested for Diderot 
when the latter was imprisoned at Vincennes. I believe, he 
says, that if his captivity had lasted, " I should have died from 
despair at the gate of that miserable dungeon." l This was the 
golden age of their friendship. It was also the period when 
they were working in concert. Rousseau showed his friend his 
Discours sur les sciences, and accepted his good advice. He con- 
sulted him likewise on the Discours de rinegalite, and on the 
Nouvelle Heloise. In return Rousseau assisted, at any rate by his 
suggestions, in the composition of the Entretiens sur le Fils 
Nature!; Diderot entrusted him with the secret of his dramatic 
attempts, and made him acquainted with the outline of the Pere 
de famille. 

Now of all the eighteenth-century writers, Diderot the fact 
has perhaps scarcely received sufficient attention is the most 
inquisitive concerning foreign and particularly English literature. 2 
He is " quite English," as M. Brunetiere has well said. 3 No 

1 Confessions, ii., 8. 

2 See the works of Rosenkrantz and Mr. John Morley, where this point of view is 
cogently presented. M. L. Ducros has likewise adopted it in his book on Diderot, 
Vhomme et Fecrivain. (Paris, 1894, izmo.) 

3 Les ep agues du theatre f ran f ah, p. 295. 


one " went begging" more freely, as Crebillon forcibly put it, 
from neighbouring peoples, who moreover rewarded him with 
fervent admiration. The German anglophiles found their 
opinions almost as well represented in his works as in those of 
Rousseau. Lessing declares that " no writer of a more philo- 
sophical mind had concerned himself with the theatre" since 
Aristotle. Herder calls him " a true German," and drew 
Goethe's attention to his works. Goethe became fascinated by 
him. " Diderot is Diderot," he wrote to Zelter even so late 
as March 9, 1831, shortly before his death, "a unique in- 
dividuality. The man who turns up his nose at him and his 
works is a Philistine." l 

By the extremely modern character of his genius, no less than 
by his essentially cosmopolitan taste, Diderot stands by him- 
self in the history of eighteenth century criticism. He had 
learned English thoroughly, and Mr. John Morley testifies that 
his knowledge of it was remarkable. 2 He turned his knowledge 
to account during the early years of his career at the very time 
when he became intimate with Jean-Jacques by translating 
several works from the English 3 : Stanyan's History of Greece, in 
1 743 ; Shaftesbury's Essay on merit and virtue, in 1 745 j and in 
1746, with the assistance of Eidous and Toussaint, James's 
Dictionary of Medicine, the introduction to which was useful to 
him later on in his own Encyclopedic. At the same time he 
enriched his mind by studying Bacon, from whom he borrowed 
the essential portions of the Pensees philosophiques , and Bernard de 
Mandeville, whose Fable of the Bees supplied him with the greater 
part of the ideas subsequently developed in the famous Supplement 
au voyage de Bougainville. Again, it was to an English work, 
Chambers' Dictionary, that he was indebted for the plan and the 
idea of the Encyclopedic. Throughout his life, Diderot counselled 
admiration of England, the land, as he wrote in 1749, "of philo- 
sophers, systematisers and men of enquiring mind." All his life, 

1 See C. Joret, Herder, pp. 101, 372, &c., and Gandar's essay on Diderot et la critique 
allemande in Souvenirs d'enseignement. 

2 On his method of learning it see the article Encyclopedic. 

3 Observe that Diderot had also got together the materials for a history of Charles 
I. (Life of Sir Samuel Romilly, vol. i., p. 46). 



too, we see him surrounded by Englishmen, such as Hume, 
Garrick, Wilkes and " father Hoop," or friends of the English, 
like Toussaint, Suard, and Deleyre the " Baconian." His house 
was a kind of rendezvous for all the anglophiles of Paris. 

From the literary point of view, it is scarcely necessary to 
remind the reader that he claims, as regards his plays, to belong 
to the school of Lillo and Moore, and, as regards his novels, to 
that of Richardson and Sterne. No man, in point of taste if 
not of intellect, could be less French than he ; no man was more 
ready to look beyond the borders of his native country ; none 
cut himself off so completely and with such determination " from 
the Latin tradition." All his disciples, too, cultivated and 
developed with the utmost care the taste for what was exotic. 
" How greatly," says Geoffroy, " the taste of French authors 
had been led astray by anglomania since 1765 ! " The principal 
author of the error deplored by Geoffroy is Diderot , it was he 
who taught Sebastien Mercier to extol the genius of Richardson 
and Fielding, 1 and Baculard d'Arnaud to praise Germany, the land 
" where the wings of genius are not clipped by the timid shears 
of fine wit." 2 He it was who constituted himself the patron of 
Lessing's Sara Sampson on its appearance in France, who wrote a 
preface to the French version, and declared that in Germany 
" genius had taken the high-road of nature." 3 He, too, it was 
who compared the London Merchant to Sophocles, and himself 

1 Essai sur fart dramatique, p. 326. "Let yourselves revel, ye fresh and sensitive 
souls, in the reading of Pamela, Clarissa, and Grandison ; of Fielding, with all his 
variety . . . &c." Elsewhere he praises < ; the immortal Richardson, who (says the 
narrative of his life) spent twelve years in society almost without opening his lips, 
so bent was he upon catching what passed around him." Mercier also admires the 
Germans : " The foundation of their dramatic art is excellent. ... If they improve 
upon it, as they give promise of doing, it will not be long before they excel us." 

2 Cf. Licbman, anecdote allemande. He says, further, of Germany, where he had 
spent some years : " There is no country where more real men are to be found. . . . 
These towns are the home of truth and of simplicity, of what the English have 
called good nature. . . . The moment the Germans subject themselves to the slavery of 
imitation they will take the first step towards decadence." See Gottsched's letters 
to Baculard, edited by M. Th. Siipfle {Zeitschrift fur vergleichende Literaturgeschichte, 
vol. i., p. 146 et seq.^). 

3 Journal etranger, December 1761. It is highly probable that the article is by 
Diderot. See Crousle: Lessing et legoutfranfais en Allemagne. p. 376. 


translated The Gamester, a work which he considered the 
masterpiece of the modern drama. 

Such was the man in intimacy with whom Jean- Jacques spent 
the most fruitful years of his life ; the man of whom it could be 
said, now that he was the most German of Frenchmen, and now 
that he was the most English ; the one man, at anyrate, of all the 
great writers of the age, whose taste was most thoroughly alive 
to the productions of other countries. 

The influence of Diderot, sufficiently evident in its effect upon 
Rousseau's literary ideas, was no less apparent in his selection of 


IN addition to Richardson, whose decisive influence on Rousseau's 
genius must be studied by itself, the writers whom Jean- Jacques 
seems to have chiefly admired were Pope, Addison and the author 
of Robinson Crusoe.^- 

Translated by the refugees, praised by Voltaire, celebrated, 
from the very commencement of the century, in Germany, Italy, 
Sweden, Holland, and throughout reading and thinking Europe, 2 
Pope, in his day, was the representative of all that was most 
attractive in English moral philosophy and metaphysics. The 
Essay on Man, the first part of which appeared in 1732, had 
made him the popular poet of deism. It had been immediately 
translated by the abbe du Resnel. 3 Other versions, by Silhouette, 
de Sere, de Schleinitz, the abbe Millot, and de Saint-Simon, had 

1 We must add the name of Milton, thus eloquently apostrophized in Emlle : 
" Divine Milton, teach my clumsy pen to describe the pleasures of love," &c. (book 
vii.). Dupre de Saint-Maur's translation (17x9) did not succeed in naturalizing 
Milton's works in France. For the eighteenth century Milton is no more than a 
great name. 

2 Translations of the Essay on Criticism and the Rape of the Lock are very numerous. 
The principal translators of the former were Robeton, Delage, and de la Piloniere in 
1717, and du Resnel in 1730. The famous Epistle from Eloisa to Abelard was also 
translated and imitated. 

3 On du Resnel's translation (1736), see Memoires de Trevoux, June 1736 ; Journal 
des savants, April TJ$6 ; Observations sur let ecrits modernes, vol. iv., letter 47. See 
also La Harpe, Court de litterature, vol. iii. 


followed, pending the appearance of those by Fontanes and 
Delille. 1 The Essay on Man may be said to have been truly 
gallicized. A dispute broke out concerning Pope's doctrines : de 
Crouzas attacked him, Warburton, Silhouette and others de- 
fended him. " I am sure," writes Jean-Jacques, "that M. de 
Crouzas' book will never inspire a good action, and that there is 
nothing good which one might not be induced to attempt after 
reading the poem of Pope." 2 

For Rousseau, the Essay on Man, as has been excellently said, 
was a kind of sacred volume, a " metrical gospel," wherein the 
men of his day delighted to find their most flattering illusions 
and their loftiest hopes vindicated in beautiful verse. 3 Pope 
" carries the torch into the abysses of man's being. With him 
alone does man attain to self-knowledge." 4 

Pope's teaching involves, in the first place, a contempt for all 
futile investigation of insoluble problems. We must commune 
with our own selves, and within ourselves seek that rule of con- 
duct which no metaphysic can ever give us, the rule which 
nature herself supplies. She speaks loudly within us ; she cries 
out that our duty is to be happy, in so far as we may without 
prejudice to the happiness of others. Now happiness and here 
we see the dawn of that sensibility which was destined to be- 
come the actual moral principle of the age happiness consists 
mainly in the satisfaction of our passions, and this the various 
religions unjustly condemn. Pope believes in the moral excel- 
lence and the original purity of our instincts : 

These mix'd with art, and to due bounds confin'd, 
Make and maintain the balance of the mind : 
The lights and shades, whose well-accorded strife 
Gives all the strength and colour of our life. 8 

In this harmony lies not happiness only, but also the actual 
personality of man. Reason is one j passion, on the contrary, 
infinitely diverse. It is, in truth, that which differentiates one 

1 On these translations see Goujet, Bibliothequefranfaise> vol. vii., pp. 227-267. 

2 Nouvelle Helo'ise. 

3 See M. fimile Montegut's remarkable study on Pope. 

4 Voltaire, Poeme sur la lol naturelle. 5 Essay on Man, Ep. ii., 11. 1 19-122. 


man from another, and consequently the satisfaction of the 
passions, which constitute the sole real basis of the self, is the 
one nutriment which our craving for happiness demands. Yes, 
said Voltaire, the interpreter of Pope, " God in his goodness has 
given us the passions, that he may raise us to the height of noble 
deeds." To the exuberance of the passions, Voltaire, like Pope, 
opposes the restraint of social obligations. But this restraint is 
lax and feeble, and Pope still remains one of the inaugurators of 
the movement which led the age of Rousseau to magnify passion, 
regarded as the true end of man. Further, he never had any- 
thing but pity for that philosophy of the humble-minded which 
pretends " to chasten man under the pretence of exalting him." * 
For Pope the passionate man alone is complete. He venerates 
passion as the ruling power in man, not so much because 
it is moral, as because it is beautiful and renders man more 
great. That is as much as to say that in certain pages of the 
Essay on Man there is, as it were, a foretaste of Rousseau. 
Above all, the author makes a complacent parade of that vague 
and maudlin spirit of benevolence so dear to the whole period. 
If Pope does not actually cause our tears to flow, he at least 
excites a certain tender feeling and a certain melting mood, which 
he regards as creditable to man. Sensitiveness, if it is not virtue, 
is at least the beginning of virtue : 

Wide, and more wide, th' o'erflowings of the mind 
Take every creature in, of every kind ; 
Earth smiles around, with boundless bounty blessed, 
And heaven beholds its image in his breast, 2 

or, if Voltaire be preferred to Pope, 3 let the reader peruse once 
more the sentimental tirade on benevolence, at the end of the 
Discours sur la vraie vertu ; the subject is the same, and the 
expressions are almost identical. 

The Essay on Man did more to spread English deism in France 

1 Voltaire, Cinquieme discours en *vers. 2 Essay on Man, Ep. iv., 11. 369-372. 

3 We may observe, in passing, that Voltaire owns to having written one half of the 
lines in du Resnel's translation. (To Thibouville, 2nd February 1769.) The fact 
does not add to his reputation. 


than all the works of Shaftesbury. At bottom the doctrine is 
Shaftesbury's, but it is shorn of his aggressiveness, purified from 
all leaven of scepticism and pantheism, rendered more vague and 
indefinite, and therefore more poetical. Can we wonder either 
that Rousseau read Pope's poem or that he wrote to Voltaire : 
" The poem of Pope alleviates my troubles and encourages me 
to be patient ? " l What the author of the Profession de foi du 
Vicaire Savoyard discovered in Pope was himself. 

It was a system of morals again, a homely, bourgeois system, 
that he sought in the Spectator, one of the most popular books of 
the century. 

Through the refugees the names of the " sagacious Mr Addi- 
son" and the "virtuous Mr Steele" had become well known. 
In 1719 the Journal des savants had reviewed the Letters from Italy. 
Ten years later the author received a biographical notice in the 
Bibliotheque anglaise? Like Pope, he attained a European reputation 
at a very early age. His Cato was accounted a great work in 
the eighteenth century ; an adaptation of it, made by a certain 
Deschamps two years after its production, was highly success- 
ful, and Voltaire frequently compares Addison's one tragedy 
with the whole of Shakespeare's plays. 3 

But his great title to celebrity was undoubtedly the publica- 
tion, in collaboration with Steele, of his magazines dealing with 
moral subjects. Of these the Spectator was alike the most 
original and the most highly appreciated. A daily paper, non- 
political, concerned before all things with homely, practical 
philosophy, resolutely refusing to make any allusion to the 
scandals of the day or in any way to provoke the unhealthy 
curiosity of its readers, the Spectator caused a revolution in the 
English press, and thereby throughout Europe. 

" His manner of writing," said Voltaire, speaking of the 
author of the Spectator, " would be an excellent model in any 

1 i8th August 1756. 2 Vol. vi., pp. 213-220. 

3 Caton cfUtique, a tragedy dedicated to the Duke of Orleans (by M. C. Deschamps, 
Paris, 1715, i2mo). Gottsched imitated Addison's Cato in his Death of Cato, and his 
drama was translated by Riccoboni in his Recherches historiques stir les theatres del' Europe, 
Paris, 1738, 8vo. La pretendue veuve ou Vepoux magicien, a comedy in five acts, Paris, 
1737, 8vo, was also a translation from Addison. 


country." l Now he acquired this manner, to a large extent, 
from his French models. The accomplished intellect of Addison 
had no difficulty in appropriating not only ancient philosophy, 
but whatever was best in the French moralists of the seventeenth 
century as well. 2 Therewith also and herein he displayed the 
most accurate knowledge of his country's manners he associated 
an amiable and unassuming bourgeois philosophy which won over 
all those who were dismayed by the subtlety of a La Bruyere. 
Beneath the most classical forms, Addison remains at heart 
thoroughly English. It should be remarked that at the com- 
mencement of the century he was, for foreigners, the personi- 
fication of the bourgeois element in the English intelligence. " My 
heart was Addison's," writes Breitinger at Zurich ; " with him 
I left my humble retreat, and took my first steps in the society 
of men." Bodmer started his Discourse der Mahlern (1721) in 
imitation of the Spectator, and dedicated them " to the august 
Spectator of the English nation." 3 Improving magazines were 
published also by Gottsched, Klopstock, and many others. It 
has been computed that more than one hundred and eighty imi- 
tations of the Spectator were published in Germany before 1 760,* 
and the Journal Etranger, mentioning a great many of them, 
called the attention of French readers to this astonishing proof 
of Addison's success. His good fortune soon spread to Hol- 
land, which had its Spectateur hollandais, having already had its 
Babillard and its Controleuse spirltuelle ; 5 to Italy, where Gozzi 
established his Osservatore ; and even to Russia, where the first 
review patronised by Catherine II. was an imitation of the English 
journals of moral teaching. 6 

In France their popularity was equally great. " There is 
not a person but has read the Spectator" writes Tabaraud ; "its 
success has been prodigious." 7 In 1716 the Memoires de Trevoux, 

1 Siecle de Louis XI P., ch. xxxiv. 2 Cf. Voltaire, Lettre a Milord Harvey, 1740. 

3 Cf. Joret, Herder, and an interesting pamphlet by Th. Vetter: Zurich als 
Vermittlerin englischer Literatur im achtzehnten Jahrhundert, Zurich, 1891, 8vo. See the 
same writer's edition of Bodmer's Discourse (Frauenfeld, 1891, 8vo). 

4 Perry, English Literature in the Eighteenth Century, Fr. trans., p. 1 6 6. 

5 Hatin, Les Gazettes de Hollande, p. 200. 6 Cf. The Academy, 25th March 1882. 
7 Hiitoire du philosophisme anglais, vol. i., p. 66. Cf. 1st, with regard to the Specta- 
tor 5 Le Spectateur ou le Socrate moderne ou F on *voit un portrait naif des moeurs de ce siecle, 


which were, however, very unfavourable to English productions, 
declare " the English Socrates " to be greatly superior to the 
" French Theophrastus." Camusat finds in him certain new 
and remarkable ideas which cannot but enhance " the good 
opinion at present entertained of English books." l Its success 
astonished Voltaire at first ; but during his stay in England he 
came to understand Addison's originality, and expressed his 
admiration in the warmest terms. 2 D'Argenson considered that 
no one could read anything " more agreeable or better done." 3 
In short, its success was general, and imitations of it innumer- 
able ; some, and the greater portion, absolutely forgotten to-day, 
others, such as Marivaux's Spectateur franfais, having been pre- 
served from total oblivion by the names of their authors. There 
were a Misanthrope, a Censeur, an Inquisiteur, Spectators Swiss and 
American, as well as Dutch and Danish, not to mention a Radoteur, 
a Bagatelle, and a Fantasque. Addison had discovered a form of 
literature really adapted to the needs of contemporary readers, 
and all Europe adopted his idea. 4 But none of these productions 
obscured the recollection of the original. Marivaux himself did 
not succeed in striking the full and copious vein of his model, 
or in acquiring the same wealth of information on moral topics, 
and the same interest in problems suggested by every-day life. 

Amsterdam, 1714, i2mo, 456 pp. The other volumes follow in order, to the number 
of seven, down to 1754. The translator of the first six is unknown ; the translation 
of the last two is attributed by some to Elie de Joncourt, by others to J. P. Moet 
(Cf. Querard and Barbier). The Spectator was reprinted in three quarto volumes. 
2nd, with regard to the Toiler : Le Babillard ou le Nouvelliste philosophe, traduit de V anglais 
de Steele by A. D. L. C. [Armand de la Chapelle], Amsterdam, 1723, izmo. This is 
only the first volume ; the second appeared at Amsterdam in 1735. 3rd, concerning 
the Guardian : Le Mentor moderne, ou Discours sur les moeurs du siecle, translated . . . 
[by Van Effen], The Hague, 1724, 3 vols. izmo. In bibliographical lists there are 
many erroneous details. 

1 Camusat's Bibliothequc franf aise (vol. vii., 1726, p. 193). 

2 Cf. Ballantyne, p. 309, and see Sharpe, Letters from Italy. 

3 Memoires, ed. Jannet, vol. v., p. 164. 

4 See in Hatin's Histoire de la presse a long though incomplete list of these imita- 
tions. In Caylus (CEuvres badines, 1787, vol. vi.) there is a satirical letter on the 
Spectators : " An Englishman writes several disconnected articles, puts them to- 
gether, and gives them the name of Spectator : his book succeeds, and its success is 
deserved: forthwith there spring up Spectators called French, Unknown, Swiss, &c." 


After the literature of the day Addison was a relief: in his broad 
stream of morality, at once so simple and so pure, the^ readers 
of a Fontenelle as often happens in an era of scepticism loved 
to plunge themselves as though in a bath of virtue. Marivaux, 
with his cold and over-refined intellect, entirely failed to produce 
the same effect. 1 

In the moral philosophy of the Spectator, robust as it was and 
respectable, though, to our modern taste, somewhat commonplace 
and unaspiring, there was that which, by its very faults, proved 
attractive to those whose wearied palates were beginning to de- 
mand simple fare. " The English are easier to please than we 
are," it was said, " with regard to works on morality : they do 
not mind what is commonplace, provided only it be useful, and 
presented in popular form ; with us, moralizing only goes down 
when it is clever and pointed." 2 Their very lack of refinement 
and style constituted the charm of these lay sermons. They 
occasioned no regret for the incomparable subtlety of La Bruyere, 
the profound philosophy of La Rochefoucauld, the mild and 
gentle spirit of Nicole, 3 or the vigorous dialectic of Bourdaloue, 
the master of Addison. There was something pleasant in that 
flameless warmth, that radiance which to us seems so pallid. 
" Virtue," the reader thought, " as represented here, has nothing 
chilling, harsh, burdensome or dismal, about it ; ... this is a 
pleasing sort of virtue, made for man, responsive to all his 
natural faculties . . . and capable of affording them the most 
exquisite sensations : " 4 a virtue, in short, adapted to the re- 
quirements of the eighteenth century. The English moralist's 
narrow horizon, his profoundly bourgeois character, his modera- 
tion and amiable tolerance, all seemed fresh and original. In 
the early part of the present century Cardinal Maury, who had 
witnessed the persistence of this fashion, was unable to compre- 
hend how anyone could ever have preferred Addison to La 

1 Cf. G. Larroumet, Marivaux, p. 394. 

2 Gazette litteraire de V Europe, vol. vi., p. 354. 

3 Locke had translated the Essais of Nicole for Lord Shaftesbury : his translation 
was published by Thomas Hancock in 1828 (Cf. H. Marion, Locke, p. 147). 

4 Preface to the Mentor moderne (The Hague, 1724, vol. i.). 


Bruyere ; 1 and we, too, prefer the latter. But those who were 
contemporary with the Lettres Persanes the idea for which 
Montesquieu was accused of having taken from the Spectator 
relished the ethics which appealed to heart rather than to mind 
the moral teaching not of a scholar but of a moralist. " Use, 
but do not abuse such is the wise man's advice. I avoid alike 
Epictetus and Petronius. Neither abstinence nor excess ever 
made a happy man." 2 Here we have the substance of the ser- 
mon preached by Addison under two or three hundred heads, 
and addressed to the commonplace souls of his contemporaries as 
their morning viaticum. Did he not recommend his reflections 
to all well-regulated families who, with their breakfast of tea 
and bread-and-butter, would have his paper served up to them as 
an accompaniment to the spoons and the tray ? The sermon is 
not new, but everything can be renovated, even platitudes they, 
indeed, above all. The reader will be familiar with the agree- 
able background Addison contrived to give to his sermonizing ; 
how, in the " Club " to which we are introduced, the good Sir 
Roger de Coveiiey, Freeport the merchant, the veteran warrior 
Captain Sentry, and the amiable dandy Will Honeycomb enable 
him to present his moral teaching, in the pleasantest manner in 
the world, in a concrete form. There, the questions of marriage, 
of religion, of education, of the best form of government are 
discussed. But there also are treated, seriously or lightly, as 
becomes the occasion, such trifling problems as a La Bruyere 
would have deemed beneath his notice : what ladies should wear 
indoors, the impropriety of talking freely in public vehicles, 
dancing, the deportment of married couples in society, belief in 
the existence of ghosts, how one should behave in church, and a 
thousand questions relating to good-breeding or to hygiene. 
Addison considers the question of the suckling of children ; en- 
quires whether or not it is well to indulge the fancies of women 
with child, and humorously recounts the vexations of a husband ; 
he discusses, with a smile, the use of chocolate, and recommends 
becoming methods whereby women may enhance their beauty. 

1 Lettres et opuscules of J. de Maistre, vol. ii., p. 177. 

2 Voltaire, fifth Discours en vers sur rhomme. 


He constitutes himself adviser, confessor, and family doctor. No 
question is too mean for him, provided it affects, either directly 
or remotely, the moral or physical health of man. 

French readers found this solicitude no less charming than 
amusing : Addison and Steele were compared to Socrates, and it 
was considered that " these truly wise men " had brought heaven's 
philosophy down to earth, " the phantoms of the study upon the 
stage of the world." l Prevost too, in his Pour et Contre, played 
the part of Addison and Steele. He inquired " whether high 
rank or official position are incompatible with certain talents ; " 
he gave rules for conversation ; portrayed the effects produced 
upon the character by the fierce emotions of love ; lavished 
counsel upon the fair, consolation upon the ill-favoured, and 
learned advice upon those who are on the wane : he even dis- 
cussed the practice of tea-drinking, and concluded that by the 
use of this " liquor," which relaxes the fibres of the stomach, 
" the brave man becomes cowardly, the strong workman weak, 
and women become sterile." 2 The work of Addison was drawit 
upon to an unlimited extent ; sometimes for simple tales, some- 
times for philosophical allegories, 3 sometimes, and most fre- 
quently, for the subjects of plays. For Addison is not a moralist 
only, he is also rich in pictures of middle-class life, in pathetic 
scenes, in dramatic adventures. Baculard d'Arnaud takes from j 
him the subject of a tragedy, 4 Boissy the plot for a comedy, 5 
La Chaussee several ideas and more than one entire situation. 6 
And with the advance of the century his celebrity increases, at 
the expense of that of the French moralists : " It is difficult," 
wrote Saint-Lambert, " to read much of the Spectator without 
becoming a better man ; he reconciles you with human nature, 
while La Bruyere makes you dread it." 7 

Rousseau read it at Chambery, on his return from Turin, and 

1 Journal etranger, February 1762. 2 Vol. xii., p. 207. 

3 Raynal borrows from the Spectator an anecdote for the Histoire philosophique des 
deux Indes (J. Morley, Diderot, vol. ii., p. 226) ; Voltaire an allegory for the article 
Religion in the Dictionnaire philosophique , &c. The moral journals also provided 
Berquin with the materials for his Tableaux anglais (Paris, 1775, 8vo). 

4 Eufhemie, 5 Les Valets maitres. 

6 Lanson, Nivelle de la Chaussee, p. 133. 7 Essai sur la vie de Bolingbroke (1796). 


appreciated it highly. " The Spectator" he says, " pleased me 
greatly, and did me good." l Like his contemporaries he loved 
its bourgeois moralizing, so simple, so appropriate to the family 
circle. It is Addison whom he advises Sophie to read in order 
to learn the duties of an honest woman. 2 From him, doubtless, 
he took the idea of the Persifleur, which he afterwards estab- 
lished in conjunction with Diderot, and did not carry beyond a 
single number. 3 From him, too, he appears to have borrowed 
what he says in the Lettre sur les spectacles concerning the clubs 
and societies of London, a few touches, also, in the description of 
the English garden in the Nouvelle Heldise, and some of the ideas 
in Emile on the advantage of inuring children to the endurance 
of cold. These little obligations, however, are not of much 
importance. 4 The point of interest to us is that Rousseau 
understood and loved an Addison whose genius, in common 
with his own, possessed a rare and precious quality of moral 
elevation, and who, in more than one respect, may perhaps be 
considered a champion of the same causes. 5 

Lastly, among the English books with which he was familiar 
there was one upon which he pronounced a magnificent eulogy, 
namely, The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson 
Crusoe, ofTcrk, Mariner, who lived Eight-and-tiventy Tears all alone 
in an uninhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the 
great River of Oronoque. . . . Written by Himself. 

Published in 1719 and 1720, Defoe's novel, as we have seen, 
had been translated by the refugees in 1720 and 1721, and had 
since then been reprinted over and over again. The edition 
read by Rousseau was undoubtedly the inaccurate translation by 
Saint-Hyacinthe and Van Effen. The work was already famous ; 

1 Confessions, \., 3. 2 Emile, book v. 3 Confessions, ii., 7. 

4 Cf. L. M^zieres, Histoire de la litter ature anglaise, vol. i., p. 145. 

5 Cf. particularly what Addison says of the morality of the theatre. On 
this question Rousseau, also, perhaps read La critique du theatre anglais compare au 
theatre fAthenes, de Rome, et de France . . . [translated from Jeremy Collier by de 
Courbeville], Paris, 1715, izmo. Several French writers appear to have gained a 
knowledge of the English stage from this book. (Cf. Memoires de Trevoux, April 
1704 ; Journal des savants, 1715? P- 2I 9? Memoires de Trevoux, July 1716, and May, 
June, July and August 1732. See also a letter from Brossette to J. B. Rousseau, 
25th December 1715. 


the attention of the newspapers had been attracted to it immedi- 
ately it appeared, 1 and Lesage, assisted by d'Orneval, had founded 
upon it the story of a comic opera for the theatre de la Poire. 2 
Very early too the book became launched upon the great stream 
of European literature : there had appeared a Robinson allemand, a 
Robinson ita/ien, a Robinson de Si/esie, and Robinsons of which the 
hero was either a priest, a doctor, a Jew, a poet, a bookseller, 
or even a woman. 3 It has been computed that by 1760 forty 
Robinsonades had already made their appearance in Germany,* not 
to mention those published in Holland and Austria. 5 

In spite of its popularity it does not appear that the success of 
the book was in the first instance due to its true merits : the 
author's marvellous gift of observation, which, as he himself 
says, enabled him to present a " statement of facts," passed 
almost unnoticed. Though one of the great books of the cen- 
tury, the work did not at once create a school, either in its 
native country or in France. 

The translators of the book, it is true, assert that most of its 
readers feel that they are actually living with Robinson, so great 
is the power of the author's art to create illusion. 6 "With him they 
seemed to be spending whole years in building a hut, in hollow- 
ing out a cave, in erecting a palisade ; they fancied themselves 
occupied for months together in helping him to polish a single 
plank, and felt themselves as much imprisoned in their reading 
as Robinson in his solitude." 7 Many of the details, indeed, 
seemed minute or unworthy of notice. A few years earlier Mari- 

1 Cf. Journal des savants, 1720, p. 503 et seq. 

' 2 This comic opera is lost. (See Barberet: Lesage et le theatre de la Foire, p. 222). 

3 Perry, English Literature in the Eighteenth Century, p. 264. 

4 Cf. Kippenberg, Robinson in Deutschland bis zur Insel Felsenburg (1713-43), 
Hanover, 1892, 8vo. 

5 H. F. Wagner: Robinson in (Esterreich, Salzburg, 1 886, 8vo. A list of Dutch 
imitations will be found in the Annales typografhiques^ 1759, vol. i., p. 58. 

6 See M. J. Jusserand's remarkable study Le roman anglais et la reforme litteraire de 
Daniel de Foe, Brussels, 1887. We may justly object that the author exaggerates, not 
the greatness of Defoe's work, but its immediate influence : Defoe was truly enough 
the creator of realistic fiction in England, but for more than twenty years he had 
not a single disciple. 

7 Preface to vol. ii. 


vaux also, in a now forgotten novel, had described the island-life 
of a recluse ; but how much *' nobler" was his recital ! Mari- 
vaux's hero wants some broth ; but what of that ! He kills 
some birds with his bow and arrows. But he has no vessel for 
cooking purposes. " How ingenious we become when we have 
to live by our wits ! Taking some earth and kneading it with 
water, I fashioned a pot from it as best I could, and set it out in 
the sun to dry." In an hour's time the pot is finished and the 
broth prepared : what could be more expeditious ? The same 
skill, the same ingenuity, when he has to make some bread. 
" As heaven has distributed its gifts to every spot on earth, 1 I 
perceived that there was a kind of grain growing wild in the 
island, which the natives did not use because they were un- 
acquainted with it. I had a quantity of it cut . . . and dried. 
Finally I managed to discover the secret of extracting the flour, 
from which I kneaded several small loaves." Nothing can be 
simpler, as we see ; nor can anything give us a better idea of the 
difference between two separate types of genius, and even between 
two races, than a comparison of Marivaux's Robinson with that 
of Defoe. The savages of the one are real savages ; those of 
the other dwell together as in one great family, and feel " inno- 
cence and peace steal into their hearts." " They called me their 
father." What a contrast to the practical, bargain-driving, 
thoroughly English Robinson who sells his slave Xury for a few 

Now the readers of Saint-Hyacinthe and Van Effen I will not 
say of Defoe do not seem to have fully perceived the originality 
of this acute observation of detail, this perfect veri-similitude 
of the least little fact, this seizing of reality, which gives the 
English novel all the relief of an authentic narrative a statement 
of facts. What they enjoyed in Robinson Crusoe was a curious 
story of travel, which readers of the Thousand and one nights, the 
Aventures de Beauchene or the Histoire des voyages found gratify- 
ing to that appetite for tales of adventure and of expeditions to 
remote regions which was so widely spread in that day. 2 The 

1 See Les Effets surprenants de la sympathle (1713), part ii. 

2 On this taste for travel see L. Claretie, Lesage romancier, p. 60 etseq English critics 


romantic isolation of the hero produced a lively impression. It 
was almost traditional with eighteenth-century novelists to make 
their heroes pass some time on an island. Prevost, in his Histoire 
de Cleveland, imagines a philosophical recluse and misanthrope, of 
whom Cleveland, as is proper, makes a friend. 1 Fielding inflicts 
the ordeal of solitude upon Mrs Heartfree, and Jean-Jacques 
upon Saint-Preux. Rousseau's hero even dwells in two islands 
successively : " I was perhaps the only soul, "he says, " to whom 
so pleasant an exile was in no way alarming. ... In this fear- 
some yet delightful abode, I have seen what human ingenuity 
will attempt in order to extricate civilized man from a solitude 
where he lacks nothing, and to plunge him afresh into a vortex 
of new wants." 2 They all remained subject to the spell of the 
marvellous adventure related by Defoe, and Bernardin de Saint- 
Pierre, reading Robinson Crusoe on the shores of the English 
Channel in the closing days of the century, felt the yearning for 
unknown lands awake within him. 3 

Rousseau, however, was the first to point out the wide philo- 
sophic import of the book. It " constituted a very able treatise 
on natural philosophy," and was to be the one and only volume 
in the library of limile. The author, it is true, he does not 
name : the men of that century did not know who he was ; 
Freron, speaking of Robinson Crusoe in 1768, thought it necessary 
to remind the reader in a note that the author was "a certain 
Daniel de Foe " ; 4 while another translator attributes it to 
Steele. 5 Nothing whatever was known of the writer's person- 
ality and talent. But Jean-Jacques pronounced a splendid eulogy 
upon the educational qualities of the work, preferring its author 

have remarked certain similarities between Robinson Crusoe and Lesage's novel Les 
Aventures de Beauchene (Cf. Saintsbury, A short history of French literature} ; I do not 
think, however, that there are any grounds for inferring that there was imitation. 

1 See the solitary's curious discourse when he set foot on his island (vol. iv., p, 
70). The episode pleased Prevost's readers, for fifty years later de la Chabeaussiere 
took from it the subject for his Nouveau Robinson, a comedy in three acts with music 
by Dalayrac(i786). 

2 Nouvelle Heloise, iv., 3. 3 Maury, Bernardin de St Pierre, p. 6. 
4 Annee litteraire, 1768, vol. i., p. 235. 

** Les avantures ou la vie et les voyages de Robinson Cruive, traduction de ('ouvra&e anglais 
attribue au celebre Richard Steele, Francfort, 1769. 2 vols., nmo. 


to Aristotle, Pliny and BufFon. 1 " I want Emile," he said, " to 
examine his hero's behaviour, to try and find out whether he 
omitted anything, and whether anything better could have been 
done." He saw quite clearly how closely the author of Robinson 
Crusoe had adhered to life, and perceived the lofty teaching he 
had managed to extract from it. Rousseau raised to its proper 
position what had been regarded as nothing more than a novel, 
when in reality it was a moral treatise. It was his testimony to 
its qualities that gave Daniel Defoe's work a place in the philo- 
sophical heritage of humanity. 2 


FOR English literature of the more common and popular type 
Rousseau had an even greater admiration than for the Spectator 
or for Robinson Crusoe. Therein he found his own literary aspira- 
tions realized. 

There is no doubt that between 1745 and 1758 the subjects of 
Rousseau's admiration were those admired by Diderot. During 
the early days of their intimacy, their thoughts were turned 
more especially towards the theatre, Rousseau's even more than 
Diderot's. Both were enthusiastic playgoers. Jean- Jacques had 
a free seat at the Opera and the Comedie : he boasts of having 
faithfully witnessed every play produced during ten years, 
especially those of Moliere. During his residence at Chambery 
he had written a tragic opera, Iphis et Anaxarete. While tutor 
in M. de Mably's household at Lyon he wrote his Decouverte du 
Nouveau Monde. It is needless to enumerate here the operas for 
which he provided the libretti. But Narcisse t Les Prisonniers de 
guerre, L Engagement temeraire, and all the other 'attempts, which, 
after all, add nothing to his fame, afford ample proof of the 

1 Emile, book iii. 

2 Further translations of Defoe's masterpiece followed the publication of Emile. 
See Robinson Crusoe, a new imitation of the English work, by M. Feutry, Amster- 
dam, 1765, Z vols. izmo, and IS fie de Robinson Crusoe, adapted from the English by 
M. de Montreille, Paris, 1767, izmo. See also La Harpe's estimate, which is a mere 
echo of Rousseau's (Cours de litterature, vol. iii., p. 190). 


strength of his predilection for the theatre. Three years after 
the appearance of the Discours sur les sciences et les arts he had not 
yet abjured it, and produced his Narcisse ou Famant de lui-meme : 
the piece was a failure, but he published it nevertheless, abusing 
his public in the preface. At Geneva, two years afterwards, he 
began Lucrece, a tragedy in prose. His Pygmalion was written 
later still. All his life long Rousseau loved the theatre 
Rousseau, the writer of the Lettre sur les spectacles. Men impugn 
nothing so savagely as what they have greatly loved. 

Not only, however, was the theatre the subject of his thoughts 
and aspirations ; there is no doubt that he took a lively interest 
in the dramatic reform contemplated by his friend. Among the 
ideas expressed in his Lettre sur les spectacles and in the literary 
chapters of the Nouvelle Heldise there are some which he un- 
doubtedly acquired from Diderot, or held in common with him. 

Like Diderot, he is of opinion that tragedy has had its day, 
and that Corneille and Racine, for all their genius, " are but 
speech-makers." 1 Many of their pieces, tragic as they are, have 
no power to move the feelings, and above all a point on which 
Diderot insisted more than upon any other they " give no sort 
of information on the manners characteristic of those whom they 
amuse." They contain no simple and natural sentiments, but 
merely " smart things " which catch the ear of the crowd. 2 Like 
Diderot, he thinks that the drama should be formed upon the 
social ideal, which is constantly changing ; do we not know that 
there are " five or six hundred thousand souls in Paris of whom 
the stage takes no heed whatever ? " 3 Like him, he holds that 
taste varies with the age, and that after all it is nothing more 
than " the faculty of judging what is pleasing or displeasing to 
the greatest number." 4 Hence it follows " that the true models 
for taste are to be found in nature," which always leaves some- 
thing to be revealed, and is a thousand times richer than French 
poets have supposed. If the ancients are superior to us, it is 
simply because they were first in the field, and therefore at closer 
quarters with eternal nature. Yet how much is still left to be 

1 Nouvelle Helo'ise, ii. 17. With this passage cf. ch. xxxviii. of Bijoux indiscrets. 

2 Lettre sur les spectacles. 3 N. H., ii. 17. 4 JSmile, book iv. 



discovered. The matter of the drama has, as it were, become 
congealed in antiquated moulds. It remains for us "to keep 
close to life," to reveal the provincial world that is to say, the 
whole universe outside of Paris, to find again the true man 
beneath the polished and unnatural man of society. In the circle 
of which Diderot and Jean- Jacques were members it was con- 
sidered that in France " all ranks and conditions had become fused 
together for social purposes " : seigneurs, magistrates, financiers, 
men of letters and soldiers were all alike, and only one condition 
of life remained, that of man of the world. "The English, on the 
contrary, have preserved, 'with their liberty, the privilege of being each 
individually exactly what nature has made him, of not concealing his 
opinions, nor the prejudices and manners of the profession he 
follows : that is why their novels of domestic interest are such 
pleasant reading." 1 And that, also, is one of the reasons why 
Rousseau was so attracted towards " this proud and intrepid 
people, who despise sorrow and death, and fear nothing in the 
world but hunger and ennui." 2 He likes them because they are 
still capable of great passions, because "no famous deed was 
ever achieved by cold reason," and because in the Englishman 
man recognises his own best possible type. 

Like Diderot also, though with deeper conviction than he, 
Rousseau found in English writers his own interest in questions 
of moral philosophy. With the majority of Protestant writers 
he regarded the beautiful as in its essence nothing but a form of 
the good. " If the moral system is corrupt," his friend wrote, 
" it follows of necessity that the taste is false." 3 Rousseau goes 
further and expressly declares that " the good is nothing more 
than the beautiful put into practice," that the one is closely 
bound up with the other, that they have a common source in a 
perfectly regulated nature, that " taste may be brought to per- 
fection by the same methods as wisdom " which is paradoxical 
and " that a soul thoroughly alive to the charms of virtue 
ought to be proportionately sensitive to every other kind of 
beauty " which is false, but extremely English. Let us, 

1 Correspondance litteraire, August 1753. 2 N. H., iv^ 3. 

3 De la poesie dramatique, xxii. 


therefore, have tragedies which breathe patriotism and the 
love of freedom, and they will be fine tragedies. Let us have 
dramas which call forth our tears on behalf of virtue, and those 
dramas will be true to nature. 

Now it is still more true of the English people, as Suard 
observed, than of the Roman people, that it " breathes 
tragedy," 1 and it is to the English drama that we must 
look for the revival of pathos. Very early in the century 
La Motte called for " action that is impressive," such as was 
introduced by English playwrights, 2 and a few years later 
Montesquieu compared their dramatic pieces not to the ordinary 
products of nature so much as to the sports in which she has 
developed what was originally only a happy accident. 3 In the 
very year in which Rousseau definitely took up his residence in 
Paris, appeared the first volume of the too famous Theatre anglais 
of La Place, with which he was undoubtedly acquainted. Therein 
one might learn that " readers who do not believe that the 
French mind must of necessity be the type of all others will be 
qualified to enjoy reading Shakespeare, not only because they 
will thereby discover how the English genius differs from the 
French, but because they will find in his works flashes of power 
and new and original beauties which, in spite of their foreign 
appearance, seem all the more effective to those who did not 
expect to meet with them." 

Among those who did expect to meet with them must be 
reckoned Diderot and Rousseau. Shakespeare, however the 
Shakespeare of La Place does not seem to have made a very 
vivid impression upon them. Diderot, though capable of con- 
sulting the original text, had but scant praise for the author of 

1 Garat, Memoires sur SuarJ, vol. ii., p. 117. 

2 Discours sur la tragedie, prefixed to Romulus. 

3 Pensees diverses. In the Memoires de Trevoux, April 1704, We read: "The 
English, who for more than a century have paid much attention to dramatic 
poetry, have at last brought it to a degree of perfection which most of their 
neighbours cannot but admire. Their national genius, the bent of their language, 
the liberty of criticism which is assumed in England, all contribute to this 
result." Cf. also Riccoboni : Reflexions historiqucs et critiques sur les different* theatres 
de I' Europe (1738). 


Othello, and has expressed it in the vaguest terms. For it is no 
very high praise to compare him to that " shapeless, roughly 
carved colossus," 1 St. Christopher of Notre-Dame, if it is added 
that there is not one of his scenes " of which, 'with a little talent, 
something great might not be made." 2 Diderot seems in fact to 
admire Shakespeare because he is English, and, although he 
belongs to the past, extremely modern. He is always inaccurate 
when he speaks of him, and his expressions have none of that 
warmth which sincerity of feeling imparts to admiration. As for 
Rousseau, he commends Voltaire, somewhere or other, for having 
ventured to follow the example of the English, and put some life 
into the drama. 3 This, if we please, we may call an indirect way 
of praising Shakespeare and we know, moreover, that Rousseau 
thought highly of him, though that was all. 4 Must we condemn 
Rousseau or Diderot for not having had a better understanding of 
Shakespeare as interpreted by La Place ? Verily, they would 
have required the eyes of a lynx to do so. Besides, their ideal, 
it must be confessed, was to be found elsewhere. What they 
were dreaming of was the bourgeois drama, invented, with such a 
flourish of trumpets, by Diderot ; " tragedies rendered interest- 
ing by patriotism and love of liberty ; " 5 in short, The London 
Merchant and The Gamester. 

In reality, it was La Chaussee who had produced the earliest 
specimens of pathetic comedy, but him they did not greatly ap- 
preciate. Diderot cared little for him because he merely heralded 
a new type, and because, moreover, he was but an indifferent 
herald. 6 Rousseau, on his part, confessed that if the plays of La 
Chaussee or Destouches are " refined," they are also, however 
instructive they may be, still more tedious, and that one might 
just as well go to hear a sermon. 7 Moreover, as Prevost had 

1 Paradoxe sur le comedien, ed. Moland, vol. viii., p. 384. 

2 Letter to Voltaire, zgth September 1762. 3 N. H., ii. 17. 

4 Bernardin de Saint-Pierre : Fragments sur Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 

5 N. H., ii. 17. 

6 (Euvres de Diderot, vol. xix., p. 314. After a performance of the Pere de 
famille he writes : " Duclos said, as we came out, that three pieces like that in one 

year would kill tragedy. Let them get used to emotions of this sort, and after 
that endure Destouches and La Chaussee if they can." 

7 Lettre sur les spectacles, ed. Fontaine, p. 165. 


observed, La Chaussee himself was merely a disciple, though per- 
haps an involuntary one, of the English. " I cannot abstain from 
informing," he said, " the public that they [the writers of pathetic 
comedy] are not the first who have formed this project, and that 
if the example of a sensible nation is of any value they may justify 
themselves by that of our neighbours." And he proceeded to 
quote some instances of the English drama of pathos, 1 and intro- 
duced the London Merchant to his readers' notice. 

The author of this once famous play, which impressed Rous- 
seau as a master-piece, was George Lillo, born, in 1693, of a Dutch 
father and an English mother, both of them dissenters. Like 
Richardson, Sedaine, Jean- Jacques, and many members of the 
lower middle class who, in the eighteenth century, tried their hands 
at fiction and the drama, he at first pursued a handicraft, and was 
somewhat late in entering upon his literary career. After a 
fruitless attempt at opera he produced George Barnivell or the 
London Merchant in 1731. In spite of the season the height of 
summer the piece had a run of twenty nights. In vain the 
author's enemies conspired against him, and had several thousand 
copies of the old ballad on which the play was founded sold in the 
streets. Those who sold them, says a witness, were overcome 
by their feelings, and dropped the ballads in order to get at their 
pocket handkerchiefs. Pope, who was then living, thought the 
plot of the piece well-managed and the style natural without 
being vulgar. 2 Queen Caroline wished to possess the manuscript 
of the work, and the city merchants, proud of a sermon which re- 
flected so much honour upon them, praised it to the skies. It 
continued to hold the stage, though apparently less on account of 
its literary qualities than because it was an edifying play. The 
Theatre Royal at Manchester was long accustomed to present 
George Barnivell once a year, on Shrove Tuesday, for the instruc- 
tion of the apprentices of the town. When Ross, the actor, 

1 Pour et centre, vol. xii., p. 145. It may moreover be observed that La Chaussee 
was himself imitated in England : his Prejuge a la mode furnished the theme of 
Murphy's The Way to keep him (1761). (See Le nouveau theatre anglais, Paris, 1769, 
vol. i.). Paul Lacroix mentions Melanide as having been reprinted in Dublin 
(174.9). (Catalogue de Soleinne, vol. ii., p. 91.) 

2 Perry, Litterature anglaise au xviiie siecle, p. ZJJ. 


played Barnwell, in 1752, a young apprentice, who, like the 
hero of the piece, had robbed his employer in order to keep his 
mistress, was so smitten with remorse while watching the per- 
formance, that he lost his reason. A doctor was called in, inter- 
ceded with the father, and by pacifying him managed to restore 
the senses of the sick youth, who became an honest merchant. 
Ross, in his memoirs, declares that he thenceforth received 
every year a sum of ten guineas, with the words : " A tribute 
of gratitude from one who was highly obliged, and saved from 
ruin, by seeing Mr Ross's performance of Barniuell" l What a 
pity that Diderot was unacquainted with this incident. What 
a tirade we have lost ! 

Thus the London Merchant worked miracles. Lillo's other 
pieces, the Christian Hero or Fatal Curiosity, Marina or Elmerick 
had a less brilliant success. 2 But when he died, their author was 
widely regretted. Fielding praised him for his " perfect know- 
ledge of the human heart," his noble character, his philosophy, 
which was that of a happy man, and his generous repugnance to 
depending on others. " He had the spirit of an old Roman, 
joined to the innocence of a primitive Christian." 3 Significant 
praise, from such an authority. 

Read again to-day, the "master-piece" of this remarkable 
character seems less sublime. It is a melodrama of a decidedly 
sombre type, highly moral, and in parts, but in parts only, full 
of pathos. It must not be forgotten that the story of a young 
apprentice, who is beguiled by a woman of loose life and led 
on to commit robbery and murder, was a subject almost new to 
the stage. Writers of comedy had been lavish in the presenta- 
tion of dissipated young fellows who had to reap the fruits of 
their youthful follies ; but those follies merely occasioned laugh- 
ter, and their retribution was never severe. Such scatterbrains 
got off with nothing worse than a matrimonial fiasco a pretty 
piece of business ! or, more cheaply still, with a paternal lec- 

1 Biographia Dramatica (The London Merchant}. 

2 None of them were known in France. (Cf. Grimm, Correspondance litteraire 
April 1764). 

3 The Champion, in Biographia Dramatica. See the article on Lillo in the Dictionary 
of National Biography, where a detailed bibliography is given. 


ture. But to depict the tumult occasioned in a lad's soul by base 
desires, to study the slow and irretrievable descent of a feeble will 
towards vice, severely yet sorrowfully to elicit the moral con- 
veyed by a life thus maimed and spoiled, was, in 1731, some- 
thing quite new. Manon was as yet unwritten, and who shall say 
that Lillo's play, which Prevost saw performed in London, and 
spoke of with such enthusiasm, did not count for something in 
the creation of his romance ? However this may be, there is a 
touch of the rogue about Des Grieux, and Manon is too lovable ; 
the lesson conveyed is less direct and less tragic. The manner 
in which the humble dissenter George Lillo determined to pro- 
ceed was very different. He aimed at producing a more forcible 
impression, and wrote, not a dramatic work, but a sermon in the 
form of a play. 

Nevertheless, crude as it is from an artistic point of view, this 
drama contains a presage of something great. 

The character of Barnwell, it is true, is but slightly studied ; 
he is a puppet. He cannot tajke his pleasure without preaching 
and lecturing. Observe him in the hour of his fall : he is speaking 
to the courtesan : " To hear you talk, though in the cause of 
vice ; to gaze upon your beauty, press your hand, and see your 
snow-white bosom heave and fall, inflame my wishes ; my pulse 
beats high, my senses all are in a hurry, and I am on the rock of 
wild desire. Yet, for a moment's guilty pleasure, shall I lose my 
innocence, my piece of mind, and hopes of solid happiness ? 
MILLWOOD : Chimeras all ! . . . Along with me, and prove no 
joys like woman-kind, no Heav'n like love." 1 This is really 
too simple and abrupt ; the reader is amazed and stupefied. 
But even so long ago as 1731 an author could acquire a 
reputation for being very profound by slurring over transi- 
tions, destroying gradations, and jjoldly skipping problems in 

The courtesan, Millwood, is not a woman, but an idea the 
beast of the Apocalypse, which has declared war against humanity. 
By ruining Barnwell she avenges herself on all the male sex. 
Like certain heroines of the modern drama, like the stranger 

1 George Barn-well, Act i. sc. iii. (Modern British Drama, vol. ii.). 


of Dumas jils, she is a blind force, a living enigma, a pest with 
a symbolic meaning. Her ill-will is directed against society. 
" I would have my conquest complete, like those of the 
Spaniards in the new world ; who first plundered the natives 
of all the wealth they had, and then condemned the wretches 
to the mines for life, to work for more." 1 She is an 
enemy of law, religion, the clergy, the machinery of justice, 
and all established order. For you must know that such 
as these only live by ruined reputations and perverted 
innocence, "as the inhospitable natives of .Cornwall do by 
shipwrecks." 2 Millwood's strange confession of faith, which 
ranks her with Ibsen's heroines as a rebel against society, 
is omitted by the French translator, Clement de Geneve, as 
offensive and out of place. " What are your laws, of which 
you make your boast, but the fool's wisdom, and the coward's 
valour, the instrument and screen of all your villanies ? By 
them you punish in others what you act yourselves, or would 
have acted, had you been in their circumstances. The judge, 
who condemns the poor man for being a thief, had been a thief 
himself had he been poor." 3 From a woman such a declaration 
of war against society was doubtless something fresh ; and she, 
too, was no doubt a new dramatic type woman as the embodi- 
ment of fatality. She glances for one moment at young Barnwell 
as she meets him in the street, and that one look is enough ; 
thereby she condemns an innocent youth to robbery, murder, 
and the gallows. If this is not " the despotism of woman 
incarnate," 4 what is it ? 

Observe the rapidity of his fall. From the hour when he 
yields, the apprentice is a lost man : the next day he commits 
robbery ; the day after, murder. The scene in which the crime 
is enacted lacks neither vigour nor sombre beauty. It is as 
simple as a scene in Marlowe's Faustus, but from the complicity 
of the elements it gains a certain savage grandeur which must 
assuredly have impressed Rousseau. Standing beneath the open 
sky, and appealing to nature, Barnwell is about to kill the uncle 

1 Act i. sc. ii. 2 Act iv. sc. ii. 

3 Act iv. sc. ii. 4 Dumas /f/r, Preface to L'Atrtmgtre. 


by whom he has been educated and treated as a son, but whom 
he is nevertheless compelled to rob. And as he slays him, he 
philosophizes concerning his crime : 

Scene : A Walk at some distance from a Country Seat. 

BARNWELL (alone'}. A dismal gloom obscures the face of day. Either the sun 
has slipped behind a cloud, or journeys down the west of heaven with more than 
common speed, to avoid the sight of what I am doomed to act. Since I set forth 
on this accursed design, where'er I tread, methinks the solid earth trembles 
beneath my feet. Murder my uncle ! Yonder limpid stream, whose hoary 
fall has made a natural cascade, as I passed by, in doleful accents seemed to 
murmur Murder ! The earth, the air, and water seemed concerned. But that 
is not strange: the world is punished, and nature feels a shock, when Providence 
permits a good man's fall. Just heaven ! then what should I feel for him that 
was my father's only brother, and since his death has been to me a father ; that 
took me up an infant and an orphan, reared me with tenderest care, and still 
indulged me with most paternal fondness ! Yet here I stand his destined 
murderer I stiffen with horror at my own impiety. It is yet unperformed. 
What if I quit my bloody purpose, and fly the place ? [Going, then stops.~\ But 
whither, oh, whither shall I fly ? My master's once friendly doors are ever shut 
against me ; and without money, Millwood will never see me more ; and she has 
got such firm possession of my heart, and governs there with such despotic sway, 
that life is not to be endured without her. Ay, there is the cause of all my sin 
and sorrow ! it is more than love, it is the fever of the soul, and madness of 
desire. . . . 
\_His uncle appears, in a "walk. Barnivell puts on a vizor, and draivs a pistol, unperceived . 

BARNWELL'S UNCLE. Oh, death ! thou strange mysterious power, seen every 
day, yet never understood, but by the incommunicative dead, what art thou ? 
The extensive mind of man, that with a thought circles the earth's vast globe, 
sinks to the centre, or ascends above the stars ; that worlds exotic finds, or thinks 
it finds, thy thick clouds attempt to pass in vain ; lost, and bewildered in the 
horrid gloom, defeated, she returns more doubtful than before, of nothing certain 
but of labour lost. 

[During this speech, Barnivell sometimes presents the pistol, but draws it back again. 

BARNWELL. Oh ! 'tis impossible. 

\Throiving dotun the pistol. Uncle starts, and attempts to draw his sivord. 

UNCLE. A man so near me ! Armed and masked 

BARNWELL. Nay, then, there's no retreat. 

[Plucks a poignard from his bosom, and stabs him. 

UNCLE Oh ! I am slain. All gracious Heaven, regard the prayer of thy dying 
servant ! Bless, with thy choicest blessings, my dearest nephew ! forgive my 
murderer, and take my fleeting soul to endless mercy ! 

[Barnivell throivs off his mask, runs to him, and, kneeling by him, raises and chafes him. 

BARNWELL. Expiring saint ! Oh, murdered martyred uncle ! lift up your 
dying eyes, and view your nephew in your murderer. Oh, do not look so 
tenderly upon me I Let indignation lighten from your eyes, and blast me, ere you 


die. By heaven, he weeps, in pity of my woes. Tears, tears for blood ! The 
murdered in the agonies of death, weeps for his murderer. Oh, speak your pious 
purpose ; pronounce my pardon then, and take me with you. He would, but 
cannot. Oh, why, with such fond affection, do you press my murdering 
hand? \Uncle sighs and dies. ] What, will you kiss me? Life, that hovered on 
his lips but till he had sealed my pardon, in that sigh expired. He is gone for 
ever, and oh 1 I follow. [Swoons aivay upon his uncle's dead body. ] 

Artless as it is, the scene is full of pathos ; a certain lyrical 
inspiration finds its way into Lillo' s awkward yet poetic style, so 
ill rendered by his translator. 

As the drama closes, the gallows is to be seen in that day a 
very daring effect, before which the author himself had hesitated. 
The translator suppressed the scene, but added it afterwards, 
with an apology for doing so. Pompous in form, this swift and 
tragic drama nevertheless contains something suggestive of those 
rude yet powerful old plays Arden of Feversham and A Torkshire 
Tragedy, in which Shakespeare, of whom they are scarcely 
unworthy, may possibly have had some share. We must 
regard Lillo as related, not so much to Southerne and Rowe, 
his immediate predecessors, as to Ford, Dekker, Heywood, and 
perhaps Shakespeare. 1 The brutal clumsiness of a beginner, 
the scorn for customary methods of procedure, and the contempt 
for convention, by which his imitation of these models was 
supplemented, gave his work the effect of originality. 

George Barnvuell, which in England was regarded as a common 
and rather vulgar drama of some merit, produced on the Con- 
tinent the impression of a work of genius, and gave the theatre 
a new lease of life. The Germans became as enthusiastic over 
Lillo as over Shakespeare ; Gottsched and Lessing extolled him 
to the skies, and the latter imitated him in Sara Sampson. He 
became one of the classics of the modern drama. 2 Yet, strange 
as it may seem, even to the Germans he appeared too brutal, and 
Sebastien Mercier's Jenneval, a modified but inferior adaptation, 

1 On these "assize-court dramas," see Mezieres, Predecesseurs et contemporains de 
Shakespeare ', and, especially, J. A. Symonds, Shakespeare's predecessors in the English 
drama, p. 418 et seq. Observe that Lillo, at his death, left an adaptation of that 
fine piece, Arden of Feversham. 

2 Cf. Hettner, Das moderne Drama, Brunswick, 1852. 


was played in preference. The name of Lillo was none the less 
famous, and we must turn to W. Schlegel to find the London 
Merchant regarded as a " regular assize-court story, scarcely less 
absurd than trivial." l Many were the tears shed over this 
" assize-court story," before it was relegated from the tragic 
stage to the boards of thefoire. 

Prevost, in Pour et Contre, led the chorus in praise of the new 
master-piece in France. " A tragedy which has been acted 
thirty-eight times consecutively at Drury Lane, amidst unflagging 
applause from a constantly crowded house ; which has met with 
similar success wherever it has been performed ; which has been 
printed and published to the number of many thousand copies, 
and is read with no less interest and pleasure than it is witnessed 
upon the stage a tragedy which has called forth so many marks 
of approbation and esteem must occasion in those who hear it 
spoken of one or other of two thoughts : either that it is one of 
those master-pieces the perfect beauty of which is perceived by 
all ; or that it is so well adapted to the particular taste of the 
nation which thus delights in it that it may be considered as a 
certain indication of the present state of that nation's taste." 2 
Of these two explanations Prevost accepted the former. The 
London Merchant was, in his eyes, a master-piece, and in support 
of his verdict he translated a scene from the play. 

A few years later George Barnivell found a translator, who was 
attracted by the warm praise of Prevost. Formerly a minister, 
and also tutor to the children of Lord Waldegrave, the English 
ambassador, Clement de Geneve 3 was an avowed admirer of 
England. The writer of a " hyperdrama," Les Frimapns, and for 
that reason expelled from the society of Genevan pastors, 
Clement was also the author of a literary journal, no less caustic 
than spirited, which makes anglomania an article of faith. 
Therein the French are reproached for their ignorance " of the 
beauty of the unstudied, the vast, the fantastic, the gloomy, the 

1 W. Schlegel, Litterature dramatique, 34th lesson. 

2 Pour et Centre, vol. iii., p. 337. Prevost translates the scene in which Mill- 
wood hands her lover over to justice. 

3 Born at Geneva, 1707, Clement de Geneve died at Charenton in 1767. 
(Senebier, Histoire litter air e de Geneve. ) 


terrible," and of romantic beauty in every form. " Come to 
London," he concludes, " we will enlarge your imagination." l 
So Clement, who knew English, translated the London Merchant, 
shed tears as he corrected the proofs of his translation, and 
exclaimed in his preface : " Avaunt, ye small wits, whose 
quality is not so much delicacy as subtlety and frivolity ; ye 
thankless, hardened hearts, wrecked by excess and overmuch 
thinking ! You are not made for the sweetness of shedding 
tears!" 2 

A select public yielded to persuasion and, following Clement's 
advice, " plunged with delight into the deepest and most poig- 
nant distress." Lillo seemed more pathetic than Shakespeare, 
and the London Merchant more terrible than the Merchant of 
Venice? The piece, to tell the truth, was an appeal to " the irre- 
sponsive and vulgar souls of a barbarous people," but who 
could resist its pathos ? " Every act, every scene, as the play 
progresses, excites more pity, more horror, more heart-rending 
anguish." What art in the employment of contrast ! What a 
" climax of terror! " 4 The slanderer Colle, who declared the 
translator a fool, in the same breath confessed himself moved to 
tears ; he too exclaimed : " What truth ! What vehemence ! 
What intensity of interest ! " The workmanship is not good ; 
but there is " genius in abundance," which covers a multitude of 
faults. 5 In a Lettre de Barnevelt (sic) dans la prison a Truman, son 
ami? Dorat, also, poured out his soul in whining verse. Lillo's 
drama furnished Mme. de Beaumont with a theme for a novel, 7 
Anseaume with the subject of a comedy, and Sebastien Mercier 

1 Les cinq annees litteraires, 1 5th March 1752. 

2 Le Marchand de Londres ou Vhistoire de George Barnivell, tragedie bourgeois e en cinq 
actes, traduite de T anglais de Lillo, by M . . ., 1748, izmo, 139 pp. In the edition 
of 1751, the hanging scene is also included. A further edition was issued in 

3 Journal encyclopedique, I5th June 1768. 

4 Journal etr -anger , February 1760. Journal encyclopedique, March 1764. 

5 Colle, Journal, ed. H. Bonhomme, vol. i., p. 21. 

6 Paris, 1764. Cf, Freron, Annee litteraire, 1764, vol. i., and Journal Encyclo- 
pedique, ist March 1764. 

7 Lettres du marquis de\Roselle, 


with the idea for a drama. 1 For a moment the Comedie thought 
of producing this remarkable work, but finally recoiled before its 
English uncouthness. 2 The play was said to have touched even 
Voltaire, but it appealed to Diderot most of all. He believed 
he had at last discovered the long-sought dramatic masterpiece. 
" Call the London Merchant what you will, so long as you admit 
that the play scintillates with flashes of beauty and splendour." 3 
Throughout his life he meditated publishing an annotated edition 
of the work, together with one of the Gamester. 4 ' 

Was it Diderot who introduced it to the notice of Rousseau, 
or Clement de Geneve, his fellow-countryman, or Prevost, his 
friend ? It does not signify. The important point is that he 
shared the admiration of all his circle. " An admirable piece of 
work," we read in a note to the Lettre sur les spectacles, " with a 
moral which goes more straight to the point than that of any 
French play I am acquainted with." 5 The man who thought it 
needful to teach the young " to distrust the illusions of love," and 
" to beware at times of surrendering a virtuous heart to an object 
unworthy of its solicitude," confessed that nowhere but in Lillo, 
except in the Misanthrope, had he found that which corresponded 
to this ideal. 

The testimony is brief but significant, and justifies the stress 
I have laid upon a drama which excited the fervent admiration of 
Rousseau and of his time. 

But neither Addison, nor Defoe, nor Lillo himself, well worth 
attention as he considered them to be, fully realised his own ideal 
of bourgeois literature ; and the author of the Nouvelle Helo'ise, who, 
after all, was rather a novelist than a dramatist, could only feel 
at home, if I may say so, in English fiction. 

1 L'ecole de la jeunesse ou le Barne'velt fran$als, a comedy in verse in three acts by 
M. Anseaume, played at the Italiens, 24th January 1765. Jenneval ou le Barne'velt 

franfais, Paris, 1769, 8vo. A singular fact is that Mercier, though an uncom- 
promising reformer of the drama, did not dare to kill his Jenneval, but married 
him to the daughter of the man he had robbed. 

2 " L'ostrogothie anglaise." 3 Article Encyclopedie. 

4 To Mile. Voland, vol. ii., p. 87 and p. 140. 

5 This note does not occur in the first edition, but was printed in the edition of 

Chapter III 


1. Greatness of the English novel in the eighteenth century Its success upon 

the Continent Fielding Immense popularity of Richardson. 
II. Why the French public went into raptures over English fiction Why, with 
Rousseau, it rated it more highly than the works of Lesage, Prevost and 
Marivaux Wherein the French novelists, and Marivaux in particular, had 
anticipated Richardson and Rousseau. 

III. Prevost translates Richardson (1741, 1751, ! 755-56) Importance of these 
translations Their value. 


OF all the creations of English literature during the eighteenth 
century, the most original was certainly the novel of middle-class 
manners, or, as Taine calls it, the roman antiromanesque. Very 
few revolutions in European literature can be compared to that 
effected at this period by Defoe, Richardson and Fielding, whose 
positive and observant minds led them boldly to substitute the 
accurate study of contemporary society for narratives of adven- 
ture of the French or Spanish type. And, assuredly, very few 
have had such far-reaching consequences. It is not too much to 
say, of this " austere middle-class thought," that as it developed 
it produced the effect of " the voice of a nation buried beneath 
the earth." l This voice was heard in every country. In Ger- 
many, in France, in the northern countries, and even in Italy, the 
English novel gave the impression of work which was entirely 
fresh, similar to nothing else, untrammelled in its glorious flight 
by any classic models, and absolutely free from any taint of tra- 
ditional influence. The Harlowes and the Joneses seemed to 
usurp in the wearied imagination of mankind the place held 

1 Taine, Literature anglaise, vol. iv., p. 84. 


for centuries by the heroes of Greece and Italy, or by the knights- 
errant of epic poetry. The novel a form of literature almost 
unknown to the ancients became with the English the epic of 
the modern world. 

"They are the first," says Mme. de Stael with justice, "who 
have ventured to believe that a representation of the private 
affections is enough to interest the human mind and heart ; that 
neither celebrated characters nor marvellous events are necessary 
in order to captivate the imagination, and that in the power of 
love there is that which can renew scenes and situations without 
limit, and without ever blunting the edge of curiosity. And it 
is in the hands of the English also that the novel has become a 
work with a moral purpose, wherein obscure virtues and humble 
destinies may discover motives to moral enthusiasm, and may 
invent a form of heroism of their own." 1 Fiction, a type of 
literature previously regarded as inferior, was thereby revolu- 
tionized. Thereby also, the English became the models of every 
novelist now wielding a pen. " Where shall we find the pro- 
genitors of our own novels," said Goethe to Eckermann, " if not 
in Goldsmith and Fielding ? " In truth the English novelists 
rendered this frivolous branch of literature capable of conveying 
ideas and passions ; they shewed that, instead of being, in the 
words of Voltaire, " the work of feeble-minded creatures whose 
facile productions are unworthy the attention of serious people," it 
was something better ; and from the humble position in which it 
had languished they raised it to the highest level of all, from 
which it has never again descended. 

Thereby also, unintentionally no doubt, and perhaps uncon- 
sciously, they dealt an effective blow at the long domination of 
classical literature. Here was a fresh arrival, entirely apart from 
all recognized modes, from those classified by Boileau from 
those which a writer of consequence could cultivate without 
prejudice to his reputation or loss of prestige springing up in a 
single day, or at any rate quite suddenly elevated to such high 
honour, and at a single step assuming in men's minds the position 
hitherto claimed by dramatic literature alone, or by poetry of 

1 De la litter -ature, i. 15. 


the highest order. In works of this description the modern man 
recognized himself, not under ancient features, or beneath the 
form of a type which was conventional simply by reason of its 
generality, but with his faults, his vices, his absurdities, and his 
passing fancies everything in short which dates a portrait. 
Bourgeois literature, that is to say nearly all the literature of 
modern times, has its root in the English novel. 

Of the two greatest novelists of the eighteenth century, 
excluding Defoe, one, Fielding, was a man of cultivated mind, 
was an ardent admirer of antiquity, and had been educated at 
Eton, where, however, the process of classical training had not 
destroyed his vigorous native originality. The other, the son of a 
carpenter named Richardson, was devoid of literary culture, or 
possessed at any rate no more than a smattering which he had 
acquired himself, just enough to enable him to play the pedant 
if necessary. " A self-made man," and too thoroughly Christian 
to appreciate the beauty of pagan works, he was also too 
thorough an Englishman and an Englishman of the people 
to feel that desire for refinement which classical culture bestows. 
Both were, in their own line, great innovators, and, though 
rivals, laboured at the same task. 1 Both proved the truth of 
Montesquieu's saying concerning the English : " They admire 
the ancients, but will not even imitate them." 2 Thanks to 
them, and to a few less brilliant lights, the English novel, freed 
at last from the ancient domination of heroic fiction, 3 shed abroad 
an incomparable lustre. 

In the first place there was the group of works consisting 
of Pamela (1740), its parody Joseph Andrews (1742) the first of 
Fielding's novels and Jonathan Wild, his second ; the earliest 
specimens of an art as yet imperfect and uncertain. Then 
after five years' silence the series of master-pieces was in- 

1 Fielding was eighteen years younger than Richardson, and always spoke of 
him with deference. He was loud in praise of his "profound knowledge of 
human nature" and his "command of pathos." Richardson did not do equal 
justice to Fielding (Barbauld, vol. v., p. 175). 

2 Pensees divers es. 

3 On the prolonged popularity of the French novel in England, see Beljame, 
p. 14 et seq, and J. Jusserand, The English Novel, ch. vii. 


augurated by the famous Clarissa (1748). One after the other 
came Smollett's Roderick Random (1748) and Peregrine Pickle 
(1751), reviving the picaresque tradition; Fielding's master- 
piece Tom Jones (1749), and shortly afterwards that delightful 
novel Amelia (1751); the series coming to an end in 1754 w ^ 
Sir Charles Grandison, the last of the three novels of Richardson. 
The same year witnessed the death of Fielding, that of Richard- 
son occurring seven years later. 

Next we have a fresh generation of novelists taking up and 
carrying on the work of the masters : Sterne, who in 1759 ma( ^ e 
his first appearance with the first part of Tristram Shandy ; Gold- 
smith, who produced the Vicar of Wakefield in 1766; while 
Smollett, five years later, reappeared with Humphrey Clinker. 
Then it seemed as though the genius of English fiction was 
reduced to silence for half a century, a silence broken only by 
the sentimental works of Miss Burney and Henry Mackenzie, 
and lasting until 1811, when the first of Miss Austen's novels 
followed shortly afterwards by Waver/ey ushered in a new 

The success these various novelists met with beyond the 
limits of their own country was very diverse. 

Smollett was too essentially English to be generally under- 
stood. Goldsmith, more popular in Germany than in France, 
found the way to many hearts, but was not regarded as a very 
great writer. Fielding, the most original of all, attained cele- 
brity, but in France, at any rate, was not understood ; in 
Germany his name was associated with that of Richardson. 
He was imitated by Wieland, for whom he had a great fascina- 
tion ; Musaeus also copied him, and free-thinkers triumphantly 
contrasted him with Richardson the preacher. 1 In France his 
name was in every mouth, but the full significance of his work 
was not perceived. Some took him for a coarse and trivial 
exponent of the " picaresque " school, others for a disciple of 
the author of Clarissa, to whom, however, he bears very little 

1 See Mr. Erich Schmidt's book : Richardson, Rousseau und Goethe, Jena, 1875, 8vo, 
p. 68 et seq. 



Who was to blame for this ? In the first place the translators, 
Desfontaines and La Place, who defaced and burlesqued him. 
Who could have recognised in the crude version of La Place the 
novel of which Stendhal said that it was to other novels what 
the Iliad is to other epics ? l It is impossible, without close 
examination, to credit the extent to which the translator of 
Tom Jones has misrepresented his author. 2 In the next place, 
Fielding seemed too exclusively English ; it was remarked that 
Richardson's novels, which were less national, were on that 
account more interesting to readers of all nationalities. 3 Lastly, 
and this is the main reason, Fielding, like Smollett, with whom, 
indeed, he was confused, appeared too " picaresque." France 
had had enough of her Lesage, the very writer whose " infinite 
humour and sagacity " attracted Smollett's praise. Why then 
should she have accepted his imitators, or those whom she 
regarded as such ? " The talent of these men consists in the 
fidelity with which they report the jests and gossip of the lower 
classes." 4 What do we find in their books ? "Tavern-scenes, 
brawls on the high road, innumerable assaults with fist or 
stick" fine subjects forsooth! 5 In truth it was scarcely 
to be expected that readers of Cleveland and Marianne would 
appreciate the scene in which a certain rude fellow pulled 
away good Parson Adams' chair just as he was going to 
sit down, while another tipped a plateful of soup over his 

1 Memoires d'un touriste, vol. i., p. 39. 

^ See Les Avettturci de Joseph Andreivs et du ministre Abraham Adams, translated into 
French [by Desfontaines], London, 1743, 2 vols. izmo, frequently reprinted; 
Histoire de Jonathan Wild le Grand, translated from the English of Mr Fielding, 
London and Paris, 1763, z vols. izmo [this translation is by Charles Picquet] ; 
Amelie, histoire anglaise, a free translation from the English [by De Puisieux], Paris, 
1762, 4 vols. izmo; the same work was also adapted by Mme. Riccoboni ; 
Histoire de Tom Jones on V Enfant trouve, translated from the English by M. D. L. P. 
[de la Place], London (Paris), 1750, 4 vols. izmo. The following works have 
also been attributed to Fielding: Memoires du chevalier de Kilpar (Paris, 1768, 
2 vols. izmo), really by Montagnac ; Les malheurs du sentiment (1789, izmo) ; Julien 
VApostat (1765, izmo), &c. These frauds prove at any rate the popularity of 
Fielding's name. 

3 Journal etr anger, February 1760. 

4 Correspondance litteraire, September 1761. 

5 Lettres sur quelques ecrits de ce temps, vol. X., p. zz6. 


breeches, and as if this were not enough, a third tied a 
cracker to his cassock, and a fourth adroitly placed behind 
him a tub of water, in which he could not help taking a 
bath. A scene like this simply carries us back to Furetiere 
or Scarron. 

This, however, was the least important side of Fielding's 
robust genius. The other side, the valiant and healthy realism 
of a great and candid mind, was not appreciated. Tom Jones 
was turned into comic-operas and comedies : Poinsinet made a 
laughable vaudeville out of it, and Desforges more than one 
pathetic play. 1 But Freron could not forgive its " low 
comedy," 2 and Voltaire declares that he could see nothing 
even passable in it, except the story of a barber. 3 In vain 
Mme. du DefFand praised " the true lessons in morality " and 
the " infinite truth " 4 it conveyed 5 in vain La Harpe wrote 
bravely : " For me the first novel in the whole world is Tom 
Jones." The general public did not perceive its importance. 
It praised its "truth and joviality," 5 and pronounced it some- 
times "agreeable" and sometimes "sublime," but did not under- 
stand it. Its simple, unsentimental moralizing no longer satisfied 
an audience familiar with Clarissa, and Fielding possessed the 
defect of lacking sensibility. Was it not he who apostro- 
phised Love in this irreverent fashion : " O love ! what mon- 
strous tricks dost thou play with thy votaries of both sexes ! 
. . . Thou puttest out our eyes, stoppest up our ears, and 
takest away the power of our nostrils. . . . When thou 
pleasest, thou canst make a mole-hill appear as a mountain, 

1 Poinsinet's Tom Jones was played at the Comedie Italienne on the zyth 
February 1765, with music by Philidor (cf. Journal encyclopedique, I5th April 
1765). Desforges produced his Tom Jones a Londres, five acts in verse, at the 
Italiens, on the 22nd October 1782, and his Fellamar et Tom Jones, at the same 
theatre, on the I7th April 1787. (Cf. Correspondance litteraire, November 1782 and 
May 1787.) 

2 Lettres sur quelqites ecrits, 1751, vol. V., p. 3. 

3 To Mme. du DefFand, i3th October 1759. 

4 1/ July and 8th August 1773, to Walpole. 

5 An article by Voltaire in the Gazette litteraire, May 1764. Cf. Clement, Les 
cinq annees litteraires, vol. ii., p. 56 et seq Horace Walpole, Letters to Mme. du 
Deffand ; Geoffroy, Cours de litterature dramatique, vol. Hi., p. 262. 


a Jew's harp sound like a trumpet, and a daisy smell like a 
violet. ... In short, thou turnest the heart of man inside 
out, as a juggler doth a petticoat." 1 The heart of the 
reader of Jean-Jacques declined to be taken for a juggler's 
" petticoat." 

The fame of Richardson, on the other hand, was spreading 
throughout the length and breadth of Europe, and carrying the 
reputation of English fiction into every country. In Holland he 
was translated by Pastor Stinstra. In Italy Pamela was drama- 
tised by Goldoni. 2 But it was in Germany, above all, that his 
works obtained unprecedented favour : as a German critic has 
remarked, Richardson belongs just as much to German as to 
English literature, and so profound has been his influence that 
his genius has become incorporated with the very fabric of 
Germanic fiction. 3 The Discourse der M abler n were fascinated by 
Pamela, from the very first appearance of that pious tale ; Pamela 
and Grandison were translated by Gellert, who also copied their 
author in his Leben der schivedischen Grafin ; 4 Klopstock went 
into raptures over Clarissa, and applied for permission to leave 
Copenhagen in the hope of being appointed Danish charge 
d'affaires in London, his sole object being that of living with 
or near Richardson ; and failing to achieve his object, he 
sought consolation in corresponding with him and in writing 
an ode on the death of Clarissa. Some idea of the pitch which 
enthusiasm had reached in Klopstock's circle may be obtained 
from the following note written by his wife to the author of 
Grandison : " Having finished your Clarissa (Oh ! the heavenly 

1 Joseph Andrews , bk. i., ch. vii. 

2 See the Journal etranger, February 1755. The play was translated: Pamela, 
a prose comedy by Charles Goldoni, advocate, of Venice ; performed at Mantua 
in 1750 ; translated into French by D. B. D. V. [de Bonnel de Valguier], Paris, 
1759, 8vo. 

3 See Erich Schmidt : Richards -on , Rousseau and Goethe, which gives a 
number of details in reference to this subject ; and an article in the Zeit- 
schrift fur vergleichende Literaturgeschichte, new series, Berlin, 1887-88, vol. i., 
p. 217 et seq. 

4 Das Leben der schivedischen Grafin von G . . ., 1746, translated by Formey 
under the title La comtesse suedoise ou Memoires de Mme. de G . . ., Berlin, 1754, 
two parts, 8vo. 


book !), I would have pray'd you to write the history of a 
manly Clarissa, but I had not courage enough at that time. . . . 
You have since written the manly Clarissa, without my prayer ; 
oh, you have done it, to the great joy and thanks of all your 
happy readers ! Now you can write no more, you must write 
the history of an Angel." * Wieland read and re-read Clarissa, 
contemplated writing some letters from Grandison to his pupil, 
and composed a drama called Clementina von Porretta. Lessing 
proclaimed Richardson the creator of middle-class literature, 
and drew from him the inspiration for his own plays. Imitations 
and panegyrics were alike innumerable. Futile were the pro- 
tests of a more dispassionate critic against what he called the 
furor anglicanus : he himself, when it came to the point, ranked 
Lovelace among the heroes, together with Alexander, Charles 
XII., Richelieu and Masaniello. 2 In vain did Musaeus write his 
Grandison II., a gentle satire on Richardson, wherein he ridi- 
culed the deluge of angelic creatures which had burst over his 
country like a water-spout. In vain did Wieland, after reading 
Fielding, renounce his blind admiration for Fielding's rival. 
In vain did the free-thinking party point in triumph to the 
robust author of Joseph Andrews as the superior of the pious 
and finikin eulogist of Pamela. The charm of Richardson's 
heroines proved the stronger. Numbers of travellers in 
England went to visit Hampstead and the Flask Walk, just 
as others at a later period made the pilgrimage to Clarens. 
One of them, in a transport of enthusiasm, kissed the great 
man's bench and inkstand. 3 

In the opinion of one of his worshippers, Richardson takes 
rank with the first of Greek poets. " This is that creative soul, 
who, through his deeply instructive works, renders us sensitive 
to the charm of virtue, and whose Grandison wrings from the 
heart of the vilest his first yearnings after righteousness. The 
works he has created shall not suffer from the ravages of time. 
They are very nature, true taste, and religion itself. More 

1 See Mrs Barbauld, vol. Hi., pp. 139-159. 

2 Knigge, Die Ver-wirrungen des Philosophen. 

3 Mrs Barbauld, vol. i., p. clxv. 


immortal than the immortality of Homer is the fame among 
Christians of the Englishman Richardson." 1 


Such, too, was the opinion, or rather the feeling of the 
French public, when once it had become acquainted with 
Clarissa Harlonue. 

The main thing to be observed here is that in comparison 
with English novels Gil Bias, La Vie de Marianne, and Cleveland 
appeared to the French equally insipid. Since then, Lesage, 
Marivaux and Prevost have been restored to their rightful 
place. In one has been seen the master of Fielding and 
Smollett, in another the predecessor of Richardson, while 
all have been recognized as emulators and rivals of the 
English novelists. But their contemporaries were far from 
placing them in the same rank and nothing affords a more 
striking proof of the progress of English influence. For 
anglomania had very soon ceased to be regarded as a passing 
fashion of no special significance : Richardson's success was 
European, and it is unreasonable to suppose that minds like 
those of Diderot, Rousseau, Goethe, Andre Chenier, and 
Mme. de Stael were merely the dupes of a feverish and 
absurd infatuation. And if these writers were unanimous 
in placing Clarissa and Grandison far above Gil Bias and the 
Paysan Parvenu, is not that a sign of a profound alteration 
in the public disposition ? Does it not also show that they 
found in the English novelist something which neither Lesage 

1 Gellert, Ueber Richardson's Bildniss : 

Dies ist der schopferische Geist, 
Der uns durch lehrende Gedichte 
Den Reiz der Tugend frihlen heisst, 
Der durch den Grandison selbst einem Bosewichte 
Den ersten Wunsch, auch fromm zu sein, entreisst. 
Die Werke, die er schuf, wird keine Zeit verwiisten, 
Sie sind Natur, Geschmack, Religion. 
Unsterblich ist Homer, unsterblicher bei Christen 
Der Britte Richardson. 


nor Prevost nor Crebillon fits had as yet given them ? To 
ask the reason for this contempt is to ask why Richardson, 
and Rousseau after him, met with such success in France. 

As concerns Lesage, readers were no longer satisfied either 
with the form of his novels, with the kind of characters he 
affected, or with the moral of his work. Not only did he 
follow Spanish models, from which opinion now turned 
with aversion, but he still held to the artificial form of 
the novel " in episodes," which renders the story a mere 
series of disconnected adventures, quite incompatible with 
the coherent analysis of a single character except perhaps 
in the case of the character of Gil Bias. Undoubtedly Lesage 
comes very near to being a great writer, as much in virtue 
of the perspicuity of his observation as of the charm of a 
supple and witty style. But at bottom he belongs distinctly 
to the " picaresque " school ; in other words, he is a writer of 
comedy. The contemporaries of Richardson and Rousseau 
refused to regard Gil Bias as anything else than a humorous 
novel. They thought with Joubert that the book must be 
the work of a man who plays dominoes and does his writing 
after leaving the theatre. Their eyes were closed to that 
description of middle-class life, and that painstaking study 
of a certain social atmosphere which we do not hesitate to 
admire. It was a witty work, they thought, but lacking 
any deep meaning. They would have been amazed at any 
attempt to extract a moral or a "conception of life" from 
such a tissue of roguery and double-dealing. The central 
character, who is by turns brigand, lackey, physician, and 
agent or secretary to a minister, is certainly an amusing 
creation, but is rather too much of an epitome to be quite 
true. Not only is there a superabundance of crude romance, 
robbers' caves, captive beauties, disguises, and unexpected 
encounters, but this world of thieves and sharpers is a very 
monotonous one. The souls here revealed if the characters 
have any are essentially those of profligates, brawlers, and 
petty rhymesters. The picture is a vulgar one, because it was 
drawn from vulgar models. 


Above all there is nothing bourgeois about it ; the world of 
Gil Bias is the demi-monde ; its heroes all have more or less of 
a gallows-bird air ; beneath their embroidered clothes and under 
the lace of their brilliant doublets a fragment of halter hangs 
round their necks. A world of adventurers and blacklegs, 
starveling barbers and medical assassins, unscrupulous priests 
and shameless parsons could this be the commonplace world of 
middle-class life, the world of mild virtues and moderate vices, 
of which after all the age was awaiting the representation ? I 
am afraid that the society frequented by Gil Bias is as remote 
from it as is the world of fashion inhabited by Marianne and 
Artamene. Between the heroic and the picaresque types of 
fiction, the average humanity to which I belong, and of which I 
seek the representation, still remained undiscovered, a humanity 
doubtless very different from the society described by Lesage, 
which is decidedly lower and more shameless than the generality 
of mankind. 

The best proof is that among those with whom Gil Bias 
associated love was unknown. The author even seems to take 
a mischievous delight in belittling love. One of his characters l 
calls it " a malady to which we are subject just as animals are to 
madness." Even when it is not positively grotesque, love, as 
here represented, has something laughable and ridiculous about 
it. It is derangement, or sickness, but not passion in the higher 
sense of the word. Lesage's women, when they are enamoured, 
are either adventuresses who love from interest, or women of 
the town who love with the senses only unless they happen to 
be princesses who love to distraction, and because that is the 
part they are cast for. Too often they are bourgeoises with a 
passion for barbers' assistants, such as Mergeline had for Diego. 
Love of this type never soars to any empyrean. As the lover 
who has been breathing a serenade beneath some grated window 
leaves his post, he finds himself capped at the next corner "with 
a perfuming pan which by no means gratifies his sense of smell." 
The madrigal ends in a burlesque adventure and the dawning 
romance in coarse satire. 

1 Book ii., ch. vii. 


Hence it follows that since Lesage only studied the lowest 
and most superficial of the feelings which go to make up human 
nature, and deliberately turned aside from those which are at 
once the noblest and most profound, the moral he conveys is 
merely trite and commonplace. In vain shall we seek beneath 
the stone the soul of Pedro Garcias, the licentiate : all we shall 
find is a bag of money. Such a moral is purely negative ; what it 
teaches is the art of buttoning up one's pockets and stowing away 
one's pocket-book. We close the last of these four volumes fully 
convinced that the world contains many different varieties of cut- 
purse. But seek the least information in reply to the hundred 
and one problems of every-day life and of man's inward experi- 
ence which hourly suggest themselves and you will find nothing 
but an arid waste of satire. It is impossible to be more completely 
detached from love, from family life, from the thought of death, 
than Lesage. In truth, fiction in this form is as yet nothing more 
than a means of gratifying the imagination, which likes to keep 
to the highway and deal with what it can find ; it is not in any 
degree a revelation of the soul ; its ambition is mean and un- 
aspiring. And this was what was felt by the contemporaries of 
Lesage. Desfontaines praised him for the "ingenuity" of his 
novels ; Voltaire, in the Siecle de Louis XV., coldly congratulated 
him on his "naturalness"; Marmontel, who classed him as a 
satirist, reproached him for his limited knowledge of the world. 
The majority, with much justice, praised the ease and purity of 
his style. 1 As Sainte-Beuve remarked, Lesage was but sparingly 
praised by the critics, even after he had been writing for a 
quarter of a century. How are we to account for this ? By the 
fact that he no longer satisfied the needs of the age. His work 
did not appear sufficiently serious. To the reader of English 
novels it seemed to be simply the dramatic work of Regnard 
divided up into chapters. 

To Prevost, opinion has been more indulgent. Of all the 
novelists of the eighteenth century his name has been most fre- 

1 See Sainte-Beuve's curious article, Jugements et temoignages sur Le Sage (Causeries> 
volume containing list of contents). Observe that Lesage had no literary influ- 
ence whatever. He had not a single disciple (Lintilhac, Lesage^ p. 189). 


quently associated with those of English writers not only be- 
cause he translated them, but because he was regarded as the 
only one worthy to be compared with them. To begin with, in 
contrast to Lesage, he is always serious, and even gloomy. His 
biographer praises him for having brought the terrors of tragedy 
within the scope of fiction. 1 The encomium was but too well 
merited. In the next place, he lacks artistic skill no bad re- 
commendation from the reader's point of view, in 175 or there- 
abouts. Lastly, he is as full of passion and feeling as could be 
desired. Many a reader must have been able to say with Jean- 
Jacques : " The reading of Cleveland's imaginary misfortunes 
had, I think, made me create more bad blood than have my own 
troubles." 2 

Prevost's art, on the other hand, except in Manon Lescaut, is 
inferior. He is unable either "to keep to his design, or to re- 
gulate his progress." 3 He accumulates episodes and incidents, 
in volume after volume, without ever creating a firm connection 
between the heterogeneous parts of his narrative by means of the 
unity of his characters. In short, he wrote too quickly ; to quote 
the words of a contemporary, he was " content with a rapid suc- 
cess, and never, either in good or evil fortune, had any other 
object than to be read with avidity, and by the multitude." 4 

What was worse, he was so simple as to acknowledge the fact. 
How can a man be taken seriously when he writes thus concern- 
ing his own works: "The Memoir es d'un homme de qualite and 
their sequel, Cleveland and the Doyen de Killerine are entirely useless 
for historical purposes ; their sole merit lies in the fact that they afford 
a suitable and amusing piece of reading." 5 This unpretentiousness 
disarms criticism, it is true, but admiration, forestalled by so in- 
genuous a confession, is weakened by it. For all his ability, 
Prevost has no ambition beyond that of being "interesting" and 
"pathetic": "he appears to have forgotten that the object of 
the novel is the reformation of conduct," 6 and at certain periods 

1 Essai sur la vie de Prevost, introductory to the (Euvres choisies. This point has 
been developed by M. Brunetiere in his study on Prevost. 

2 Confessions, i. 5. 3 La Harpe, Cours de litterature, vol. iii., p. 186. 
4 Marmontel, Essai sur les romans. 5 Pour et Centre, vol. vi., p. 353- 

6 Marmontel, ibid. 


it is an inexcusable fault to be simply a novelist and nothing 
more. The success of Richardson, as also of Rousseau, was 
due to the fact that both were moralists, educators, spiritual 
directors in the first place, and novelists only in the second. 
Prevost, excellent man, reforms nothing, not even the novel. 
Until he read Richardson, he still held the same conception of 
fiction as the author of Cassandre and Cleopatre capital books, 
he called them, and very much maligned. Let us be faithful, 
thought Prevost, to our father's love for gallantry and romance : 
" If we try to draw men as they are, we make their faults appear 
too attractive, . . . whereas in romantic fiction nothing is called 
virtue unless it deserves to be." 1 

But when he came to read Pamela and Clarissa he changed his 
mind, and, with equal frankness, placed English novels above the 
romances whose ascendancy they had destroyed. When trans- 
lating Clarissa Harlowe he wrote: "I begin by a confession 
which ought to do some credit to my honesty because it might 
do little honour to my discernment. Of all the imaginative 
works I have read, and my self-conceit does not lead me to 
except my own, none have given me greater pleasure than the 
one now submitted to the public." 2 Sheltering himself therefore 
in this manner behind the English, from that day forward he 
strove to walk in their footsteps. 3 In truth it would have been 
discourteous to protest, and the public was careful not to do so. 

Of all the French novelists of the eighteenth century, Mari- 
vaux is the one who bears most resemblance to the English ; he 
has the best claim to be regarded as their predecessor, if not 
their master. 

He was the introducer of a simpler form in fiction, one less 
loaded with worn-out ornaments. He discarded the low adven- 
tures in which Lesage delighted, and the easy style of romance 
which Prevost handled with such success. He deliberately set 
himself to depict the soul of average humanity in his own day, 

1 Memoir es d'un homme de qualite, vol. i., p. 406. 

2 Preface to the French version of Clarissa. 

3 Compare with Clarissa the Memoires pour servir a I'histoire de la vertu, in Prevost's 


" the heart, not of the puppet of an author's fancy, but of a man 
and a Frenchman, one who has actually existed in our own 
times." 1 He aimed at being the Chardin of lower middle-class 
life. Now that he has received so much and such warm com- 
mendation, it is needless to show that, before ever Fielding 
or Richardson did so, Marivaux contrived to enrich the art of 
fiction with those imperceptible touches which resemble the 
strokes of a miniature painter ; that like them he is tedious and 
prolix ; that, like them, he reduces action to a minimum and puts 
"the metaphysics of the heart" in the foreground; 2 that he 
preaches and moralizes as they do, and that he is sensitive and 
even sensual as they are. Like them, above all, he has the true 
realist's consciousness of the complexity of his models, and his 
anxiety to reveal them in all the richness and variability of their 
nature. " No one," as he says, " can present people altogether 
as they are," 3 and "the human soul has many more modes of 
behaviour than we have words wherewith to describe them." 4 
This almost morbid desire to be true and to be modern renders 
Marivaux unique in his generation. 

In spite of these conspicuous merits, Marivaux's greatness as a 
novelist has only become apparent in our own day. What stood 
in his way at first was his idleness. Who could feel any interest 
in novels which were never completed by their author, which 
were in a manner interwoven one with another, and of which the 
chapters led to no issue and took, as in the case of La Vie 
de Marianne, ten whole years to appear ? 6 Pamela was already 

1 Vie de Marianne, 8th part. 

2 The similarity was detected by his contemporaries: "If any of our writers 
could be suspected of understanding them, we should be tempted to believe that 
it is from them [the English] that they have learnt to use the most extraordinary 
words as ordinary expressions, to be extremely subtle in dealing with the feelings 
of the heart, to attribute imperceptible differences to all its impulses, and to com- 
pose from all this a jargon almost as metaphysical and quite as incomprehensible 
as that of the schools." (Du Resnel, Les principes de la morale et du gout, 1737, 
p. xxiii.) 

3 Marianne, 4th part. 

4 Paysan parvenu, 5th part. Cf, in the 3rd part of the same novel : " Can any- 
one describe all his feelings ? Those who think they can are devoid of feeling, 
and apparently only see half of what there is to be seen." 


translated before Marianne was completed. May it not have 
been the dazzling success of the English novel that discouraged 
Marivaux from finishing his own ? 

Again, Marivaux, charming writer as he is, makes what is a 
serious error for a painter of every-day life; he writes too well, 
and never loses his self-consciousness. His subtle mind is for 
ever mocking at itself, and that such a master of delightful 
chatter should have aimed at being the artist of the masses is 
simply paradoxical. He lacks both the robust coarseness of 
Fielding and the fearless prolixity of Richardson. How could 
he paint a picture of contemporary manners with the bold strokes 
of a vigorous brush, when he could also indulge in affectation 
of this sort : " I must have a little leisure in order to come 
to an understanding with my heart ; I find it disputatious, 
and to-day I shall try to break it in to hard work." 1 No 
wonder Desfontaines wrote : " What a tissue of insipidity and 
emptiness is La Vie de Marianne \ " 2 La Harpe : " Everything 
is portrayed with a sincerity of language which is intended to 
appear simple, but only betrays artifice"; 3 Marmontel : "He 
scarcely ever allows himself a chance to use a vigorous, 
masculine touch ; he is the Girardon of fiction " ; 4 and BufFon, 
in regard to Marianne-. "The small-minded, and those who 
are fond of affectation, will admire both thought and style." 6 
That is exactly the verdict of the age, and it is well to 
recall it. Because his work was too highly finished, too 
polished in form, because he had too much wit for a period 
that would have nothing but genius, Marivaux did not acquire 
a reputation at all equal to his merits. Richardson was admired 
by his contemporaries because he wrote badly. Where Marivaux 
failed was in not writing worse. 

Lastly, for the very reasons that he wrote too well and that 
his perceptions were too subtle, his pictures, which were merely 
true, appeared trivial. The contrast between the choice of 

1 Paysan parvenu ^ part i. 

2 Translation of Joseph Andrews, vol. ii., p. 326. 

3 Cours de litterature, vol. iii., p. 186. 

4 Essai sur les romans. 5 Letter to President Bouhier, 8th February 1739. 


models and the method of treatment caused offence. What 
he gives us is a very nice imitation of a vulgar reality. To 
quote a highly appropriate metaphor of Sainte-Beuve's, he 
paints masquers and grotesque figures on porcelain ; hence a 
certain annoying effect not unlike that of glazing, which " makes 
everything glitter as we read." l This also explains why con- 
temporary writers bitterly reproached him for the very quality 
which they praised in English novelists the audacity of some of 
his descriptions. 2 It seems strange to find the future translator 
of Pamela blaming Marivaux for the scene with the coachman 
which we admire so much to-day, or condemning the descrip- 
tion of Mme. Dufour's shop as "unworthy of a well-bred man, 
and most disgusting in a printed book." 3 A few years, and " dis- 
gusting " features were to be the making of Richardson's repu- 
tation. English writers would have had to supply very much 
bolder and more uncompromising models before Frenchmen 
could endure the realism of Marivaux without being shocked. 4 

For all these reasons, Marivaux was not, in his own day, 
estimated at his true worth as a novelist. His place, Sainte- 
Beuve has justly said, was at that time merely beside and a 
little above Crebillon fls. 

England and Germany treated him with greater justice. "Of 
all French authors," wrote Diderot, " M. de Marivaux is the one 
whom the English like the best," 5 and Gray declared that he 
desired no other paradise than to read the novels of Marivaux 
and Crebillon j/j- for ever and ever. 6 Foreigners appreciated his 
concern for the moral, his application of a subtle analysis to 
cases of conscience, his respect for honesty and his affectation of 
sensibility. In translation, Marivaux loses some of his preciosity, 

1 Cauteries, vol. ix., p. 358. 2 G. Larroumet, Marivaux, p. 334. 

3 Pour et Contre, vol. ii., p. 346. 

4 It is amusing to find that the first English novels were considered vulgar in 
comparison with Spanish fiction of the picaresque school: "The characters of 
people of humble station in England," said Desfontaines, " are not interesting, 
but the strapping girls, the muleteers, the shepherds and the goatherds of 
Spain are delightful." (Observations sur les ecrits moJernes, vol. xxxiii., p. 313.) 

5 Lettre sur les aveugles, ed. Tourneux, vol. i., p. 301. 

6 Gray's Works, ed. Gosse, vol. ii., p. 107. 


his form is less prejudicial to the real soundness of his matter ; so 
that there has been found an English reader who could pronounce 
Marianne, in an English version, the finest novel in the world. 1 

Must we go a step further ? Are we to reckon Richardson 
as one of those who read him and derived inspiration from him, 
and did Marianne suggest Pamela ? Such was the general opinion 
in the eighteenth century. Diderot maintains it, 2 and Mme. Du 
Boccage wrote from England in I75 O: "When dining with 
people of literary taste, we did not fail to praise the clever 
authors of Tom Jones and Clarissa. I was asked for news of the 
creator of Marianne and the Pays an parvenu, 'which has possibly 
been the model for these neiv stories." 3 On the appearance of 
Clarissa, English journals compared the author to Marivaux. 4 

In spite of this tradition generally adopted by critics 5 it 
seems to me doubtful whether Richardson imitated the author of 
Marianne. It is not certain that Marivaux's novel had been 
translated into English when he wrote Pamela, and it is well 
known that Richardson was absolutely ignorant of French. So 
far, therefore, as this argument is concerned, the supposed 
influence of Marianne upon Pamela is, to say the least, doubtful. 6 
May not Richardson, nevertheless, have had Marianne in mind 
when he wrote Clarissa ? But in his Postscriptum he quotes and 
appears to endorse the verdict of a French critic, who declares 
that " Marivaux's novels are absolutely improbable." This 

1 Macaulay's opinion. 

2 " Pamela, Clarissa and Grandison were inspired by the novels of M. de Mari- 
vaux." (Rough draft of a preface, ed. Tourneux, vol. v., p. 434.) 

3 Larroumet, p. 348. 

4 Gentleman's Magazine (June. 1749^ vol. xix., p. 245). Observe, however, that 
the article is a translation from the French. 

5 M. Larroumet writes : " It is evident that Richardson took both the idea and 
the principal character of Pamela from Marianne" 

6 From M. Jusserand I hear of The Life of Marianne, or the adventures of the 
Countess of . . . , by M. de Marivaux, translated from the French, the second 
edition revised and corrected, London, Charles Davis^ 1743, izmo, vol. ii. The 
edition to which this volume belongs is therefore a reprint. What is the date of 
the first edition? If Richardson made use of the work, it must have been 1738 
or 1739. There is also another and much later English version: The Virtuous 
Orphan, or the Life of Marianne, Countess of . . ., London, 1784, 4 vols. 8vo. No 
mention is made of the above-mentioned edition. 


consideration is of great importance. Throughout his copious 
correspondence the English novelist makes no mention of his 
supposed model. Moreover, Clarissa has practically nothing in 
common with Marianne, nor has Pamela, whatever may be said 
to the contrary. Reperuse the two books as we will, we detect 
nothing but disparity ; Marianne, the accomplished and sprightly 
coquette, is totally different from the humble and simple 
Pamela ; the story of one bears scarcely the least resemblance 
to that of the other ; and lastly, Richardson, as we need hardly 
repeat, is just as careless with regard to art as Marivaux is over- 
careful. It appears, therefore, that the debt of one towards the 
other, if it exists at all, is insignificant. 1 In the history of 
European literature Marivaux anticipated Richardson, but it 
does not appear that we can regard him as his master. 2 

However this may be, native fiction in France was quite 
eclipsed by the splendour of the art supposed to be imitated 
from it : " If it is true," said Grimm, " that Marivaux's novels 
have served Richardson and Fielding as models, it may be said 
that for the first time a poor original has given rise to admirable 
copies." The fame of the " master " never equalled that of the 
disciple, and, if Richardson was to find rivals and competitors 
in France, the author of Marianne was not among them. 


While the fame of Lesage and Marivaux was increasing in 
England, English fiction was, as La Harpe says, " being trans- 
planted to French soil, and naturalised " ; and if his biographer 
is to be believed, Richardson's novels did more in France for the 
reputation of their translator than they had done in England for 

1 We possess a very detailed knowledge of the circumstances which inspired 
Richardson to write Pamela. He owes the story to one of his friends, as he 
himself tells us. (Cf. Mrs Barbauld, Life and Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, 
vol. i. p. 52.) The origin of the novel contains no trace of literary imitation. 

2 M. J. Jusserand (Les grandes ecoles du roman anglais, p. 49) is of the same 
opinion. I have consulted him on the present occasion, and he maintains his 
conclusions : Marivaux, current opinion notwithstanding, is not the teacher of 


that of their author." 1 This, though a palpable exaggeration, is 
not so monstrous as one might suppose. The eighteenth century 
was just as grateful to Prevost for his adaptations of Clarissa and 
Grandison as for his own novels, Cleveland and Manon, and he him- 
self frequently spoke with pride of what he regarded as an im- 
portant part of his work. Seldom indeed has a more eminent 
translator devoted himself to spreading the fame of a more 
illustrious model. Even during the last century it was remarked 2 
that "for the greatest master of pathos among English novelists 
it was a piece of rare good fortune to find such a translator as 
the author of Cleveland." No one, in fact, was better qualified 
for such an undertaking as this than the man who alike in his 
novels and in his journal had acted as the earnest and persistent 
eulogist of the English genius. 

The translation of Pamela appeared in 1741 and 1742. En- 
grossed just then with other occupations, Prevost seems to have 
employed the services of a collaborator. 3 It is, further, cer- 
tain that on this occasion he entered into communication with 
Richardson, who sent him a number of additions and corrections, 
and furnished him with previously unpublished portraits of some 
of the characters for insertion in the French edition. 4 

Clarissa Harlowe, published in 1748, was translated in 1751, 
just at the time when Prevost became friendly with Rousseau. 5 
Prevost's version was incomplete, and thereby gave offence to 
Richardson. Ten years later Diderot also complained of it in 
his celebrated JElogef and at the same time the Journal etranger 

1 (Eu-vres choisies, vol. i., p. 24. 2 Marmontel, Essai sur les romans. 

3 Aubert de la Chesnaye-Desbois, a most prolific writer on a great variety of 
subjects, and author more especially of Lettres amusantes et critiques sur les romans 
(1743), where English fiction is dealt with at considerable length. (See Biographic 
generals, and Haureau, Histoire litter air e du Maine, 1870, vol. i., p. 114.) 

4 See Prevost's preface. Pamela, ou la vertu recomfensee, translated from the 
English, London, 1742, 4 parts, I2mo; frequently reprinted. 

5 Lettres anglaises ou Histoire de Clarisse Harloive, translated from the English, 
Paris, 1751, 4 vols. izmo. (The Nouvelles litteraires announce the appearance of 
the first part in January 1751.) 

6 Mrs. Barbauld, vol. vi., p. 244: "This gentleman has thought fit to omit 
some of the most afflicting parts. . . . He treats the story as a true one, and says, 
in one place, that the English editor has often sacrificed his story to moral instruc- 
tions, warnings, &c. the very motive with me of the story being written at all." 



published a translation, by Suard, of the account of Clarissa's 
funeral, the principal portion omitted, for the benefit of readers 
whose hearts were not " too weak to endure a succession of deep 
and powerful emotions." 1 This translation, with a few other 
fragments, found a place in subsequent editions. 

At a later period the worshippers of the English novelist were 
no longer satisfied with Prevost's " elegant " but by no means 
faithful translation ; and a more complete version of the master- 
piece was issued by Letourneur. 2 

Finally, in 1754, a PP eare d Prevost's version of Grandison? 
which was followed by a more complete and more painstaking 
translation, published in Germany. 4 The author was a Protestant 
minister, Gaspard Joel Monod, and, according to Prevost, his 
translation is "one of the most extraordinary monuments ever * 
issued from the press." 

While Monod's is a clumsy and literal version, Prevost's is by 
no means open to the same reproach. The very method of 
translation adopted by Prevost is in itself a mine of evidence 
concerning French taste in the eighteenth century. 

" The taste of Prevost," says his biographer, " was so 

1 Journal etranger (March 1762). See Supplement aux lettres de Miss Clarisse Harlotve, 
translated from the English, with a panegyric on the author. 

2 Clarisse Harlovue, new and only complete translation, by M. Letourneur. . . . 
Dedicated to Monsieur, the king's brother, Geneva and Paris, 1785-87, 10 vols. 
8vo, or 14 vols. i8mo, illustrated by Chodowiecki. Clarissa was once more trans- 
lated, by Barre (1845-46, 2 vols. 8vo), and abridged by J. Janin (1846, 2 vols. 
I2mo). The chevalier de Champigny published two vols. of Lettres anglaises at 
St Petersburg and Frankfort, in 1774, as a sequel to Clarissa. 

8 Nouvelles lettres anglaises ou histoire du chevalier Grandisson, by the author of Pamela 
and Clarissa, Amsterdam, 8 parts in 4 vols. i2mo. The original edition of this 
translation bears the date of 1755 on vols. i., ii., and the first part of vol. iii. : 
the second half of vol. iii., and vol. iv., are dated 1756. This second part of the 
novel does not appear to have been on sale before 1758, for at that date Grimm 
and Freron speak of it as a new work. See H. Harrisse, L 1 abbe Prevost, p. 379. 
As Prevost translated Grandison in 1753, M. Harrisse concludes that he translated 
either from one of the spurious versions which were in circulation so early as 
1753, or from a manuscript copy supplied by Richardson himself. 

4 Histoire de sir Charles Grandisson, a complete version of the original English 
edition, Gottingen and Leyden, 1756, 7 vols. i2mo. (With regard to this transla- 
tion, see Correspondance litleraire, August 1748; and upon the author, Senebier, 
Histoire litteraire de Geneve, vol. iii., p. 251). 


unerring as to make it impossible for him to confine him- 
self to merely translating his original." He himself loudly 
maintained " the supreme right of every author who employs 
his mother-tongue for the purpose of giving pleasure," 1 
and in virtue of this right made many alterations and suppres- 
sions. The reasons he assigns are most curious. "I have 
no fear," he says, " that I shall be accused of treating my 
author with severity. Now that English literature has been 
known in France for twenty years," Prevost writes in 1751, 
" readers are aware that it often requires these little emenda- 
tions before it can become naturalized." Still, he does consider 
himself bound to retain the "national colouring" of manners 
and customs, for the rights of a translator do not include that 
of " transforming the substance of a book," and besides, " a 
foreign air is no bad recommendation in France." But there 
was nothing absolute, it seems, even in this principle, since 
elsewhere he prides himself on having reduced to the common 
practice of Europe everything in English customs which might 
give offence to French taste. 2 

Since Prevost's translations form an integral part of the 
history of the French novel, and since it was through them 
that Rousseau became acquainted with Richardson, it is im- 
portant also to observe that mistaken renderings are by no means 
infrequent ; that there are traces of haste and carelessness ; that a 
great number of letters are curtailed or blended together, and that 
some are simply analysed, while others are entirely suppressed. 
In certain cases these suppressions are due to the translator's 
delicacy : they are sacrifices " to the taste of the French 
nation." In others they arise from scruples of one kind or 
another : the letters of Leman the servant, with their colloquial 
expressions, disappear as being " too low " ; the same fate 

1 Preface to Clarisse. 

2 Preface to Grandhon : " I have suppressed or reduced to the common practice 
of Europe whatever in English customs might give offence to other nations. It 
has seemed to me that these remnants of the rude manners of ancient Britain, to 
which nothing but familiarity can still keep the English blind, would bring dis- 
credit upon a book in which good-breeding ought to go hand in hand with 
nobility and virtue." 


befalls several "indecent" passages; and the story of the 
sham licence granted to Lovelace by the Bishop of London is 
omitted as irreverent. On other occasions it is the realism 
of certain details which disturbs Prevost : the incarceration 
of Clarissa is a " very long and very English " episode ; the 
anguish of her death would not be tolerated in its entirety, 
and her posthumous letters do not appear in the translation. 
Some of Lovelace's forgeries seem really too " revolting " to 
be transcribed ; and if after all the translator decides to include 
them, it is "in order to prove that the work is founded on 
reality." The same squeamishness caused the omission of 
the death-scene of the libertine Belton, in Clarissa, and also of 
the descriptions of Sinclair's death and of Clarissa's funeral. In 
Grandison, Prevost went so far as to alter the denouement. 1 

Thus the contemporaries of Diderot and Rousseau did not 
read Richardson " in the crude state," but Richardson refined by 
Prevost, relieved of a certain amount of dross and reduced by 
almost a third. But the English novelist suffered less from these 
changes than might be supposed. In reality he is destitute of 
style ; and even writes incorrectly. His whole merit lies in his 
wealth of moral observation and his mastery of pathos. And in 
the " charming infidelities " of Prevost there remained enough 
of observation to prevent the French taste from finding any very 
great cause of offence in this overwhelming mass of analysis. In 
the more passionate scenes what is essential has been left intact : 
the author of Cleveland was not likely to clip the wings of the 
author of Clarissa in such passages as these. "Where Prevost has 
been false to his author is in giving us less moralizing, less 
of trivial detail, and a more ornate and elegant form. And in 
compensation for this infidelity he has left the pathos of the 
work and the distinctness of the characters unimpaired. In 
spite of Prevost's pruning, Richardson's work seemed very 
fresh to French readers. 

1 Cf. the edition of 1784, vol. iv., p. 401. 

Chapter IV 


I. Defects of Richardson's novels Reasons for their success Wherein they are 
opposed to classical art. 

II. Wherein the realism of the author of Clarissa Harlotve consists His lack of 
distinction His brutality His power. 

III. Richardson a delineator of character He is an inferior painter of the manners 
of good society, and an excellent painter of middle-class manners : Lovelace, 
Pamela, Clarissa. 

IV. His moral ideas ; his preaching Taste for casuistry and the discussion of 
moral problems. 

V. His sensibility The place of love in his works Emotional gifts. 
VI. Magnitude of the revolution effected by Richardson in the art of fiction. 

TO-DAY the works of Richardson are entirely forgotten. Of 
these once famous novels the public no longer knows anything 
beyond the titles. Even the critics scarcely pay any attention to 
the man who was considered the greatest of all English writers 
in point of pathos, 1 and if Tom Jones, the Vicar ofWakefield and 
Robinson Crusoe are still read, Clarissa Har/oive is read no more 
than Clelie or Le Grand Cyrus. This neglect may be explained, 
but it cannot be justified. Richardson's work must always be 
of the highest importance in the history of fiction, by reason of 
the magnitude of the revolution he effected. 

His very faults even, obvious as they are, stamp him with 

We can imagine the shock it would give, not Voltaire or 

1 No satisfactory monograph on Richardson exists. The principal source of 
information concerning him is Mrs Barbauld's collection : Life and Correspondence 
of Samuel Richardson, 1806, 6 vols. 8vo. The best study of his work as a whole is 
that by Mr Leslie Stephen, in his Hours in a Library. Sir Walter Scott's study 
should also be consulted. 



Marivaux only, but also Addison and Pope, when, on opening 
Pamela, they found such compliments as this : A suitor, putting 
his hands on a young lady's shoulders, says to her, playfully : 
" Let me see, let me see, . . . where do your wings grow ? 
for I never saw anybody fly like you." So happy does this 
touch appear to the author that he employs it again in another 
of his novels, where Lovelace, speaking of Clarissa, says : 
" Surely, Belford, this is an angel. And yet, had she not 
been known to be a female, they would not from babyhood 
have dressed her as such, nor would she, but upon that 
conviction, have continued the dress." 1 So much for the 
language of gallantry. When the characters talk naturally 
they speak in the following manner : " Tost to and fro by 
the high winds of passionate controul (and, as I think, un- 
seasonable severity), I behold the desired port, the single state, 
into which I would fain steer ; but am kept off by the foaming 
billows of a brother's and sister's envy, and by the raging winds 
of a supposed invaded authority ; while I see in Lovelace, the 
rocks on the one hand, and in Solmes, the sands on the other ; 
and tremble lest I should split upon the former, or strike upon 
the latter." 2 Such is the language of that affected little pro- 
vincial, the immortal Clarissa. 

But affectation goes hand and hand with coarseness. A cer- 
tain Lady Davers intended as a portrait of a lady of quality 
has an inexhaustible flow of fishwife's pleasantries, and such ex- 
pressions as " wench," " chastity," " insolent creature," fall thick 
as hail on poor Pamela's head. On another occasion, a gentleman, 
speaking to a young lady, delicately alludes to his intention of 
perpetuating with her at once his happiness and his race. 

Not only is the author both vulgar and affected, but he is a 
pedant as well. When Clarissa is dying, Lovelace exclaims : 
" She is very ill ! " and adds sententiously : " What a fine sub- 
ject for tragedy would the injuries of this lady and her behaviour 
under them . . . make." 3 Then follow ten or twelve pages in 

1 The novels of Samuel Richardson (BallantynJs Novelists' Library), vol. ii., p. 197. 

* Ibid., vol. i., p. 669. 

3 Vol. ii., p. 565. Observe the curious footnote. 


which the author sketches the plot of this tragedy, and favours 
the reader with his reflections on the state of the drama, and on 
the causes of its decadence a digression which refreshes our 
interest, nevertheless. 

When he intends to be impressive, he is bombastic. Lovelace, 
in a passion, threatens Clarissa, and she exclaims, " For your 
own sake, leave me ! My soul is above thee, man ! . . . Urge 
me not to tell thee, how sincerely I think my soul above thee." l 
This pathetic passage if they read it must have delighted the 
readers of La Vie de Marianne, but the translators were careful to 
tone down everything of this sort. 

The romantic element is commonplace to the last degree, or 
else it is the lowest of low comedy. On one occasion Lovelace, 
in a frightful dream, foresees his own destiny ; he beholds 
Clarissa ascending to heaven amid a chorus of angels, and himself 
falling into a bottomless abyss. On another, in the very crisis of 
his sufferings, he occupies himself with selling gloves and soap- 
balls in order to pass the time, installing himself behind a counter 
and for no reason perceptible to the reader mystifying the 
passers by. 

But assuming that the French reader has become used to 
Richardson's peculiarities of form, his want of taste, his coarseness, 
his pedantry and affectation, how, if he has studied good novels, 
can he tolerate the perpetual intrusion of the author's personality, 
that preaching / which buttonholes you on every page and shouts 
into your ears: "Whatever you do, mark the moral of this 
tale ! " The mere title of one of his novels takes up a whole 
page so that we may be in no doubt as to its object : " Pamela, 
or virtue rewarded, in a series of Familiar Letters from a Beauti- 
ful Young Damsel to her Parents. Now first published in order 
to cultivate the principles of virtue and religion in the minds of 
the youth of both sexes. A narrative which has its foundation 
in truth and nature ; 2 and at the same time that it agreeably 

1 Vol. i., p. 200. 

2 A friend of Richardson's had told him the story of a servant-girl whom her 
master had attempted to seduce, but whose innocence had so touched him that 
he had married her. (Cf. Walter Scott, Lives of the Novelists, vol. ii., p. 30.) 


entertains, by a variety of curious and affecting incidents is en- 
tirely divested of all those images, which, in too many pieces 
calculated for amusement only, tend to inflame the minds they 
should instruct." But not to dwell longer upon the title, which 
is a programme in itself, let us resign ourselves to a rapid perusal 
of this singular book. Just as we are beginning to get an idea of 
the characters, to take an interest in the progress of events, the 
author assails us with the following reflection: "The whole [of 
this history] will show the base acts of designing men to gain 
their wicked ends, and how much it behoves the fair sex to stand 
upon their guard against artful contrivances, especially when 
riches and power conspire against innocence and a low estate." l 
A strange novel, forsooth, is this sermon ! 

Not only is the moralizing cumbersome, but the narrative 
is simply crowded with matter. Richardson gives us not so 
much novels by means of letters, as letters developed and spun 
out into the form of novels. In Clarissa eight volumes are 
devoted to a story which extends over less than twelve months 
from January loth to December 8th of the same year. We feel 
as we read these substantial volumes that life is spent in writing 
letters. In the light of this constant interchange of notes and 
epistles, it seems to take the appearance of a vast game of chess, 
in which the players are for ever seated before a writing-desk, 
thinking out to-morrow's move. An incredible and truly 
paradoxical abuse of the inkstand ! Miss Byron, in Grandison, 
writes, on March 22nd, a letter which occupies fourteen pages of 
a closely-printed edition. On the same day she writes two 
others, one ten, the other twelve pages long ; on the 23rd, two 
others of eighteen and ten pages ; and on the 24th, two which 
together fill thirty pages. She remarks at last that she must 
lay down her pen, but allows herself nevertheless a postscript of 
six pages. Thus in three days she writes nearly one hundred 
and fifty pages of an ordinary-sized volume. And all the 
characters are alike. Not a moment but two or three couriers 
are on the road. Nor is this all : this world of scribblers makes 
it a practice to preserve a duplicate of the most trifling note. 

1 Ballantyne, vol. vi., p. 52. 


Clarissa dockets all her missives, and, as she herself acknow- 
ledges, collects documents for the use of her future biographer. 
On her deathbed she writes a long will, besides eleven letters 
for various people, and copies of those letters as well. " No 
wonder," says her executor, " that she was always writing." 
But how did she find the time to live ? 

This is the documentary novel with a vengeance. Everything 
is in the form of a report or a draft of minutes. Every letter is 
a memorandum, containing references, errata, corrigenda, and 
addenda. On every page we find resumes of previous resumes, 
and analyses of analyses. Some of these letters are of the nature 
of an official statement ; reasons are classified, numbered, docketed, 
and have their preambles and their vouchers. Everything is 
described, nothing omitted : a word, a frown, the position of a 
chair everything is set down. The author is a shorthand- 
reporter of the most diffuse and scrupulous type. In fact, in 
the most important scenes, a corner is found for a clerk, who 
writes from dictation. When Pollexfen resolves to fight 
Grandison and has it out with him, he takes care to have a 
" writer " in a recess, who is instructed to note down every little 
word. Grandison's declarations of love, even, are duly formu- 
lated and initialled. When Clementina is reconciled to her 
family, Grandison draws up an agreement in six clauses which 
gives rise to an elaborate interchange of comments. 1 It is the 
triumph of the scribbling habit : everything possible is said, and 
everything that is said is put on paper ; one after the other the 
characters make their appearance, each with his or her missive, 
and resembling, to use Victor Hugo's amusing simile, the foreign 
actors who, unable to appear except in succession, and not being 
permitted to speak upon the boards, come forward one after 
another, each bearing above his head a great placard whereon the 
public may read the part he has to play. 2 

How remote are these heavy, formal novels from the light and 
airy little books of the earlier part of the century, such as the 
Lettres persanes or Manon \ What a difference there is between 

1 See Prevost's translation, vol. iv., pp. 208 and 236. 

2 Literature et philosophic melees .- on Walter Scott. 


Grandison and Cleveland even ! Those who regard Richardson 
as a feeble imitator of Marivaux have never read Richardson. 
With his pedantry and affectation the printer makes one think 
involuntarily of Walpole's neat description of the Baron de 
Gleichen as bewildering himself with definitions of things which 
do not need defining, and drowning himself in a spoonful of 
water from sheer determination to get to the bottom. Richardson 
drowns himself in an ocean of documentary evidence. 1 

When taken to task for his prolixity, he replied that it was 
merely his novel method of writing ; of substituting for the 
picture of events taken from a distance a patient, minute, and 
laborious narrative which records the progress of events from 
day to day, from hour to hour, and almost from minute to 
minute. It would seem indeed that such records must be 
improbable ; that, further, when a writer makes use of so 
monotonous a form he limits himself to the portrayal of one 
kind of heroes only, those who have leisure and are also given 
to contemplation, who have the time and the inclination to keep 
a journal of their lives ; lastly, that it must weaken the effect to 
give two or three successive versions of the same fact. But all 
these objections, in Richardson's view, could not outweigh the 
necessity of representing life in its infinite complexity. Most 
novels, he said, are highly improbable, because they simplify 
and abbreviate everything. They only give us one aspect of 
things. I mean to show you their whole reality. I shall be 
long, and certainly tedious. But I do not write to divert you ; 
I merely desire to instruct you. Are you fond of watching the 
drama of a human life ? If so you will like my books. 2 


Richardson's art, in fact, is as different as possible from the 
classical art of France. 

But here it is important to know what we mean. Richard- 

1 And even then he sacrificed half of each of his MSS. (W. Scott, ibid., vol. ii., 

P- 74-) 

2 See the Postscriptum to Clarissa, a regular declaration of literary faith. 


son's novels, besides being improbable in form, are often also 
romantic in point of matter. While it may be said that he 
" keeps close to life " in his selection of characters and in his 
lavish and indeed extravagant use of trifling details, he cannot 
be said to keep equally near to it, if his plot alone be considered. 
It is doubtless true that events which might happen in the 
eighteenth century have in many cases become impossible at the 
present day : we may admit that in eighteenth-century England 
so audacious a fellow as Lovelace might have kidnapped a girl 
of such moral courage as Clarissa ; that he might have kept 
her in confinement for whole months together, have intro- 
duced her to his family, have imprisoned her without rous- 
ing her suspicions in a house of ill-fame, have violated 
her during sleep, and finally have brought about her death 
by privation and suffering. All this, though extraordinary 
enough, is not impossible. But what is not, and never can be, 
admissible is the means employed by the author to render such 
an intrigue probable ; the interception of letters, the forgery or 
imitation of messages, the transcription of bundles of letters in a 
single night, the compliance of courtesans who play the great 
lady when required, and of the keeper of a disorderly house in 
passing for a lady of noble birth, the versatility of servants in 
being made up to represent gentlemen of rank and consequence 
of Joseph Leman and Donald Patrick, who play every variety 
of part their compliance in lending themselves to every whim, 
the feats of Lovelace in overhearing conversations and noting 
them down upon his tablets, the simplicity of Clarissa in never 
for a moment conceiving the idea of putting herself under the 
protection of a magistrate. What manifestly exceeds possibility 
is all this paraphernalia of tricks, machinations and stratagems, 
this perfect arsenal of snares, pitfalls, places of confinement, and 
traps, which are of the very essence of the novel of adventure. 
We must resign ourselves to finding these remnants of 
the old novel of cape and sword in the work of the founder 
of modern fiction. This defect, it is true, gave less offence 
to eighteenth century readers, accustomed as they were to 
find accurate observation enshrined in a purely imaginary 


setting, 1 and moreover still full of their reading of seventeenth 
century novelists and of Prevost. The contrast between the 
author's avowed intention of painting contemporary life and his 
manifest incapacity to combine his picture with a simple and 
probable intrigue, is none the less striking. Richardson, the 
painter of middle-class life, like Rousseau in the Nouvelle 
Heldise, remains faithful, in this respect, to the old conception 
of this branch of literature. And this perhaps, as in the case of 
Rousseau, was not the least among the causes of his success. 

This reservation being made, we find in Richardson an art 
which is absolutely new. 

It is a minute, a patient, a laborious art ; what he gives us is 
a mosaic of delicate impressions, not one of them worth report- 
ing in itself, but which, accumulated, produce the effect of life. 
Nothing could be less French, nothing less classic. The French 
like to find art in the smallest things , they like every phrase to 
be well-balanced, and also every thought, however ordinary, to 
be clothed in the choicest language. Now this polished art to 
which the masters attain the precision of idea and expression 
which indicates that the thinking capacity is well regulated and 
under complete control ; the perfect adjustment of thought and 
language ; the maintenance of perfect symmetry between the 
clauses of a sentence, the paragraphs of a chapter, the parts of 
a book ; the anxiety to avoid repetition, or, in so far as it is un- 
avoidable, to relieve it with a touch of satire or of pathos ; the 
sense which requires that effects shall be graduated and interest 
guided in the same manner as one would conduct an intrigue in 
real life, by making the most of surprises, guarding against in- 
convenient questions, and gradually supplying curiosity with 
nourishment, in a definite and skilfully ordered sequence, so that 
it progresses from situation to situation and from one gratifica- 
tion to another, to all this Richardson is a complete stranger. 
He is destitute of art, or, if he has any, it is nature's own. His 
usual, or rather his only, method is one of repetition or accumu- 
lation : that of the single drop which slowly and surely wears a 
hole in the rock whereon it drips. Of the arts of transition, 

1 The Ldtres per s ones, and, later, the novels of Voltaire, Candide or Zadig. 


composition, and adjustment of parts he knows nothing. He 
has not the slightest fear of wearying the reader, but there is 
a rare audacity in his art of wearing out the attention. Twenty 
times, a hundred times, you lay the book aside in vexation, and 
twenty or a hundred times you take it up again. For, long and 
heavy as the story may be, the writer has passion, and the 
picture obtained by the painter from a sorry and vulgar model 
glows with colour and with life. Nothing is more beautiful 
than a pot or a kettle if only it be painted by Chardin. So, 
also, it is true that nothing is so vulgar as the Harlowe circle, 
and nothing so pretentious as the writer who tells us of it : no 
one is more completely representative of what (in the almost un- 
translatable words of an English critic) may be called our common 
English clumsiness. 1 But, awkward and embarrassed as is his 
utterance, this man has nevertheless the gift of deep emotion 
before the spectacle of life. He was born with the necessity 
for observing the world, and for giving expression to what he 
sees with all the accuracy of which he is capable. He could 
not, in fact, have written eight volumes on the history of a group 
of squalid and cross-grained bourgeois, had it not inspired him 
with some deep emotion. 

And we, if we divest ourselves of such refinement, such 
delicacy, and such love of the graceful and the elegant as may 
have been instilled into us by two or three centuries of classical 
culture, shall feel it too. " Imagination," said Voltaire, " can 
fulfil its office only when supplemented by profound judgment : 
it is for ever combining its own pictures, correcting its mistakes, 
erecting all its edifices in due order. ... It is by his imagination 
that the poet creates his personages, endows them with character 
and passion, invents his plot, presents it in narrative form, com- 
plicates the intrigue and provides for the catastrophe : a work 
which demands, further, that the author's judgment shall be not 
only most profound but also most acute. In all these products 
of the creative imagination, and even in novels, the greatest art 
is required. Those who are incapable of it are objects of con- 
tempt to people of sound judgment." 2 Such is the classical 

Mr Leslie Stephen, Hours in a Library, 1st series. 2 Dictionnaire philosophique. 


critic's conception of the creative imagination. But let " right- 
minded people" take warning. They have no business here. 
In Richardson's novels they will find neither ingenuity of plot, 
nor skilful " complication" of the intrigue, nor cleverly prepared 
catastrophe, but simply a bundle of letters none too well ar- 
ranged, which require to be read not as a work of art but as 
a collection of curious yet deeply moving documents. 

In a forgotten drawer you find a bundle of yellow papers. 
You glance carelessly over one page, then over another, then 
over a third. Then, in spite of yourself, your curiosity is 
aroused. They deal with an old a very old love-story. You 
do not know the people concerned in it ; their names tell you 
nothing, and the events take place in a distant country. Yet 
the story takes hold of your attention : a touch of passion, like 
a half-faded perfume, still lingers among these faded leaves ; the 
names acquire some meaning, the phantoms start into life, the 
old souvenirs live and move beneath your eyes. Hours pass, 
yet you are reading still, softly stirred and, as it were, lulled by 
the rhythm of a life long since extinct. At a certain point the 
story becomes extremely pathetic : the anguish becomes heart- 
rending ; a cry of despair arises from the depths of the past. 

. . You check yourself. " What is this story to me ? " you 
say, and at the same moment you brush aside a tear. . . . Such 
is the experience of every reader of Clarissa Harloive. If realism 
is the art of giving the impression of life, Richardson is the 
greatest of realists. 

But between his method and that of the French classical 
writers, though the result may be the same, there is nothing in 
common. With him, as with the Dutch painters, there is, as 
regards subject, neither trivial nor sublime. The fact had 
already been remarked by contemporary writers : " Every pic- 
ture which gives a faithful presentation of nature, whatever it 
may be, is always beautiful ; nothing is excluded from our 
works save the filthy and the loathsome, which is banished also 
by the painter. Do we not hold the pictures of Heemskirk and 
other Dutch painters in high esteem, although their subjects are 
of the lowest ? ... If you are so prejudiced by your lofty 


French ideas as to find something contemptible in certain of the 
images in this book, / beg you to reflect that among us nothing which 
represents nature is ever despised" l This was, or seemed to be, 
something new. " It was part of the destiny of Holland," an 
eminent critic has said, " to love a good likeness." 2 Nothing, 
it would seem, could be more common than such a destiny ; in 
reality, nothing is more rare. There have been very few genuine 
realists in France, such, I mean, as plunge boldly and unhesitat- 
ingly into the heart of reality, without the least anxiety as to 
whether they will find it tedious, monotonous, and barren. 
Lesage, the most realistic of all French eighteenth-century 
novelists, is at the same time a most subtle artist too subtle, in 
fact and too self-controlled ; he does not let himself go ; he is 
afraid of making his subject tedious or ridiculous ; it is no part 
of his destiny irrevocably and with all his heart to love " a good 

Richardson, like a true Englishman, has no such scruples. 
In describing Grandison's wedding he spares us neither a 
costume nor a bow nor a curtsy ; we know the exact number 
of carriages, the occupants of each, and how everyone was 
dressed on the occasion ; we are not left in ignorance with 
regard to the amount of money distributed by the good Sir 
Charles to the village girls who had strewn his path with 
flowers. Verbiage, you call it ? Then you have no passion 
for " the good likeness." 

When a person of consequence enters a room we are told his 
gestures, his attitude, and the number of steps he takes. " The 
description of movements is what pleases, especially in novels of 
domestic interest. See how complacently the author of Pamela, 
Grandison and Clarissa lingers over it ! See how forcible, how 

1 Desfontaines, Lettre <?une dame anglaise, printed at the end of his translation of 
Joseph Andrews, vol. ii. Similarly du Resnel, in the remarks preliminary to his 
translation of the Essay on Man : " They [the EnglishJ are exceedingly happy in 
their imitation of nature ; but, like the Flemish painters, they are not in the least 
particular about choosing ivhat is beautiful in nature, everything which truly represents 
it gives them pleasure; whereas we require selection from what nature offers, and 
blame the workman, however delicate and faithful his touch, if he has not chosen 
a sublime and elevated subject." 

2 E. Fromentin, Les maitres d'autrefois, p. 165. 


significant, how pathetic it renders his language ! I see the 
character ; I see him whether he speaks or is silent . . ." 1 I 
see Colbrand, the Swiss, in Pamela, with " his frightful long 
hair," and the '* something on his throat, that sticks out . . . 
like a wen," beneath his neck cloth. I see Mrs Jewkes, "a 
broad, squat, pursy fat thing" with her " huge hands," her " flat 
and crook'd " nose, her " spiteful, grey, goggling eye," and a 
complexion that makes her face look "as if it had been pickled a 
month in salt-petre." I see Solmes, Clarissa Harlowe's poor 
suitor, with his " splay feet," always seeming to count his 
steps when he walks, and stupidly " gnawing the head of his 
hazel ; a carved head almost as ugly as his own." 2 And if 
they speak the smallest inflexion of voice is noted, and dots 
and dashes are used without stint. " See how many pauses, 
full stops and interruptions there are, how many speeches are 
broken off," and how scrupulous the author is about truth of 
detail ! 

Just as certain facts formerly considered insignificant are now 
placed in a prominent position, so certain characters also, hitherto 
restricted to the narrow limits of the ridiculous, step boldly forth 
into the sunlight. The characters belonging to the inferior 
classes are not, in this case, as with Marivaux, merely a coach- 
man or a little seamstress, introduced as pleasing subjects for 
vignettes ; the whole action of the story passes between servants, 
and a waiting-maid is its heroine. Excluding the squire, who 
attempts the seduction of Pamela, and is odious in other respects, 
what are the characters in this story ? The gardener Arthur, 
the coachman Robert, Isaac the lackey, and even Tommy, " the 
poor little scullion-boy." May not all these people be as worthy 
of your interest as the comtes and marquises in your comedies ? 
Away with your Mascarilles, Frontins, Scapins, and Lisettes, 
crafty, designing and depraved, every one of them, and utterly 
conventional in type. See our good steward here, weeping 
because his beloved Pamela is so ill-treated : " Was ever the like 
heard ! 'Tis too much, too much ; I can't bear it. As I hope to 
live I am quite melted. Dear sir, forgive her ! " 3 Truly, the 

1 Diderot, Eloge de Richardson. 2 Ballantyne, vi., p. 559. 3 Letter xxviii. 


best of men. Pamela, too, is the best-behaved of housemaids. 
You will not be surprised, therefore, to find quite a volume 
devoted to the question as to whether or not she shall be dis- 
missed. Is she to leave or not ? Is she to be driven or to walk ? 
Is she to hire a carriage, or will some one allow her the use of 
one ? If she goes on horseback, will it be proper for her to ride 
behind a servant on the same horse. Shall she take one, two, or 
three bundles ? Shall she carry away her old clothes or leave 
them behind her ? Shall she wear her best Sunday gown or her 
working-day dress ? Never, said Keats, was any one so con- 
scientiously devoted to "making mountains out of mole-hills." 1 
Nor was any one ever so passionately fond of "a good 
likeness." Here, again, for your amusement, is a correct 
inventory of our waiting-maid's dresses, petticoats, stockings, 
collars, cuffs, hats and mittens. No milliner would give a better 
description of the calico night-gown, the " quilted calimanco 
coat," the pair of pockets, the new flannel coat. In her exile 
Pamela provides herself with " forty sheets of note-paper, a 
dozen pens, a small bottle of ink," some wax and wafers. Like 
her biographer, she has a practical mind. You are told how she 
makes tea, the number of nubs of sugar she puts in, and the kind 
of cakes she provides. You are taken to the kitchen and shown 
how to clean the pots and pans. " I, t'other day, tried, when 
Rachel's back was turned, if I could not scour a pewter 
plate ; ... it only blistered my hand in two places. ... I 
hope to make my hands as red as a blood-pudding and as 
hard as a beechen trencher. . . ." 2 I dare not attempt to 
reckon up the number of tea-drinking scenes in Richardson's 
three novels : the consumption is appalling, but nothing can 
weary the author. 

The conversation of the characters is correspondingly insipid. 
The servants talk the queerest jargon. Leman, in Clarissa, writes 
letters containing the most amusing spelling. If some women 
and coachmen are talking around the kitchen table the author 
takes his seat in a corner, records what they say sparing us 

1 Keats, Works, ed. Buxton Forman, vol. iv., p. 15. 

2 Ballantyne, vi., p. 46. 



neither blunders nor scurrility and revels in dragging his reader 
through a morass of vulgarity and platitude. 

It is of the essence of all true realism, not only to bring us 
into actual contact with the vulgar side of things, but also to 
show us their brutality and hideousness. For in those by-places 
of existence, where every form of distress that life can inflict 
seems to be accumulated, the poverty of human nature is fully 
revealed. When a man lies stretched on the hospital bed in the 
agonies of death, everything in him that savours of the beast 
forces its way out. The mask thrown over his face by social 
convention falls, and nothing is left but a naked shivering figure, 
trembling with fever and with terror. There is no better way 
of stripping a man of all prestige, as of a vesture in which he has 
wrapped himself, than that of bringing him face to face with 
anguish and death ; nor is there any subject which lays such a 
fierce hold upon the interest of the reader, certain as he is, in 
this case at any rate, that he is reading his own history. 

In Clarissa Richardson introduced descriptions of the pangs of 
death, and of the preparations for it, to an even unjustifiable 
extent. Clarissa buys her coffin beforehand, has it placed in her 
bedroom, uses it as a kind of desk, and gives precise orders 
concerning the manner in which her body is to be placed in it as 
soon as cold. She dies a lingering death before our eyes. The 
libertine, Belton, too, is ten or fifteen pages in dying. Else- 
where, again, we have the never to be forgotten picture 
marvellous and horrible in its power of the death agony of the 
woman Sinclair. Here Pre vest's resolution failed him. " This 
scene," he writes, "is essentially English; in other words it is 
depicted in colours so vivid and, unfortunately, so repugnant to 
our national taste that however toned down it would be intoler- 
able in French. Suffice it to add that the subject of this 
remarkable picture is everything that is infamous and terrible." 1 
But the curious, among whom was Diderot, read the original, 
which was rendered in full by other translators. 2 

In a house of ill-fame an old woman, abandoned by the 
doctors, lies dying, the women of the establishment, fresh from 

Vol. iv., p. 480. 2 Ballantyne's edn., vol. ii., letter ccccvi. 


the arms of their last night's lovers, gathered around her. The 
paint has run on their wasted faces, " discovering coarse wrinkled 
skins " ; their hair is black only where the black-lead comb had 
left its trace. " They were all slip-shod ; stockingless some ; 
only under-petticoated all ; their gowns, made to cover straddling 
hoops, hanging trollopy, and tangling about their heels." Some, 
" unpadded," their eyes heavy with sleep, yawned and stretched 
themselves. The room was filled with the odour of plasters, 
liniments, and spirituous liquors. 1 

Meanwhile the dying woman struggles with death, " spreading 
the whole troubled bed with her huge quaggy carcase, clenching 
her broad hands, and rolling her great red eye-balls." " Her 
matted grizzly hair, made irreverend by her wickedness (her 
clouted head-dress being half off, spread about her fat ears and 
brawny neck) ; her livid lips parched and working violently ; 
her broad chin in convulsive motion ; her wide mouth, by reason 
of the contraction of her forehead (which seemed to be half lost 
in its own frightful furrows) splitting her face, as it were, into 
two parts -, and her huge tongue hideously rolling in it ; heaving, 
puffing as if for breath ; her bellows-shaped and various-coloured 
breasts ascending by turns to her chin, and descending out of 
sight, with the violence of her gaspings." 

Her end being spoken of: "Die, did you say, sir?" she 
exclaims, " ' Die ! I 'will not, I cannot die ! I know not hoiv to 
die ! Die, sir ! And must I then die ? Leave this world ? I 
cannot bear it ! And who brought you hither, sir ? [her eyes 
striking fire at me] who brought you here to tell me I must die, 
sir ? I cannot, I will not leave this world. Let others die, who 
wish for another ! who expect a better ! I have had my plagues 
in this ; but would compound for all future hopes, so as 
I may be nothing after this ! ' And then she howled and 
bellowed by turns. By my faith, Lovelace, I trembled in 
every joint. . . . ' Sally ! Polly ! Sister Carter ! said she, 
did you not tell me I might recover ? Did not the surgeon 
tell me I might ? ' " 

The surgeons appear, and carry on a long discussion with 
1 Vol. ii., P . 687. 


regard to tibia, fbula and patella. Finally they give her up, 
and she is told of their verdict. 

" Then did the poor wretch set up an inarticulate frightful howl, such a one 
as I never before heard uttered, as if already pangs infernal had taken hold of 
her ; and seeing every one half-frighted, and me motioning to withdraw, O pity 
me, pity me, Mr Belford, cried she, her words interrupted by groans I find you 
think I shall die ! And ivhat I may be, and where, in a very few hours who can 

"1 told her it was in vain to flatter her: it was my opinion she would not 

" I was going to re-advise her to calm her spirits, and endeavour to resign her- 
self, and to make the best of the opportunity yet left her ; but this declaration 
set her into a most outrageous raving. She would have torn her hair, and beaten 
her breast, had not some of the wretches held her hands by force. . . ."* 


Minute, tedious, and sometimes repulsive as a painter of 
human suffering, Richardson excelled in the delineation of 
character, but of one particular type of character only the 
very type, in fact, which, up to that time, had been most 
neglected by French novelists. 

When he meant to reflect upon the habits of the fashionable 
world, his work was not even second-rate. This was only to 
be expected. The carpenter's son who had taken to printing 
failed in depicting aristocratic society, not only because he had 
seen very little of it, but also because certain delicate shades of 
difference can only be caught by an art more subtle and flexible 
than his. Like Rousseau, Richardson had a great fear of in- 
truding upon persons of rank, and at the same time a great 
desire to enjoy their favour ; like him, in spite of his own humble 
origin, he had a profound respect for birth and rank. But 
Grandison and Clementina are no more genuine aristocrats than 
Julie d'Etanges or M. de Wolmar. 

Grandison, the model man of the world, is a splendid speci- 
men of physique without a soul. His figure is " rather slender 
than full," " his face in shape a fine oval," his complexion clear, 
his clothes of the best cut, and his morals above reproach. 
1 Vol. ii., P . 691. 


" What a man is this, so to act ! " cries the unreserved Miss 
Byron. She can find but one fault in him : " What I think 
seems a little to savour of singularity, his horses are not 
docked ; their tails are only tied up when they are on the 
road. ... I want, methinks, my dear, to find some fault in 
his outward appearance." 1 To such trivialities can Samuel 
Richardson descend when he attempts to depict the manners 
of fashionable society. His Grandison, whose face seems 
always radiant with the pleasure of having practised all his 
virtues, is a lay figure. The world in which he moves is an 
assemblage of grimacing puppets. They neither cry nor walk 
nor live but according to sound principles and well-established 
rules. When they love, it is in the most exalted fashion : 
Grandison avows his feeling for Henrietta " with all the truth 
and plainness which [he thinks] are required in treaties of this 
nature, equally with those set on foot between nation and 
nation," 2 and is scrupulous in his observance of the prescribed 
formalities. His courtly and sonorous verbiage intoxicates all 
these pompous creatures, each puffed up with his own per- 
fection. The desire to think generous thoughts and to do 
noble deeds is contagious. This insufferable Celadon keeps 
a school for instruction in the sublime as regards both sentiment 
and behaviour. 

Richardson, poor man, thought he was drawing a picture of 
society. At most he merely depicted its exterior, and even of 
that his portrait is, in places, a caricature. His aristocrats are 
upstarts ; some of the Lombard Street mud still clings to their 
heels. The source and origin of their elegance is a life as 
regular as though it were spent in a business office. Clarissa 
sleeps six hours, reads and writes for three, devotes two to 
domestic tasks and household accounts, five to drawing, music, 
needlework, and conversation with the clergyman of the parish ; 
the two morning meals occupy two hours ; one is spent in visit- 
ing the poor ; and four are left for supper and chatting the 
very apotheosis of method. So, too, Grandison sleeps, eats, and 
makes his bow according to rigorous rules. When, on entering 

1 Vol. iii., p. 91. 2 Ballantyne, viii., p. 585. 


church, he sees some ladies of his acquaintance, and among them 
the object of his affections, does he turn to greet them ? By no 
means ! Sir Charles knows too well that his respects are due in 
the first place to the Deity. Reverently he bows his head, then, 
raising himself, accords his second bow to Miss Byron, and 
follows it with successive salutations of the other ladies. His 
behaviour is most elaborately thought out, and the author is 
careful to draw our attention to the fact. A figure like Grandi- 
son, who constantly acts in accordance with certain formulas by 
which his life is regulated down to the smallest detail a " man- 
machine," whose gestures we can anticipate as we can those of 
an automaton scarcely comes within the pale of real human 
nature, and in so far as he does so is an intolerable moral pedant. 
How greatly inferior is Richardson in work of this sort to the 
classical writers of France ! They write for an aristocratic 
public ; the souls they portray are of the finest temper ; they 
penetrate the innermost recesses of the human heart, and dis- 
tinguish the most delicate shades of feeling. 

Richardson succeeds only when he portrays simple natures. 
Whatever the social plane from which they are taken and it is 
worth noting that with the exception of Grandison and his circle 
his characters belong at best to the upper strata of provincial 
middle-class society they are all, if one may say so, people of 
the common herd, whose natures are made up of two or three 
elementary feelings, and whose moral life derives a unity from 
the clear and easily discernible aim it has set before it. 

We need make no exception in favour of the much discussed 
character of Lovelace, though mistaken attempts have been 
made to hold him up as a kind of hero of vice, an impossible 
monster, " an almost fantastic mixture of qualities intended to 
fit him for the difficult part he has to play." l 

Lovelace was certainly never drawn from life. It is doubtful 
whether, as has been maintained, he represents the Duke of 
Wharton, or any other famous libertine. 2 If he does, it is 
unquestionable that the portrait is not in every respect a faithful 

1 Leslie Stephen, Hours in a Library , vol. i., p. 105. 

2 Villemain, xviiie siecle, zjth lesson. 


one. For, if Richardson conceived the idea of drawing from a 
living model, his acquaintance with polite society was too im- 
perfect to admit of his fully succeeding. Taking this fact into 
consideration, everything which belongs to the exterior of the 
character, everything in the portrait of Lovelace which describes 
the gentleman, will be found conventional. Lovelace, like 
Grandison, is only a make-believe aristocrat. 

Moreover, since he required to paint a criminal, Richardson, 
good, pious man, evidently strained certain features in order to 
increase the horror his character inspired. In particular, he sur- 
rounded him with a crew of myrmidons, sharpers, and thieves, 
who make him appear at certain moments a regular hero of 
melodrama. In order to magnify him, the honest printer's imagi- 
nation invested Lovelace with the halo of a famous criminal 
after the fashion of Cartouche or Robert Macaire. Like them, 
he writes letters in cypher, assumes false names, and dreams of 
conspiracies, arson and ambush. 1 On one occasion he disguises 
his followers as men of fortune and family, that he may take 
them to dine with his mistress, and commits his instructions 
to them with the strictest formality. " Instructions to be ob- 
served by John Belford, Richard Mowbray, Thomas Belton and 
James Tourville, Esquires of the body to General Robert Love- 
lace, on their admission to the presence of his goddess." And, 
his orders once given, he cries, like Mephistopheles addressing 
the spirits of the air : " Here's a first faint sketch of my plot. 
Stand by, varlets, tanta-ra-ra-ra ! Veil your bonnets and con- 
fess your master ! " 2 He is choked with his own pride : " Now, 
Belford," he writes to his friend, " for the narrative of narra- 
tives." He has anticipated everything, arranged everything, 
contrived everything. Success is certain, and posterity will do 
justice to him as a consummate artist in vice : what a figure he 
will cut in the annals of profligacy ! This is puerile, and the 
character of a man like Lovelace rather suggests the hero of the 

1 " Had I been a military hero, I should have made gunpowder useless ; for I 
should have blown up all my adversaries by dint of stratagem, turning their own 
devices upon them" (vol. ii., p. 48). 

2 Ballantyne, vii., p. 124. 


travelling booth, fashioned out of the coarse materials of legend, 
than an eighteenth-century Englishman of rank. 

Stripped of these trappings, however, Lovelace is thoroughly 
representative both of his country and of his time. He is one of 
the most living of all the characters in Richardson's gallery. 

Like Don Juan he is an atheist, and glories in the fact. But 
while he allows himself the broadest jokes on certain subjects, 
outwardly he professes to respect things sacred. He is a con- 
summate master of cant. He declares to Clarissa that he has 
always preserved " a great admiration for religion," appears at 
church, and grants reductions of rent to such of his tenants as also 
attend it. This he does in the gravest manner in the world, 
with a suppressed irony which finds vent in his letters to his 
bosom friend Belford, " diabolical " letters, essentially English 
in their clumsy fervour, and full of droll and sentimental pathos, 
at which we do not know whether to laugh or to cry. 

His failing is not so much debauchery as pride and this is 
characteristic of his age. Was it not the eighteenth century 
which produced the peculiar type of man who is a seducer only 
from motives of vanity j who is cruel and cold, and sacrifices 
everything not so much to sensuality as to the pride of conquest 
and of reckoning up his victims? This "species of perverted 
Quixotry," 1 to use Scott's phrase, is not so well understood at 
the present day. Nowhere can the thoughts and ideals of an 
epoch concerning love and gallantry be seen more clearly than in 
its fiction : Lovelace, like Valmont in the Liaisons dangereuses , is 
the personification of the type of gallantry peculiar to the eigh- 
teenth century, the age of Richelieu and Lord Baltimore. Love 
of this sort demands intrigue, strife and bloodshed ; it intoxicates 
man like a chase which excites his self-conceit before it inflames 
his senses. Of this type is Lovelace, a profligate who boasts of 
his profligacy. He lusts after every woman the possession of 
whom would enhance his reputation. He desires Clarissa, 
but he also desires her friend Miss Howe. " One man 
cannot have every woman worth having. Pity though 
when the man is such a very clever fellow ! " 2 In the tavern 

1 Lives of the novelists, vol. ii., p. 39. 2 Ballantyne, vii., p. 31. 


to which he carries his victim he becomes enamoured of 
the landlord's daughters, as soon as he perceives that their 
mother is suspicious of him. His difficulty is to find an 
adequate stimulus. The virtue, social position, and moral 
worth of Clarissa Harlowe are so many spurs to his desire. 
When she kisses him he considers this simple favour more 
delicious than complete possession of any other woman, such is 
the value which it derives from respect, timidity and the fear of 
scandal. It depends entirely on him, observe, whether he will 
marry her or not. He thinks of doing so, and is ready to yield 
to the temptation, but suddenly pride obtains the mastery, the 
blood of the Lovelaces forbids the last of their stock to "lick 
the dust for a wife." 1 "To carry off such a girl as this, in 
spite of all her watchful and implacable friends : and in spite of 
a prudence that I never met with in any of her sex : what a 
triumph ! What a triumph over the whole sex ! And then 
such a revenge to gratify ! " A revenge upon love, which 
he hates because he is consumed by it : " Love, which I hate, 
heartily hate, because 'tis my master ! " Truly these are, as 
Diderot said, " the sentiments of a cannibal, the cries of a wild 
beast," maddened and intoxicated by the sight of blood. Is 
Lovelace happy when his victim is once within his power ? By 
no means. He is seized with a fresh desire to torture her. In 
his letters to Belford he loads her with insult and contempt : he 
would have her for his mistress, but he would also have her 
ruined, polluted in the eyes of men, and absolutely at the mercy 
of his " own imperial will." 2 He even laughs with satanic 
merriment : " Hah, hah, hah, hah ! I must here I must here 
lay down my pen, to hold my sides ; for I must have my laugh 
out, now the fit is upon me." What ? She expects some 
mischief from me ? "I don't care to disappoint anybody I have 
a value for." 

His punishment is that at last he comes to believe what he 

says. " The modest ones and I are pretty much upon a par. 

The difference between us is only, what they think, I act"* 

The man who has come to this has shut himself off from real 

iVol. ii.,p. 39. 2 H.,23- 3 II., 4 8. 


love. Thus when Lovelace endeavours to love Clarissa with a 
pure passion, it is no longer within his power. Suspicion, paltry 
jealousy and withering doubt are too strong : " Is virtue to be 
established by common bruit only ? Has her virtue ever been 
proved ? " l With cogent and mischievous logic he convinces 
himself that no woman is honest. All his mistress's vernal 
bloom and grace is nothing but trickery and falsehood. This it 
is which constitutes the profound truth of Lovelace's character : 
that there is a fatality which imposes evil-doing upon the man 
who begins his career in evil, that a man's whole existence has 
to bear the weight of his first transgressions, that for him who 
has exhausted its living sources within himself, happiness is 
henceforth radically impossible. The whole series of Love- 
lace's triumphs is a lingering expiation, and when at last he 
falls beneath the sword of Colonel Morden, his punishment has 
already long ago begun. 

Thus, in spite of the author's concessions to convention, the 
character of Lovelace remains an admirable creation, inasmuch as 
Richardson managed to embody a profound characteristic of 
human nature in the living picture of a man of his time. 

His portraits of the Harlowe family constitute a richly fur- 
nished gallery of base characters, though their meanness and 
repulsiveness are of various kinds. Here is Clarissa's brother, 
an English country squire, coarse, spiteful and avaricious, caring 
for nothing in the world but to add to the money he has got 
together, and hating his sisters with the hatred of the son and 
heir whose patrimony they are consuming: his opinion, as he 
himself affirms, is that " a man who has sons brings up chickens 
for his own table, whereas daughters are chickens brought up 
for the tables of other men." 2 He is subject, moreover, to a 
most violent temper, a constant savage ill-humour ; one would 
take him for a character of Fielding's. Here, again, is the sister, 
Arabella, sour and treacherous in disposition, and incapable of 
forgiving Clarissa for having the advantage of her in beauty 
and good-nature. And here her father, as relentless as he is 
tyrannical ; her uncle James, concealing a kindly disposition 

1 Vol. ii., p. 39. 2 Vol. i., p. 536. 


beneath a rough exterior, and her uncle Anthony, whose 
harshness borders on ferocity. How many variations upon a 
single sentiment ! With regard to this novel we may honestly 
share the admiration of Diderot for the marvellous diversity 
of Richardson's characters. 

But his women are more lifelike still. He had associated with 
them more, and had got to know them more thoroughly. His 
own nature was a feminine one. From childhood he had always 
had his audience of girls, to whom he was accustomed to relate 
stories, and had acted as confidant to a circle of ladies, whose 
Jove-letters he had been accustomed to write. In later life he is 
represented as a weak, but kindly and soft-hearted creature, all 
imagination and sentiment, with a touch of romance to boot. 
The sight of a woman sharpened his wits : to Lady Bradshaigh 
he described himself as " by chance lively ; very lively it will be 
if he have hope of seeing a lady whom he loves and honours ; 
his eye always on the ladies." 1 Like Jean- Jacques he was 
nervous, impressionable and feeble in health. In him too, as 
in Rousseau, there was something feminine. He never had 
the courage to mount a horse. Wine, meat and fish were 
forbidden him. His nerves at last became so excitable that his 
hand shook too much to allow of his lifting a glass of wine to 
his lips, and that he held none but written communication with 
his foreman, so as to avoid speaking aloud. 

A man of this sort capable of shedding tears over Clementina 
and Clarissa, as though they were members of his own family 
must have been as tender-hearted and as sensitive to pain as 
Cowper or Rousseau. Hence the genius he displayed in writing 
the biographies of two or three women. 

The first of these, the modest little waiting-maid Pamela, is 
almost too familiar to be regarded as the heroine of a novel. 
The daughter of peasants, she takes her three meals with hearty 
appetite, and brings to the service of her employer a practical 
mind and good sense we might almost say, a good return. Once 
married, she says to her master, " I will assist your housekeeper, 
as I used to do, in the making jellies, comfits, sweetmeats, mar- 

1 Quoted by W. Scott, vol. ii., p. 22. 


malades, cordials . . . and to make myself all the fine linen of 
the family, for yourself and me." She wants to convince him 
that their marriage, great as the honour would be for her, would 
at the same time be no bad thing for himself. 

She is fully sensible, moreover, of differences in rank. When 
she leaves her place, the servants shed tears and wish to give her 
little presents in token of their friendship. She refuses, being 
unwilling to receive anything from "the lower servants" 
which is characteristic of her type. 

She is fond of admiration and longs to put on her fine silk 
dress. But then would not her doing so imply a vain disposi- 
tion ? And she argues the question out before us. Again, she 
is timid. Placed in confinement by her master, she wishes to 
escape ; unfortunately there is in the meadow a bull which has 
already injured the cook. So, on a certain occasion when she has 
opened the garden gate she sees the bull glaring fixedly at her 
with fiery eyes : " Do you think there are such things as witches 
and spirits ? If there be, I believe in my heart Mrs Jewkes has got 
this bull on her side." l After a few moments she goes out once 
more, and this time plucks up all her courage. But again it fails 
her : "Well, here I am, come back again ! frighted, like a fool, out 
of all my purposes." And then, besides the bull, are not thieves 
said to be wandering about the country ? This is all very natural 
and life-like, and gives us a good picture of the little country girl, 
with her simplicity, folly and timidity. 

Pamela loves with a humble and melancholy fidelity. She 
endures without murmuring a thousand insults and mortifications. 
Her master insults her, yet she will not have him ill thought of. 
The old steward sees her setting off and guesses the reason of her 
leaving : " You are too pretty, my sweet mistress, and it may be 
too virtuous. Ah ! have I not hit it ? " Proudly she answers : 
" No, good Mr Longman, don't think anything amiss of my 
master," and there is something almost heroic in her simple reply. 
Her master flouts her. She falls on her knees, and before wit- 
nesses declares herself "a very faulty and very ungrateful 
creature to the best of masters." " I have been very perverse 

1 Ballantyne, vol. i., p. 77. 


and saucy ; and have deserved nothing at your hands but to be 
turned out of your family with shame and disgrace." 1 She 
takes a sort of cruel pleasure in abasing herself at the feet of the 
man she loves. In spite of all his persecution she is unable to 
hate him, and when, though placed in confinement and grossly 
insulted by him, she learns that he has just had a narrow escape 
from death, her joy breaks forth in spite of herself: "What is 
the matter, that, with all his ill-usage of me, I cannot hate him ? 
To be sure, in this, I am not like other people ! " She loves, in 
fact, as few women have loved. When she thinks her master 
appreciates her, she seems to hear " the harmony of the spheres 
all around " her. She is filled with terror at the thought that at 
the day of judgment she may possibly have to accuse the man 
she loves above everything else, " the unhappy soul, that I could 
wish it in my power to save ! " A sober expression of the most 
intense feeling, purer a thousand times than the love-language of 
a Marianne or a Manon. 

Like a true Englishwoman of the lower class, Pamela's religion 
is at once artless and conscientious. It is odd that Richardson 
should have been blamed for the very thing which gives his 
creation the unmistakable impress of truth. Like George 
Eliot's heroines, whose prototype she is like Dinah Morris 
the preacher, she says, with blind faith in God : " Bread and 
water I can live upon . . . with content. Water I can get 
anywhere . . . and if I can't get me bread, I will live like 
a bird in winter upon hips and haws ... or anything." 2 
Pamela's scruples, it is true, are some of them childish, but 
even this characteristic is eminently faithful to life. One day, 
in her trouble, she repeats the Igyth Psalm, with a few altera- 
tions to make it applicable to her own situation. These changes 
make her uneasy : is it not sinful to introduce them ? The trait 
is at least as natural as the innocent pride she takes in her first 
ride in a carriage. It is just this mixture of candour, innocence, 
and impulsiveness, in an English country girl, possessed with 
fear of the devil and haunted by the thought of the Judgment 
Day, that gives this character its charm. 

1 Ballantyne, vol. i., p. 44. 2 Pamela, letter xxix. 


At times her religion reaches the level of the sublime. On 
one occasion she slips out of the house, succeeds in reaching the 
garden, climbs a wall, falls down and injures herself. What is 
to become of her ? l 

" God forgive me ! but a sad thought came just then into my head. I tremble 
to think of it ! Indeed my apprehensions of the usage I should meet with had 
like to have made me miserable for ever ! O my dear, dear parents, forgive your 
poor child ; but being then quite desperate, I crept along till I could raise my- 
self on my staggering feet ; and away limped I ! what to do, but to throw myself 
into the pond, and so put a period to all my griefs in the world ! But oh I to 
find them infinitely aggravated (had I not, by the divine grace, been withheld) 
in a miserable eternity \ " 

She sits down therefore on the grass, and the devil tempts 

" And then, thought I (and oh ! that thought was surely of the devil's instiga- 
tion ; for it was very soothing, and powerful with me), these wicked wretches 
who have now no remorse, no pity on me, will then be moved to lament their 
misdoings ; and when they see the dead corpse of the unhappy Pamela dragged 
out to these dewy banks, and lying breathless at their feet, they will find that 
remorse to soften their obdurate heart, which, now, has no place there. And 
my master, my angry master, will then forget his resentments, and say : O, this 
is the unhappy Pamela ! that I have so causelessly persecuted and destroyed ! 
Now do I see she preferred her honesty to her life, will he say, and is no 
hypocrite, nor deceiver ; but really was the innocent creature she pretended to 
be. Then, thought I, will he, perhaps, shed a few tears over the corpse of his 
persecuted servant ; and though he may give out, it was love and disappoint- 
ment ; and that, perhaps (in order to hide his own guilt), for the unfortunate 
Mr Williams, yet will he be inwardly grieved, and order me a decent funeral, 
and save me, or rather this part of me, from the dreadful stake and the highway 
interment ; and the young men and maidens all around my dear father's will pity 
poor Pamela ! But O ! I hope I shall not be the subject of their ballads and 
elegies ; but that my memory, for the sake of my dear father and mother, may 
quickly slide into oblivion." 

Clarissa, in virtue of the strength and sincerity of her 
religious feelings, is sister to Pamela. Like Pamela, too, she 
is essentially English ; that is to say, she has a firmness and 
stability of judgment which distinguish her at once from the 
heroines of French fiction. She knows what she wants and 
why she wants it. She has none of the whims and caprices 
of the pretty woman. She claims for her sex the right to 

1 In reference to this scene, see Saint-Marc-Girardin, Court de litterature 
dramatique, vol. i., pp. 109-111. Ballantyne, vol. i., p. 86. 


show that it possesses prudence and " steadiness of mind," a 
quality which is denied it by none but the ill-intentioned. She 
regards herself as the mistress of her own life, and, with all her 
respect for her parents, intends to keep the disposal of herself 
within her own hands. Practical, moreover, and quite at home 
in money matters, she talks of them with the knowledge of a 
steward ; nor will she ever be the one to forget that fortune is 
an element of happiness. Melancholy as it may seem to the 
romantic mind, Clarissa is eminently reasonable. Such she 
appears in the earlier letters of the collection, before her 
passions have been so violently stirred ; and such she remains 
to the end. In the opinion of her friend, the witty and sprightly 
Miss Howe, she is " over-serious." Nothing, in fact, deceives 
her ; with unerring discernment she unravels the plots which 
are being woven around her, detects the underhand tricks of 
her brothers and sisters, defends herself against them to the 
best of her ability, like a prudent girl who has no advocate but 
herself, and amidst all her trials preserves a clear and at times a 
somewhat harsh judgment. 

Thoroughly English also, like Pamela, in her prejudices, she 
entertains the whole stock of opinions common to every middle- 
class girl who has been properly brought up, and, in particular, a 
very keen consciousness of respectability. Whether she would love 
Lovelace, if he were a working man or a small tradesman, I cannot 
say; we may venture to doubt it. She is too well aware of what 
she owes to herself, and too much wedded to decorum. She 
strongly commends Lovelace for paying his tenants in order to make 
them attend church, for otherwise they would not go. And it is 
good for them to go : it is the natural order of things, and belongs 
to a well-organised state of society. Her ideas on marriage, too, 
are almost irritating in their good sense : she would have conformity 
in rank, in family, in fortune and in everything else. Occasion- 
ally she is calm and self-possessed to an extent that is depressing ; 
one wants her to be more at the mercy of her impulses, more 
free and unconstrained. The truth is that Richardson's admir- 
able art would not allow him to make a weak-minded, romantic 
creature like Julie d'litanges the heroine of a drama of fierce 


passion, but led him rather to choose a girl whose strict virtue 
approaches austerity. And how much more impressive the lesson 
becomes in consequence, the drama how much more painfully 
effective ! What does it matter, the reader may say, if the 
heroine is rendered less womanly, provided her portrait is true 
to nature. 

But Clarissa remains a thorough woman. She is gentle, kind, 
sympathetic, an excellent counsellor and a faithful friend. In 
the midst of her troubles she retains an unalterable affection for 
all her relations, even for her weak-minded mother ; insomuch 
that she cannot forgive Miss Howe for a few harmless reflexions 
upon her parents. She is determined to be always the best of 
daughters, and such she remains till death. And with all her 
soundness of judgment, on the other hand, she is never proof 
against sudden emotion. She never manages to credit the full 
extent of human malignity. Observe the strange agreement she 
signs when she is in the hands of Lovelace : if her parents persist 
in their opposition to her marriage she will remain single. How 
serious, how candid a pledge to give ! With charming reserve 
she adds that he must not take this promise as a favour, but 
merely as a sort of recompense for the trouble he has had on her 

Clarissa, therefore, is a truly living creation. Even if she did 
not love, she would still be better than the doll of a court or a 
drawing-room. Hers is the first complete biography of a woman 
in modern fiction. 

But, in order thoroughly to understand Richardson's char- 
acters, we must restore the conditions of thought which give 
them a background of reality and make them live. Some of 
these ideas have had their day, some are eternal. To quote a 
remark of Mr Leslie Stephen's, these men and women " show all 
the weaknesses inseparable from the age and country of their 
origin. . . . They are cramped and deformed by the frigid 
conventionalities of their century and the narrow society in which 
they move and live. But for all that they stir the emotions of a 
distant generation." l 

1 Hours in a Library, vol. i., p. 84. 



It cannot but be that these ideas were entertained by Richard- 
son himself. Whatever a novelist's power of observation, however 
versatile his talent, there is always one type of character which 
he draws in preference to others, because it is more closely 
related to his own nature. Lesage was especially successful with 
the vulgar and practical Gil Bias, Marivaux with Marianne the 
type of affectation, and Prevost with the weak-minded and 
susceptible Des Grieux, just as Balzac incarnated himself in his 
adventurers, Rastignac and Vautrin, and as George Sand put 
something of herself into Lelia. 

Richardson's ideal was that of a noble and tender soul, liable 
to temptation by reason of its extreme sensibility, but deeply 
religious and strongly attached to Christianity. Richardson's 
characters, said Villemain, became one of the forms of his own 
existence. The form in which his genius by preference em- 
bodied itself was the character of Clarissa Harlowe affectionate, 
yet prudent ; passionate, yet self-controlled. This single char- 
acter epitomizes in itself the moral philosophy of the pious 
printer who was " the greatest and perhaps the most uncon- 
scious of Shakespeare's imitators." l 

Richardson, it is true, moralizes because he is an Englishman, 
and because the English, as Tacitus had observed, " cannot laugh 
at vice " : from its earliest days the English novel was a school 
of morals, and ancestors of Richardson have been discovered 
even in Lyly and Greene. 2 But there are many degrees in 
this tendency of the race and of this particular branch of litera- 
ture, and no one has ever moralized more undisguisedly than 
the author of Clarissa. As a child he was given to inventing 
stories, all of which " carried with them, I am bold to say, an 
useful moral." 3 When he takes up his pen it is to " turn young 
people into a course of reading different from the pomp and 
parade of romance-writing," and " to promote the cause of 

1 Villemain, xviiie siecle, lesson 27. 

2 Cf. J. Jusserand, Le roman anglais au temps Je Shakespeare. 

3 Life, quoted by Sir W. Scott. 



religion and virtue." Plainly he is a moralist first and a novelist 
afterwards. " Why, sir," wrote Johnson to Erskine, who con- 
demned Richardson for being tedious, " if you were to read 
Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much 
fretted that you would hang yourself. But you must read him 
for the sentiment, and consider the story only as giving occasion 
to the sentiment." 1 Now "the sentiment," here, means chiefly the 
moral sentiment. So true is this that the author had appended 
to his own copy of Clarissa Harlo<we an alphabetical index of the 
maxims and moral disquisitions contained in the work, and had 
taken such pains over it that even the most trivial thoughts were 
to be found in the list, 2 such as " habits are not easily changed," 
or " men are known by their companions." Johnson encouraged 
him in this work, considering that " Clarissa is not a performance 
to be read with eagerness, and laid aside for ever ; but will be 
occasionally consulted by the busy, the aged, and the studious." 3 
In the Postscriptum to Clarissa, moreover, Richardson was 
careful to explain himself as clearly as possible on this point : 

" It will be seen, by this time, that the author had a great end in view. He 
has lived to see scepticism and infidelity openly avowed, and even endeavoured 
to be propagated from the press ; the great doctrines of the Gospel brought into 
question ; those of self-denial and mortification blotted out of the catalogue of 
Christian virtues ; and a taste even to wantonness for outdoor pleasure and 
luxury, to the general exclusion of domestic as well as public virtue, indus- 
triously promoted among all ranks and degrees of people. In this general 
depravity . . . the author . . . imagined, that if in an age given up to diversion 
and entertainment, he could steal in, as may be said, and investigate the great 
doctrines of Christianity under the fashionable guise of an amusement, he should 
be most likely to serve his purpose." 4 

In the mind of its author, his novel is an "amusing" apology 
for religion. 

In this demonstration, if the truth be told, the "amusement" 
is often conspicuous only by its absence. The author is terribly 

1 Boswell, Life of Johnson. 

2 D'Israeli, Curiosities of Literature, edn. of 1889, p. loo. 

3 Life of Johnson, Boswell (Croker's edn., p. 73). In fact a series of extracts 
was published, entitled : A collection of the moral and instructive Sentiments, Maxims, 
Cautions and Reflexions contained in the Histories of Pamela^ Clarissa and Sir Charles 
Grandison, 1755, IZmo. 

4 Ballantyne, vol. fi., pp. 778-9. 


addicted to platitude. He is the kind of man who will bring a 
score of good reasons to prove that the most immaculate virtue 
is insecure against a man who is careless of his own honour, or 
again, that a man of good principles, whose love is founded upon 
reason, and is directed rather to the mind than to the body, will 
make any honest woman happy. 

As a moralist, moreover, he is a man of a small and narrow 
mind ; he believes in the most tyrannical social conventions as 
though they were so many dogmas ; he establishes really too 
close a connexion between virtue and the doctrines of the 
English Protestant Church ; he is at once a Pharisee and a 
utilitarian. Virtue, for him, is a sort of investment at compound 
interest, and the beneficiaries are a little too apt to congratulate 
themselves on the excellence of their schemes. " That his 
pieces," wrote Jeffrey, " were all intended to be strictly moral, 
is indisputable ; but it is not quite so clear that they will 
uniformly be found to have this tendency." 1 Coleridge could 
not tolerate Richardson's cant, and frankly avowed his preference 
for the simpler and healthier moral philosophy of Fielding. 2 
Scott detects in Pamela a " strain of cold-blooded prudence . . . 
to which we are almost obliged to deny the name of virtue." 
Even in his own country Richardson was occasionally considered 
more of a preacher than a moralist. 

Nevertheless, however disposed we may be to question certain 
of his opinions, the fact remains that the feeling which inspires 
these big volumes is profoundly moral. That they affected their 
age to the extent they did was due to the fact that the age found 
in them what was previously unknown in fiction the boldly 
avowed pretension to treat the most serious problems through 
the medium of the novel. The pleasure which readers derived 
from Clarissa Hartoive was that of feeling within themselves a 
regeneration of those sources of moral emotion which might have 
been supposed exhausted. The author's teachers had been 
Berkeley and Bunyan. 3 But the preaching of philosophers 
and sermon-writers only goes down with converts. Richard- 

1 Edinburgh Re-view, vol. v., pp. 43-44. 2 Literary Remains. 

3 J. Jusserand, The English Novel, p. 68. 


son convinced the worldlings that to be, or to believe oneself, 
good, might be a source of the keenest pleasure. These works, 
following their slow and leisurely course like some listless stream, 
are pervaded by a kind of beneficent calm. Here were men spoiled 
by excessive indulgence in keen sensations pleasure, curiosity, 
and weariness of the worldly life ; men whose individuality, in the 
torrent of these small impressions, had become attenuated to the 
vanishing point ; reduced to mere echoes of their restless environ- 
ment they were no longer capable of giving forth an independent 
sound. In these unsatisfied readers Richardson created afresh the 
taste for the inner life, the illusion that they could be and feel 
themselves useful, and the firm foundation of everyday thought and 
activity. The study of Pamela and Clarissa is a lesson in hygiene. 

To reproach him with laying too much stress upon the moral of 
his work would thus be to deceive ourselves as to the nature of his 
genius. Deprive the Nouvelle Helo'ise of its moral, and what remains ? 
Very little. The case is the same with Clarissa. The work owed 
both its novelty and its influence to its moral inspiration. 

Further, it effected a transformation in the art of fiction. In 
Richardson's hands the novel becomes a marvellous instrument of 
psychological analysis. " The analytical novel," wrote Vigny, 
" is the offspring of confession. It was Christianity that sug- 
gested the idea, through the practice of self-revelation." l We 
might amend Vigny's remark by saying that it is perhaps the ab- 
sence of the confessional in Protestantism that has given birth to 
the novel of moral analysis. Richardson, who was a kind of lay 
spiritual director " a Protestant confessor," as an English critic 
calls him 2 possibly owed his success to the disappearance of 
the priest from English society in the eighteenth century. How- 
ever this may be, we have in fiction a branch of literature which 
is entirely Christian, and by consequence entirely modern. The 
novel with a moral, unknown to antiquity, is the most perfect 
expression of the society of to-day. It reflects its anxiety, its 
morbid uneasiness, its secret unrest. Christian casuistry, the 
" natural history of the soul," 3 is unrivalled as a teacher of prac- 

1 Journal d'un foete, p. 192. 2 Leslie Stephen, Hours in a Library, 

3 Taine, Literature anglaise, vol. iv., p. 103. 


tical philosophy. To introduce it in fiction was to open up fresh 
fields for the novelist's art. 

No one could be better versed is casuistry than Richardson. 
His dream in early life was to be a theologian, and for lack of a 
pulpit he preached in his novels. "It is he," as Diderot justly 
observed, " who carries the torch to the very depths of the 
cavern, and teaches us to detest the subtle and dishonest motives 
that hide or slink away behind the other honest motives which 
are always the first to appear." No one can be more deeply in- 
terested in questions of conscience. A thousand minor problems 
of the moral life, hitherto considered unworthy of good literature 
or touched upon only by professional moralists, such as Addison 
and Steele, are by Richardson treated seriously and at length. 
How should a virtuous girl behave towards a scolding ill- 
tempered mother ? What consolation can she find for the little 
weaknesses of her lover for the sight of his untidy boots or 
ill-tied neck-cloth ? How should her lover behave towards his 
betrothed ? How is he to make himself lovable without sacri- 
ficing his manly dignity ? Miss Howe asks her friend's opinion 
as to the amount of importance a woman should attach to a 
man's physical beauty. Clarissa replies with a carefully ordered 
disquisition, in which she approaches the question, (l) from a 
general, and (2) from a particular point of view. She considers 
the part which love plays in life, in reference, (l) to our relative 
duties ; (2) to our social duties ; (3) to our highest duties and 
when considered from the divine point of view. She numbers 
her arguments, underlines those which are most essential, and 
distinguishes fresh points of view in those she has distinguished 
already. 1 She asks herself whether she loves Lovelace, and finally 
accords him " a sort of conditional love." Keeping a journal is 
with her a method of determining, supplementing, or amending her 
own resolutions and of " entering into a compact with herself." 2 

1 Cf. vol. i., p. 572 et seq. 

2 " When I set down what I -will do, or what I have done, on this or that occa- 
sion, the resolution or action is before me, either to be adhered to, withdrawn or 
amended, and I have entered into compact with myself, as I may say ; having 
given it under my own hand to improve, rather than to go backward, as I live 
longer." (Vol. ii., p. 82.) 


This is the method of the casuist, who divides ideas into the 
slenderest shreds, nay, even into imperceptible filaments. 

Moral dialectic is to be found on every page. Is one bound, 
Miss Howe queries, to rescue a friend from an awkward 
situation at the risk of falling into one no less, or more, 
awkward oneself ? A delicate question this ; it deserves an 
entire letter. Should marriages be founded on interest or on 
love ? Clarissa's letters contain matter enough for a volume on 
this point. Ought one to marry contrary to one's own inclina- 
tion and in obedience to parental desire ? In other words, is it 
Clarissa's duty to marry Solmes ? It must not be supposed that 
the mere prospect of doing so throws her into despair, like a 
vulgar stage-heroine. She weighs her reasons. By refusing 
Solmes she will inflict deep pain on her mother ; is this a 
sin ? If so, what excuse has she for her conduct ? Here is 
one, perhaps : however the controversy terminates, her mother's 
troubles cannot last long, for if she marries Lovelace her mother 
will immediately console herself, whereas, if she marries a man 
she detests, Clarissa will be for ever unhappy. A temporary 
sorrow for her mother is therefore preferable to eternal sorrow 
for Clarissa. It would be impossible to weigh duties more in- 
geniously, or in a more sensitive balance. 

Occasionally the habit amounts almost to a mania. Shall 
Pamela stay with her master or not ? She draws up a balance- 
sheet of arguments. Reasons for : she will be sustained 
by divine grace, and a happy future will be secured for her 
parents, etc. Reasons against : her inexperience, the danger 
to her innocence, etc. Richardson drew up this balance- 
sheet with the same perfection of method as he employed 
in determining the liabilities and assets of his printing 

Yet even this brings his characters nearer to us. It humanizes 
them, as it were, and endows them with life. The heroes of 
tragedy struggle against love for the sake of honour, or against 
infamy for the sake of glory. Such motives are noble ones, it 
is true, but they are somewhat abstract. They do not come 
home to us so closely, because, as they appear to our eyes, they 


are deprived of the train of definite and sometimes paltry circum- 
stances by which they are attended in real life. Richardson does 
not know what " love " and " honour " are. He observes each 
particular case, describes it, turns it over and over, weighs it 
twice or thrice, and finally comes to a conclusion upon it at the 
price of having to repeat the whole process when the next case 
occurs. It is the method adopted by spiritual directors and 
writers of sermons. 1 It had to be introduced into fiction, and 
this could only be done by an author with a passion for ethical 

Lastly, if, in addition to his faithful observation of the external 
world, to the art with which he manages to bring his characters 
before the reader, and to the richness and abundance of his 
moral reflexions, we take into account his intensely sensitive 
nature and his peculiar gift of passionate attachment to his own 
creations, we shall have included all, or nearly all, the principal 
characteristics of Richardson's genius. 

His sensibility was extraordinary, and, even at that maudlin 
period, seems to have been sincere. Consequently, the tears of 
every reader, during his own day, were at his command. When 
I read Clarissa, Miss Fielding wrote to him, " I am all sensa- 
tion ; my heart glows." Another of his correspondents abandons 
the attempt to describe her feelings, and lays down her pen: 
" Excuse me, good Mr Richardson, I cannot go on ; it is your 
fault you have done more than I can bear." 2 Richardson's 
successors in English fiction felt at liberty gently to banter the 
" enraptured spinsters" who " incensed " the master " with the 
coffee-pot," kissed the slippers they worked for him, and 

1 M. Brunetiere (Le roman naturaliste, p. 292) maintains that Richardson drew 
much of his inspiration from Bourdaloue. It is, at any rate, beyond doubt that 
the works of the French sermon-writer were very popular in England. Burnet 
said to Voltaire that Bourdaloue had "effected a reformation among English as 
well as among French preachers." (Cf. Lettre au due de la Valliere.} 

2 Mrs Barbauld, vol. iv., p. 241 (Letter from Lady Bradshaigh). 


believed they saw a "halo of virtue" around his night-cap. 1 
Some of the forms taken by sensibility in the eighteenth century 
were extremely ludicrous, but does it follow that Richardson 
and Rousseau were insincere ? 

Richardson was not only sensitive, but also it must be 
admitted sensual. In Pamela there is noticeable a singular 
freedom in touching upon certain delicate subjects. Pamela 
receives from her master a present of a pair of stockings ; she 
blushes. "Don't blush, Pamela," he says ; " dost think I don't 
know pretty maids wear shoes and stockings ? " Amenities of 
this sort are not rare. The author may seem to dwell at too 
great length on the advances to which a girl of fifteen is exposed 
from her master. Certain details are repulsive, and other 
features astonish us. Pamela seems too familiar with the fact 
that dejection commonly follows sensual pleasure : " We read in 
Holy Writ, that wicked Ammon, when he had ruined poor 
Tamar, hated her more than ever he loved her, and would 
have turned her out of door." 2 In Clarissa there are long scenes 
which take place in a disorderly house, and are anything but 
chaste. Does the fault lie with the age ? Is it not that 
with Richardson, as with Rousseau, sensibility borders upon 
sensuality ? 

Works which appeal so constantly and so powerfully to the 
stronger emotions certainly cannot be read with impunity. There 
is something sickly and sensual in Richardson's melancholy, a 
melancholy, as Diderot said, " at once sweet and lasting." It is 
too palpably an enjoyment of a morbid state of physical de- 
pression. Written for women, about women, and by an essen- 
tially feminine writer, these novels did much to prepare the way 
for the " vague lachrymosity " of Hervey, Ossian, and Rousseau. 
To Richardson must be accorded the most important place in 
the history of "melancholy." 3 It was he who made languor 
of soul and hidden tenderness fashionable, and developed the 
popular taste for soft and melancholy feelings. All his readers 

1 Thackeray, The Virginians, vol. i. 2 Ballantyne, vi., p. 35. 

3 On this topic see Leslie Stephen, History of English thought in the eighteenth 
century, vol. ii. 


have mourned with Lovelace over the lost reflection of Clarissa, 
and all have sympathized with his words 

" I have been traversing her room, meditating, or taking up everything she but 
touched or used : the glass she dressed at I was ready to break, for not giving me 
the personal image it was wont to reflect of her, whose idea is for ever present 
with me. I call for her, now in the tenderest, now in the most reproachful 
terms, as if within hearing ; wanting her, I want my own soul, at least everything 
dear to it. What a void in my heart ! what a chillness in my blood, as if its 
circulation were arrested I From her room to my own ; in the dining-room, and 
in and out of every place where I have seen the beloved of my heart, do I hurry ; 
in none can I tarry ; her lovely image in every one, in some lively attitude, 
rushing in upon me. . . ," 1 

The exquisite sadness of passion, though from Rousseau and 
Goethe it received a more lyrical expression, was already to 
be found in Richardson. His emotions, like theirs, were con- 
stantly being stirred by the thought of love, because, for him as 
for them, love is what the soul demands with irresistible force. 
With all its attendant moods of agitation, anxiety and depression, 
it is the highest and the deepest manifestation of our innermost 
self. This, for our pious novelist, is beyond doubt. Carlyle once 
maintained that in the lives of the majority love occupies but an 
insignificant place. In the novels of Richardson it occupies not 
only the most important, but every place. Of all moral and 
social questions it is the chief. Nor is the love here treated 
of the mere gallantry which formed the staple of French fiction 
and French drama in the seventeenth century, but rather that 
" tragic and terrible " love which is a matter of life and death. 
Love, in the novels of Marivaux, Lesage and Prevost, whatever 
importance they attach to it, is, it should be remarked, as yet a 
mere accident or a means to getting on in the world. Nowhere, 
even in Manon Le scant , does it attain the dignity of a social duty. 
With Richardson it takes possession of the whole man, and 
absorbs the entire interest. " Our feelings," Saint-Evremond 
once said, "are wanting in a certain intensity; the impulses 
which half-roused passions excite in our souls can neither leave 
them in their usual condition nor carry them out of themselves." 2 
This intensity in which the passions were deficient was expressed 

1 Ballantyne, vol. i., p. 266. 2 Sur let tragedies (1677). 


by Richardson with genius, because love, as he conceived it, was 
no mere accident or stroke of good fortune, but, in a sense, the 
most essential of human duties. 

Love, passionate love, is the main point of all his novels. 
Pamela loves her unworthy master, Clarissa loves the monster 
Lovelace, Henrietta Byron and Clementina are distracted with 
love for Grandison, and innumerable trials are the reward of 
passion in every case. Pamela is reviled, imprisoned and over- 
whelmed with outrageous insults ; Clarissa is done to death ; 
Clementina loses her reason. Who will say that passion is not 
tragic ? What a subject for study in this lingering anguish of a 
heart ! And what wonder that Richardson devoted so much 
labour to the task ? " Clarissa" wrote Alfred de Vigny, " is a 
treatise on strategy. Twenty-four volumes to describe the siege 
and capture of a heart : it is worthy of Vauban," 1 Such a feat 
is possible only to the man who is thoroughly convinced that if 
love is the source of man's greatest sorrows, it is also the sole 
principle of his nobility. 

But when this man happens to be an Englishman and a Pro- 
testant, there is also, of course, a moral to be drawn from 
these adventures in the field of love. Two objects have to be 
reconciled, that of arousing the reader's feelings and that of 
instructing him, of being at once impassioned and thoroughly 
moral, very pathetic and highly improving. And this being 
so, one subject only is possible : love thwarted yet struggling, 
whether against external obstacles or against itself. This, in 
truth, is the only story Richardson has to tell, and the victims 
of this fatality are always women. All four Pamela, Clarissa, 
Clementina, Henrietta or, if Miss Jervins and Olivia be in- 
cluded, all six strive either against their passion or against 
their duty. By one happiness is sacrificed to innocence, by 
another to filial duty, and by a third to religion ; while 
Henrietta, who suffers the least of all, heroically leaves the 
field to her fortunate rival when she perceives that Clementina 
is the object of Grandison's affection. 

Now no one has ever described these inward struggles as 

1 Journal d'un poete, 1833. 


Richardson has done. Who had thought of depicting the con- 
flict in a woman's heart between love and religion before he 
did ? l What heroine of fiction or of tragedy had refused, like 
Clementina, to give herself to the man she loves rather than 
renounce her religion ? Or, rather, what novelist had ventured 
to transfer such a subject to the days in which he was writing 
to introduce characters, Protestant or Catholic, belonging to 
1750 ? Pathetic is the struggle in Clementina's soul when 
she learns that Grandison refuses to renounce his belief. The 
noble girl has but to say one word in order to ensure her happi- 
ness : she need not even sacrifice her faith ; but that one word 
will impair the dignity of her love. So she refuses to say it, 
and it is under these circumstances that she writes Grandison 
the following admirable letter : 2 

" O thou whom my heart best loveth, forgive me! Forgive me, said I, for 
what ? For acting, if I am enabled to act, greatly ? The example is from thee, 
who, in my eyes, art the greatest of human creatures. My duty calls upon me 
one way : my heart resists my duty, and tempts me not to perform it. Do thou, 
O God, support me in the arduous struggle 1 Let it not, as once before, over- 
throw my reason. . . . My tutor, my brother, my friend ! O most beloved and 
best of men ! Seek me not in marriage ! I am unworthy of thee. Thy soul was 
ever most dear to Clementina ! Whenever I meditated the gracefulness of thy 
person, I restrained my eye, I checked my fancy : and how? Why, by meditat- 
ing the superior graces of thy mind. And is not that sou/, thought I, to be 
saved ? Dear, obstinate, and perverse I And shall I bind my soul to a soul 
allied to perdition ? That so dearly loves that soul as hardly to wish to be 
separated from it in its future lot. O thou most amiable of men ! How can 

be sure, that, if I were thine, thou wouldst not draw me after thee, by love, by 
sweetness of manners, by condescending goodness ? I, who once thought a heretic 
the worst of beings, have been already led, by the amiableness of thy piety, by the 
universality of thy charity to all thy fellow-creatures, to think more favourably of 
all heretics, for thy sake. Of what force would be the admonitions of the most 
pious confessor, were thy condescending goodness, and sweet persuasion, to be 
exerted to melt a heart wholly thine ? . . . O most amiable of men ! O thou 
whom my soul loveth, seek not to entangle me by thy love ! Were I to be 
thine, my duty to thee would mislead me from that I owe to my God. ..." 

The love which inspires such a letter is a noble feeling. It 
is rendered greater by contact with the religious sentiment which 

1 We must not, however, forget the famous Lettres d'une re/igieuse portugaise , nor 
Mme. de La Fayette's master-piece La Princesse de Cleves. 

2 Ballantyne, vol. iii., p. 508. 


is mingled with it, and transforms it. Thence spring new shades, 
delicate and unsuspected varieties, of passion. Observe, more- 
over, that each of these heroines loves even to the point of 
absolutely forgetting herself, and even voluntarily abasing her- 
self before the man she loves. In contrast to the cold Astree or 
the haughty Alcidiane, they yield themselves beforehand, are all 
humility and submission, all tenderness and modesty. " O my 
dear ! " Henrietta cries with humility, " what a princess in every- 
one's eye will the declared love of such a man make me ! " Like 
Milton's Eve they would be the last whatever the witty Miss 
Howe may say to think themselves the equals of their masters. 
But this only renders the struggle more touching. The wonder- 
ful resolution with which they struggle against love is due to the 
fact that they, too, have souls of their own, for which they are 
accountable to God. The source of their dignity is their faith ; 
never had the religious sentiment triumphed more brilliantly in 
fiction than in these love-distracted hearts, which the tortures of 
passion drive to madness or to death. No scenes of pathos can 
equal the spectacle of this inward anguish, nor does any language 
contain anything superior to the last volume of Clarissa Harloive. 
Let us try for a moment to imagine a happy ending to the book 
such as was clamoured for by Richardson's readers : the con- 
sequence would be the absolute destruction of its moral, with all 
that constitutes its exquisite beauty. The death of Clarissa, as 
a martyr to duty, is essential. It is necessary that Lovelace should 
love Clarissa, but it is no less so that he should be the victim of 
his past errors, the recollection of which interposes between her 
and him. It is inevitable that he should become incapable of 
loving her as she deserves to be loved. It is essential that it 
should be for ever impossible for him to become the husband of 
her whom he has treated as a mistress. It is essential, in the last 
place, that she should forgive him, as she forgives her parents, 
and that her obedience to conscience should entail her death. No 
other denouement is possible. 

It matters little that Clarissa seems prudish, bigoted, or 
pedantic. Gradually, as the drama approaches its end, what 
is absurd disappears or loses consequence. Just as when, in 


real life, we stand before a death-bed, unhallowed recollections 
steal away, and above and beyond all paltry or trivial realities 
we behold the image of the departing one, purified and already 
less human, so, beside the bed of the dying Clarissa, the meek 
little zealot, the affected provincial, the prolix and fastidious cor- 
respondent of the earlier chapters is forgotten, and all that re- 
mains before us is a girl dying because, amidst the most terrible 
trials, she steadfastly retained command of her conscience and 
her soul. Slowly prepared by a host of accumulated incidents, 
the emotion aroused by the multiplication of painful impressions 
is greater even than would be occasioned by a sudden and 
violent shock. Our feelings are deeply rather than abruptly 

" Most happy," says Clarissa upon her death-bed, " has been 
to me my punishment here I " In this glorification of suffering 
as a means of purification lies the whole moral of the work. 
This was something altogether new. No novel had previously 
been made the vehicle of such teaching; none had so deeply 
probed such serious questions j none had conveyed so lofty a 
lesson in a drama so moving. Even to-day, little as it is read, 
the last volume of Clarissa retains all its beauty. " I make my 
apologies," wrote Doudan in surprise, " to the old bookseller 
Richardson, the closing scene of his drama is all of it very 
beautiful and very touching." Every one who reads these 
admirable pages without prejudice will be of Doudan's opinion. 


This was all quite new, and, what was more, it seemed so to 
the reader. 

The novel had not yet been transformed into a branch of 
literature capable of conveying ideas. Neither Lesage, with 
his short-sighted philosophy and indulgent optimism, nor Prevost, 
with his purely romantic conception of life, nor even Marivaux, 
who, with all his intellectual charm, was of too amiable a dis- 
position, had achieved more than an imperfect success. The 


only work at all comparable, in point of moral significance, to 
English novels, was a short master-piece called the Princesse 
de Cleves. 

Before the novel could become a branch of serious literature 
it required, first of all, to be re-constructed in point of form, 
purged of its crude dramatic interest, and shorn of its elements 
of romance and gallantry. Richardson attempted this, but did 
not altogether succeed j his work retains something of the 
romantic element, though but little in comparison with that of 
his predecessors. He at all events limited the amount of 
incident in fiction, and confined it to simple events. He wrote 
big books about little facts. 

In the next place new types of character had to be chosen. 
Richardson selects them from the middle-class, or from the 
lesser nobility, as much because these strata of society were 
more familiar to him as because in them he had happened to 
find more souls that were souls in the true sense of the word 
capable, that is to say, of self-communion and of living a 
fruitful inner life apart. They had to be exhibited as analysing 
their own minds, and this is why he chose the epistolary form 
of novel ; a form which, even in his hands, did not attain per- 
fection, but proved, nevertheless, an adequate vehicle for that 
study of the commonplace tragedies of the soul which it was 
designed to express. 

It was necessary to get rid of any preoccupation of a purely 
literary character which might have hampered observation and 
detracted from the moral effect. Excellent in point of matter, 
the work of the carpenter's son, the pedantic and ill-educated 
printer, is at the same time inferior as regards form. 

It was also needful to portray life in the very meanest detail, 
with the patience of the naturalist who is passionately interested 
in everything. This he attempted, and with a success which 
often rendered him tedious, but enabled him at the same time to 
present such complete and accurate pictures as make him the 
greatest realist of his time. 

But necessary as it was to be an acute observer, it was even 
more so to be heart and soul a moralist, that is to- say, to com- 


bine deep religious convictions with the taste for moral prob- 
lems : a condition, however, essential, but seldom realised 
among literary men in the eighteenth century. Richardson, 
like Rousseau in his own day, and like Tolstoi' in ours, had 
the immense advantage of being a believer. 

Lastly, it was also necessary that with all these gifts there 
should be combined the gift of emotion, intense sensibility, 
extreme soft-heartedness, a really feminine partiality to tears, 
and, above all, that talent for making his creations live, which, 
as Villemain said, render him " the greatest and perhaps the 
most unconscious imitator of Shakespeare." 

The work which resulted from all these qualities, crude, 
pedantic, and unequal as it was, was nevertheless profoundly 
original, very English, though at the same time very human, and 
undoubtedly, when we consider the period to which it belongs, 
very new. Even at this distance of time its power remains 
unimpaired, and sufficiently explains if it does not absolutely 
justify the expression used by Johnson, when, with his rough 
good sense, he said to Boswell that " French novels, compared 
with Richardson's, . . . might be pretty baubles, but a wren 
was not an eagle." 1 

1 Life of Johns -on , ed. Napier, vol. i., p. 516. 

Chapter V 


I. Success of English novels in France Richardson is read and imitated by 
every member of Rousseau's circle Controversy with regard to English 
novels Diderot's Eloge de Richardson Voltaire takes the other side Richard- 
son's influence upon the French novel. 

II. Rousseau's admiration for him He had Richardson in mind while writing 
Helo'ise The resemblance between Helo'ise and Clarissa a commonplace of 
eighteenth century criticism Reasons for this. 

III. Analogy between the two works in point of design, characters, use of the 
epistolary form, and devotion to reality as exemplified in middle-class life. 

IV. Analogy between the two writers in point of religion How Rousseau, 
following Richardson's example, transformed and elevated the novel. 

V. Wherein he surpassed his model : feeling for nature, conception of love, 
melancholy The success of Helo'ise increased the fame of Clarissa Harloive 
Richardson and the romantic school. 

IT has been truly said that Clarissa Harlo<we is to La Nouvelle 
Heloise what Rousseau's novel is to Werther : * the three works are 
inseparably connected, because the bond between them is one of 
heredity. But while Werther and Heloise are still read, Clarissa 
is scarcely read at all, and this, beyond doubt, is the reason 
that, while no one thinks of disputing Goethe's indebtedness to 
Rousseau, it is to-day less easy to perceive the extent to 
which Rousseau is indebted to Richardson. 

To realise how far this was so, we need to recall the un- 
paralleled good fortune which attended Pamela, Clarissa and 
Grandison from the very moment of their appearance in France. 
The story of this controversy concerning English fiction con- 
stitutes an entire chapter, and not the least curious one, in the 
history of French literature. It inflamed public opinion almost 
to the same extent as the controversy over Shakespeare, and its 

1 Marc Monnier, Rousseau et les etrangers (in Jean-Jacques Rousseau juge par les 
Genevois d'aujourd'huf). 


last episode reflected dazzling glory upon Richardson, by pro- 
claiming him the model, and often even the master, of Rousseau. 


The success of Pamela was in the first place due to the fact 
that it impressed the reader as being at once moral in tendency 
and true. " An English girl, without birth or property, sets an 
example which might put to shame the comtesses and marquises 
of our most famous novelists." 1 Desfontaines, the accredited 
champion of literary novelties from England, strongly insisted on 
the novelty of Pamela, declaring that the book departed from the 
" beaten track" by restoring the credit of woman, who had been 
insulted in so many fashionable books (Crebillon fils had just 
published [17 36] his Egarements du cceur et de ['esprit), and by 
returning to what was simple and natural. In Pamela " there 
are neither daring descriptions, nor lewd suggestions, nor epi- 
grammatic obscurities." " True, these are not the adventures 
of the princess, marquise, comtesse, or baronne, who commonly 
figures as the heroine in our novels." But if the author "had 
credited some lofty personage in the upper ranks of society with 
so much virtue and power of resistance, where would truth to 
nature have been ? " The style, it is true, has not the " elegant 
symmetry of a geometrical figure," but it is full of a "happy 
carelessness." In short, Pamela, in spite of being an English 
novel, was an excellent pattern to set before French authors. 2 

English the book was, unfortunately for Desfontaines, and at 
that very moment England had declared herself on the side of 
Marie-Therese, in the war of the Austrian succession. A 
pamphlet appeared in patriotic denunciation of the dangerous 
tendencies of a novel so loud in its praises of insular virtue. 3 
The Journal de police proclaims its "indignation against the 

1 Journal etranger, February 1755. 

2 Observations sur les ecrits modernes, vol. xxix., 1742. 

3 Lettre a Vabbe Desfontaines sur Pamela, Paris, 1742. (See the Journal de police, 
published with the Journal de Earlier, Charpentier's edn., vol. viii., p. 158, and 
Observations sur les ecrits modernes, vol. xxix., p. 213.) 



author of the Observations for having written a defence of 
Pamela" and its amazement that a license should have been 
granted to the translator of a book, " the preface of which is a 
panegyric on the English and an insult to the entire French 
nation." Just as, at an earlier date, Corneille had incurred the 
suspicion of the authorities for having eulogized Spain in the 
Cid, so the anglophiles of the eighteenth century were readily 
taken for enemies of the State. 

Was it out of resentment that Desfontaines translated Joseph 
Andrews, which is a satire upon Pamela ? It is possible. But 
his efforts to promote the success of Fielding's novel, and to 
commend it " as a popular compendium of moral teaching and 
knowledge of the world," 1 were in vain. He had to acknow- 
ledge his failure, and laid the blame for it on the ultra-classical 
taste of the French. " It is nothing that the entire population 
of a country which is the home of intellectual refinement and 
good taste is charmed with the original. They are English, it is 
said ; do they know what a work of genius is ? " The book is 
supposed to be deficient in interest. "Where, I venture to ask, 
is the interest of such novels as Don Quixote, Gil Bias, and those 
of Scarron ? " 2 But since its discovery of Richardson the public 
would have none of Fielding, and contrasted a novel " so full of 
paltry meanness " with the biography of " the discreet and modest 
Pamela, whose famous adventures have been the admiration of 
such a multitude of readers." 3 Mme. du Deffand was incon- 
solable because she had read the new master-piece. 4 " But for 
Pamela, wrote Crebillon to Chesterfield, we should not know here 
what to read or to say," 5 and the heroine's name rapidly became 
popular. Even at the close of the century the due d'Orleans gave 
it to a girl who was supposed to be his natural daughter. 6 

Richardson's novel provoked continuations, imitations and 
burlesques. There were sequels to Pamela on the one hand, 

1 Lettre d'une dame anglaise, printed with Joseph Andrews. 

2 Observations, vol. xxxiii., p. 313. 

3 Bibliothequefran^aise, or Histoire litteraire de la France, 1744, p. 203. 

4 5th July 1742. 

5 z6th July 1742 ; see J. Jusserand, The English Novel, p. 414. 

6 Lamartine, Histoire des Girondins, vol. iv., p. 182, and v., p. zzj. 


and "anti-Pamelas" on the other. 1 Powerfully yet clumsily 
treated in English, 2 the subject attracted the attention of 
dramatists just at the time when La Chaussee had produced 
his first comedies of middle-class life ; but it did not bring 
them good fortune. In Boissy's Pamela en France the modest 
waiting-maid is transformed into a coquette, who swoons and 
faints away with almost mathematical regularity. " Faint," says 
one of the characters to her, in order to save her from an 
awkward situation. "I would," she replies, "only the public 
would take it amiss again." 

In truth the public accorded a somewhat cool reception to this 
clumsy imitation of the latest success in fiction. Its hero is a 
marquis, who, disguised as Cupid, finally marries the maiden 
he loves in a grand transformation scene. 3 La Chaussee was 
no more fortunate, in spite of the manifest affinity between 
his talent and Richardson's genius. In his piece, one of the 
poorest plays he wrote, the flavour of originality possessed by 
the novel has entirely disappeared. Pamela reclines " on a sofa 
of turf." She has some scruples with regard to angling : " Alas ! 
can an act of destruction be turned into sport ? I could not 
inflict pain on a living creature, whatever its species." Charming 
in the original, this touch becomes ridiculous upon the stage. 
At a certain point one tame and inoffensive line : 

" You will take my carriage, that you may go more quickly," 

provoked such laughter from the audience that the author had to 
withdraw his piece. 4 A few days later the Comediens Italiens 
took advantage of the twofold disaster of Boissy and La Chaussee 

1 See Lettres amusantes et critiques sur les romans en general, anglais et fran^ais, tant 
anciens que modernes [by Aubert de la Chesnaye Desbois], Paris, 1743, ^ parts 
I2mo. Fanny ou la Nouvelle Pamela, by d'Arnaud (1767): Histoire de Pamela en 
liberte (1776), &c. Upon the parodies of Pamela consult H. Harrisse, L?abbe 
Pre-vost, p. 338. See, for example: L' Anti-Pamela ou la fausse innocence decouverte 
dans les overtures de Syrene, histoire veritable traduite de I' anglais, 1743, I2mo. 

2 Clement, Les cinq annees litteraires, vol. i., p. 234. 

3 Pamela en France ou la <vertu miettx eprouvee : a comedy in verse, in three acts, 
played at the Italiens, 4th March 1743. 

4 Played at the Frangais, 6th December 1743. (See M. Lanson's book on 
Nivelle de la Chaussee, p. 159 et seg.^ 


to play La Deroute des Pamela, by Godard d'Aucour, which 
proved extremely diverting. 1 

But the success of the novel was by no means at an end. Six 
years later Voltaire, in his turn, borrowed from it not only the 
plot for his Nanine, but even his heroine's name Nanine for 
Nanny. 2 "It is Pamela herself, in the guise of a French 
miniature," a critic was generous enough to remark 3 ; but this is 
a great deal to say. Nanine is beloved by the generous and 
open-handed d'Olban , there is no obstacle between them but 
the difference in their stations ; hence, all the pathos that 
arises out of the situation of the enamoured though virtuous 
waiting-maid disappears. Nanine turns to Richardson's novel for 
lessons in philosophy: "I was reading." "What was the 
work ? " " An English one which has been given me as a 
present." " Upon what subject ? " " It is interesting. The 
author maintains that all men are brothers all born equal ; but 
such notions are absurd." 

A few of these absurd notions, presented in a somewhat 
insipid style, were unable to redeem the piece. 4 Rousseau 
afterwards regretted its failure, and accused the French public 
of incapacity to appreciate a play which treated "honour, virtue, 
and the natural sentiments in their original purity as preferable 
to the impertinent prejudice of rank," 5 and possessed, moreover, 
what in his eyes was the great merit of being inspired by 
Richardson. 6 

But if public opinion refused to accept the adaptations of 
Boissy, La Chaussee, and Voltaire, it had adopted the original 
work, and when, eight years later, Clarissa was translated by 
Prevost, the earlier effort had prepared popular taste to admire 
the master-piece. 

1 23rd December 1743. See the Mercure for 1743, p. 1722. 

2 See M. Holzhauser's study on the comedies of Voltaire (Zeltschrift fur neu- 
franzosische Sprache und Literatur, vol. vii., supplement, p. 69) on the subject 
of Voltaire's indebtedness to Richardson. 

8 Geoffrey, Cours de litterature dramatique, vol. Hi., p. 7. 

4 Played l6th June 1749. 5 Lettre sur les spectacles, notes. 

6 A version of Pamela, by Francois de Neufchateau, was played even during the 
revolutionary period. 


If we may believe Voltaire, the success of this second novel 
was not to be compared with that attained by the first. 1 But 
Voltaire, who is never a very reliable witness, is particularly 
untrustworthy when any English book is in question. Every- 
thing goes to prove that Clarissa was no less, but even more, 
successful than Pamela. The first part, which appeared by 
itself, caused, it is true, some disappointment : readers found 
fault, and not without reason, with its prolixity. " Your re- 
flexions weary us to death," wrote Clement de Geneve; "a 
plague on the subtle and weighty reasoner who gives us a dis- 
quisition instead of a story ! " 2 But the work created a sensation, 
and from Clarissa onwards, English novels were translated " the 
whole day long." 

On the publication of the English original, there had appeared 
at Amsterdam a highly appreciative criticism of it in French. 
The author drew a parallel between Richardson and Marivaux, 
commending the latter, though without much warmth, for his 
efforts to bring the novel back to reality, and praising the former 
to the skies for having made his work true to life in point of 
detail, and provided it with a lofty moral. This estimate of 
his work had fallen into the hands of Richardson, who had 
made use of it in the appendix to Clarissa? Once in possession 
of the entire master-piece, the French public confirmed this 
opinion and became loud in praise of the work. Richardson, 
who, after the appearance of Pamela, was regarded simply as 
an original writer, now became a great man. " I do not think," 
writes Marmontel, 4 " that the age can show a more faithful, 
more delicate, more spirited touch. We do not read, we see, 
what he describes," and he praises the consummate art of the 

1 Gazette litteraire , 3oth May 1764: "English novels were scarcely read at all 
in Europe before the appearance of Pamela. This type of work seemed highly 
interesting; Clarissa met with less success, but deserved more." Observe, more- 
over, that he contradicts himself elsewhere (Preface to L' cossaise}. 

2 Les cinq annees litter air es, 1 5th March 1751. Cf. Nouvelles litter air es for Zth 
January 1751. 

8 This expression of opinion will be found in the Gentleman's Magazine (June 
1749, vol. xix.). I am unacquainted with the name of the author. 
4 Mercure de France^ August 1758. 


author who " captivates at the same time as he wearies, or rather 
does not weary simply because he captivates " : his genius is life 
itself. D'Argenson admires English novels for their vigour of 
thought and freedom from the commonplace. "The great 
characteristic of English writers and of the whole of that 
deeply penetrative and thoughtful nation, is a thorough good 
sense in everything." 1 Voltaire himself acknowledges that the 
perusal of Clarissa "inflamed his blood," and after regaining his 
self-possession, confesses that the English stand alone as regards 
their naturalness : in them there is no pitiful desire to present 
the author when it is the characters only that should be pre- 
sented, " nor any anxiety to be witty out of season." 2 

Was it reverence for the master-piece or the failure of the 
adaptations of Pamela that preserved Clarissa from the play- 
wrights ? However this may be, no piece founded upon it 
was produced for several years. Contemporaries, it is true, 
insinuated that Beaumarchais had drawn upon it for the subject 
of his Eugenie? but has not Beaumarchais himself confessed that 
he borrowed his idea from Le Sage ? The first attempts to 
dramatize Richardson's masterpiece, which retained its popularity 
down even to the time of the Revolution, were those of Nee 
de la Rochelle in 1786, and Nepomucene Lemercier six years 
later. 4 

When, in I755> Grandison made its appearance, the fame of 
the English novelist was at its height. Nothing affords better 
evidence of the growth of his reputation than the outcry 
occasioned by the emendations Prevost had allowed himself 
to introduce : " One must have a fair opinion of oneself," we 
read in the Correspondance litter air e? " to act as the sculptor of 
Mr Richardson's marble. In him we have indeed a glorious 
artist, and if you, his translators, must venture to touch his 

1 Remarques en lisant. 

2 Letter to Mme. du Deffand, izth April 1760 ; Preface to L'Ecossaise (1760). 

3 See Journal encyclopedique, ist November 1756. 

4 The drama of Nee de la Rochelle is anonymous ; Clarlsse Harloive, a prose 
drama in three acts, Paris, 1786, 8vo. The Clarisse Harlotve of Nepomucene 
Lemercier was acted in 1792. 

5 January 1756. 


masterpieces, remove, if you can, any trifling specks and any 
dust which may here and there conceal these admirable statues ; 
relieve them of the soil which occasionally hides their contours ; 
but beware of even touching the statue with profane hands, lest 
you betray your ignorance and want of feeling." 

In this case, however, the feet of the statue were of clay, 
though at that time the fact was unsuspected. Gibbon re- 
commends the new book to his aunt as greatly superior to 
Clarissa. 1 Marmontel, while he admits that in France its 
success is not equal to that of the author's preceding novel, 
warmly refutes those who find the hero's character " too stiff 
and unnatural." " If we dared," wrote d'Argenson, " we 
would say that in Sir Charles Grandison another Christ has 
appeared upon earth, so perfect is he." 2 But the character 
of Grandison is, in Marmontel's opinion, " a marvellous and 
extraordinary one " : it is neither extravagant nor romantic : 
" He is nothing more than a good man, such as it is possible 
for everyone to be," and the book, taken as a whole, remains 
" a masterpiece of the most healthy philosophy." 3 Admiration 
had become infatuation. This novel, "ineffective," to quote La 
Harpe, 4 " in spite of all its merit," did not repel French 
readers 5 : its moral seemed to them a noble one, and its hero 
became popular. Grandison was a type, and had as good a 
claim to the title as Tartuffe or Don Juan. The Clementina 
episode, from which a person named Bastide constructed a play, 6 
was considered an unrivalled piece of work, and in popular esti- 
mation the author of Clarissa had never before attained such a 
pitch of excellence. " Antiquity," Marmontel wrote, " can show 
nothing more exquisite." 7 

1 Memoirs, vol. ii., p. 240. Translated in 1797. 

2 Memoirs!) edited by Jannet, vol. v., p. 112. 

3 See the Mercure, August 1758 ; and Essai sur les romans (CEnvres, vol. x., 

P- 340- 

4 Cours de litterature, vol. iii., p. 190. 

5 See Journal encyclopedique, Feb. 1756 ; JVLercure de France, Jan. 1756 ; Annee 
litteraire, 1755, vol. viii., p. 136, and 1758, vol. iv., p. 3. 

6 Gesoncour et Clementine, " tragedie bourgeoise " i'n prose, in five acts. Played 
4th November 1766. 

7 Mercure, August 1758. 


On the death of Richardson, 4th July 1761, popular enthusiasm 
rose to frenzy. The admirers of England were not slow to take 
advantage of so favourable an opportunity. From September 
1757 onwards, the Journal etranger kept its readers informed 
as to the great man's health. In the issue for January 1762, 
after his death, the following lines appeared : " There has fallen 
into our hands an English copy of Clarissa, containing some notes 
in manuscript. The author of these, whoever he may be, is un- 
doubtedly a man of keen intelligence, but one who was nothing 
more than this could never have written them. . . . Through 
all the absence of method and the pleasing carelessness of a pen 
unconscious of restraint, it is easy to recognise the sure and 
skilful hand of a great artist." 

The " great artist " was Diderot ; " Diderot, the possessed," 
as Joseph de Maistre calls him, who loaded Richardson " with 
praise which he would not have bestowed upon Fenelon," 1 and 
as his contemporaries with more justice observed extolled, 
of all English writers, the one whose genius bore the closest 
resemblance to his own. 2 

His contemporaries were right. But during the present 
century many critics, and those not the least eminent, have 
thought the same, or nearly so, as Joseph de Maistre. The 
Eloge de Richardson seemed to them a mere piece of rhetoric. 
It almost makes them blush for Diderot, and they would gladly 
expunge it from his works. The truth is that they fail to 
appreciate both him and Richardson. The Eloge is certainly 
not perfect : but, pompous as it is, it remains a most interesting 
piece of criticism. 

In the first place, Diderot is absolutely sincere. In the month 
of October 1760, he wrote from Grandval to Sophie Volland : 
" There was a deal of discussion concerning Clarissa. Those 
who despised the work regarded it with supreme contempt ; 
those who thought highly of it were no less extravagant in 
their esteem, and considered it one of the most marvellous 
achievements of the human intellect. ... I shall not be 

1 Soirees de Saint-Petersbourg, vol. i., p. 347. 

2 Marmontel, CEuvres^ vol. x., p. 339. 


satisfied either with you or with myself until I have made 
you appreciate the truth of Pamela, Tom Jones, Clarissa, and 
Grandison" * His novel La Religieuse was written in the same 
year, and he wrote it with the lamentations of Clementina 
sounding in his ears, "the ghost of Clarissa" hovering before 
him ; above all, he borrowed not only the English author's 
method of presentation and his style of pathos, but almost, even, 
his subject as well, since La Religieuse, like Clarissa Harloive, is 
the story of a girl who is imprisoned and subjected to the worst 
form of outrage. 

On the death of Richardson, Diderot, seizing his pen, pro- 
duced within twenty-four hours, and without pausing for fresh 
inspiration, a work that was less a study than a funeral oration, 
not so much a criticism as a panegyric. By so doing he gratified 
the desires of a great number of readers ; what strikes us as 
declamation seemed, when his encomium first appeared, simply 
eloquence and nothing more. The Comte de Bissy, who trans- 
lated Young, wrote to Arnaud : "I have read, and re-read, this 
sublime and touching panegyric ; and have been made sensible 
of the power and the charm which genius and virtue derive from 
one another when found in combination." 2 Diderot, in fact, 
had simply accepted a part assigned to him by public opinion, 
and had earned its gratitude thereby. His Eloge very quickly 
became a classic, and was henceforth reprinted in all editions 
of Richardson. 

Some have regarded it as an indirect attack upon Prevost. 3 
But if it is so, how can we account for the fact that it was 
Prevost who first prefixed the piece to his own translation ? 
Moreover, if certain allusions are applicable to Cleveland the 
work which drew tears from Rousseau had not Prevost him- 
self been the first to condemn the fluent romantic style of his 
early works ? Again, had not Prevost, the friend of Rousseau, 
and doubtless of Diderot as well, been quite recently the editor 
of the Journal etranger, by which the j&loge was published ? 

1 2oth October 1760. Cf., in the (Euvres, vol. xix., pp. 47, 49, 55. 

2 Journal etranger, February 1762, p. 143. 

3 Brunetiere, Etudes Critiques, vol. iii., p. 243. 


Lastly, what grounds have we for doubting Diderot's sincerity, 
and why should the fact that he praises Richardson be a reason 
for supposing that he is attacking Prevost ? It would be far 
more reasonable to suppose that the Eloge was intended to remind 
the numerous admirers of the Nouvelle Heldise, which had been 
published a few months before, that Rousseau with whom 
Diderot, as we are aware, had now quarrelled had had both a 
predecessor and a master ; and this, indeed, as we shall see, is the 
way in which Rousseau seems to have interpreted its publication. 

Having said so much, it would be a waste of time for us to 
point out the instances of palpable exaggeration in this fragment, 
did they not afford a singular testimony to the progress of anglo- 
mania. Is it not odd to find French novelists condemned for 
describing the " secret haunts of profligacy," when we recollect 
the places in which many of the scenes in Clarissa take place ? 
Is it not, to say the least, paradoxical to reject Montaigne, La 
Rochefoucauld, and Nicole in favour of Richardson as a por- 
trayer of the human heart ? Is it not a gross mistake to praise 
in a novelist of a popular, and sometimes of a vulgar type, that 
delicate art, appreciable only by a very limited number of readers, 
which is just the very thing he did not possess in the slightest 
degree ? Diderot was thus in error possibly not without in- 
tention upon certain points. But he distinguished the char- 
acteristics of the work as a whole with much truth and eloquence. 
No ; one who has just laid down the last volume of Clarissa will 
find the Eloge something more than a mere piece of rhetoric. 

He clearly perceived the novelty of Richardson's precise, de- 
liberate and circumstantial art, of his detailed descriptions, of 
those pictures of his which produce the effect of life, and give 
us the illusion " of having added to our experience." Every 
unprejudiced reader of Richardson can say with Diderot : "I 
know the house of the Harlowes as well as I know my own ; 
I am no less familiar with Grandison's dwelling than with my 
father's." When Richardson carries his reader away he does so 
entirely : this is because he has a complete, varied, and penetra- 
tive comprehension of the chaos of incidents and trifling events 
called life. He endeavoured to portray it in its complexity and 


its totality. This characteristic has been excellently described 
by Diderot. 

" You accuse Richardson of being tedious ! Have you then forgotten the trouble, 
the attention, the manoeuvring that are necessary before the humblest enterprise 
can be brought to a successful issue before a law-suit can be concluded, a 
marriage arranged, or a reconciliation effected ? Choose of these details which 
you will, they will all be interesting to me if they call the passions into play and 
illustrate character. ' They are commonplace,' say you ; ' this is what we see 
every day ? ' You are wrong ; it is what passes before your eyes every day, 
without your ever seeing it. Beware ; in attacking Richardson you are bringing 
an action against the great poets. A hundred times you have watched the 
sun set and the stars appear ; you have heard the fields ringing with the shrill 
song of the birds ; but which of you perceived that it was the sounds of the day 
that charged the silence of the night with emotion ? Well I It is for you, with 
moral as with physical phenomena ; outbursts of passion have often fallen upon 
your ears, but you are very far from knowing all the secrets implied in its accents 
and manifestations. There is not one of the passions but has its characteristic 
facial expression ; all these different expressions succeed one another upon a 
countenance, without its ever ceasing to be the same ; and the art of the great 
poet or the great painter consists in making you see something that had escaped 
your notice before. . . . Learn that it is upon this multitude of little things that 
illusion depends ; it is a very difficult thing to picture them ; it is a very difficult 
thing, also, to reproduce them." 

Diderot has caught the very essence of Richardson's " realism." 
But behind the portraiture of the external world, we must look 
for that of human souls. Richardson has a rare faculty of analysis. 
He portrays every character and every station in life ; but, above 
all, he discerns the secret feelings, those which escape your 
indifferent eye, the " fissures," so to speak, of the soul. " If 
there is a hidden feeling in the depths of the soul of any one of 
his characters, listen closely, and you will hear a discordant note 
which will betray its presence." ... Or again, " it is he who 
carries the torch to the darkest part of the cavern." He is an 
admirable anatomist of the moral life. 

All this, it must be observed, was most seasonable as a con- 
firmation of Diderot's own theories on truth to nature in art. 
Similarly, this apotheosis of Richardson immediately following 
the publication of Le Fils nature! (17 57), and the production of 
Le Pere de famille (ij6l) came at a time most appropriate for 
the justification of his ideas concerning morality on the stage and 
in fiction. 


How could Diderot fail to appreciate one who used the novel 
as a pulpit or a rostrum, and wove in with the thread of the 
story a continuous lesson for the benefit of the reader ? The 
briefest passage affords opportunity for discussion on " the most 
important questions of morality and taste." Leave Pamela or 
Clarissa, he said, lying about upon a table, and those who read them 
will soon become as passionately attached to the actors in these 
dramas as though they were living characters. From differences 
of opinion with regard to them, " secret hatreds" have been 
known to spring, veiled contempt, in short the same divisions 
between those bound together by natural ties as might have 
occurred if a matter of the utmost gravity had been at stake. 
Strange that such an effect should be produced by a novel ! 
How rare a genius, too, must that be which has rendered the 
most frivolous branch of literature capable of producing a book 
worthy of comparison these are Diderot's words " to a book 
more sacred still," namely, the Gospel ! The word once out, 
Diderot can contain himself no longer. " O Richardson, 
Richardson, you who have no rival in my eyes, it is you whom 
I shall always read ! Under the stress of pressing circumstances 
I may sell my books, but you I shall keep : you I shall keep, 
upon the same shelf as Moses, Homer, Euripides and Sophocles ! " 

Moses, Homer, Euripides and Sophocles ! Great names, 
these, and grand words. We must not forget that it is 
Diderot who utters them, nor that the date is about 1760, a 
time of change and regeneration for French literature, which 
was awaiting its Homer, and believed it had found him. " O 
Richardson ! If, during your lifetime, you did not enjoy all 
the reputation which is your due, how great will you appear 
in the eyes of our descendants, when they behold you at the 
distance from which we look back upon Homer ! " The modern 
Homer : such is Richardson. Here Diderot is in agreement with 
Gellert and the Germans, because he, like them, felt the need 
for a new genius who should be capable of directing a virgin 
literature into fresh paths. 

This was extremely daring ; so much so that Voltaire became 


Hitherto he had regarded the popularity of English novels 
with toleration, if not with favour. He had even endeavoured, 
in Nanme and UEcossaise, to shelter himself behind " these re- 
markably successful English novels." Now, however, his secret 
antipathy came to light. Already, and not without malice, he 
had pointed out the author's faults, at the very time when he con- 
fessed that the perusal of Clarissa " fired his blood." He had 
called him " a clever fellow . . . who keeps making promises 
from volume to volume," but never fulfils them. " I said, if all 
these people were my relatives and friends, I could not feel 
interested in them." x In vain Mme. du Deffand maintained that 
Richardson "had great intelligence." "It is painful," he re- 
plied, "for an energetic person like me to read nine whole 
volumes and find nothing in them whatever." In reality he 
is standing up for his old idea of the novel as a very light 
form of literature, unworthy the attention of a serious mind. 
But after the appearance of the Aloge de Richardson, and as 
anglomania gained ground, his mistrust turned into open 
hostility. An article of his in the Gazette litteraire 2 ' finds an 
explanation and an excuse for the English taste for such 
" twaddle " in the Englishman's habit of spending nine months 
out of the twelve on his country estate ; without reading, during 
his long winter evenings, what would he find to do ? But in a 
letter to d'Argental he throws off the mask, and confesses his 
astonishment and contempt : "I don't like those long and in- 
tolerable novels Pamela and Clarissa. They have been successful 
because they excite the reader's curiosity even amidst a medley 
of trifles ; but if the author had been imprudent enough to 
inform us at the very beginning that Clarissa and Pamela 
were in love with their persecutors, everything would have 
been spoiled, and the reader would have thrown the book 
aside." 3 He adds, not without some irony and ill-humour : 
" Is it possible that these islanders are better acquainted with 
nature than your Welches'!" Still, the Welches persist in their 
admiration, and a certain Jean-Jacques supplies them with 

1 To Mme. du DefFand, izth April 1760. 2 30th May 1764. 

8 i6th May 1767. 


books of the same character : it is too much of a good 
thing. To read Clarissa one must be crazy and have plenty 
of time to lose. 1 Is it not really disgraceful that the English 
should allow themselves to be imposed upon with such 
"jugglers' tricks as novels," and that a nation which has 
afforded a pattern to Europe should forsake the study of 
Locke and Newton for works of the most frivolous and ex- 
travagant kind ? " 2 This was Voltaire's last word upon 
English fiction. At bottom, no one could have less romance 
about him than he ; but neither could anyone view with greater 
anxiety the infatuation of France with these foreign novels, which 
in his opinion were inferior or barbarous. It was this which 
led him ultimately to treat Richardson and Sterne as he treated 

But public opinion was no longer with him. Readers of 
Rousseau and the followers of Diderot were all looking to him 
for a reasoned opinion on Richardson. He refused to give one. 
As Diderot had nothing to say, Sebastien Mercier, one of his 
disciples, took upon himself to ask Voltaire the reason of his 
silence. " M. de Voltaire, in his numerous writings, which I 
have read and re-read, has avoided, so far as I know, all mention 
of Richardson, whether favourable or otherwise, though he has 
treated of every other writer, however obscure." In justice it 
should be mentioned that in 1773 the year in which Mercier 
was writing Voltaire's opinion, quoted above, had not been 
printed. "It is impossible," Mercier continues, "that the 
author of Nanine should fail to appreciate Pamela ; he has 
certainly read Clarissa and Grandison, poems to which antiquity 
can produce no worthy rival. He must know that these master- 
pieces of feeling, truth, and moral teaching have found readers 
of both sexes, in every country and of every age. I suppose 
that, since M. de Voltaire's manner of writing is diametrically 

1 Lettres chinoises, xii. (1776): "My attention is engaged with a problem in 
geometry ; and straightway there arrives a novel called C/arissa, in six volumes, 
which the anglomaniacs praise to the skies as the only novel fit for a sensible 
man to read. I am fool enough to read it, and thereby I lose both my time and 
the thread of my investigations." 

2 Journal de politique et de litterature (1777), article on Tristram Shandy. 


opposed to Richardson's, the silence he has preserved in 
regard to this author of genius is founded on principle." 1 
Mercier had discerned the truth. Voltaire's silence was that 
of contempt. 

But the books he so despised were making the French nation 
" stupid," as Horace Walpole said. The women became crazy 
about them. Mme. du DefFand discussed them with Walpole 
and could not forgive him his contempt. Clarissa was certainly 
not like other novels ; it was " but a poor antidote to depression." 
But " the play of every day interests, tastes, and feelings, when 
their subtle gradations are so finely indicated as in Richardson, 
is enough to absorb my attention and to give me infinite pleasure." 2 
How superior it all is to La Calprenede and to French fiction ! 
" After your novels I find it impossible to read any of ours." 
Such was the opinion of Mile, de Lespinasse : she was very 
fond of Prevost and Lesage, M. de Guibert tells us, but she 
placed "the immortal" Richardson above everyone else. In 
vain her friend d'Alembert declared that " it is well to imitate 
nature, but not to do so to a wearisome extent." She wrote 
to her lover, in a fit of despondency : " I believe, if I read 
Clarissa to-night, I should find neither love nor passion in it. 
Good heavens ! can one fall lower than this ? " 3 

But it was not the women only, as Voltaire maintained, 4 who 
were responsible for the success of these novels. All the 
associates of Diderot and Rousseau and the whole of the re- 
forming party adopted them almost without reserve. They 
held that " there was more philosophy in most English novels 
than in many a moral treatise." 5 The Encyclopedia made them 
the subject of a pompous eulogy. 6 Marmontel, the faithful 
disciple of Diderot, placed the English novelist above all writers, 

1 Essai sur Vart dramatique, p. 326. 

2 See the Lettres de Mme. du Deffand a Horace Walpole, especially that of 8th 
August 1773. 

3 1 7th October 1775 ; see also the letter of 7th July 1775. 

4 Gazette litter air e, vol. i., p. 334. 5 Journal encydopedique, 1st March 1763. 
6 In an article entitled Roman-. " Novels written in this excellent manner are 

perhaps the only remaining form of instruction that can be given to a nation so 
corrupt that no other can be of service to it." 


ancient or modern. Even BufFon, with all his calmness and his 
ready contempt for literary novelties, admired him " for his 
intense truthfulness, and because of his close observation of 
every object he portrayed." 1 

For more than half a century France remained subject to the 
spell. Richardson brought the English type of novel into fashion. 
" Our novelists," said the Journal etranger, 2 " are almost com- 
pelled to disguise the products of their fancy in this foreign 
garb if they wish to be read." Who has not seen upon the 
quays, or hidden away in old provincial libraries, some of these 
faint and sterile imitations of the master ? Some pretend to be 
sequels, such as La Nouvelle Clementine, by Leonard, or the Petit 
Grandison of Berquin. Others, more candid, actually claim the 
sanction of his name; for example: " Les Mceurs du jour, ou 
Histoire de Sir William Harrington, ecrite du vivant de M. Richard- 
son (sic), editeur de Pamela, Clarisse et Grandisson, revue et retouchee 
par lui, sur le manuscrit de fauteur" 3 Volumes similar to these, 
or still more obscure, were produced by the dozen : Les Lettres 
de Milady Linsay, the Memoires de Clarence Welldonne, Milord 
d'Ambi, histoire anglaise ; a catalogue of them would be long 
and unprofitable. It is of more importance to note that all the 
authors in vogue make use of the British hall-mark : Baculard 
d'Arnaud, the popular author of the Epreuves du sentiment, never 
loses an opportunity of praising Richardson, and brought out in 
succession Anne Bell, Sidnei et Silli, Clary ou le retour a la vertu 
recompense, Adelson et Salvini, " an English anecdote," and any 
number of other books, now no longer read, which ran through 
sixty editions, and were translated into several languages ! Eng- 
lish novels, said Rousseau, are either " sublime or detestable." 
The imitations of them, for the most part, are not sublime. But 
the foreign livery made everything go down. English novels 
are not all good ones, it is true, said the Correspondence litterairef 
but at any rate they are always better than "our insipid French 
productions of the same sort." 

Not a single novelist of note escaped the taint of anglomania. 

1 Sainte-Beuve, Causeries, vol. iv., p. 364. 2 February 1757. 

3 See the Correspondance litter -aire, February 1773. 4 February 1767. 


Crebillon fils announced his Heureux orphelins as a translation. 1 
Mme. Riccoboni, who was so famous in her day, and so much 
admired by Doudan, 2 wrote the Memoires de Miledi B , and 
the Lettres de Juliette Catesby, which evoked the congratulations of 
Marmontel. " It is by following English models," he said, " that 
a woman has attained such great and well-deserved success among 
us." 3 Prevost contributed the Memoires pour servir h rhistoire 
de la vertu^ an inferior work translated from Mrs Sheridan's 
Memoirs of Miss Sidney Biddulph. Marmontel derived the inspira- 
tion, and even the subjects, for several of his Contes moraux 5 from 
Richardson. Voltaire himself had Clarissa in mind when he 
wrote a certain chapter of ISIngenu, describing the sufferings of 
the fair Saint- Yves on her death-bed, as a companion picture to 
those of the heroine of the English novel. 6 

From 1760 to the end of the century scarcely a novel was 
published that escaped this all-absorbing influence. It was 
Richardson who furnished Diderot with the inspiration for Les 
Deux Amis de Bourbonne and UHistoire de Mile, de la Chaux ; it 
was from him that he derived his abounding wealth of detail, 
the accuracy which makes his presentation almost palpable, and 
his slightly crude colouring; and it was Richardson also whom 
he had in mind while writing La Religieuse. As his editor points 
out, the Eloge de Richardson explains the immense advance which 
this novel marks in comparison with his earlier efforts ; in the 
interval he had read Clarissa Harloive, and felt that he had been 
initiated. 7 Whether Richardson would have acknowledged him 
as a disciple is doubtful. It is certain that he would have frankly 

1 Les heureux orphellns, a tale imitated from the English (1754). 

2 Lettres > vol. i., p. 271. s (Euvres, vol X., p. 346. 

4 All the newspapers of the period attribute this novel to Prevost (Mercure, 
July 1762 ; Journal encyclopedique, 1 5th July 1762 ; Memoires secrets, 3Oth April 
1762). It has also been included in his (Euvres choisies. 

5 See especially L'ecole de FamiHe. 

6 The resemblance has been pointed out by Villemain. See L' Ingenu , chap. xx. 
(1767): " She made no show of vainglorious fortitude ; she did not understand 
the paltry honour of giving a few neighbours occasion to say, ' Hers was a 
courageous end . . .' How many there are who praise the pompous death-beds 
of those who meet annihilation with apathy I " &c. 

7 See Assezat, (Euvres de Diderot, vol. v., p. 211. 


disowned Laclos and Restif, though they professed themselves 
his followers. Contemporaries had pointed out how far the 
author of Les liaisons dangereuses was indebted for the character 
of Valmont to that of Lovelace ; Valmont is simply Lovelace in 
the guise of a Frenchman. 1 And as for Restif, a coarse but 
powerful artist, who dealt with the vulgar side of life, he wrote 
his Paysan perverti " under the inspiration of Pamela" and boasted 
of having done so ; when he described in detail " the progress 
of corruption as it invades an upright and innocent heart," 2 he 
claimed to be following Richardson. Lavater, one of his numerous 
foreign admirers, surnamed him " the French Richardson," and 
his worshippers ranked him higher than the English novelist 
whose disciple he professed to be, because, with equal genius, 
he had set before himself a still more ambitious project. 3 Every 
one of the novelists who belong to the closing years of the 
century including the Marquis de Sade 4 call upon the name 
of Richardson. 

He had therefore quite a progeny of imitators, distinguished 
and otherwise. Some loved him for his faithful delineation of 
the vulgar side of existence, others, more numerous, because he 
surpassed all other novelists in his command of pathos. Many 
produced bad imitations of him, because they imitated him too 
closely. Others, who call themselves his disciples, owe him in 
reality little or nothing. But all speak of him with respect. 
In fiction his is the greatest name of the century. A French 
critic of that period states that " Clarissa, the greatest among 
English novels, has also become the first among our own" 5 

The eloquent printer's tomb became a resort for pilgrims. 
Mme. de Genlis, when in England, called upon Richardson's 
son-in-law, asked to see the great man's portrait, sat in his own 

1 La Harpe, Gorrespondance litteraire, vol. iii., p. 339. Observe moreover the 
success attained by Les liaisons dangereuses in England (Dutens, Memoires d'un 
voyageur qui se repose ', vol. iii., p. 221. 

2 See Avis de Pierre R ' ', prefixed to the Paysan perverti. 

3 C/. P. Lacroix, Bibliographie de Restif de la Bretonne, pp. 69, 127 ; and Mes 
Inscriptions, edn. P. Cottin, 1889, p. Ixx. 

4 See his Idee stir les romans, edn. Uzanne, I2mo, p. 25. 

5 Journal des savants, September 1785. 


particular seat, and paid a visit to his grave. Another visitor, 
Mme. de Tesse, threw herself upon the tomb-stone and gave 
way to such despair that her guide became alarmed. 1 

But a few years had passed when a great poet, lost in reverie 
on a bright summer's day in the country, summoned before his 
mind the images of Richardson's heroines : " Clarissa ! with 
Heaven itself radiant in your saintly beauty ; free, in all your 
pain, alike from hatred and from bitterness, suffering without a 
groan, and perishing without a murmur ; beloved Clementina ! 
pure, and heavenly soul, who, amidst the harsh treatment of an 
unjust household, never lost your innocence with the loss of 
your reason : your eyes, bright souls, hold me with their 
charm ; your sweet likeness hastens to fill my fairest dreams ! " 2 

What could afford more signal evidence of Richardson's 
popularity than this tribute of reverence for his genius from 
Andre Chenier, the least English of all French poets ? 


Rousseau began to write La Nouvelle Heldise at L'Ermitage 
in the winter of 1756, when the sensation caused by the still 
recent publication of Clarissa Harloive was at its height. 

Like everyone else, Rousseau read the new masterpiece, and 
read it in the translation of Prevost, who had possibly shown it 
to him in manuscript. It is unlikely that he had recourse to the 
original, for he never knew much English. 3 He was none the 
less impressed with the originality of this novel, as with that of 
the master's other works. In a certain place he demands that the 
composition of novels shall only be entrusted " to well-bred but 

1 Mme. de Genlis, Memoires, vol. Hi., p. 360. 

2 A. Chenier, Elegle xiv. 

3 On receiving the English translation of La Nouvelle Helo'ise, he asked Mme. 
de Boufflers, who was acquainted with the language, to look through it, and tell 
him what she thought of it, adding: "I do not understand the language well 
enough" (To Mme. .de Luxembourg, z8th August 1761). Three years later, 
Panckoucke asked him to undertake the abridgment of Richardson, and he declined 
on the ground of his ignorance of English (25th May 1764). 


sensitive persons, whose writings will reflect their own hearts," 1 
and on reading Richardson's masterpiece he at once declared that 
never yet had " a novel equal to, or even approaching, Clarissa, 
been produced in any language whatever." 2 What Geoffrey's 
authority may be for discerning in this statement a disparaging 
allusion to Tom Jones, which had recently been translated by 
La Place, I cannot say. 3 Nowhere does Rousseau make any 
mention of Fielding. On the other hand, at the very moment 
when he was expressing this opinion in the Lettre sur les 
spectacles, he was himself putting the last touches to La Nouvelle 
Helo'ise, in which he had evidently drawn inspiration from 
Clarissa. Everything therefore tends to convince us that he 
was expressing quite sincerely, and without the least reserva- 
tion, an admiration which lasted throughout his life. 

When, at a later period, he visited England, he wrote to the 
Marquis de Mirabeau as follows 4 : " You admire Richardson, 
monsieur le marquis ; how much greater would be your admira- 
tion, if, like me, you were in a position to compare the pictures 
of this great artist with nature ; to see how natural his situations 
are, however seemingly romantic, and how true his portraits, 
for all their apparent exaggeration ! " And he regretted that he 
came across so many Captain Tomlinsons, and so few Belfords. 

On this point Rousseau never swerved from his opinion. 
Bernardin de Saint Pierre, who knew him during the latter 
part of his life, tells us that " he never spoke of Richardson 
without enthusiasm. Clarissa, according to him, contained a 
complete portrait gallery of the human race ; of Grandison he 
thought less highly." 5 

While writing his novel he undoubtedly kept Clarissa before 
him, and possibly Pamela as well. In his second preface he 
protests against the foolish affectation of designing the moral 

1 Nouvelle Helo'ise, ii., 21. 2 Lettre sur les spectacles. 

3 See Cours de litterature dramatique, vol. Hi., p. 262. 4 8th April 1767. 

5 Fragments sur J.-J. Rousseau, in Aime Martin's edition of the works of 
Bernardin de St. Pierre. 

6 Cf. a letter written by La Roche, Streckheisen-Moultou : J.-J. Rousseau, 
set amis et ses ennemis, vol. i., p. 493. Rousseau also quotes Pamela in the Lettre 
sur les spectacles. 


of a novel for the benefit of young girls, without reflecting 
that young girls can have no part in the disorderly life the 
author condemns; and in a note he adds: "This has refer- 
ence only to modern English novels," evidently thinking of 
Richardson. Similarly, when sending the fifth part of Julie 
to Duclos, he adds that he adheres to his belief that reading 
of this sort is dangerous for girls: "I go so far as to think 
that Richardson makes a gross mistake when he attempts to 
instruct them by means of fiction; it is the same thing as 
setting a house on fire to make the pumps work." 1 On 
another occasion he interrupts the thread of his narrative in 
order to refute an opinion of the English "novelist : " My 
heart," says Julie to Saint-Preux, " was yours from the first 
moment I saw you." Rousseau inserts a note : " Mr Richardson 
pours a good deal of ridicule upon these attachments at first 
sight, founded on indefinable affinities. It is all very well to 
make fun of them ; but since there are in reality only too many 
cases of the kind, would it not be better, instead of wasting time 
in denying them, to teach us how to conquer them ? " 2 Plainly, 
therefore, Clarissa, the success of which was filling the world 
with its clamour, was in Rousseau's mind when he wrote 

It would even seem that this success caused him annoyance. 
In response to a request from Malesherbes that certain portions 
of Heldise should be suppressed, he wrote the following signifi- 
cant lines : " A pious woman of the lower class who humbly 
submits to the authority of her spiritual director, a woman who 
forsakes a dissolute life for one of devotion, is not a sufficiently 
rare or instructive subject to fill a large volume ; but a woman 
who is at once lovable, devout, enlightened and reasonable is a 
newer and, to my mind, a more useful subject. This novelty 
and usefulness, however, are the very things that the suggested 
excisions would remove ; if Julie has not the sublime virtues of 
Clarissa, her virtue is of a more prudent and judicious kind, and 
is independent of public opinion : deprived of this counterbalancing 

1 1 9th November 1760. The expression occurs again in the second preface. 

2 Nouvelle Heloise, Hi., 1 8. 


characteristic, she 'would have no choice but to hide her face before the 
other ; ivhat right 'would she have to show herself '? " x 

After the publication of Diderot's sonorous JE/oge, Rousseau's 
feeling became stronger. Rightly or wrongly but not without 
some appearance of justification he thought there were signs 
that the work was directed against him. He was unquestion- 
ably conscious that the parallel between Clarissa and Julie was 
in everyone's mind, and was somewhat concerned in conse- 
quence. He himself touched upon this delicate subject in the 
Confessions, and, in 1769, wrote a reply to Diderot's Eloge. He 
points out with regard to his own novel that the simplicity of 
its subject and the small number of characters introduced, in 
which respects it is a unique work, have not been sufficiently 
praised. " Diderot has complimented Richardson very highly 
on the prodigious variety of his scenes and the multitude 
of his characters. Richardson has, indeed, the merit of 
having given each of them a distinct individuality ; but as 
far as their number is concerned he is on a par with the 
most insipid novelists, who make up for the poverty of their 
ideas by the quantity of their characters and adventures." 
Surely it is a more difficult thing to sustain attention with 
but slender resources : " and if, other things being equal, the 
simplicity of its subject adds to the beauty of a work, Richard- 
son's novels, which, whatever M. Diderot may have said about them, 2 
are superior in so many other ways, cannot, in this respect, afford 
any parallel to mine." 3 It is evident that Rousseau is disturbed 
by the recollection of the Eloge the publication of which, follow- 
ing close upon the success of Julie, had revived Richardson's 
glory at the expense of his own and that he is annoyed with 
Diderot in consequence. 

Three years after Richardson's death at the very moment when 
the master's glory was at its height Panckoucke had committed 
the indiscretion of asking Rousseau to undertake the task of 

1 Date unknown. CEuvres et correspondance inedites, Streckheisen-Moultou, p. 390. 

2 These significant words were suppressed by the first publishers of the Confes- 
sions, but appear, without erasure or addition, in the manuscript, which is in the 
library of the Chamber of Deputies 

8 Confessions, ii., II. 


abridging his works. Rousseau replied from Metiers that he 
had a good many scruples about abridging such books, though 
" they unquestionably needed it. Richardson's club-conversa- 
tions, in particular, were unbearable, since he had seen nothing of 
high life, and was consequently entirely ignorant of its manners." 
But, no ! Rousseau's health, his indolence, the great number of 
translations it would be necessary to compare, and his own work, 
all discourage him. 1 Must we not add to the motives which he 
here admits, a certain repugnance in the author of Heloise to 
spend labour in magnifying still further the author of Clarissa ? 
I am inclined to think so. 

However this may be, the parallel which annoyed him was 
being remarked by all those about him. 

We find it difficult in the present day to picture the state of 
mind of the contemporaries of Richardson and Rousseau who 
could weigh the two men against one another. But we are 
acquainted with the whole of Rousseau's work, whereas his 
contemporaries were not. In 1761 Jean-Jacques had as yet 
written neither the Confessions nor the Reveries. Though his 
reputation was of ten years' standing he had not hitherto 
unbosomed himself for the benefit of his readers with all the 
unhealthy exuberance that characterised his later effusions. He 
was known only as a philosopher and a politician. Above all, as 
a novelist he was making a first appearance. Though awaited 
with impatience, La Nouvelle Heloise was:' not crowned as a master- 
piece until after publication. Is it likely, sensible people asked 
themselves, that, if the author of the Discours sur Vinegalite ventures 
into the domain of fiction he will excel the author of Clarissa at 
the first attempt ? All this explains how it was that, to the 
amazement of certain historians, critics should have been found 
who could compare the two works and the two men. 

It seems clear that in England the comparison was unfavourable 
to Rousseau. The work was immediately translated and was fre- 
quently republished. 2 Richardson, it is said, derived no pleasure 

1 25th May 1764. 

2 Eloisa, or a series of original letters collected and published by J.-J Rousseau, translated 
from the French. London, Becket, 1761, 4 vols. I2mo. "Milord Marechal " 

speaks of several English editions. (Letter of 2nd October 1762, Streckheisen- 
Moultou, vol. ii., p. 68.) 


from its perusal. A fact of greater significance is that the refined 
intelligence of Gray, catholic as it was and usually so inquisitive 
with regard to French works, was repelled by the want of veri- 
similitude in a book " more absurd and more improbable than 
Amadis de Gaule." In vain he goes on hoping that a wonderful 
denouement will " bring something like nature and interest out of 
absurdity and insipidity." If the book is really by Rousseau it 
" is the strongest instance I ever saw that a very extraordinary 
man may entirely mistake his own talents." 1 

A lengthy comparison of Rousseau with his rival was published 
by an English journal, The Critical Review, and was immediately 
reproduced by the Journal etranger, in which it appeared and 
the fact is significant a month before the publication of 
Diderot's /oge, and as though to pave the way for it. " Our 
ingenious author," says the writer of this article, "has formed 
his Eloisa on the plan of the celebrated Clarissa, the favourite 
work of our late countryman, the amiable Mr Richardson." 
" Eloisa is a less perfect Clarissa, Clara a Miss Howe, as fervent 
in her friendship, as witty and charming, but less humorous. 
... It is indeed the highest encomium on Mr Richardson, that 
he has been deemed worthy the imitation of a writer of Mr Rous- 
seau's eminence." But in respect of moral teaching the palm must 
be awarded to the English author, who is also the more weighty 
and the more faithful to nature, if he is the less brilliant of the 
two. " Rousseau's performance is infinitely more sentimental, 
animated, refined and elegant ; Richardson's more natural, 
interesting, variegated and dramatic. The one everywhere 
appears the easy, the other the masterly writer ; Rousseau 
raises your admiration ; Richardson solicits your tears." The 
one is a master of rhetoric of the most brilliant talent ; the 
other is a painter of genius. 2 

Such was the verdict of all the enemies of Rousseau. 

In Freron's opinion, Rousseau was most likely indebted to 

1 Letter of 22nd January 1761. (Works, edited by Gosse, vol. iii., p. 79.) See 
Mrs Barbauld, vol. i., p. cvii. : " Rousseau, whose HeloTse alone, perhaps, can 
divide the palm with Clarissa." 

2 Critical Review, September 1761, vol. xii., p. 203. Cf. Journal etranger, 
December 1761. 


Clarissa for the plot and the principal characters of his book. 1 
Grimm the friend of Diderot thinks that "it is the fate 
of great works to give rise to numbers of feeble imitations : 
Miss Biddulph and La Nouvelle Heloise will not be the last." 
A few pages only of the new novel deserve comparison with 
Grandison. The three novels of the master stand forth as 
"prodigious works." 2 La Harpe, also, points out the analogies 
between the two, and gives the credit to Richardson, without, 
however, failing to appreciate the genius of Rousseau. 3 

In short, the parallel between the two works was a common- 
place of eighteenth century criticism. The general public, less 
partial, was divided in opinion with respect to them. The one, 
as containing the history of Rousseau's own love-affairs, was 
more keenly interesting, and possessed the attraction which 
scandal always affords ; the other, for very many people, 
remained the more truly great work of the two. Readers 
were by no means rare, who retained, like the duchess de 
Lauzun, a preference for the English novel, and derived " a 
thousand times more pleasure" 4 from its perusal. "The one 
made me weep no less than the other," said Ballanche, refusing 
to choose between them. Many a reader preferred " the 
naturalness, the pathos, the truth, and the moral excellence " 5 
which render Clarissa the masterpiece of modern fiction, to 
the "artificial" though "dazzling and fascinating" eloquence 
of Rousseau. 


To-day we read Jean-Jacques' novel with less prejudiced eyes. 
But if we restore the conditions which prevailed at the time 
of its publication, and if, in addition, we read the two works 

1 Annee litteraire, 1761, vol. ii., p. 306 et seq. 

2 Correspondance litteraire, February 1761 and June 1762. 

3 Cf. Cours de [literature, vol. iii., p. 192. 

4 D'Haussonville, Le salon de Mme. Necker, vol. i., p. 239. 

5 Marmontel, Essai sur les romans (1787). A curious comparison between 
Richardson and Rousseau will be found in Ballanche (Du sentiment, Paris, 1801, 
8vo, p. 221). 


with attention, we can account for the comparison drawn by 
those who were contemporary with their authors. 

Heloise appeared at the precise moment of the eighteenth cen- 
tury when anglomania was at its height. " If a telescope like 
those of Herschell," said Garat, " and an ear-trumpet of similar 
range had existed at that period, they would have been directed 
towards England still more frequently than towards the moon and 
the other celestial bodies." l At no time during the century was 
this enthusiasm more keen than towards the close of the Seven 
Years' War. To a few reactionary spirits who were concerned 
thereat, it was boldly answered : " Gentlemen, there are a 
thousand whose voices are raised in declamation against anglo- 
mania : what they understand by the word I do not know ; if 
they mean the craze for turning a few useful customs into 
burlesque . . ., they may be right ; but if by any chance 
these ranters should presume to treat it as a crime on our part 
that we desire to study, to observe and to philosophize like 
the English, they would certainly make a very great mistake." 2 
We have seen how, in his novel, Rousseau had humoured this 
current of opinion by giving an English colour to the sentiments 
and manners of his characters. This was one preliminary reason 
for comparing him with Richardson ; but there were others 

In the first place the plot of his book recalls that of Clarissa. 
It is, as in Clarissa, the story of an unfortunate girl, who is 
victimized by her father's endeavour to force her inclinations. 
In a certain sense, Rousseau's novel even forms a sequel to 
Richardson's : Clarissa's father schemes to win from his daughter 
a consent which violence has failed to extract from her, but her 
flight prevents him from carrying out his design. What is 
suggested by Richardson is put into execution by Rousseau, 
and accordingly the baron d'6tanges induces Julie to marry 
M. de Wolmar. It is true that Clarissa heroically defends 
her virtue, while Julie yields at the outset. But the analogy is 
in a manner restored by Julie's marriage ; as Wolmar's wife she 

1 Memoir es sur Suard, vol. i., p. 72. 

2 Letter to the authors of the Gazette litteraire (i4th November 1764). 


resists Saint-Preux, whom she still loves, just as Clarissa resists 
Lovelace, whom she has always loved and to whom she has once 
belonged, though against her own will. Love thwarted by 
duty, and conquered, is the theme of both works. 

Again, there is a symmetry in the arrangement of the char- 
acters. Julie resembles Clarissa, as Claire resembles Miss Howe: 
the two former are alike gentle and serious, their two confidantes 
malicious and sprightly. Just as Miss Howe marries the stupid 
but excellent Hickman, so Claire becomes the wife of the good- 
natured and honourable M. d'Orbe, the man of whom she dis- 
respectfully remarks that he lacks the " virile intelligence of 
strong souls." 1 Like Miss Howe, Claire, whose affection for her 
husband is of a very tranquil order, loves her friend with an 
almost inordinate affection, which causes her even to lose her 
reason when Julie dies. So too, Julie, like Clarissa, has a harsh 
and unfeeling father, and a good-natured but insignificant mother. 
As Clarissa finds a protector in Colonel Morden, so Julie and 
Saint-Preux have a bosom-friend in Lord Bomston. Bomston, 
like Morden, is the soul of honour, and like him, again, is proud 
and generous. Wolmar, though as virtuous as Lovelace is 
profligate, is, like him, an unbeliever, and reasons in a similar 
manner, if with the best of intentions. Lastly, Julie purposes 
flight from her father's roof, just as Clarissa does ; she cor- 
responds in the same way with her lover through the agency of a 
friend ; her letters are intercepted ; and, like Clarissa, she dies in 
the end, after philosophizing at much length for the edification of 
those around her. 

Was it then inexcusable, for contemporaries, who remarked all 
these analogies, to conclude therefrom that Jean-Jacques had 
copied the plot and the general arrangement of the English 
novel ? But he owes to Richardson another and heavier 

In Heldise there are two works : in the first place a novel of 
the bourgeois type the newest, most eloquent, most improving 
of eighteenth century novels, the earliest model for Delphine, 
Corinne and Werther, and the work which realises, as no 

1 I-, 65. 


other does, the literary aspirations of the age. In the second 
place Helolse contains a prose poem, a first "confession" by 
Rousseau, disguised and incomplete as yet, but, already even, 
how full of pathos ! Here, in germ, is all the lyricism destined 
afterwards to shine forth in the Confessions and the Reveries, the 
intercourse with nature, the melancholy, the poetic communion 
with the heart or, as Freron said, immediately after the publica- 
tion of the book, " an exquisite appreciation of nature, physical, 
and moral, a touch often pleasing and voluptuous, a gentle 
melancholy which can be known only in retirement." l This it 
was which constituted the unlocked for gift of genius, and herein 
Rousseau had no teacher but himself. His lyricism springs 
from himself alone. But the roman bourgeois contained in Julie, 
the art of portraying the characters and presenting them in 
action, " the eloquent language of the heart, the accents of 
emotion " Freron is still the speaker all this he derived from 

In the first place he is indebted to him for the epistolary form 
of novel. 

Was Richardson really the inventor of this form ? The 
question was asked even in the eighteenth century : some assert- 
ing, others denying, that he had taken the idea either from the 
semi-romantic letters to be found here and there in the Spectator, 
from Mme. de Sevigne, Mme. Dacier, and Mme. de Lambert, 
whom, of his own accord, he quoted as models, 2 or, lastly, from 
the Lettres portugaises, or from those of HeloYse and Abelard. 3 
The Lettres portugaises, especially, had frequently been reprinted, 
and often in the same collection with those of Heloi'se, 4 while 
amorous epistles were to be found in French novels in Polex- 
andre and in Cyrus ; and Crebillon fils, who had attained a great 
reputation in England, had published his Lettres de la marquise 

1 Annee litteraire, lj6l, vol. ii. 2 See Mrs. Barbauld, vol. vi., p. 121. 

3 On this subject see Freron, Annee litteraire, vol. ii., p. 306 ; Journal encyclopedique, 
February 1756, p. 32, and February 1775, p. 459. See also J. Jusserand, Les 

grandes ecoles du roman anglais. 

4 For example : Recueil de lettres galantes et amoureuses d'Helotse et Abelard, d'une 
religieuse portugaise au chevalier . . . ., avec celles de Cleante et de Belise, Amsterdam, 
1711, I2mo. 


de . . . au comte de R. . . . in I738. 1 All this, however, in no 
way detracts from the glory of Richardson. Novels in the form 
of letters had plainly been published before his time ; but it is no 
less evident that no one had turned this method to the same 
account as he did. In Pamela, not only is the diary method 
employed concurrently with the other, but his art is still very un- 
certain, and shows but few traces of the imitation of good models. 
In Clarissa, on the contrary, the author has, by his own con- 
fession, acquired confidence in himself 2 ; the correspondents are 
more numerous, the style has become flexible, and the characters 
have the leisure to present themselves to us in all the complexity 
of their nature. The epistolary novel has really become what it 
should be, a form of the analytical novel. If it is not this it is 
nothing, and the originality of Richardson consists in the very fact 
that he made it such. The essence of the novel in epistolary form 
lies in the invention " not so much of facts as of feelings," and of 
" observations upon what takes place in the heart " rather than 
events, however cleverly contrived. 3 A letter is a journal, and 
in a large measure a journal intime. As a journal it throws light 
upon hidden feelings ; and as a letter it is suggestive of romance, 
intrigue, and the seductive advances of both intellect and heart. 
It is a confidence, but a confidence tempered by that dose of 
vanity which each one of us unintentionally mingles with words 
spoken to another. The epistolary type of novel is thus a 
delicate one to deal with, one which readily becomes tedious and 
is very easily rendered unendurable. A bundle of homilies on 
suicide, duelling, or marriage does not deserve the name of 
novel, for this demands a thread of events which shall leave its 
impression now on one, now on another, of a certain number 
of minds, wherein, with sufficient clearness, but without too 
much repetition, we are enabled to follow its consequences. 
The characters must have the capacity and the leisure for writing 
to one another, and if they are to be interesting, must have the 

1 The Hague, 2 parts, i2mo. Crebillon fils, according to Voltaire, is also the 
author of the Lettres de Ninon, published by Damours (Amsterdam, 1752, 
2 vols. izmo). 

2 See the Postscript to Clarissa. 3 Mme. de Stael, De I'Allemagne^ ii. 28. 


inward yearning for confession and analysis. Lastly, it is 
necessary that the public should have a taste for confidences of 
this kind a circumstance which occurs at certain epochs only, 
and under the influence of certain moral ideas. Now Richardson, 
in spite of a certain coarseness in the use of his means, is the 
actual creator of the confession-novel, and this is why Rousseau 
the very incarnation of confession borrows the form invented 
by him. 

In fact, he is the only writer to borrow it from him. For in 
spite of the publication of Mme. de GrafEgny's Lettres peruvienne s 
inspired, it was said, by Pamela 1 of Mme. Riccoboni's Lettres 
de Juliette Catesby, and Mme. de Beaumont's Lettres du marquis 
de Roselle, the first genuine example of the epistolary novel 
to appear in France was La Nouvelle Heldise, because it alone 
corresponds to the definition of the class. 

Rousseau's characters, like those in Clarissa Harloive, make 
their confessions " in the bosom of friendship." Like them they 
have, as Mme. du DefFand expressed it, the gift of " verbose 
eloquence." Like them, too, when swayed by strong emotion, 
they amaze the reader by rushing to the inkstand. Wolmar 
quits the bedside of his dying wife, and enters his study in order 
to set down what she has just said to him ; Julie writes to her 
friend from her deathbed ; Saint-Preux, confined in the apartment 
where she has promised to meet him for the first time, exclaims : 
" How glad I am that I have found ink and paper ! I give 
expression to my feelings in order to moderate their violence ; by 
describing my raptures I check their extravagance." What is 
there that they do not write ? What suggestions, what odd con- 
fidences, they set down ! Rousseau, like Richardson, makes an 
improper use of the method, and gives us sermons in the form of 
letters : we have a letter concerning gardens, a letter on duelling, 
letters upon suicide, education, music, and adultery : he gives us 
not so much a correspondence as a system of moral precepts 
for everyday life and for solemn occasions. The digressions 
are even more numerous than in Clarissa y and frequently are no 
more happily expressed. In spite, also, of Rousseau's immense 

1 Freron, Annee litteratre^ vol. ii., p. 306. 


superiority, his style, like Richardson's, is here sometimes, as 
the preface observes, " pompous and dull," and worthy " of the 
provincial, the foreigner, the recluse, or the young person," as the 
case may be, who employs it. Rousseau did not know how truly 
he spoke : many passages in these letters are just what would be 
written by an affected Vaudoise. " Thou throne of the world," 
writes Saint-Preux to Julie, "how far above me do I now 
behold thee ! " Or again: "My heart is overwhelmed with 
the tears which flow from your eyes." Their souls "touch 
in all points, and everywhere feel an entire coherence." The 
hut in which Julie receives her lover is " the temple of Cnida," 
and her " inquietude increases in a compound ratio of the 
intervals of time and space." 1 Richardson may be suburban, 
but Rousseau, with all his greatness, is unquestionably pro- 

As for the interest, "it is for everyone, it is nothing at all." 
Is it worth while to keep a register " of what anyone can see 
every day in his own or his neighbour's house " ? Similarly, 
Richardson claims to present nothing but what is " true and 
founded upon nature itself." The two novelists take equal 
pleasure in tedious and minute descriptions of middle-class 
manners. But Richardson was the simpler : Rousseau is more 
aggressive, and accompanies his portraiture of common people 
with a homily for the benefit of the great. Nevertheless, the 
change he introduces is important. French works of fiction 
were essentially " society " and " drawing-room " novels, 
wherein certain truths were never stated, certain subjects 
never mentioned, except to raise a laugh. In the works of 
Prevost and Crebillon fils there was no cooking or washing 
of clothes, and the housekeeping was carried on behind the 
scenes. In Pamela, for the first time outside picaresque fiction, 
the public had been treated to descriptions of objects which 
previously it had always been considered improper to mention : 
kitchens, saucepans, and scullions. Rousseau, in his turn, tries 
to get nearer the truth by condescending to enter the larder, 
and writes a manual for use of the good housewife. Therein we 

II., 5; III., 16; I., II ; I., 36; I., 13. 


learn how good servants are trained ; how oil, bread, worsted 
and lace are economically made ; how cloth of good quality is to 
be distinguished ; how a garden should be laid out ; and how 
out of simple vin de Lavaux we can manufacture sherry, rancio or 
malaga, as we please l : quite a modern Oikononomikos. An article 
of " German pastry " is honoured with a full description. You 
must be able "to take a delight in the pleasures of children": 
have two dining-rooms, one for every day use, the other for 
entertaining ; do not take coffee, except on great occasions ; 
make yourself acquainted with familiar little recipes for refresh- 
ing the mind, and, like the author, abjure all contempt for people 
of the common sort, who delight in these simple pleasures. 

On the other hand Rousseau intentionally spares us such too 
forcible scenes as Richardson's realism would not allow him to 
forego ; his book contains nothing so distressing as the death of 
the woman Sinclair, the imprisonment of Clarissa, or her funeral. 
The death of Julie is managed in a becoming and almost cheerful 
manner; she is dressed in holiday attire and surrounded by 
flowers. He spares us the coffin, the train of mourners, the 
tolling of the bell and the grave. 

His one anxiety is to appear truthful ; an effect which, in 
his opinion, was only to be produced by dealing almost exclu- 
sively with the life of the common people. Like Richardson he 
portrays scarcely any characters but those of the lower or upper 
middle class. Neither M. d'Etanges, who is proud of his 
name, nor M. d'Orbe, are very lofty personages. Saint-Preux is 
a man of no fortune. " Let our noble authors choose more 
humble models ..." Rousseau introduces us to a few plain 
citizens of a little Swiss town, who have neither carriages nor 
brilliant clothes, and are neither comtes nor chevaliers. In Fanchon 
Regard and Claude Anet we meet people who are ignorant of 
the customs of society. You find their history dull ? Then 
trouble yourself no further ; I do not write for you. The 
hearts I lay bare before you are simple ones, neither perfect nor 
depraved. Their virtues are average virtues, their vices average 

IV., 2. 


Only a bourgeois soul could create the bourgeois novel. And 
this is why the first writer who ventured to tell the story of a 
persecuted little servant-girl is, in this respect also, the master of 
Jean-Jacques and has the best right to be regarded as his pre- 
decessor. Others had openly professed their desire to make the 
novel a picture of human life. The younger Crebillon had 
himself spoken of a literature " wherein man might at last 
behold man as he is, and be dazzled less but instructed more." l 
Similar declarations occur in the prefaces of novelists and 
dramatists. A theory of literature is easily constructed. But 
a reformation in fiction demanded a thoroughly plebeian type 
of art, an eloquent ruggedness of form, and sincere emotion 
in presence of these fresh and simple materials. 


But if Rousseau resembled Richardson in the bourgeois 
character of his mind, he resembled him also in that he was a 
Protestant and preached his religion. 

It is plain that there were marked differences between his 
credo and that of the pious Englishman, and Richardson would 
perhaps have treated the author of the Profession de foi du 
vicaire Savoyard as he treated the deists of his own country. 
But this hatred of the philosophizing spirit though they did 
not entertain it either to the same extent or in the same 
manner was common to them both. Each held that all one 
could learn in philosophic circles was "how to undermine all 
the foundations of virtue." The whole ethical system of the 
philosophers was " the merest verbiage," and its professed 
teachers were " fit apologists for crime, who never seduced 
any but those whose hearts were already corrupt." 2 Like 
Richardson, Rousseau preaches against the idol of the age ; 
and like him is given to quoting somewhat ostentatiously, 
though with less reverence, from the Old Testament. 3 As 

1 Preface to Egarements du ceeur et de V esprit (1736). 

2 Nouvelle Helo'ise, ii., IJ and 1 8. 

3 V., 7 : " O Rachel, sweet maiden, beloved with so much constancy . . ." 



his novel approaches its conclusion, its moral and religious 
purpose declares itself. The work assumes not only a more 
Christian, but even a more sectarian character. It is true that in 
his letters, Jean- Jacques asserts his wish to avoid hurting any- 
one's feelings, and even " to draw opposite parties together by a 
bond of mutual esteem " : " Julie, with her piety, affords," he 
says, " a lesson to the philosophers, and Wolmar, with his 
atheism, a lesson to the intolerant." 1 But when Malesherbes 
speaks of excisions he loudly insists on the religious character of 
his work. He does not imagine that a " Genevan novel " need 
be appreciated by the Sorbonne. He observes that the suppres- 
sions have been so carefully made " that his Calvinists have 
nothing left in the shape of doctrine " but what might be pro- 
fessed by the most superstitious Catholic : " one might just as 
well expect every Protestant who is coming to Paris to abjure 
his religion before he crosses the frontier." Why is not Prevost's 
Cleveland subjected to the same treatment ? "It seems rather 
strange that a Catholic priest may make Protestants express their 
opinion more freely in his novels than a Protestant may in his." 2 
This is plain speaking. If the letter to Voltaire in answer to the 
Poeme sur Lisbonne, or the Profession de foi du vicaire Savoyard 
should leave us in any doubt as to the sentiments of Rousseau, 
his novel would suffice to enlighten us. The moral of the book, 
in fact, lies in Julie's conversion and even in that of Wolmar. 
For the conversion of the atheist, as Rousseau himself remarks, 
is " so plainly indicated that any further elaboration would turn 
it into a dull sermon." The atheist Lovelace dies of a sword- 
thrust, and Julie entrusts her husband's soul to Saint-Preux : 
" Be a Christian, that you may persuade him to become one. 
Success is not so far off as you think . . . God is just, my trust 
will not prove mistaken." 3 This is edifying. But is this coup 
de la grace any less romantic than Colonel Morden's coup d^epee ? 

Julie, on whom all the sympathies of the author are expended, 
is, like Clarissa, a thorough Protestant, and even a pietist. She 
makes a study of Muralt's Instinct divin, much as Mme. de 

1 To Vernes, zyth June 1761. 

2 Observations adressees au libraire Genin, vol. v., p. 87. 3 VI., 12. 


Warens, who also had " a somewhat Protestant mind," was 
influenced by Magny. It is true that she has long neglected 
religion : incapable of reconciling the worldly spirit with the 
spirit of the Gospel, she has " reserved her piety for the church, 
and cultivated philosophy at home " 1 ; but on her marriage she 
returns to the doctrine of " our Church." She prays, and it is 
from prayer and prayer alone that she derives the strength which 
keeps her from further transgression : when philosophy fails her, 
religion comes to her support. She seeks to convert her lover, 
and quotes St Paul to him. As the wife of an atheist, she sheds 
bitter tears over her husband's irreligion. On her deathbed she 
openly avows the faith of her fathers : " I die, as I have lived, 
in the Protestant communion, which derives its sole precept from 
Holy Scripture and from reason " 2 ; and to confirm her declara- 
tion she piously invokes a curse on Catholicism. When the 
pastor reminds her that a dying Catholic is surrounded by clergy 
who frighten him " in order to obtain the more control over his 
purse," she devoutly answers : " Let me thank Heaven that 
I was not born in the bosom of a venal religion which kills 
people in order to inherit their property." Is the writer who 
puts these words into Julie's mouth a philosopher simply, and 
nothing else ? And what more could Richardson have said ? 

In virtue of this, as also of many other characteristics, Julie 
is the sister of Clarissa. The woman whom Jean-Jacques loved 
when he was writing his novel assumed a foreign and Protestant 
character. The fact is significant. He gave her, it is true, a 
few of the characteristics of Mme. de Warens ; her vulgarity, 
sensuality, and coarse effrontery. But he gave her also the 
terrible clear-sightedness of Clarissa or Pamela. The reader will 
remember a certain strange reflexion of Pamela's concerning 
the dejection which follows upon transgression. In the same way 
Julie, even in her maidenhood, is aware that "the moment of 
fruition is a crisis in love." 3 Like her English sister, she is 
thoroughly familiar with things of which young girls in French 
novels and plays either are or pretend to be ignorant. She 
knows that she is her own mistress, and why. She is neither an 
nil., 18. 2 vi.,n. 3 It>9 . 


Agnes nor a Henrietta. She has been called a highly improbable 
character ; all that can really be said is that she is not French. 
Once her character is restored to its natural atmosphere and 
stripped of any unpleasant attributes with which the polluted 
imagination of Jean- Jacques has invested it, the picture appears 
both real and life-like. " Like HeloYse in your love," says Claire 
to Julie, " you now resemble her also in your piety." The 
devout Julie is the true one. The other is a phantom, born, 
in Rousseau's mind, of the two figures of Mme. de Warens and 
Mme. d'Houdetot. 

Julie is pious. Her faith is a rule of life, enjoining respect for 
lofty problems, and distrust of whatever is merely human. 
" The lessons of philosophy need purifying by Christian 
morality." But philosophy is brought in merely for form's sake, 
as a concession to the age ; for " Christian morality " is sufficient 
in itself. Under the influence of her belief Julie becomes cold 
and argumentative. She considers that virtue, integrity, and 
resemblance in certain points of character can take the place 
of love between husband and wife, provided only there be 
religion as well. 1 Observe how she breaks with Saint-Preux : 
she gives him permission to write to her, using Claire as a 
medium of communication, but on condition that the latter will 
suppress anything that requires it, " if," says she, " you should 
prove capable of abusing your privilege." Her perspicacity 
is truly appalling : " My dear friend, I have always found you 
most agreeable. . . . But I have never seen you in any other 
character than that of a lover : how do I know what you 
would become if you ceased to love me ? " She tells him 
frankly that if she were twenty years old and free she would not 
have him ; she has too clear a perception of the conditions 
necessary to happiness. The truth is that women like Julie, 
if they can love at all, cannot love as the heroines of French 
novels do. They have a much keener sense of their moral 
personality. Like their descendants, the heroines of the Nor- 
wegian drama, they require love to be consecrated by equality 
of rights. Apparently they have an abundance of pride and some 

1 III., 20. 


austerity. Clarissa asks whether a man who has nothing but 
faults can expect to win her esteem, and what, she would like to 
know, are the virtues of Lovelace ? Yet the gift of such a soul 
has the greater value. It was his conception of religion and 
morality that led Rousseau, just as a different conception had led 
Richardson, to create female characters which were entirely new 
to French literature. 

Are we to say that Rousseau derived his taste for moral 
problems from Richardson ? Not exactly. But if Clarissa 
Harloive seemed to him the finest novel in the world, it was 
doubtless because he discovered in it something of his own 
aspirations. The author of Clarissa was eloquent on behalf 
of the family; and, similarly, Jean- Jacques pleaded the cause of 
marriage. We may hold that his pleading is ineffective, and 
that the first part of his book anticipates and destroys the 
effect of the second ; we may feel, moreover, that a happiness 
founded not so much on affection as on " a certain correspondence 
of character and disposition" does not sound very promising. 
Yet after all the cause was defended with zeal, and this in itself 
was something fresh. Marriage, in French literature, was either 
a means to getting on in the world, or a subject for coarse 
pleasantry. In the opinion of Moliere's Madelon, to start with a 
marriage was " to begin a novel at the wrong end"; marriage 
brought upon Dandin the mishaps which every reader will re- 
collect, while Gil Bias retreated, as it were, into wedlock in the 
most perfunctory manner, and in order to get it over. Marivaux's 
Jacob, who fell into the hands of a woman as old as she was 
devout, never was the same man afterwards. In every instance 
married life was the source of distressing or ridiculous mishaps. 
No one had written, or thought of writing, the novel of marriage. 

It was this that Richardson, with sorry results it is true, 
endeavoured to do in Pamela, while in Clarissa he exhibited the 
dangers of love without the sanction of marriage. Rousseau, in 
the second part of his story, attempted a more direct and more 
complete demonstration. From its very novelty the undertaking 
gave offence. A novel without passion ! The notion seemed a 
paradox. But Rousseau had a weakness for this second part : 


this "case of morals and conjugal fidelity " seemed to him more 

The fact is, he was not afraid to preach we can scarcely help 
saying with effrontery. This was not the way with French 
classical authors. They were not so profoundly convinced that 
" the beautiful is nothing but the active form of the good." They 
avoided all direct instruction, and Richardson would have horri- 
fied them. Above all they did not import into fiction problems 
which were the peculiar province of the pulpit or the schools. 
The Princesse de Cleves does not contain lengthy dissertations 
on the duties of a father, nor on suicide, duelling, the relief of 
beggars, chastity, adultery or free will. Such questions were 
treated, if at all, only by the way, and with the lightest possible 
touch. At most Marivaux had seasoned the novel with a dose 
of worldly morality, tempered with plenty of wit. He never 
ascended either the pulpit or the tribune. With him it was the 
novel that carried the moral, not the moral that included and justi- 
fied the narrative. With Richardson and Jean- Jacques it was the 
sermon, bare and undisguised, that invaded literature ; an effect, 
I admit, of a philosophizing age, but also, and mainly, the effect 
of a profoundly religious education, even when, as in Rousseau's 
case, that education has been incomplete. Education, domestic 
economy, the functions of a parent, agriculture, religious duties, 
immorality, suicide what a list of homilies and sermons for a 
single novel ! It seems as though fiction had inherited the 
eloquence of an exhausted pulpit. Modesty sets no limits to his 
preaching. " Every covering of the heart," says Mme. de Stael, 1 
" has been rent asunder. No ancient writer would have made 
his own soul the subject of fictitious experiences in this manner." 
The same might be said of the classical writers of France, the 
disciples in this respect of the ancients. But here we find an 
insatiable curiosity with regard to the moral life, not of humanity, 
but of each individual. Fiction no longer speaks through the 
third person, but exclusively through the first. Nothing less 
than the complete hygiene, the complete pathology, of the soul 
will suffice for Rousseau. 

1 DeVAllemagne, II., 28. 


If " cases " are wanting, they are invented. Richardson had 
already manifested a strange interest in cases of conscience. In 
the Nouvelle Heldise casuistry flourishes on every page. Wolmar 
explains to Mme. d'Orbe how it is that Julie and Saint-Preux are 
"still lovers," though they "are nothing more than friends." How 
can they be so ? The case is a strange one: "He is in love not 
with Julie de Wolmar but with Julie d'Etanges ; he hates me not 
because I possess the person of the woman he loves, but as the 
ravisher of her whom he has loved. ... He loves her in the past, 
that is the truth of the enigma ; take away his memory, and he will 
love no longer." So Wolmar is perfectly tranquil. " The more 
they see of one another alone, the more easily they will under- 
stand their mistake, because they will compare what they feel 
with 'what they 'would once have felt in a similar situation" Such 
is Rousseau's way of solving the problem of conscience which, 
from sheer love of dialectic, he is so kind as to discuss. Hence 
the numerous paradoxes that have so repeatedly been pointed out 
in his book. 

Hence, too, however, fiction acquires all at once a singular 
dignity. For Rousseau's very sophistries indicate an unusual 
interest in moral questions. At certain periods, if the atten- 
tion of mankind is to be brought back to questions of vital 
importance, certain truths must be set forth with all the 
pomp of paradox : moral doctrine, bare and unadorned, seems 
quite vapid; this our apostles of to-day Ibsen, Tolstoi', 
Dumas fils have clearly perceived. Similarly, Rousseau, in 
order to inoculate the French novel with the noble and aspir- 
ing unrest of English fiction, to give it the character of " a 
moral treatise, whence obscure virtues and destinies may derive 
incentives to enthusiasm " x has strewn his work with paradox 
of the most provocative kind ; first of all because he was 
Rousseau, but also because it was in his case almost a neces- 
sity to be over impressive if a strong impression was to be 
produced at all. 

However this may be, no more complete revolution had ever 
before transformed the novel in France. For centuries the 

1 Mme. de Stael, De la /literature, i., 15. 


Latin literatures had maintained their position by means of the 
drama, the epic, and poetry of the classical type. The novel, as 
an inferior branch of literature, was reserved to beguile a leisure 
hour. No other branch, however, was so essentially capable of 
a profound renovation. Sufficiently comprehensive in scope to 
include and absorb everything essential to the other forms, 
admirably fitted to develop that obstinate faculty of precise 
observation which is the distinctive feature of the modern 
genius, and susceptible also of adaptation to different varieties 
of talent, and even to the caprices of humour, the novel, in order 
to win for itself the place left void by tragedy and the epic, 
simply needed to attack the gravest problems with confidence. 
And this is what it did in the hands of the English first of all, 
and afterwards in those of Rousseau. Others before them had 
written novels characterized by intelligence, subtlety and even 
pathos ; others had charmed or amused their age, or stirred it to 
emotion. None had introduced, in a work apparently of so 
frivolous a nature, the same elevation of thought, the same 
intensity of faith, and, if the expression be allowed, the same 
fervour of apostleship. None had boldly substituted the portrait 
of the individual, with his peculiarities and eccentricities, but 
with all the power of his personal conviction and of his native 
originality as well, for conventional types and traditional forms 
of narrative. 

In virtue of these characteristics the English novelists deserved 
to be what Voltaire desired that Locke and his fellow-philoso- 
phers in England might become, " the instructors of the human 
race." Through the agency of the former, as has been justly 
remarked, the purest and healthiest ideas of the latter have been 
diffused throughout the universe, "as well as all that is noblest 
and most exalted in the doctrines of English preachers." l 
Thanks to them the novel attained a dignity it had never 
known ; it became the most powerful of all instruments for 
the propagation of ideas. Thanks to them, in the last place 
since they had prepared the way and cleared the ground 
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, their brother in genius, was enabled to 

1 J. Jusserand, Le roman anglais, p. 69. 


write the most eloquent and the most impassioned work in all 
French fiction. 

In this sense, therefore, the Nouvelle Heloise is the offspring of 
Clarissa Harloive. 


But because Richardson's work was capable of being further 
improved upon, and, above all, because he was Rousseau, Jean- 
Jacques introduced in his novel what they had been incapable of 
introducing in theirs. 

In the first place, their conscientious representation of life 
required a setting. The novel as exemplified by Richardson was 
a play without scenery. This Rousseau had perceived. He 
had one general fault to find with this author, Bernardin de 
Saint-Pierre tells us, " that of never having connected the idea 
of his heroes with any locality of which his pictures would have 
been recognized with pleasure by the reader." "It is im- 
possible," he said, " to picture Achilles without at the same 
time beholding the plains of Troy. We follow Aeneas on the 
shores of Latium : Vergil is not only the painter of love and war, 
he is also the artist of his own country. This characteristic of 
genius was wanting in Richardson." 1 

It was wanting indeed, to an incredible degree. In this 
respect he belongs to the age of Queen Anne : Addison, after 
crossing the Alps, described how his head was still giddy with 
mountains and precipices ; no one, he said, would credit the 
delight he felt at once more beholding a plain. 2 Grandison, as 
he crosses Mont Cenis, declares that the prospect around him 
is wretched in the extreme and this is the only reflection he 
has to make. Richardson's ideal landscape is " a large and 
convenient country house, situated in a spacious park," which 
contains a few structures " built in the rustic taste." Clarissa's 
garden is merely a place in which she may walk and dream. 
It is not described in a manner which brings it before us, 

1 Fragments sur J.-J. Rousseau. ' 2 Letters : December 1701. 


any more than the famous " willow walk," humorously quoted 
by Stendhal as a specimen of the seventeenth century's love for 
nature, is described by the author of the Princesse de C/eves. 

Rousseau, we need scarcely remind the reader, placed the 
story of the sorrows of the soul in a setting it is impossible 
to forget. With his other characters he associated a new actor 
nature, who often takes the leading part. " Ah, Eloisa ! too 
much sensibility, too much tenderness, proves the bitterest curse 
instead of the most fruitful blessing ; vexation and disappoint- 
ment are its certain consequences. The temperature of the air, 
the change of the seasons, the brilliancy of the sun, or thickness 
of the fogs, are so many moving springs to the unhappy posses- 
sor, and he becomes the wanton sport of their arbitration ; his 
thoughts, his satisfaction, his happiness depend on the blowing of 
the winds." l Now it is difficult to imagine the noble and pious 
Grandison committing the control of his well-regulated person to 
the winds. We cannot picture him making nature the friend 
for all times and seasons the participator in his restrained 
enjoyments and formal sorrows. He is too careful of his per- 
sonal dignity to ask of the " vast sea" " the immense sea" 
" the calm which flies his agitated heart." 2 He would feel 
himself wanting in the self-possession which marks the gentle- 
man, if in Clementina's presence he gave utterance to a passionate 
outcry like this : " I find the country more delightful, the 
verdure fresher and livelier, the air more temperate and serene 
than ever I did before ; even the feathered songsters of the sky 
seem to tune their tender throats with more harmony and 
pleasure ; the murmuring rills invite to love-inspiring dalliance, 
while the blossoms of the vine regale me from afar with the 
choicest perfumes. ... I am tempted to imagine that even the 
earth adorns herself to make a nuptial bed for your happy lover, 
worthy of the passion which he feels, and the goddess he 
adores." 3 This, nevertheless, is the practice of Shakespeare, 
and also of Milton. But Richardson, in this respect, departs 
from the national tradition ; his narrow piety closes his 

1 Neuvelte Hcloue, i., 26. 2 III., 16. 3 I., 38. 


It has been said that Christianity, by concentrating man's 
thoughts upon himself, dries up within him the sources of the 
feeling for nature, and that in opening the eyes of the soul it 
has closed the eyes of the body. The theory is contestable ; for 
it takes no account of the songs of St Francis, of Bossuet's 
Meditations, of the poetry of Lamartine, and many other works 
which are at once Christian in character and picturesque. But 
there is a kind of devoutness, such as Jansenism or Pietism, 
which savours too much of the cloister too much of the 
cell. There are heavens which do not declare the glory of God. 
There are souls which wither and fade away through ex- 
cessive devotion to the inner life. 

Further, it must be confessed, it is but an indifferent sign of 
moral health to commit one's soul " to the mercy of the winds." 
Nature, with its purity of atmosphere, with its vast horizons, 
with so much in it that is primitive or awe-inspiring, may act as 
peace-maker ; but it is none the less true, as Rousseau more than 
once with sufficient emphasis remarks, that " all great passions 
are born of solitude," and that Rousseau himself is full of 
gratitude that it is so. Lastly, to consider that mere sensibility 
to natural beauties is a virtue, or even, as the disciples of Jean- 
Jacques would have it, the whole of virtue, becomes a paradox 
as soon as we cease to admit that wisdom consists in losing or 
annihilating oneself in nature. A famous follower of Rousseau, 
the poet Shelley, pushed the master's theory to its extreme 
consequence, when he wrote that " whosoever is free from the 
contamination of luxury and licence may go forth to the fields 
and to the woods, inhaling joyous renovation from the breath of 
spring, or catching from the odours and signs of autumn some 
diviner mood of sweetest sadness, which improves the softened 
heart." l This delicious exaltation becomes a recompense, 
an encouragement, a talent conferred on virtue by " the divine." 
It differs little, if at all, from virtue itself. But what sort of 
a virtue is that which totters at the faintest breath ? And 
how much more sure of himself was Grandison than the weak 
and wavering Saint-Preux ! 

1 Essay on Christianity. 


The truth is that Rousseau's genius was profoundly lyrical, 
whereas Richardson's was not, or was so only during those rare 
moments when the pathos of his subject lent him wings and 
carried him beyond the reach of the sordid things of life. 

This lyrical quality of Rousseau's genius is due to his concep- 
tion of love. For him it is more violent, more enthralling, more 
sensual. Clarissa cannot help loving Lovelace, but she strives 
against her passion. Julie acknowledges herself vanquished at 
the outset, with the excuse that she has " only the choice of 
her faults." Genuine love, in fact, " is a devouring fire, which 
inspires the other sentiments with its zeal, and animates them 
with fresh vigour." 1 Richardson had depicted its matchless 
power and nobility, but he had also set forth its dangers. 
Rousseau, thoroughly convinced that "cold reason never did a 
great deed," reached the same conclusions, but at the same time 
took a delight in portraying the exquisite agitation experienced 
by a fiery soul under the sway of passion, a passion " which 
penetrates and burns even to the marrow." In short, it is 
repugnant to the poet in Jean- Jacques to bring himself into 
harmony with the moralist. But what the moralist has lost 
thereby, the poet, the great poet, has gained. 

Moreover, Rousseau describes not only the sensual, but also 
the melancholy aspect of love. In this there was nothing 
absolutely fresh : Prevost, in Cleveland and Manon Lescaut, and 
Richardson himself, in certain parts of Clarissa, had attempted to 
portray the fierce yet sweet unrest which follows sensual 
pleasure. But their delight in indulgence was unaccompanied by 
the same exaltation. Their heroes had never sought love for the 
sake of the bitter taste it leaves behind it. To them the yearning 
for " enchanting sadness," for the " languor of the melted and 
impassioned soul," 2 were unknown. They had never experienced 
to the same extent that sense of the irreparable which accom- 
panies trangression and leaves the heart " empty and swollen 

U., 12. 

2 " O enchanting sadness ! O languor of the melted and impassioned soul ! By 
how much you surpass the stormy pleasures, the wanton gaiety, the passionate 
delight, and every other transport, which the unbridled desires of lovers can 
derive from passion unrestrained." I., 38. 


like a balloon filled with air." 1 They had not fostered within 
themselves " the sweet yet bitter recollection of a lost happi- 
ness." Rousseau is infinitely their superior, and all comparison 
would be futile. No novelist had shed tears so sincere over 
" the sweet charm, now vanished like a dream, which attends on 
virtue." No poet had said to his mistress, with a richness of 
language previously unknown : " Our souls, exhausted with 
love and anguish, melt and flow like water." 2 

Nor, lastly, had any one clothed sentiments so sincere in so 
poetical a form. " It may be very funny," wrote Voltaire, " to 
see a soul flow ; but as for water, it is usually just when it is 
exhausted that it ceases to flow." 3 Voltaire says no more than 
he is entitled to say ; but neither do we when we assert that 
Voltaire understands neither Rousseau, nor what constitutes the 
essence of lyricism, nor what separates the author of Julie from 
the author of Clarissa. Richardson wrote a novel, and Rousseau 
writes a poem. The one is a very great novelist, but a very 
bad writer ; the other is an incomparable artist in words. The 
one has no style at all ; the other renewed the French language 
from its very foundation. 

Feeling for nature, melancholy, the lyrical faculty : in each of 
these respects, which at bottom may be reduced to one, Rousseau 
excels Richardson by the full stature of genius. 

Nevertheless, something of Richardson is transmitted to every 
one who reads Rousseau. It should be remarked that for nearly 
a century, most of the disciples of Jean-Jacques have been 
disciples of Richardson as well. All the romantic writers who 
preceded or followed the Revolution piously associated his name 
with that of his glorious imitator. 

From Rousseau Bernardin de Saint Pierre learned to love and 
imitate the author of Clarissa. 41 Andre Chenier praises him in 
the warmest terms. Mme. de Stael acknowledges that the 
abduction of Clarissa was " the great event of her early life." 6 
" Let neither man nor woman, of grovelling mind or corrupted 

1 II., 17. 2 I., 26. 3 Lettres sur la nou-velle Helo'ise. 

4 See Fragments sur J.-J. Rousseau. 

5 Lady Blennerhasset, Mme. de Stael et son temps, vol. i., p. 185. 


heart, dare to touch the books of Richardson, . . . they are 
sacred ! " l Chateaubriand earnestly invokes a revival of his 
reputation. 2 Charles Nodier admires his nobility and freedom 
from affectation. 3 Sainte Beuve, in his earliest lines, recalls 
with emotion "the pure passion" of Clarissa and Clementina. 4 
Lamartine, as well as Michelet, makes Richardson one of the 
studies of his early life. 5 George Sand is enthusiastic in her ad- 
miration of the writer whom Villemain describes as " the greatest 
and perhaps the least conscious of Shakespeare's imitators," 6 and 
of whom Alfred de Musset says that he has written " the greatest 
novel in the world." 

1 Du sentiment, 1801, p. 221. 2 Essai sur la /literature anglaise, pt. v. 

3 Des types en litter ature. 4 Poesies completes, p. 352. 

5 F. Reyssie, Lajeunesse de Lamartine, p. 89; Michelet, Mon journal, p. 81. 

6 XV 111* siecle, lesson 27. 

ffioofe w 




Chapter I 


I. Development of English influence in the latter half of the century Inter- 
course with England Influence of English manners. 

II. Growth of the cosmopolitan idea Diffusion of the English language and 
literature : newspapers and translations. 

III. Wherein Rousseau assisted the movement The revolution accomplished by 
him in criticism Manner in which he effected the union of Germanic 
with Latin Europe. 

THE influence of England had paved the way for the literary 
revolution accomplished by Rousseau, and, conversely, during 
the latter half of the century, the influence of Rousseau 
furthered the spread of English and of the Northern literatures 
generally among the French. The cosmopolitan spirit in France 
was born of the union of the Latin with the Germanic genius 
in the person of Jean- Jacques Rousseau. 

By the year 1760, the date of the appearance of La Nouvelle 
Heloise, " an experiment extending over a period of thirty 
years " to use the expression, already quoted, of an eighteenth 
century writer 1 " had been made upon one of the neighbours of 
France, namely England : it had long been impossible to doubt 
that the crossing of races is beneficial to every species of plants 
and animals ; and it was a necessary conclusion that in the human 
species, which the faculties of thought, speech, and conscience 
render so especially capable of being brought to perfection, the 

1 Garat, Memoires sur Suard, vol. i., p. 153. 



crossing of minds, since they, too, have their races, would 
produce a species little short of divine." In the preceding pages 
we have endeavoured to show what we are to understand by this 
crossing of races and of minds. We have attempted to prove 
that Jean-Jacques Rousseau inoculated the French mind, as 
Mme. de Stael says, with " a little foreign vigour." We have 
striven to draw the reader's attention to a fact which has been 
too little noticed, " the union of the French with the English 
mind, which, if its immense consequences are borne in mind, is 
the most important fact in the history of the eighteenth century." 1 
It has been our object to exhibit the effect of the example set 
by a great French writer the most popular of his epoch in 
frankly imitating an English model : even were Rousseau's debt 
less important than it really is, it would be none the less true 
that his contemporaries thought they perceived it, and that they 
hailed with delight without, at the same time, very clearly 
discerning its consequences the influence exercised by England 
upon his genius. The ancient prestige of the Latin spirit in 
France had received a blow from which it never recovered. 

It remains to show how the revolution in French taste accom- 
plished by Rousseau has in its turn facilitated the comprehension 
of the noble literature of a neighbouring country ; how, from 
1760 onwards, he came to be pre-eminently the spokesman of 
those who, wearied by the long domination of the classical spirit, 
dreamed more or less vaguely of a renovation of art through the 
agency of the English genius ; and how, thanks to him, France 
was invaded by foreign works which up to that time had been 
misunderstood and regarded with suspicion, or admired, if at all, 
only by a few elect spirits. 

In the latter half of the eighteenth century, from the close of 
the Seven Years' War down to the Revolution, the social and 
intellectual influence of England was on the increase in France. 
The movement inaugurated by Voltaire, Prevost, and Montesquieu 

1 Buckle, History of Civilization in England, vol. ii. 


attained during these decisive years its full strength. Since 
these are just the years when the genius of Jean-Jacques was 
revolutionizing French literature and unsettling what up to that 
time had been recognized in France as the principles of criticism, 
it is necessary briefly to call to mind the extent to which circum- 
stances lent their assistance, unsuspected by Rousseau, to a work 
of which he himself doubtless failed to gauge the true import. 

Between 1760 and 1789, the intercourse between the two 
countries became closer and closer. The favour with which every- 
thing English was received in France attracted thither a large 
number of distinguished foreigners, including adventurers like 
Hales, poets like Gray, 1 novelists like Smollett, 2 economists like 
Arthur Young, actors like Garrick, critics like Johnson, and philos- 
ophers such as Hume or Dugald Stewart. In the same drawing- 
room d'Holbach's, for example such visitors as David Hume, 
Wilkes, Shelburne, Garrick, Priestley, and Franklin the American 
would come and go one after the other. Some of these guests 
created a sensation ; among them "the English Roscius," as Diderot 
calls Garrick, who inspired Mme. Riccoboni with a "warm, indeed 
a very warm, friendship," 3 and dreamed of converting Voltaire 
to the worship of Shakespeare 4 ; Wilkes, described by Jean- 
Jacques as " that mischief-maker," who posed as a great victim, 
astonished all Paris by his fiery eloquence, and went about 
everywhere with his daughter, " like Oedipus with Antigone " 5 ;. 
Hume, whom people rushed to behold as they formerly crowded 
"to see a rhinoceros at a fair" David Hume "heavy and 
silent," described by Rousseau, who at first befriended him but 
afterwards became his enemy, as " the truest philosopher I know, 

1 Gray's visit was paid some years earlier. See the journal of his tour in 
France and Italy in Gray and his friends , by Duncan C. Tovey (Cambridge, 1890). 

2 See Peregrine Pickle, ch. xxxv.-l. 

3 See the dedication to the Lettres de Mme. de Sancerre. 

4 Cf. Ballantyne, op. cit., p. 271. 

5 Garat, Memoires sur SuarJ, vol. ii., p. 91 et seq. (Cf, Legier, Amusemeittt 
foetiques, Paris, 1769, p. 182 : 

Ce republicain intrepide 
Qui brave les plus grands revers, 
Des mains d'une beaute timide, 
Vient a Paris prendre des fers). 


and the only historian who ever wrote in an impartial manner " l ; 
and many others as well. The name of Englishman, said 
Gibbon, who came to Paris in 1761, was clarum et venerabile nomen 
gentibus? and a key to the door of every salon. 

Conversely, the French learned to cross the Channel, and the 
"pilgrimage to England" became almost obligatory. Buckle 
observes with pride that during the two generations which 
separated the close of the reign of Louis XIV. from the com- 
mencement of the Revolution, there was scarcely a single 
Frenchman of note who did not cross the straits. With 
regard to the period anterior to 1750, the assertion would 
be hazardous. Messieurs de Conflans and de Lauzun, Mmes. de 
BourHers and du Boccage were quoted as having been to England. 
A writer of the day remarks with interest that Mme. de BoufBers 
is the first lady of quality to attempt the journey. 3 But during 
the latter half of the century a trip to England formed a part 
of the education of every intelligent man. The practice was 
adopted by the majority of such scholars and men of learning 
as Buffon, La Condamine, Delisle, Elie de Beaumont, Jussieu, 
Lalande, Nollet, and Valmont de Bomare ; by the greater 
number of politicians and economists, from Montesquieu to 
Helvetius, from Gournay to Morellet, from Mirabeau to 
Lafayette or Roland ; and, to a constantly increasing extent, 
by ordinary men of letters Grimm, Suard, Duclos, and many 
others. In the philosophical circle of which Rousseau was so 
long a member, what was preached was also practised. Helve- 
tius's friend, the abbe Le Blanc, spent several years in England, 
and on his return brought back three great volumes of letters, 
heavy in style, but not lacking in discernment, which complete 
the work of Voltaire and Muralt. 4 Raynal, the author of 

1 Letter to Mme. de Boufflers, August 1762. See also Confessions, ii. 12. 

2 Miscellaneous Works, p. 73. On English travellers in France during the 
eighteenth century, see Rathery : Les Relations sociales et intellectuelles . . ., 4th part, 
and A. Babeau, Les Voyageurs en France. 

3 Dutens, Journal d'un voyageur, vol. i., p. 217. 

4 Le Blanc's Lettres were translated into English in 1747 (London, 2 vols. 8vo) 
and discussed by English critics. See Memoires de Trevoux, May and June 1746 ; 
NOU-V. //'#., January 1751 ; Clement, Les cinq annees litteraires, Hi. 26 ; Tabaraud, 
Histoire du philosofhisme anglaise, vol. ii., pp. 443-444. 


the Histoire philosophique des deux Indes, so highly esteemed by 
Franklin and Gibbon, visited London and became a member of 
the Royal Society. Helvetius, who crossed the straits in 1763, 
came back "quite crazy about the English," and talked of 
" packing up his wife and children" to go and settle in London. 1 
But the only thing which d'Holbach, who was less of an anglo- 
maniac, found to his liking in that land of liberty was that " the 
Christian religion was almost extinct there " ; nevertheless, on 
his return he became a voluminous translator of English books, 
especially of such as had as little flavour of Christianity about them 
as possible. 2 Grimm was charmed " with the simplicity, natural- 
ness and good sense " he met with in England, and would have 
been glad to remain in that happy country. 3 Necker, his wife, 
Duclos, Morellet and Suard are scarcely less enthusiastic. It 
should be observed, as a highly interesting fact, that the pre- 
vailing fashion even led several youths to complete their educa- 
tion in England: young Walckenaer, who was sent by his uncle 
to Oxford, and afterwards to Glasgow, was four years absent 
from France ; while Fontanes spent eighteen months in England 
shortly before the Revolution, and there acquired a love for the 
poetry of Gray and Ossian. 4 

What was taking place was, in short, a revolution in French 
habits, big with significant consequences. 

Of these consequences the first is the growth of the influence 
of English customs. "Anglomania," says Grimm, a thoroughly 
trustworthy witness, " and the appalling progress it makes, 
threaten alike the gallantry, the social disposition, and the taste 
in dress of the French nation." In a more general sense, it 
endangered a whole tradition of genial grace and sociability, 
which formed as it were the stay of French classical literature. 
In France, as elsewhere, it tended to replace the social spirit by 
individualism ; in other words, by its very negation. 

1 Diderot, (Eu-vres, vol. xix., p. 187. - Ibid., vol. xx., pp. 246 and 308. 

3 E. Scherer, Melchior Gr'imm^ p. 254. 

4 Observe also the great number of accounts of travels in England ; Grosley's 
oft-reprinted Londres ; and books by Lacombe, Chantreau, de Cambry, etc. We 
may call especial attention to that curious document, Un voyage philosophique en 
Anglelerre, by Lacoste (Paris, 1787, 2 vols. 8vo). 


A certain pleasant comedy of the day satirizes English ways in 
a very agreeable manner. Eraste is an anglomaniac that is to 
say, he turns his garden into a heap of ruins, has Hogard and 
Hindel (sic) always on his lips, drinks nothing but tea, rides none 
but English horses, and reads no authors but Shakespeare, 
Otway, and Pope : " The teachers of mankind have been born 
in London, and it is from them that we must take lessons. I am 
going to see this land of thinkers." His craze is flattered by 
Damis, who makes fun of him : "In France people laugh at 
everything ; but you must know, sir, that in England, though 
men sometimes hang themselves, they never laugh." Note, 
especially, that " in London every one assumes just what 
character he pleases ; there you surprise no one by being 
yourself." 1 

Accordingly, anglomaniacs make a point of being like no one 
else. Women are dressed " in hat, chemise," and short skirts, 
as in Emile, that they may take their constitutional in comfort ; 
men, in frock coat and vest, " walk with their chins in the air 
and assume a republican bearing." 2 A learned justice of the 
period wants to know how Frenchmen are benefited by such 
close intercourse with England : " It only introduces queer tastes, 
less courtesy in tone and manners, and an increase of obnoxious 
absurdities. . . . Would you recognize this ecclesiastic, this 
magistrate, this new favourite of Fortune, with his high shoes, a 
whip or light cane in his hand, his hair turned up beneath a 
broad-brimmed hat which flaps about his eyes, his frock-coat 
fitting so tightly that it scarcely covers his back, and his neck 
muffled in a thick cravat ? Will you have time to get out 
of the way of this young madcap, seated like a quack in a 
carriage as flimsy as it is dangerous, driving like the wind at the 
risk of his own life and of those of the passers by, hatted, 
dressed and booted like his jockey, in a manner which befits the 
back seat of his carriage quite as well as the front, and makes it 
impossible for any one to say which is the master and which 

1 Saurin, I 1 Anglomane ou I 'Orpheline leguee, 

2 See Grimm, Correspondance litteraire, May 1786 ; Mercier, Tableau de Paris, vol. 
vii., p. 38 ; Quicherat. Histoire du costume en France, p. 60 1. 


the servant ? " 1 The English type of coxcomb, " bundled up in 
a hideous great cloak," splashed with mud up to his shoulders, 
and with a comb under his hat, sets up for a philosopher, 
quotes Addison and Pope, and seems to say : " Now am I a 
thinker" This thinking creature, "dressed in green," whose coat 
shows not a single crease, whose hair is innocent of powder, and 
whose head is always covered is the anglomaniac. " Well ! " 
said one of them to the abbe Le Blanc, " what do you think 
of me ? Don't I look thoroughly English ? " 2 

Touches like these, absurd as they are, afford evidence of a 
social transformation which struck the attention of all who were 
contemporary with it. The fashion was a democratic one, and 
was adopted by the common people. It reflected a ruder and 
more primitive form of society, or rather a society which was 
ambitious of being so. Louis XV. strove against the infatuation, 
but Louis XVI., who, at Necker's instigation, had made a study 
of England, encouraged it. 3 From 1774 onwards, everything 
was in the English style costumes, horse-races, and clubs. 4 
The evening meal is taken in the English fashion, about four or 
five o'clock ; and as for intellectual refinement, who would any 
longer expect it of the French ? A club a I'anglaise is a place of 
perdition, where, as Fox is surprised to find, you eat the vilest 
dishes, drink ponche made with bad rum, and read the news- 
papers : "I am very glad," Fox concludes after an evening of 
this kind, " to see that as regards imitation we cannot be more 
ridiculous than our dear neighbours." 5 This fresh social 

1 Rigoley de Juvigny, De la decadence des litres et des mtrurs, Paris, 1787, izmo, 
p. 476. 

2 Preservatif centre Fanglomanie, Minorca and Paris, 1757. Le Blanc, Lettres, 
vol. i., p. 63. 

3 Tabaraud, vol. ii., p. 451. 

4 Ladies wore head-dresses said to be the outcome " of the union between 
France and England " (Mercier, Tableau de Paris}, In many shops English signs 
were displayed and English goods sold. Grimm (Corresfondance litteraire. May 
1786) says that horses, carriages, furniture, jewellery, and woven materials were 
sent over from England. Vauxhalli were built at Paris in imitation of London, 
and there were a Coliseum, a Ranelagh, and an Astley's circus, the latter of 
which drew all Paris to see it. For horse racing there was quite a mania (see 
Le Blanc, Lettres, vol. iii., p. 151), etc. 

5 Quoted by Rathery. 


influence modifies the French disposition. " Elegance consisted 
in having none. Society had been spoilt by dinners attended by 
men only, by those who supposed themselves to be men of 
intelligence, or by military men who were destitute of it. 
Platitudes about liberty and abuses made them fancy themselves 
Englishmen ; how many times have I not said to them the speaker 
is the Prince de Ligne : ' Let them alone, these enormously long 
newspapers which you cannot read. What have you to do with 
Pitt and Fox, who ridicule anglomaniacs every day ? You don't 
even know the name of the lord-lieutenant of your own pro- 
vince' 1 . . ." Social life is disappearing, and with it a part of 
the heritage the French have received from their ancestors. A 
drawing-room is now an ante-chamber, where everyone remains 
standing, including even the women : " You praise the hostess's 
wit, but what good does it do you ? A lay figure placed in a 
chair would do the honours of an evening like this quite as well. 
There she is bound to remain until three o'clock in the morning, 
and she will go to bed without having had a glimpse of half the 
people she has received. . . . And that is what is called an 
assemblee h F anglais e" 2 


In a society of this type, the highest virtue is to be a cosmo- 
politan in an intellectual sense. The word "cosmopolitanism" 
is of earlier origin, but it was at this period that it came into 

1 Prince de Ligne, Memoires, vol. iv., p. 154. We read in the same author that 
" Horses and traps for the morning drive are ruining the young fellows in Paris. 
The French will take more harm from the English habits they adopt than from all 
the English fleet. . . . All these clubs will be the end of them. Farewell to good 
manners, to gallantry, to the desire to please. Now we talk of Parliament and 
of the House of Commons. We read the Courrier de T Europe, and talk horses. We 
bet ; play at crefs ; we drink wretched pale wine instead of the champagne which 
used to make our ancestors merry and inspire them with song. Barbarians ! 
You should give the tone; never receive it" (CEt/vres, ed. 1796, vol. xii., 
p. X73\ 

2 Mme. de Genlis, Memoires, vol. v., p. 101, and vol. vii., p. 10. 


general use. 1 " The true sage is a cosmopolitan," says a writer 
of comedy. 2 "Happy the man," exclaims Sebastien Mercier, 
"whose literary taste is cosmopolitan!" 3 A traveller declares 
that " the highest title in Paris, after that of woman, is that of 
foreigner." 4 And Franklin also remarks that a foreigner is 
treated with the same respect in France as a lady is in England. 5 

Thanks largely to this infatuation for everything exotic, 
Frenchmen began to have a more accurate acquaintance with 
at least one foreign language, and the knowledge of that 
language increased in a very remarkable manner. 

English had long repelled the student by the harshness of 
what La Harpe who never knew the language called its 
"inconceivable" pronunciation. None "but a northern ear," 
thought Le Blanc, "could endure sounds so harsh that they 
seem to conflict with the principles of human articulation." 6 
" I cannot imagine," wrote Freron nai'vely to Desfontaines, 
" how so subtle and so keenly intellectual a nation can employ 
such a language for the composition of works of genius. Can 
I conceive of Gulliver, Pamela, or Joseph Andrews as having 
been written in so harsh a language as this ? " And he uttered 
the hope that soon the English would make up their minds to 
write their books in French, which was " smooth, expressive, 
flowing and harmonious." 7 Louis XV., moreover, was opposed 
to the teaching of English, and when Paris-Duverney, the super- 
intendent of the military school, suggested the institution of 
classes in that language, for the benefit of naval recruits, he 
replied peevishly : " The English have destroyed the intelligence 

1 In the sixteenth century the word appears chiefly in the form cosmopolitain. 
In 1605, a Swiss writer published at Berne la Comedie du cosmopolite (Virgile Rossel, 
Histoire de la litterature franf aise en Suisse, vol. i., p. 464). The form cosmopolite is 
mentioned in the Trevoux Dictionary in 1721, and was recognized by the Academy 
in 1762. In 1750, a writer of the name of Monbron published Le Cosmopolite ou le 
Citoyen du monde, and in 1762 CheVrier produced Le Cosmopolite ou les Contradictions. 

~ Palissot, les Philosophes, iii. 4. 

3 Sebastien Mercier, preface to Jeanne d'Are. 

4 John Moore, Lettres a"un voyageur anglais, Paris, 1788, vol. i. 

5 Correspondance, translated by Ed. Laboulaye. 

6 Lettres, vol. i., p. 75 et seq. 

7 Observations sur les ectils modernes, vol. XXXlii. (1743), p. i86. 


of my kingdom ; let us not expose the rising generation to the 
danger of similar perversion." l 

Voltaire had been the first to resist this prejudice. On his 
return from England, he had converted Thieriot, Mme. de 
Chatelet, and the abbe de Sade. 2 To a young man who asked 
his advice with regard to journalism as a profession, he boldly 
replied, in 1737 : "A good journalist ought at least to have a 
knowledge of English and Italian, for these languages contain 
many works of genius, and genius is scarcely ever translated. I 
consider these the two European languages most necessary to a 
Frenchman." 3 

A few years later his efforts at dissemination had borne fruit. 
About the middle of the century it was the fashion for women, 
even in the provinces, to learn English. " Not an Armande or a 
Belise " could be found who did not devote herself to the study 
of it. 4 The means thereto were multiplied : Boyer's grammar 
and dictionary gave rise to numerous imitations. 5 In 1755 the 
Journal etranger gave a long account of Johnson's dictionary, 
with a translation of the preface. 6 But, so early as 1739, Pre- 
vost declares that the study of English has become an essential 
part of " fine literature." 7 An English traveller was struck by 
the change that had taken place : " Thirty years ago a French- 
man with a knowledge of two or three foreign languages would 
have been looked upon as a marvel ; to-day there are many 
people who read the speeches delivered in Parliament in the 
original." 8 

In the reign of Louis XVI., a Societe philosophique was founded 
in Paris with the object of promoting the study of foreign 
languages, and of assisting foreigners in the acquisition of 

1 Tabaraud, vol. ii., p. 447. 

2 Letter to the abbe de Sade, i3th November 1733. 

3 Conseils a un journalists : (Eu-vres, vol. xxii., p. 261. 

4 Le Blanc, Lettres, vol. ii., p. 465. See also La Harpe, Cours de litterature, vol. 
iii., p. 224. 

5 E.g. the grammars of J. Wallis, Mauger et Festeau, Peyton, Siret, Rogissard, 
Lavery, Gautier, Berry, O'Reilly, Flint, Dumay, &c. ; and the dictionaries of 
Boyer, Brady, Chambaud et Robinet, &c. 

6 June 1755 and December 1756. 1 Pour et Contre, vol. xviii. 
8 Premier et second voyage de Milord . . . a Paris, vol. iii., p. 153. 


French. 1 Grimm states that the language of Shakespeare 2 is 
the only one which forms an essential part of the scheme of a 
fashionable education. Mercier observes that the reading of 
English papers has become as common in Paris as fifty years ago 
it was rare. 3 Every week Les Papiers anglais, a journal devoted to 
the study of English, published in both languages the most inter- 
esting articles from English journals, and Freron remarks on the 
success of the idea, which enabled students at one and the same 
time to learn the language and to make themselves familiar with 
the events of the day. 4 Buckle has drawn up a long list of all 
the well-known Frenchmen who, during the eighteenth century, 
took the trouble to learn English ; it includes all, or nearly all, 
the noted writers of the period, 5 and enables us to estimate the 
depth and extent of English influence better than many general 
considerations would do. This knowledge, it is true, was not 
uniformly accurate or thorough, but it was most widely spread, 
and indeed almost general a fact which speaks volumes. A 
considerable number of English words, which were introduced 
into the French language at that time, bear witness to the 
fashion ; new customs bring new words : men go to the club, 
drink ponche and play whisk ; now-a-days, says Voltaire, "your 
major-domo serves up rostbifs of mutton . . . our poor French 
tongue must simply make the best of a bad case." 6 In truth the 
anglomaniacs put it to some pretty severe tests : dame becomes 
ladi 1 \ lot becomes bit* ; while tnonsieur is replaced by sir, even 
when every rule forbids its use. " Sir, voulez-vous du the ? " 
may pass muster, but " a Sir donnez un verre d'eau " 9 is neither 

1 Babeau, Paris in 1789, p. 339. 2 Correspondence litteraire, May 1786. 

3 Tableau de Paris, vol. xi., p. 128. 

4 There was also a goodly number of Musees a Vanglaisc in several towns : the 
Musee de Paris , the Societe olymplque, etc. 

5 Buckle, vol. Hi., p. 81. 

6 Letter to Linguet, published in the Journal encyclofedique, September 1769 

7 Prevost, Memoircs d'un homme de qualite, vol. ii., p. 254: " C'est une charmante 

8 Francois de Neufchateau, Pamela, iv. 12: 

Dans vos bills des longtemps mon supplice est crit. 
The word is found even in the Trevoux Dictionary (1704). 

9 Hid., ii. 12. 


English nor French. Un plaisant serieux becomes un homme 
d'humour, 1 and it is good form to have the spleen rather than 
the vapeurs? 

In the latter half of the century the " demon translator" raged 
furiously. Every publisher had his translating staff. 3 Desfon- 
taines, Mme. du Boccage, Dupre de Saint-Maur, Du Resnel, 
Saint-Hyacinthe, and Van EfTen had led the way. His version of 
Paradise Lost had even obtained for Dupre de Saint-Maur a chair 
in the Academy. Their successors were legion, from Leclerc de 
Septchenes to Frenais, the translator of Sterne ; from the abbe 
Yart, the author of a voluminous Idee de la poesie anglaise, to the 
" inevitable M. Eidous," who, if Grimm is to be believed, 
translated a volume every month. Women took part in the 
work, and produced their " traductionette," in order to gain the 
reputation of being authors 4 ; Mme. de Boufflers translated 
English songs, the wife of the president de Meynieres turned 
her attention to the historians, and the duchess d'Aiguillon 
attacked Ossian. Prominent writers such as Prevost, Diderot, 
d'Holbach, and Suard devoted themselves to translation. Others, 
more modest or less capable, attribute all their success to their 
knowledge of English ; among them the first adapter of 
Shakespeare, La Place, who flattered himself that he knew two 
languages because he had been educated in the college of the 
English Jesuits as Saint-Omer, whereas in reality he did not 
know one. His knowledge of English, however, was "the 
cause of any little success he had had." La Place produced a 
translation of Otway's Venice Preserved, a Theatre anglais in eight 
volumes, a version of Tom Jones, and translations of everything 
that came in his way ; thanks to all these versions and to Mme. 
de Pompadour, he became editor of the Mercure. 5 Another, the 

1 Suard, Melanges de /literature, vol. iv., p. 366. Muralt is responsible for the 
first definition of fiumour. See also Le Blanc, Lettres, vol. i., p. 79. Attempts 
were also made to distinguish /tumour, or, as Garat spells it, hyumour {Memoires sur 
Suard vol. ii., p. 92) from ivhim (see Journal encyclopedique, ist June 1786). 

2 On the spleen or vaf>eurs anglaises, see Prevost's Cleveland ' Le Blanc, vol. i., 
p. 169 ; Bezenval, Memoires, vol. iv., etc. 

3 Journal encyclopcdique, February 1761. 4 Mercier, Tableau, vol. xi., p. 130. 
5 La Harpe : remarks on La Place, in the Cours de literature. 


celebrated Letourneur, described by Voltaire as " secretaire de 
la librairie, mais non secretaire du bon gout," extended this 
branch of commerce still further, founded together with 
Fontaine-Mai herbe, the Comte de Catuelan, the chevalier de 
Rutlidge, and others, a regular translating firm, rendered 
Shakespeare, Richardson, Young, and Ossian into French, and, 
in addition to this mass of work, was able at his death to leave 
behind him certain fragments of translation in manuscript which 
were piously published by his friends, together with his 
biography. 1 

A fact of greater importance is that, in order to satisfy this 
increasing taste for foreign productions, journals were started 
not, as heretofore, at the Hague, or in London which allotted 
the greater part of their space to English affairs, or were even 
exclusively devoted to them. 

Most of the literary journals of the period declare that the 
cosmopolitan spirit gives rise to " a social intercourse thoroughly 
worthy of the enlightened nations of which the European 
federation consists." 2 Those even who had once been hostile 
to the movement ultimately fell in with the fashion : Freron, 
who had at first shown no disposition to welcome foreign 
literature, now became very curious about it : assigned much of 
the space in his Annee lltteraire to German and English books, 
became intimate with Letourneur, and corresponded with 
Garrick. Pierre Rousseau's Journal encyclopedique is a mine of 
information for the student of the relations between France and 
Europe during the eighteenth century, and as much might 
be said of the Esprit des journaux an immense series containing 
a most curious selection of the best articles from every periodical 
in the world, and the delight of Sainte-Beuve. Those who have 
never turned over the pages of the two hundred and eighty- 
eight volumes of the Journal encyclopedique, or the four hundred 
and ninety-five volumes of the Esprit des journaux? have no 

1 Le Jard'm anglais, or Varieties both original and translated : a posthumous 
work with a notice of the author, Paris, 1788, z vols. izmo. 

2 Correspondance litteraire, August IJJ2. 

3 V Esprit des journaux fran^ais et etrangers appeared from July 1772 to April 1818. 
The Journal encyclopedique appeared from 1756 to 1773. 


idea of the curiosity which foreign productions aroused in 

But, in addition to these magazines of a general character, 
special reviews were established : following the example of the 
Bibliotheque germanique and the Bibliotkeque ita/ique, there was a 
Traducteur, which gave a summary of the English periodicals, 
a Bibliotheque des romans anglais, a Censeur universe! anglais, or 
" General, critical, and impartial review of all English produc- 
tions" 1 a list of efforts which would have greatly astonished 
Ariste, one of the characters of Father Bouhours, who considered 
" that people of refined intelligence are somewhat rarer in cold 

The most famous of these cosmopolitan magazines, and the one 
most worthy of remembrance, was the Journal etranger, which 
was issued from 1754 to T 7^ 2 anc ^ edited successively by 
Grimm, Prevost, Freron, Arnaud, and Suard. 

Established in April 1754, ^ e J urna l was by turns mainly 
scientific in character under Prevost, political under Freron, and 
literary under Arnaud and Suard. Its title, and the sections into 
which it was divided, were frequently altered. 2 After Freron 
left it, in October 1756, the scope of the magazine was enlarged ; 
regular correspondents were secured in the East, and in Rome, 
Leghorn, Florence, Gottingen, Leipzig, Dresden, Stockholm and 
London, and foreign contributions became both more accurate and 
more abundant. But the spirit of the magazine remained un- 
changed; from the outset its object had been to combine "the genius 
of each nation with those of all the others," to bring " writers 
of every nationality" into relation with one another, "to decide 

1 See Hatin, Histoire de la presse, vol. iii., p. 114. 

2 The descriptions of the Journal etranger given in bibliographies have, as a rule, 
been inaccurate. Its successive titles were Journal etranger, outrage periodique ; a 
Parts, au bureau du Journal etranger, . . . then Journal etranger, ou notice exacte et 
detaillee des outrages de toutes les nations etrangeres, en fait d'arts, de sciences, de litterature, 
etc., by M. Freron . . . (Paris, Michel Lambert). In 1760 it bore on the title- 
page the name of tbe abbe Arnaud, and appeared under the patronage of the 
Dauphin. The entire collection extends from April 1754 to August 1762 
(42 vols. izmo); though no issue was made for December 1754, nor during 
the whole of 1759. Prevost's editorship lasted from January to August 1755 ; 
Freron's from August 1755 until October 1756. 


those idle differences of opinion upon questions of taste which set 
the peoples of Europe at variance with one another," and to teach 
France " no longer to lay exclusive claim to the gift of thought, 
the mere pretension to which would almost afford evidence of its 
absence, no longer to venture upon the unseemly jests which are 
enough to make one people detested by all the rest, nor any 
longer to evince that offensive contempt for estimable nations 
which is nothing but a relic of the brutal prejudice due to former 
ignorance." l In short, the Journal etr anger proposed to resume, 
and at the same time to develop, the idea which had guided the 
refugee critics in the work of editing their magazines. Side 
by side with a letter on the condition of literature in Poland, 
it inserts an account of the German fable-writers. Here it 
speaks of Portuguese writers, and there of the poets of Arabia. 
Winckelmann, Kleist, Klopstock, and Lessing are mentioned in 
the same breath with Goldoni and Metastasio. But England, 
above all, furnished the material for whole numbers of the 
magazine. " We are aware," wrote the authors, " how necessary 
to our journal English literature has become. The lively and 
almost exclusive interest which is everywhere taken in the 
productions of the British intellect makes it imperative that we 
should conform in this respect to the general wish." 2 From the 
earliest volumes the journal derived its materials largely from 
Hume, Johnson, Foote, Glover, Milton, and even from Chaucer, 
Spenser, and Ben Jonson, either in the shape of translated 
excerpts from their works, or of biographical articles. Under 
Suard's influence the journal was still further devoted to the 
study of English writers. 

Suard, a man of subtle and acute intelligence of whom it has 
been said that he was, " as it were, the full length portrait of a 
Frenchman " 3 had made England peculiarly his own province. 
He had a thorough knowledge of the language, translated 
Robertson, and possibly Mrs Montague's Essay on Shakespeare, 
visited London thrice, once in the company of Necker, and saw 

1 April 1754. Compare Arnaud's Discottrs prelimtnaire sur la caractere des prin- 
cipales langues de r Europe, which occurs in the year 1760. 

2 September 1757. 3 Garat, Memoircs sur Suard, vol. i., p. 133. 


Garrick play King Lear. He became remarkable, his biographer 
tells us, for his "absolute and unshaken confidence in the know- 
ledge of Great Britain he had thus acquired." The moment 
England was in question he " seemed, as it were, to take the 
chairman's seat," l and his drawing-room was the rendezvous for 
all the anglomaniacs in Paris. 

In 1764 the Journal Stranger was succeeded by the Gazette 
litter aire? under the same management and conducted in a 
similar spirit. The Gazette forms a natural continuation of the 
Journal. Like its predecessor it was " intended especially to 
afford information concerning foreign literature, the knowledge 
of which has more to do with the progress of reason and good 
taste than may be supposed." 3 It would rely for its information 
upon the diplomatic staff, and would enjoy the support of the 
minister for foreign affairs. 4 

Voltaire became a contributor, and wrote for it accounts of 
several English books, more especially of Sidney's Discourses upon 
Government, and Lady Mary Montagu's letters. But these dis- 
tinguished contributions appeared irregularly ; the directors, too, 
were negligent, being too much occupied with the Gazette de 
France^ which they edited as well. When, in August 1765, the 
Gazette litter air e ceased to appear, they had at least proved to 
every European nation that, as the abbe Arnaud expressed it, 
" no one was at liberty to assume a tyranny over others." 

" In the absurd dispute concerning the ancients and the 
moderns, the partisans of antiquity justly required that before 
forming an estimate of Homer we should transport ourselves to 
the period of which the manners and characters are described 
by the poet. We oive a like justice to everything 'which comes to us 
from abroad. We must place ourselves at their point of vieiu if ive are 
to judge of the ivay in 'which foreigners live." 5 Thus it came about 

1 Garat, Memoires sur Suard, vol. i., p. 78. 

2 Gazette litteraire de r Europe, printed in Paris at the printing office of the 
Gazette de France, Louvre Gallery (March 1764, August 1765). 6 vols. 8vo. 

3 Vol. i.,p. 7 . 

4 This official protection caused the Journal des savants much concern ; it 
considered that its rights were infringed upon, and, through Choiseul, raised an 
ineffective protest. 

5 Journal etranger, January 1760. 


that periodical literature, always a faithful mirror of public 
opinion, provided nourishment for the confused aspirations of all 
who hoped to see France and the Teutonic nations drawn more 
closely together. 


The common bond between all the vague aspirations which 
the study of English works aroused in France was provided by 
Rousseau. He gave them vigour, life, and substance. Thanks 
to him and to his writings Frenchmen read and appreciated 
Sterne, Ossian, Young, Hervey, and Shakespeare himself, all of 
whom had uttered in another language sentiments similar to those 
expressed by Rousseau, and all of whom were, like him, sensitive, 
melancholy, and lyrical. The admirers of these writers most 
of whom preceded him are the very people who admired Jean- 
Jacques. Between the two currents which, in France on the 
one hand, in England and in Germany on the other, were guiding 
literature towards a renewal of the sources of inspiration, a 
junction was about to take place. France, a Latin-speaking 
country, was for the first time to be conscious that her feeling, 
her imagination and her thought were those of the German- 
speaking nations, and those who seek for the ancestors and 
forerunners of Rousseau must look for them not in a classic 
antiquity, but beyond the borders of France. 

Henceforth criticism could not fail to distinguish, with Mme. 
de Stael, a northern genius represented by the English, by 
Rousseau, and by the Germans who drew their inspiration from 
him and a southern genius, developed by the Latin nations 
without foreign admixture. The distinction, it is true, cannot 
be strictly maintained, and is perhaps not even a natural one. 
But here we are writing the history of an idea which has borne 
fruit in the world, rather than examining the accuracy of a 

The cosmopolitan idea in literature has its origin in Jean- 


Jacques Rousseau because Rousseau altered the very founda- 
tions of criticism. 

Before his time no one, in France at any rate, had doubted 
that there were certain rules which must regulate the composi- 
tion of a book, whether it be an epic or a satire, a drama or a 
sermon. Though the nature of these rules was disputed, their 
existence was never called in question, and there was a pretty 
general agreement with regard to certain essential principles 
bequeathed by ancient criticism. It was believed, in short, 
that there was an art of correct thought and even of correct 
feeling and imagination. Jean-Jacques felt and imagined in 
defiance of every rule. He boldly declared that he was not 
made like any man he had seen, nor, he " ventured to believe, 
like any man in existence." There was nothing in merely saying 
so ; but he gave a practical exemplification of the fact, and 
claimed for the individual the right to like and to admire 
without consulting any other guide than himself. 

This was a momentous revolution, but it was a revolution in 
France alone. It is in vain, Rousseau declared, to pretend to 
remould every mind "according to a single pattern." To 
change a mind you must change a character, which is itself 
dependent on "a temperament." For temperament or sensi- 
bility is the substratum of the man. "It is thus not a 
question of altering the character and subduing the disposition, 
but, on the contrary, of pushing it to its utmost limits." Yet as 
much had been said by his English predecessors, and Young, 
the author of Night Thoughts in his Conjectures on Original Com- 
position, which, published in the form of a letter to Richardson, 
enjoyed some reputation in the eighteenth century had, long 
before, expressed himself as follows : " By a spirit of imitation 
we counteract Nature, and thwart her design. She brings us 
into the world all originals : no two faces, no two minds, are 
just alike ; but all bear Nature's evident mark of separation on 
them. Born originals, how comes it to pass that we die copies ? 
. . . Nature stands absolved, and the inferiority of our com- 
position must be charged on ourselves." The remedy he 
suggested was that proposed by Jean-Jacques : let us commune 


with ourselves, and seek to develop that which is our very own 
property our temperament. " Know thyself. Of ourselves,, 
it may be said, as Martial says of a bad neighbour, 

. . . Nil tarn prope, proculque nobis" 

Rousseau never said more than this j perhaps, even, he did 
not deduce the inevitable consequence of his principle quite 
so rigorously as Young, who contrasted all the endeavour of 
antiquity with the boundless horizon of the future. " Who 
hath fathomed the mind of man ? Its bounds are as unknown 
as those of the creation." " Men as great, perhaps greater 
than the great ones of antiquity (presumptuous as it may 
sound) may, possibly, arise." 1 

The part played by Rousseau in the evolution of criticism was 
that of substituting the notion of a relative aesthetic, variable 
both from one period, and from one country, to another, for 
that of an absolute aesthetic which has found perfect expres- 
sion in a few works of genius. ^Esthetic discernment, he 
expressly declares, is nothing more than the faculty of judging 
what pleases or displeases the greatest number." 2 See how man 
varies according as he dwells in the North or in the South, and 
according as he is born in the first century or in the fifteenth. 
See him in the earliest stages of his development, try to picture 
his rude yet simple life, the slow awakening of his intelligence 
to a more complete form of existence, his struggle with a soil 
" surrendered to its natural fertility, and covered with immense 
forests never yet mutilated by the axe." 3 What affinity has this 
uncultivated creature with the modern society man, whom books 
would foist upon us as the type of humanity ? And so we find 
St Preux making the tour of the world, and endeavouring to 
acquire the illusion of remoteness in time by transporting himself 
to remote distances in space ; traversing " the stormy seas of the 
antarctic zone," the Ocean, where man is the enemy of man, and 
" those vast, sorrow-stricken lands which seem to have no other 
destiny than to people the earth with droves of slaves." 4 What 

1 Conjectures on Original Composition, London, 1759, p. 4-2. 

- Emile, i. iv. 3 Discours sur finegalite, part i. 4 Nouvelle He/o'ise, iv. 3. 



analogy is there between the Hottentot, the Indian of the Congo, 
or the cannibal of the Antilles, 1 and the heroes of our tragedies 
and novels. Again, to return to our own doors, can we help 
thinking of the countless souls never mentioned in our books and 
scarcely better known to our writers than the souls of African 
negroes or the inhabitants of China ? Thus no one could be 
more conscious than Rousseau of the almost infinite diversity of 
human nature a consciousness entirely unknown to classical 
criticism ; and he deduces therefrom the consequence that, if 
the types are almost infinite in number, almost the whole of 
humanity still remains to be portrayed. "One would suppose," 
says Rousseau's faithful expositor, Mme. de Stael, " that logic is 
the foundation of the arts," and that the " unstable nature " 
spoken of by Montaigne is banished from our books. This 
unstable nature we must restore to the position suited to it, and 
must convince ourselves that taste does not consist in confining it 
within the narrow limits of French and Western logic. 

This, however, had been vaguely perceived by many writers 
Young, for instance before Rousseau. The superiority of 
Jean- Jacques lies in the fact that he proved it by his own 
example, and found the most signal justification of his ideas 
within himself. It is this that made him the guide and master 
of Europe. France, but Germany, England, Italy, and Spain 
no less all those, of whatever nationality, who had already 
found their own consciousness voiced by English writers 
felt themselves still more completely reflected in Rousseau. No 
writer has made so many countries his own at the same time ; 
none has appealed to so many hearts or so many minds j none 
has thrown down more barriers or removed more boundaries. 
In him, European, as distinct from national, literature takes its 

By German writers he was hailed as a deliverer. Schiller 
nourished his mind upon Julie, and composed The Robbers and 
Fiesco under the inspiration of its author. The youthful Goethe 
was fascinated by him, and every day, at Strasbourg, made 
extracts from his works. Herder addressed him in passionate 

1 See the curious notes to the Discours sur Vinegalite. 


terms : " It is myself that I would seek, that at last I may find 
and never again lose myself; come, Rousseau, be you my 
guide!" 1 Lessing entertained for Jean- Jacques a "secret 
respect." Kant hung his portrait in his study. Lenz demanded 
that a statue should be erected in his honour, opposite to that of 
Shakespeare. Many writers of the period regarded him as an 
apostle, or, as Herder said to his betrothed, as "a saint and 
a prophet. I am almost tempted to address him in prayer." At 
his decease, Schiller extolled him as a martyr : " In these 
enlightened times the sage must die. Socrates was martyred by 
the sophists of old ; and Rousseau, who endeavoured to render 
Christians more manly, must suffer and fall beneath their 
hands." 2 

In England, the home of his literary predecessors, his suc- 
cess was scarcely less. There, to tell the truth, his art did 
not perhaps seem quite so new as in Germany ; since many of 
the sentiments he expressed were already familiar to English 
literature. Richardson, Fielding and Sterne had created the 
sentimental novel of middle class life before Rousseau. Even in 
his lyrical quality there was nothing absolutely fresh. " Thirty 
years earlier than Rousseau, Thomson had given expression to 
the same sentiments, and almost in the same style." 3 An entire 
school of poetry had sung the praises of melancholy before he 
did, from Young's Night Thoughts, which appeared in 1742, down 
to the first fragments of Ossian, which were published in 1760. 
But these same sentiments were expressed by Rousseau in a 
more truly poetical manner. This is why he became one of the 
masters of the English romantic school ; of Cowper, by whom he 
was addressed in beautiful lines ; of Shelley, who is never tired 
of appealing to Rousseau as his teacher ; and of Byron, who 
read him in youth and remained faithful to him in maturer years. 4 
Many an English poet of the eighteenth, and even of the nine- 

1 C. Joret, Herder, p. 323. 

2 See Marc Monnier: Jean-Jacques Rousseau et les strangers, in Rousseau juge par 
les Genevois d'aujourd'hui. With regard to Rousseau's popularity in Germany 
consult also Erich Schmidt : Richardson, Rousseau tend Goethe, 

3 Taine, Litterature anglaise , vol. iv., p. 224. 

4 See O. Schmidt, Rousseau und Byron, Greifswald, 1889, 8vo. 


teenth, century could have said with George Eliot : " Rousseau's 
genius has sent that electric thrill through my intellectual and 
moral frame which has awakened me to new perceptions [and] 
. . . quickened my faculties." l It would be impossible to write 
any portion of the history of European, as distinct from national, 
literature during the last one hundred and fifty years without 
pronouncing his name, for the reason that in him the genius of 
Latin Europe became one with that of Teutonic Europe. 

But if his philosophical work is mainly an expression of the 
Latin genius, it was mainly the Teutonic genius, or, as Mme. de 
Stael said, the literatures of the North, that benefited by the 
revolution he accomplished. Rousseau's triumph marks the 
advent of these literatures ; his influence was henceforth insepar- 
able from theirs. And this union dates from the eighteenth 
century, and from pre-revolutionary times. 

I do not propose to write here the history of the intercourse 
of France with England and Germany between 1760 and 1789. 
I shall simply attempt to show how the success of Jean- Jacques 
Rousseau brought success to certain foreign writers whose 
careers preceded, or were contemporary with, his own, whose 
genius was very closely related to his, and whose influence 
became blended with that which he exerted. 

1 George Eliot's Life, vol. i., p. 168. 

Chapter II 


I. Sterne and the sentimental novel Sterne, like Rousseau, brought the 
sentimental confession into fashion His visit to Paris His amours The 

II. The eighteenth century failed to understand his humour, but appreciated the 
way in which, like Rousseau, he affected to talk of himself, and to be deeply 
touched by his own condition Nature and extent of the influence exerted 
by his work in France. 


SOME months after the appearance of La Nouve/Ie Heldise, and simul- 
taneously with the publication of Diderot's famous Eloge de Richard- 
son, there appeared in Paris one of the most remarkable characters 
of the age. Laurence Sterne was a man of weak health, effusive 
disposition, profound sensibility and singular genius. A con- 
temporary says that " by the frank simplicity, the readiness and 
the touching character of his own sensibility, he inspired sensitive 
hearts with fresh emotions." * Suard once asked him to explain 
his own personality. Sterne replied that he could distinguish 
three causes which had made him like nobody else : the daily 
reading of the Bible, the study of Locke's sacred philosophy, 
" without which the world will never attain to a true universal 
religion or a true science of ethics, and man will never obtain 
real command over nature " ; lastly, and above all, the possession 
of "one of those organizations, in which the sacred constitutive 
principle of the soul is predominant, that immortal flame by 
which life is at once nourished and devoured." 2 Endowed with 
the originality of an Englishman, Sterne, like Rousseau, was also 
sensitive, passionate, and, at times, lyrical. 

1 Garat, Memoires sur Suard, vol. ii,, p. 135. 2 Ibid., p. 149. 



When he arrived in Paris, Tristram Shandy the first volume 
of which had recently appeared was already famous there ; so 
that Sterne wrote to Garrick : " My head is turned with what I 
see, and the unexpected honour I have met with here. Tristram 
was almost as much known here as in London." 1 

The Seven Years' War being then at its height, it was neces- 
sary to find a guarantor for one's good behaviour ; accordingly 
d'Holbach became his patron and admitted him to his salon. 
There he met with all the anglomaniacs of Paris, and astonished 
them, now by his exuberant gaiety, now by his philosophical 
gravity. But what gave most pleasure was his ostentatious 
contempt for the "eternal sameness "of the French mind and 
disposition. Being asked whether he had not found in France 
some character which he could introduce in his novel : No, he 
replied, Frenchmen are like coins which, " by jingling and 
rubbing one against another, . . . are become so much alike 
you scarcely can tell one from another." 2 This sally in the 
manner of Jean-Jacques was immensely successful. " What 
sort of a fellow is this ?" cried Choiseul in astonishment. On 
another occasion he halted before Henri IV.'s statue on the 
Pont-Neuf ; a crowd gathered around him ; turning round, 
he called out : " What are you all looking at me for? Follow 
my example, all of you ! " and they all knelt with him before 
the statue. "The Englishman," says the narrator, "forgot that 
it was the statue of a king of France. A slave would never 
have paid such homage to Henri IV." 3 

Just as Rousseau, who had his Therese, fell in love with 
Mme. d'Houdetot, so " the good and agreeable Tristram," as a 
contemporary calls him, though possessed of a devoted helpmeet, 
loved Eliza Draper, the wife of another man, and neither the one 
nor the other, nor both together, could keep him from falling in 
love with every woman he met. "By loving them all," says 
Garat, gravely, " in such a transient manner, the minister of the 
Gospel maintained his religious belief in all its purity." 

To Eliza, " wife of Daniel Draper, Esq., chief of the English 

1 Traill, Sterne, p. 67. 

2 Garat, vol. ii., p. 147. Sentimental Journey, ch. li. 3 Garat, p. 148. 


factory at Surat," he addressed the most passionate letters, 
" with the easy carelessness of a heart which opens itself any 
how, every how . . ." l She, writing to him, said : " Think of 
me waking, and let me, like an illusion, glide through your fancy 
while you sleep." In reply he tells her about himself, his low 
spirits, the age of his body, and the youth of his soul, and pro- 
poses to marry her if both should be bereaved of their partners. 
Eliza, at twenty-five, was consumptive, and made preparations 
for a journey to India, whence there was little hope that she 
would ever return. " Best of all God's works," writes Sterne, 
" farewell ! Love me, I beseech thee ; and remember me 
for ever ! " The romantic story deeply affected its readers. 
When Eliza died at the age of thirty-three, Raynal wrote a 
panegyric on her in the Histoire philosophique des deux Indes. 
"Land of Anjinga," he cried, addressing her country, "in 
thyself thou art nothing ! But thou hast given birth to Eliza. 
A day will come when the emporiums which Europeans have 
founded upon Asiatic shores will no longer exist. The grass 
will cover them, or the Indian, avenged at last, will build upon 
their ruins. . . . But if my writings are destined to endure, the 
name of Anjinga will dwell within the memories of men. Those 
who read me, those whom the winds shall carry to these shores, 
will say : < There was the birthplace of Eliza Draper,' and if 
among them a Briton should be found, ' the offspring,' he will 
hasten to add, ' of English parents.' " 

Thus Sterne, like Jean- Jacques, permitted the public to feed 
its curiosity upon his private life. Like him, he gloried in his 
own failings. Like Mme. de Warens and Mme. d'Houdetot, 
Eliza Draper the beloved of Laurence Sterne, who, after all, 
forgot her became the theme of novelist and poet. "Deign, 
noble Eliza," writes the excellent Ballanche, 2 " to accept my 
homage : pattern of true friendship, Heaven brought thee forth 
in a calm and peaceful hour : God presented thee to weak mortals 
as a convincing proof of his unspeakable goodness, of which thou 
wert a faithful image upon earth. . . . Accept my homage, 
woman without a peer. . . . Let all whose souls are alive to 

1 Letters from Yorick to Eliza. 2 Du Sentiment, p. ZI$. 

2 8o STERNE 

feeling gather around this monument, erected in friendly rivalry 
by Sterne and Raynal." 1 

Sterne was received in Paris with open arms. He became a 
frequent visitor at the houses of d'Holbach, Suard, Choiseul, 
the Comte de Bissy an ardent anglomaniac, who supplied the 
material for an amusing chapter in the Sentimental Journey and 
Crebillon fils, with whom he formed the project of carrying on 
an extraordinary controversy, in which each was to accuse the 
other of immorality, in order to catch the ear of the gallery 2 
a scheme, however, which was never carried out. Diderot he 
also met, who was delighted by his eccentricities, and com- 
missioned him to procure him English books. A lady submitted 
to him Le fils nature/ whether with or without the author's 
consent we do not certainly know and under the impression 
that it was " English in character," suggested that he should 
induce Garrick to play the piece. Sterne, however, considered 
that the speeches in it were too long, and " savoured too much 
of preaching" ; what was more, it had " too much sentiment" 
to suit him. 3 

The last and not the least amusing act of this comedy 4 was 
a sermon preached by Sterne at the English embassy before the 
most prominent free-thinkers in Paris, Diderot, d'Holbach, David 
Hume, and others. He chose as his text that passage from the 
Book of Kings, in which Isaiah reproaches Hezekiah for his 
vanity in showing his treasures to the Babylonish ambassadors : 
4 'All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there 
is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them." 
The text lent itself to allusions, the significance of which did 
not escape the audience, and in the evening, at the dinner which 
followed, Hume rallied Sterne upon his sermon. " David was 
disposed to make a little merry with the parson, and in return 
the parson was equally disposed to make a little merry with 
the infidel. We laughed at one another, and the company 

1 Lettres d'Yorick a Elisa, followed by RaynaPs Eloge, 

2 Traill, p. 71. 3 Tra ill, p . ?o . 

4 The Magazln encyclopedique (1799, vol. vi., p. 121) mentions the title of a 
vaudeville which was founded on Sterne's visit to Paris viz. , Sterne a Paris ou le 
Voyageur sentimental, by Revoil and Forbin. 


laughed at us both." l A strange party, forsooth, and a strange 
man ! 

Though at the present day we do not take Sterne very 
seriously, his contemporaries not only appreciated him as a 
humorist, but delighted especially in the depth and originality 
of his genius, in his " gloomy and mournful appearance," and 
in what his translator called " an aroma of sentiment, and a 
suppleness of thought, impossible to define." 2 By his country- 
men he was praised for his joyous spirit, while in France he 
was looked upon as a kind of prophet of the new religion just 
brought into fashion by Rousseau, the religion of the self. 


Sterne's works very quickly became known in France, where 
they met with a success not inferior to, though very different 
from, that which they attained in London. 

It was in May 1760 that the Journal encyclopedique first made 
mention of " that famous book, Tristram Shandy" In England 
this singular work of fiction gave rise to keen controversy. Those 
whose well-balanced minds were full of respect for tradition 
spoke of it only with pity. Goldsmith and Johnson did not 
disguise their contempt ; Richardson pronounced it execrable ; 
it made Walpole '* smile two or three times at the beginning, 
but in recompense" made him yawn for two hours; "the 
humour," he says, "is for ever attempted and missed." 3 But 
the public in general, by Walpole's own showing, went wild 
over the new novel : a portrait of the author, who but yester- 
day had been leading an obscure existence in the retirement of 
his parish, was painted by Reynolds, and a frontispiece for his 
works was designed by Hogarth. Gray asserts that it was 
impossible to dine with the author without making the engage- 
ment a fortnight beforehand. 4 But the success of the book was 
due to curiosity more than to anything else, and readers were 

1 Traill, p. 86. 2 Frenais's translation of the Sentimental Journey, p. 213. 

3 April 1760. 4 Letters, zznd June 1760. 


amused by Tristram's eccentric humour rather than convinced 
of the depth of his genius. 

Abroad, however, it was by no means the same. Sterne's 
reputation increased when it crossed the water. The Germans 
hailed him as a philosopher. Lessing was taken with him, and 
when Sterne died, wrote to Nicolai that he would gladly have 
sacrificed several years of his own life if by so doing he 
could have prolonged the existence of the sentimental traveller. 
Goethe writes: "Whoever reads him, immediately feels that 
there is something free and beautiful in his own soul." l The 
philosophy of Sterne is the most brilliant invention of eighteenth 
century anglomania. 

In France the Gazette litteraire published extracts from Shandy, 
and three translators contended for the honour of producing a 
complete French version of the work. 2 The Sentimental Journey 
was translated in the year following its publication ; the Sermons, 
which the author was enabled to publish by the subscriptions 
of d'Holbach, Diderot, Crebillon fils, and Voltaire, were also 
issued in French, as well as the famous Letters to Eliza, which 
were regarded as a precious autobiographical document. 3 

His chief work, that wonderful, amazing, wearisome book, 
Tristram Shandy, with its extraordinary medley of every language 
and every art French, Greek, Latin, medicine, theology, and the 
art of fortification j with its parentheses of two volumes, its dedica- 

1 See Hettner, vol. i., p. 508, and, for the numerous German imitations of 
Sterne, vol. v., p. 410. 

2 Frenais's translation of Tristram Shandy (Paris, 1776, z vols. izmo) contains 
only the first part of the novel. Two translations of the remainder were pub- 
lished [concurrently in 1785, by de Bonnay and G. de la Baume. (See Journal 
encyclopedique, I5th March 1786.) Finally, the two translations of Frenais and de 
Bonnay were reprinted together (1785, 4 vols. izmo). 

3 Voyage sentimental, by Mr Sterne, under the name of Yorick, translated from 
the English by M. Frenais, Amsterdam and Paris, 1769, z vols. izmo (often 
reprinted). Sermons choisis de Sterne, translated by M. L. D. B. [de la Baume], 
London and Paris, 1786, izmo. Lettres de Sterne a ses amis (translated by the 
same), London and Paris, 1788, 8vo ; another translation (by Durand de Saint- 
Georges), the Hague, 1789, izmo. Lettres d'Yorick a Elisa (translated by Frenais), 
Paris, 1776, izmo. A volume entitled Beautes de Sterne, Paris, z parts, 8vo, 
was also published, and several editions of the (Euvres completes (1787, 1797, 
1803, etc.). 


tions in the midst of chapters, its insertion of a chapter xviii. after 
chapter xxviii., and its serpent-like twisting and turning of words ; 
" this great curiosity shop," as Taine calls it, excited amazement 
rather than genuine admiration. How indeed should it have 
been appreciated ? " Mr Sterne's pleasantries," says his trans- 
lator, " have not always struck me as particularly happy. I have 
left them where I found them, and have put others in their place." 
Let us see what this heavy hand makes of the humorist's delicate 
fabric. Speaking of a village midwife, Sterne says that her 
fame was world-wide : and by the " world," he says, we are to 
understand a circle "about four English miles in diameter." 
The irony is subtle, or at all events delicate. Frenais remarks : l 
" But let us not deceive ourselves : he does not allude to the 
whole of the world. She was not known, for instance, to the 
Hottentots, nor to the Dutch at the Cape of Good Hope, who, it 
is said, bring forth their children in the same manner as Mme. 
Gigogne ; the world, for her, was but a small circle," &c. 
Sterne's eccentricities become absurdities. The public looks for 
subtle and lively satire ; and getting nothing but " a riddle to 
which there is no answer," 2 it seeks in vain for "some deep 
meaning in drollery which contains none." 

Yet, even in the mutilated versions of his translators, Sterne 
delighted Voltaire. According to him " the second English 
Rabelais " had drawn " several pictures superior to those of 
Rembrandt and to the sketches of Callot." 3 Elsewhere, how- 
ever, he makes certain reservations ; in an article on Tristram 
Shandy in the Journal de politique et de litter aturef he pronounces it 
" from beginning to end a piece of buffoonery after the style of 
Scarron." The book is empty empty as the bottle which a 
certain charlatan had promised to enter. " There was philosophy 
in Sterne's head," nevertheless, queer fellow as he was. In 

1 Vol. i., p. 22. 

2 Gazette litteraire, 2oth March 1765. The first two volumes " excited the 
curiosity of their readers, who took them for a subtle and lively satire in which 
the sage hid his face behind the jester's mask. The sage has published four other 
volumes which tbe public has read with eagerness, but, to its amazement, has 
entirely failed to understand." 

3 Dictionnaire phtlosophique : article on Conscience, 4 25th April 1777. 


him, as in Shakespeare, there were flashes of a superior 

In truth, the eighteenth century failed to understand Sterne's 
inimitable humour. What impressed it was the spasmodic, dis- 
connected progress of his thought, the tangles in the thread of 
his ideas, the abrupt flights taken by his imagination, all so 
opposed to French classical habits of systematic and coherent 
exposition. Diderot endeavoured to adopt some of his methods : 
" How did they meet ? By chance, like every one else. Whence 
did they come ? From the next place. Whither were they 
going ? Which of us can tell whither he is going ? What did 
they say ? The master said nothing, and Jacques said his captain 
had told him that everything that happens to us here below is 
written above." This passage, at the opening of Jacques le 
fataliste, is worthy of Sterne : it is even taken from Sterne, liter- 
ally. 1 Diderot borrowed freely from Tristram Shandy : the young 
woman who receives Jacques when he is wounded is the one 
who has already given shelter to Toby ; 2 and a certain broad 
anecdote is derived from the same source. 3 These instances of 
borrowing are palpable, and they are not happy. Diderot de- 
lighted in this roving, disconnected mode of progress and he, 
too, wrote his Jacques le fataliste at odd times, in the postchaise 
which carried him to Holland and to Russia. 4 The superficial 
character of the work he succeeded in reproducing, but the fine 
edge of Sterne's humour escaped him. The Englishman's true 
heirs in this respect came after the Revolution, in the persons of 
Xavier de Maistre and Charles Nodier. 5 

The eighteenth century appreciated Sterne primarily as the 
disciple of Richardson, the minute and punctilious painter of 
everyday life, "a life wherein there can be no sublimity either in 

1 See de Wailly's translation, ch. cclxiii. 

2 Diderot, (Euvres, vol. vi., p. 14. 3 Ibid., p. 284. 

4 Ibid., p. 8. M. Ducros. in his Diderot, has given a most acute study of that 
author's imitations of Sterne. 

5 See especially Un voyage autour de ma chambre, chaps, xix. and xxviii., and 
Nodier's Histoire du rot de Boheme et de ses sept chateaux. An imitation of Sterne may 
also be found in V. Hugo's Bug-Jargal, in which Captain d'Auverney and Sergeant 
Thadee are reminiscences of Captain Toby and Corporal Trim. 


events or things or thoughts, a life which has always lacked 
observers, as though it were unworthy anyone's interest because 
it is that which each one of us leads." x 

Following Richardson's example, Sterne observes insignificant 
facts and faint fluctuations of thought : he writes the novel of 
gesture. "I paused," says Henrietta Byron, "I hesitated. . . . 
Then I stopt, and held down my head." " Speak out, my dear," 
said Lady L. "Thus called upon; thus encouraged and I 
lifted my head as boldly as I could (but it was not, I believe, 
very boldly). . . . " 2 Such is Richardson's method of present- 
ing his characters, whether in action or in repose. He sees them 
completely, and at each successive moment. Sterne does the 
same, and thereby earns the compliments of his French readers, 
who at the same time mildly banter him for carrying the process 
too far. Of one of the characters in Faublas we are told that 
" by a mechanical movement, his left arm was raised in the air, 
where it became fixed " . . . ; and the writer adds : " Why, fair 
lady, am I not Tristram Shandy ? I might then tell you to what 
height it was raised, in what direction and in what position." 3 
This hits the mark ; Sterne's work is so distinctly the novel 
of gesture that his characters even resemble automata or wax- 
work figures. 

In the second place he displays the most exquisite art in paint- 
ing tiny gems of pictures in the smallest of frames. Sometimes 
he drops into triviality ; but on the other hand, when he is at his 
best, he brings to light forgotten yet delightful recesses in the 
lives of the humble, both animals and men. His province, as a 
phrase of singular felicity has described it, is that of mental 
entomology. 4 He seizes the most delicate impressions in their 
flight and deftly pins them down. " Sterne's merit," wrote 
Mme. Suard, his passionate admirer, "lies, it seems to me, in 
his having attached an interest to details which in themselves 
have none whatever ; in his having caught a thousand faint 
impressions, a thousand evanescent feelings, which pass through 

i Garat, Memoires sur Suard, vol. ii., p. 143. 2 Ballantyne, vi., p. 35. 

3 Edition of 1807, vol. iii., p. 8. 

4 See fimile Montegut's fine study of Sterne. 


the heart or the imagination of a sensitive man. He enters the 
human heart, as it were, by portraying his own 'sensations, . . . 
he adds to the stores of our enjoyment." l 

But he would add nothing to them were he not gifted with 
sensibility. The slightest agitation, the faintest tremor of the 
soul, is enough to excite his emotion. A hair upon a hand, a 
spot upon a cloth, the crease in a coat, will provide the matter for 
a paragraph, and even for a chapter. Moods, whims, fits of 
unaccountable dejection, passion in its rudimentary stages, the 
germs of great crises, these constitute the province of Sterne. 
This is the secret of the unrivalled popularity attained in the 
eighteenth century by that charming little volume, so witty, so 
unconstrained, with all its tearfulness and affectation, the Senti- 
mental Journey in France and Italy. 

" Sentimental ? " wrote John Wesley in his journal, 2 " what is 
that ? It is not English : he might as well say, Continental" With 
the appearance of Clarissa Har/oive, however, in I749> the word, 
as well as the thing it denotes, had come into fashion. " The 
word sentimental," wrote Lady Bradshaigh, " is much in vogue 
amongst the polite." 3 Be this as it may, Sterne's little book won 
the hearts of all readers who had taken alarm at the eccentricities 
of Shandy and of Shandeism. It even pleased Horace Walpole. 4 
It was shorter, more lucid. It spoke to the French, and spoke 
to them of France. True, it did not treat them altogether 
kindly. La Fleur, one of the characters, has " a small cast of 
the coxcomb," is simple, of good address, and ignorant as a 
Frenchman, though the best fellow in the world. But then 
every one knows that Englishmen, like medals which have been 
kept apart, and have passed " but few people's hands, preserve 
the first sharpnesses which the fine hand of Nature has given 
them." 5 Then, how could one resist an author who, after being 
hurried from one salon or from one party to another all over 
Paris, loudly proclaims that such rewards are but " the gain of a 
slave," and, sickened by the " most vile prostitution " of himself 

1 M. Suard's Melanges, vol. iii., pp. 111-122. 2 nth February 1772. 

3 L. Stephen, Hours in a Library, vol. i., p. 58. 

4 Letter dated I2th March 1768. 5 Sentimental Journey, chap. li. 


"to half a dozen people" of high position, calls for his post- 
chaise and makes his escape from the good friends that flattery 
has given him. That is all one need do to acquire the reputation 
of a philosopher. 

The Sentimental Journey, "one of the most inimitable produc- 
tions existing in any language," 1 charmed all France by the 
sensibility Sterne had breathed into it, and provoked a whole 
school of imitators. 

Sterne was the kind of man to set a fly at liberty with a 
sermon and a tear : " ' Go,' said he, lifting up the sash . . . ' go, 
poor devil, get thee gone, why should I hurt thee ? This world 
surely is wide enough to hold both thee and me/ " 2 

His admirers were touched by the noble-mindedness of a 
butcher who renounced his occupation rather than kill a sheep 
he had grown fond of. 3 Mile, de Lespinasse, in a couple of 
chapters, after the manner of Sterne, told the story of Mme. 
GeofFrin's milkwoman, who, on the loss of her cow, received one 
or even two others from her kind-hearted patroness: she de- 
scribed how Sterne himself, on hearing of this kind act, clasped 
Mme. GeofFrin in his arms, and embraced her with ecstasy : " My 
soul," he said, " had a moment of rapture. ... It will make me 
the more worthy of my Eliza : she will mingle her tears with 
mine when I tell her the story of Mme. GeofFrin's milkwoman ! " 4 

For Sterne's contemporaries that sensibility which made the 
hearts of his readers swell within them was merely the outward 
sign of a profound yet genial philosophy. " If you do not fee! 
this author, you will often find him over-solicitous about trifles, 
frivolous, extravagant, and childish ; but fathom the secret 
of his genius and you will perceive one of the great teachers 

1 Correspondance litteraire , December 1786. 2 Tristram Shandy, chap. xii. 

3 Le voyageur sentimental ou une promenade a Tverdun, by Vernes, Lausanne, 
1786, izmo. There were also a Nouveau voyage sentimental [by Gorgy], a Voyage 
dans plusieurs provinces occidentals de la France [by Brune], a Voyage sentimental dans les 
Pyrenees, &c. The Nouveau voyage de Sterne en France, translated by D. L. . . . 
(Lausanne, 1785, izmo), is taken from Tristram Shandy. 

4 The anecdote told by Mile, de Lespinasse has been reprinted in the (Euvres 
posthumes de d'Alembert, 1799, vol. ii., pp. 22-43. On this subject, see Garat, 
Memoires sur Suard, vol ii., p. 150. 


of mankind." He shows you, on every hand, " fresh sources of 
interest, sensation, and enjoyment." Shandeism is the philosophy 
of the man who is " clever and emotional, and loves his fellow- 
men." 1 Sterne declares that when he travels he does so "with 
his whole soul," and this, at that precise period of French history 
which extends from 1760 to 1789, was the best of recommenda- 
tions. Yet he is lively, and even broad. As Voltaire said, he 
resembles " those little satyrs in ancient times which were 
meant to hold precious essences." Now, the precious essence in 
Sterne is simply his capacity for emotion where no one had been 
affected before, and of shedding a flood of tears when a few modest 
drops had previously sufficed. He provides, it was said, " a feast 
for tender hearts." 2 In reality he is changeable and impression- 
able as a woman, his intelligence is at the mercy of the slightest 
whisper, he surrenders his heart to the first breath of desire, and 
throws wide the portals of his soul before the idle and the 
inquisitive. He does not blush to shed tears when tears are 
becoming, nor even when they are not : therein lies the whole 
secret of Sterne. He wrote confessions before Rousseau, 
and with no more false shame than he. He is more "personal," 
and if the neologism be allowed, more frankly an " impressionist " 
than any other writer of his age. 

Upon us, who read him to-day, he no longer produces, to the 
same extent, the effect of novelty. But we can understand that 
his method must have seemed new in his time. Sterne writes 
without a plan, without arrangement, one might almost say 
without an object : he lets his soul wander where it lists. His 
whole work is, in reality, nothing more than a long account 
of journeyings always sentimental through the world. Does 
he discover in the courtyard of an inn an old " desobligeant"- 
forthwith Sterne grows sentimental over the fate of the forgotten 
vehicle, falling to pieces where it stands. An old Franciscan 
monk presents him with a horn snuff-box. He preserves it that 
it may " help his mind on to something better " ; and one day, on 

1 Journal encyclopedique, 1st August 1786. 

2 Garat. Michelet, too, found the Sentimental Journey a book "after my own 
heart" {Man Journal, p. I2Z). 


his way through Calais, he visits father Laurent's grave, and 
seating himself beside it takes out the horn snuff-box and bursts 
into a flood of tears. Elsewhere, in Tristram Shandy, we have 
the story of Marie de Moulines, by Garat considered superior 
to Clementina's madness or the funeral of Clarissa, and again, in 
the Journey, the incident of the starling. Sterne, alone in Paris, 
is without a passport, and in danger of the Bastille ; a starling, 
hanging in a cage, begins to sing ; forthwith the miseries of con- 
finement present themselves to his mind : he sees a captive in his 
dungeon, pale and wasted by fever, a rude calendar of notched 
sticks by his side ; he sees him take a rusty nail and scratch the 
little stick in his hand ; his chains rattle with the movement ; he 
gives a deep sigh. . . . Here, as on so many other occasions, 
Sterne's heart overflows, not without satisfaction to himself. 
" Dear Sensibility ! " he exclaims elsewhere, " source inexhausted 
of all that's precious in our joys, or costly in our sorrows ! " l 

Sterne's readers, like himself, felt some self-gratitude for 
their own emotion. Like him they easily persuaded themselves 
that the gift of tears is a proof of the excellence and loftiness of 
our nature, and exclaimed when their tears were over : "I am 
positive I have a soul ! " 2 With him, said one of them, " we 
become more susceptible of every possible emotion of the heart, 
and of enjoying the multitude of good things strewn by nature 
in every path of life, yet lost to all, because their hearts are dried 
up by poverty or wealth, by meanness or by pride." 3 

Accordingly Sterne commits himself to the turbulent current 
of his impressions. His manner of confession is not only in- 
genuous, but cynical. And he too, moreover, flatters the 
sociable tendencies of his age. One evening he reaches, at 
nightfall, a farm in Anjou. Everyone is seated at table : the bill 
of fare consists of a wheaten loaf, a bottle of wine, and lentil soup 
a " feast of love and friendship." Invited by his hosts the 
traveller takes a seat ; with the old man's knife he cuts himself 
a large slice of bread, and reads in every eye an expression 
of gratitude for the liberty he takes a subject ready to hand for 

1 Sentimental Journey, The Bourbonnois. 

2 Ibid., Maria: Moulines. 3 Garat, ibid. 



a Greuze. Supper over, there follows a dance on the sward to 
the sound of the vietfe; youths and maidens dance together 
in decorous freedom ; in the midst of the second dance the 
traveller notices that all eyes are raised heavenward, and " I 
fancied," he says, " I could distinguish an elevation of spirit 
different from that which is the cause or the effect of simple 
jollity." He questions the father of the family, who explains 
that it is in this manner they express their gratitude to God, 
believing "that a cheerful and contented mind is the best sort of 
thanks to Heaven that an illiterate peasant can pay." This 
combination of the religious spirit with the spirit of enjoyment, 
of moral improvement with the pleasures of a ball, this uplifting 
of conscience amid the intoxication of a dance, seemed delightful 
to the readers of Jean- Jacques. Sterne was hailed as a philo- 
sopher, and it was even complacently asserted that he stood 
"above all philosophers and above all preachers in his power of 
solving the most mysterious problems." Suard went further, 
he compared Laurence Sterne to the Bible. 

Such was the revolution effected by the influence of Rousseau 
in the manner of judging the productions of literary art. Let us 
suppose that the work of Sterne, disconnected, paradoxical, and 
almost maudlin in its pathos, had made its appearance in France 
thirty or forty years earlier, and had come under the observation 
of Montesquieu or Fontenelle. I imagine it would have caused 
a certain amount of astonishment, and would have incurred some 
contempt. It was not the practice, in 1730, to present a succes- 
sion of desultory impressions to the public as a work of art. A 
traveller's note book, which was neither novel, pamphlet, moral 
treatise, nor satire, but each and all of these at the same time, 
and was also meant to be a noble monument of literature, could 
never have been offered to the world. 

Still less would an author have been forgiven for speaking 
of himself with such unblushing sentimentality. The man of 
feeling, " the sport and plaything of temperature and season, 
whose happiness is at the mercy of the winds," has got on in 
the world since that day. His soul, sometimes joyful, sometimes 
disconsolate, has been allowed to roam hither and thither at the 


mercy of northern gales or western breezes ; to them he has 
shouted his sorrows and his victories ; he has found a strange 
delight in fusing himself with the elements, in incorporating 
himself with the universe, in feeling that, puny creature as he 
is, his life forms a part of the mighty symphony or tempest of 
the heavens. 

Of this melancholy and poetic race Rousseau was the first 
representative. Was Sterne the second ? To-day we can hardly 
connect the two names without hesitation, for we no longer 
have the same belief in Sterne as readers who were contemporary 
with him. Yet such readers and the fact is significant were 
conscious of a gift in him similar to that of Rousseau. " Man, 
under Sterne's treatment," to quote Garat once more, " is not so 
much held captive, as tossed hither and thither" His characters, 
" in some vague borderland between sleeping and waking, tread 
the brink of every form of error and of crime, like the som- 
nambulist upon the verge of roof or precipice." In a word, 
Sterne, like Rousseau, reveals " the somnambulist " in man the 
creature of instinct, given over to the fluctuations of sensation 
and of feeling. 

And he reveals himself also, quite artlessly it would seem, 
in his true colours passionate, sensitive, and not particularly 
reasonable. "He makes us smile," said Ballanche one of his 
warmest admirers " but it is the smile of the soul ; he makes 
us weep, but the tears we shed are gentle as drops of dew." It 
gave the impression of perfect sincerity, and this was the secret 
of his success. His readers were grateful to him for speaking of 
himself, and of himself alone. The time had come when, im- 
pelled by the genius of Rousseau, literature was becoming ever 
more and more narrowed down to " the confession of a soul," 
and when all that was needed to obtain the public ear was to tell 
the story of oneself, provided only one happened to be Yorick, 
"jester to his Majesty the King of England." 

Chapter III 


I. The Love of nature Rousseau's English predecessors Thomson : his talent 
Gessner Their popularity in France. 

II. Melancholy English melancholy proverbial in France Popularity of Gray 
Young and the Night Thoughts : the man and his work ; his popularity. 

III. Mournful feelings inspired by the past Macpherson and Ossian Origins 
of Celtic poetry The fame of Ossian European How he fared in France. 

IV. In what way the success of these works was assured by Rousseau. 

NOT only however did Rousseau excite in readers of his day the 
taste for sentimental confession ; he opened their eyes at the 
same time to physical nature, and inspired them with the taste 
for melancholy. Sensibility, the feeling for nature, and the 
sadness of the poet are simply three forms of the same disposition 
of soul, and constitute the whole of Rousseau's lyricism. 

How far, in this further respect, was he in harmony with 
foreign writers, both among his predecessors and his con- 
temporaries ? 

" The picturesque " wrote Stendhal " like our good coaches 
and our steam-boats, comes to us from England," l and he adds, 
" a fine landscape is no less essential to an Englishman's religion 
than to his aristocratic station." Frenchmen of the eighteenth 
century had already remarked this characteristic, and, in the 
frenzy of their anglomania, had endeavoured to appropriate 
it themselves. Fashion, following the example set by the 
English, had driven them to live in the country, " certainly 
one of the best customs," wrote Arthur Young, " they have 

1 fyTemoires (fun touriste^ vol. i., p. 87. 


taken from England." 1 And it was in imitation of the English 
that they planted those strange parks in which crooked paths, 
flights of winding steps and mazes took the place of the broad 
avenues of Versailles ; in which antique statues were replaced 
by grottoes, tombs and hermitages ; in which you beheld a castle 
in flagrant discord with a Hindoo temple, or a Russian cottage 
with a Swiss chalet, and in which Petrarch's urn stood side by 
side with the tomb of Captain Cook. They merely mimicked 
nature, under the impression that they were imitating her. The 
English garden was a school of virtue : " When you are think- 
ing," wrote a famous amateur, 2 " how to make a ravine shady, 
or trying to control the course of a stream, you have too much 
to do to become a dangerous citizen, a scheming general or a 
plotting courtier. One whose head is full of his stand of 
flowers, or his clump of judas-trees," cannot be a bad man. 
Preoccupied in so virtuous a manner, one cannot commit a guilty 
act. " One would scarcely arrive in time to take advantage of the 
frailty of a friend's wife, and afterwards would hastily make one's 
escape to the country, there to expiate the sweetest of crimes." 

Such was the character of descriptive literature from 1760 to 
the Revolution. Rousseau's beautiful pages apart, it is inferior 
and insipid, nor did the influence of Rousseau bear fruit until 
five-and-twenty years after the publication of La Nouvelle Heloise? 
The love of nature is not a feeling to be acquired in a day. It 
demands a whole education of eye and heart. And it may be 
that certain races, prepared by certain climates or certain condi- 
tions of social life, can more easily sustain that abrupt disturbance 
of the moral equilibrium which must precede the love of physical 
nature. It was neither central nor northern France the France 
which produced most of the French classical writers, the gentle 
France of Touraine or Anjou, the nursery of the Pleiade 
that^gave birth to Rousseau, Chateaubriand, and Bernardin de 
Saint-Pierre : one of them came from the Alps, the others from 
the sea. 

1 Travels, vol. i., p. 72. 

a The prince de Ligne, quoted by de Lescure : Rivarol, p. 310. 

3 Bernardin de Saint-Pierre: Etudes de la nature, 1784 ; Paul et Virglnie, 1788. 


But the English had loved and described the material universe 
long before Rousseau. The feeling for nature is common to all 
their great poets : Shakespeare is full of it, a fact which had been 
noticed even by Letourneur ; l Milton abounds in admirable 
descriptive passages which would have greatly astonished his 
French contemporaries ; and in the least productive years of the 
century, Thomson, Gray, Collins, and Chatterton, not to come 
down to Burns and the lake poets, are great painters of nature. 
What French writer in 1739 would have said, with Gray, dur- 
ing the ascent to the Grande-Chartreuse : "Not a precipice, not 
a torrent, not a cliff, but is pregnant with religion and poetry. 
There are certain scenes that would awe an atheist into belief." 

It was in 1730 that Thomson the only one of these poets to 
obtain any celebrity in France had published his admirable poem 
The Seasons? so shamefully misrepresented by Saint-Lambert and 
by Roucher. It is true that in this work man as a social being 
still occupies too large a place. Thomson cannot describe winter 
without giving a sentimental picture of the horrors of cold, nor 
spring without introducing a hymn to Love. Too frequently 
also there are suggestions of the Georgics, and apostrophes to 
those "who live in luxury and ease," or to the "generous 
Englishmen" who "venerate the plough." Nevertheless, 
Thomson has the painter's eye. His winter and his spring are 
no mere adaptations from Vergil. He has a true and deep 
understanding of the English landscape. With delicate subtlety 
he renders the impressions produced by spring or autumn, the 
charm of the indefinite periods when season gives way to season, 
the approach of rain, the forebodings of storm, the scudding 
of heavy clouds across skies grey and overcast. Even in the 
awkward French version something of the charm of these pictures 
lingers yet. 

Rising slow, 

Blank, in the leaden-colour'd east, the Moon 
Wears a wan circle round her blunted horns. 
Seen through the turbid fluctuating air, 
The stars obtuse emit a shiver'd ray ; 

1 See the introduction to his version of Shakespeare. 

2 See Leon Morel's able book : James Thomson, sa vie et ses auvres (Paris, 1895). 


Or frequent seen to shoot athwart the gloom, 
And long behind them trail the whitening blaze. 
Snatch'd in short eddies, plays the wither'd leaf; 
And on the flood the dancing feather floats. 1 

It is in these grey-toned pictures that Thomson excels. But 
in others he revels in precision of detail : there is one of a farm, 
for instance, redolent of the dunghill, damp grass, and new milk ; 
another of a flower-garden with its " velvet-leaved " auriculas, 
variegated pinks, and " hyacinths, of purest virgin white, low 
bent, and blushing inward " ; 2 the whole perceived with the 
artist's glance and described in the language of a poet. Occa- 
sionally, too, Thomson can command richness of colouring and 
splendour of imagery. 3 

The downward Sun 

Looks out, effulgent, from amid the flush 
Of broken clouds gay-shifting to his beam. 
The rapid radiance instantaneous strikes 
The illumined mountain, through the forest streams, 
Shakes on the floods, and in a yellow mist, 
Far smoking o'er the interminable plain, 
In twinkling myriads lights the dewy gems. 
Moist, bright and green, the landscape laughs around. 

What French author wrote in this style, in 1730 ? 

The author of the Seasons had visited France as a young man, 
without, however, attracting any notice. But since then Voltaire 
had made the public acquainted with his name, if not with his 
talent. 4 The Seasons, if Villemain is to be credited, came as a 
revelation in I759: 5 a certain Mme. Bontemps had taken upon 
herself to introduce the work to the French public in a transla- 
tion which she described as " scrupulously simple," adding, at 
the same time, an earnest apology for the " extravagant and 
almost hideous " images employed by its author. Villemain 
affirms that the climate of the North, the Scotch mountains, 

1 Winter, 1. 122. 2 Spring. 3 Spring, 1. 187. 

4 Voltaire represents his own play Socrate (1759) as a posthumous work of 
Thomson's. In 1763 Saurin produced Blanche et Guiscar, a tragedy imitated from 
Thomson, who had himself, it was said, taken his subject from Gil Bias (see 
the Journal encyclopedique, March 1764). See an English letter of Voltaire's on 
Thomson, published by Ballantyne, Voltaire 's Visit to England, (pp. 99-101). 

5 Lesson xxvi. 


and the exultation inspired by storm and tempest, fascinated 
men's minds and prepared them for the admiration of Ossian a 
few years later. To me it seems that just at first the work 
surprised French readers still more than it captivated them. 
The Mercure finds fault with its disgusting images : the descrip- 
tion of fields putrid with decaying locusts is unendurable. 

Grimm, while recognizing its wealth of imagery, found the 
poem monotonous. 1 Freron complains that the reader seems to 
be breathing an atmosphere of coal-dust. 2 Even in translation 
the work remained too faithful to fact and gave the impression of 

Its success was due to its philosophy and its love of humanity. 
Thomson was considered a worthy pupil of Addison, Pope, and 
Steele, and his poem was ranked with Paradise Lost and the 
Essay on Man. 3 The truth is that in Thomson there was not 
only the faithful painter of nature as she appears in England, but 
also the philosopher in whom the emotions aroused by the 
thought of eternal life or conjugal happiness found vent in 
beautiful verse. It was the latter more especially who was 
imitated by Leonard, Bernis, Gentil-Bernard, Gilbert, Dorat, 
and Delille 4 ; the "gentle bard" whose melancholy genius was 
celebrated in an admirable poem by Collins was beyond their 
comprehension. 5 Saint-Lambert ventured to praise him because 
he had "embellished" nature, and had seen the peasant "in 
his picturesque aspect"; he congratulated him on having done 
for the labourers what Racine and M. de Voltaire had done 
for their heroes on having "elevated our species." The 
true descriptive poet, he said, will mention only the nobler 
birds : he will not speak of the jay or magpie. Nevertheless 
Thomson had given a minute description of the hen and " her 
chirping family," the crested duck, the turkey-cock, the thrush, 
the linnets that warble " o'er the flowering furze," and the jay 

1 Correspondance litteraire, June 1760. 2 Annee litteraire, 1760, vol. i., p. 142. 

3 Journal ency clop edique, March 1760. 

4 Imitations of the Seasons were innumerable. With regard to translations the 
most important, next to that by Mme. Bontemps, which was several times 
reprinted, are those by Deleuze, Poulin, de Beaumont (1801, 1802, 1806), &c. 

5 Ode on the death of Mr. Thomson. 


himself with his " harsh, discordant pipe." l But this did not 
prevent Saint-Lambert from saying : " That which Homer, Tasso 
and our dramatic poets have done for the moral world should 
be done for the material world also: it should be magnified, 
beautified, and made interesting." 2 The country is for him 
merely the temple of Love ; thither he escorts " Doris, his 
sweet and gentle friend " ; he brings nature within the reach of 
" those enlightened judges of manners and of pleasures " who 
dwell in towns. He is vapid, false and arid. 

Voltaire's admiration for these would-be disciples of Thomson 
was not indeed shared by the whole of the eighteenth century. 3 
" It is the very essence of sterility," said Mme. du DefFand of 
Saint-Lambert's work, " and without his reeds, and birds, and 
elms with their branches, he would have very little to say." 4 
"Saint-Lambert," wrote BufFon, with more severity, " is nothing 
but a cold frog, Delille a cockchafer, and Roucher a bird of 
night. Not one of them has succeeded, I will not say in 
depicting nature, but even in placing clearly before us a single 
characteristic of its most striking beauties." 5 Thomson had his 
worshippers, who read him for his own sake. When Mme. 
Roland was taken to prison, in 1793, she took with her Tacitus, 
Plutarch, Shaftesbury, and Thomson, to console her in captivity, 
and of the last of them she said : " He is dear to me for more 
reasons than one." 6 But neither Mme. Roland nor any of her 
contemporaries did full justice to his descriptive gifts. What 
they sought in Thomson, as in Gessner, whose incredible 
popularity dates from the same period, 7 was descriptions in 
which man, and man of the eighteenth century, still occupied an 
important place. Andre Chenier, who borrowed freely from 

1 Spring. 2 Preface to the Seasons (1769). 

3 Cf. the letter to Dupont, yth June 1769 : " If the decision rested with me, I 
should have no difficulty in giving the preference to M. de Saint-Lambert. He 
seems to me not only more charming, but more serviceable. The Englishman 
describes the seasons, and the Frenchman tells us -what should be done in each." 

4 " Les roseaux, les oiseaux, les ormeaux, et leurs rameaux." 

6 To Mme. Necker, i6th July 1782. 6 Letter to Buzot, 22nd June 1793. 

7 Der Tod Abels was translated by Huber in 1759 ; the Idyllen in 1762. On 
Gessner in France see Th. Siipfle's book, Geschichte des dsutschen Cultureinflusset auf 
Frankreich, Gotha, 1886-1890, vol. i. 


" the Good Swiss, Gessner" and from Thomson, adopted from 
both the art of blending professions of philanthropy with quiet 
pictures of nature in her milder manifestations. The following 
lines are a fairly close rendering of a passage in Thomson's 

Ah ! prends un coeur humain, laboureur trop avide, 
Lorsque d'un pas tremblant 1'indigence timide 
De tes larges moissons vient, le regard confus, 
Recueillir apres toi les restes superflus. 
Souviens-toi que Cybele est la mere commune. 
Laisse la probite que trahit la fortune, 
Comme 1'oiseau du ciel, se nourrir a tes pieds 
De quelques grains epars sur la terre oublies.i 

This somewhat mawkish kind of work no longer affects the 
reader as it did. But we must not fail to realise that these little 
pictures, with their modest colouring and their disguised yet not 
ungraceful sentiment, enchanted our forefathers. From 1760 
until the Revolution, and even afterwards, 2 Thor son and 
Gessner were regarded as great poets, and the English and 

1 Bucoliques, LX., ed. Becq de Fouquieres. Cf. Thomson's Autumn. 

Be not too narrow, husbandmen ! but fling 
From the full sheaf, with charitable stealth, 
The lib'ral handful. Think, O grateful think ! 
How good the God of Harvest is to you, 
Who pours abundance o'er your flowing fields ; 
While these unhappy partners of your kind 
Wide hover round you, like the fowls of heaven, 
And ask their humble dole. 

See also Becq de Fouquieres (Lettres critiques sur Andre Chenier, p. 182 et seq.~} upon 
Chenier's indebtedness to Gessner, from whom the following exquisite lines are 
taken : 

Ma muse fuit les champs abreuves de carnage, 

Et ses pieds innocents ne se poseront pas 

Oil la cendre des morts gemirait sous ses pas. 

Elle palit d'entendre et le cri des batailles 

Et les assauts tonnants qui frappent les murailles ; 

Et le sang qui jaillit sous les pointes d'airain 

Souillerait la blancheur de sa robe de lin. 

2 Legouve, La Mart d'Abel (1792). Translations of Thomson were published 
even during the time of the Revolution (Episodes des saisons de Thomson, Paris, 
an vii., 8vo., &c.). 


Germans were believed to have created " descriptive poetry." 1 
Diderot admired Gessner and imitated him ; 2 Mile, de Lespinasse 
detected " the charm of Gessner, combined with the vigour 
of Jean- Jacques," in the man she loved. Chenedolle, who read 
the Idylles as a youth, said that he had rarely fallen under " a 
spell like Gessner's." 3 Grimm calls him "a divine poet." In 
the judgment of the Almanack des Muses "he has the pure and 
lofty soul of a Fenelon ; in his artless descriptions of simple 
scenes he surpasses Theocritus ; as we read him we seem to 
behold nature herself, and when we see him we believe in 
virtue. 4 Such, also, was the verdict passed by Jean-Jacques 
himself. He, too, was doubtless an admirer of the Seasons, and 
discovered therein his own manner of feeling and thinking. At 
any rate it is certain that his Levite (TEphraim was written in 
Gessner's artless, rustic fashion, and that he wrote to Huber, 
who had sent him the Idylles: " I feel that your friend Gessner 
is a man after my own heart. . . . To you, in particular, I 
am extremely grateful for your courage in throwing aside 
the senseless and affected jargon which falsifies imagery and 
renders sentiments unconvincing. Those who attempt to em- 
bellish and adorn nature have neither souls nor taste, and have 
never come to know her beauties." 5 

Neither for Rousseau nor for his contemporaries was there 
any " senseless and affected jargon " in Gessner or in Thomson. 
They considered that these poets portrayed nature " with the 
nicety of a lover enumerating the charms of his mistress." 6 
They relished these artificial pastorals, these highly-sweetened 
idylls, and the languid grace of these descriptions. It should be 
noted that the famous Lettres a M. de Malesherbes which contain 
Rousseau's finest descriptive passages were not published before 
1779, that the Confessions appeared in 1782, and that the Reveries 
d'un promeneur solitaire are also posthumous. Between 1760 and 
1780 Thomson and Gessner shared with Rousseau the glory 

1 Saint-Lambert, Preface to Les Saisons, p. 9. 

2 In Les Peres malheureux. (See (Euvres, vol. xiii., p. 19.) 

3 Sainte-Beuve, Chateaubriand et son groupe, vol. ii., p. 149. 

4 Almanack des Muses, 1786. 5 Letter to Huber, Z4th December 1761. 
6 Dorat, Recueil de contes et de foemes, the Hague, 1770, p. 1 1 8. 


of having drawn the attention of the French public to nature. 
Of these two, one the Zurich printer cannot for a moment 
be compared with Jean-Jacques ; the other the author of the 
Seasons was a true poet, and gave expression, long before 
Rousseau, to many sentiments which the latter introduced into 
the great current of French literature. The pious Thomson 
sang of golden broom and purple heather before he did, just as 
he anticipated him also in raising his thoughts to the incompre- 
hensible Being in whom all things are contained. 

The rolling year 

Is full of Thee. Forth in the pleasant Spring 
Thy beauty walks, thy tenderness and love. 
Wide flush the fields ; the softening air is balm ; 
Echo the mountains round ; the forest smiles ; 
And every sense, and every heart is joy. 1 

Thomson anticipated Rousseau, but was not his teacher. It 
would scarcely be paradoxical to say that Rousseau discharged 
the debt he had incurred towards English literature when he 
made it possible for Frenchmen to appreciate Thomson, Young, 
and Ossian. 


Just as Rousseau inspired his contemporaries with a feeling 
for physical nature, so also he was the great poet of melancholy. 
He it was who became the interpreter of those burning hearts 
that, in the words of Chateaubriand, " have felt themselves 
strangers in the midst of mankind" ; he, who " with a full heart 
dwelt in an empty world," he, who knew what it was to be 
miserable in the midst of happiness, and had lost every illusion 
before he had exhausted anything. By the right which genius 
gives, he is father to Rene, Oberman, and Adolphe. 

But in the history of European literature he had his own 
predecessors in the English, and here dates speak more eloquently 
than any argument can do. Not to mention Shakespeare or the 

1 Hymn which concludes the Seasons. 


author of // Penseroso, from whom every poet of melancholy in 
modern times has drawn his inspiration, 1 Thomson's Seasons 
appeared in 1730, Young's Night Thoughts from 1742 to 1744, 
Collins's Odes in 1747, and Gray's Elegy in a country churchyard in 
I75*> while the earliest fragments of Ossian are earlier by a year 
than the Nouvelle Heloise, and by several years than the Reveries. 
Long before Rousseau had written anything the poetry of melan- 
choly in England was very rich, and was prolific of powerful and 
characteristic works if not of masterpieces. 

English melancholy had long been proverbial in France, and 
French authors were not slow to turn it into ridicule. In 
Favart's L? Anglais a Bordeaux there is a certain Milord Brumton, 
who is proud, gentle, brave, sensitive and melancholy, a distant 
cousin of Hamlet. Brumton envies the wanton French gaiety 
which he can never acquire ; at sight of a timepiece he exclaims : 
" While for me this swinging disc numbers the steps of approach- 
ing death, the Frenchman, at the mercy of every breath of desire, 
regards the dial but as the record of a round of pleasures ! " As 
for him, Locke, Newton and Haendel's severe music are his study. 
In vain an attractive marquise who secretly loves him says prettily : 
" Cease to seek for reasonings in which your melancholy may find 
its daily food. You think ; we enjoy. Trust me and cast your 
philosophy aside : it gives men the spleen and hardens their 
hearts. Our gaiety, which you call foolishness, colours our 
minds with smiling hues. . . ." Brumton remains melancholy, 
and, in reality, the marquise does not object to it. As the century 
advances melancholy becomes an ever more certain mark of the 
English genius. Another comic poet and man of good sense 
becomes indignant at it, and favours these islanders with some 
plain speaking : " Your melancholy vapours make your very 
tastes more gloomy, and the same dark gloss covers both your 
books and your arts. Seeking everywhere the funereal aspect of 
things you would like to find cemeteries even in your gardens." 2 
But the "cemetery" which gave such offence to Fra^ois de 

1 See William Lyon Phelps : The beginnings of the English romantic movement, 
Boston, 1893, especially chap. v. : The literature of melancholy. 

2 Pamela, by F. de Neufchateau, ii. iz. 



Neufchateau was just what fascinated sensitive souls. Mme. de 
Genlis declares that in England lovers are accustomed in the 
evening to meet by moonlight among the tombs, and considers 
that no love but that which is "honourable, deep and pure" 
can express itself in such a spot. 1 Ducis praised the "sombre, 
melancholy " genius of the English before the whole Academy, 
and Sebastien Mercier makes immense efforts, he says, to give 
men some idea of "these sad and melancholy souls" 2 : Know, 
O Frenchmen, whose "false gaiety" is so highly extolled, that 
" frivolous minds can neither reason nor enjoy ! " 

Prevost, in his Cleveland, had already imitated the English in 
some pages of a strange and penetrating melancholy, which give, 
as it were, a foretaste of Chateaubriand. Already, too, Cresset, 
in his Sidnei, which appeared in 1745, had rendered the depression 
of Hamlet into verse of some beauty : 

" To the pleasures I once adored I am now indifferent ; I know 
them no longer, and in those self-same joys I now find nothing 
but vanity and sorrow. Life, with its scenes of changeless 
monotony, cannot awaken my soul from its torpor. . . . The 
world I have exhausted, it affects me not. . . . Destitute of feeling, 
dead to every pleasure, my soul is no longer capable of delight." 

Accordingly the poet Gray, who had read much of Cresset, 
called him a great master, and his tragedy a fine work. 3 But 
it is necessary to point out that Cresset himself the offspring 
of an English family which had settled in France a century 
earlier simply imitates, and imitates closely, the soliloquy of 
Hamlet, 4 so that the Frenchman who, in this respect, anticipated 
Rousseau, had recourse, like Prevost, to foreign sources. 

1 Memoires, vol. iii., p. 357. 

2 See Discours de reception a V Academle francaise^ by Ducis, and Mercier's Essai 
sur I'art dramatique, p. 207. 

a See Gray's Worh, ed. Gosse, vol. i., p. 123, and vol. ii., p. 182, 183, &c. 

4 See in particular the long speech which occurs in act ii., scene I, and also 
the one in act ii., scene 2 : "In the noisy pageant, amidst which I have dwelt so 
long, there is nothing which I have not seen and seen again, nothing that I have 
not tasted and known ; I have had my day upon this frivolous stage : if each 
one of us quitted it when his part was ended, everything would be as it should 
be, and the public would no longer see so many everlasting people of whom it 
is weary." 


It is beyond doubt that Young, Ossian, and Gray, whose 
works were all introduced into France between 1760 and I77> 
shortly after the appearance of Heldise, owed their success in that 
country mainly to Rousseau. He had tapped the spring, and the 
French public fell with avidity upon these English poets whose 
genius was so nearly related to his. 

Gray was not so well known as the others. The only one of 
his poems to be read in France was the Elegy written in a country 
churchyard, which was translated by the Gazette litter aire in 1765, 
and was freely copied by French poets, from Lemierre to Marie- 
Joseph Chenier, and from Fontanes or Delille to Chateaubriand. 
The Elegy is quite the most popular of Gray's works, but it by 
no means represents the profound and unique originality of the 
author of The Bard and the Descent of Odin, than whom few poets 
have been more sincere. Nevertheless this work, so modern 
in the sentiments it expresses yet at the same time so subtly 
classical in taste, attained something like celebrity in France. 
Gray's studious and highly cultivated talent provided, as it were, 
a connecting link between new aspirations and the classical 
methods to which Frenchmen were accustomed ; he was spoken 
of as a*" sublime philosopher, and a child of harmony." x A few 
who were curious as to foreign literature sought information 
about him : Bonstetten went to see him at Cambridge ; Fontanes, 
on a visit to London in 1786, made the acquaintance of Mason, 
Gray's biographer, and learnt from him a few details concerning 
one who was among his favourite poets. Voltaire, even, had 
attempted to enter into correspondence with him, but Gray had 
declined : his devout and gentle soul could scarcely conceal its 
aversion to the author of so many irreligious works, and to a 
friend who was starting for France he said : " I have one thing 
to beg of you. . . . Do not go to see Voltaire ; no one knows 
the mischief that man will do." 2 

Melancholy, Gray once said, was his most faithful companion : 
it rose with him, retired to rest with him, was with him when 
he went abroad and when he returned. The Elegy written in a 

1 Journal encyclofedique, 1st November 1788. 

2 Gray's Works, ed. Milford, vol. v., p. 32. 



country churchyard is his most perfect expression of this deep 
inward feeling : 

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, 

The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea. 
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, 

And leaves the world to darkness and to me. 

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight, 

And all the air a solemn stillness holds, 
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight, 

And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds ; 

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower 

The moping owl does to the moon complain 
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower, 

Molest her ancient solitary reign. 

By virtue of the sincerity of his religious feelings, of the 
delicious vagueness of his impressions, and of his serene and 
lofty inspiration, Gray is beyond dispute the predecessor of 
Chateaubriand and Lamartine, and of Rousseau before them. 
" With him," says his translator, the author of Rene, " begins 
that school of the melancholy poets, which in our day has been 
transformed into a school of poets of despair." l A valuable 
testimony, considering the authority with which it comes. 

Collins, Chatterton, and Cowper were known to Frenchmen 
in the eighteenth century only through rare allusions to them in 
the newspapers. 2 The author of Night Thoughts, on the other 
hand, was famous not only in France, but throughout Europe, 
much more so, even, than in his own country. 

Edward Young, the "sepulchral Young," as he was called, 
was really a survivor from the seventeenth century, having been 
born before Pope, in 1684. F r m whatever standpoint we con- 
sider him there is something singular about the man. He was 
nearly sixty years old when he revealed himself, not as a great 
poet, but as an eloquent interpreter of the melancholy of his age. 
He had in succession been a candidate for parliamentary honours, 
taken holy orders, aspired to a bishopric, enriched himself by 

1 Essai sur la litterature anglaise. 

2 On Chatterton, see Journal ency clop edique^ ist March 1790. 


marriage with a lady of fortune, and had been throughout insati- 
able. He excited the pity of Europe in his behalf, but appears 
to have lied in the history of his misfortunes. He stated that he 
had lost his wife, his step-daughter, and the betrothed husband 
of the latter, within a few months. A serious matter, and one 
which should cover the French nation with confusion, is that this 
girl, who seems to have died at Montpellier, whither she had 
been taken by her father for the sake of her health, was refused 
burial by the unfeeling inhabitants of the country, on the ground 
that she was a Protestant : 

For ch ! the cursed ungodliness of zeal ! 

While sinful flesh relented, spirit nursed 

In blind infallibility's embrace, 

The sainted spirit petrified the breast ; 

Denied the charity of dust, to spread 

O'er dust ! a charity their days enjoy. 

What could I do ? what succour ? what resource ? 

With pious sacrilege, a grave I stole ; 

With impious piety, that grave I wrong'd ; 

Short in my duty ; coward in my grief! 

More like her murderer, than friend, I crept, 

With soft-suspended step, and muffled deep 

In midnight darkness, whisper'd my last sigh. 

I whisper'd what should echo through their realms ; 

Nor writ her name, whose tomb should pierce the skies. 1 

The gruesome story of the father burying his daughter in 
secret went the round of Europe ; and a lugubrious engraving 
representing Young interring Narcissa by the light of a lantern 
was introduced as a frontispiece to the second volume of 
Letourneur's translation of the Night Thoughts. Such intolerance 
on the part of the French seemed monstrous. Young, the 
victim of fate, appeared also to be the victim of fanaticism, and 
for many a long year English visitors made pilgrimages to the 
melancholy grotto where this drama had been enacted. Un- 
fortunately for the poet's sincerity, the story is of his own 
invention. The death of Young's step-daughter did actually 
occur in France, but at Lyon, as a learned inhabitant of that 
town has shown, and not at Montpellier : she was buried at the 

i Night iii. 


latter place, not in a nameless grave, but in the enclosure 
formerly reserved for Protestants, and not by stealth, but with 
all befitting ceremony. At most it appears that the cost of inter- 
ment was excessive, and it was this trifling grievance that was 
dramatically treated by Young. 1 

Thus a strong suspicion of insincerity lingers about the nine 
books and the ten thousand lines of The Complaint or Night 
Thoughts, which legend asserts to have been written by the light 
of a candle burning in a skull. To our ears there is a false ring 
about his misfortunes as depicted in his poetry, however real 
they may have been. But the actual Young, the satirist and 
intriguer, was unknown in France. Whereas in his own country 
he enjoyed but a moderate celebrity and had fallen somewhat into 
disrepute, Young was looked upon by Frenchmen as an eloquent 
victim with strong claims to compassion, and his book as " the 
noblest elegy ever written upon the miseries of human exist- 
ence. 2 At heart insatiably ambitious, the man enjoyed in France 
the reputation at once of a priest and a philosopher, fond of 
retirement and obscurity, who lived in quiet wedlock with a 
virtuous woman, and whom nothing but the sense that he had a 
duty to perform had driven forth into the world. The story 
went that he had served as almoner during the war in Flanders, 
and that even at that period his " dark and brilliant imagination " 
constantly subjected him to fits of absent mindedness : having 
on one occasion wandered away from the English camp with a 
copy of ^Eschylus in his hand he came upon the French troops, 
who, taking him for a spy, brought him before their general ; 
but he, on learning the prisoner's name had him safely escorted 
back to his friends, thus doing sincere homage to his genius. 3 
Stricken in the hour of his happiness Young " went down alive 
into the tomb of his friends, buried himself with them and drew 
a curtain between the world and himself." His genius, like a 
sepulchral lamp, burnt for ten years in honour of the dead ; then 

1 See Breghot du Lut, Nouveaux melanges bibliographiques et litteraires , Lyon, 1829, 
8vo, p. 363 ; where there will also be found a note by Dr Ozanam on the same 
historical point. 

2 Les NuitS) a translation by Letourneur, vol. i., p. 7. 

3 Journal encyclopedique , 1 5th September IJJZ. 


he himself died, forgotten. No bell tolled for him ; the very 
poor whom he had befriended neglected to follow his body to 
the grave, " and the frame to which a virtuous soul and a glori- 
ous genius had lent such lustre did not even receive the com- 
monest funeral honours." His soul was "by nature majestic"; 
his character serious and noble. Men compared him to Pascal. 
But this need cause the sensitive no apprehension : though 
solemn, Young was no misanthrope ; " death and the grave were 
not always on his lips " ; he was fond of pleasure, and even 
started a bowling-alley in his parish. His was a gentle melan- 
choly, though profound. 

Such was the eighteenth century legend with regard to 
Young. 1 His book, like its author, has a legend of its own. 

In 1 760 there appeared anonymously a little collection entitled 
Pensees anglaises sur divers sujets de religion et de morale? It was a 
selection of thoughts taken from The Complaint, which had been 
published sixteen years before, and was intended by the compiler 
to be a sort of manual of holy dying. Some of these reflexions 
are commonplace to the last degree ; others appear profound, 
because they are obscure ; while some owe their singularity to 
the form in which they are expressed, such as : " Night is a 
curtain drawn by Providence between man and his vanity " ; or, 
" The firmament, like the vestment of the high priest under 
the law, is strewn with precious stones, which utter oracles." 3 
Some, too, are of an apocalyptic type : 

Silence how dead ! and darkness how profound ! . . . 
Creation sleeps. 'Tis as the general pulse 
Of life stood still, and nature made a pause ; 
An awful pause ! prophetic of her end. 4 

This seemed original, though fantastic and disconnected. 
Some praised the freshness and singularity of the ideas ; 5 others 
were in ecstasies over the gloomy yet powerful character of the 
English imagination. 6 The appetite of the passionate admirers 

1 See Letourneur's Nuits, Introduction. 2 Amsterdam, 1760, izmo. 

3 These fragments are not literal quotations from Young, but appear to be imita- 
tions of certain passages from that author. 

4 Night i. 5 Journal encyclopedique, October 1760. 
6 Freron, Annee litteraire, 1761, vol. vii., p. 47. 


of England was whetted ; they asked for a more complete trans- 
lation. In 1762, the Journal etranger, always on the watch for 
foreign works, gave a version of the first Night. 

The translator was the Comte de Bissy, lieutenant-general of 
Languedoc and member of the French Academy, the same whom 
we have already met with as the patron of Sterne. Though 
according to Colle his knowledge of French was very poor and 
his spelling still worse, Bissy was a determined anglomaniac and 
had translated some said by means of a substitute Bolingbroke's 
letters on patriotism. His translation of Young was accompanied 
by a curious address which shows clearly what it was that the 
eighteenth century admired in the author of Night Thoughts : 

Works of this character filled with grand and gloomy, yet exquisitely pleas- 
ing ideas ; works which leave an impression of melancholy behind them, and 
plunge the reader in the depths of meditation are unknown to French literature. 
With our authors, the soul is, so to speak, all on the outside ; more devoted to 
pleasure, less solitary, than English authors, they dwell too much with other 
men, and since, as a rule, they only meet them in the fashionable world, where 
none but cheerful thoughts are recognised as pleasing, they suit their works to 
what their observation leads them to suppose the taste of the greatest number of 
readers. But why do we not follow these readers to the privacy of their study ? 
Then we should see that the works which please and captivate the most are the 
sad ones. 

Returning to Young, Bissy added : " I will venture to say 
that in point of depth this poet is what Homer and Pindar are in 
point of grandeur. I should find it difficult to explain the effect 
produced upon me by my first perusal of this work. I might 
experience much the same impression in the heart of the desert 
on a dark and stormy night, when the surrounding blackness is 
pierced at intervals by flashes of lightning." 1 

Bissy had touched a sensitive cord : his Nuit proved a great 
success. For twenty years translators vied with one another 
in producing, either in prose or in metre, a version of one or 
more of the Nights. 2 And when the Night Thoughts were 

1 Journal stranger, February 1762. 

2 The first Night was translated by Sabatier de Castres, and by Colardeau 
(1770) ; the second, which was translated in the Gazette litteraire (vol. ii., p. 101), 
was rendered into metre by Colardeau (1770) ; the same writer also produced 
versions of the fourth, twelfth, and seventeenth (1771), and a further translation, 
by Doigni du Ponceau, was published in the same year ; the fifteenth was trans- 
lated again, by L. de Limoges (1787). There were also Verltes philosophiques 


exhausted they betook themselves to the satires, the tragedies, and 
the minor works, until the whole of Young had been dealt with. 1 

Of these versions, the most famous, and the only approxi- 
mately complete one, was that by Letourneur, 2 which created a 
sensation. It was prefaced by a curious dissertation intended to 
introduce " a great poet, who is certain to share the immortality 
of Swift, Shaftesbury, Pope, Addison, and Richardson." We 
have seen what Letourneur said of Young as a man ; as a 
writer he praises him no less. " Born to be original," incapable 
of slavish adherence to a model, he was distinct from all others. 
Letourneur is lavish of big words : the French have laid them- 
selves open to the charge " of cowardice in the field of genius " : 
they restrict their talent " by keeping it in bondage to fixed 
rules of art." Will no one rouse the soul with the " shock " it 
needs ? Will no one give it an impulse in the direction of new 
beauties ? Writers must do what Young has done ; they must 
be themselves. Each should " express his ideas and sensations 
as they are received " a doctrine which is pure Diderot, and 
also pure Sterne. Now of this poetic method Young affords the 
best example, by giving expression to " that vague and confused 
feeling called ennui , the true remedy for which lies in rousing 
the emotions of the soul." 

With all his admiration for Young's work Letourneur did not 
feel bound to give a faithful rendering of it : he suppresses, or 
relegates to his notes, everything which seems to him to savour 
of the preacher : " these passages," he says pleasantly, " belong 
exclusively to theology." Young is no longer a Christian, 
though still a philosopher. 

tirees des Nulls d'Young (by Mouslier de Moissy), Paris, 1770, 8vo ; Le triomphe 
du chretien, one of the Nights, translated by Dom Devienne, Paris, 1781, 8vo, &c. 
Various scattered fragments of Young will be found in the magazines of the day. 
(See, especially, Journal encyclopedique, I5th October 1784, I5th July 1786). The 
Abbe Baudrand published : Esprit, Maximes et Pensees d'Young, Paris, 1786, I2mo. 

1 (Euvres diverse* by Young, translated from the English by Letourneur, Paris, 
1770, 2 vols. 8vo. Satires d'Young ... a free translation by Bertin, London and 
Paris, 1787, 8vo. 

2 Les Nuits d'Young, translated from the English by Letourneur, Paris, 1769, 2 
vols. 8vo, (copyright, 2nd May 1769). Frequently reprinted, four editions 
being issued between 1769 and 1775. 


He is still, also, quite sufficiently " sepulchral." The majestic 
harmony of blank verse, which renders certain pages of Young, 
justly quoted in anthologies, so admirable as self-complete 
passages, has of necessity disappeared, as well as the truly 
oratorical pomp of phrase, and the breadth of effect Young 
obtained from his ample use of poetical platitude. His rhetoric 
appears in all its poverty. His persistent denunciations ring 
false. In truth, Young in translation is too barren of ideas. "We 
know moreover that wit is simply the art of " combating truth 
with sophisms," and having read Jean-Jacques are aware that 
nothing is more uncommon than that " precious wisdom which 
examines thoroughly and goes to the root of its subject." The 
theme of the author of Night Thoughts is the old opposition 
between the social and the natural man. Every other element in 
the book its expression of fellowship with nature, its appeal to 
the human conscience, its sincere conviction of man's miserable 
condition, has since been expressed by many others whose voices 
are more persuasive than his. 

Yet it may be that, if we carry our minds back to 1742 an( l 
1744 t ^ le Y ears ' m which Young's collection of poems appeared 
and especially if we reflect on the condition of French lyrical 
poetry just at that time, we shall feel, even to-day, the partly 
vanished charm of such lines as these : 

O majestic Night ! 

Nature's great ancestor ! Day's elder-born ! 
And fated to survive the transient sun ! 
By mortals and immortals seen with awe ! 
A starry crown thy raven brow adorns, 
An azure zone thy waist ; clouds, in heaven's loom, 
Wrought through varieties of shape and shade, 
In ample folds of drapery divine, 
Thy flowing mantle form, and, heaven throughout, 
Voluminously pour thy pompous train. 
Thy gloomy grandeurs (Nature's most august, 
Inspiring aspect !) claim a grateful verse .... 
Heaven's King ! whose face unveil'd consummates bliss ; 
Redundant bliss ! which fills that mighty void, 
The whole creation leaves in human hearts ! 
Thou, who didst touch the lip of Jesse's son, 
Rapt in sweet contemplation of these fires, 
And set his harp in concert with the spheres ! . . . . 


Loose me from earth's enclosure, from the sun's 
Contracted circle set my heart at large, 
Eliminate my spirit, give it range 
Through provinces of thought yet unexplored ; 
Teach me, by this stupendous scaffolding, 
Creation's golden steps, to climb to Thee. 1 

Can we not recognise, in these lines, something of the true 
poet that at times was revealed in Edward Young ? Are our 
wearied perceptions entirely proof against the spell which so 
fascinated our fathers ? 

The influence of this spell was almost universal. Twice trans- 
lated into German, the book created quite a revolution in Klop- 
stock's circle. In spite of Lessing's protestations, Kremer, in the 
Northern Spectator, declared that the author was a greater poet 
than Milton and full " of the spirit of God and of the prophets." 
Klopstock, the leading spirit, wrote a poem on Young's death. 2 
Young brought death and moonlight into fashion in literature : 
by moonlight Werther roams about the forest in order to soothe 
his soul, and by moonlight he bids farewell to Charlotte. For 
many a long year Young reigned supreme as the poet of night. 3 

In France he encountered sceptics, Voltaire among the fore- 
most. Voltaire had made his acquaintance when staying with 
Bubb Doddington at Eastbury, in the days before Young took 
holy orders. He had found him witty, sarcastic, and worldly. 
Young had even made him the object of a somewhat caustic 
epigram. 4 At a later period the poet dedicated to the philosopher 
certain lines as a reminder that 

Life's little drama done, the curtain falls ! 
Dost thou not hear it ? I can hear, 
Though nothing strikes the listening ear ; 

Time groans his last ! Eternal loudly calls ! 5 

1 Ninth Night. 2 Imitated in the Journal encyclopedique, ist December 1785. 

3 See Erich Schmidt, Richardson, Rousseau, und Goethe, p. 190. 

4 They were arguing together about the characters Death and Sin in Paradise 
Lost. Young addressed Voltaire in the lines : 

You are so witty, profligate, and thin, 

At once we think thee Milton, Death, and Sin. 

5 Letourneur translated the piece and published it together with the Nuits, 
vol. ii., pp. 318-321. 


I do not know if Voltaire was offended by this sermon, but to 
Letourneur, who had sent him his translation of Night Thoughts, 
he replied: "Sir, you have conferred a high honour on my old 
acquaintance Young ; the taste of the translator appears to be 
better than the author's. You have done all that could be done 
in the way of bringing order into this collection of confused 
and bombastic platitudes." And after contrasting the poem on 
Religion with the Night Thoughts, he concluded by saying, "I 
think that every foreigner will prefer your prose to the poetry 
of one who is half poet and half priest, like this Englishman." l 

A certain Abbe Remy went further. Writing in the character 
of a " black musqueteer," he published Les Jours, pour servir de 
correctif et de supplement aux Nuits ; 2 in which he pleaded the cause 
of laughter, and protested that " the man who introduced so 
simple, so innocuous, and so universally accessible a form of 
enjoyment as the use of tobacco would deserve an altar (autel) in 
every heart, had he not already sufficiently brilliant ones in the 
homestead (hotel) of every farm." 

If a book is parodied it is being read. In fact, the Night 
Thoughts, in spite of Voltaire, were all the rage. "It is an 
unanswerable proof," said Mme. Riccoboni, " of the change that 
is taking place in the French mind." 3 Everyone who desired to 
see a reformation in French poetry caught the infection. One 
writer describes the poem as the masterpiece "of a melancholy 
imagination and a sensitive soul," 4 another Baculard d'Arnaud 
regards it as a perfect example "of the sombre type" of 
literature: "my soul," writes this lover of tears, "has buried 
itself among the tombs. ... I have penetrated and explored a 
new nature to its very heart ! Ah ! what wealth have I not 
discovered therein ! " 5 Mercier, who of course gave his opinion, 
thinks that the book translated by Letourneur will give the 
French language " an entirely fresh appearance." 6 Another, one 
of the same clan, compares Young to ^Eschylus in respect of 

1 7th June 1769. 

2 London and Paris, 1770, izmo. (See Journal encyclopedique, I5th June 1770.) 

3 Garrick, Correspondence, vol. ii., p. 566. 

4 Journal encydopedique , 1 5th August and 1st September 1769. 

5 Preface to the Comte de Commlnges. 6 Essai sur Vart dramatique, p. 299. 


" his colossal imagination, and the frenzy of his oriental style." 1 
Grimm is more calm, and considers that the work is magnificently 
sombre ; but is it nothing to get oneself read by a people " whose 
disposition it is to see everything in rosy hues ? " 

Encouraged by his success Letourneur translated Hervey's 
Meditations among the Tombs, another work of the same stamp, and 
the Journal encyclopedique bears witness to " the strange revolution 
which French literature has been undergoing for some years 
past." 2 

But Young had more famous admirers still. 

Grimm had ventured to express some doubt. He was of 
opinion that Young's poetry, with its " fitful and uncertain 
gleams," could not succeed in France. "It is all too full of 
tolling bells, tombs, mournful chants and cries, and phantoms ; 
the simple and artless expression of true sorrow would be a 
hundred times more effective." 3 Grimm was right enough. 
But Diderot was on the watch, and rated him soundly. " Do 
you ever retract what you have said, Mr Shopkeeper at the sign 
of the Evergreen Holly ? If so, here is an excellent opportunity 
for you." It may be well to inform you that Letourneur's trans- 
lation is " most harmonious, and characterized by the greatest 
richness of expression," that the first edition has been exhausted 
in four months, "and that nothing but exceptional merit could 
induce a frivolous and light-hearted nation to read jeremiads " 
such as this. . . . "Ah! Mr Grimm! Mr Grimm! Your con- 
science has assumed a very heavy burden ! " 4 How could Grimm 
help bowing to the decree of " Cato Diderot ? " 

And so he submitted, and the entire French public with him. 
The Night Thoughts continued to cause a " a general ferment." 
They were accused of spreading suicidal mania. 5 It is beyond 

1 Essai sur la tragedie, by a philosopher, 1773, 8vo. 

2 1 5th November 1770. It was in 1770 that Letourneur's translation appeared 
(Paris, 8vo). Concerning Hervey see also Meditations sur les tombeaux, translated 
[by Mme. d'Arcouville], Paris, 1771, izmo ; Les Tombeaux [by Bridel], Lausanne, 
1779, 8vo ; Abrege des ceuvres d'Hervey, Ball, 1796, l6mo ; and the imitations in 
verse by Baour-Lormian. See also, on Hervey, Leslie Stephen's History of English 
Thought, vol. ii., p. 438. 

3 May 1770. 4 Corresfondance IHteraire, June 1770 
5 See the Gazette universelle de litter ature, IJJJ, p. 236. 


doubt that Young's work, unequal as it was, yet heady, eloquent 
yet false, declamatory and at the same time poetic, exerted a 
great influence over many minds. Robespierre kept it under his 
pillow during the days of the Revolution. Camille Desmoulins 
read it through once more, together with Hervey's Meditations, 
on the eve of his death ; " you wish to die twice over, then," 
said Westermann, jocosely. 1 Above all, Chateaubriand, Byron, 
and all the leading romantic writers, both English and French, 
were readers of Young, and this is why it may be said, with 
Villemain, that his power is not yet exhausted. Like Rousseau, 
and earlier than he, Young had perceived the charm of " en- 
chanting sadness " ; like him had known " the mighty void 
which the universe leaves in the heart of man " ; and like him, 
in the words of Chateaubriand, had created the " descriptive 
elegiac " style, of which " the after effect is a sort of lamenta- 
tion, as it were, within the soul." 2 If melancholy is one of the 
sources of modern poetry, few have a better claim than Young 
to the honour of having anticipated the poets of the present day. 


It was at the very time when France became subject to the 
spell wielded by Young that she acquired an enthusiasm also 
for Ossian, and this again, if we examine it closely, is but 
another natural result of the revolution effected by Rousseau. 

Young's melancholy seemed a natural characteristic of the 
poet and the sage. But his lamentations were only for the 
present, for man's corruption, his sufferings and his approaching 
death. He never allows his imagination to wander among 
vanished centuries or ancient civilizations. He is insensible to 
the depth and the poetry which sorrow acquires from regret 
for the past. Nevertheless, it was practically inevitable that 
the poetry of melancholy should become the poetry of the past. 
The past, because it has vanished, has a melancholy of its own, 

i Lamartine, Histoire des GironJins, vol. viii., p. 51. 
a Essai sur la litterature anglaise. 


and of this, Rousseau, who had known " the sweet yet bitter 
recollection which stimulates our anguish with the vain senti- 
ment of departed happiness," was well aware. But, just as the 
individual, in the decline of life, turns back with delight to his 
earliest years, so too, the race, when it has known the in- 
toxicating consciousness of its own energy, when it has enjoyed 
to the full its own virility and proved it vigorous and keen, 
feels itself smitten with fond yearning for centuries that are 
past, a longing which seizes it like a mighty desire to become 
once more a child. It dreams of finding again the freshness of 
its first impressions ; again it crosses the seas of remembrance, 
and, by the diffused light of imagination, recognises in a 
mysterious distance the vague and wavering lineaments of 
humanity as once it was and now can be no longer. The 
very fierceness of primitive man seems then like a sign of 
vigorous adolescence : distance attenuates and, if one may say 
so, shades away his savage and monstrous aspects ; his haughty 
stature, his native fidelity, daring and nobility are all that strike 
the eye. So may the marble faun shine through the mist like 
the statue of Apollo. 

The eighteenth century, like many another age, surrendered 
itself to this spell. With Rousseau, with Ossian, with Chateau- 
briand in his youth, it fell in love with the past. The twilight 
ages of the human race supplied a marvellously appropriate 
setting for the need of reverie which was beginning to torment 
the men of that day. What books for the pillow like Homer 
and the Bible, wherein man is tempted to bury himself in his 
hours of weariness, not because of their eloquence or sacredness 
alone, but also because of their antiquity ? But Homer, who 
moreover was little known, was regarded with suspicion by the 
innovators as the fountain-head of classical literature ; while the 
Bible, of which it has been justly remarked that "it has never 
been a French book," 1 was looked upon with twofold more 
suspicion than Homer. 

Thus the new literature, the ideal of which was taking vague 
shape in certain minds, was in need of ancestors which should 

1 J. J. Weiss, A propos de theatre, p. 168. 


be peculiarly its own. It became necessary to discover, in the 
past history of humanity, a race whence the descent of a whole 
line of poets could legitimately be traced, and worthy of being 
placed in opposition to an antiquity properly so called, that is 
to say, to Greece and Rome. Lastly, it was needful, as Garat 
expressed it, " to supply the somewhat effete poetry of the 
south with images, scenes, and manners wherein poetic talent 
might renew its youth as in a freshly created world." 1 

This modern Homer, so eagerly sought, was discovered by 
a very clever man. Macpherson's Caledonia, and Ossian, its 
poet, were accepted with enthusiasm by the whole of Europe. 2 

For years already there had been shaping itself among the 
English a movement which drew the attention of many dis- 
tinguished minds towards a past, not perhaps more remote 
than classical antiquity, but at any rate more mysterious and 
more pregnant with the unknown. Some, like Walpole, Warton, 
and Kurd, sought to bring mediaeval poetry and architecture 
once more into fashion. 3 Others devoted themselves to the 
collection of old songs English, Irish, or Welsh. Percy's 
famous book, which appeared in 1765, is simply the most 
celebrated collection among a long series which began in the 
early years of the century. 4 Others again, with more ambition, 
restored in its entirety the dead civilization of the Celts and of 
the Northern races in general, contrasting it triumphantly with 
the worn-out civilizations of Greece and Rome. In some fine 
stanzas, written in 1749, Collins sang the praises of ancient 
Scotland, and of her highlands, 

where, beneath the showery west, 
The mighty kings of three fair realms are laid ; 
Once foes, perhaps, together now they rest, 
No slaves revere them and no wars invade ; 

1 Memoires sur Suard, vol. ii., p. 153. 

2 See The Life and Letters of James Macpherson, London, 1894, 8vo, by Bailey 

3 Thomas Warton, Observations on the Faery Queen (1754). Richard Hurd, 
Letters on Chivalry and Romance (1762). 

4 A very accurate account of this movement will be found in Mr Phelps's book : 
The beginnings of the English romantic movement, ch. vii. (Revival of the pasf). Percy's 
collection was known in France. (See Suard, Melanges de litterature.} 


Yet frequent now, at midnight solemn hour, 
The rifted mounds their yawning cells unfold, 

And forth the monarchs stalk with sovereign power, 
In pageant robes, and wreathed with sheeny gold, 

And on their twilight tombs aerial councils hold. 1 

This, however, was merely the presentiment of a poet. It 
was a historical work one of importance in the evolution of 
the literature of the age that provided restless imaginations 
with the material they required. This was Mallet's Introduction 
a I'histoire de Danemark, published in I755 anc ^ followed after a 
short interval by Monuments de la mythologie et de la poesle des Celtes 
et par tiddier ement des anciens Scandinaves.^ 

Paul-Henri Mallet was a Genevan. At the age of twenty-two 
he had become professor of literature at Copenhagen, 3 where he 
had been seized with a strong passion for the then unknown 
literatures of the North, and had taken upon himself the task of 
revealing them to Europe. With the help of Danish or Swedish 
versions he read and translated the Edda, and it was a German 
version of his translation which inspired Klopstock and his school 
with their taste for bardic poetry. 4 Mallet was thus the occasion 
of a European movement which had only been awaiting a vivify- 
ing impulse. His book was translated by Percy, and attained 
great celebrity in England. Gray read it with avidity, 5 and 
Percy produced some runic poems in the style of the Scandinavian 
sages. Through Mallet a whole generation of poets and critics 
was made acquainted with northern Europe, and from him Mme. 
de Stael herself derived a large number of her ideas. 6 A new 
antiquity had come to life. An entire civilization made its 
appearance ; one very different from those of Greece and Rome, 
untouched as yet by the imitator, and offering a fine field to the 
eager imagination. Such ungracious spirits as found fault with 
Mallet's undertaking, or blamed him for resuscitating "childish 

An Ode on the popular superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland. 2 1756. 

See Sismondi, De la -vie et des ecrits de P.-H. Mallet, 1807, and Sayous, 
xi>lii e siecle a V stranger, vol. ii., p. 46 et seq. 
Joret, Herder, p. 20. 

See Gray's Works, ed. Gosse, vol. ii., p. 352. 
See De la litter ature : Preface to the 2nd edition. 


fables," 1 were very few in number. It is not too much to say of 
his book that it was the starting-point of the entire Ossianic 

In 1760 Macpherson brought out his Fragments of ancient poetry, 
collected in the Highlands, and translated from the Gaelic or Erse 
Languages. In 1762 or perhaps at the close of 1761 he 
produced Fingal, and in 1763 Temora. Such was the birth of 

From these dates it will be seen that Ossian came into exist- 
ence at the very moment when Rousseau was giving a new 
direction to French literature in the same year, or nearly so, as 
the Nouvelle Helo'ise. Besides, Macpherson owes as little to 
Rousseau as Rousseau owes to Macpherson : there is a remark- 
able coincidence between them, but neither was influenced by the 
other. Macpherson, moreover, was by no means a reformer in 
literature : his individual taste was extremely diffident, and he 
good-humouredly derides the old English poets for instance, 
Spenser, with his giants and his fairies. He has a very poor 
opinion of those who imitate them, and of their "romantic com- 
positions," so " disgustful to true taste." 2 It is as an antiquary 
that he publishes Ossian, not as a poet : he does it to gratify 
contemporary taste for literary curiosities. He would have 
been amazed to learn that critics of the succeeding generation 
regarded him as one of the best authenticated ancestors of 

Nevertheless Ossian very soon effected a revolution. He was 
almost immediately recognised as the leading spirit of the new 
literature " the modern Homer " of Mme. de Stael. In England 
every genuine adherent of the classical school regarded him with 
distrust and uneasiness. " It tires me to death," wrote Walpole, 
" to read how many ways a warrior is like the moon, or the sun, 
or a rock, or a lion, or the ocean." 3 Johnson, an Englishman 
and a member of the classical school, detects in Macpherson, the 
Scotchman, an impostor and a dangerous innovator. He indulges 
in amenities of this sort : "I received your foolish and impudent 

1 Preface to the edition of 1773. 2 Note to Cathloda. 

3 8th December 1761. 


letter ... I hope I shall never be deterred from detecting what 
I think a cheat, by the menaces of a ruffian." 1 Macpherson, 
however, but yesterday a schoolmaster and salaried tutor, could 
already count as his warm admirers all who believed in his 
Caledonia. Even those who were doubtful as to the authenticity 
of the fragments discovered in them a singular beauty which 
excited their admiration. The subtle intelligence of Gray found 
them "full of noble wild imagination," 2 and "infinite beauty." 
What does it signify whether they are by Ossian ? " I am 
resolved to believe them genuine, spite of the Devil and the 
Kirk." Beyond doubt " this man is the very Daemon of poetry," 
and if there be really no fraud in the case, imagination must have 
" dwelt many hundred years ago in all her pomp on the cold and 
barren mountains of Scotland." 

Macpherson was soon enabled to make the proud assertion 
that Ossian had achieved a European success. 

Ossian was translated into Italian by Cesarotti ; there were 
two versions of him in Spanish, several in German, one in 
Swedish, one in Danish, and two in Dutch, of which one was 
by Bilderdyk. In Germany, especially, he created a furor. 
The true originator of Northern poetry was found at last ; 
" Thou, too, Ossian," cried Klopstock, " wert swallowed up 
in oblivion ; but thou hast been restored to thy position ; behold 
thee now before us, the equal and the challenger of Homer 
the Greek." "What need," wrote Voss to Bruckner, "of 
natural beauty ? Ossian of Scotland is a greater poet than 
Homer of Ionia." Lerse, in a sonorous discourse at Strasburg, 
acknowledged three guides of the "sacred art of poetry": 
Shakespeare, Homer, and Ossian two Northern poets to a 
single classic. Herder wrote a comparison between the Homeric 
and the Ossianic epics, spoke of Ossian as " the man I have 
sought," and contemplated a journey to Scotland in order to 
collect the songs of the bards. Burger imitated him, and 
Christian Heyne constituted himself his champion at the Uni- 

1 Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker, 1847, P- 43- 

2 Letters of zgth June 1760, July 1760, i7th February 1763. 


versify of Gottingen. Lastly, Goethe, need we remind the 
reader, drew inspiration from him in Werther and elsewhere. 
When his spirits are high Werther's taste is for Homer, but 
in sorrow he feeds upon Ossian, and when " it is autumn within 
and about him," he cries : " Ossian has completely banished 
Homer from my heart ! " It is a fragment of Ossian the 
lamentation of Armin over the death of his daughter that 
throws the distracted Charlotte into the disorder which almost 
proves her undoing : 

Why dost thou awake me, O gale ? 

I'm covered with dew-drops, it says, 
But the time of my fading is near, 

The blast which my foliage decays. 

To-morrow the traveller shall come, 

Who once saw me comely and bold ; 
His eyes shall the meadow search round, 

But me they shall never behold ! l 

In his Memoirs Goethe has given an admirable explanation 
of the Caledonian bard's popularity. It was Macpherson who 
developed among young people in Germany the taste for " the 
gloomy reflections which lead him who yields to them astray 
in the infinite." It was he who, with Young and Gray, excited 
and "stimulated these fatal workings within them." "That all 
this melancholy might have a theatre adapted to it Ossian had 
carried us away to distant Thule, where, as we traversed the 
vast and gloomy heath, amid the moss-grown stones of tombs, 
we beheld the surrounding herbage swayed by a mighty blast, 
and above our heads a sky leaden with cloud. Then the moon 
changed this Caledonian night into day ; dead heroes, and women, 
beautiful yet pale, hovered around us ; we dreamed at last that 
we saw, in her own awful form, the very spirit of Loda." 2 

Nothing affords a better proof of the growing interest taken 
by the French in foreign matters than the rapidity with which 
Ossian became known among them. It is worthy of remark 

1 From Gotzberg's translation of Werther, letter xci. On Ossian in Germany, 
see Erich Schmidt, loc. cit., p. 225 et seg. 

2 Memoirs, part iii. 


that, contrary to received opinion, he was famous in France 
almost before he had become so in the countries of the North. 1 

Macpherson's first volume was issued early in 1760, and in 
September of that year the Journal etr anger published two frag- 
ments of "ancient poetry, translated into English from the 
Erse, the language of the Scotch highlanders," these fragments 
being Connal and Crimora and Ryno and Alpin. The translator 
commented upon " the singular way in which the action advances, 
the rapid movement from one idea to another without any transi- 
tion, the accumulation of images, the frequent repetitions, and, 
in addition, all the defects of what we call the oriental style." 
From these examples he concluded that the imagination of the 
northern nations was no less poetic than that of the Asiatics. 
" A race which speaks a barren language, and has made no 
progress in the arts, is obliged to make frequent use of figures 
and metaphors. . . . Grandeur and profusion of imagery, daring 
methods of expression, and a certain irregularity in the sequence 
of ideas, must of necessity characterize its poetry." 

This writer, the first Frenchman to translate and to criticize 
Ossian, was Turgot. 2 

The experiment proving successful, the same journal inserted 
two other fragments, with a brief notice on Macpherson's 
selection. This time it was remarked that Erse poetry was 
more akin to Homer than to Pope or Dryden, whence it was 
concluded that poetry "knows neither nation nor language.' 7 
It may even be that " heroic poetry, as it was conceived by the 
ancients, belongs rather to races which are still in a state of 
barbarism than to more educated and more civilized nations." 
Uncivilized men whose soul, so to speak, is entirely "on the 
outside," whose passions are held in check neither by education 
nor by law, whose intelligence speaks no language but that 
of the imagination, because it is incapable of accommodating 
itself to abstractions such men as these are poets by nature. 

1 On the success of Ossian in France see Mr Bailey Saunders's book above- 
mentioned (chap, i.), and two articles by Arvede Barine {Journal des Debats, i3th 
and zyth November 1894). 

2 See CEuvres, vol. ix., p. 141 et seq, 



"By the art of introspection the soul is in a manner detached 
from external objects ; the practice of reflection and of thought 
blunts the sensibility and the imagination, and restrains the 
activity of the passions ; the intelligence becomes more austere 
and less tolerant of that vague and indefinite latitude in respect of 
ideas 'which poetry demands" l This, more clearly expressed, was 
the theory of Diderot and Rousseau. Man is poetical only in 
the primitive stage, and consequently the primitive man alone is 
a poet. 

We know for a certainty that these fragments achieved a 
brilliant and European success. " It is as beautiful as Homer," 
wrote Grimm. 2 Accordingly the Journal published successive 
translations by Suard of Fwgal, Lathmon, Oithona, Dar-Thula, 
and Conlath and Cuthona, all of them "poems from the Erse." 3 
A new translator, the duchess d'Aiguillon, produced a version 
of Carthon.^ This gave rise to a great controversy upon the 
authenticity of all these poems, the conclusion of the dispute, 
which filled the columns of the Journal des savants? being " that 
the honour of having created these sublime and touching poems 
was quite as great as that of having been so fortunate as to 
discover them." 

For ten years the Ossianic dispute occupied the attention of 
critics, but neither in France nor in England did anyone manage 
to convict the fortunate Macpherson of imposture. How should 
French journalists have succeeded 6 where the cleverest members 
of the most learned societies in Scotland had failed ? For fifty 
years and more, bardic, Erse, Runic or Gaelic poetry, as it was 
variously called, maintained its popularity in France. 

In 1764 the Gazette litteraire contrasted this new type of 

1 Journal etr anger, January 1761. 2 Correspondance litteraire, April 1762. 

3 December 1761, January, February, April, and July 1762. 

4 Carthon, a poem translated from the English by Mme. , London, 1762, 

I2mo. On this subject the Memoires secrets (2oth February 1763) may be con- 
sulted. Querard asserts that the duchess who was the mother of the opponent 
of La Chalotais had a collaborator named Marin. 

5 February and November 1762 ; May, June, September, December 1764. 
Gazette litteraire (ist September 1765) ; Cesarotti's reflections upon Ossian. 

6 See Mr Archibald Clerk's edition of Ossian 's poems (London, 1870, 2 vols. 


poetry with that of the Greeks, just as Herder himself or 
Goethe might have done, and while recognising in it " that 
quality of enthusiasm which the Greeks called poetic frenzy," 
it pointed out the differences due to climate, race and religion. 
"The poems of the North abound in awful and impressive 
images, but rarely contain such as are pleasing or cheerful. . . . 
All their imagery is representative of mournful skies, the wildest 
scenes of nature, and savage manners." In them, nevertheless, 
is to be found that essential gift which constitutes the poet, the 
power of "realising the phantoms of one's own imagination": 
may it not be that "what we call the days of barbarism were 
in very many respects favourable to poetic genius ? " Now 
Ossian, though less ancient, appears a hundred times more un- 
civilised than Homer : his inspiration is simpler, more artless, 
more faithful to nature. It is like a gushing spring. Better 
still, "it is genuine, heartfelt poetry, for throughout we can 
detect a heart stirred by noble feelings and tender passions." 1 

Opinion was thus occupied by the question of the Erse 
poems, and was leaning towards the cult of the new divinity, 
when Letourneur, an indefatigable purveyor of foreign literature, 
brought out his translation of the " Gaelic poems of Ossian, 
the son of Fingal," with the addition of a few " bardic " poems 
by John Smith, 2 and achieved therewith a prodigious success. 
Letourneur's translation, however, was far from deserving the 
praises which La Harpe generously bestowed upon it ; the 
harmony of the prose-poetry, so admired by Gray, and, to 
Macpherson's honour, not indeed invented but brought into 
fashion by him, is difficult to recognize in the somewhat inferior 
prose of Letourneur ; as a parallel case we may imagine Atala 
translated into the style of Johnson. Letourneur's Ossian re- 
mains, nevertheless, a book of much importance in the history 
of French literature. 

1 Gazette litteraire, 1764, vol. i., p. Z38 ; ist July and 1st August 1765. 

2 Ossian, Jlls de Fingal, poesies galliques, translated by Letourneur from the English 
of Macpherson, Paris, 1777, ^ vols. 8vo. Frequently reprinted, the principal 
editions being those of 1799 and 1810, the former containing additional matter, 
the latter a preface by Ginguene. A translation of Temora, by a writer named 
Saint-Simon, had appeared at Amsterdam in 1774. 


"I no longer believe," Chateaubriand once wrote, "in the 
authenticity of Ossian's works. . . . Yet still I listen to the 
sound of his harp, as one might listen to a voice, monotonous 
indeed, yet sweet and plaintive." 1 This voice we hear, even 
to-day, and find, when we take the trouble to look for it, just 
what Chateaubriand found in the false Ossian, " a lofty and 
noble spring of poetry," as an excellent judge expressed it, 
"through which, whatever others may have said, there breathes 
a blast as mighty as the storm-wind." 2 On the other hand, 
we no longer believe either in Fingal or in Oscar. The " Cale- 
donian " civilization, which had for eighteenth century readers 
the charm of something new and striking, seems to us an 
artificial compound of heterogeneous elements. Macpherson's 
clans and bards and druids no longer wield their ancient spell : 
we have admitted a little too readily perhaps that Macpherson 
was nothing more than a dexterous impostor. But those who 
seek to explain the vogue of the Ossianic poems must not 
forget that contemporaries held a very different opinion. They 
believed, with the faith that imagination gives, in the Caledonians, 
sturdy men with white skins, fair hair, and blue eyes. They 
believed in the druids, who fulfilled the functions of priests and 
legislators, and in the bards, who were not only poets but also 
ambassadors. They believed in that singular race which had 
neither industries nor agriculture, knew no metals but gold and 
iron, launched their rash barks upon the ocean, and chose the 
loftiest sites for their dwellings that they might be near to 
Heaven. They believed in that vague and poetic religion, ac- 
cording to which the clouds were inhabited by souls who 
commanded the winds and storms, spoke to the living at solemn 
seasons, and challenged them to combat. They believed that 
the gods, in the darkness of night, waged mysterious warfare 
with men and they loved the sombre poetry of their idea. 

The wan, cold moon rose in the east. Sleep descended on the youths! 
Their blue helmets glitter to the beam ; the fading fire decays. But sleep did 

1 Preface to the translation of Poemes traduits du gallique. 

2 Angellier, Burns, vol. i., p. 59. Mr. Clerk admits the authenticity of the 
poems of Ossian. 


not rest on the king : he rose in the midst of his arms, and slowly ascended the 
hill, to behold the flame of Sarno's tower. 

The flame was dim and distant : the moon hid her red face in the east. A 
blast came from the mountain, on its wings was the spirit of Loda. He came 
to his place in his terrors, and shook his dusky spear. His eyes appear like 
flames in his dark face ; his voice is like distant thunder. 

Fingal defies the spirit. 

Dost thou force me from my place, replied the hollow voice ! The people 
bend before me. I turn the battle from the field of the brave. I look on the 
nations and they vanish : my nostrils pour the blast of death. I come abroad on 
the winds: the tempests are before my face. But my dwelling is calm, above 
the clouds. . . . 

The hero does not quail before him. 

He lifted high his shadowy spear ! He bent forward his dreadful height. 
Fingal, advancing, drew his sword, the blade of dark-brown Luno. The gleam- 
ing"path of the steel winds through the gloomy ghost. The form fell shapeless 
into air, like a column of smoke, which the staff of the boy disturbs, as it rises 
from the half-extinguished furnace. The spirit of Loda shrieked, as, rolled into 
himself, he rose on the wind. 1 

Scenes like this, though they bear too close a resemblance to 
those of Homer or the Bible, are not without their grandeur. 
But they do not affect us as they affected the contemporaries of 
Macpherson. We find them less original. Of the two poets, 
one epic, the other lyric, that go to the making of old Ossian, 
we prefer the latter, who really is original. But eighteenth 
century criticism was largely occupied with the former, the poet 
whom it was possible to compare with Homer. 

Some years before the publication of Letourneur's translation, 
Voltaire had already introduced in one of his plays an amusing 
conversation between a Florentine, an Oxford professor, and 
a Scotchman, who had met at Lord Chesterfield's house. 2 
The Scotchman stands up for Ossian. " How beautiful," he 
exclaims, "were the days of old; FingaPs poem has passed 
from mouth to mouth down to us of to-day for nearly two 
thousand years, without ever having been altered: such is the 
power of genuine beauties over the minds of men ! " And he 

1 Carric-thura. The Poems of Ossian , London, 1812, p. 171. 

2 Dictionnaire philosophtque : Anciens et modernes, 1770. 


recites a translation or rather a paraphrase of the opening lines of 
Fingal. 1 " Ah ! " says the Oxford professor ; " there you have 
the true Homeric style ; but what pleases me still more is that I 
can detect in it the sublime eloquence of the Hebrews." And 
the man proceeds to quote a few passages from the Psalms, 
carefully selected by Voltaire, as the reader will perceive, so as 
to give an idea of the " oriental style." The Scotchman grows 
pale with rage. But the Florentine, with a smile, engages to 
hold forth in this so-called "oriental style" for any length of 
time ; with a little dexterity any one can " reel off bombastic 
lines of irregular metre," "pile one combat on another," and 
" describe idle flights of fancy." In fact he improvises on the 
spot a nonsensical fragment on the first subject suggested to 
him. The satire was cheap, but not altogether unjust. Ossian 
is monotonous; he does cultivate "the oriental style"; and will 
anyone venture to maintain that he never " described empty 
dreams ? " 

But Voltaire fails to perceive, or pretends not to see, that the 
true cause of his success lay elsewhere. To not a few super- 
ficial minds the Caledonian epic undoubtedly seemed to be the 
successful rival of the Homeric : " Farewell the tales of ancient 
days, the gods of Greece and Troy ! Hail to the heroes of the 
clouds, in their aerial palaces ! " 2 But Ossian's epic qualities by 
no means exhausted his merit. What made English and French 
readers so fond of him was the lyric, still more than the epic, 
poet in him more indeed than anything else : the poet who gave 
form, or at all events a new setting, to the love of nature, to 
melancholy, to " passion's vague unrest," the sweet pain which 
they had experienced in the pages of Rousseau. It was the poet 
who, by the mouth of the blind bard, addressed the following 
pathetic apostrophe to the sun : 

thou that rollest above, round as the shield of my fathers ! Whence are 
thy beams, O sun! thy everlasting light? Thou comest forth in thy awful 
beauty; the stars hide themselves in the sky; the moon, cold and pale, sinks 

1 Cuchullin was seated by the wall of Tura, " by the tree of the rustling sound." 
Voltaire gives a parody of these lines. 

2 Creuze de Lesser. 


in the western wave ; but thou thyself movest alone. . . . But to Ossian thou 
lookest in vain, for he beholds thy beams no more ; whether thy yellow hair 
flows on the eastern clouds, or thou tremblest at the gates of the west. But thou 
art perhaps like me, for a season ; thy years will have an end. Thou shalt sleep 
in thy clouds, careless of the voice of the morning. Exult then, O sun, in the 
strength of thy youth ! age is dark and unlovely ; it is like the glimmering light 
of the moon when it shines through broken clouds, and the mist is on the 
hills. . . .1 

It is in fragments such as this, full of deeply impressive yet 
hidden poetry, that the real Ossian is to be found, the poet of 
whom Chateaubriand could write that he had "added to the 
melody of the Muses a note until his time unheard." 2 It was 
this poet whom the readers of Letourneur appreciated and 
understood. " Why can I not dwell among the snow-clad 
mountains which hem the happy sons of Scotland round ; while 
my dreams, as I watch the seas which bathe Norwegian coasts, 
are lulled by the sound of the wind beneath a lowering sky, 
and the dweller among those rugged rocks recites, it may be 
within my hearing, the mournful hymns which Ossian erstwhile 
sang upon the self-same shores." Such was the impression 
produced by the French Macpherson upon one of his earliest 
readers, Fontanes, then quite a young man, who, addressing 
the translator of Ossian with ill-restrained emotion, adds : " O 
Le Tourneur ! whose bold prose ventured almost to imitate 
the inimitable melody of daring verse, more than once 
have you revealed treasures unknown to the poets of our 
day." 3 

These lines are of no great merit ; but the feeling they 
expressed was sincere, and Fontanes composed his Chant du 
Earde after the manner of Ossian, in order, as he wrote to 
Joubert from London, to try his hand at reproducing "that 
sweet, slow music which seems to come from the distant shore 
of the sea, and to linger echoing among the tombs." 

Thus, even in the eighteenth century, Frenchmen discerned 
the originality of one who was to be among the teachers of 
Chateaubriand and Lamartine. They divined his subtle poetry, 

1 Carthon. Poems, p. 190. 2 Preface to Poemes traduits du gallique. 

3 (Euvres, 1839, vol. i., p. 398. 


if they did not succeed in making it fully their own. They 
delighted to read him, like Mme. de Genlis, seated on a green 
bank " shaded by a pair of poplars," " a wild yet melancholy 
scene before them," and an ^Eolian harp within hearing. 1 Like 
Fontanes they attempted to reproduce the music of his strange 
flights of melody. With La Harpe they praised that " sort of 
melancholy imaginativeness," which calls up before the reader 
" a remote and dismal region where the mountain-mists, the 
monotonous sound of the sea, and the soughing of the wind 
among the crags, inspire the mind with a contemplative sadness 
which becomes habitual." 2 Before the Revolution, thanks to 
Ossian, " the poetry of the North " counted its adherents in 
France : " sorrowful as their ever cloud-wreathed skies, turgid 
as the sea that whitens their shores, dense and dismal as the 
curtain of mist wrapped thickly round them in their gloomy 
isle," 3 the northern poets seemed destined to renew the ex- 
hausted literature of France. They were not imitated as yet, or 
if they were, they were imitated badly. 4 But a time was at 
hand when a Chateaubriand was to make all that was best in 
their genius his own, and when, an exile in Macpherson's own 
land, he was to prepare himself for the composition of Rene 
by translating the poems of Ossian. 5 

Ossian's fame lasted from 1789 down to the imperial epoch. 
Arnault borrowed the subject of a tragedy from him ; 6 Labaume 
and David de Saint-George produced a continuation of Letour- 

1 Memoires, vol. Hi., p. 353. 2 Cours de litter attire, vol. iii., pp. 214-217. 

3 Andre Chenier, Elegie XXI. 

4 See Athos et Dermide, the matter for which is derived from a note by Mac- 
pherson. {Journal encyclopedique, ist June 1786); Essai d'une traduction d' Ossian en 
versfranfais, by Lombard (Berlin, 1789, 8vo), etc. 

5 "When, in 1793, the Revolution drove me to England, I was a devoted ad- 
herent of the Scottish bard : lance in rest I would have maintained his existence 
in the face of the whole world, and against that of old Homer himself. I read 
with avidity a host of poems unknown in France. ... In the fervour of my zeal 
and admiration, ill, too, and extremely busy as I was, I translated certain Ossianic 
pieces by John Smith." (Preface to Translations from the Gaelic.} These pieces are 
Dargo, and Duthona and Gaul, and are included in Chateaubriand's works ; they are 
imitations rather than translations. 

6 Oscar, f Is d' Ossian, 1796. 


neur. 1 The story goes that under the Directory those who 
lived in the Bois de Boulogne were one day alarmed to see a 
great blaze amongst the trees, and that when they came close to 
it they perceived some men, attired in Scandinavian fashion, 
endeavouring to set fire to a pine and singing to the accompani- 
ment of a guitar with an air of inspiration : they were admirers 
of Ossian who intended to sleep in the open air and to set the 
trees alight in order to keep themselves warm, like the heroes of 
Caledonia. 2 Under the Consulate Ossian enjoyed a far greater 
vogue, even, than before ; the first consul had made him " his 
own poet," thereby enlisting the sympathies of Mme. de Stael ; 
he read him on board the vessel which brought him back from 
Egypt, as at a later period he read him on his voyage to St 
Helena. 3 " How beautiful it is," he said to Arnault. It has 
been said that he imposed the Ossianic stamp upon the art of his 
time. It would be more just to say that having been brought 
up in the literary traditions of the eighteenth century, he shared 
the veneration of his contemporaries for the Caledonian bard. 
It was under the Consulate, and at his suggestion, that Baour 
Lormian composed his Poesies galliques, that Girodet painted his 
picture of Fingal and Ossian welcoming the shades of the French 
warriors, and that Lesueur wrote his opera Les Bardes, which 
Napoleon proclaimed a "brilliant, heroic and truly Ossianic" 
piece. 4 

When, after the Revolution, Mme. de Stael and Chateaubriand 
attempted to lay down the rules of a new theory of poetry, both 

1 Poemes d' Ossian et de quelques autres bardes, intended as a sequel to Letourneur's 
Ossian, and translated from the English by Hill (pseudon.), Paris, 1795, 3 vols. 

2 G. Renard, De /'influence de Vantiquite class ique sur la litterature franfaise pendant les 
dernieres annees du xviii e stecle et les premieres annees du xix e > Lausanne, 1875, 8vo. 

3 See the Journal de la traversee d'Angleterre a Sainte-Helene, by an English officer, 
published in the Journal des Debats. 

4 The Poesies galliques belong to i8oi. Girodet's picture was exhibited at the 
Salon of 1802. Lesueur's opera was played in 1804. See also Catheluina, or the 
Rival Friends, a poem written in imitation of Ossian (by General Despinay), 
Paris, 1 80 1, 8vo ; Traductions et imitations de quelques poesies d' Ossian, an old Celtic 
poet, by Charles Arbaud Jouques, Paris, 1801, 8vo ; Traduction libre, en vers, des 
thants de Selma, from Ossian, etc., by J. Taillasson, Paris, 1801, 8vo, etc. 


accepted Ossian as a precious legacy from the century which had 
just come to a close. Through them he became appreciated by 
the youthful band of writers that was destined shortly afterwards 
to form the romantic "Pleiad": "Ah, plaintive harp, once, 
as the faithful comrade of Ossian, wont to sing of love and 
heroes ! No longer shalt thou hang in mournful silence on 
these walls." 1 

These lines are by Alphonse de Lamartine, and were written 
in 1808. All his life Lamartine remained faithful to the object 
of his youthful admiration, and even in the Confidences he placed 
Ossian on a level with Dante and above Homer. 

The harp of Morven is the emblem of my soul. 

Many indeed were the imaginations whose dreams were haunted 
by Ossian, between 1 800 and 1830 ! Edgar Quinet, as a youth, 
in the depths of his native province, was amazed at an infatua- 
tion he did not share, and remarked with curiosity the unrivalled 
popularity of Fingal, Malvina, and Carril. 2 Distributions of 
prizes, Villemain says, resounded with the names of the 
Caledonian heroes, Oscar and Temora, and it is possible that 
Bernadotte owed the throne of Sweden to the Ossianic fore- 
name borne by his son. 3 Nodier, like everyone else, became 
fascinated with Macpherson's prose, and George Sand consoled 
herself for the sorrows of her married life by reading Fingal^ 
" Four moss-covered stones " Chateaubriand had written in 
his Genie du Christianisme " stand amid the Caledonian heather 
to mark the tomb of the warriors of Fingal ; Oscar and Mal- 
vina have departed, but nothing has changed in their lonely 
land. Still the Scottish Highlander loves to recite the songs 
of his ancestors : still he is brave, generous, and obliging ; 
but the hand of the bard himself, if the image be allowed, 
no longer strikes the harp; what we hear is the tremulous 
vibration of the strings produced by the touch of a spirit, 

1 Letter to Mme. de Virieu, 1808. 2 Histoire de mes idees, p. 132. 

3 See Brunetiere, L 'evolution de la foes ie lyrique, vol. i., p. 82. 

4 Nodier, Essais d'un jeune barde (1804). G. Sand, Histoire de ma vie, vol. iv., 
chap. i. 


when, at night, in a deserted hall, it forebodes the death of 
a hero." 1 

Many and many are the readers who, from the close of the 
eighteenth century down to the appearance of the romantic 
generation, have heard this murmur from the strings of Ossian's 


Yet such readers heard it and, above all, appreciated it, mainly 
because Rousseau had written. Just as there was an occasional 
coincidence between Thomson's or Gessner's manner of feeling 
and portraying nature, and Rousseau's, so it was mainly because 
Jean-Jacques had led the way that Young, Ossian, and even 
Werther which made its somewhat unsuccessful appearance in 
France about the same time 2 found it so easy to obtain a hold 
over the minds of Frenchmen. They may indeed be, in the 
history of European literature, his precursors ; that, in fact, 
is what they are. But in the history of French literature, 
they are merely his successors. He owes nothing to them, 
nor they to him. 

What, however, admits of no doubt, is that their melancholy 
is but a form of his melancholy, their lyricism a variety, or a 
development of his lyricism. "But behold, alas, the incon- 
ceivable swiftness of that fate which is never at rest. It is 
constantly pursuing, time flies hastily, the opportunity is 
irretrievable, and your beauty, even your beauty, is circum- 
scribed by very narrow limits of existence : it must some time 
or other decay and wither away like a flower that fades before 
it was gathered. . . . O fond, mistaken fair ! you are laying 

1 Genie du Christianisme, pt. iv., ii. 5. 

2 On this subject, see Th. Siipfle (Goethes literarischer Einfluss auf Frankreich, in 
the Goethe-Jahrbuch, 1887, P- 208), and F. Gross, Werther in Frankreich, Leipzig, 
1888. Besides translations by SeckendorfF and Aubry, there was a play by 
La Riviere, Werther ou le Delire de ? Amour (la Haye, 1778). On the subject of 
Goethe's novel, the Correspondance litteraire (March 1778) says : " All that we have 
found in it is ordinary events set forth without art, unpolished manners, a 
bourgeois tone, and a heroine apparently utterly uneducated and absolutely 


plans for a futurity at which you may never arrive, and 
neglecting the present moments which can never be retrieved. 
You are so anxious, and intent on that uncertain hereafter, that 
you forget that in the meantime our hearts melt away like snow 
before the sun." l If the writer of these lines followed Ossian 
and Young in order of time, he preceded them in order of 
genius, and for this reason may be regarded as the creator of 
modern lyric poetry. 

Nevertheless and the fact is one which Frenchmen are too 
apt to forget the sentiments he expresses were also expressed 
in foreign works, and through them were introduced into France 
as soon as, or even earlier than, through the pages of Rousseau. 
To the new art which he created, English literature furnished 
ancestors, Germany disciples. What more inevitable than that 
those who were weary of classical tradition and impatient to 
escape from the leading strings by which they felt they had been 
confined for ages, should turn with an ever more and more lively 
curiosity to England, in their eyes the intellectual birthplace of 
Rousseau, and to Germany which welcomed him and English 
writers as well with such youthful enthusiasm ? " Every 
method of imitating the ancients," it was said, " has been ex- 
hausted. Let us therefore fathom these deep mines (of English 
literature) ; let us separate the gold from the dross which con- 
ceals it ; let us polish it and turn it to a useful purpose." 2 But 
thus to imitate foreign models was to reject the heritage, hitherto 
enjoyed exclusively by the French nation, bequeathed by Greece 
and Rome. It was to break with all the traditions of French 
classical literature. Rousseau himself, who owes so many ideas 
to the ancients, is not indebted to them for a single one of his 
artistic methods ; rather is his art the very negation of theirs. 
Thus, with the growth of foreign influence, whether English or 
German, in France, the influence of Rousseau proportionately 
increased, while that of antiquity, and even of the national 
classics, was further and further undermined. "O Germany," 
wrote a French critic in 1768, " the days of our greatness have 

1 Nouvelle Helo'ise, i. 26. 

2 Yart, Idee de la poesie anglaise, vol. i., preface. 


departed, and thine are only in their dawn. Within thy breast 
dwells every quality that can raise one race above the others, and 
our conceited frivolity is compelled to do homage to thy mighty 
offspring ! " 1 

In the Germany of the eighteenth century we have the incar- 
nation of what Mme. de Stael was to call the Ossianic literatures, 
of the " genius of the North," of everything that was novel, 
poetic and disturbing in Rousseau, in so far as he seems to 
personify the influence of the Germanic nations. "lean see," 
says Chateaubriand, " that in my early youth Ossian, Werther, 
the Reveries (Fun promeneur solitaire, and the Etudes de la nature 
must have become wedded with my own ideas." 2 He makes no 
distinction between them ; on the contrary he treats the genius 
of Rousseau, the genius of Ossian, and the genius of Goethe as 
one. So too Mme. de Stael, when writing off-hand, speaks of 
" Rousseau and the English," or of" Rousseau and the Teutonic 
ideal " ; the idea in her mind is always the same, whether she 
speaks of the Teutonic spirit as opposed to the Latin, or of the 
genius of the North as opposed to that of the South. 

There is no doubt whatever that this substitution of the 
cosmopolitan and exotic spirit for the old-fashioned humanism 
which satisfied our fathers was a revolution of very great im- 
portance. To tell the truth, it only came to fulfilment during 
the present century, with Mme. de Stael and the romantic 
school. But we have seen that it was in preparation before '89. 
The five-and-twenty years which preceded the Revolution paved 
the way for the invasion of Europe by the literatures of the 
North. Can we wonder that Herder, blinded by prejudice, 
thought himself justified in writing : " French literature has had 
its day '* ? 3 

The only thing that had had its day, and that after three 
centuries of glory, was one particular form of the French spirit, 
one of the fairest it ever assumed, but in which, whatever may 
be said to the contrary, it neither exhausted itself nor revealed 
the whole of its limitations. 

1 Dorat, Idee de la poesie allemande, 1768, p. 133. 

^ Essai sur la litterature anglaise, Lebensbilder . 

Chapter IV 


I. How it was that in the eighteenth century cosmopolitanism was nothing 
more than an ill-defined aspiration Reaction of the classical spirit, due to 
Voltaire and his school ; inadequacy and inferiority of classical criticism 
Revival of antiquity at the approach of the Revolution. 

II. The Revolution brings back the worship of antiquity Intellectual rupture 
with the Teutonic nations Decrease of the literary influence of Rousseau 
But the springs which the Revolution had exhausted were rendered afresh 
accessible to the French mind by the emigration. 

III. Publication of De la Literature (i8oo) It was the expression at once of the 
cosmopolitan spirit and of the influence of Rousseau Its origin mainly 
traceable to English influence It was the last production of eighteenth 
century criticism The author's judgment upon the classical spirit Her 
substitute for it Cosmopolitanism becomes a literary theory Triumph of 
the influence of Rousseau and of the northern literatures. 

" THERE exist, it seems to me, two entirely distinct literatures, 
that which springs from the South and that which springs from 
the North, one which finds its primal source in Homer, another 
which had its origin in Ossian. The Greeks, the Latins, the 
Italians, the Spaniards, and the French of the age of Louis XIV., 
belong to that branch of literature which I shall call the literature 
of the South. The work of the English and the Germans, and 
a few writings by Danes and Swedes, must be ranked as be- 
longing to the literature of the North." * In these lines Mme. 
de Stael expressed with remarkable clearness the very principle 
of cosmopolitanism in literature as she herself conceived it. A 
few years later she gave her idea still greater precision in the 
following words : " On every occasion during our own times 
when the French habit of strict conformity to rule has been 
supplemented by a little fresh life and spirit from abroad, the 

1 De la litterature , i . 1 1 . 


French have been enthusiastic in their applause : Jean- Jacques 
Rousseau, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Chateaubriand, etc., are 
all, in one or other of their works, though they may not be aware 
of it themselves, members of the Germanic school." 1 

Thus the course of French literature has been successively 
directed, according to the period we consider, either towards 
antiquity or towards Germanic Europe, towards humanism or 
towards cosmopolitanism, and the most important agent in the 
transformation has been Rousseau. The eighteenth century 
had an obscure perception of Mme. de StaeTs theory, but did 
not formulate it in a clear and definite manner. Previously to 
the publication, in 1 800, of De la Litterature, cosmopolitanism had 
been rather an undefined aspiration than a theory properly so 
called. It took some time for Rousseau's influence, personified 
in Mme. de Stael, to develop its extreme results. It was long 
before the opposition between cosmopolitanism and humanism 
became as distinct as was to be desired. 


The reason is, in the first place, that if the twenty years 
which preceded the Revolution witnessed an incipient renova- 
tion and broadening of taste, they witnessed also the dawn of 
a genuine classical reaction. With the spread of anglomania, 
the admirers of the great French writers felt the need for a 
sturdier defence of a cause which was ever more and more 
threatened. " When we had once tasted of the springs of 
English literature," says a critic, " a revolution quickly took 
place in our own : the Frenchman, who readily becomes an 
ardent partisan, no longer welcomed or valued anything that 
had not something of an English flavour about it. ... Our 
genius deteriorated from its unnatural fusion with a genius 
foreign to its character." 2 It was against this perversion of 
the national genius that the classical party, headed by Voltaire, 

1 De VAllemagne, ii. I. 2 Dorat, Idee de la poesie allemande (1768), p. 43. 


rose in revolt. The cause was good ; what a pity it was that it 
should have been so badly defended ! 

Herein, in truth, lay the danger of the cosmopolitan spirit. 
Briefly, the question at issue was, whether or not the French 
mind would remain faithful to the ideal of universality and 
humanity which for two or three hundred years had been the 
strength of French literature, and had been inherited by it from 
the literatures of antiquity. The ideal of the classical writers of 
France had been to portray man by means of all the most general 
and least accidental qualities of his nature not indeed in ab- 
stracto, for that would have been to deprive him of all reality 
but in so far, at anyrate, as he resembles that " ideal of 
humanity " which everyone bears within himself. " I acknow- 
ledge," said Voltaire in reference to Shakespeare, "that we 
ought not to condemn an artist who has understood the taste of 
his countrymen ; but we may pity him for having pleased no 
other nation." From this principle Voltaire never departed, and 
therefore always obstinately refused to admit that the object of 
literary criticism is to make us admire what is most national in 
the genius of each people. In his youth he felt a curiosity with 
regard to the geniuses of the different nations, but simply 
because they struck him as singular. He could understand that 
one could write a comparative history of customs and laws ; but 
he never fully recognised, though he sometimes advocated, the 
comparative and disinterested criticism of literatures ; and therein 
he remained truly French and truly classical. " We have long 
taken upon ourselves to utter generalities for the edification of 
the universe. We are manufacturers of good rough furniture 
for general purposes and of the fashionable article as well." 
This neat phrase of Doudan's l is one which Voltaire might have 
acknowledged. He claimed the manufacture of " furniture for 
general purposes " as an honour to the French intellect. 

He considered, also, with the pure classicists of his time, that 
everything had been said, and that form alone was renewed. 
" There is no more poetry to write," said Fontanes, speaking of 
Racine. All the books are written, thought the classical school. 

1 Lettres, vol. ii., p. 346. 


"The imitation of the beauty of nature," wrote d'Alembert, 
" seems confined to certain limits which are reached in a genera- 
tion or two at most ; nothing is left for the succeeding generation to do 
but to imitate" l If this is the case, and if poetry is the art of 
enhancing an old theme with a fresh variation, those who come 
last are at a great disadvantage, and for us who have to follow 
the masters it is a high honour to succeed through beauty of 
form alone. Innovators, on the contrary, admit that in literature 
there are, as Sebastien Mercier said, "austral lands," where 
everything still remains to be discovered. They hold that the 
last has not yet been said concerning man. They believe that 
literary progress is limited only by the confines of the human 
intellect itself, and that these have not yet been determined. 
They extol Dante for his " stupidly extravagant flights of 
imagination," 2 Milton for descriptions which "sicken every one 
whose taste is at all delicate," 3 or Ossian, again, because he ex- 
presses bombastic platitudes in pompous verse. Voltaire, faith- 
ful to the tradition of the grand siecle, was honestly unable to 
comprehend. "What is it to me," he wrote to an Englishman, 
who had vaunted Shakespeare to him, " that a tragic author has 
genius, if none of his pieces can be played in all the countries of 
the world ? Cimabue had genius as an artist, yet his pictures are 
of no value ; Lully had great talent for music, but his airs are 
never sung beyond the borders of France." 4 . . . And this is his 
final verdict, not only upon Shakespeare, but also upon Young, 
Ossian, Milton, Dante, Swift and Rabelais. The mark of genius 
is universality, and do we not find the Transylvanian, the 
Hungarian and the Courlander, uniting, as Voltaire observes, 
with the Spaniard, the Frenchman and the German, in admira- 
tion of Vergil and Horace ? These, the great masters, belong 
to every age. Dante belongs merely to the thirteenth century, 

1 Discours preliminaire. 

2 Voltaire to Bettinelli, March 1761 : " I think very highly of your courage 
in daring to say that Dante was a madman and his work monstrous. . . . Dante 
may find his way into the libraries of the curious, but he will never be read." 

3 See Candide, ch. xxv. 

4 Letter published by G. Bengesco, Lettres et billets inedits de Voltaire (1887), 
p. 12. 



and Milton to the seventeenth; the one is but an Englishman, 
the other only an Italian. 

Nor was Voltaire the only writer to lay himself open to the 
charge of narrowness. He is simply the mouthpiece of a tradi- 
tion to which many intelligent people remained faithful. The 
"literature of the North" irritated them, because it was neither 
human nor artistic, qualities which are practically identical. For 
the art of writing is not what Sterne and Young would have it 
to be the art of giving expression to " one's sensations and 
impressions," or of recording, as inspiration may dictate, the 
variations of a " temperament " ; it consists in speaking to the 
understanding in a language that every educated man can under- 
stand : " what is accurately conceived is clearly expressed." 

Now, the conceptions of Young and Sterne are inaccurate, and 
their expression of them is obscure ; indeed, these writers can 
scarcely be said to think ; they are content to feel, and to abandon 
themselves to the flow of trivial impressions. Rousseau, speak- 
ing of himself, said : "He is largely dependent on his senses." 1 
So, in reality, are all these innovators, and they glory in being 
thus dependent. But if the. art of writing consists in arranging 
correct ideas in a harmonious whole, how then can they be 
writers ? Shakespeare, who knows nothing of orderly arrange- 
ment, is no writer, and Letourneur gives us nothing but an 
" abominable jargon." Hence the transcendent superiority of 
the great French poets. "In Shakespeare, genius and sublimity 
gleam forth like flashes of lightning during a long night, but 
Racine is always Racine." Whence comes this thought ? From 
Voltaire ? No ; from Diderot. 2 Genius begins where art 
begins, and cannot get on without it. Such was the opinion 
of all who had been brought up on tradition, and in whose eyes 
the reverence for foreign models was responsible for " that anti- 
national taste, the ravages of which were only too obvious " ; 3 
and some even of those who spoke of reforming everything 
could not succeed in shaking off the prejudices they had imbibed 

1 Rousseau juge de Jean-Jacques, second dialogue. 2 Article entitled Genie. 

3 Discours sur les progres des lettres en France, by Rigoley de Juvigny (Paris, 1773? 
?vo, p. 190). 


in the course of their education. Sufficiently clear-sighted to 
perceive that classical art is not the whole of art, they found it 
difficult to believe that in breaking away from it they were not 
lapsing into barbarism. This explains how Condorcet could 
write to Voltaire, in reference to Necker, that he had no hopes 
of a man who " took Shakespeare's tragedies for masterpieces," 1 
and how it was that Marie-Joseph Chenier, one of the best 
critics of his time, asserted that the degree to which Shakespeare 
"carried passion and indecency was enough to put humanity to 
the blush." 2 We are amazed to find opinions like these enter- 
tained by anyone besides Voltaire. We can understand them, 
however, if we reflect that revolutions in taste are, with most 
men, changes in their manner of feeling rather than in their 
manner of judging. For many men in the eighteenth century 
the intellectual revolution had already taken place, while the 
revolution in feeling was yet to come. 

Some, like Voltaire, remained absolutely faithful to the objects 
of their youthful admiration, refusing to associate with them 
other and fresh objects which could not be brought under their 
conception of beauty. Classical beauty, the object of their 
devotion, was compounded of art and of humanity. Now it 
is quite true that the cosmopolitans took credit to themselves 
for extending the boundaries of the intellect, and for widening 
the province of art. In reality, however, they restricted them 
by substituting for the antique ideal, which up to that time had 
been generally accepted by all nations, the imitation of what is 
most exclusively national, that is to say least communicable, 
in each one. " Though I am no great admirer of the human 
mind," wrote Vauvenargues in reference to Shakespeare, " I 
nevertheless cannot dishonour it so far as to place a genius so 
defective and so defiant of common sense in the first rank." 3 If 
each people and each race have their special modes of sensibility 
to which other nations are strangers, it can no more be possible 
to transfer incommunicable beauties from one country to another 

1 Sainte-Beuve, Causeries, vol. iii., p. 342. 

2 Fragments appended to his Tableau de la lltterature, 

3 (Euvres, ed. Gilbert, p. 486. 


without defying common sense than to make palm-trees grow in 
Norway or to rear reindeer under the equator. This was 
forcibly expressed by Rivarol in his famous treatise 1 on the 
universality of the French language, where, after granting that 
English works "will be the eternal glory of the human mind," 
he added that those works had nevertheless " not become the 
common possession of all the world." They have never left 
the hands of certain people ; " precaution and tentative effort are 
needful if one is not to be repelled by the husk of the fruit 
and its foreign flavour." In short, the Englishman makes a 
book " out of one or two sensations " ; he is dull, taciturn, 
gloomy and solitary ; he writes for himself alone, and it follows 
therefrom that English literature "suffers from the isolation of 
the people and of the writer." The Frenchman, on the other 
hand, " looks for the humorous side of things " ; he is all 
elegance, wit, and subtlety, and has conquered the universe 
by means of a sociable disposition. Are the French wantonly to 
sacrifice a position of influence so laboriously attained in order 
to take lessons of a nation whose originality has gone so far as 
to obscure its own conception of humanity ? 

The classical revolution witnessed by the close of the century 
was thus founded on two ideas and supported by two principles : 
respect for art and the tradition of humanism. And at bottom 
these two ideas are reducible to one, the imperious necessity 
that the writer should win the ear of all men and not that of 
his countrymen only should be read in all ages, and not by 
his contemporaries alone. So that for the first time in the 
history of French criticism the defenders of the national genius 
found, or supposed, themselves engaged in the defence of the 
genius common to humanity. For the question as to the pre- 
eminence of the ancients or the moderns had been discussed 
even in the seventeenth century. But the dispute had never 
gone beyond the frontiers in any country. For Italy of the 
Renaissance, the only rival to Greek or Latin antiquity was 
Italy, for France of the following century it was France ; and 
the most resolute upholders of the idea of progress persistently 

1 1784- 


refused to take up any other position. Neither Perrault nor 
La Motte contrasted the sterility of the French intellect with 
the literary fertility of England or even of Italy. The con- 
troversy was between Vergil and Racan, Horace and Boileau, 
Euripides and Racine. It was a courteous debate in which the 
adversaries were agreed as to first principles, and only disputed 
as to the degree of success with which this or that writer had 
applied them. But even the most zealous of the "ancients" 
no more revolted against an alleged aberration of the national 
genius than the most resolute of the " moderns " appealed to 
exotic influence. Now, on the contrary, it was a question, 
in the mind of Voltaire, of rescuing not only the national 
tradition, but also the still more sacred tradition of humanity, 
from the sacrilegious hands of barbarians. " Imagine, gentle- 
men," he said to the Academy, " Louis XIV. in his gallery at 
Versailles, surrounded by his brilliant court : a Gilles in battered 
garments forces his way through the crowd of heroes, great 
men and beauties of whom it consists, and suggests that they 
shall forsake Corneille, Racine, and Moliere for a mountebank 
who makes a few happy sallies and pulls wry faces. How do 
you suppose such a proposal would be received ? " l 

The wry-faced mountebank was Shakespeare, but it might 
as well have been Richardson, Young, Sterne, Ossian, and 
everyone who owned no authority but " his own temperament," 
and pretended to substitute individual caprice for that worship 
of beauty which had been established in France by communion 
with antiquity, and had made the Latin genius the very type 
of human genius in general. For Voltaire, therefore, cosmo- 
politanism is individualism, which is as much as to say it is 
barbarism. " He is what nature has made him," wrote Jean- 
Jacques of himself. 2 Now nature, unassisted by the art which 
restrains and the reason which guides it, can do nothing. 
Abandoned to itself it is mere disorder and caprice; it can 
only make occasional " happy sallies " ; it produces nothing 
but monstrosities, such as Hamlet or Tristram Shandy. 

1 First letter to the Academy on Shakespeare. 

2 Rousseau juge de Jean-Jacques (second dialogue). 


But when he assumes the post of defender of the national 
genius Voltaire does not see as clearly as we do that cosmo- 
politanism may after all be nothing but a new form of humanism. 
For him it is no bond between nations, but rather merely 
an element of discord and of mischief. He seems to have no 
suspicion that when Rousseau, whom he detests, appeals to 
what is most individual in man, he may be simply giving ex- 
pression to sentiments common to the whole of a new genera- 
tion that is more disposed to find its own feelings reflected in 
him and in foreign writers than in the classical poets of France. 
Voltaire does not argue, he has recourse to abuse: "The 
abomination of desolation is in the temple of the Lord " ; the 
French are the prey of " savages " and " monsters," and, 
when Letourneur translates Shakespeare, are going to be 
"devoured by Hottentots." 1 Observe that by making Shake- 
speare the object of his attack he obtains an advantage : of 
all the writers introduced to the French public during the 
eighteenth century Shakespeare was the least understood because 
he was the most English and the most original. Accordingly 
he makes Shakespeare the point of his attack upon all the 
anglomaniacs. He is anxious for a combat in the lists, a 
tournament. " Either Shakespeare or Racine must be left 
dead upon the ground!" We must cry, "Long live Saint- 
Denis Voltaire and death to George Shakespeare ! " 2 A strange 
method, truly, of stating the problem ! 

Unfortunately for Voltaire he proves but a poor advocate 
of a cause which deserved to be well defended. He fights 
" like an old hussar against an army of freebooters," blindly, 
and with any weapon that comes to hand. Was it not he who, 
before the assembled Academy, appealed, on behalf of Racine, 
" to our princesses, to the daughters of so many heroes who 
know how heroes should speak " ; 3 and, imploring the due 
de Richelieu's protection against Shakespeare, summoned up 
the spirit of the great cardinal "who did not like the English?" 4 
Methods like these savour of burlesque. Public opinion daily 

1 Letter of 24th July 1776. 2 D'Alembert to Voltaire, zoth April 1776. 

3 First letter. 4 nth September 1776. 


became more clearly conscious of the weakness of such criticism ; 
it felt the inanity, the pompousness, and the utter want of exact 
information and accurate knowledge such criticism betrayed ; 
it had an impression that in attacking Shakespeare Voltaire was 
attacking a rival of his own fame as a tragedian ; l and even 
those who were the most disturbed at the prevalence of anglo- 
mania regretted that it should be met with such weapons as 
those he employed. 

The classical reaction, whether it fell foul of Shakespeare or 
of Ossian or of Rousseau, was thus more violent than really 
effective. Voltaire speaks of English authors without having 
studied them closely. La Harpe, his most eminent disciple, who 
supposed himself destined to administer a rebuff to the " stage- 
playing barbarian," criticizes Othello without knowing a word of 
English, 2 but, as Grimm says, "wit makes up for everything." 
It was La Harpe, again, who declared that certain "madmen" 
wanted " to bring Bedlam and Tyburn upon the French stage, 
and to erect the huts of savages round the colonnade of the 
Louvre." 3 "Whatever Shakespeare has copied out of Plutarch," 
wrote Marie- Joseph Chenier, "is well enough, but I cannot 
admire what he has added himself." 4 How indeed was it 
possible to argue with prejudice so inveterate, or with ignorance 
so gross, as this ? The influence of Voltaire, who was now old 
and embittered, was in this case disastrous. Like every other 
champion of the same cause he needed a little more information 
upon the subject of which he treated. Vir est, said Johnson, 
acerrimi ingenii et paucarum litterarum. As foreign literatures 
became more widely known, and as Rousseau inspired the 
French mind with a more perfect sense of the diversity of epochs 

1 At the meeting of the Academy of 25th August 1776, when d'Alembert had 
finished reading the famous letter against Shakespeare, he went up to Mrs. 
Montague and asked her whether she was annoyed by its contents. " Not in 
the least," she replied, " I am not one of M. de Voltaire's friends." " The union 
between England and France is an accomplished fact," wrote Grimm (Corre- 
spondance litt'eraire , July 1776). . . . " Such is our memory of old hatreds." 

2 Mme. de Genlis, Memoires, vol. iii., p. 193. 

3 De Shakespeare (CEu-vres nouvelles, 1788, vol. i). 

4 Letter to Andre Chenier, I7th February 1788. 


and of races, the inadequacy of classical criticism became more 
irritating and almost more scandalous. 

Nevertheless, during the years which preceded the Revolution, 
the ground was admirably prepared for a renaissance of the 
classical literature of France. Antiquity was restored to unex- 
pected favour. The discovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii 
gave fresh life to the science of archaeology. Historical as well 
as aesthetic criticism of carved monuments was founded by 
Winckelmann, in his Histoire de Part chez les anciens. 1 Brunck 
published his Analecta in 1776, and Villoison his notes on 
Homer in 1788. Journeys in the East and in Greece were 
made by such travellers as Wood, Choiseul-GoufHer and Guys. 2 
The abbe Barthelemy produced a condensed yet spirited state- 
ment of the results of classical scholarship in his delightful 
Voyage d'Anacharsis, published in 1788. In 1780 David initiated 
the school of painting to which we owe the Serment des Horaces 
and the Enlevement des Sabines. A few enthusiasts talked of 
"denationalizing themselves and of becoming Greeks and 
Romans in soul." 3 

But the whole movement, which was of real importance, 
remained without influence upon the criticism of works of 
literature. Its effect was neither to extend the controversy nor 
to define the point at issue. Its consequences were mainly 
political, nor did it result in any renovation of the French genius, 
as this was understood by Voltaire. " Our public education," 
said Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, going back to his school-days, 
" alters the national character . . . : men are made Christians by 
means of the catechism, pagans by the poetry of Vergil, Greeks 
and Romans by the study of Demosthenes and Cicero, but 
Frenchmen never." 4 In truth the very study of antiquity, as 
Winckelmann or Barthelemy understood it, was as yet nothing 

1 Twice translated into French before 1789 ; first of all at Amsterdam in 1766, 
and afterwards at Leipzig in 1781. 

2 Guys, Voyage litteralre de la Grece (1776). Choiseul-Gouffier, Voyage pittoresque 
en Grece (1782). 

3 The phrase is quoted by Chamfort. On the movement as a whole see the 
interesting study by M. G. Renard, quoted above. 

4 (Euvres posthumes, p. 447. 


more than a means of getting away from one's own country and 
one's own environment. Left to its own strength and to the 
impetus it had acquired, the classical influence produced Delille's 
Georgtques, or the Eloge de Marc Aurele of Thomas ; no very 
brilliant result. Refreshed by archaeology and by the breath 
of individual inspiration, it was the source of Chenier's most 
beautiful lines. 

Chenier alone, during the last twenty years of the century, is 
a true disciple of the ancients : " A devout worshipper of the 
great ones of old, I would bury myself in the sacred relics they 
have left." He alone triumphantly contrasts the faultless beauty 
with the disturbing charm of Ossian or of Shakespeare : " Seek 
the tempting banquets provided by this bright train of Greeks ; 
but avoid the sodden intoxication of the treacherous and stormy 
waters of Parnassus with which the harsh singers of the misty 
North assuage their thirst." 1 He alone, having read and, during 
his residence in London, 2 translated portions of Milton, Thomson, 
and Shakespeare, 3 and having spoken of Richardson in the 
manner we have mentioned, boldly proclaims the superiority 
of ancient art: "Too proud to be slaves, English poets have 
even cast off the fetters of common sense." 

But antiquity, as Chenier conceived it, was no longer the an- 
tiquity which France of the seventeenth century had loved and 
understood, and one feels some concern as to what Voltaire 
would have said of it. On the other hand Chenier was entirely 
without influence during the eighteenth century, since no one 

1 Ed. Becq de Fouquieres, Poesies diverses, xi. 

2 Chenier seems to have been depressed by his residence in London as though 
it were an exile. He found England, as Alfieri told him, " more bitter than 
absinthe " (Becq de Fonquieres, Doc. nouv., p. 21). Writing from London in 1787, 
he said : " Bereft of parents, friends and countrymen, forgotten on the face of the 
earth and far from all my relatives, cast up by the waves upon this inhospitable 
island, I find the sweet name of France frequently on my lips. Alone, by the 
ashes of my fire, I lament my fate, I count the moments, I long for death." On the 
other hand his brother writes to him (7th February 1788): " You are enjoying 
yourself in London ; I thought you would. . . ." 

3 In addition to the imitations of Thomson quoted above, Chenier translated 
a fragment from Shakespeare. His admiration for the piece provoked his 
brother's condemnation. 


read his poetry. It neither stimulated criticism nor furnished it 
with a text. 

More effectually than was possible through the agency of any 
books, the controversy was cut short by the Revolution. 


The primary effect of the Revolution was to restore the wor- 
ship of antiquity to a degree not far short of superstition. 

The innovators had at first looked to it for the regeneration of 
art. In a curious letter to the authors of the Journal encyclopedique?- 
Daunou anticipated Mme. de Stael in giving expression to the 
idea that " the monotony of a despotic form of government " 
confines poetic genius to a narrow circle of ideas, adding that 
"the Revolution now about to regenerate the French empire may 
infuse genius with new vigour, render talent more fruitful, 
ennoble the subjects of art, extend its methods, multiply its 
forms and revive not poetry only but also eloquence and history." 
This hope was disappointed, at all events at the outset ; far from 
renewing poetic art, the Revolution led it back to classical or 
pseudo-classical sources, to an art the very antithesis of that of 
Rousseau, whose political theories it rated so highly while it 
failed to recognize his literary genius. 

The Revolution marked at first a step backwards in the pro- 
gress of cosmopolitanism, because it occasioned a rupture, lasting 
from 1789 to 1814, with the rest of Europe, and with the 
Germanic section of it in particular. Within the course of a few 
months France found herself as isolated to employ the metaphor 
used by a historian as an island in mid-ocean. How was it 
possible, during these troublous years, to maintain literary rela- 
tions with England or with Germany ? Great Britain was 
spoken of as a "guilty island, haughty Carthage." 2 In 1792, 
when the Institute had received a scientific memorandum from a 

1 1 5th March 1790. On the classical reaction in France see M. L. Bert rand's 
book : La Jin du classicisms et le retour a I' antique (Paris, 1897, l6mo). 

2 In an opera entitled La Reprise de Toulon. 


German, Roland, who was minister of the home department at 
the time, added the following brief, but expressive, marginal 
note : "We cannot look to Germany for any light on such sub- 
jects as this." l Under the Empire matters were still worse. 
We know what Mme. de StaePs praises of Germany brought 
upon her, and Napoleon made no secret of his contempt for 
" German nonsense, the admirers of which are constantly dis- 
paraging French literature, French newspapers and the French 
drama, for the sake of magnifying the absurd and dangerous 
productions of Germany and the North at the expense of our 
own." 2 

Sundered, therefore, by political circumstances, the threads 
which had been stretched from the continent to the North 
and vice versa remained broken for twenty years and more. 
Several prominent revolutionists remained, it is true, faithful to 
the objects of their youthful admiration : Robespierre read 
Gessner and Young ; Camille Desmoulins Hervey and the 
author of Night Thoughts ; Mme. Roland Thomson, and Collot 
d'Herbois Shakespeare, whose Merry Wives of Windsor he had 
formerly imitated. 3 There were translations and adaptations of 
various German writers: Lessing, Goethe, Wieland, Klopstock* 
and the writer whom the Moniteur called " Monsieur Scheller," 
" a strong advocate of the republic against the monarchy, a true 
Girondist," of whose plays several met with considerable success 
upon the French stage. 5 We may go so far as to say that a 

1 J. Simon, Une academie sous le Directoire, p. 213. 

2 Esmenard's report, in Welschinger : La Censure sous le premier Empire, p. 249* 
^ L'amant loup-garou ou fyf. Rodomont (lJJJ\ 

4 Lessing's Dramaturgic was translated in 1795, Laocoon in 1802 ; Nathan der Weise 
provided M.-J. Chenier with the inspiration for a drama. Werther was imitated 
several times (Stellino cu le nouveau Werther, 1791, etc.). Stella, translated by Du 
Buisson, was played at Louvois in 1791 ; Wilhelm Meister was translated by 
Sevelinges in 1802, under the title of A Ifred. 

5 1 2th February 1792. The Robbers was adapted by La Marteliere [Schwind- 
enhammer, the Alsatian] in 1793 and by Creuze in 1795 ; in 1799 A. de Lezay 
translated Don Carlos, and in the same year La Marteliere published his Theatre de 
Schiller (Paris, year viii.) ; in 1802 Mercier brought out his Jeanne d'Arc, an 
imitation of Schiller. See Dr Richter's work, Schiller und seine Rduber in der 

franzosischen Revolution, Griinberg, 1865, 8vo, and Th. Supfle's book already 


certain limited public took a lively interest in German literature, 
and William de Humboldt wrote from Paris in 1800 that 
"people here have German names on their lips more than 
ever." l 

But it must be added that the public in general remained 
indifferent to these foreign productions, and that those even who 
claimed to be connoisseurs spoke of writers from beyond the 
Rhine upon hearsay only. " Frenchmen think they are very 
well informed concerning our literature/' writes the same 
witness ; " they suppose themselves thoroughly familiar with it 
and very fond of it. ... But you only need to hear them talk a 
little to know what to think of their knowledge of it and their 
fondness for it. ... The French are still too different from us 
to be capable of understanding us in respect to those points upon 
which we too are beginning to be a little original." The influence 
of the intellect of Germany upon that of France acquired sub- 
stance with the publication of De PAllemagne in 1812. With 
regard to English literature, the novelists, Richardson, Sterne, 
Miss Burney and even Anne RadclifFe still found an audience, 
and even playwrights who adapted their works for the stage, 2 
nor were the reputations of Young and Ossian on the wane. 3 
Shakespeare himself supplied the French stage with the subject 
of a drama almost every year. 4 Are we to conclude therefrom 
that these writers were more highly appreciated and better under- 
stood ? A glance at Frangois de Neufchateau's Pamela, or at the 
Jean sans Terre of Ducis, will suffice to convince us that the 
contrary was the case. 

In short, the literature of the Revolution, like its criticism, was 
pseudo-classical, that is to say inferior. The men of the period, 
who had antiquity always upon their lips, knew in truth but little 

1 Lady Blennerhasset, Mme. de Stael, vol. ii., p. 560. 

2 Pamela, by F. de Neufchateau (1793). Clarisse Harloive, by Nepomucene 
Lemercier (1792). 

3 Young's Nuits, translated into French verse by Letourneur, Paris, 1792, 
4 vols. i2mo. 

4 Jean sans terre, by Ducis (1791); Othello, by the same (1792); Epicharis et 
Neron, by Legouve (after Richard III.') (1793); Timon (fAthenes, by Sebastien 
Mercier (1794) ; Imogenes, by Dejaure (after Cymbeline) (1796), etc. 


about it. How could they find the leisure and the means to 
acquire a knowledge of the ancient languages ? Was it not 
Lakanal who complained before the Convention that lads spent all 
their time " in jabbering Greek and Latin " ? Was it not the re- 
volutionary government that gave science and modern languages 
the preference over the classics in its syllabus of instruction, 1 and 
proposed to substitute schools of arts and handicrafts for the 
Sorbonne and the colleges ? The educational work of the Con- 
vention was, it is true, of much importance, but who would 
venture to maintain that it did anything to promote the know- 
ledge of ancient literature ? Whatever admiration the democrats 
of the period may have felt for Socrates, Scaevola, Brutus or Cato 
of Utica, there are reasons for doubting whether they had read 
much of Plutarch or Tacitus. " My friends," said Camille 
Desmoulins, " since you read Cicero, I will answer for you ; 
you will be free " ; but how many of the Revolutionists were 
readers of Cicero ? 

Nevertheless, considered from a merely superficial point of 
view, the literature of the revolutionary epoch does draw its 
inspiration from the antique. Just as the art of David, Letronne 
and Lemercier derives its subjects from antiquity, so the poetry 
of Delille and Lebrun-Pindare is cast in traditional moulds. "It 
did not require much effort," says Charles Nodier, " to pass from 
our schoolroom studies to the pleadings in the forum and the 
Servile Wars. We were already convinced admirers of the 
institutions of Lycurgus and of those who played the tyranni- 
cide at the Panathenaic festival." 2 The Contrat Social not only 
begot constitutions ; it inspired tragedies and odes. 

But greatly as the influence of Rousseau's political theories 
increased, it might almost be said that to the same extent the 
influence of his genius as novelist and poet waned. Of his subtle 
and tender comprehension of the heart, of his deep and sincere 
feeling for nature, of his " enchanting sadness," of all the quali- 
ties, in fine, which make him a poet of the highest order, little 
enough is to be found in the second-rate works the indiscriminate 

1 See Condorcet's report to the Legislative Assembly. 

2 Jeanroy-Felix, La litteraturefran$aise sous la Revolution, p. 349- 


aggregate of which constitutes the literature of the revolutionary 
period practically nothing, indeed, save an insipid and faithless 
copy, not unlike the grimace of a mimic. Mme. de Stael, at the 
close of the century, complained that the public had forgotten 
" the writer who more than any one else had infused language 
with warmth, vigour and life," and ought to be " the friend, 
the beguiler, the leader of all ! " l He was no longer read, and, 
though some affected to quote him, was no longer under- 
stood. Ten or twelve unfruitful years were to pass, and 
Chateaubriand would simply need to resume the poetic tradi- 
tions of Rousseau, and to find anew, in the author of the 
Contrat Soda/, the poet whom the public had forgotten to 
seek in him. 

And just as the purely literary influence of Rousseau decreased 
almost, in fact, to the vanishing point, so a comprehension of the 
foreign works which Rousseau had rendered popular became 
more and more rare. The superstitious veneration for a little 
understood antiquity shut off every approach to that English 
literature which, but a few years earlier, had raised so many 
hopes. Mythology rose again from its own ashes, and ancient 
Olympus dethroned the gods of the North. " Long life 
to Homer and to his Elysium, to his Olympus and his 
heroes, and to his muse, on whom the god of Claros smiles ! 
Apollo keep us all, my friends, from Fingals and from 
Oscars, and from the lofty sorrows of a bard who sings 
amid an atmosphere of fog ! " 2 The majority of the public 
agreed with Lebrun-Pindare, and allowed themselves to fall 
once more beneath the bondage of a tradition which the 
genius of Jean-Jacques had nevertheless impaired. Very 
few were those who said with the still youthful Beranger : 
"Neither the Latins nor even the Greeks should be taken 
as models. They are torches, which one must learn how to 

1 De la litterature, 2nd preface. 

2 The poem continues, " His rivers have lost their urns ; his lakes are the prison 
of the dead, and their silent naiads stand like spectres on their gloomy shores. In 
his heaven, as in his verses, Hebe and her ambrosia are alike unknown ; his vague 
and dismal poetry is daughter to the rocks and to the seas." (Lebrun : Ode sur 
Homere et Ossian, in book vii. of the Odes.} 


use." 1 Under the Revolution antiquity was rather mimicked 
than imitated sympathetically, and this is why such imitation 
remained unfruitful. 

When order was restored, and criticism attempted to explain 
the course which literature had followed, it was quite natural 
that men like Geoffroy, Dussault, and Fievee should join the 
broken links in the chain of tradition. In 1 800 or thereabouts 
there was, as Sainte-Beuve says, a sort of " solemn restoration" 
of classical criticism ; in the Debats, under Dussault and Geoffrey ; 
in the Mercure, under Fontanes, Bonald, Gueneau de Mussy ; and 
at the Lycee, in La Harpe's lectures on literature. It was just 
at this time that proposals were made to re-establish the old 
French Academy, that Delille, the " French Vergil," was recalled 
from London, and that the classical spirit awoke once more to a 
measure of its old vigour and brilliancy. The time had come for 
putting some check upon such as would again attempt to lay 
hands upon the sacred ark : "It is almost certain," wrote Fon- 
tanes, " that those who are incapable of passionate admiration for 
masterpieces which have been the wonder of every age ; who 
would abate the enthusiasm they inspire, and would compare 
with them to their disadvantage some of the barbarous productions 
which are generally condemned by men of taste, have not received from 
nature that sensibility of the organs, and that accuracy of judg- 
ment, without which it is impossible to speak well concerning the 
fine arts." 2 It seemed that in the face of Europe in arms France 
felt, as it were, the need of meditation, and of returning yet once 
more to the great masters who had obtained for her a time- 
honoured supremacy in the intellectual sphere. 

Thus, to look no further than the borders of France, the 
Revolution marks a temporary cessation of the development of 
cosmopolitanism in France. But neither Bonaparte nor any of 
his coadjutors had the least suspicion that to those who, instead 
of studying its consequences at home, followed its results beyond 
the French frontier, the Revolution was shortly to appear in an 
entirely different light. 

The effect of the emigration in driving from France some 

1 Ma biographie. 2 (Euvres, vol. ii. p. 183. 


thousands of the most enlightened members of the community 
was in reality very similar to that produced by the revocation of 
the Edict of Nantes. In spite of political hostilities, it had pro- 
moted the formation of new bonds between France and Europe. 
For many minds it had been a painful but often fruitful introduc- 
tion to a knowledge of the interests of other nations. 

In the solitude of exile, during the long years of expatriation, 
the emigres, such as Chateaubriand, Narbonne, Gerando and even 
Fontanes, could not but learn and retain something of the man- 
ners, the art and the literature of neighbouring countries. A 
history of the literature of the emigres has been written by a 
foreign critic. 1 There is room also for a history of the influence 
which the emigration exerted upon French literature, for, diffused 
and fragmentary as this influence was, it was also extremely fruit- 
ful. Many indeed were those of whom it might be said, as it 
was said of Mme. de Stael by Lamartine, that " they made 
English and German thought their refuge," 2 and yielded to the 
attractions " of the only nations whose life was at that time 
sustained by moral ideas, by poetry and by philosophy." 

They sought shelter chiefly in Germany, England and the 
Low Countries. They certainly had no literary prepossessions 
when they arrived, and they abused their exile as Fontanes 
abused Hamburg, when he requested to be transported to 
Corfu, rather than remain in Germany. But necessity compelled 
them to learn the language of the country, and to observe the 
manners of its inhabitants, so that a very natural curiosity, 
begotten of enforced leisure, soon brought them into contact 
with foreigners who were able to open new horizons before 
them. Narbonne, de Gerando and Camille Jordan settled 
at Tubingen, and issued translations or studies, the first 
of them of Schiller's Wallenstein, the second of the German 
philosophers, and the third of Klopstock. Mounier became the 
manager of a boarding-school at Weimar and formed an intimacy 

1 M. G. Brandes, Die Emigranten-Literatur. See Joseph Texte, Les origines de 
finjluence allemande dans la litterature fran$aise du xix e siecle {Revue tfhistoire litteraire de 
la France , January 1898). 

^ Des Destinees de la poesie. 


with Wieland, while at Hamburg Rivarol, Senac de Meilhan, 
Chenedolle, Esmenard and Delille witnessed the performance of 
German and English plays in the theatres of the town where 
Lessing had written his Dramaturgic. Intimate relations were 
formed between the emigres and several of the great German 
writers : de Serre, the marquis de la Tresne and Chenedolle 
conceived a warm admiration for Klopstock, sought his acquaint- 
ance, and learnt through him to appreciate the poetry of the 
North. Of northern literature, at that time little known in 
France, and still counting its most famous representatives among 
the living, they formed a lofty opinion. "It is when I read men 
like Goethe, Schiller, Klopstock and Byron," wrote Chenedolle, 
" that I feel how small and insignificant I am. I declare with all 
the sincerity of which I am capable, and with the deepest con- 
viction, that I have not a tenth part of the thinking power, talent 
and poetic genius of Goethe." l Many others too there were, who 
confessed that light as was the esteem in which she was held, 
Germany was the storehouse of unknown and precious treasures* 
In England were to be found not only Montlosier, Lally- 
Tollendal and Cazales, but also Rivarol, de Jaucourt, Delille, 
Fontanes and Chateaubriand. 2 Some of them, it is true, like 
Saint-Evremond at an earlier date, persisted in maintaining their 
French habits of life, and in holding aloof from the English. 
"I don't like a country," said the incorrigible Rivarol, " where 
there are more apothecaries than bakers, and where sour apples 
are the only ripe fruit to be got." 3 But others resigned them- 
selves to their exile and even profited by it. Chateaubriand, who 
spent eight years away from France, delighted to remind himself 
of all that he owed to his prolonged intercourse with foreigners 4 : 
in his long conversations with Fontanes, on the banks of the 
Thames at Chelsea, they used to talk of Milton whom he 
translated of Shakespeare and of Ossian. He prides himself 
upon having, in the course of his exile, learnt " as much of 

1 In Sainte-Beuve, Chateaubriand et son groupe : the article on Chenedolle. On 
the emigres in Germany see Lady Blennerhasset, Mme. de Stael et son temps, and 
Rivarol et la societefranfaise, by de Lescure. 

2 See de Lescure, ibid., book iii., and Memoires d'Outre-Tombe, ed. Eire, vol. ii. 

3 De Lescure, p. 414. 4 Essai sur la litterature anglaise : preface. 



English as any man can learn of a foreign language," and it was 
during these fruitful years that he translated the Ossianic poems, 
which he acknowledges had inspired him with a strange liking, 
and were more than once in his mind when he wrote Rene and 
the Martyrs. Then, too, it was that he collected the materials 
for his Essai sur la lltterature anglaise. Then it was, above all, 
that he acquired that varied and sympathetic comprehension of 
the genius of each of the different peoples of Europe, which 
ranks him, with Mme. de Stael, as the greatest critic of the early 
years of this century. 

Examples might be multiplied to show that the result of the 
Revolution, as of all great historical movements, such as the 
crusades or the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, was the 
mixture of races and the crossing of intellectual strains. But 
for the Revolution there could never have been a career like 
that of Chamisso, who, the offspring of natives of Champagne, 
became, in consequence of the emigration, page to the Queen of 
Prussia, then, after his return to France, a master in a French 
lycee, next, during a second residence in Prussia, the occupant of 
a post at the botanical gardens in Berlin, and finally, after his 
death, one of those classics of German literature whom the 
French schoolboy has to construe at college. Nor, but for the 
Revolution, which led to his banishment, would Charles de 
Villers, a French officer, have settled at Gottingen and Lubeck, 
become acquainted with Goethe, Jacobi, Klopstock and Schell- 
ing, or have made German his second mother-tongue and Ger- 
many his intellectual fatherland. 1 Sufficient notice has perhaps 
scarcely been taken of the fact that the Revolution marks the 
appearance of such cosmopolitans in literature as Benjamin 
Constant, Bonstetten, Sismondi and Mme. de Stael, all of them 
imbued no less with the Germanic than with the Latin spirit, 
and all, through the agency of Rousseau, heirs to the literary 
criticism of those who were refugees in the early part of the 
eighteenth century. 

1 See the curious essay by Charles de Villers : Idees sur la destination des hommes de 
lettres sortis de France et qui sejournent en Allemagne, (In le Spectateur du Nord, 1798, 
vol. vii.) 


If any doubt were felt as to whether this was really one of 
the results of the revolutionary period, one would but need to 
turn the leaves of one of the Reviews which were established 
under the Directory with the co-operation either of the refugees 
or of foreigners, such as the Bibtiothlque britannique , the Journal de 
litter ature etr anger e^ the Decade philosophique, the Magasin encyclo- 
pedique, or better still the - Spectateur du Nord or the Archives 
litteraires de /'Europe. Of the two last-mentioned journals the 
former, which was started at Hamburg by an emigre de 
Baudus, and counted as its contributors Chenedolle, the abbe 
Louis, Delille, Rivarol, and Charles de Villers, was designed to 
propagate German literature and philosophy 1 in France, and was 
for that reason suppressed in 1798 ; the other, with a staff con- 
sisting of Schweighauser, de Villers, Morellet, Vanderbourg, 
and Quatremere de Quincy, published in its first issue an article 
by de Gerando on "literary and philosophical intercourse be- 
tween the nations of Europe," 2 in which the author endeavoured 
to prove that, rightly interpreted, patriotism authorizes and even 
justifies literary intercourse between one people and another, and 
that those who manage to borrow in season thereby prove them- 
selves rich. 

It is therefore permissible to say of the French spirit that 
it migrated during the revolutionary period ; that unconsciously, 
and, above all, unintentionally, it became broader and less im- 
pervious to external influences through contact with the rest of 
Europe, and that through this intercourse between races and 
individuals it acquired a thirst for new forms of knowledge. 


There is a book, not so much the first of the nineteenth as the 
last of the eighteenth century, which not only summarizes these 

1 The Spectateur du Nord, a journal of politics, literature, and morals, Hamburg, 
January 1797-December i8oz, ^ vols. 8vo. (See Siipfle, vol. ii., p. 93, and 
Hatin, Histoire de la presse, vol. vii., p. 576.) 

2 Archives litteraires de rEurope, a literary, historical and philosophical miscel- 
lany, by an association of literary men. Tubingen and Paris, 1794-1808, 51 
numbers, 8vo. 


acquisitions, but at the same time marks a revival, in criticism, of the 
influence of Rousseau and of the northern literatures. Published 
in 1800, the book entitled De la Litter ature considers dans ses rapports 
avec les institutions sociales closes one epoch in the history of criticism 
and opens another. It is the first properly thought out, though as 
yet imperfect, expression of cosmopolitanism in all the dignity of 
a theory. It is an unquestionable indication that the movement 
which has been the object of this study had come to a head. 

No one was more plainly indicated than Mme. de Stael for the 
delicate task of determining the two great classes of mind which, 
according to her, were henceforth to divide European literature 
between them. The most faithful of all Rousseau's disciples, she 
may without hesitation be said to have completed and crowned 
the work of which he laid the foundation. In truth Mme. de 
Stael's criticism is nothing more than a statement of Rousseau's 
theories with regard to poetry and beauty, selected from his 
works by the most brilliant of commentators. 

She, like him, was of Genevan origin, a Protestant, born on the 
confines of two races and where two distinct types of genius met. 
With her, as with him, this was a source of pride, and at times 
also of sadness. " Heavens ! " she wrote one day to a foreign 
friend, Frederika Brlin, "if only there were but a few sparks from 
your hearth in this country of mine, this land of my mother 
tongue, what would I not make of myself! I know I have 
faculties which are capable of more than I have accomplished ; 
but to be born French with a foreign character, with French tastes 
and habits, and the thoughts and feelings of the North, is a 
contrast which ruins one's life." * Everyone who came near her 
was struck with this contrast : " To me," wrote Humboldt to 
Goethe, "as to you, it has always seemed that the French 
atmosphere into which she was thrown during her education was 
too narrow for her. ... It is a strange phenomenon, the fact 
that we sometimes find in a nation intelligences animated by a 
foreign spirit." 2 To this fruitful antithesis Rousseau owed at 
once his greatness and his misfortune. Like him Mme. de Stael 

1 I5th July 1806 (Lady Blennerhasset, vol. iii., p. ZZ3). 

2 1 8th October 1800 (#/., vol. iii., p. n). 


may be described, in a happily expressed formula, as " a European 
mind in a French soul." l 

The extent to which she was indebted to Rousseau, and the 
manner in which she had dedicated to him one of her earliest and 
most interesting works, are sufficiently well known. It was not 
with her, as with many of her compatriots, admiration only, or a 
mere passing infatuation, that attached her to Jean- Jacques. It 
was that in him she found again her own innermost aspirations, 
whether religious, political or literary ; or rather that in him she 
came to a consciousness of herself. In his school she had been 
trained ; she had grown up in the habit of respect for his name ; 
and to his influence she remained faithful throughout her life, 
even in error. 

Very early too she had felt herself drawn towards the countries 
of the North. In Mme. Necker's salon she had been brought into 
close and frequent contact with the most determined anglomaniacs 
of the age, such as Grimm, Raynal, Diderot and Suard. Her 
father, like a true Genevan, had directed her early attention to 
the English constitution as a pattern for all nations. Her mother 
had been careful to make her learn English, and she took to 
Milton, Thomson, Ossian and Young as naturally as though they 
had been old favourites, as well as to Richardson, her reading of 
whom had marked an epoch in her early life, and whose manner 
she had endeavoured to imitate in one of her first attempts. 2 

Like everyone else during the eighteenth century, she felt, 
even in 1800, but little curiosity with regard to Germany, and 
the fact is worthy of remark. She had not yet met Charles de 
Villers, who introduced her to German literature, nor Wilhelm 
Schlegel, her principal teacher next to Rousseau. It is difficult 
to-day to imagine Mme. de Stael unacquainted with and indifferent 
to German concerns. She was so, nevertheless, when she wrote 
her book De la Litterature. The whole of the chapter it devotes 
to Germany is irresolute and vague. She praises, though not very 
accurately, Wieland, Schiller, Gessner, and " the one book above 
all others which the Germans possess," namely Werther. In 
reality she merely retailed the opinions of Chenedolle, who was 

1 E. Faguet, Politiques et moralists*. 2 Pauline, a novel. 


on his way back from Hamburg, and happening to be thrown into 
her society just at the time when she was writing her book 
during the winter of 1798 endeavoured to inspire her with a 
little of his own enthusiasm. But she did not know German, and 
replied to Goethe, who had sent her his Williamsmeister (sic), that 
she was no judge of the value of his gift : " As it was in German," 
she writes to Meister, " I could do no more than admire the bind- 
ing." 1 In 1797, the same Meister wrote from Zurich asking her 
to come and see Wieland. She answered with vivacity : " Go to 
Zurich for the sake of a German author ? You will never find 
me doing that. ... I think I know everything that is said in 
German, and even everything that will be said in that tongue 
for the next fifty years." It was not until afterwards that she 
learnt the language and studied the people at close quarters. 
In 1800, Humboldt reproached her because the phrase of father 
Bouhours : " Can intellectual refinement exist in a German ? " 
was too often on her lips, and because in speaking of his country 
she displayed a want both of " philosophy and erudition." 2 

With England, on the contrary, she was familiar. Her 
acquaintance with it dated almost from her birth, for she had 
grown up in a circle which was enamoured of all things English. 
She had spent several months there in 1793, aiK * had become 
intimate with Miss Burney, one of the most prominent writers 
of the period. 3 She had read all that an intelligent man of the 
eighteenth century would be likely to know of English writers, 
and on more than one point she shared that century's prejudices. 
In a disquisition, somewhat wanting in knowledge and discern- 
ment, upon " the bards of the fourth century," she simply follows 
Mallet ; she considers that Spenser is " the most tedious stuff in 
the world " ; she believes, on the authority of Voltaire, who never 

1 Lady Blennerhasset, vol. ii., pp. 564-565. 

2 3oth May 1800, in a letter to Goethe on the subject of De la Literature. 

3 Mme. de Stael's second residence in England took place in 1813 and 1814. 
On that occasion she became acquainted with Byron, Rogers, Sheridan, Coleridge, 
Godwin, Kemble, and others. It was during this visit that she conceived the idea 
of doing for England what she had done for Germany, but only the political 
portion of the contemplated book was written, and this was inserted in the 
Considerations sur la Revolution franfaise. 


departed from his erroneous opinion, that " blank verse presents 
very few difficulties " ; above all, like everyone else in the 
eighteenth century, she innocently supposes Ossian, who was 
a Celt, to be a Saxon and the father of Germanic poetry. 

Failings like these, however, may be set down to the age in 
which she lived. The philosophers, on the other hand, Bacon, 
Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and even Ferguson, whose utilitarianism 
"has given, if I may use the expression, so much substance to 
the literature of the English," received adequate treatment at 
her hands. She read the political writers, including Bolingbroke 
and Junius, the moralists, like Addison, and, among dramatists, 
Shakespeare, Congreve and Sheridan. Like all her contemporaries 
she did not greatly care for the humorists, and remembered nothing 
of them except the philosophy of Swift, whom she admired, it 
seems, partly upon hearsay. But Shakespeare, Ossian, Milton 
and the novelists, the very writers that were most closely 
akin to Rousseau, were the objects of her especial admiration. 
They were the typical specimens she had in mind when she 
contrasted the English with the French spirit, the North with 
the South, a literature founded upon the social instincts with one 
based upon reverence for the individual as a moral being. 

But while she drew attention to this contrast, it must be 
admitted that as yet she failed to shake off certain of the pre- 
judices of eighteenth century criticism. 

In the first place she belongs to her century by her inability 
to comprehend antiquity, the spirit of which escaped her. Her 
acquaintance with it was in truth no better than that of Voltaire 
or d'Alembert. She admired its great characters upon trust, 
but her reading of ancient writers was very limited. 

For her the unpardonable fault of the ancients is that their 
literature is essentially masculine. It is masculine because it 
knows nothing of the power of love : " Racine, Voltaire, Pope, 
Rousseau, Goethe, etc., have portrayed love with a kind of 
delicacy, reverence, melancholy and devotion " which the ancients 
never knew. Their literature is neither tender, pensive, sorrow- 
ful nor despairing ; it is uninfluenced by intercourse with women. 
It is masculine because it is calm and undisturbed ; because in 


the work of the Greeks there is neither the horror of death, the 
anguish of despair, nor the despondency caused by the irre- 
parable. But the only great poetry is the poetry of sadness. 
Theirs is masculine because it refuses to recognize the existence 
of pain : the Greeks bear up under misfortune and stand erect 
beneath whatever blows may fall to their lot. With them it is a 
part of their primitive conception of decency not to admit their 
suffering. They look with distrust upon the representation of 
" secret passions " ; they are not lyrical in the least. 

It is they who have restricted literature to the study of man as 
a social being, and have observed society "just as one describes 
the growth of plants." Thereby they have cut themselves off 
from the principal province of art, which is the representation, 
inspired by lofty moral sentiment, of our most intimate affec- 
tions. The Greek race was "non-moral": "they neither 
blamed nor approved : they simply transmitted moral truths in 
the same way as physical facts." They are said to be profound ; 
but who could compare Thucydides with David Hume ? What 
they wanted, if they were to inspire emotion, was the mighty 
power of sensibility : " The human race had not yet reached the 
age of melancholy." Hence it follows that the Greeks, being 
neither sensitive nor sad, " left few regrets behind them." 

We see, therefore, the narrowness of Mme de StaeTs ideal. 
She judges Euripides, Thucydides and Homer by the ideals of 
Richardson and Rousseau. Small wonder that she failed to 
understand them. 

In common with her age and with her master, Rousseau, she 
preferred the Romans. They were better known, and " the 
sublime Montesquieu " had made it fashionable to admire them. 
She loved their republican dignity. She praises them because 
they had " more of true sensibility than the Greeks had, because 
they attributed more importance to woman, because they gave 
expression, however discreetly, to a certain "vague tenderness 
not unmixed with philosophy," which had found utterance in the 
works of Tibullus, Propertius and Vergil. She considers them 
more truly poetical and also more philosophical. 

Taken as a whole, however, the literature of antiquity has one 


incurable defect j it portrays man, not as an individual, but as a 
social being. It is political, satirical, epic, but never lyrical. 
Now, Mme. de StaeTs models are " Tancrede, La Nouvelle Heloise, 
Werther, and the English poets." To put it in more general 
terms, she is for the North as against the South : she prefers 
Thomson, she says, to Petrarch, and is more affected by Gray 
than by Anacreon. The reason why " almost all the French 
poets of the age," from Rousseau, its typical example, down- 
wards, have imitated the English, is that they are lyrical and 

But let us understand what we mean. Poetry is not simply 
the art of speaking of oneself with emotion. The emotion must 
also be moral : "it is only the most subtle moral teaching that 
can produce the lasting beauties of literature," and, by conse- 
quence, " literary criticism is very often a treatise upon ethics." 
This is Rousseau pure and simple , but here is something more 
characteristic of him still. Poetry, eloquence, reverie " should 
act upon the organs " ; virtue must be an involuntary impulse, an 
intellectual " movement passing over into the blood," the virtue- 
passion dear to Rousseau. Lastly and this is the third and 
most important condition the literature of a nation should be 
sober; for " human nature is serious." The Northerner, in con- 
trast to the Greek, the Roman and the Frenchman, likes only 
" those writings which appeal to the reason or move the feelings," 
by preference the latter. At all costs we must avoid what Dante 
called " the inferno of insensibility." 

If, therefore, we consider modern literature " in its relations to 
virtue, glory, liberty and happiness," we shall " detect two differ- 
ent ways of judging, which to-day form, as it were, two distinct 
schools " those who stand by the Southern literatures, and those 
who stand by the literature of the North. This is the central 
and, at the same time, the most definite idea in the book. Mme. 
de Stael had no intention of writing a treatise on the poet's art j 
on that point she is content to accept current opinion, and refers 
us back to Voltaire, Marmontel and La Harpe, whom she has 
read and does not as yet repudiate. But to inspire literature with 
the idea of progress, nay, even, by setting up fresh models as 


rivals to those of antiquity, to give definite shape to the confused 
aspirations which had been agitating men's minds for a century, 
was indeed a fruitful achievement. It was a resumption of the 
long-standing quarrel between the ancients and the moderns upon 
broader grounds than heretofore, and with Rousseau's example, 
and others from various modern literatures, in the shape of 
evidence. The Journal des Debats, criticizing Mme. de StaeTs 
work, maintained " that men have always been the same, that 
nothing in their nature is capable of change, and that rules for 
present guidance are only to be found in the lessons of the past." 1 
A very precise statement of the opposite thesis to that maintained 
in De la Literature. 

The weak point in Mme. de Stael's book is her attempt to 
explain the historical origins of the movement she is defending. 
She reminds the reader how the invasion of the barbarians, which 
was one of the most fertile events in the history of the world, 
resulted in the crossing of races and the fusion of intellects ; 
how Christianity came to be " the connecting link between the 
peoples of the North and those of the South " ; how from the 
whole era of the middle ages the modern Christian world 
emerged as from a sort of crucible ; how the North remained 
more faithful to woman, to melancholy, to " a truly sympathetic 
moral philosophy," and the South to the artistic sentiment, to the 
love of sensuous pleasure, and to the worship of form. 2 

In this part of her work, full of ideas as it is, there is a 
good deal of confusion. In what mann'er, by the operation of 
what laws, and under the influence of what circumstances, did 
this separation of Europe into two intellectual groups become 
accentuated ? How are we to account for the supposed fact, 
above all how are we to prove, that antiquity had lost its 

1 See ii and 14 messidor, year viii. 

2 It may be remarked, in this connexion, that Mme. de Stae'l is extremely ill- 
informed as regards the literature of the South. She knows nothing of Spain and 
very little of Italy. She believes that ''there is nothing remarkable in Italy 
beyond what comes from France." The fine lectures of her friend Sismondi upon 
Literatures du Midi de V Europe were not delivered until 1804; and she did not 
herself cross the Alps before 1806. See M. Dejob's book : Mme, de Stael et 


power over the Teutonic nations ? If there is so much difference 
between France and certain other nations, how is it that she has 
exercised so deep and lasting an influence upon them? This 
Mme. de Stael does not explain, or at any rate does not explain 
correctly. In virtue of her general opinions upon history she 
remains a child of the eighteenth century, and of the epoch of the 
Encyclopedic. She borrows freely, even in the form of expression, 
from d'Alembert. 1 Like him, she holds that the history of the 
human mind during the interval between Pliny and Bacon, 
between Epictetus and Montaigne, "between Plutarch and 
Machiavelli " presents no features of interest ; thereby frankly 
contradicting herself. Like him, she fearlessly asserts that 
" from the time of Vergil down to the institution of the Catholic 
mysteries, the human mind, in the sphere of art, has been simply 
receding towards the most preposterous barbarism." 2 Lastly, 
she actually affirms, by a still more strange contradiction, 
that since imitation is the essence of the fine arts, " all that 
the moderns do, or ever can do, is to repeat the work of the 
ancients " 3 a proposition which entirely destroys her thesis. 

We see, therefore, how deeply De la Litter -attire was rooted in the 
century which had just reached its close. Evidently the author 
was writing at the point where two epochs met. She dreams of 
a new art, but like Rousseau himself cannot make up her mind 
to break with the art of the classical era. Having proclaimed 
that taste is merely observation of nature which is characteristic 
of Jean- Jacques she comes round to the statement that good 
taste is absolute which is the opinion of d'Alembert. She holds, 
with Voltaire, that Shakespeare is too English, and that this 
greatly detracts from his glory 4 ; and again, with Ducis, that 
one must be on one's guard against the incoherencies of the 
English and German writers of tragedy. In short, she seeks a 
compromise, and declares that "talent consists in importing into 

1 See especially book I., chaps, viii. and ix.; compare d'Alembert, Discours 
preliminaire, ed. Picavet, p. 81, et seq, 

2 Gibbon somewhere points out, as one of the most striking evidences of the 
decrease of the influence of antiquity during the eighteenth century, the easy way 
in which d'Alembert treats Justus Lipsius and Casaubon as mere pedants. 

3 I., viii. 4 I., xii. 


our literature all that is beautiful, sublime and touching in the 
melancholy aspect of nature portrayed by the writers of the 
North, without, at the same time, ceasing to respect the true 
laws of taste." 

But these contradictions and hesitations notwithstanding, the 
book in other passages gives clear expression to what the 
eighteenth century had but dimly perceived. Had Mme. de 
Stael entertained any doubts upon the point, the tone of official 
criticism would have been enough to convince her that she had 
attained her object, seeing that she was reproached with taking 
no account of " the experience of the ages," and with " wander- 
ing off into idle theories." 1 

" The experience of the ages," she was told, proves that the 
French mind keeps to its natural path only when it follows the 
footsteps of the Latins and the Greeks. Her answer was : It 
is true that all modern literature is founded upon the ancients : 
the English and Germans themselves owe them much. But 
it is none the less clear that, taken as a whole, northern, that 
is to say Germanic and Protestant, literature and to this 
literature Rousseau belongs has new and original beauties of 
its own, which have nothing in common with those of classical 
works, whether Greek, Latin, or French. 

In the first place, the philosophical spirit, by which, if pressed 
a little, she is found to mean the capacity for the life of medita- 
tion, coupled with a sense of the solemnity of existence. In 
this sense the Frenchman is rarely a philosopher ; he sees " the 
humorous side of things," and sees it readily. Ossian, on the 
contrary, is a philosopher. He scarcely ever reasons ? What 
of that ? He " disturbs the imagination " in a manner which 
predisposes it to the most serious meditations. But in this 
sense Homer is a philosopher too? Yes, but he is not melan- 
choly, or is so merely by way of exception. It is only the 
" northern imagination" that can find a pleasure on the sea- 
shore, in the sound of the winds, upon the desolate heath ; it 
alone can pierce the clouds which skirt the horizon and seem 
to typify "the dim passage from life to eternity." All that 

* Journal des Debats, ibid. 


Rousseau, Young and Ossian had known of the poet's sadness 
she feels keenly and expresses with power. Three years later, 
and Atala and then Rene were to justify her vague previsions. 
Mme. de Stael, the interpreter of those aspirations of her age 
which had been kindled and quickened by the Revolution, in 
this respect anticipated Chateaubriand. 

If Ossian and Shakespeare are melancholy, they owe it also 
to their climate, which encourages meditation rather than activity ; 
to their passionate temperament for like Rousseau Mme. de 
Stael thinks the passions are fiercer in the North than in the 
South and to their sensibility to the beauties of nature, which 
implies a restless soul. To their other characteristics must be 
added a certain spiritual elevation, an aloofness from life, due to 
the rugged nature of their country ; the passion for heroism, 
enthusiasm tempered by deliberation, unreserved exaltation in 
the presence of the sublime ; lastly, the strong emotional 
capacities of the northern writer, reverence for woman, and 
that indefinable romantic thrill in virtue of which Goethe, and 
even Thomson or Pope, must always appeal directly to the heart 
of man as Petrarch can never do. But herein what does Mme. 
de Stael add to the aspirations of the eighteenth century ? All 
she does is to state them in definite form. 

On one point only did she go beyond them, as Rousseau had 
done. She declared that the superiority of the "Ossianic" 
literatures had its source in Protestantism. 

Rousseau, as we have seen, had gloried in being a Protestant, 
and in the most eloquent manner had proved or attempted to 
prove that no Christianity is consistent with the spirit of Christ 
but that which recognizes the moral consciousness as the only 
court of appeal. Religious individualism was the mainstay of his 
philosophical teaching, and the nutriment of his eloquence. He 
congratulated himself even at the close of his life on having 
continued faithful to the "prejudices" of his childhood, and on 
having "remained a Christian" 1 in the midst of a Catholic en- 
vironment. Thus by merely generalizing an idea of Rousseau's 
Mme. de Stael came to represent Protestantism as the chief cause 

1 Reveries <fun promeneur solitaire, iii f 


of the greatness of northern writers. The thesis had already 
been propounded by the refugees, and Charles de Villers, 
Bonstetten, Sismondi and Benjamin Constant successively devoted 
their attention to its demonstration. 1 For them, as for their 
friend Mme. de Stael, the Reformation was " of all the epochs of 
history the one which most effectually promoted the perfectibility 
of the human species." 

The idea was not in all respects a new one, even in literary 
criticism. Montesquieu had already observed that the North is 
Protestant because " in the northern nations there is and always 
will be a spirit of independence which the peoples of the South 
do not possess," and he was not afraid to add " that religion 
gives an infinite advantage " to the former. 2 But he established 
no connexion between religion and art. He simply commended 
Protestantism because it had made the nations more prosperous ; 
of its moral influence he said nothing, and even considered that 
Catholics are " the more invincibly attached to their religion." 
Generally speaking, no intimate connexion was shown during 
the eighteenth century to exist between the literature and the 
beliefs of the English. With regard to the latter, Frenchmen 
were content to accept Voltaire's pleasantries concerning the 
Quakers. They did not perceive how the Reformation had 
infused the English mind with a calm and dignified gravity, with 
intense and imperious conviction, though at the same time with 
narrowness and false pride. Similarly, the Protestantism which 
was so prominent an element in Rousseau's character earned him 
no gratitude in the salons of Paris ; in the eyes of his French 
admirers it was merely one peculiarity the more , indeed there 
were not a few who thought it a blemish. To an Englishman 
who once called upon him, Diderot explained that the only fault 
of the British nation was that they had " mixed up theology with 
their philosophy," adding " ilfaut sabrer la theologle we must put 

1 Charles de Villers : Essai sur V esprit et ^influence de la reformation de Luther (1803). 
This book was crowned by the Institute, passed through four editions in one 
year, and was thrice translated into German, twice into English, and once into 

Italian Cf. Bonstetten, L'homme du Midi et Vhomme du Nord ; Sismondi, Histoire des 

/literatures du midi de F Europe; Benjamin Constant, De la religion, 

2 Esprit des Lois, xxiv. 5, and xxv. 2 ; Lettres persanes, cxviii. 


theology to the sword." l Protestantism was simply so much 
more theology to be put to the sword. 

The refugee critics alone had attempted to show how English 
literature had originated in the Reformation. But they had con- 
vinced no one except themselves. So that when Mme. de Stael 
adopted the same thesis she introduced into literary criticism a 
new element of the highest importance. Hitherto it had been 
customary to compare nations with one another in respect of their 
laws, their manners, and their theories of philosophy and art. 
The difference between their religions had not indeed escaped 
notice, but no one had detected in it the most important source 
of the other differences, and one which might possibly give 
rise to them all. If it is not exactly true that the religion is the 
race, at anyrate no definition of a race is conceivable without a 
definition of its religion. 

As it happens, Mme. de Stael is guilty of exaggeration. She 
chooses to invest even the poems of Ossian with a tinge of Pro- 
testantism and to say that the poetry of the North does not imply 
nearly so much superstition as Greek mythology, a very doubt- 
ful proposition. Is it likely that " in the maxims and fables of 
the Edda " there is, as she maintains, something more philosophi- 
cal than in the myths of the southern religions, and that the 
religious ideas of the North are almost all " consistent with the 
loftiest reason ? " It is odd, too, to find her, under the influence 
of her distrust of Catholicism, reducing the miraculous to what 
she vaguely calls the " philosopher's predilection for the marvel- 
lous," and committing herself to the statement that Dante " lacks 

On the other hand, it is scarcely too much to say that it was 
that part of her criticism which dealt with religion that revealed 
to Mme. de Stael, and through her to her fellow-countrymen, 
the majority of the great writers of the North, Shakespeare for 

The eighteenth century could not tell what to make of the 
witches in Macbeth, of the dialogue between the gravediggers in 
Hamlet, and of the soliloquies of the Danish prince : this " predi- 

1 Memoirs of Sir Samuel Romilly, quoted by J. Morley, Diderot, vol. ii. p. 247. 


lection for the marvellous " in a tragic dramatist seemed odd and 
at times scarcely sane. In reality the age failed to appreciate the 
resulting effect of grandeur. It regarded the introduction of the 
marvellous as a mere piece of stage-craft, like that employed by 
Voltaire when he brings the shade of Ninus upon the stage. 
Shakespeare's philosophy went unsuspected, as did the reason 
why he was the great painter of death and pity. This Mme. de 
Stael explained for the first time, and explained it remarkably 
well. She understood not Shakespeare's mind only, but also his 
soul. She knows how it is that he makes us feel " the awful 
shudder of horror which comes over a man when in the full 
vigour of life he learns that death is at hand ; how it is that he 
can excite our pity for an insignificant and sometimes contemptible 
creature ; " why, in short, he has put his own pity, his own 
terror, his own conception of life and death into his plays, instead 
of the tragic dramatist's conventional platitudes concerning man. 
He felt that the wretched tragi-comedies of our interests and 
passions required a background of mystery and grandeur. He is 
aware that at certain moments it is the fate of human reason 
which the classical literature of France represents as so self-con- 
fident to founder when it attempts to fathom this mystery. 
And he understands that " man owes his greatest achievements 
to his painful sense of the incompleteness of his destiny." 

Nowhere had the French drama given expression to this bitter 
and painful feeling ; where, in the plays of Racine and Corneille, 
are we to look for their philosophy ? What did they think of 
those great problems which bring such anguish to lofty souls ? 
There is nothing to tell us. There was then in France, there 
still is, a sort of divorce between religion and secular literature. 
A modesty, deserving of all respect, restrained the poet, the 
novelist and the dramatist from putting their own innermost 
selves into their work. Thereby French literature lost, as, by 
the admission of M. Jules Lemaitre, it loses even to-day, " some- 
thing of moral depth." "With this characteristic of "depth" 
Rousseau had aspired to invest it. He had been the first to 
break this silence and to venture upon giving prominence to the 
religious question in a work of fiction. He had been the first 


Frenchman to follow the English in mingling the sacred with 
the profane and in boldly employing a distinctly secular work as 
the vehicle of earnest convictions. Thus in following Rousseau 
over the same ground Mme. de Stael merely consolidated and 
justified in the sphere of criticism a revolution which had already 
been accomplished in that of imaginative literature. 

But by so doing she did but place one gulf the more between 
the "French and Catholic" spirit, and the "Teutonic and 
Protestant " spirit. She introduced an entirely fresh element, 
afterwards, as every one knows, turned to account by Taine, 
into the definitions of Southerner and Northerner respectively. 
She gave a more rigorous statement of the problem of race, 
upon which cosmopolitanism depends. She made her readers 
keenly sensible of a fact which the Protestant books of Ibsen 
and George Eliot have since given us occasion to repeat, that to 
a large extent " the differences between literatures are bound up 
with the profound differences between peoples." 

2 A 




To give precision to an idea is to render it fruitful. 

De la Litterature, the book we have been discussing, gave form 
to the aspirations of the eighteenth century j it was the logical 
outcome of the work undertaken and continued, from the close 
of the seventeenth century onwards, by the refugees, by Pre- 
vost, by Voltaire and by Diderot ; from the books of Rousseau 
and the English it extracted, not perhaps such a theory of 
poetry as might have been written by Rousseau, but at any 
rate that of which his books contained the germ. Through 
Mme. de Stael, and because she identified the influence of 
Jean- Jacques with the influence of the northern literatures, 
the "genius of the North" became, in a manner, conscious 
of itself. It became a power in literary criticism, and 
from the standpoint of classical tradition a danger. More 
or less explicitly it assumed an attitude of opposition to the 
ancient tradition of France. It definitely took its place in the 
concert of European powers, never again to surrender it. But 
a few years, and Lamartine, on submitting his earliest poems, 
entitled Meditations, to Didot the publisher, received the char- 
acteristic reply : " Give up novelties like these, 'which 'would 
denationalise the French genius" 1 Again a few years and the 
romantic school, in the name of "the literature of the North", 
made war upon the "French genius"; one of its members, in the 
heat of battle, going so far as to exclaim : " The English and the 
Germans for ever ! Give me nature in all its fierceness and 

1 See Raphael. 


brutality ! " l And Stendhal was found to say with a sort of 
fierce joy : " Spite of all the pedants, Germany and England 
will win the day against France ; Shakespeare, Schiller and 
Lord Byron will prevail over Racine and Boileau." 2 

To-day there is no longer any doubt that Stendhal was 
wrong, that neither Lord Byron nor Schiller have caused or will 
cause Racine to be forgotten, and that romanticism was in no 
sense a defeat of the French by the German intellect. There is 
even something puerile in the very idea. If it were true, France 
would have given up reading French books from 1823 down to 
the present time, and like Germany during the early years of the 
eighteenth century would have handed itself over, bound hand 
and foot, to foreign influences. What period of French literary 
history has been more fruitful than that which extends from 1820 
to 1848 ? What writers have been more truly and entirely national 
than Hugo, Vigny and Michelet ? What literature has exerted 
greater influence, or shone with more lustre in Europe during the 
past fifty years, than the French ? On these points facts speak 
so plainly that they require no commentary. " The true strength 
of a country " wrote Mme. de Stael, indiscreetly enough " lies 
in the character natural to it, and the imitation of foreign nations, 
in any respect whatever, implies a lack of patriotism." I am not 
so sure of this ; I really do not think that Corneille was wanting 
in patriotism because he borrowed !e Cid from Spanish sources, 
or Moliere because he took FEtourdi from the Italians, or Racine 
because he went to the Greek authors who also, after all, are 
"foreigners" for the subjects of his tragedies. Imitation is not 
abdication, and it would be the easiest of tasks to show that 
Lamartine is none the less Lamartine because he imitated Byron, 
and Musset none the less Musset because his comedies are inspired 
by Shakespeare. At no period in its history not even, nay, 
least of all, in the middle ages has the literature of France 
been shut up within itself. "The literature that confines itself 
within its own frontiers," writes M. Gaston Paris, " especially 
at a period so stirring and so fruitful as our own, thereby 

1 L. Thiess, Mercure du xixe siec/e, 1 826 (quoted by Dorison, Alfred de Vigny}* 

2 Racine et Shakespeare ', p. 246. 


condemns itself to a stunted and withered existence." French 
romanticism avoided this narrow-minded course. By calling to 
mind what it owes to neighbouring literatures we do not diminish 
its originality. No one, in fact, disputes that the great writers 
who followed Rousseau and Mme. de Stael are "French" writers 
in the full sense of the word. If they were not, it would not 
be worth while to investigate the origins of the revolution they 
have accomplished, nor would it take us long to learn all that 
there is to know about the spirit by which they were 

But it is because they are strongly individual, full of life, and, 
when all is said and done, highly original, that it is, to say the 
least, imprudent to claim for them a function they did not fulfil, 
that of inauguration. Just as of old the literatures of antiquity, 
working like a leaven within the French mind, occasioned the rise 
of the classical literature of France, so the " literatures of the 
North," during the last century and the present one, have caused 
the germination of the great harvest of romanticism. To employ 
the apt phrase of Arvede Barine, they imparted to the French 
race a powerful intellectual shock, the vibrations of which have 
since " lost themselves in that vortex of forces whose resultant is 
the French genius." And this in two ways , firstly and princi- 
pally through Rousseau, who not only supplemented that genius 
by a turn of mind, an imagination, and a sensibility which were 
already of a northern cast, but also, as Mme. de Stael expressed 
it, infused it with "foreign vigour"; and, in the second place, 
through the English works which, during the present century, 
have been followed by those of the Germans and the Russians, 
and have exerted a profound influence, not altogether distinct 
from that of Rousseau himself, upon the whole of the romantic 
generation. If romanticism was in reality " a rebellion against 
the spirit of a race which had become latinized to the core " 
the phrase is M. Brunetiere's, it was truly Rousseau who 
raised the standard of revolt. Benjamin Constant, said Sainte- 
Beuve, is "of the lineage of Rousseau, with a tinge of 
Germanic blood in his veins." Most of the French romantic 
school are of the same extraction as Benjamin Constant. 


Mme. de Stael said precisely the same, and we must congratulate 
her thereon. 

But even had we to leave this problem of the foreign sources 
of romanticism unsolved, we should none the less be justified in 
closely following the fortunes of the " cosmopolitan " idea during 
our own century. A question that blocks our way is not to be 
set aside as unimportant or obscure by a mere stroke of the pen. 
The mere fact that this question has occupied the minds of several 
generations of men, including certain writers of genius, gives it 
a right of citizenship in the history of ideas. Attempts were 
formerly made to convict Macpherson of skilful imposture. But 
the poems of Ossian, whether authentic or not, remain a monu- 
ment in the literary history of Europe, and nothing can alter the 
fact that Chateaubriand ranked Ossian higher than Homer. 
Similarly, it is impossible for the most sceptical of critics, the 
most incredulous with regard to " the French spirit " and " the 
Germanic genius," to change the fact that this entity "northern 
literature" has exercised a most powerful influence over the men 
of our own epoch. Doubtless it will be open to him to dispute 
the strength of the historical scaffolding with which Mme. de 
Stael supported her theory ; he will be free to scoff at her misty 
and mythical Ossian, and to deny the Caledonia of the poets ; 
he may spare himself the trouble of following the author of De la 
Litter -attire and her critic, Fontanes, in their inquiry " whether 
the progress of the arts is from the North to the South, or from 
the South to the North." If, lastly, he calls in the assistance of 
ethnography, he may adduce proofs against Taine that his theory 
of the European races is false, that there is neither a purely 
" Latin" nor a purely "Germanic" group of peoples, and that 
the English nation contains many other elements than that which 
consists of a cross between Norman and Saxon. 1 We may even 
admit, should he insist upon the point, that none of the European 
races has a genius peculiar to itself. Will the historian be, on this 
account, any the less bound to recount the vicissitudes of the 
" cosmopolitan spirit in literature " during the nineteenth century ? 

1 Cf. Angellier, Robert Burns, Introduction, and the first volume of M. J. 
lusserand's fine work, Histoire litteraire du peuple anglais. 


There can be no doubt as to the reply. The triumph of 
Rousseau's influence marked also the triumph of cosmopolitanism. 
Romanticism endeavoured to counteract the classical influence by 
the example of non-Latin Europe. In De V Allemagne Mme. de 
Stael resumed the thesis of De la Literature, enlarging its appli- 
cation, and supporting it by fresh arguments. In France, after 
Ossian and Shakespeare, we had Byron and Walter Scott ; after 
Goethe and Schiller, the whole series of German romanticists, 
succeeded by the romanticists of the North and we admired 
them all, possibly without much discrimination or discretion, 
but with a sincerity that admits of no reasonable doubt. " The 
true romantic poetry" wrote Stendhal, "is, I repeat, the poetry of 
Shakespeare, Schiller, and Lord Byron. The mortal combat is 
between Racine's methods of tragedy and Shakespeare's. The 
opposed armies are the French men of letters, led by M. Dussault, 
on the one hand, and the Edinburgh Review on the other." 1 
The cosmopolitan spirit has become so closely interwoven with 
the fabric of the literary history of this period, that by attempt- 
ing to separate it therefrom we should run the risk of rending 
the fabric itself. 

It will be observed that it is nothing to the point to dispute, 
as is so often done, the fact of a certain form of influence being 
exercised by this or that foreign writer upon this or that French 
author. What does Lamartine, it may be asked, owe to Goethe ? 
or Musset to Schiller ? And was not Victor Hugo ignorant of 
the simplest elements of the German language ? Undoubtedly. 
But will anyone deny that the appetite for foreign, and especially 
for northern, works was one of the essential factors of the 
romantic revolution ? And who can help seeing that " the 
genius of the North" gained all the ground which the "genius 
of antiquity " had lost ? Romanticism is the same thing as 
cosmopolitanism, not because, as has been innocently remarked, 
French writers have plagiarized from English or German poets, 
but because, through the instrumentality of Rousseau, they too 
had learnt to infuse themselves with some of that " foreign 
vigour " with which he had grafted the old national stock. 

1 Racine et Shakespeare (1823), p. 253. 


Nisard, speaking of the Renaissance, says somewhere or other : 
"The French spirit, holding fast to the spirit of antiquity, is 
Dante led by Vergil, his gentle teacher, through the mysterious 
circles of the Divine Comedy." In two or three centuries' time, 
perhaps earlier, Jean-Jacques Rousseau will seem, as it were, to 
be the Dante of modern times, the writer who has opened before 
us the portals, not of the ancient world, but of that northern and 
Germanic section of Europe which has wielded so powerful a spell 
over the French genius during the present century. 

It will be objected that the cosmopolitan spirit in literature did 
not rest content with being, as Sainte-Beuve expressed it, a 
" Germanic spirit," and nothing more ; and that the curiosity of 
the romantic, as of the following, generation was extended to 
Spain, to Italy, to the East, and even to antiquity. And, indeed, 
the cosmopolitan spirit has endeavoured, during the present cen- 
tury, to justify its definition: it has aimed at embracing "the 
literature of the world." But I venture to assert that, in France, 
the influence of the North has always been at the bottom 
of the movement, just as it was its point of departure in Rousseau. 
The characteristic which the French mind has appreciated above 
all others in southern literatures is precisely that which reminded 
it of the literatures of the North, and it may be, as Doudan very 
shrewdly remarks, that what we love in the East and in the 
South is the attributes with which Northern imaginations have 
invested them. " We want blue spectacles in order to look at 
this sun. After all, we shall always understand Shakespeare 
better than Calderon." More exactly, we shall appreciate in 
Calderon what we love in Shakespeare, and in Alfieri, and 
Leopardi as in Ibsen and Tolstoi' what they owe to Rousseau. 
And this because we are before all things of the literary posterity 
of Jean-Jacques, and because in him nineteenth century literature 
takes its rise. 


Thus, at the close of the present century, the cosmopolitan 
spirit in regard to literature has become a feature of every 
thoughtful mind. 


Is this a cause for lamentation ? In particular, have we, as 
Frenchmen, any reason to tremble for the integrity of our 
country, regarded as an intellectual entity? Are we to look 
upon " exoticism" as nothing more than a solvent of the national 
genius ? 

Sismondi had already asserted that for a vigorous nation "there 
was no such thing as foreign literature." J. J. Weiss almost 
wished that there was no such thing for France when, referring 
in eloquent language to her classical authors, he said : " In them 
we have still a happy reserve, a storehouse long the property of 
the nation, and always at our command of positive wisdom, of 
practical good sense, of cogent moral philosophy, of applied 
political science, of heroic ideas and heroic sentiments. // is there 
that France is to be found? l Many writers of superior intelligence 
have likewise feared " lest, in becoming European, our national 
genius should at length become less French." Many, like J. J. 
Weiss, have asked: " Where is France ?" 

That their fears are not altogether imaginary it would be 
childish to deny. Certainly France claims as her own alike 
Malherbe and Hugo, Voltaire and Chateaubriand, 'Moliere and 
Renan. But Hugo, Chateaubriand, and Renan, however French, 
are nevertheless not French in the same way as the others. They 
represent a different and, so to speak, a more European side of 
the national genius. 

Above all, they broke with " tradition." With regard to 
Mme. de Stael it was remarked by Fontanes that she " treated 
the age of Louis XIV. almost as lightly as Greece " which, as 
we have seen above, is saying a good deal and he also ex- 
pressed the fear that her fondness for Rousseau had made her 
" care very little for Racine." " Why ! " said Stendhal, in a 
significant passage, " we should be rejecting the most fascinating 
pleasures simply and solely in order to imitate Frenchmen ! " More 
recently an advanced critic boldly declared : " It is upon the 
national tradition that we are making war." 

And therein lies the danger which exoticism in literature may 
occasion in a distant future. But every European literature is 

1 A propos de theatre, p. 1 68. 


obscurely threatened by the same danger. Perhaps, in Europe 
of the twenty-fifth century, the idea of the literary fatherland 
will have grown as weak as that of the political fatherland. 
From one end of this little European continent to the other, 
what a number of books are published, Italian, Dutch, Portu- 
guese, and Russian, which have the same tendencies and wear 
the same livery ! How is it possible to withstand the incredible 
facility of exchange, the frequency of intercourse, the multiplicity 
of translations, and, what may yet come, the coalescence of 
tongues ? "In our days," writes M. de VogUe, " above all pre- 
ferences founded on party or nationality, a European spirit is 
being formed." Suppose this movement were to grow much 
more rapid : what would happen then ? Did Rivarol merely 
dream when he longed to see mankind " form itself into one 
republic, from one end of the earth to the other, under the sway 
of a single language ? " Would it be so absurd if, from the com- 
parison, the juxtaposition, and, let us admit it, the confusion of 
so many works from every country in Europe, there should 
result a sort of composite idea consisting of elements artificially 
compounded so as to form a literature no longer either English, 
or German, or French, but simply European until the time 
should come when it would be universal ? Should such a day 
ever arrive, across the frontiers if any remain there will be 
stretched a network of invisible bonds which will unite nation 
to nation and, as of old during the middle ages, will form a 
collective European soul. 

Nor is this dream or, shall we say, this danger, which 
threatens alike the literatures of the Old World and the New 
a merely visionary one. But at anyrate the peril is not im- 
minent ; there are formidable obstacles in its way. Held 
together by community of race, of language, and of historical 
tradition, men will for long years to come remain citizens of 
a country or of a province in the first place, and be citizens 
of the universe only in the second. Long enough yet will last 
the sway of that imperious necessity which binds man to the soil 
and makes him a citizen of his native burgh. For long years yet 
each people will hand down, as a sacred legacy, the literary 


works which in past ages have sprung from the efforts of 
its national genius. It may indeed be that cosmopolitanism, 
when it is truly the worship of " the literature of the world," 
abjures its own principle in exhausting the consequences of it, 
and that it is then nothing more than a resuscitated form of 
" humanism," the name of which thus becomes synonymous with 
its own. But at the present moment the triumph of such an idea 
is impossible of realization. The struggle between the races 
is waged more fiercely than ever, and it is incumbent on the 
literature of France, as on all other literatures more so, indeed, 
than on any other to uphold the time-honoured position of 
influence it occupies in the world. As one of its own teachers 
has said 1 : "The literature that would give proof of its youth- 
fulness and vital energy, that would secure for itself fresh life 
and influence in the future, will spread the knowledge, and 
acquire a comprehension, of every great, new or beautiful work 
that is created beyond its own borders ; will turn it to account, 
not as a pattern merely, but by assimilating it and converting it 
to a form appropriate to its own nature ; will amplify, without 
destroying, its own individuality, and thus, while remaining 
always the same, will r be perpetually changing, always European 
yet never renouncing its nationality." 

I have endeavoured to show that one man above all others has 
acted as a connecting link between France and Northern Europe ; 
that, while, by reason of his foreign extraction, he was especially 
qualified to make the French acquainted with foreign literature, 
and was moreover greatly helped by the fact of his having been 
educated in a French-speaking country, circumstances also lent 
him powerful assistance in the accomplishment of this task ; that 
his intellect, the most complex and the most richly endowed of 
any in that age, really called into being a sort of European 
literature, the future of which is henceforth assured ; and that, 
if after all he did not succeed in transferring the literary 
hegemony of Europe from France to the Northern nations, he at 
least enabled one nation to understand the original genius of the 
others, and thereby deserved the gratitude of all. 

1 G. Paris, Lemons et lectures sur la poesie du may en age (1895), preface. 


" It would seem," says M. Renan, " that if it is to produce the 
best that is in it the Gallic race requires to be from time to 
time impregnated by the Germanic : the finest manifestations of 
human nature have sprung from this mutual intercourse, which 
is, to my mind, the source of modern civilization, the cause 
of its superiority, and the best guarantee for its persistence 
in the future." 1 

If this be the case, then no one, assuredly, has deserved better 
of the Gallic race than Jean- Jacques Rousseau. 

1 Essais de critique et de morale, p. 59. 

Abauzit, Firmin, 91. 

Adelson et Salvini, d'Arnaud, 224. 

Addison, Joseph, 10, 26, 33, 34, 47, 
55, 62, 67, 68, 83, 86, 97, in, 115, 
118-124, 141, 166, 197, 248, 261, 

2 9 6 > 39> 359- 
./Eschylus, 8, 306, 312. 
Aiguillon, Duchesse d', 266, 322. 
Alembert, Jean d', 80, 223, 337, 359, 


Alexander's Feast, Dryden, 55. 
Alfieri, Vittorio, 375. 
All for Love, Dryden, 45. 
Almanack des Muses, 299. 
Almoran et Hamet, Prevost, 46. 
Amadis de Gaule, 232. 

Amant confident de lui-meme, L', Prevost, 5 6 . 
Amelia, Fielding, 145. 
Amiel, Henri Frederic, 92. 
Anacreon, 361. 
Analecta, Brunck, 344. 
Angellier, Auguste, xv. 
Anglais a Bordeaux, L', Favart, 78, 301. 
Animal dans la lune, La Fontaine, 9- 
Anne Bell, d'Arnaud, 224. 
Annee litteraire, Freron, 267. 
Anseaume, N., 140. 
Anti-Pamela, 211. 
Apologie du caractere des Anglais et les 

Franfais, Desfontaines, 43. 
Arabian Nights' Entertainment, 126. 
Arbuthnot, John, 28. 
Archives litter air es de F Europe, 355- 
Arcadia, Sidney, 8. 
Arden of Fever sham, 138. 
Argents, Barclay, 8. 

Argenson, Marc d', 21, 99, 120, 214-5. 
Argental, Charles Augustin d', 221. 
Ariosto, Lodovico, 74. 
Aristotle, 113, 128. 
Arnaud, Baculard d', 114, 123, 224, 

270, 312. 

Arnaud, Fran$ois d', 217, 268. 
Arnault, Vincent A., 328-9. 
Art of Sinking, Swift, 56. 
" Artus," King, 6. 

Assoucy, Charles [Coypeau] d', 5. 
Atala, Chateaubriand, 323, 365 
Atterbury, Francis, Bishop, 57. 
Aubigne, Agrippa d', 24. 
Aubigny, d', 10. 
Aucour, Godard d', 212. 
Austen, Jane, 145. 
Aventures de Beauchene, 126. 

Babillard, Le, 119. 

Bacon, Francis, Lord, 6, 7, 8, 14, 16, 
18, 29, 61, 82-86, 97, 113, 359, 363. 
Bagatelle, La, I2O. 
Baillet, Adrien, 8. 
Bajazet, Racine, 8. 

Ballanche, Pierre Simon, 233, 279, 291. 
Baltimore, Lord, 184. 
Balzac, Honore de, 193. 
Balzac, Jean de, 9. 
Baour-Lormian, Louis, 329. 
Barclay, John, 8. 
Bard, The, Gray, 303. 
Bardes, Les, Lesueur, 329. 
Barine, Arvede, viii, 372. 
Bartas, Guillaume du, 5. 
Barthelemy, Abbe, 344. 
Bastide, Jean F. de, 215. 
Baudouin, Jean, 8. 
Baudus, Jean Louis Amable de, 355. 
Bayle, Pierre, 17, 25, 58, 59, 60, 80, 103. 
Beaumarchais, Pierre de, 214. 
Beaumont, filie de, 258. 
Beaumont, Mme. de, 140, 238. 
Beauval, Basnage de, 26, 29, 37. 
Beckford, William, 64. 
Beggar's Opera, The, Gay, 62. 
Bentley, Richard, 28, 55. 
Beranger, Jean P., 350. 
Bergerac, Cyrano de, 8. 
Berkeley, George, 55, 61, 195. 
Bernadotte [Charles XIV. of Sweden], 


Bernard, Gentil, 296. 
Bernard, Jacques, 27, 30. 
Bernis, Francois de, 296. 
Berquin, Arnaud, 224. 



Beverley^ Saurin, 103. 

Bibliotheque anglaise, 1J, 29, 30, 33, 43, 


Bibliotheque britannique, 355. 
Bibliotheque britannique (de Geneve), 91. 
Bibliotheque britannique (de la Hague), 30. 
Bibliotheque des romans anglais , 268. 
Bibliotheque fran$aise, 27. 
Bibliotheque permaniquc, 268. 
Bibliotheque italique, 268. 
Bibliotheque raisonnee des savants de V Europe, 


Bibliotheque universelle, 26. 
Bilderdyk, William, 319. 
Bissy, Comte de, 217, 280, 308. 
Blount, Charles, 60. 
Boccage, Mme. du, 159, 258, 266. 
Bodin, Jean, 5. 
Bodmer, John J., 119. 
Boiardo, Matteo M., 74. 
Boileau, Nicolas, 6, 10, 12, 17, 26, 27, 

40, 80, 143, 341, 371. 
Boisrobert, Francois, 9. 
Boissy, Louis de, 98, 123, 212. 
Bolingbroke, Henry St J., 22, 57, 60, 

64, 65, 308, 359. 
Bomare, Valmont de, 258. 
Bonald, Louis Gabriel Ambroise de, 

35 1 - 
Bonstetten, Charles Victor de, 303, 

354, 3 66 - 

Bontemps, Mme., 295. 
Bossuet, Jacques, 3, 12, 80, 81, 251. 
Boswell, James, 64, 207. 
Boufflers, Mme. de, 104, 258, 266. 
Bouhours, Pere, n, 26, 268, 358. 
Bourdaloue, Louis, 80, 81, 121. 
Boursault, Edme, 81. 
Boyer, Abel, 7, 16, 33, 264. 
Boyle, Robert, 25, 26, 65. 
Bradshaigh, Lady, 187, 286. 
Brantome, Pierre [de Bourdeilles], 

Seigneur de, 5. 
Breitinger, Johann J., 119. 
Bruckner, Johann, 319. 
Briin, Frederika, 356. 
Brunck, Richard, 344. 
Brunetiere, Ferdinand, 58, 112, 372. 
Brutus Marcus, 349. 
Brutus, Voltaire, 54, 63, 65. 
Bucanan, George, 14. 
Buckingham, Duke of, 10. 
Buckle, Henry T., x, 265. 
BufFon, George, 80, 128, 157, 224, 258, 

Bunyan, John, 195. 

Burger, Gottfried August, 319. 

Burnet, Gilbert, 8. 

Burney, Fanny, 145, 348, 358. 

Burns, Robert, xvi, 294. 

Butler, Samuel, 34, 70. 

Byron, Lord, 275, 314, 353, 371, 374. 

Ctesar, Clarke, 102. 
Calderon, Don Pedro, 375. 
Callot, Jacques, 283. 
Calvin, John, 90. 
Camden, William, 52. 
Camusat, Denis, 27, 120. 
Cardan, Jerome, 98. 
Carlisle, Lord, 101. 
Carlyle, Thomas, 201. 
Caroline, Queen, 61, 133. 
Carthon, Ossian, 322. 
Cassandre, La Calprenede, 155. 
Catherine II., 119. 
Catilina, Ben Jonson, 10. 
Cato, Addison, 33, 34, 118. 
Cato of Utica, 349. 
Catuelan, Comte de, 267. 
Cazales, Jacques Antoine Marie de, 

Censeur, Le, I2O. 

Censeur unii)ersel anglais, 268. 

Cesarotti, Melchior, 319. 

Chambers, Ephraim, 113. 

Chamisso, Adelbert von, 354. 

Chant du barde, Fontanes, 327. 

Chapelain, Jean, 82. 

Chapelle, Armand de la, 17, 25, 30. 

Chappuzeau, Samuel, 5. 

Chardin, Jean, 156, 173. 

Charles II., 15, 50, 108. 

Charles XII., Voltaire, 63. 

Chateaubriand, Francois Rene de, 254, 

2 93> 3> 3*-4, 3 J 4-5> 3*4. 3 2 7'33> 

333, 335> 35o 35^-3 3 6 5> 373. 


Chatelet, Mme. du, 264. 
Chatterton, Thomas, 294, 304. 
Chaucer, Geoffrey, 55, 269. 
Chaulieu, Guillaume, 58. 
Chef d'eeuvre d'un inconnu, Saint-Hya- 

cinthe, 18, 28. 
Chenedolle, Charles Julien [Lioult] 

de 2 99 353> 355 357- 
Chenier, Andre, 96, 150, 227, 253, 297, 


Chenier, Marie-Joseph, 303, 339, 343. 
Chesterfield, Lord, 31, 210, 325. 
Chillingworth, William, 17. 
Choiseul, Due de, 278, 280. 



Choiseul - Gouffier, Marie Gabriel 

Florent Auguste de, 344. 
Christian Hero, or Fatal Curiosity, Lillo, 


Chubb, Thomas, 16, 61. 

Cibber, Colley, 62. 

Cicero, 344, 349. 

Cid, Le, Corneille, 210, 371. 

Cimabue, Giovanni, 337. 

Clarissa Harloive, Richardson, xii, III, 
145, 147-150, 155, 159-187, 190-205, 
208, 212-8, 220-3, 22 5" 2 38j 2 4j 
242-3. 245, 249, 252-3, 286. 

Clarke, Samuel, 17, 19, 61. 

Clary, ou le retour a la vertu recompensed, 
d'Arnaud, 224. 

Clelie, de Scudery (1654), 165. 

Clement, de Geneve, 136, 139, 140, 
141, 213. 

Clementine de Porretta, Wieland, 149. 

Cleopatra, Dryden, 55. 

Cleopatre, La Calprenede (1647), 155. 

Cleveland, Hisloire de Monsieur, Prevost, 
21, 50, 51, 103, 127, 146, 150, 154, 
161, 164, 170, 217, 242, 252, 302. 

Coleridge, Samuel T., 195. 

Colle, Charles, 140, 308. 

Collier, Jeremy, 26. 

Collins, Anthony, 17, 32, 58, 59, 60. 

Collins, William, 294, 296, 301, 304, 

Colombiere, Le Sage de la, 24, 91. 

Colomies, Paul, 16. 

Complaint, The, Young, see Night Thoughts, 

Comminges, Comte de, 14. 

Condillac, fitienne de, 80. 

Condorcet, Marie Jean, 57, 339. 

Conduit, Mrs, 61. 

Confessions, Rousseau, 230-1, 236, 299. 

Confidences, Lamartine, 330. 

Conflans, Comte de, 258. 

Congreve, William, 41, 48, 62, 64, 72, 

Conjectures on Original Composition, Young, 

2 7 2. 

Conlath and Cuthona, Ossian, 322. 
Connal and Crimora, Ossian, 321. 
Conscious Lovers, Steele, 55. 
Conspiracy of Fiesco, Schiller, 274. 
Constant, Benjamin, 92, 354, 366, 


Contes moraux, Marmontel, 225. 
Conti, Prince de, 52. 
Contrat social, Rousseau, 349, 350. 
Controleuse spirituelle, 119. 
Corinne, de Stae'l, 235. 

Corneille, Pierre, 7, 16, 48, 129, 210, 

341 > 3 68 > 37 J - x 

Correspondance litter -aire, 74, 214, 224. 
Coste, Pierre, 16, 18. 
Coulon, 4. 

| Cowper, William, 187, 275, 304. 
| Crebillon y?/j, 151, 158, 209, 225, 236, 

239, 241, 280, 282. 
Crebillon, Prosper Jolyot de, 81, 113, 


Critical Review, The, 232. 
Cromwell, Oliver, 3, 50, 77. 
Crouzas, John P. de, 116. 

Dacier, Mme., 236. 

Dante, Alighieri, xvi, 330, 337, 361, 

3 6 7> 375- 

Darthula, Ossian, 322. 
Daude, Pierre, 16. 
Daunou, Pierre, 346. 
Davenant, Sir William, 34. 
David, Jacques L., 344, 349. 
Decade philosophique, Le, 355- 
Decouverte du Nouveau Monde, Rousseau, 

Deffand, Mme. du, 147, 210, 221, 223^ 

238, 297. 
Defoe, Daniel, 62, 115, 124, 126-128,. 

141, 142, 144. 
Dekker, Thomas, 138. 
De I'Allemagne, de Stae'l, 348, 374. 
Deleyre, Alexandre, 103, 114. 
Delille, Jacques, 116, 296-7, 303, 345, 

349> 35' 5 353> 355- 

Delisle, Guillaume, 258 

Delolme, Jean Louis, 91. 

Delphine, de Stae'l, 235. 

Demosthenes, 344. 
j Denis, Mme., 64. 
! Dennis, John, 26, 55. 

iDeroute des Pamela, La, Godard d'Aucour,, 

Descartes, Rene, 3, 18, 83, 84. 
Descent of Odin, Gray, 303. 
Deschamps, 118. 
Desfontaines, Pierre, 33, 34, 35, 43,. 

44, 52, 64, 103, in, 146, 153, 157,, 

209-10, 263, 266. 
Desforges, Pierre, Jean Baptiste [Chou- 

dard], 147. 
Desmaiseaux, Peter, 15, 17, 18, 30,. 


Desmarais, Regnier, 7. 
Desmarets, Samuel, 12. 
Desmoulins, Camille, 314, 347, 349. 
Destouches, Philippe, 34, 81, 132. 


Deux Amis de Bourbonne, Diderot, 225. 

Deyverdun, Georges, 31. 

Dialogues sur I' eloquence de la chair e, 80. 

Dictionary, Chambers, 113. 

Dictionary of Medicine, James, 113. 

Dictionnaire critique, Bayle, 59. 

Diderot, Denis, xi, 80, 97, 103, m- 
115, 124, 128-132, 134, 141, 158, 
159, 161, 164, 178, 185, 187, 197, 

200, 216-223, 225, 230, 232-3, 266, 

277, 280, 282, 284, 299, 309, 313, 

.3"> 33 8 > 357. 3 66 > 37- 

Didot, Francois, 370. 

Discours de Vinegalit'e, Rousseau, 112,231. 

Discourse concerning the Resurrection of 
Jesus Christ, Ditton, 17. 

Discurse der Mahler n, 119, 148. 

Discourse of Freethinking, Collins, 32. 

Discourses upon Government, Sidney, 270. 

Discours sur la vraie vertu, Voltaire, 117. 

Discours sur les sciences et les arts, Rous- 
seau, 112, 129. 

Discovery of a Neiv World, Wilkins, 8. 

Ditton, Humphrey, 17. 

Divina Commedia, Dante, 375* 

Dodington, Bubb, 60, 62, 311. 

Don Quixote, Cervantes, 210. 

Don Sebastian, Dryden, 47. 

Dorat, Claude Joseph, 140, 296. 

Dorset, Earl of, 67, 70. 

Doudan, Xavier, 89, 205, 225, 336, 


Doujat, Jean, 7. 

Doyen de Killerine, Le, Prevost, 154. 
Dramaturgie, Lessing, 353. 
Draper, Eliza, 278-9, 287. 
Drummer, The, Addison, 34. 
Dryden, John, 34, 37, 45, 47, 55, 62, 


Dubois, Cardinal, 34. 
Dubos, Abbe, 34. 
Ducis, Jean, 302, 348, 363. 
Duclos, Charles, 80, 229, 258-9. 
Dufresny, Charles, 81. 
Dumas j/r, Alexandre, 136, 247. 
Durand, David, 16. 
Dussault, Jean Joseph, 351, 374. 

Eckermann, Johann Peter, 143. 
Ecossaise, L', Voltaire, 221. 
Edda, The, 317, 367. 
Edinburgh Review, The, 374. 
Effiat, Marquis d', 6. 

Egarements du cKur et de V esprit, C re- 
billon j?/j, 209. 
Eidous, Marc-Antoine, 17, 113, 266. 

Elements de la philosophic de Ne'wton, 

Voltaire, 60. 
Elegy in a Country Churchyard, Gray, 

,301, 303-4. 

Elevations sur les Mysteres, 8l. 
Eliot, George, 189, 276, 369. 
Elmerick, Lillo, 134. 
Eloge de Marc Aurele, Thomas, 345. 
Eloge de Richardson, Diderot, 161, 21 6- 

,222, 225, 230, 232, 277. 
Emile, Rousseau, 124, 260. 
Encyclopedic, Diderot and others, 113. 
"3, 363-^ 

Engagement temeraire, L 1 , 128. 

Entretiens sur le Fils Naturel, Diderot, 112. 

Epictetus, 122, 363. 

Epitre a Uranie, Voltaire, 58. 

Epreuves du sentiment, d'Arnaud, 224. 

Esmenard. Joseph, 353. 

Esprit des Journaux, 267. 

Esprit des Lois, Montesquieu, 103. 

Essai sur la litterature anglaise, Chateau- 
briand, 354. 

Essai sur la poesie epique, Voltaire, 62, 63. 

Essai sur les guerres civiles de France, 
Voltaire, 63. 

Essay on Criticism, Pope, 33. 

Essay on Man, Pope, 68, 115, 116, 117, 

Essay on Merit and Virtue, Shaftesbury, 
IJ 3- 

Essay on the Genius and IVritings of Shake- 
speare, Montagu, 269. 

Essay on the Human Understanding, Locke, 
18, 102. 

Essays, Bacon, 8. 

Estienne, Henri, 5. 

Etourdi, L', Moliere, 371. 

Etudes de la nature, 333. 

Eugenie, Beaumarchais, 214. 

Euripides, 220, 341, 360. 

Europe savante, 27. 

Fable of the Bees, Mandeville, 32, 113. 

Faguet, fimile, viii, 77. 

Falkener, 57, 61, 64, 65. 

Fantasque, Le, 1 2O . 

Farinelli, 54. 

Farquhar, George, 48. 

Fatal Curiosity, Lillo, 134. 

Faublas, Louvet de Coudray (1787-9), 


Faust, Marlowe, 136. 
Favart, Charles, 78, 301. 
Fenelon, Francois, 7, 12, 50, 80, 97, 

216, 299. 



Ferguson, Adam, 359. 
Festeau, 7. 

Fielding, Henry, 35, 56, 101, 114, 134, 
142, 143-150, 156, 157, 160, 186, 

195, 2IO, 228, 275. 

Fielding, Sarah, 199. 

Fiesco, Schiller, 274. 

Fievee, Joseph, 351. 

Fils naturel, Le, Diderot, 219, 280. 

Fingal, Macpherson, 318, 322, 330. 

Fontaine-Malherbe, Jean de, 267. 

Fontanes, Louis, 116, 259, 303, 327, 

328, 336, 351-3, 373, 376. 
Fontenelle, Bernard de, 10, 29, 58, 80, 


Foote, Samuel, 269. 
Force of Religion, The, Young, 312. 
Ford, John, 138. 
Fox, Charles James, 64, 261-2. 
Fragments d'anciennes poesies, JVIacpherson, 


Fran^ais a Londres, Le, Boissy, 99. 
Francion, Sorel, 7. 
Francis, St, 251. 
Franklin, Benjamin, 64, 257, 259, 


Freeholder, The, 33. 
Frenais, 266, 283. 
Freron, filie C., 74, 80, 87, 127, 147, 

232, 236, 263, 267-8, 296. 
Frimafons, Les, De Geneve, 139 
Furetiere, Antoine, 147. 

Gamester, The, Moore, 115, 132, 141. 
Garat, Dominique, 234, 278, 289, 291, 

Garrick, David, 114, 257, 267, 270, 

278, 280. 

Garth, Sir Samuel, 62. 
Gassendi, Pierre, 6. 
Gay, John, 62, 64. 
Gazette de France, 270. 
Gazette litter air e, 221, 270, 282, 303, 


Gellert, Christian, 148, 220. 
Genie du Christianisme, Chateaubriand, 


Genlis, Mme. de, 64, 226, 302, 328. 
Gentleman, The, 1 6. 
Geoffrin, Mme., 287. 
Geoffroy, Julien, 114, 227, 351. 
George Barnivell, see London Merchant. 
Georgics, Vergil, 294. 
Georgiques, Delille, 345. 
Gerando, Joseph de, 352, 355. 

Gessner, Salomon, xiv, 297-9, 33* 

347 357- 

Gibbon, Edward, 31, 78, 215, 258-9. 
Gilbert, Nicolas-Joseph-Laurent, 296. 
Gil Bias, Lesage, 81, 150-152, 210, 


Girodet, Anne L., 329. 
Gleichen, Baron de, 170. 
Glover, Richard, 56, 269. 
Godwin, Francis, 8. 
Goethe, J. W. von, 113, 143, 150, 201, 

208, 282, 320, 323, 333, 347, 353-4, 

356, 358-9, 3 6 5 ? 374- 
Goldoni, Carlo, 148, 269. 
Goldsmith, Oliver, 143, 281. 
Gottsched, Johann, 76, 119, 138 
Goujet, Claude-Pierre, 27, 73. 
Gournay, 258. 
Gower, John, 55. 
Gozzi, Carlo, 119. 
Graffigny, Mme. de, 63, 238. 
Grand Cyrus, Le, Scudery, 165, 236. 
Grandison, see Sir Charles Grandison. 
Grandison II., Musaus, 149. 
Grand Mystery, or the Art of Meditating 

over an House of Office, The, Swift, 


Granet, Francois, 27. 
Gravelot, Hubert, 107. 
Gray, Thomas, 94, 158, 232, 257, 259, 

281, 294, 301-4, 317, 319-320, 323, 


Green, John Richard, 45. 
Greene, Robert, 8, 193. 
Gresset, Jean-Baptiste, 80, 302. 
Gretser, Jakob, n. 
Greuze, Jean B. , 289. 
Grimm, Frederic M., 17, 32, 80, 107, 

112, 160, 232, 258-9, 265-6, 268, 296, 

2 99> 3'3> 3" 343> 357- 

Guardian, The, 33. 

Guibert, Comte de, 223. 

Gulliver's Travels, Swift, 29, 33, 35, 68, 

Guys, Pierre, 344. 

Hales, Stephen, 17. 

Hamlet, Shakespeare, 47, 55, 69, 341, 


Handel, George F., 260, 301. 
Hatin, E., 25. 
Hawkesworth, J., 46. 
Helvetius, Claude, 80, 87, 258-9. 
Hennequin, mile, ix. 
Henriade, La, Voltaire, 60, 6l. 
Herbert of Cherbury, Lord, 60. 

2 B 



Herbois, Collot d', 347. 

Herder, J. Gottfried von, 113, 274-5, 

3 X 9> 3 2 3> 333- 

Hervey, James, 200, 271, 313-4? 347- 
Hervey, Lord, 64, 69. 
Heureux orphelins, Les, Crebillon^/f/j, 225. 
Heyne, Christian, 319. 
Hey wood, Thomas, 138. 
Histoire critique de la Republique des lettres, 


Histoire de Cleveland, see Cleveland. 
Histoire de Fart chez les anciens, Winckel- 

mann, 344. 
Histoire de Mile, de la Chaux, Diderot, 


Histoire des voyages, Prevost, 45, 126. 
Histoire litter air e de I' Europe, 27. 
Histoire philosophique des deux Indes, Ray- 

nal, 259, 279. 

History of Greece, Stanyan, 113. 
History of the House of Stuart, Hume, 45. 
History of the Life of Cicero, Middleton, 

History of the Loiv Countries, Van Loon, 


Hobbes, Thomas, 6, 8, 23, 26, 97, 359. 
Hogarth, William, 68, 260, 281. 
Hoguette, de la, 7. 
Holbach, Paul Henri d', 80, 257, 259, 

266, 278, 280, 282. 
Homer, 13, 150, 220, 270, 297, 308, 

3!5> 3'9-3 2 3> 3 2 5> 33. 334, 344, 

360, 364, 373. 
Hoop, Father, 114. 
Horace, 5, 67, 337, 341, 
Houdetot, Mme. d', 244, 278-9. 
Huber, Michel, 299. 
Hudibras, Butler, 9, 34, 70, 107. 
Hugo, Victor, 169, 371, 374, 376. 
Humboldt, Guillaume de, 348, 356, 358. 
Hume, David, 31, 45, 114, 257, 269, 

280, 359-360. 

Humphry Clinker, Smollett, 145. 
Hurd, Richard, 316. 

Ibsen, Henrik, xvi, 247, 369, 375. 

Idee de la poesie anglais e, Yart, 266. 

Idyllen, Gessner, 299. 

Iliad, Homer, 146. 

II Penseroso, Milton, 301. 

Indiscret, L', Voltaire, 58. 

Ingenu, L' , Voltaire, 225. 

Inquiry concerning Virtue, Shaftesbury, 


Inquisiteur, /', I2O. 

Instinct divin, Muralt, 242. 

Introduction a Phistoire de Danemark, Mal- 
let, 317. 

If his et Anaxarete, Rousseau, 128. 
Ivernois, Fran9ois d', 91. 

Jacobi, Johann G., 354. 

Jacopo Ortis, xii. 

Jacques lefataliste, Diderot, 284. 

James, Robert, 113. 

Jaucourt, Louis de, 353. 

Jean sans Terre, Ducis, 348. 

Jeffrey, Francis, 195. 

Jenneval, Mercier, 138. 

Johnson, Samuel, 68, 194, 207, 257, 

264, 269, 281, 318, 323, 343. 
Jonathan Wild, Fielding, 144. 
Joncourt, Elie de, 31. 
Jonson, Ben, 5, 10, 41, 269. 
Jordan, Camille, 30, 45, 352. 
Jordan, Charles, 67. 
Jore, Claude-Frangois, 65. 
Joseph Andreivs, Fielding, 35, 144, 21 o, 


Joubert, Laurent, 151, 327. 
Journal, d'Argenson, 99. 
Journal britannique, 3 1 . 
Journal de litter ature etr anger e, 355- 
Journal de police, 209. 
Journal de politique et de litter ature, 283. 
Journal des Debats, 351, 362. 
Journal des savants, 8, 17, 33, 43, 82, 

118, 322. 

Journal encyclopedique, P. Rousseau, 267, 

281, 313, 346. 
Journal etranger, 119, l6l, 216-7, 224, 

232, 264, 268-270, 308, 321-2. 
Jo urnal litter air e , 20, 29, 33. 
Jours , pour servir de correct if et supplement 

aux Nuits, Remy, 312. 
Jugements des savants, Baillet, 8. 
Julie, see Nouvelle Helo'ise. 
Junius, 359. 
Jusserand, J. J., 8. 
Jussieu, Antoine, 258. 
Justel, Henry, 15. 

Kant, Immanuel, 275. 

Keats, John, 177. 

Kent, William, 108. 

King Lear, Shakespeare, 270. 

Kings, Book of the, 280. 

Kleist, Edward von, 269. 

Klopstock, Frederic, 119, 148, 269, 

311, 317, 319, 347, 352-4. 
Knox, John, 90. 
Kremer, 311. 



Labaume, 328. 

La Bruyere, Jean de, n, 119, 121, 122, 


La Calprenede, Gautier de, 155. 
La Chaussee, 123, 132, 133, 211-2. 
Laclos, Pierre Ambroise Francois 

[Choderlos] de, 226. 
La Condamine, Charles de, 258. 
La Croze, Mathurin de, 16. 
Lade, Robert, 45. 
La Fare, Marquis de, 58. 
Lafayette, Marquis de, 258. 
La Fontaine, Jean de, 7, 9, 26, 82. 
La Fosse, Antoine de, 9. 
Lagrange-Chancel, Joseph de, 81. 
La Harpe, Jean de, 96, 147, 1579 160, 

215, 233, 263, 323, 328, 343, 351, 


Lakanal, Joseph, 349. 
Lalande, Joseph de, 258. 
Lally-Tollendal, Thomas, 353. 
Lamartine, Alphonse de, 251, 254, 304, 

3 2 7> 35*> 37> 374- 
Lambert, Mme. de, 236. 
La Motte, Antoine de, 12, 131, 341. 
Langlois, Charles V., 3. 
La Noue, Francois de, 5. 
La Place, Pierre, 131, 132, 146, 228,266. 
La Rochefoucauld, Frangois de, 121, 


Larrey, Isaac de, 20. 
Lathmon, Ossian, 322. 
Lauzun, Duchesse de, 233. 
Lauzun, N. de, 258. 
Lavater, John, 226. 
Leben der Schiuedischen Grafin von G . . . , 

Gellert, 148. 
Le Blanc, Abbe, 40, 87, 99, 258, 261, 


Lebrun, Ecouchard, 349, 350. 
Le Clerc, Jean, 16, 18, 19, 25, 26, 83. 
Leibnitz, Gottfried W., 16, 17. 
Lemaitre, Jules, vii, 368. 
Lemercier, 349. 
Lemercier, Nepomucene, 214. 
Lemierre, Antoine Marin, 303. 
Lenglet-Dufresnoy, Nicolas, 35. 
Lenz, Reinhold, 275. 
LeoX., 12. 

Leonard, Nicolas-Germain, 224, 296. 
Leonidas, Glover, 56. 
Leopardi, Giacomo, 375. 
Le Pays, Rene, 6. 
Lesage, Alain Rene, 46, 48, 80, 125, 

146, 150, 152, 153, 155, 160, 175, 

193, 201, 205, 214, 223. 

Les Papier s anglais, 265. 

Lespinasse, Mile, de, 223, 287, 299. 

Lessing, Ephraim, 113, 114, 138, 149, 

269, 275, 282, 311, 347, 353. 
Lesueur, Jean, 329. 
Leti, Gregorio, 20. 
Letourneur, Pierre, 162, 267, 294, 305, 

309, 312-3, 323, 327-8, 338, 342. 
Letronne, Jean Antoine, 349. 
Letter concerning Enthusiasm, Shaftesbury, 


Letter from Italy, Addison, 118. 
Letters of Helo'ise and Abelard, 236. 
Letters to Eliza Draper, Sterne, 282. 
Lettre de Barnevelt dans sa prison, Do rat, 


Lettres, Mme. de Sevigne, 80. 
Lettres a M. de Malesherbes, Rousseau, 

Lettres anglaises, or philosophiques , Vol- 

taire, 37, 43, 48, 56, 57, 65-73, 87, 

98, 99, 102. 
Lettres de Juliette Catesby, Riccoboni, 225, 

2 3 8. 
Lettres de la marquise de , . . au comte de 

R . . ., Crebillon//j, 236. 
Lettres de Milady Linsay, 224. 
Lettres du marquis de Roselle, de Beau- 
mont, 238. 

Lettres peruviennes , De Graffigny, 238. 
Lettres persanes, Montesquieu, 8l, 122, 

I 7 0. 

Lettres portugaises , 236. 
Lettres sur les Anglais et les Franfais, 

Muralt, 37, 38, 44, 98, 103. 
Lettre sur les spectacles, Rousseau, 103, 

124, 129, 141, 228. 
Levite a" 'Ephraim, Rousseau, 299. 
Liaisons danger euses, Les, Laclos, 184? 226. 
Life of Cicero, Middleton, 45. 
Ligne, Prince de, 107, 262. 
Lillo, George, 114, 133-141. 
Litterature consideree dans ses rapports a*vec 

les institutions sociales, De la, De Stael, 

xiii > 335 35 6 ~7> 3 6 *-3> 37> 373'4- 
Locke, John, 16, 18, 19, 21, 26, 29, 

37, 59, 60, 61, 65, 77, 84, 85-86, 97, 

109, in, 248, 277, 301, 359. 
Lockman, John, 66. 
London Merchant, The, Lillo, 114, 132- 


Louis, Abbe, 355. 
Louis XIV., i, 12, 13, 80, 258, 334, 


Louis XV., 261, 263. 
Louis XVI., 261,264. 


Luc, Andre de, 91. 
Lucrece, Rousseau, 119. 
Lully, Jean Baptiste, 337. 
Lyly, John, 193. 
Lyttelton, Lord, 64. 

Mabillon, Jean, 80. 
Mably, Gabriel, 80, 128. 
Macbeth, Shakespeare, 367. 
Machiavelli, Niccolo, 363. 
Mackenzie, Henry, 145. 
Macpherson, James, 95, 316, 318-325, 

327-8, 330-1,^373. 
Magasin encyclopedique, 355- 
Magny, Claude-Francois, 93, 243. 
Maistre, Joseph de, 216. 
Maistre, Xavier de, 284. 
Malebranche, Nicolas, 80. 
Malesherbes, Chretien, 229, 242. 
Malherbe, Francois, 3, 376. 
Mallet, Paul-Henri, 317, 358. 
Mandeville, Bernard de, 32, 113. 
Man in the Moon, The, Godwin, 8. 
Manlius, La Fosse, 9. 
Manon Lescaut, Prevost, 49, 135, 154? 

161, 170, 201, 252. 
Mariana, Jean P., 74. 
Marechal, 9. 
Mariamne, Voltaire, 58. 
Marina or Elmerick , Lillo, 134. 
Marivaux, Pierre de, 78, 80, 97, 103, 
119, 120, 121, 125, 126, 150, 155- 
160, 166, 176, 193, 201, 205, 213, 
Markan, Abbe, 35. 

Marlowe, Christopher, 136. 

Marmontel, Jean Fransois, 80, 153, 
157, 213, 215, 223, 225, 361. _ 

Martinus Scriblerus Peri Bathos, Swift, '5 6. 

Martyrs, Chateaubriand, 354. 

Mary Tudor, 90. 

Masham, Lady, 18. 

Massillon, Jean-Baptiste, 81. 

Mason, William, 303. 

Maty, Matthew, 25, 30, 31. 

Mauger, Claude, 8. 

Maupertuis, Pierre, 83. 

Maury, Cardinal, 121. 

Mauve, de, 31. 

Mazarin, Cardinal, 5. 

Medical Dictionary, James, 113. 

Media's, Marie de, 5. 

Meditations, Bossuet, 251. 

Meditations among the Tombs, Hervey, 


Meditations poetiques, Lamartine, 370. 

Meilhan, Senac de, 353. 

Memoires, Mme. de Motteville, 80. 

Memoir es, Retz, 80. 

Memoires de Clarence Welldonne, 224. 

Memoires de Miled'i B . . ., Riccoboni, 


Memoires de Trevoux, 74, 119. 
Memoires du chevalier de Gramont, 8l. 
Memoires d'un homme de qualite, Prevost, 

46, 47, 154. 

Memoires et observations faites par un voya- 

geur en Angleterre, Misson, 24. 
Memoires litter air es de la Grande Bretagne, 

30, 31. 
JMemcires pour servir a Vhistoire de la 

vertu, Prevost, 225. 
JMemoires sur Suard, Garat, 2, 60, 80, 

82, 85, 99, 108, 131, 234, 255, 269, 

270, 277-8, 285, 287, 289, 316. 
Memoirs, Goethe, 320. 
Ibfemoirs of literature, 29, 30 
Memoirs of Miss Sidney Biddulph, Mrs 

Sheridan, 225, 233. 
Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare, 140. 
Mercier, Sebastien, 114, 138, 140,222, 

263, 265, 302, 312, 337. 
Mercure, Le, 266, 296, 351. 
Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare, 

S5i 347- 

Mestrezat, Jean, 19. 

Metastasio, Pietro, 269. 

Meurier, Gabriel, 7. 

Meynieres, Mme. de, 266. 

Michelet, Jules, 15, 21, 58, 371. 

Middleton, Conyers, 45. 

Miege, Guy, 7. 

Millot, Claude, 115. 

Milton, John, 13, 14, 26, 37, 47, 55, 
64* 65, 70, 94, 97, in, 250, 269, 
294, 301, 311, 337-8, 345, 353, 357, 


Mirabeau, Marquis de, 228, 258. 
Misanthrope, Le, Moliere, 141. 
Misanthrope, The (magazine), 120. 
Miser, The, Fielding, 56. 
Misson, Francois Maximilien, 16, 24. 
Missy, Cesar de, 16, 20. 
Maurs du Jour, &c., les, 224. 
Moivre, Abraham de, 16, 33. 
Moliere, Jean Baptiste, 13, 41, 54, 69, 

81, 128, 245, 341, 371, 376. 
Monchrestien, Antoine de, 5. 
Moniteur, le, 347. 
Monnier, Marc, xii, 208, 275. 
Monod, Caspar Joel, 162. 
Montague, Elizabeth, 269. 



Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley, 270. 
Montaigne, Michel de, 8, 29, 218, 274, 

3 6 3- 
Montesquieu, Charles de, 21, 46,50, 59, 

74, 97, 99, 100, 101, 122, 131, 144, 

256, 258, 290, 360^ 366. 
Montlosier, Francois Dominique de, 


Monuments de la mythologie et de la poesie 

des Celtes, &c. t Mallet, 317. 
Moore, Edward, 103, 114. 
More, Sir Thomas, 8, 22. 
Morellet, Andre, 258-9, 355. 
Morley, John, 60, 113. 
Morus, Alexander, 14. 
Morville, M. de, 62. 
Motteux, Pierre Antoine, 15. 
Motteville, Mme. de, 3, 62, 80. 
Mounier, Jean Joseph, 352. 
Muralt, Beat de, xi, 36-44, 48, 56, 59, 

73, 76, 92, 98, 103-109, 242, 258. 
Muszus, Johann, Karl August, 145, 


Musset, Alfred de, 254, 371, 374. 
Mussy, Gueneau de, 351. 

Nanine, Voltaire, 212, 221-2. 
Napoleon Buonaparte I., 329, 347, 351. 
Narbonne, Louis de, 352. 
Narcisse, ou Vamant de lui-meme, Rousseau, 

128, 129. 

Naude, Gabriel, 5. 
Necker, Jacques, 259, 261, 269, 339, 

357- A 

Neufchateau, Francois de, 301, 348. 
Newton, Sir Isaac, 16-19, 24, 29, 53, 

61, 67, 77, 82-86, 91, 97, 301. 
Nicolai, Christopher F., 282. 
Nicole, Pierre, 121, 218. 
Night Thoughts, Young, 62, 272, 275, 

301, 304-310, 312, 347. 
Ninon de 1'Enclos, 58. 
Nisard, Desire, viii, ix, xvi, xvii, 375. 
Nodier, Charles, 254, 284, 330, 349. 
Nollet, Jean, 53, 258. 
Northern Spectator, 311. 
Notre, Le, 108. 
Nouvelle bibliotheque anglaise, 3 1 . 
Nouvelle bibliotheque ou Histoire litteraire des 

principaux ecrits qui se publient, 27. 
Nouvelle Clementine, Leonard, 224, 
Nouvelle Helotse, Rousseau, x-xii, 95, 

104, 106, 112, 124, 129, 141, 172, 

196, 208, 218, 227-236, 238-240, 

242-4, 247-253, 255, 274, 277, 293, 
301, 303, 318, 361. 

Nouvelles de la Republique des lettres, 25, 

Nutty Bissy, 308. 

Observations, Desfontaines, 210. 

Odes, Collins, 301. 

(Edipe, Voltaire, 60, 81. 

Oithona, Ossian, 322. 

Optics, Newton, 83. 

Orleans, Due d', 210. 

Orneval, d', 125. 

Osservatore, 119. 

Ossian, xii, xiv, 200, 259, 266-7, 2 7 X > 
275, 296, 300, 303, 314-6, 318-334, 
337> 34i, 343> 345> 34^, 353, 357> 
359> 364-5> 3$7> 373-4- 

Ossian, Letourneur, 323. 

Othello, Shakespeare, 55, 132, 343. 

Otway, Thomas, 9, 47, 260, 266. 

Oursel, Louis, 7. 

Pamela, Richardson, ill, 144, 148, I55 
156, 158-161, 166, 167, 175, 176, 

188-192, 195-6, 198, 200, 208-214, 
217, 220-2, 226, 228, 237-240, 245, 

Pamela, de Neufchateau, 348. 

Pamela en France, Boissy, 211. 

Pan, Mallet du, 91. 

Panckoucke, Andre, 230. 

Paracelsus, Philippus, 98. 

Paradise Lost, Milton, 55, 266, 296. 

Paris, Gaston, 371. 

Paris-Duverney, 263. 

Parnell, Thomas, 62. 

Pascal, Blaise, 84, 307. 

Pasquier, fitienne, 6. 

Patin, Guy, 5. 

Pavilion, fitienne, 5. 

Paysan Parvenu, Le, Marivaux, 150, 159. 

Paysan Per-verti, Le, Restif, 226. 

Pellisson, Paul, 20. 

Pennant, Thomas, 64. 

Pensees anglaises sur divers sujets de religion 

et de morale, 307. 

Pensees philosophiques, Diderot, 113. 
Percy, Thomas, 316-7. 
Pere de famille, Le, Diderot, 112, 219. 
Peregrine Pickle, Smollett, 145. 
Pericles, 12. 

Perrault, Charles, 12, 13, 341. 
Perron, Cardinal de, n. 
Persifleur,> Le, 112, 124. 
Peterborough, Lord, 62. 
Petit catechisme politique des Anglais, &c., 




Petit Grandison, Berquin, 224. 

Petrarch, 292, 361, 365. 

Petronius, 122. 

Phedre, Racine, 10. 

Philosophique anglais, Le, see Cleveland. 

Philosophical essay concerning the Human Un- 
derstanding, Locke, 1 8. 

Pictet, Charles, 91. 

Pictet, Marie-Auguste, 91. 

Pindar, 308. 

Pitt, Andrew, 61. 

Pitt, William, 64, 262. 

Pliny, 128, 363. 

Plutarch, 297, 343, 349, 363. 

Poeme sur Lisbonne, Voltaire, 242. 

Poesies galliques, Baour-Lormian, 329. 

Poinsinet, Antoine-Alexandre -Henri, 

Polexandre, 236. 

Politique tiree de V Ecriture Sainte, 80. 

Polysynodie, Saint-Pierre, 20. 

Pompadour, Mme. de, 266. 

Pope, Alexander, 28, 33, 37, 56, 61, 64, 
6?> 7 2 73> 8 3> 95> 97> '" 115-118, 
133, 166, 260-1, 296, 309, 321, 359, 


Portland, Lord, 20. 
Postboy, The, 1 6. 
Pour et Centre, Le, Prevost, 37, 51, 52, 

56, 123, 139. 
Prevost d'Exiles, Antoine, xi, 2, 21, 

34> 35> 37> 44-5 6 > 6 5> 6 7 73> 7 6 > 8o > 
87, 95, 97, 103, in, 123, 127, 132, 
i39> I S J 5 J 5 iSS-^SS* 161-164, 172, 

178, 193, 201, 205, 212, 214, 217-8, 
223, 225, 227, 239, 242, 252, 256, 
264, 266, 268, 302. 

Priestley, Joseph, 257. 
Princesse de Cleves, 206, 246, 250. 
Principia, Newton, 83. 
Prior, Matthew, 67, 68. 
Prisonniers de guerre, Rousseau, 128. 
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 

Profession defoi du Vicaire Savoyard, Rous- 

seau, 1 1 8, 241-2. 
Propertius, 360. 
Proposal for correcting, improving, and 

ascertaining the English Tongue, Swift 


Pulci, Luigi, 74. 
Pygmalion, Rousseau, 129. 

Quincy, Quatremere de, 355. 
Quinet, Edgar, 330. 

Rabelais, Francois, xiii, 29, 283, 337. 

Racan, Honorat de, 341. 

Racine, Jean, 7, 8, 13, 16, 27, 96, 129, 

2 9 6 > 33 6 > 33 8 > 34i-2> 359' 3 68 > 37 1 * 

374, 37 6 - 

Radcliffe, Anne, 348. 
Radoteur, I2O. 
Ramsay, Andrew, 7, 21. 
Rapin, Rene, 82. 
Rathery, E. J. B., 7, 15, 19. 
Raynal, Guillaume, 80, 258, 279, 280, 


Reflexions sur la poesie et la peinture, Dubos, 


Regnard, Jean F. de, 81, 153. 
Relation d'un voyage en Angleterre, Sor- 

biere, 23, 24. 

Religieuse, la, Diderot, 217, 225. 
Remarques sur I' Angleterre faites par un 

voyageur, Colombiere, 24. 
Rembrandt, Paul, 283. 
Remy, Abbe, 312. 
Renan, Ernest, 376, 379. 
Rene, Chateaubriand, xii, 354, 365. 
Resnel, Abbe du, 73, 115, 266. 
Restif de la Bretonne, Nicolas Edme, 


Retz. Cardinal, 19, 80. 
Reveries d' un promeneur solitaire, Rousseau, 

2 3 I, 236, 299, 3 OI, 333. 
Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 281. 
Ricaut, Paul, 8. 

Riccoboni, Mme., 225, 238, 257, 312. 
Richardson, Samuel, xi, xiv, 45, 84? 

95, 109, in, 114, 133, 142, H4- I 5 I > 

155-241, 243, 245-7, *49> 26 7> *75 

281, 284-5, 39> 34i> 345> 34 8 > 357 


Richelieu, Due de, 6, 184, 342. 
Rivarol, Antoine de, 340, 353, 355,^377. 
Robbers, The, Schiller, xiv, 274. 
Robert Burns, Angellier, xv. 
Robertson, William, 269. 
Robespierre, Francois Maximilian, 314, 


Robinson Crusoe, De Foe, 1 8, 32, 33, 68, 

III, 115, 124-128, 165. 
Robinson (German, Italian, Silesian), 


Roche, Michel de la, 29, 30. 
Rochelle, Nee de la, 214. 
Rochester, Earl of, 37, 64, 70. 
Roderick Random, Smollett, 145. 
Rohan-Chabot, M. de, 57, 58. 
Roland [de la Platiere], Jean Marie, 

*5 8 > 347- 


39 1 

Roland, Mme., 297, 347. 

Ronsard, Pierre, xiii, 5. 

Roscommon, Earl of, 70. 

Ross, David, 133, 134. 

Roucher, Jean Antoine, 294, 297. 

Rousseau, Jean-Baptiste, 73. 

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, ix-xiv, xix, 2, 

40, 41, 44, 80, 88, 89-95, 97 9 8 > 
101-118, 123, 124, 127-133, 136, 141, 
148, 150, 151, 154, 155, 161, 163, 
164, 172, 180, 187, 200, 207, 208, 

212, 217-8, 221-4, 227-258, 271-9, 
28l, 288, 290-4, 299-304, 310, 314- 

315, 318, 322, 326, 331-3, 335, 338, 

34*-3> 346, 349 35> 35 6 "7> 359"3 66 > 

368-370, 372, 374, 379. 
Rousseau, Pierre, 267. 
Rowe, Nicholas, 138. 
Rutlidge, Chevalier de, 267. 
Rymo and Alpin, Ossian, 321. 

Sabliere, Mme. de la, 24. 
Sade, Abbe de, 264. 
Sade, Marquis de, 226. 
Saint-Amant, Marc Antoine de, 3, 5. 
Sainte-Beuve, Charles, 37, 153, 158, 

254, 267, 351, 372, 375. 
Saint-Evremond, Charles de, 10, 17, 23, 

41, 103, 201, 353. 

Saint-George, David de, 328. 
Saint-Hyacinthe, Themiseul de, 17, 18, 

28, 61, 125, 126, 266. 
Saint-Lambert, Charles de, 123, 294, 


Saint-Marc, Le Fevre de, 51. 
Saint-Maur, Dupre de, 266. 
Saint-Pierre, Abbe de, 20. 
Saint-Pierre, Bernardin de, 50, 127, 

228, 253, 293, 335, 344. 
Saint-Simon, Claude, 7, 115. 
Salle, Mile., 54. 
Sallengre, Albert Henri de, 29. 
Salmonet, 19. 

Samson, Joseph Isidore, 21. 
Sand, George, 193, 254, 330. 
Sante, le P. de la, 43. 
Sara Sampson, Lessing, 114, 138. 
Saumaise, Claude de, 3. 
Saurin, Jacques, 103. 
Saussure, Horace de, 91. 
Sauzet, Jean-Pierre-Paul de, 27. 
Savage, Richard, 67. 
Sayous, Pierre-Andre, 15, 18, 20, 24, 


Scaevola, Mucius, 349. 
Scarron, Paul, 147, 210, 283. 

Scenes anglaises, Destouches, 34. 
Schelandre, Jean de, 5, 9. 
Schelling, Friedrich von, 354. 
Scheurleer, 21. 
Schiller, Johann von, 274-5, 347, 352-3, 

357> 37> 374- 

Schlegel, Wilhelm, 139, 357. 
Schleinitz, 115. 
Schweighauser, Jean, 355. 
Scott, Sir Walter, 184, 195, 374. 
Seasons, The, Thomson, 68, 294-5, 298- 


Sedaine, Michel Jean, 133. 
Sejanus, Jon son, 10. 
Seneca, 5, 34. 
Sentimental Journey, Sterne, 280, 282, 


Septchenes, Leclerc de, 266. 
Sere, de, 115. 
Sermons, Bourdaloue, 80. 
Sermons, Sterne, 282. 
Serre, Puget de la, 5, 353. 
Sevigne, Mme. de, 7, 81. 
Sgravesande, Guillaume Jacob, 29. 
Shadwell, Thomas, 41. 
Shaftesbury, Earl of, 32, 60, 64, 68, 

97, 113, 118, 297, 309. 
Shakespeare, William, xiii, 8, 9, 32, 

41, 47, 55, 62, 64, 68, 69, 72, 84, 

94, 118, 131, 132, 138, 140, 193, 

207-8, 222, 250, 254, 257, 260, 265, 
267, 271, 275, 284, 294, 300, 319, 

336-9, 341-3, 345, 347-8, 353, 359, 

3 6 3> 3 6 5> 3 6 7" 8 > 37 X > 374~5- 
Shelburne, Earl of, 257. 
Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 251, 275. 
Sheridan, Richard B., 359. 
Sherlock, Martin, 63, 64, 78. 
Sidnei, Gresset, 302. 
Sidnei et Silli, d'Arnaud, 224. 
Sidney, Algernon, 270. 
Sidney, Sir Philip, 8. 
Siecle de Louis XV., Voltaire, 153. 
Silhouette, Etienne de, 115, 116. 
Sir Charles Grandison, Richardson, 145, 

148-150, 161-4, J 68, 170, 175, 202-4, 

208, 214, 217, 228, 233. 
Sismondi, Jean Charles, 354, 366, 376. 
Sloane, Sir Hans, 63. 
Smith, John, 323. 

Smollett, Tobias, 145, 146, 150, 257. 
Socrates, 123, 275, 349. 
Sophocles, 8, 13, 114, 220. 
Sorbiere, Samuel, 22-24. 
Sorel, Charles, 7, 9. 
Southerne, Thomas, 138. 

39 2 


Spectateur du Nord, 355. 

Spectateur fran^ais, I2O. 

Spectateur hollandais, 119. 

Spectator, The, 28, 29, 33, 68, IO2, 

118-123, 128, 236. 
Spener, Philipp Takob, 93. 
Spenser, Edmund, 13, 41, 47, 269, 318, 

Stael, Mme. de, vii-x, xii-xv, 2, 91, 

94, 96, 143, 150, 246, 253, 256, 271, 

274, 276, 317-8, 329, 333-5, 346-7, 

35, SS^, 354, 35 6 ~7> 3 6 -374, 37 6 - 
Stair, Lord, 57. 
Stanyan, Abraham, 113. 
Steele, Richard, 17, 33, 55, 118, 123, 

127, 197, 296. 
Stendhal [pseud, of Henri Beyle], xiii, 

146, 250, 292, 371, 374, 376. 
Stephen, Leslie, 192. 
Sterne, Laurence, xiv, 145, 222, 266, 

271, 275, 277-291, 308-9, 338, 341, 


Stewart, Dugald, 114, 257. 
Stinstra, Pastor, 148. 
Suard, Jean Baptiste Antoine, 114, 

131, 161, 258-9, 266, 268-9, 2 77> 

280, 357. 

Suard, Mme., 285, 322. 
Supplement au voyage de Bougainville, 

Diderot, 113. 
Swift, Jonathan, 28, 29, 33, 35, 56,62, 

67, 69, 70, 72, 86, 94, 97, 309, 

Tabaraud, Mathieu Mathurin, 119. 

Tacitus, 67, 193, 297, 349. _ 

Taine, Hippolyte, xiv, xvi, 23, 142, 

2 &3, 369> 373-. 

Tale of a Tub, Swift, 29, 33, 69, 97. 
Tambour nocturne, Destouches, 34. 
Tancrede , 361. 

Tartujfe, Moliere, 69, 215. 
Tasso, Torquato, 297. 
Tatler, The, 17, 33. 
Taylor, Jeremy, 70. 
Temora, Macpherson, 318. 
Tempest, The, Shakespeare, 34, 55. 
Temple, Sir William, 3, 26. 
Tesse, Mme. de, 227. 
Theatre anglais, La Place, 131, 266. 
Theocritus, 299. 
Thieriot, 63, 65, 264. 
Thomas, Antoine Leonard, 345. 
Thomson, James, xii, xiv, 47, 62, 67, 

68, 94, 95, 275, 294-301, 331, 345, 
347, 357, 3 6l > 3 6 5- 

Thoyras, Rapin de, 16, 20. 

Thucydides, 360. 

Tibullus, 360. 

Tillotson, John, 61, 65, 70. 

Tindal, Matthew, 20, 55, 58, 59, 

60, 61. 

Toland, John, 59, 60, 97. 
TolstoV, Lyof, 207, 247, 375. 
Tom Jones, Fielding, 145-147, 159, 165, 

217, 228, 266. 

Toussaint, Francois Vincent, 113, 114. 
Traducteur, Le, 268. 
Traits de la concupiscence, 8 1 . 
Traite de la connaissance de Dieu et de soi- 

meme, 80. 

Traite de metaphysique, Voltaire, 60. 
Travels in Italy, Addison, 118. 
Travels of Robert Lade, 45. 
Tresne, Marquis de la, 353. 
Tristram Shandy, Sterne, 145, 278, 281- 

286, 289, 341. 
Tronchin, Theodore, 91. 
Turcaret, 8l. 
Turgot, Anne, 321. 
Turretin, Alphonse, 91. 

Ulfeld, Comte d', 22. 
Urfe, d', Honore, 9. 
Utopia, More, 8, 22. 

Vanderbourg, Martin Marie Charles, 

Van EfFen, Justus, 29, 32, 33, 37, 125, 

126, 266. 

Vanini, Lucilio, 98. 
Van Loon, 45. 
Vauban, Sebastien, 80, 202. 
Vauvenargues, Luc [de Clapiers] de, 

80, 339. 

Vayer, La Mothe le, 7. 
Venice preserved, Otway, 47, 68, 266. 
Vergil, 5, 13, 28, 249, 294, 337, 341, 

344, 360, 363, 375. 
Viaud, Theophile de, 5. 
Vicar of Wakefield, Goldsmith, 145, 165. 
Vie de Marianne, Prevost, 150, 156-160, 


Vie d'une comtesse suedoise, Gellert, 148. 
Vigny, Alfred de, xvii, 196, 202, 371. 
Villemain, Abel F., 193, 207, 254, 

*95> 3'4> 330. 

Villers, Charles de, 354-5, 357, 366. 
Villoison, Jean B., 344. 
Vogue, Melchior de, x, 377. 
Voiture, Vincent, 5. 
Volland, Sophie, 216. 



Voltaire, Arouet de, xi, xviii, 2, 6, 
16, 18, 19, 22-24, 34, 35, 44, 48, 

56-76, 78, 80, 83, 85, 86, 87, 89, 95, 
97, 99, 100, 115, 117, 118, 120, 132, 

141, 143, 147, 153, 165, 173, 212-4, 
220-3, 225, 242, 248, 253, 256-8, 

264-6, 270, 282-3, 288, 295-7, 33> 
311-2, 325-6, 335-9, 341-5, 358-9, 
361, 363, 366, 368, 370, 376. 

Voss, Johann, 319. 

Vossius, Isaac, 82. 

Voyage d'Anacharsis, Barthelemy, 344. 

Walckenaer, Jan, 259. 

Waldegrave, Lord, 139. 

Wallenstein, Schiller, 352. 

Waller, Edmund, 10, 37, 70. 

Wallis, John, 23. 

Walpole, Horace, 101, 170, 223, 281, 

286, 316, 318. 

Warburton, William, 70, 116. 
Warens, Mme. de, 93, 243, 279. 
Warton, Thomas, 316. 
Waverley, Scott, 145. 
Weiss, J.-J., 376. 

Werther, Goethe, xii, xiv, 208, 235, 

3*, 33' 333 357 3 6l 
Wesley, John, 286. 
Westermann, Francois Joseph, 314. 
Wharton, Duke of, 182. 
Wieland, Christopher, 145, 149, 347, 

353> 357-8 

Wilhelm Meister, Goethe, 358. 
Wilkes, John, 64, 114, 257. 
Wilkins, John, 8. 
William III., 20, 21. 
Winckelmann, Johann J., 269, 344. 
Wood, Robert, 344. 
Woolston, Thomas, 61. 
Wycherley, William, 71, 72. 

Yart, Abbe, 266, 332. 

Tor ks hire Tragedy, A, 138. 

Young, Arthur, 257, 292. 

Young, Edward, xii, xiv, 62, 217, 267, 
271-3, 275, 300, 303-4, 306-314, 320, 
33 1 -*! 338, 34i, 347' 8 > 357> 3 6 5- 

Zaire, Voltaire, 54, 65, 99. 
Zelter, 113. 



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