Зображення сторінки

there is nothing .n this very tempting to a rather delicate taste: the Frenchman, after Grammont's type, is born an epicurean, not a glutton or a drunkard. What he seeks is amusement, not unrestrained joy or bestial pleasure. I know full well that he is not without reproach. I would not trust him with my purse, he forgets too readily the distinction between meum and tuum; above all, I would not trust him with my wife: he is not over-delicate; his escapades at the gambling-table and with women smack too much of the sharper and the briber. But I am wrong to use these big words in connection with him; they are too weighty, they crush so delicate and so pretty a specimen of humanity. These heavy habits of honor or shame can only be worn by serious-minded men, and Grammont takes nothing seriously, neither his fellowmen, nor himself, nor vice, nor virtue. To pass his time agreeably is his sole endeavor. “They had said good-bye to dulness in the army," observed Hamilton, “as soon as he was there." That is his pride and his aim; he troubles himself, and cares for nothing beside. His valet robs him; another would have brought the rogue to the gallows; but the theft was clever, and he keeps his rascal. He lest England forgetting to marry the girl he was betrothed to; he is caught at Dover; he returns and marries her: this was an amusing contretemps; he asks for nothing better. One day, being penniless, he fleeces the Count de Caméran at play. “Could Grammont, after the figure he had once cut, pack off like any common fellow ? By no means; he is a man of feeling; he will maintain the honor of France.” He covers his cheating at play with a joke; in reality, his notions of property are not over-clear. He regales Caméran with Caméran's own money; would Caméran have acted better or otherwise? What matter if his money be in Grammont's purse or his own ? The main point is gained, since there is pleasure in getting the money, and there is pleasure in spending it. The hateful and the ignoble vanish from such a life. If he pays his court to princes, you may be sure it is not on his knees; so lively a soul is not weighed down by respect; his wit places him on a level with the greatest; under pretext of amusing the king, he tells him plain truths. If he finds himself in London, surrounded by open debauchery, he does not plunge into it; he passes through on tiptoe, and so daintily that the mire does not stick to him. We do not recognize any longer in his anecdotes the anguish and the brutality which were really felt at that time; the narrative flows on quickly, raising a smile, then another, and another yet, so that the whole mind is brought by an adroit and easy progress to something like good humor. At table, Grammont will never stuff himself; at play, he will never grow violent; with his mistress, he will never give vent to coarse talk; in a duel, he will not hate his adversary. The wit of a Frenchman is like French wine; it makes men neither brutal, nor wicked, nor gloomy. Such is the spring of these pleasures: a supper will destroy neither delicacy, nor good nature, nor enjoyment. The libertine remains sociable, polite, obliging; his gaiety culminates only in the gaiety of others;' he is attentive to them as naturally as to himself; and in addition, he is ever on the alert and intelligent: repartees, flashes of brilliancy, witticisms, sparkle on his lips; he can think at table and in company, sometimes better than if alone or fasting. It is clear that with him debauchery does not extinguish the man; Grammont would say that it perfects him; that wit, the heart, the senses, only arrive at excellence and true enjoyment, amid the elegance and animation of a choice supper.

1 The king was playing at backgammon; a doubtful throw occurs: "Ah, here is Grammont, who 'll decide for us; Grammont, come and decide." “Sire, you have lost.' “What: you do not yet know.".. “Ah, sire, if the throw had been merely doubtful, these gentlemen would not have failed to say you had won."

III. It is quite the contrary in England. When we scratch the covering of an Englishman's morality, the brute appears in its violence and its deformity. One of the English statesmen said that with the French an unchained mob could be led by words of humanity and honor, but that in England it was necessary, in order to appease them, to throw to them raw flesh. Insults, blood, orgie, that is the food on which the mob of noblemen, under Charles II., precipitated itself. All that excuses a carnival was absent; and, in particular, wit. Three years after the return of the king, Butler published his Hudibras; and with what éclat his contemporaries only could tell, while the echo of applause is kept up even to our own days. How low is the wit, with what awkwardness and dullness he dilutes his revengeful satire. Here and there lurks a happy picture, the remnant of a poetry which has just perished; but the whole work reminds one of a Scarron, as unworthy as the other, and more malignant. It is written, people say, on the model of Don Quixote; Hudibras is a Puritan knight, who goes about, like his antitype, redressing wrongs, and pocketing beatings. It would be truer to say that it resem. bles the wretched imitation of Avellaneda. The short metre, well suited to buffoonery, hobbles along without rest and limpingly, floundering in the mud which it delights in, as foul and as dull as that of the Enéide Travestie.? The description of Hudibras and his horse occupies the best part of a canto; forty lines are taken up by describing his beard, forty more by describing his breeches. Endless scholastic discussions, arguments as long as those of the Puritans, spread their wastes and briers over half the poem. No action, no simplicity, all is would be satire and gross caricature; there is neither art, nor harmony, nor good taste to be found in it; the Puritan style is converted into an absurd gibberish ; and the engalled rancor, missing its aim by its mere excess, spoils the portrait it wishes to draw. Would you believe that such a writer gives himself airs, wishes to enliven us, pretends to be funny? What delicate raillery is there in this picture of Hudibras' beard !

1 Hamilton says of Grammont, “He sought out the unfortunate only to succour them." This saying sounds strange after the horrors of the Commune.-TR.

“Ilis tawny beard was th' equal grace

Both of his wisdom and his face;
In cut and dic so like a tile,
A sudden view it would beguile :
The upper part whereof was whey,
The nether orange, nix'd with grey.
This hairy meteor did denounce
The fall of sceptres and of crowns :
With grisly type did represent
Declining age of Government,
And tell with hieroglyphic spade

Its own grave and the state's were made." Butler is so well satisfied with his insipid fun, that he prolongs it for a good many lines :

[ocr errors]

I A Spanish author, who continued and imitated Cervantes' Don Quixote. "A work by Scarron. liudibras, ed. Z. Grey, 1801, 2 vols., i. canto i. 1. 289, says also:

“For as Æneas bore his sire

Upon his shoulders through the fire,
Our knighe did bear no less a pack

Of his own buttocks on his back." 8 Hudióras, part i. canto i. 7. 241-250,

“ Like Samson's heart-Breakers, it grew

In time to make a nation rue;
Tho' it contributed its own fall,
To wait upon the public downfall.
'Twas bound to suffer persecution
And martyrdom with resolution;
T'oppose itself against the hate
And vengeance of the incens'd state,
In whose defiance it was worn,
Still ready to be pull’d and torn,
With red-hot irons to be tortur’d,
Revil'd, and spit upon, and martyr'd.
Maugre all which, 'twas to stand fast
As long as monarchy should last;
But when the state should hap to reel,
'Twas to submit to fatal steel,
And fall, as it was consecrate,
A sacrifice to fall of state,
Whose thread of life the fatal sisters
Did twist together with its whiskers,
And twine so close, that time should never,
In life or death, their fortunes sever;
But with his rusty sickle mow
Both down together at a blow.”]

Could any one have

The nonsense increases as we go on. taken pleasure in humor such as this ?

“ This sword a dagger had, his page,

That was but little for his age;
And therefore waited on him so
As dwarfs upon knights-errant do. ...
When it had stabb’d, or broke a head,
It would scrape trenchers, or chip bread. ...

Twould make clean shoes, and in the earth
Set leeks and onions, and so forth.” ?

Everything becomes trivial; if any beauty presents itself, it is spoiled by burlesque. To read those long details of the kitchen, those servile and crude jokes, people might fancy themselves in the company of a common buffoon in the market-place; it is the talk of the quacks on the bridges, adapting their imagination and language to the manners of the beer-shop and the hovel. There is filth to be met with there; indeed, the rabble will laugh when the mountebank alludes to the disgusting acts of

? Ibid. /.

" Hudibras, part i canto i. I. 253–280.



I 2

private life. Such is the grotesque stuff in which the courtiers of the Restoration delighted; their spite and their coarseness took a pleasure in the spectacle of these bawling puppets; even now, after two centuries, we hear the ribald laughter of this audience of lackeys.

IV. Charles II., when at his meals, ostentatiously drew Grammont's attention to the fact that his officers served him on their knees. They were in the right; it was their fit attitude. Lord Chancellor Clarendon, one of the most honored and honest men of the Court, learns suddenly and in full council that his daughter Anne is enceinte by the Duke of York, and that the Duke, the king's brother, has promised her marriage. Listen to the words of this tender father; he has himself taken care to hand them down:

“The Chancellor broke out into a very immoderate passion against the wickedness of his daughter, and said with all imaginable earnestness, 'that as soon as he came home, he would turn her (his daughter) out of his house as a strumpet to shift for herself, and would never see her again.'” 2

Observe that this great man had received the news from the king unprepared, and that he made use of these fatherly expressions on the spur of the moment. He added, “that he had much rather his daughter should be the duke's whore than his wife.” Is this not heroical ? But let Clarendon speak for himself. Only such a true monarchical heart can surpass itself:

“He was ready to give a positive judgment, in which he hoped their lordships would concur with him; that the king should immediately cause

1 “Quoth Hudibras, I smell a rat.

Ralpho, thou dost prevaricate;
For though the thesis which thou lay'st
Be true ad amussim as thou say'st
(For that bear-baiting should appear
Jure divino lawfuller
Than Synods are,

thou do'st deny,
Totidem rerbis, so do I),
Yet there is fallacy in this ;
For if by sly homa osis,
Tussis pro crepitu, an art

Thou wouldst sophistically imply,
Both are unlawful, I deny."

Parti, canto i. 1. 821-834. 2 The Life of Clarendon, ed. by himself, new ed., 1827, 3 vols., l. 378.

« НазадПродовжити »