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ideas on the subject.
where, but which embodies a clear reason or other, which we insight into the characteristics of unable to explain, only thirty our time-embodies it, too, in so copies
printed of this perfect and picturesque a manner essay. Perhaps the reason was that it is well worth recording and that Gautier wanted to found a remembering. “ Has not our cossect, and not to inform the world tume its signification," he argues, at large of his gospel of fine “miscomprehended though it be raiment. “Why,” he asks, “is the by our artists, who are imbued art of clothing abandoned entirely with the ideas of antiquity? By to the caprice of tailors and dress- its simple cut and neutral tint, it makers, under a civilisation when gives much force to the head, the the garment is of great importance ? seat of intelligence, and to the hands, for, owing to both moral ideas and the implements of thought.” We climate, the nude never appears in are thus led by our author to see it.” Gautier would doubtless, if that our age--so busy as it is with it were not for the unfortunate both head and hands-has its matter of climate, greatly prefer characteristics unconsciously hit the nude ; but if we must have off in its clothing, which gives clothes, he may be imagined as prominence to these typical saying, let us at least not be at members and covers all the rest, the mercy
of the taste of our not with attractive colours or gay tailors. À very good argument, adornment, but with the sober hue too, we must fain allow. “ We have of modern costume. forgotten that we are bodies, or tion is an original and noble one, what is their form," continues M. worthy even of Ruskin. The Greek, Gautier," for our garments have we may say, to carry out the become a sort of skin.” With thought, might expose his lithe, respect to this he makes a brilliant luxurious body all naked in the suggestion, which ought to fill all sun, and so declare the childlike right-minded persons with horror and sensuous manner of his exis--that in the Zoological Gardens tence; the hard-working European there should be a cage reserved for must concentrate the symbols of two specimens representing the his life in his head and hands. sexes of the genus homo, despoiled M. Gautier's suggestions should be of their factitious skin, and remind. taken to heart by our painters, ing the world of what it seems who seem to think they can do likely to
to forget—the outlines nothing but produce, at secondof the human form. “These speci- hand, the distinctive excellences of mens would be regarded with as a former age; or if they do conmuch curiosity as the giraffe or descend to make their compositions gorilla,” he adds sardonically. In out of the life that rolls around us, a higher sense, however, M. Gautier either grumble at the monotony of deplores the absence of the nude. the costume, or introduce romantic The nude has become a convention : effects which are strained and the garment is the visible form of unnatural.
Let them think of man. There can be, by natural Théophile Gautier, who will refer impulse, no more Greek sculptors them to Rembrandt for a master, or painters like Phidias, Apelles, and point to the genius of the age or Zeuxis. Their “nude
-a sad-costumed being, with all its natural; ours must be unnatural. life in its head and hands. Then he makes a suggestion which We who look with envious eyes we have never seen cited any- upon the fashion of the Parisian
lady's boot may be surprised to and fragrance. Then he will pluck learn that for once Gautier has the flower to pieces, shred by shred, no sympathy with so-called artistic petal by petal, and write another elegance. He hates the boot, poem, full of chill images and deand would give us sandals. For solation, upon its ruins. Later in why?
“ We moderns, thanks to life, however, his feverous dissatisour horrible system of shoeing, faction with the calm and serene which is almost as absurd as the elements of nature appears to Chinese buskin, have lost all know- have vanished. We are even led ledge of what a foot is like.” Ladies inevitably to suppose that much may think of the opinion of this of his expressed disgust was asartistic exquisite of Paris when sumed and foreign to the feelings they are donning their high-heeled lying at the depths of his nature. monstrosities. They are marring In 1870 was published a splendid one of the loveliest contours in imperial-quarto volume, entitled nature.
“ La Nature chez elle,” full of We have spoken of Gautier's exquisite engravings of natural detestation of rural pleasures.
of rural pleasures. beauty of wood and lake and Once when he was leaving Paris beast and bird. It bears M. Gau. for a tour in Spain, when we might tier's name as author of the written imagine he would at least have matter, which is no mere sketch some poetic feeling to spare for inspired by the blocks of the his native land which he is leaving drawings, and meet for the conbehind, his chief observations on ventional Christmas book; but an the districts through which he intensely beautiful and poetical passed on the Bordeaux diligence essay on the seasons and their consisted of a comparison of the varied charms. Though overflowfields, sown as they were with their ing with references to his favourite various crops, with the specimens lyrists, and with bright sparkles of trouser and waistcoat patterns, of fancy and wit, the work is a pasted side by side in a tailor's true and lovely idyl. Exquisite pattern-book. When a man of so metaphors abound, the idea being artistic a nature as Gautier de. kept up throughout of a young scends to so ignoble a comparison and spotless maiden; the seasons as this, we may be sure he does it being represented by her as “En designedly. These kinds of rural peignoir blanc," "à son réveil,” views, it seemed to him, might be to en toilette d'été," putting off productive of great pleasure to sa robefeuille morte," and so on. farmers, landlords, and such-like Throughout the volume's pages, worthies," but to the enthusiastic partridges alternate with lizards, and graphic traveller they were and wild flowers with toadstools; very weak compensation for the we have observations on spiders, toils of a journey. Gautier always and a treatise on the uses of snails. required the excitement of a city Dreams of Robin Hood and his to feed upon.
merry rural life are indulged in, Though he hates the country and many paysagistes romantiques with all its natural verdure, yet are appreciatively quoted from. he loves a flower. But it must We scarcely realise the fact that be an exotic, and shed its fragrance we are being led through these inover a luxurious drawing-room. nocent and sacred groves by the auUnder such circumstances he will thor of “Mademoiselle de Maupin," write a poem upon it full of a rare save by the unforgetable charm of and, as it were, exotic imagery style, and perhaps by the allusions
that few could make so aptly, to at Home” he shows himself to us Rabelais and Rousseau, to Shake- as a man who would occupy hours speare and Scott, to Titian and in contemplating a wayside plant, Rembrandt, to Hugo and De Mus- and who leaves with regret the set. We feel that this poetry of rural asylums of peace and fresh. nature, had it come upon Gautier ness, which form the subject of his earlier, might have constituted his idyl. If Gautier only gained or purification amid the distracting regained late in life this sense of vices of Paris. In Paris, however, calm and innocent beauty, in it is he lived, and he seems indeed at nevertheless to be found something one period to have deemed it his which divides immeasurably his mission to provide distempered maturity from the dried and evil palates with new and spicy flavours, old age of the roué. with refinements of evil, and poetic One element of his nature Gau. poisons. We must always retain tier did not lose on arriving at his in our minds a double sense of full maturity, and that is, caprice. Gautier-Gautier young and Gau Holding the common-place in tier old. His “expansive and horror, he is always striving after luxuriant youth," with its “fan- the bizarre. Hating conventional tastic and charming laisser-aller," restraint, he does not, in his writ
one critic puts it; in other ings at least, show any evidence words, that gay, reckless time of of being a stable law to himself, his life which affronts so much the but flies always in the direction moral sensibilities of most good of revolt, and towards anything people, is not to be confounded vagrant and unbridled. Be it with his sager and more generous
civilisation, morals, or religion, he maturity. Gautier's blood did not feels himself encastré therein ; grow feeble and thin after he had
therefore he must escape.
In the passed his prime, as that of many work last mentioned, we do not too
prone to demoralised imaginings find him to be too old to revolt. and excessive erotics in their youth. He describes there the ideal of a Such a man as Gautier would seem garden, having for its distinctive rightly destined to live on to years feature the fact that the pruningbeyond the ordinary span of human knife never enters it. There is to existence. On reaching hoary hairs, be all liberty there for branches or the fever of his blood would have
mosses to grow how and where abated, and he have attained his they like. All licence is to be given true maturity. Then from his tree for Bohemian hordes of undiscimight chance to spring wholesome plined plants to increase and mul. and lovely fruit, and the old man's tiply. The conventional broken life be pure and serene, disturbed glass may indeed surmount the only by the thoughts of the noxious walls to remove from roving gamins growth that his undeveloped and any temptation to which they might unrestrained youth-tide had put be subject; but on the unpainted forth. Perhaps in “ La Nature door are to be affixed, in menacing, chez elle” Gautier is but reverting huge letters, the words, “Défense to the dreams of his youth in the aux jardiniers d'entrer ici.” Our pleasant country regions near to author is nothing but a big boy, Spain. He says in the work just even to the last. named, “Man alienates himself Gautier professes the utmost each day from Nature, and the contempt for anything useful or sense of Nature seems to become designedly good. From moralists, obliterated within him." In“Nature philanthropists, and all earnest and
enthusiastic people he holds de- offspring of this bizarre love of cidedly aloof. To science he holds startling, the fruits of a reckless, himself equally antagonistic; phy- boyish ambition to say something sical discoverers, economists, and that should seem dreadful even in statisticians may alike be deemed to blasé Paris. With this end in view, be at the opposite pole of the in “Mademoiselle de Maupin" he world to his. He scorns, very
was completely successful. The rightly, the mathematically-minded journalists were taken aback; the monsters who, if they read a novel, book was styled
of the inquire, with calm disdain. “What strongest eccentricities of an epoch does the book prove?" His scorn fertile in eccentricities." It made of certain other classes of people a scandal in an era when people may not be so righteous: but it is, were not scandalised for a trifle." we believe, in many instances much If his sayings can be taken in the more apparent than real. He dis- spirit in which we imagine he said dains ostensibly religion, philan. them, many of them may be renthropy, morality; but let him be dered harmless. When he tells us free to follow his ideal of art, and that “nothing is more moral and it will be found to include some- sacred under heaven than kisses of thing of all three. But he will man and woman, when both are never avow any one of the moral beautiful and young," we only feel qualities as his aim. Beauty is the inclined to smile at a bit of poetical only god he worships; if morality truth, rather absurdly rendered. and other virtues should chance to Careful mothers and celibate priests be found as ministers in its train, of Paris, however, might perhaps he will not dismiss them; but they take it more seriously; and still are only allowed to come near him more so such a saying as the followon the distinct understanding that ing : “ Virginity, mysticism, and they shall be absolutely subser- melancholy, three unknown words vient to art. Beauty, riches, good in the ancient world, are three new fortune, gold, marble, purple- maladies brought in by Christ." without these there is no heaven for When we come to such sayings as M. Gautier—at least so he said ; “Qu'on est fidèle avec des régrets de but he spent long hours in the de- l'être"_" Je regrettai en la voyant piction of the lives and personalities ainsi, d'être son amant, et de n'avoir of his friends, and would lend his pas à le devenir,"as from the mouth money to the needy, or his expe- of a man, or to such speeches as rience to the young. With his “ Être avec son mari, c'est être appreciative, tender nature, his seule,” from a woman, or when wo delicate sympathies, his affectionate are told that jealousy on the part treatment of all whom he criticised, of a man is “Gothic prejudice,” we and his extreme care not to hurt the feel that we are in the presence of feelings of others, Gautier cannot the demoralised, but that the feelbe considered to have been basely ings are as likely to be assumed enslaved by art. But if he scrupu
It is not lously refrained from wounding, he ever, with all the contents of loved always to startle. Those “Mademoiselle de Maupin.” There paradoxes and smart, brilliant sen- are therein depictions quite untences of his that were so offensive worthy of Gautier, and suitable to many weaker brethren—those only to such grosser natures as epigrams that do so flagrantly Paul de Kock. It was well said in transgress the limits of meetness Fraser some years ago, with referand decency, were, we believe, the ence to Mr. Swinburne, that on the
physical side of love silence is the to show that he was not afraid of safest policy, and that a man is not speaking out, chose rather, and too necessarily an anchoret because he often, to speak what was unnecesdoes not babble. Some of Gautier's sary, and unworthy of being put characters do not only babble ; into speech. Thus his paradoxes they boast, which is not only and startling sayings increased and puerile, but disgusting. Gautier's multiplied. Baudelaire, friend of belief in art, for art's sake, ran Gautier, and himself one of the away with him. It is sustainable most paradoxical and morbid of as a creed up to a certain point, and men, says with truth, “ What the in a limited sense ; but when we mouth becomes accustomed to say, come to such sayings as the follow- the heart learns to believe.” That ing: “There is nothing truly beau- Gautier, as he grew older, aban. tiful save that which can be of no doned the vagaries, and to a great use; all that is useful is ugly, for extent recovered from the disorders it is the expression of some need; of his youth--that his mouth ceased and those of man are infirm and to say and his heart to believe his disgusting, like his poor and infirm evil paradoxes of old, and that, nature," we feel the repulsiveness therefore, so great a literary and of the doctrine, in spite of the artistic power as his was finally plausibility of the argument; and turned into more healthful chan. we feel at the same time that nels, all Frenchmen ought to be Gautier, when he made it, was at truly grateful. his lowest depth of moral degrada- Gautier is often spoken of as tion and want of faith.
having conquered “that strange ment is as nearly demoniacal as any disease of modern life," the deepwe have ever seen, and is the worst rooted ennui which seems to have of Gautier's morbid expressions been born in France, but which can that we know. How such a doc. be traced in Byron in England, Poe trine could consist with a jocund in America, and in many a morbid Paganism it is difficult to under- poetaster in the several countries, stand; it is merely the evidence of and is now reappearing as German disease. That Gautier's nature was Pessimism. Chateaubriand was at one period polluted, and de- always feeding his mind upon the prived of its natural purity, we are study of his soul's anatomy. Baudeconvinced. It is one thing to state
laire lived in a sort of hopeless boldly, and without fear, what is spirituality. These influences may healthful upon subjects even gene
be traced in their action upon rally tabooed, but quite another Gautier. At one time we find him thing to put forward wanton evi- endeavouring to shake them off. dences of abnormal disorders and In one of his books (“Fortunio "), unhealthy moods of passion. Gau- he tells us, will be found few wail. tier appears to have begun his ings over souls not mated, over revolt against goodness and order lost illusions, over soul-melan. by a reaction against conventional cholies, and other pretentious plati. shams. “The goal at which the tudes, which, produced over and most monstrously virtuous have over again to satiety, are a source arrived,” he informs us, “is to of enervation. “It is time to have think one thing and say another." done with literary maladies," says If he had done nothing beyond he; " the reign of the phthisical is reversing this state of things he over.” But in the memoir which might have done well. Unfortu- he wrote upon the death of one of nately, he went a step farther, and, his most intimate friends, even so