Abbildungen der Seite

ration was the common thought of his con- and there saw the above-mentioned count, temporaries. But he had the genius which placed upon the highest step of a ladder. reveals to this popular thought its own He affirmed that this ladder seemed to rise grandeur, of which it was before uncon- uninjured, among the roaring and eddying scious. If he had any other assistance, it flames of the avenging fire, and to have was from one whom I have already men- been placed there, to receive all the detioned, one of those great promoters of in- scendants of that race of Counts. Beyond, tellectual progress, who appeared towards a black chaos, a frightful abyss extended inthe close of the eleventh century, and ex- finitely and plunged into the infernal depths, cited the imagination by their enterprises whence issued this immense ladder. This and their victories-Gregory Seventh. I am was the order established among those who about to make known something, which has there succeeded each other : the last comer never been cited any where, even in Italy, took the highest step of the ladder, and he, and which is found neither in Muratori, who before occupied it, and all the others, nor in Tiraboschi, nor in Baronius. descended each one step towards the abyss.

One day, long before the epoch of Dante, The men of this family, coming after him, in the little city of Arezzo, the Pope were successively arranged upon the ladder, Nicholas Second being present, a Cardinal and, by an inevitable law, went one after ascended the pulpit and preached. This another to the bottom of the abyss. Cardinal was then fifty years of age; he The holy man who witnessed these things, was small of stature; his eyes were spark- inquiring the cause of this horrible damnaJing, and animated by an ardent and som- tion, and especially why this Count, his conbre fire, which made sinners tremble; his temporary, was punished, who had lived hair, still black, gave to his countenance al- with such justice, propriety and uprightready aged,something more manly and harsh ness, a voice replied: On account of a His words were revered by the people ; he domain of the Church of Metz, which was henceforth regarded as a holy man; one of their ancestors, of whom he is the and all the bishops of Italy trembled be- tenth heir, had wrested from the blessed fore his power: this was Gregory Seventh, Stephen, all these have been devoted to the who was yet only the archdeacon Hilde- same punishment: and as the same sin of brand.

avarice had united them in the same crime, In what he said, we may perhaps trace so the same punishment has reunited them the inspiration of Dante. Why go back so in the fires of Hell." far? Because a man of genius having preach And now that we have the idea of these ed such a thing, it must have been repeated, ten degrees, this progressive noviciate of commented upon, exaggerated, altered by hell, does it not seem, that this and simthe popular imagination, and, receiving in ilar recitals, issuing from that terrible mouth, its course a thousand accessories, become which made kings tremble, and from that a vast legend, which a man of genius after- pulpit full of anathemas, and circulating wards seized upon and raised to the dignity in all the different versions of the terrified of poetry; but the primitive germ was there. multitude, must, sooner or later, have deGregory Seventh concerned himself, not posited in the soul of a man of genius the with a poetic thought, but with an act of germ of that wonderful and sublime plan, sacerdotal domination. He wished to make in which nine infernal circles present a conunderstood, by a terrible fiction, that the tinual succession of torments. possessions of the church were sacred and Time will fail me, to fill up all the parts inviolable, and that neither barons nor of the rapid sketch which I proposed to princes could with impunity lay their hands make. The genius of Dante is distinct upon them. Moreover, it was his policy to and separate from all which surrounds him. impute the greatest of all crimes to the Nothing surpasses and nothing equals him. Germans, the enemies of Italy and of the Now, from that powerful impulse, which Popes. Let us listen to him :

superior man gives to his contemporaries, ' A certain German count, rich and pow. secondary geniuses arise in his train. Thus erful, and which seems to me somewhat un- is presented the fourteenth century, with its usual among that class of men, of a good brilliancy, its beautiful language, its harmoconscience and a pure life, at least accord-ny, which Dante himself imitated from the ing to human judgment, died about ten Provençal Troubadours, but so eclipsed years ago. After his death, a holy man them, that they were never afterwards mendescended in spirit into the infernal regions, tioned.


Let us study with care all that Italian for he filled forty volumes with an account literature, from which France has derived of his readings! so much, and which owes so much to To what did all this literature lead ? How France. The graceful verses and scholas- did the fifteenth century end ? With a writic zeal of Petrarch, the narratives of Boc- ter not altogether moral, but acute and jucaccio and other romance writers, are illus- dicious, an excellent historian, Comines. trative of the taste and genius of the Mid- Let us here remark the general and natural dle Ages. Thus terminated the fourteenth laws, which have regulated the progress century of Italy. The age which followed of the French mind. As the fabliaur and was a period of mere erudition. The tales of the thirteenth and fourteenth cenhuman mind seems to have taken a grand turies produced the artless and piquant style step, from its own impulse; then it stopped ; of the historian, Froissart, so all the long it investigated, instead of inventing: there romances of chivalry, and all the erudition

an interval of repose between the of the fifteenth century, conduced to form immortal works of the fourteenth century the sarcastic and subtle intellect of Coand the creations, not less grand, of mines. The genius of the nation, under the the sixteenth; there was a slumber of influence of the most diverse usages and human thought.

studies, seems constantly to have advanced, The same spectacle is presented in France and, at the close of each epoch, to have without the same indemnification. There produced its most expressive and most apwas nothing, in our fourteenth century, propriate type. which even approached the creative powers Beside the acute judgment and politic saof Dante or the elegance of Petrarch: but gacity of Comines, who crowned the first there were already many indications of development of the French mind, apthat spirit of vivacity and raillery, which peared the earliest essays of the drama. characterizes our nation and was born, I They have not a literary, but an anecdotical think, with the first Gaul.

and moral interest. Nor do we seek in The singular Romance of the Rose, them matter for a doctrinal quarrel. We commenced in the thirteenth century ; are eclectic in literature; we love all that Froissart, a chronicler so simple and yet is beautiful, ingenious, new, to whatever so full of refinement-Froissart, the inge- school it may belong. We believe that it nious poet, possessing the imagination of is not necessary to belong to any school, the Troubadours, united with the satire of not even to that of genius; for if it were the Trouvères ; Charles of Orleans, acquir- original, it had no school ; and for it, imiing a taste for poetry in his captivity of tation would be infidelity. But returning Agincourt-twenty-five years of imprison- from this digression, I will say that in ment!-how could he fail become a poet? France, we find the commencement of the Charles of Orleans, who wrote verses of bold and free drama. In the order of such

grace, in our language and in that of time, France was the first to enter this path, the conquerors: these are all that taste can which it afterwards quitted. Plays were select from the fourteenth century, and all also written in Italy, but it does not appear that succeeded that grand and immortal that they possessed much merit. I do not vision of Dante. Then came erudition to us, know whether that representation of the inas to Italy. There were crowds of writers, fernal regions, which was attempted in an incredible profusion of books, piles of Florence in 1304, to celebrate the arrival manuscripts at the gates, awaiting the in- of a papal legate, can be styled a play. vention of printing All this will furnish The inhabitants were crowded together curious materials for the history of letters. upon the banks of the Arno, and upon a

The romances of chivalry, which had bridge, where was acted the piece, compreceded the grand creations of Dante, posed of demons and condemned souls. were multiplied, more than ever, in the fif- I am unacquainted with the dialogue. The teenth century; they were, if I may be al- demons tormented the condemned, and the lowed the expression, the public imagination condemned complained. But the catastroof the times; we can number them by phe was frightful; the bridge broke down : hundreds, the Palmerin d’Olive, the Palm- demons and condemned fell into the river. erin d'Angleterre, the Florian du Désert, The idea of this piece was somewhat singu&c., &. I have not read them all; but lar, but it cannot be regarded as a theatriM. de Paulmy read them. And it is a meri- cal precedent. torious thing to have read M. de Paulmy, The Spanish genius, which has produced

such master-pieces of dramatic art, was not the Arabian life; and that religious ardor, developed till the sixteenth century. It is and, at the same time, that tolerance, born in France then, that are to be found the of a kind of chivalric generosity, which most numerous dramatic efforts in the fif- afterwards yielded to a politic cruelty. teenth century. It is there that we must The king Don Sancho, when ill, confided study them. Moreover, our poor Trouba- himself to the hospitality and physicians of dours were no more ; before the end of the the Moorish king of Cordova. Toledo, refourteenth century, they had ceased to ex-gained by the Spaniards, preserved its ist. Their language soon became merely grand mosque. The Moors became cheva provincial dialect Dante bias named aliers, like the Spaniards, and the latter them ; this is their glory. He met in pur- became scholars and mathematicians, like gatory one of these poets—the elegant Sor- the Moors. This curious spectacle of two dello; and he placed in hell the warlike nations, by turns conquering and conquered, Bertrand de Born, whom he represents as communicating to each other all their a bloody mutilated body, carrying its head ideas, yet never uniting, resembling each in its hand.

other in character, yet invincibly separated The free poetry of the Troubadours nev- by religion, is constantly presented in the er regained its happy genius, after the de- Spanish narratives, from the old poem of struction of the Albigenses, whom it at the Cid, to the chronicles of the war of tempted to defend by its songs. It lan- Grenada. From a very natural reserve, we guished, and imperceptibly disappeared. shall say but little of Arabian literature, in In the fifteenth century, it was no longer its connection with Europe in the Middle mentioned.

Ages. If we possessed the vast learning of In Spain, whose language had so great M. Fauriel, who has acquired the Arabian, an affinity with that of the Troubadours, as well as the modern Greek, and all the we may discern a prolonged reflection of languages of the South, we should enter their imagination. But the Castilian dia- with joy into the mines of the East, in lect began to prevail over the Catalan in which are concealed such treasures of imliterary works; and poetry was more learn- agination and poetry. But ignorant as we ed than inspired. The Marquis de Santil- are, we will only endeavor to seek the relana and other writers prescribed rules of flection of Arabic genius in the Spanish taste : criticism superseded boldness. genius, whence it passed into the rest of Why was this?

Because the Spanish Europe. genius had scarcely commenced its career, Many minds felt, in the Middle Ages, and had not yet perforined those great the influence of Arabic literature, without deeds, which were necessary to animate knowing its original source. The Orienand elate it. The Cid had stimulated the tal genius came to them through Spain and imagination of the people, but no poet was Christianity. distinguished from the crowd. The peo When we shall have discovered, amid a ple were poets, and much anonymous tal- multitude of popular traditions and a few ent was exercised, without being known. scattered monuments, the general spirit of Yet some of the Spanish chroniclers ex- the Spanish nation, shall we not be tempted cite deep interest, and may be compared to exclaim : “Why has this nation, so vigorwith the historians of Italy. Allaya is not ous and so gifted, been outstripped? Why inferior to the celebrated Villani, and in has this race, formed of Arabian and Euthe fifteenth century, the dramatic life of ropean blood, ardent, inventive, and warAlvar de Luna was portrayed with rare tal-like, why had it then no genius for the ent by Castellanos,

arts? Why were the Italians distinguished In the Spanish chronicles and romances, so much earlier ?" Because it is necessary we see with what truth the national lan- for a nation to be a nation, before it can guage depicts the Middle Ages. The possess talent, and to perform great actions Latin narratives are deceptive in style, un- before it can write books. Thus Italy, by less they are very barbarous, and, assuming liberating itself, under the auspices of the rudeness of the times, allow the move- those great popes of the Middle Ages, by ments of the vulgar tongue to be discerned. transforming its cities into agitated but The old monuments of the Spanish lan- free republics, had early accomplished its guage alone show distinctly, and with an wo and had opened for itself a career of admirable vividness of coloring, the Chris- genius and the arts. Spain had not then tian life of the Middle Ages, mingled with achieved this, but though delayed, how

[ocr errors]

great has been its work! To what a

From the London Quarterly Review. height did it carry the power of the human

COLLECTIVE EDITION OF LORD CHESmind! What vast exploits did it crowd

TERFIELD'S LETTERS. into the close of the fifteenth century ! Within a few years we see the crowns of

The Letters of Philip Dormer Stanhope, Castile and Aragon united, Grenada besieg

Earl of Chesterfield ; including numered, and another city built under its ram

ous Letters now first published from the parts, and hastening the fall of the last of the Moorish kings. The Spanish conquer

original MSS. Edited, with Notes, by

Lord Mahon, in 4 vols., 8vo. London. ors, not yet spoiled by the barbarous fanat

icism of the Inquisition, retained the con-
quered as subjects, merchants and laborers. Two scions of the old knightly house of
When Spain became powerful, industrious, Stanhope were raised to the peerage by
proud of itself and its glory, it had time to James I. The elder (and only surviving)
attempt vast enterprises and to possess ge- branch was advanced to the earldom of
nius. And what great work did it un- Chesterfield by Charles I., in whose cause
dertake? Something so great, that the its zeal and sufferings were conspicuous.
whole future of the world is affected by it. Two of its cadets earned early in the next
I know not from what cause, whether from century by great public services the separ-
a Chinese tradition, reaching even to the ate earldoms of Stanhope and Harrington;
Leipsig fair, or from the fortuitous discov- and in the former of these junior lines the
ery of a German, printing was invented. succession of remarkable abilities has ever
Spain, with its Genoese, undertakes some- since been uninterrupted-a circumstance
thing still more grand : Columbus departs perhaps unique. We believe, taking the
and America is discovered. The fifteenth blood altogether, not one race in Great
century closed with this event, the most Britain has produced within the last two
memorable in the history of the world, hundred and fifty years so many persons of
since that which changed the faith of na- real and deserved eminence; but still for
tions. And the man who performed this the brilliant variety of his talents and at-
immortal work, first showed to Spain the tainments, the general splendor of his ca-
height of literary genius, if this word may reer, influence, and fame, the fourth Earl
be applied to one so powerful in deeds as of Chesterfield remains the facilè princeps
Christopher Columbus. The genius, till of his house and name. Either as states-
then limited to a few popular songs, was man, or diplomatist, or orator, he stood be-
raised to sublimity by the enthusiasm of the low no contemporary who ever held the
great man, whose thoughts were as lofty as prime management of a great party, and
the actions which he achieved. If we would below but two of those who ruled the Em-
know what was Spanish eloquence, at the pire. As the ornament and oracle of the
end of the fifteenth century, we must in- world of fashion, the model of taste and wit,
quire of this stranger, we must snatch a few and all personal graces and accomplishments,
pages from the conferences of Christopher his supremacy was undisputed ; but it is to
Columbus with the monks who wished to his connexion with the literary men of his age
refuse him America: we must hear him, that he owes mainly the permanence as well
in his letters, justifying himself to kings, as the prominence of his celebrity. He sur-
to whom he had given a world for which vives among us, and will survive, by reason
they were not grateful. Then we shall of his connexion with Pope, Gay, Atterbury,
see, that the genius of eloquence, which Arbuthnot, Swift, Voltaire, Johnson; and
succeeds action, is as grand as action it (though we are far from undervaluing others
self, and not less worthy of leaving, in the of his writings) because his Letters on the
memory of mankind, an impression which education of his son are in point of style a fin-
shall never be effaced.

ished and classical work, contain instructions
for the conduct of life that will never be
obsolete, and constitutes some of our most
curious materials for estimating the moral
tone of aristocratic society during a long
and important period of English history.

These famous Letters were published the
year after his death, and have since gone
through many editions; but it cannot be

said that until now they had received evention. With such social connexions and a decent measure of editorial care. Lord predilections, such literary habits and faMahon has (with a few trivial and proper cility, his correspondence must have been omissions in the earlier part of the series) vast—and even now we can have seen but reproduced them entire, and for the first a very insignificant fragment of it. Where time filled up names left in blank, and ex- is it? Even in those comparatively careplained hints and allusions which the lapse less days, who could have burnt a letter of of another generation would have condemn- Lord Chesterfield's? We have no doubt ed to hopeless obscurity. As the original that in the repositories of those who repreeditrix was actuated solely by motives of sent his various political and fashionable pecuniary interest, no addition to the text associates, innumerable relics must still be could be expected-she, we may be sure, lying disinterred. Lord Mahon tells us that printed every scrap that had been preserv- he inquired in vain at Bretby; but it was ed. They are now, however, incorporated not there that we should have expected to with a more general correspondence which find much-Lord Chesterfield was the last had been originally dealt with in a widely man to keep copies of his own letters—we different manner. Bishop Chenerix and should greatly doubt whether he ever wrote Mr. Dayrolles were friends of Chesterfield, any thing twice over in his life. But we and men of character and honor. In what-are not told of any researches in places ever they communicated to the public they which we should have conjectured to be had a just regard for the claims both of the among the likeliest for discovery—at Castle dead and the living : if they erred at all, Ashby, for instance, at Stanmer, at Clumit was on the side of over-delicacy : ac- ber, or Longleat, or Hagley. Among his cordingly, the mutilations were severe; closest connexions was that with Mr. Waland as respects this, the larger share of his ler, the last male representative of the poet, materials, when we compare Lord Mahon's himself a man of extensive acquirements, copy with what we had had before, it is an elegant scholar, through life a student. hardly too much to say that he has given Where are the Waller MSS? Has Mr. us a new work. Whatever could wound Upcott no information of their fate? Then, any body's feelings had been omitted; in is there not reason to suppose that a very other words, a very large proportion of considerable body of Chesterfield's papers whatever could throw light on the secret exist in the Castle of Dublin? The Earl's history of parties and public men in Lord brief vice-royalty is on the whole the most Chesterfield's time-very many letters en- honorable feature in his history. Some intirely—the most striking paragraphs of edited letters or despatches of that date half the rest. The lacuna are now filled were quoted with effect a few years ago in

was possible—and the whole the House of Lords by the Marquis of Norillustrated by notes, which we recommend manby; but though the noble Editor's atto the study of all who may be tempted to tention was thus directed to the point, the undertake tasks of this description; for result is nil. He states that his applications they are brief and clear-and wherever were received with the anticipated courtesy a judgment was called for, convey that of both by Lord Normanby and by the present a sagacious mind in language as terse as the Lord-Lieutenant; but that in neither case great kinsman himself could have employ- were the desired documents placed at his ed. Lord Mahon has also collected and disposal. Cosas de España :-we think arranged the various Letters that had more it highly improbable that a trip to Dublin recently emerged in the Suffolk Corre. (within the last twelve months at all events) spondence, the Marchmont Papers, Cox's could have failed of its reward. But as no ponderous compilations, and elsewhere. man ever devoted himself to the ladies with We are, however, we must confess, some more zeal, or carried to the grave with him what surprised that his diligence has not the reputation of more triumphant success brought out more of absolute novelty in in the quest of their favor, nothing certainthis way. Mr. George Berkeley, we know, ly strikes us as stranger in this case than had kept carefully some specimens of Ches- that so few specimens should have yet come terfield's epistolary vein, even of the boy- out of the Earl's correspondence with the ish Cambridge time. The writer attained fair sex. That he hardly spent a morning extraordinary repute in his earliest man- between his 20th and his 50th year without hood, and he lived to the edge of eighty in penning some effusion of gallantry-nulla the enjoyment of all but unrivalled admira-dies sine lineâ—we may assume as not less

up as far

« ZurückWeiter »