Early French romanticism

French Romanticism refers to the Romantic era in French literature and art from the second half of the 18th century to the first half of the 19th century. French romanticism used forms such as the historical novel, the romance, the “roman noir” or Gothic novel; subjects like traditional myths (including the myth of the romantic hero), nationalism, the natural world (i.e. elegies by lakes), and the common man; and the styles of lyricism, sentimentalism, exoticism and orientalism. Foreign influences played a big part in this, especially those of Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Byron, Goethe, and Friedrich Schiller. French Romanticism had ideals diametrically opposed to French classicism and the classical unities, but it could also express a profound loss for aspects of the pre-revolutionary world in a society now dominated by money and fame, rather than honor.

Key ideas from early French Romanticism:

“Le vague des passions” (vagueness, uncertainty of sentiment and passion): Chateaubriand maintained that while the imagination was rich, the world was cold and empty, and civilization had only robbed men of their illusions; nevertheless, a notion of sentiment and passion continued to haunt men.
“Le mal du siècle” (the pain of the century): a sense of loss, disillusion, and aporia, typified by melancholy and lassitude.
Romanticism in England and Germany largely predate French romanticism, although there was a kind of “pre-romanticism” in the works of Senancour and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (among others) at the end of the 18th century. French Romanticism took definite form in the works of François-René de Chateaubriand and Benjamin Constant and in Madame de Staël’s interpretation of Germany as the land of romantic ideals. It found early expression also in the sentimental poetry of Alphonse de Lamartine.

The major battles of romanticism in France were in the theater. The early years of the century were marked by a revival of classicism and classical-inspired tragedies, often with themes of national sacrifice or patriotic heroism in keeping with the spirit of the Revolution, but the production of Victor Hugo’s Hernani in 1830 marked the triumph of the romantic movement on the stage (a description of the turbulent opening night can be found in Théophile Gautier). The dramatic unities of time and place were abolished, tragic and comic elements appeared together and metrical freedom was won. Marked by the plays of Friedrich Schiller, the romantics often chose subjects from historic periods (the French Renaissance, the reign of Louis XIII of France) and doomed noble characters (rebel princes and outlaws) or misunderstood artists (Vigny’s play based on the life of Thomas Chatterton).

Victor Hugo was the outstanding genius of the Romantic School and its recognized leader. He was prolific alike in poetry, drama, and fiction. Other writers associated with the movement were the austere and pessimistic Alfred de Vigny, Théophile Gautier a devotee of beauty and creator of the “Art for art’s sake” movement, and Alfred de Musset, who best exemplifies romantic melancholy. All three also wrote novels and short stories, and Musset won a belated success with his plays. Alexandre Dumas, père wrote The Three Musketeers and other romantic novels in an historical setting. Prosper Mérimée and Charles Nodier were masters of shorter fiction. Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, a literary critic, showed romantic expansiveness in his hospitality to all ideas and in his unfailing endeavour to understand and interpret authors rather than to judge them.

Romanticism is associated with a number of literary salons and groups: the Arsenal (formed around Charles Nodier at the Arsenal Library in Paris from 1824-1844 where Nodier was administrator), the Cénacle (formed around Nodier, then Hugo from 1823–1828), the salon of Louis Charles Delescluze, the salon of Antoine (or Antony) Deschamps, the salon of Madame de Staël.

First period: The préromantisme (1750-1800)

Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns – The dramas of Diderot
The revolt against the imitation of antiquity began at the end of the xvii th century by the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns. Perrault, La Motte, and Fontenelle had dealt a severe blow to classical tragedy. But the true wrecker of the rules on which she rested is Diderot. He rebels against the prescriptions of Aristotle and Horaceand against classical models. Our tragedies are, in his eyes, artificial and false, contrary to nature and truth. The subjects borrowed from the life of the great, instead of being bourgeois, are of no interest to us. The action is implausible, for the painting of enormous crimes and barbarous manners is out of season in a mild and civilized century. Finally, the language is bombastic and declamatory, the costumes ridiculous, the decoration absolutely appalling. The dramatic poet will therefore have to take his subjects into domestic life; he will create the bourgeois tragedywhich will differ from serious comedy only by a tragic outcome, which will be based not on characters but on conditions, and which will show not the miser, the vain or the hypocrite, but the merchant, the judge, the financier, the father of a family. This change led to others: prose substituted for verse as a more natural language, a greater variety in the costume and decor, more movement and pathetic action. But Diderot too often confused nature with her puerile realism; under the pretext of morality, he gave a sermon dialogue instead of an action; finally, his ever-effusive sensibility threw him into a tearful and ridiculous manner. The Double Failure of the Father of the Family (1757) and the Natural Son (1758) was the condemnation of these theories and the signal of death for his reforms.

It will take, to bring in France a radical reaction against Classicism, other stronger and deeper influences. It will take a complete transformation of the ways of thinking and feeling, which was still in germ in the middle of the 18th century.

The transformation of ideas and customs
Before knowing Clarissa Harlowe of the Englishman Richardson and Werther the German Goethe, it was written in France in the 18th century novels, mostly very poor and soon forgotten, but that show that living and painting life was not only as the xvii th centuryhad seemed to believe him, analyze and reason; it was also “listening to the voice of the heart”, “tasting the delights of feeling”, experiencing “the sensitivity of a heart as violent as it is tender”, cherishing “the poison of passions that devour”, or their “sad pains that have their charm, “let themselves be caught in” the gloomy melancholy of a savage stay “, indulge in the” attractions of despair “, and even” seek the tragic repose of nothingness “. The Sidney de Gresset (1745), like the Cleveland of Abbé Prévost or his Dean of Killerine (1735), along their adventurous destiny of incurable diseases of the soul without reason or remedy, a secret fund of melancholy and anxiety, a “devouring need”, an “absence of an unknown good”, a void, a despair that drags them from boredom to melancholy and weariness.

The nature itself that we love is no longer the wise and tidy nature, without exuberance or unforeseen. The taste develops from true nature with its whims and even its savagery. Walkers are many in the 18th century, for the pleasure of the outdoors first, but also poetic and heartfelt contemplation joys. You can already taste the moonlight, the sound of the horn in the depths of the woods, the moors, the ponds and the ruins. Meudon, Montmorency, Fontainebleaubecome the asylum of lovers, the refuge of disappointed and despairing hearts. We are beginning to know another life than that of the salons, and many great souls seek in nature “advice for living, forces to suffer, asylums to forget.” You open to be convinced correspondence M lle de Lespinasse, of M me Houdetot or the Countess of Sabran.

Soon, even the France of the plains and the hills, the France of the Île-de-France is not enough anymore. In Switzerland and in the mountains we are going to look for stronger emotions and new thrills. From 1750, a poem by the Swiss Haller, the Alps whose translation is very popular, evokes ignored or unknown splendours. We start with the lakes of Geneva, Bienne and Thunand the average altitudes; then we climb to the glaciers, we face the eternal snows. We are going to seek the most sublime exaltations: “Words are no longer enough,” writes a traveler, “and metaphors are powerless to make these upheavals. May the choruses of our cathedrals be deaf by the sound of the falling torrents and the murmuring winds in the valleys! Artist, whoever you are, will sail on Lake Thun. The day I saw this beautiful lake for the first time was almost the last of my days; my existence escaped me; I was dying to feel, to enjoy; I was falling into annihilation. ”

Worn by these influences, the owners of parks or country houses want at home other sets. Bourgeois is the wise garden of Auteuil where the gardener Antoine “directs the yew and the honeysuckle ” of Boileau and aligns his espaliers; the sumptuous order of Versailles and the French parterres of the pupils of Le Nôtre are very cold. What pleases is, in the middle of the century, the free grace and capricious fantasy of country settings that Watteau and Lancretgive as background to their paintings, and, after 1750, the tormented rocks, the foaming torrents, the storms, the furious waves, the shipwrecks, all the “sublime horrors” that we find in the paintings of Claude Joseph Vernet, and that his customers command him: “a very horrible storm”, desires one, and another: “waterfalls on troubled waters, rocks, tree trunks and a frightful and wild country. ”

The return to the Middle Ages
At the same time as the taste of the true nature or embellished by ruins, the taste of the Middle Ages and our national antiquities develops. Thanks in particular to the Comte de Tressan, who gave in 1782 his Excerpts from the romances of chivalry, fashion came to “troubadours” and literature “Gallic”. The romances and romances of the “good old days” bring to the sensitive souls their “courtesy”, their “naivety” and “the graces of old language”. The Library of Novels and the Blue Library provide their readers with excerpts and adaptations of the four sons Aymon, Huon de Bordeaux, Amadis,Genevieve de Brabant and Jean de Paris. Villon and Charles of Orleans were already drawn from oblivion, the first in 1723, the second in 1734. Marot, which has never been forgotten, is enjoying a revival of favor. The poems, stories, novels and news are filled with knights, tournaments, palfreys and damsels, of castles and pages.

The English influence
Foreign influences have been profound on this pre – Romantic movement, especially that of England.

The English had furnished us, before 1760, through Voltaire and Montesquieu, theories of political liberty and constitutional government. But from Holbach, Helvetius and the Encyclopedists were quick to go further than Addison and Pope, and after 1760 the prestige of English philosophy and liberalism had fallen. England is no longer, in the second half of the century, the country of Richardson, Fielding, Young and Ossian. The first two, above all, conquer sensitive souls, and when Diderot writes with one breath, and in the delirium of enthusiasm, his Eloge de Richardson, he does nothing but eloquently say what all the French think. “No doubt neither Clarisse nor the other English heroines are romantic heroines; they do not claim the rights of passion; they do not suffer from the evil of the century. But they are passionate, even when they reason; and when they love or resist love, it is with all the strength of their being. They are of those whose hearts are burning. The fire won all French hearts. (Mornet).

English theater was tasted with the same zeal as novels. Yet Shakespeare was fiercely discussed, Voltaire called him mad, and Rivarol and La Harpe thought much the same. However, the actor Garrick, very fashionable, played in 1751 fragments of Hamlet in the salons and made the spectators cry on the lovers of Verona, King Lear “wandering in the heart of the forests” and “the heart broken of Ophelia “. Translations and imitations multiplied; Romeo and Juliet and Othello especially became popular.

With the dramas of Shakespeare, it is the English soul itself that conquers French souls, dark and wild soul, full of fog, mystery and spleen, but deep, and who knows how to discover what strongly shakes the soul. imagination and throws the soul into a kind of obscure and threatening wave.

Some Frenchmen had already liked before that the solemn peace of the tombs and the dead; but they had sung it only timidly or awkwardly. It was the English Hervey, Gray, and especially Young who put in this sepulchral poetry the throes of despair and the gloomy pleasures of a heart weary of everything. the Nightsof Young, oratory meditations and prolix monologues in which rhetoric and artifice abound, were a resounding success, when Le Tourneur gave it in 1769, the translation into a prose more emphatic still, but especially more gloomy than the verses of the original. It was believed that Young had told his own story, and we shed tears upon this father, who, in the deep night, in the uncertain light of a lantern, had dug with his hands the tomb of his beloved daughter.

Thanks to these influences and despite the taunts of Voltaire, the “dark kind” was created little by little. The heroines of Dorat and Colardeau, the novels and short stories of Baculard d’Arnaud (The proofs of feeling, the Delights of the sensitive man, the unhappy Spouses), the Meditations and the wild man of Louis-Sébastien Mercierare filled with storms, funerals, skulls and skeletons; to the “chaos of the elements” are mingled “the fury of madness, the frenzy of crime and the ruin of repentance”. “But cries were screams,” said the hero of one of these novels; my sighs of rage, my actions of the attacks on my person… ”

To this melancholy, to this dark kind, a proper decoration was needed. It was Macpherson who brought it. In the Poems of Ossian, we find the horizons and gods of the North, the light and icy mists, the storms mixed with the voice of the torrents, the wild winds and the ghosts. In Ossian flourished all that literature of the North contains funereal visions and strange splendors. And we must note here that we did not distinguish then between Gaul, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, between the Celtic countries and the Germanic countries, and that we admired all the “bards”, from the Gaelic Druids to those of the sagasScandinavian.

This craze for foreign literature was often, we hasten to say, very cautious and mixed. The taste of the dark, the “lugubrious and sepulchral galimatias” and the very bards of Ossian have been discussed, at least up to the Revolution, and if one engages of the “barbarian” and the “savage”, it was on condition that they were a little licked. The translations of Shakespeare by Le Tourneur, if they were faithful enough for the substance, corrected what he called the “trivialities” and the “vulgarities” of the style; and the adaptations of Ducis who made their fortunes are often only pale and false counterfeits. Nothing even remained in his adaptations of what the dramas of Diderotor Baculard had dared; Othello’s handkerchief is no more than a note, the pillow that chokes Desdemona is no more than a dagger, the action takes place in twenty-four hours, as Aristotle wishes. The translations of Young, Ossian, and Hervey by Le Touneur, which made his glory, were scarcely any more than adroit lies. They are not content to use too cautious a style; they cut, remove, transpose, sew; so much so that the sublime horrors and the beautiful disorders which one thinks to find there are no more than the effects of a very classical art, full of French wit. “(Mornet).

In truth, Shakespeare, Young, and Ossian, the English, the Celts, and the Scandinavians, exercised in France a feeling much less profound than in the Germanic countries. They were only tasted at home in sweetened translations, and they were tasted less than the tender idylls and sweet pastures of Gessner, the “German Theocritus.”

German influence
It might seem that the influence of Germany, where the romantic movement was so precocious and noisy, was felt early in France. It is not so. Germany was generally ignored, or even scorned before 1760. For most Frenchmen, she was the country of Candide, the castle of Thunder-ten-tronckh, stinking swamps, stupid barons, heavy baronesses and naive Cunegondes. Voltaire, who had known the Germans, and who thought he had reasons to complain, thought they were only boors. Little by little, it became clear that this country had produced “some great men”; Wieland was first adoptedbut his works rendered to the French only what the French had lent him. Then contact was made with Klopstock and his Messiade; was known Gellert and Hagedorn; it was found that the Germans were less “rustic” than “rustic”; it was admitted that they were “naive,” and consequently sensible and virtuous; German good-nature and the peace of villages were tasted in the shade of linden trees and bell-towers.

It was not until the end of the century that Schiller and Goethe revealed another Germany, more ardent and more romantic. The Brigands are translated; Werther immediately holds the French under the charm. Translations and adaptations follow each other from 1775 to 1795; twenty novels lead love to suicide, or at least to the despair of life, to the horror of destiny. The young girls even dream of reading Werther, read it and have it turned. Neurasthenia becomes fashionable; we give ourselves death by disgust of life, like this young man who came to kill himself with a pistol shot in the park of Ermenonville,

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Neither English nor German influence, nor the influence of the Middle Ages, are enough to explain French Romanticism. Another eclipses them, that of a genius who, by collecting them, added to them the riches of his powerful personality and irresistibly led our literature in new ways. This man is Rousseau (1712-1778).

He did not discover northern literature; we knew them before him. But, more than anyone, he has accustomed French souls to feel a little like the Germans and the English, thus enlarging the still limited field of our imagination.

And above all, he has imposed on our literature the seal of his extraordinary temperament. By that, he alone made a revolution. He reinstalled from the outset the feeling where for more than half a century reigned only intelligence. With him, literature becomes an effusion of the heart, which for a long time was no more than an expression of the mind. Poetry, eloquence, lyricism, penetrate into prose even when they had no place, even in verse. It’s a big widening of the horizon.

Son of a Calvinist of Geneva, raised outside monarchical and catholic influences, Rousseau instinctively believes in natural freedom and equality. Of an independent character, impatient of all discipline, enemy of all tradition, he is exaggeratedly individualistic. In perpetual revolt against the society of his time, he overthrows all the barriers that constrain his self. And he defends all the more this self, that his temperament demands all liberties and all enjoyments.

He extends, according to his own expression, “his expansive soul” to all the objects which surround him, and projects his ego upon all material and moral nature. He is himself the substance, the occasion and the end of his writings. What is told above all about his New Heloise (1760), his Emile (1762), his Confessions and his Reveries(1782), it is the inner drama of his personality that is constructed and affirmed, exalted or lost through the tumult of his passions and his reasonings, his temptations and his ideas, his dreams and of his experiences, always alarmed, besides, always tyrannized by “the feeling quicker than lightning.” Reason is for him the humble servant of sensibility, for he is sensuous to a rare degree, and it is especially here that he distinguishes himself from his contemporaries: “In the midst of people busy He had to enjoy and suffer. Others had come by analysis to the idea of feeling; Rousseau, by his temperament, has the reality of feeling; those are disserting, he lives. (Lanson). ”

The supreme expression of this personality and of this sensibility naturally led him to lyricism, and it is especially by the eloquence of this lyricism that Rousseau co-operated in the revolution of literature. “He rocked and rocked the old world so much that he seems to have killed him without ceasing to stroke him. He proved to be absurd and intoxicated with theories, dreams, seductive declamations, and phrases that were stanzas. This writer who was a musician, this philosopher who was a poet, this mage who was a magician, was above all an enchanter whose ideas had on men the strength which the passions usually have, because they were all, indeed, mingled with passionate and ardent passion and passion.

By all this, he is the true father of Romanticism, much more than those who are going beyond the Rhine and the English Channel. All the melancholy of Rene, Obermann and Lamartine flows from his own, and Musset will only translate it into the cries of his passion.

Rousseau has not only reopened the source of tears; he has drawn the eyes of his contemporaries. Crystallizing trends begin to manifest, he forced the French of the 18th century to see nature better than they did; he taught them to look at the landscape with all its accidents, its perspectives and its values of tones, to feel it, and to frame, so to speak, their feelings in the universe. From then on, the drama of human life had its setting, and this is one of the greatest discoveries of lyrical sensibility.

He has detailed in their picturesque familiarity the rural houses with their dairy, their poultry yard, their noisy and joyous life, the roosters who sing, the oxen who roar, the carts that are splinted. He has often dreamed of a little white house with green shutters with cows, a kitchen garden, a spring.

He has said magnificently to his century the “splendor of the sunrises, the penetrating serenity of the summer nights, the pleasures of the fat meadows, the mystery of the great silent and dark woods, all this festival of the eyes and ears for which ‘associate light, foliage, flowers, birds, insects, breaths of air. To paint the landscapes he has found a precision of terms which is of an artist in love with the reality of things. “(Lanson).

He discovered to the French Switzerland and the Alps, deep valleys and high mountains. The success of Nouvelle Héloïse is that of Lake Geneva; we go to find traces of Julie and Saint-Preux, and we follow those of Rousseau himself to Clarens, Meillerie, Yverdon, Môtiers – Travers and Lake Bienne.

We must not be mistaken about Rousseau’s disciples. He had it right away: Saint-Lambert and his Seasons, Roucher and his Months, Delille with his Gardens, his Man of the Fields, his Three Kingdoms of Nature, Bernardin of Saint-Pierre especially with the Indian Thatched Cottage, Paul and Virginia and the Harmonies of Nature, have given, since the end of the century, variations on some of the themes launched by the master. But the real posterity of Rousseau will appear only forty years later: it will be the great romantic orchestra. The concerns of the last years of the 18th century will indeed not the philosophical and political ideas, and the roar of the Revolution will leave in the shadows literary speculation. Rousseau’s ideologue will rule with Robespierre, but Rousseau musician will not sing at the time of the guillotine.

Second period: Chateaubriand and Germaine de Stael (1800-1820)

The literature Revolution
The revolutionary epoch is not, it is easy to imagine, a great literary epoch; the preoccupations of the spirits then went elsewhere than to literature; the action stifled the dream.

Moreover, if the revolutionary period, because of the multiplicity of events and their importance, seems immense, it was actually only twelve years, and it is not in twelve years that a literature is renewed. even when she has already given signs of transformation.

With the exception of Marie-Joseph Chénier, the author of Charles IX, the Revolution does not have a name of poet to quote (the works of André Chénier will not be known until 1819).

The Literature of the Empire
Under the Empire, Napoleon, who considered the poets only as props of his glory, necessary to sing it, charged the great master of the University, M. de Fontanes (faciunt asinos, they make donkeys, said the bad pleasant ones), to discover him Corneille; but only Luce de Lancival, correct author of Hector, was found.

While Goethe and Schiller illuminated Germany, Byron was literally revolutionizing England, so many new horizons were opening up among neighboring nations, France could only show delays of an earlier period and pale decals of the masters.: in poetry, storytellers, anecdotiers, semi-elegiacs like Fontanes (the Day of the Dead in the country), Andrieux (the Miller of Sans-Souci), Arnault (Fables): in the theater, the pseudo-classical tragedies of Nepomucene Lemercier, Etienne de Jouy or Raynouard.

Fortunately, in the margins of the official literature lived another literature. The stream coming from Rousseau was not dried up, and its spurts, to be intermittent, were only more impetuous.

Chateaubriand (1768-1848) published at once Atala (1801), the Genius of Christianity (1802), Rene (1802), The Natchez, The Martyrs (1809) the translation of the Lost Paradise of Milton, and it was a wonderful explosion of imagination and lyricism. “Passionate lover of all kinds of beauty, a delightful admirer of the solitudes of the New World, of the East, of Greece, of Rome, of Italy, well versed in Greek and Latin antiquity, reading Homer with delights, Virgilwith charm, including instinct and intuition as the Middle Ages with Dante and the Renaissance with Petrarch, above all, better than anyone, the true and solid beauty classics xvii th century, it came as a reveal to his compatriots new world that was the whole world “(Faguet). By his example, he invites them in the Natchez (America), in the Route of Paris to Jerusalem (East), in the Martyrs (ancient world, Celtic world, Germaniaprimitive), to penetrate the poetry of the most distant places and times and to express it, introducing a cosmopolitan art instead of an art that is too exclusively national. By his example again, he invites them, in Atala, in René, to draw from the deep sources of the heart the true emotion, melancholy most often, because “to go to the bottom of everything, as Germaine de Staël says, it is go to the trouble “, but especially personal, individual, original, that is to say really alive. For his lessons and finally by his theories outlined in the Genius of Christianity, he said to the 19th a century which opened up something which can be summed up thus: Despite excellent geniuses and admirable works, which I know how to taste more than anybody else, your fathers have been deceiving themselves on literary art for nearly three hundred years. They believed that literature should be impersonal and that the author should not appear in his work. They have done great things, but they would have done much greater without this singular discretion which takes away at least half the work of art from what is needed. Moreover, they fell into strange contradictions that led to serious mistakes. Christians and Frenchwhat they abstained most of were the Christian subjects and the national subjects, and what they sought most eagerly were the mythological subjects and the ancient subjects. True aberration that ended up drying up literature, for lack of solid food. Good for that matter Immense matter remains intact and a huge path is open. Consult your heart, it is there that can be the genius: in any case, it is the thing which is in you of deepest and more fruitful; express your religious feelings, and do not believe with Boileau first and Voltairethen, that Christianity be without beauty; express your patriotic feelings; do not repress your sensibility or your imagination, which your fathers did; you will create a personal literature and a new art.

It was the truth, except for a few reservations, and it was a new light. The effusion was prodigious; not immediately, for, to tell the truth, Chateaubriand’s influence was not felt until about 1820; but it was prolonged and had immense consequences. Poetry was renewed, and for the first time in France there were true lyric poets; the study of history was renewed, and it was by reading in the Martyrs the wild and strong poetry of Velleda and the fight of the Franks that Augustin Thierry had the idea of the Merovingian Stories; the religious feeling was renewed, in the sense that it was no longer ridiculous to be religious, and was elegant to be so; finally, the criticism was renewed, in the sense that it no longer consisted in pointing out faults but in making the beauties understand.

All this was, in Chateaubriand, expressed more and more in an abundant, harmonious, supple and picturesque language, uniting all the charms, all the seductions and all the forces; in a language of poet of an orator and artist. So it is not surprising that Chateaubriand, according to the word Joubert, had “delighted” the century.

In 1804 had appeared the Obermann of Senancour, novel by letters, of a vague and deep sadness, perfect type of the romantic novel. The author had represented himself in his hero, “who does not know what he is, what he loves, what he wants, who moans without a cause who desires without object, and who sees nothing but that he is not in his place, at last he is dragging himself in the void and in an infinite disorder of trouble. “This book had no success when it appeared; he had to wait to be in vogue that the evil of Obermann had become the “evil of the century” and that the romantics are more likely to find in the painting of this failing soul and this weak mind the expression of the desperate inertia that they felt in them.

Ms. De Stael
More immediate and decisive on the work of renovation begun was the influence of Germaine de Stael.

Then forced by Napoleon’s hostility to live outside France, she made a long stay in Germany, and there a particular art was revealed to her, of which she was too much in love, but of which some parts at least responded well to the need that France was experiencing a renewal of literary art.

In France, social life had refined talents and feelings, but effaced individuality. The authors wrote according to traditional rules, to be understood immediately by an audience accustomed to these rules. Thus, French writers exceled only in the genres which propose themselves the imitation of the mores of society, or in those whose intelligence sharpened by the spirit of society can alone taste finesse: descriptive or dialectical poetry, light poetry that smiles and mocks.

The Germans, on the contrary, have a personal, intimate poetry, which is the expression of lively and profound affections. Nothing conventional or primed at home; but sentiment, poetry, reverie, lyricism, mysticism itself, that gives them an original literature, quite native and personal, very philosophical, very profound and very serious.

All this, of which she was delighted, she recommended as the literature of the future, sharing a bit summarily all the empire of letters in two provinces: on the one hand classicism, which is antiquity and imitation of antiquity; on the other, romanticism, which is Christianity, the Middle Ages and northern inspiration.

There was a long way from these rather vague and somewhat narrow ideas to Chateaubriand’s broad and luminous ideas; yet they helped to widen the horizon, they turned heads and glances on the other side of the Rhine, as Chateaubriand had turned them across the Channel. “Literature must become European,” she proclaimed; and if the French writers had frequented the Italians, the Spaniards, and the Englishit was a new habit to trade with the Germans, and it was necessary to warn them that it was to be taken. It is especially this warning that Germaine de Stael gives with insistence, with fire, with ardor, and with an incomparable talent in her book entitled De l’Allemagne (1810).

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