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Edward Dowden

George Sand may be described as an "idealist," if we add the words "with a remarkable gift for observation." Her great contemporary HONORÉ DE BALZAC is named a realist, but he was a realist haunted or attacked by phantasms and nightmares of romance. Born in 1799 at Tours, son of an advocate turned military commissariat-agent, Honoré de Balzac, after some training in the law, resolved to write, and, if possible, not to starve.

FABLES, AND RENARD THE FOX

 

THE DRAMA (MONTCHRESTIEN TO CORNEILLE)

The history of the novel in the eighteenth century corresponds with the general movement of ideas; the novel begins as art, and proceeds to propagandism. ALAIN-RENÉ LESAGE, born at Sarzeau, near Vannes, in 1668, belongs as much to the seventeenth as to the eighteenth century. His life of nearly eighty years (died 1747) was the honourable life of a bourgeois, who was also a man of genius, and who maintained his own independence and that of his wife and children by the steadfast diligence of his pen.

MONTESQUIEU—VAUVENARGUES—VOLTAIRE

The movement towards the romantic theory and practice of art was fostered in the early years of the nineteenth century by two eminent writers—one a woman with a virile intellect, the other a man with more than a woman's imaginative sensibility—by GERMAINE DE STAËL and by Chateaubriand. The one exhibits the eighteenth century passing into the nineteenth, receiving new developments, yet without a breach of continuity; the other represents a reaction against the ideas of the age of the philosophers.

Was it possible to be romantic without being lyrical? Was it possible to produce purely objective work, reserving one's own personality, and glancing at one's audience only with an occasional look of superior irony? Such was the task essayed by PROSPER MÉRIMÉE (1803-70). With some points of resemblance in character to Beyle, whose ideas were influential on his mind, Mérimée possessed the plastic imagination and the craftsman's skill, in which Beyle was deficient.

SOCIETY AND PUBLIC LIFE IN LETTERS

Before noticing the theories of classical poetry in the writings of its master critic, Boileau, we must glance at certain writers who belonged rather to the world of public life and of society than to the world of art, but who became each a master in literary craft, as it were, by an irresistible instinct. Memoirs, maxims, epistolary correspondence, the novel, in their hands took a distinguished place in the hierarchy of literary art.

The author of De l'Esprit des Lois was as important in the history of European speculation as in that of French literature; but inevitable changes of circumstances and ideas have caused his influence to wane. His life was one in which the great events were thoughts. Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de MONTESQUIEU, was born in 1689 at La Brède, near Bordeaux.

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