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French Literature

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.

FRANÇOIS-RENÉ DE CHATEAUBRIAND was born in 1768, at St.-Malo, of an ancient Breton family. Except for the companionship of an elder sister, of fragile health and romantic temper, his childhood was solitary. The presence of the old count his father inspired terror. The boy's society was with the waves and winds, or at the old château of Combourg, with lonely woods and wilds.

HISTORY—LITERARY CRITICISM

THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE

 

COMEDY AND TRAGEDY—MOLIÈRE—RACINE

The life of society was studied by Montesquieu; the inward life of the heart was studied by a young moralist, whose premature loss was lamented with tender passion by Voltaire.

The progress of historical literature in the nineteenth century was aided by the change which had taken place in philosophical opinion; instead of a rigid system of abstract ideas, which disdained the thought of past ages as superstition, had come an eclecticism guided by spiritual beliefs.

DIDACTIC LITERATURE—SERMONS—HISTORY

The history of comedy, from Larivey to Molière, is one of arrested development, followed by hasty and ill-regulated growth. During the first twenty-five years of the seventeenth century, comedy can hardly be said to have existed; whatever tended to beauty or elevation, took the form of tragi-comedy or pastoral; what was rude and popular became a farce. From the farce Molière's early work takes its origin, but of the repertory of his predecessors little survives. Much, indeed, in these performances was left to the improvisation of the burlesque actors.

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