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Hobbes, and the Arcadia 'of Sidney, were among them. SaintEvremond, exiled in London, though he does not mention Shakespeare speaks in a letter to Mme de Mazarin of Ben Jonson, and refers to the English drama ' qui donne trop aux
sens 'as containing novel and strong beauties of which French literature is incapable. Saint-Evremond was an almost solitary exception. The France of the seventeenth century was as a whole closed to 'Germanic' literature.
The map of literary Europe was bounded for the French by the Alps, the Rhine, and the Channel. Louis XIV. asked De Comminges, his Ambassador at the Court of St. James, whether there were any writers or learned men in England.
The Ambassador replied :
'Il semble que les arts et les sciences abandonnent quelquefois un pays pour en aller honorer un autre à son tour. Présentement elles ont passé en France et, s'il en reste ici quelques vestiges, ce n'est que dans la mémoire de Bacon, de Morus, de Buchanan, et, dans les derniers siècles d'un nommé Miltonius qui s'est rendu plus infâme par ses dangereux écrits que les bourreaux et les assassins de leur roi.'
It may be doubted whether, if the French had known our literature better, they would have appreciated it. The famous quarrel of 'the Ancients and Moderns' was merely a quarrel between Rome and Paris. There was no quarrel as to principles, no desire to substitute a novel for an old-fashioned conception of man. The disputants in that famous debate were merely discussing whether progress was possible on the lines of the models of antiquity. No one dreamed of the impiety of suggesting other models. It is this limitation that makes the weakness of the moderns in the controversy. To oppose the literature of Racine and Corneille to the works of antiquity was in reality to do no more than oppose antiquity to itself. The purest genius of such moderns was still the genius of antiquity. Of a literature free from classical influence,grown spontaneously on its own soil—in a word, of a purely national literature—they had no idea. The forms of their intellectual expression, great as their intelligence was, were the traditional forms of the Latin spirit, which imprisoned their minds as the exquisitely damascened seicento corselets confined their bodies, in accordance with what had already almost become an archaic tradition of the classical art of war. But the world was on the point of change.
As already stated, the principal effect of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 was to form colonies of Frenchmen outside the limits of France, in England and the Low Countries. There was a strong dose of rationalism in French Protestants. They would not have been Protestants if they had not had inquiring minds; and although their theory of Biblical inspiration and authority was no doubt strictly parallel to the authority of the Church invoked by Catholics, it worked out very differently, except in very special circumstances. Documents, whatever the abstract sanctity attached to them, could not fetter minds for long. Moreover, while Protestantism was nothing but a religion; Catholicism was a great deal more. The Church, the strongest and most authentic embodiment of the Latin spirit, had penetrated during its long domination every part of life, and its tendency in every direction was conservative. The vast corpus of Canon Law was still the most important part of the Law of the Kingdom; there existed a definite Catholic point of view even on the most purely nonreligious subjects. It is this, perhaps, that explains—what to Protestants is so inexplicable—that curious and quite sincere attachment of profoundly irreligious persons to the Church. Catholics, as such, do not like changes of any sort. Protestants, on the other hand-in those days, at all events—were out for spiritual adventures. They welcomed the novel intellectual conditions of the countries of the exile.
England became the home of most of these refugees. Some authorities place the number of refugees in England as high as 80,000. Before the Revolution they were not so numerous. Neither of the last two Stuart kings liked Protestants or was given to the practice of the Catholic works of mercy. But after 1688 they crowded to London, where they found shelter, pensions, and places. And well they paid for the hospitality they received. They became the impassioned advocates of the new sovereigns before Europe. They united with the Whigs and raged mightily against Sacheverell. In 1709 their friends obtained their naturalisation from Parliament. It is in this Protestant colony of London that we must look for the beginnings of that cosmopolitan spirit which was to play so great a part in the Europe of the eighteenth century. The men who were informed by it-'esprits moyens, mais sin'gulièrement informés et remuants,' says M. Texte—were not filled with much original genius. It was rather their ‘inde
fatigable mediocrity' that made them as successful as they were. Many took to writing in English, such as Pierre Antoine Motteux who founded-with a self-confidence which we may hope was rewarded by success-a monthly journal called 'The Gentleman. Motteux also wrote plays in English for the London stage. The refugees frequented the Rainbow Coffee-house in the rustic suburb of Marylebone, which became in consequence a sort of clearing-house for the Continent of information on English affairs. The president of the circle, Pierre Dandé, a Clerk of the Treasury, was a fervent Baconian, and passed for the supreme authority on English philosophy and theology. The Rainbow was the scene of constant discussion on every imaginable subject. The refugees were historians, journalists, playwrights, and theologians. They had the facile tendency to omniscience among their limitations. Desmaizeaux-publisher, translator, compiler, journalist—is a typical specimen of their intellectual activity. He became the biographer of Bayle, Saint-Evremond, and Boileau; contributed to all the journals of Holland as well as London; corresponded officially with the 'Journal des Savants' and with Leibnitz. He wrote in English the lives of Chillingworth and Hales, and produced the unpublished works of Newton, Clarke, and Collins--not to speak of an enormous private correspondence still buried in the archives of the British Museum.
The first task of the refugees was to popularise English philosophy. Locke published several of his writings in the Bibliothèques of Le Clerc. Pierre Coste published the first translation of the 'Essay on the Understanding,' in 1700. Coste assisted the philosopher on his deathbed. The Dutch papers, managed and written by French refugees, openly undertook the propagation of his ideas. The political ideas of England also appealed to them. They spread in Europe the knowledge of the British Constitution. The Journal Littéraire,' published at the Hague, abounded in praises of William III., and stigmatised France as an 'impure Babylone notre marâtre 'patrie.' On all questions of reform in France, they were naturall yon the revolutionary side. Rapin-Thoyras published in 1724 at the Hague a history of England in eight volumes, which became a classic. The book, which is really a history of the development of Parliamentary institutions in England, is the first attempt at a philosophy of English politics. Tindal, a nephew of the Deist writer, translated it. It is doubtful whether any book has ever done more to make England known to Europe.
So persistent an effort could not fail of success. Little by little a public opinion favourable to the new England was formed in France. The majority of Frenchmen no doubt still sympathised, through political and religious tradition, with the Stuarts; but gradually Jacobite sympathies lost ground. Fénelon, informed by Ramsay of the details of the British Constitution, dreamed of a government which should leave kings 'all-powerful for good and powerless for evil,' an ideal which the British Constitution had perhaps hardly reached. After the death of Louis XIV., the Regent concluded an alliance with England, and pro-English sympathies became the fashion of the day in France.
The refugees had done a great deal, but more was needed to conquer completely the sympathies of France than the buzzings of the busy beehives of Marylebone and Amsterdam. A man of genius was wanted. One of the very greatest was waiting to come on the stage of literary Europe. But in his enthusiasm for England Voltaire, as befitted the Messianic role which he enjoyed so much, had a precursor who was also a man of genius. The Abbé Prévost, whose literary fame is mainly founded on his immortal 'Manon Lescaut,' was the author of many other works which at the time enjoyed a greater success than that piteous tragedy. In 1728 he broke with the Church, having been forced to leave the Abbey of which he was an unworthy monk, and fled to England. The Church's loss was the world's gain. Prévost, established as a secretary in the house of an English lord, appears to have greatly enjoyed his first visit to England, which lasted some three or four years. A scandal—the susceptible creature was always getting into trouble through his affections—obliged him to leave his pleasant post somewhat abruptly for Holland, whence he returned in 1733 accompanied by a young woman. The pair were but coldly welcomed at the Rainbow; the refugees were only libertins d'esprit. Prévost, however, braved their frowns and settled down with his young friend to write the novels of cosmopolitan life that soon acquired him an immense reputation in France. The most interesting of these is the ‘Mémoires 'd'un homme de qualité,' which may still be read for its vivid picture of the English life of the period. Few books have
contributed more, in the author's words, 'à faire connaître ' parmi nous un pays qui n'est pas aussi estimé qu'il devrait 'être des autres peuples de l'Europe parce qu'il ne leur est pas
assez connu.' Prévost truly said that he laboured for the destruction of certains préjugés puérils, qui sont ordinaires à ' la plupart des hommes, mais surtout aux Français, et qui les 'portent à se donner fièrement la préférence sur tous les autres
peuples de l'univers. The Spanish and Oriental scenes among which the homme de qualité wanders are not of any particular merit, but the pictures of English daily life, drawn as they were from nature, are admirable and arresting. Its pages are full of little tableaux de mæurs surely and lightly touched in by the hand of a master. We are shewn a masked ball at the Haymarket, what Prévost calls 'un combat de gladiateurs, ou plus exactement une partie de boxe suivie d'un combat 'au sabre, espèce d'école où la jeunesse va se former à l'intré
pidité, au mépris de la mort et des blessures ’; we follow the hero on an English tour which gives occasion for any amount of fine and exact observation. There is an amusing and valuable description of Tunbridge Wells in which we learn that chocolate and coffee were sold on the Pantiles for six sous a cup; that at the balls one met 'grisettes à côté des duchesses,' and that gallant adventures were the order of the day. 'Si ce lieu charmant avait subsisté du temps des anciens, ils n'auraient pas dit que Vénus et les Grâces faisaient leur résidence à Cythère.' This was a new view of the English character for the French public, and it is to be feared that the amiable weaknesses so charmingly recounted by the exiled Abbé won favour where the solid political and social virtues that formed the topic of the learned tomes of the Protestant refugees had failed to create more than a somewhat chilly respect. Prévost does not however deal solely with the lighter side of English life. He speaks of the poets, quotes Milton, Spenser, Addison and Thomson, and notes that the drama flourishes. His opinion here seems a little exaggerated. He declares that he has read nothing in Greek or French to equal the works performed on the English stage pour la beauté des sentiments, soit tendres,
soit sublimes, pour cette force tragique qui remue le fond du 'coeur et qui excite infailliblement les passions dans l'âme la 'plus engourdie.'
His most enthusiastic pages deal with the national character. Everything pleases him and primarily the atmosphere of per