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188) Lady Morgan's France in 1828
his world of ours on fire, somewhere about it comes in contact with the comet. It is don on our part that her Ladyship deems be dread to the Austrian government at least ;-) propos of the entrée of its ambassador into a bal was making all the lamps and candles hide their d
"When his Austrian excellence was announced
, would give it a twist, that would save
, in search of the pestilent writings of
Lady Morgan's France in 1829–30. [March, “desirous of being represented as he is," put in requisition the pencil of an artist by which he would be sure to be caricatured ?
The “persecution at home," that her Ladyship affects to have suffered, refers, we suppose, to sundry articles in the Quarterly Review and other Journals, in which she was rather roughly handled. We all know, however, what a pleasant thing it is to deem ourselves the objects of persecution, when it does not interfere with our profit-itis a flattering unction we love to lay to the soul, as it seems to augment our importance--and Miladi appears to have been highly delighted with the persecutions she has encountered. She is continually alluding to the attacks of the Quarterly, and whenever an opportunity occurs, favours us with extracts from them, and now and then she slips in some satirical observation concerning herself from the Journal des Débats. The different manner in which she has been treated by the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, is an exemplification of the potent influence which party spirit exercises over those journals. In the latter, one or two of her works have been criticised with overwhelming power, and in a tone and spirit superlatively bitter. In the former, on the contrary, she is spoken of with studied lenity, although the Reviewer is obliged to confess that he is not one of her particular admirers, and seems to be perpetually restraining himself from indulging in the language of raillery and sarcasm. We need hardly add that the political principles which her Ladyship professes to entertain, are the main cause of this discrepancy. For our own part, we conscientiously believe that the English journal has not gone half so far beyond the truth as its Scotch rival has fallen short of it, in their respective strictures. With regard to the republican bursts of Lady Morgan, we cannot help suspecting that there is more affectation and cant in them than sincerity :-she is too anxious to let it be known that she is caressed every where by the ne plus ultras of aristocracy and rank, as well as by those of intellect, and, at the same time, there is too much parade and ostentatious vehemence in her explosions against the royalist
As to the other article which her Ladyship says she has received in exchange for her impartiality!" proscription abroad," -we feel pretty confident that it exists no where but
her own imagination. There it has, doubtless, been engender
neck) in order to restore his Imperial master quility of mind? Poor Francis I still are you do elly on your throne. We think we see you rece di the appearance of this last emanation from Las ng pel-weral levess everyone you rushes into your presence with terror depicted articulating only “Ladi Morgan, Ladi Morg taimed Wisself a knowledge of the dreadfiel
breathless courier – in an agony of suspense your faithful counsellor, until he has recovered ent to unfold to you the whole tale of horror. I narch in whose hands are the lives of fifty millio Vimself, to all appearance, deprived of existenc rives—his lips move—what are the words whis the ears of the bewildered attendants who hav the apartment by the cries of the prime miny words of malediction, of the same purport as the II. ol England uttered against his servants, f zeal in allowing him to be so lone Becket, and which
this world of ours on fire, somewhere about the time when it comes in contact with the comet. It is not mere supposition on our part that her Ladyship deems herself an object of dread to the Austrian government at least ;-read what she says à propos of the entrée of its ambassador into a ball-room where she was making all the lamps and candles hide their diminished heads. «When his Austrian excellence was announced, how I started, with all the weight of Aulic proscription on my head! The representative of the long-armed monarch of Hapsburg so near me,-of him, who, could he only once get his fidgetty fingers on my little neck, would give it a twist, that would save his custom-house officers all future trouble of breaking carriages and harassing travellers, in search of the pestilent writings of Ladi Morgan. I did not breathe freely, till his excellency had passed on with his glittering train, into the illumined conservatory, and was lost in a wilderness of flowering shrubs and orange trees.” Ought not this ambassador to be recalled for his negligence, his want of loyalty, in not attempting to get his fingers about Miladi's little neck,' in order to restore his Imperial master to peace and tranquillity of mind ? Poor Francis ! still are you doomed to be fidgetty on your throne. We think we see you receiving intelligence of the appearance of this last emanation from Ladi Morgan's untiring pen-a mortal paleness overspreads your face, as Metternich rushes into your presence with terror depicted in his countenance, articulating only “Ladi Morgan, Ladi Morgan,” having just obtained himself a knowledge of the dreadful fact from an almost breathless courier--in an agony of suspense you gaze wildly at your faithful counsellor, until he has recovered composure sufficient to unfold to you the whole tale of horror. It is told! The monarch in whose hands are the lives of fifty millions of subjects, lies himself, to all appearance, deprived of existence. But see! he revives-his lips move-what are the words which fall faintly upon the ears of the bewildered attendants who have been called into the apartment by the cries of the prime minister? They are words of malediction, of the same purport as those which Henry II. of England uttered against his servants, for their want of zeal in allowing him to be so long tormented by Thomas à Becket, and which caused that prelate's death. But alas ! for your repose, Imperial Cæsar, it is not so easy at the present day, as in former times, for de Luces and de Morevilles to gratify the vengeful wishes of their masters, and Lady Morgan yet breathes the breath of life (although it is true she did not do it “freely," according to her own account, while in the vicinity of your ambassador in Paris,) to keep your nervous system in disorder, and for the continued vexation of the rational part of the reading world.
Multifarious are the other instances we might cite of the inanVOL. IX.-NO 17. 4
ner in which her simple Ladyship was mystified by the ironical propensities of some, and the malicious ultraism of others, during her visit to Paris in 1829–30. “ There are certain characters,” observes M. Jouy, “who may be considered as the scourges of whatever is ridiculous (les fleaux du ridicule;) they discover it under whatever form it may be hid, and pitilessly immolate it with the weapon of irony,” and into the hands of persons of this merciless tribe she seems to have been perpetually falling. We must content ourselves, however, with referring to but one example more ; a conversation between herself and a young Frenchman, about Romanticism and Classicism, which she has detailed in her first volume. This is a subject, which, as every one must know, has set all Paris by the ears, and attracts almost as much attention there as the overthrow of one dynasty and the creation of another. Lady Morgan, of course, is a thoroughgoing romantique, and demonstrates the greater excellence of the school of which she deems herself the chief support and brightest ornament, in pretty much the same way as the superiority of modern writers over the ancients used to be proved by the advocates of the former, viz. by two methods, reason and example, the first of which they derived from their own taste, and the second from their own works. At the time she was delivered of her quarto about France in 1816, Paris was still immersed in classical darkness, and it may therefore be fairly inferred that the romantic light with which it has since been illumined, radiated from that same tome. What can be more natural? When she lest France, “the word “Romanticism' was unknown (or nearly so) in the circles of Paris ; the writers à la mode, whether ultra or liberal, were, or thought themselves to be, supporters and practisers of the old school of literature;" in the interval of her absence she published a work in which she told the Parisians that Racine was no poet, and gave them other valuable information of the kind, calculated to dispel their classical infatuation :-when she returned, every thing was changed; poets and prosers were vieing with each other in gloriously offending against all rules and canons; Romanticism, in short, was, as she asserts, completely the order of the day. The classical wrath of one man was the source of unnumbered woes to ancient Greece, and why may not the romantic wrath of one woman--a woman too, who keeps autocrats and sultans fidgetty on their thrones, be the cause of a change in the literature of a country? This change, at all events, however it may have been operated, seems to have inspired her with additional courage in her assaults, and additional fury in her anathemas upon the poor French authors whom the ignorant world has hitherto been in the habit of regarding as objects of admiration. She now asserts, in “ France in 1829–30,” that the whole
classic literature of that country is “ feeble and unuseful,” nay, even fitted to “enervate and degrade;" and in a wonderfully luminous chapter about modern literature, she has shown as clearly as Hudibras could have proved by “ force of argument" that “a man's no horse," that Classicism is the ally of despotism, and that it was the policy of arbitrary power to encourage a fondness for the ancient authors !
Fiercely romantic, however, as her Ladyship is, she is mild as a cooing dove in comparison with the male interlocutor in the famous conversation to which we have alluded. This personage completely out-herods Herod; but that he was an ultra in disguise, endeavouring to make her Ladyship write down absurdities, is a conviction which fire and water could not drive out of' us;—even she, herself, at one period of the dialogue, can not help doubting whether she “is or is not the subject of what in England is called a hoax, and in France a mystification," and when she doubts upon such a point, it would be extremely difficult for any one else not to deem it a matter of certainty. Had we space sufficient, we should transcribe the whole of this colloquy, as it deserves repetition ; but we can only give a small specimen of it for the amusement of our readers. The gentleman having informed Miladi, that Racine, Corneille, and Voltaire, are “dethroned monarchs,” and no longer tolerated at the Theatre, she asks him what is to be seen or heard there, to which he answers :
«« Our great historic dramas, written not in pompous Alexandrines, but in prose, the style of truth, the language of life and nature, and composed boldly, in de fiance of Aristotle and Boileau. Their plot may run to any number of acts, and the time to any number of nights, months, or years; or if the author pleases, it may lake in a century, or a millennium : and then, for the place, the first scene may be laid in Paris, and the last in Kamschatka. In short, France has recovered her literary liberty, and makes free use of it.'
«« Oui da "' I rejoined, a little bothered, and not knowing well what to say, but still looking very wise, 'In fact, then, you take some of those liberties, that you used to laugh at, in our poor Shakspeare?'
" 'Your poor Sbakspeare ! your divine, immortal Shakspeare, the idol of new France !--you must see him played textuellement at the Français, and not in the diffuse and feeble parodies of Ducis.'
« • Shakspeare played textuellement at the Français ! I exclaimed— 0, par exemple!'
“Yes, certainly. Othello is now in preparation; and Hamlet and Macbeth are stock pieces. But even your Shakspeare was far from the truth, the great truth, that the drama should represent the progress, development, and accomplishment of the natural and moral world, without reference to time or locality. Unknown to himself, his mighty genius was mastered by the fatal prejudices and unnatural restrictions of the perruques of antiquity. Does nature unfold her plots in five acts? or confine her operations to three hours by the parish clock?"
«« Certainly not, Monsieur ; but still
". Mais, mais, un moment, chère Miladi. The drama is one great illusion of the senses, founded on facts admitted by the understanding, and presented in real life, past or present. When you give yourself up to believe that Talma was Nero, or Lafont Britannicus, or that the Rue Richelieu is the palace of the Cæsars, you admit all that at first appears to outrage possibility. Starting, then,
from that point, I see no absurdity in the tragedy, which my friend Albert de S says he has written for the express purpose of trying how far the neglect of the unities may be carried. The title and subject of this piece is "the Creation," beginning from Chaos (and what scenery and machinery it will admit!) and ending with the French revolution ; the scene,
and the time, according to the Mosaic account, some 6000 years.'
". And the protagonist, Monsieur ? Surely you don't mean to revive the allegorical personages in the mysteries of the middle ages ?
*Ah ça ! pour le protagoniste, c'est le diable. He is the only contemporaneous person in the universe that we know of, whom in these days of cagoterie we can venture to bring on the stage, and who could be perpetually before the scene, as a protagonist should be. He is particularly suited, by our received ideas of his energy and restlessness, for the principal character. The devil of the German patriarch's Faust is, after all, but a profligate casuist; and the high poetical tone of sublimity of Milton's Satan is no less to be avoided in a delineation that has truth and nature for its inspiration. In short, the devil, the true romantic devil, must speak, as the devil would naturally speak, under the various circumstances in which his immortal ambition and ceaseless malignity may place him. In the first act, he should assume the tone of the fallen hero, which would by no means become him when in corporal possession of a Jewish epileptic, and bar. gaining for his pis aller in a herd of swine. Then again, as a leader of the army of St. Dominick, he should have a fiercer tone of bigotry, and less political finesse, than as a privy councillor in the cabinet the Cardinal de Richelieu. At the end of the fourth act, as a guest at the table of Baron Holbach, he may even be witty; while as a minister of police, he should be precisely the devil of the schoolmen, leading his victim into temptation, and triumphing in all the petty artifices and verbal sophistries of a bachelor of the Sorbonne. But as the march of intellect advances, this would by no means be appropriate ; and before the play is over, he must by turns imitate the patelinage of a Jesuit à robe courte, the pleading of a procureur général, the splendid bile of a deputy of the côté droit, and should even talk political economy like an article in the Globe.' But the author shall read you his piece La Création! drame Historique et Romantique, in six acts, allowing a thousand years to each act. C'est l'homme marquant de son siècle."
**But,' said 1, 'I shall remain in Paris only a few weeks, and he will never get through it in so short a time.'
•• Pardonnez moi, madume, he will get through it in six nights—the time to be actually occupied by the performance; an act a night, to be distributed among the different theatres in succession, beginning at the Français and ending at the Ambigu."
It is here that her Ladyship begins to doubt whether this romantic gentleman was not hoaxing her, and certes it was time; but melt and disperse ye spectre doubts! an attempt to hoax Lady Morgan, impossible! They do quickly pass away, and the conversation is pursued in the same strain, until “ Monsieur de one of the conscript fathers of classicism” is announced. No sooner has his name passed the lips of the servant, than the romantic gentleman snatches up his hat, and endeavours to make an exit from the room, in as much consternation as if the "protagonist” himself were about to appear. But Monsieur de the classicist, enters before he can escape; "he draws up.” The two then glanced cold looks at each other, bowed formally, and the romanticist retired, roughing his wild locks, and panting like a hero of a tragedy." What a picture! We venture to affirm, however, that had an attentive observer been present,