Page images
[ocr errors]

having brought all the hidden things of the press to light, though he shews no disposition to undervalue the effect of his researches.


According to the prevailing fashion of Parisian editors, the work is introduced with a very formal preliminary discourse on the subjects of it, consisting of nine sections, and enumerating methodically the various modes by which authors have practised the concealment which he has laboured to remove. This part occupies 64 pages, and is followed by a little controversy with a M. Maton de la Varenne, who has attempted (according to M. BARBIER) a new species of pseudsnomy in claiming for his uncle, the Abbé, two works which are clearly traced to different authors. His claim was made in the Journal de Paris, and receives what appears to us a very satisfactory answer from the compiler of the Dictionary; who is much less irritated by the doubt thus thrown on his accuracy, than delighted with the opportunity of exemplifying in this particular instance the degree of industry and ingenuity which he has habitually exerted, in developing the names of anonymous writers. various articles throughout the Dictionary, where any difficulty occurs, similar details and reasonings are subjoined, of which the apparent accuracy and good sense have excited our surprise; as well as some regret that those valuable qualities have not been employed on an undertaking of more general importance. It would be in vain to expect much of entertainment or of instruction for a foreigner in these numerous pages; since they are rigidly confined to their immediate subject, completely void of all ostentatious displays of learning, and too cautious (if possible) in admitting those literary anecdotes, which certainly have a close though not a necessary connection with the history of the various books recorded in this collection. Yet we are not without the hope of laying before our readers a few curious facts, which they may not regret the trouble of learning.

We are first struck with observing that Artamenes, or the great Cyrus, once the Homer of Romances, the proudest boast of Mademoiselle Magdeleine de Scudery's genius, and which it required that of Boileau to depreciate, was originally published at Paris without a name, in the year 1650. What will the male and female, the prosaic and poetical romancers of the present day think of the cold and tasteless age in which they live, when they hear that this stupendous work, filling ten volumes in octavo, and printed no doubt in the crowded form which was then in vogue, went through seven editions in the short period of eight years? It may well be doubted whether that grand repository of refined heroism and chival


[ocr errors]

rous love-making has been perused so often during the last eighty years of its existence, as it was printed during the first eight.

[ocr errors]

A translation, by the Abbé de Choisy, of Thomas à Kempis de Imitatione Christi, gives occasion for the correction of a scandalous anecdote reflecting on the translation itself and on Madame de Maintenon, which has been reported by Voltaire and others, and has been generally believed. The translation, according to such report, was dedicated to that distinguished lady, and, among other plates accompanied by appropriate mottos from Scripture, was said to contain a portrait of her, kneeling before a crucifix, with an inscription from the 44th Psalm-"Hearken, O daughter, and incline thine car, and forget thy father's house, so shall the king have pleasure in thy beauty;" or, in the stronger phrase of the Vulgate, concupiscet rex decorem tuum. The fact, established by a long series of arguments, appears to -be that the book was not dedicated to Madame de Maintenon, but to Louis the Fourteenth; and that in truth she was represented praying on her knees, in one of the engravings, and surrounded by young damsels, (in allusion probably to her favourite institution of St. Cyr): but the inscription is only, Audi filia, "hearken, daughter," and all the other words were added by the makers of good stories. This particular is traced to the marriage of Philip the Second and Elizabeth de Valois, as related in Favyn's history of Navarre, published at Paris in 1612, in whose words it is transcribed by M. BARBIER, as follows: "The King of Navarre (Antony, the father of Henry the Great) placed the Queen in the hands of the Cardinal of Toledo and the Bishop of Burgos. The Cardinal, approaching her on the right, repeated these words, "Hearken, O daughter, &c. forget thine own people and thy father's house;" and the Bishop of Burgos, on her left, added the beginning of the following verse: " So shall the king have pleasure in thy beauty, for he is thy lord." At the Spanish pronunciation, much ruder than ours, and in which an ou was substituted for the u," (which must have been peculiarly striking in the concluding Latin words, ipse est dominus tuus,)" that fair princess, bred in the mild climate of France, instantly fainted, and fell into the arms of the King of Navarre." — It must be confessed that this little anecdote, when we couple it with the subsequent history of the unhappy Elizabeth, has something singularly affecting; and indeed there is a melancholy propriety in the adoption of a form in the marriageceremony of princes, which warns the bride thenceforth to forget her native land, her own people, and the house of her fathers.

[ocr errors]

We pass to a work of F. N. Dubois, the Secret History of the femmes galantes (a term which we know not how to anglicize) of antiquity, which was attacked by the Abbé d'rart in this epigram:

"Ce livre est l'histoire secrète,

Si secrète, que pour lecteur
Elle n'eut que son imprimeur,
Et M. Dubois qui l'a faite.”

We have seen a doggrel translation of these well-turned lines in our own language, which has no merit but that of giving a tolerably just idea of the sense of the original;

A secret history indeed!

Which not a living soul will read,
Except Dubois, by whom 'twas writ,
And the poor devil who printed it.

De la Harpe, in his Literary Correspondence, quotes the French verses, without knowing the particular secret history against which they were directed; an instance of ignorance that exposes him to some contempt from our bibliographical author : but for which we think he may be pardoned, since it seems that the history, which was condemned by anticipation to have no readers, actually reached a third edition in a very limited time.

M. BARBIER has gratified us with one more copy of verses, an impromptu of Voltaire, and perhaps the only one of his compositions which has not found a place in the extensive collection of his works. It is preserved in a "Recueil de pièces en vers et en prose," by Madame Dumont, to whom it was addressed, in answer to an application to the poet for tickets of admission to the Dauphin's marriage-ceremony, for herself and a daughter of fifteen:

"Il faut au Duc d'Ayen montrer vos vers charmans,

De notre Paradis il sera le Saint Pierre,

Il aura les clefs, et j'espère

Qu'on ouvrira la porte aux beautés de quinze ans.”

This is poetical and gallant; and the little confusion between the functions of St. Peter and the Mohammedan paradise may well be forgiven, in a stanza good humouredly struck off at the moment, tout debout et sur le champ. An attempt at a translation of this epigram we have inserted below *.

* Let your sweet verses by the Duke be seen,-
He of our Paradise will hold the key,
And will, I trust, with highest glee,
Admit the spotless beauties of fifteen.



In this large catalogue of the productions of French literature, we have felt a natural curiosity to discover what proportion of books it has adopted from that of our own country; and we have observed, without surprise, but not without pride, a greater number of translations from the English, than from all the other languages of antient and modern times united. Of our poetical writers, Pope appears to be the greatest favourite at Paris, which would naturally be expected from the regularity of his couplets, and the high polish of his versification. Of the works of our prose writers, judging from the frequency of their recurrence in the present Dictionary, we should pronounce the political essays of Hume to be the most popular. Various translations from Toland, Collins, and other notorious free-thinkers, were from time to time about fifty years ago industriously published, without a name, by the Baron d'Holbach; and the celebrated Système de la Nature, characterized by Voltaire under the strong expression, a philippic against the Deity, is here said to be the work of the same author, though described in the title-page, and we believe by general rumour, to M. Mi rabaud. Many papers from the periodical works of Addison, Steele, and Hawkesworth, are noted in this collection. The World, and Goldsmith's Citizen of the World, were both translated entire. The Fair Penitent, produced on the Parisian stage under the title of Caliste by a translator whose name is not satisfactorily (at least not conclusively) ascertained, though censured as too close an imitation of the English theatrical style, obtained no inconsiderable success; the Gamester, incorrectly attributed to Lillo, instead of Moore, and degradingly styled tragédie bourgeoise, was deemed too violent to be per formed:-Peregrine Pickle appears in the borrowed plumage of a baronet, and is called Sir William ;-and Betsy Thoughtless, who once held a distinguished situation in every young lady's library, would scarcely be recognised by her old English acquaintance under the oddly-spelt designation, Miss Betsi Tatless.

[ocr errors]

Few persons probably are aware that our historian Gibbon had the honour of being translated by the last monarch of the Bourbon race but the fact is that the first four volumes of the Decline and Fall were published in 1777 by Louis the Sixteenth, under the name of M. le Clerc de Septchênes; and we presume that the execution was above mediocrity, since the work has been continued by various writers of reputation, and was concluded in eighteen octavo volumes in 1795: a period at which no flattery nor partiality can be supposed to have conferred an imaginary value on the composition of a royal author. A promise is likewise held out on the part of General Grimoard,


(whom we lately reviewed as the editor of Bolingbroke,) to publish in a short time the complete works of Louis the Fourteenth; who is here considered as having composed the relation of the siege of Namur, which commonly forms a part of the works of his official historiographer, Racine :- but the Campagne de Louis XIV., formerly published under the name of Pelisson, though lately challenged on behalf of Racine and Boileau, and published in the last and most excellent edition of the works of the former, is attributed in this Dictionary, without question from M. BARBIER, to those distinguished writers. -We may observe that another pseudonymy is corrected, with respect to the infamous book, Joannis Meursii elegantia Latini sermonis, which we fear is too well known in this country. The disgrace of having prostituted the finest talents, and the most elegant learning, to the odious purpose of corrupting the imagination of the young, is fixed on Nicolas Chorier, advocate in the Parliament of Grenoble, and author of a history of Dauphiny. The time of its first publication, which is not precisely mentioned, must have preceded the year 1680, when a translation of it into French was made by another advocate called Nicolas. The original author is detected in rather a curious manner at this remote period, by the badness of his hand-writing in the MS., which was sent to be printed at Geneva, at the expence, we regret to add, of Messieurs les Avocats Généraux du Parlement de Grenoble !

The restrictions on the liberty of printing in France (which appear from this work to have existed also in the time of the Directory, by whom a book was suppressed in 1796,) made it frequently necessary for authors to resort to a foreign press, particularly that of London, for the purpose of giving vent to their lucubrations. One of the noblest works of the immortal Fenelon, proscribed in the country of his birth, was indebted at length for publicity to an English nobleman. English nobleman. We allude to his "Directions for the conscience of a King," designed for the use of his pupil the Duke of Burgundy, of which posthumous work the following notice is taken by M. BARBIER:

These Directions were intended to appear in 1734, under the title of Examen de Conscience pour un Rai, in the same volume with the fine folio edition of Télémaque which was printed in that year at Amsterdam, with the acknowlegement and at the request of the author's family: three hundred and fifty copies of it were separately printed; but the same family took great care to suppress them entirely, under Express and very severe orders from the court of France; and it was not till after the death of M. de Fénélon, grand nephew of the Archbishop, and the French ambassador in Holland, who was killed in 1746 at the battle of Raucoul near Liége, that Lord Granville, formerly Lord Carteret, who had obtained a complete and unaltered

Hh z

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »