Arthur Augustus Tilley.

The literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) online

. (page 17 of 34)
Online LibraryArthur Augustus TilleyThe literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Compared with the ancient world, our modern world shows
signs of decrepitude and exhaustion. But a new and infant
world, in no way inferior to ours in magnificence, has been
recently discovered. This leads to a most eloquent description
of the conquest of Peru and Mexico, full of sympathy for the
conquered, and of indignation at the cruelty of the conquerors.
Retombons a nos coches. In Peru they do not use coaches, but
litters. The last king of Peru was being carried in a litter
when he was captured in battle.

The central thought of this Essay is apparently the
reprobation of extravagant pomp and magnificence, which
suggests a comparison between the ancient world and the new
world of Mexico and Peru in the matter of magnificence. But
it looks as if the whole train of thought had been set in
motion by the stories of the strange teams which Mark
Antony and Elagabalus harnessed to their coaches. Hence
the title of the Essay, and hence Montaigne, with true artistic
instinct, returns before its close to the motive from which he
had set out 1 .

The above is a summary of the Essay as it appeared in
1588 ; in the text of 1595 there are several additions. In this
case they do not interfere with the thread of the argument ;
but in many of the Essays the later additions, which of course
formed no part of the original plan, give them a more discon-
nected and desultory air than they have in the text of 1 588,
or than they would probably have had if Montaigne had
definitely revised his text.

In one respect as his work progressed he introduced .1
decided improvement in its literary form ; he made his
sentences shorter. We have seen that the besetting sin ol
sixteenth century prose is the unwieldy length of the senten< e,

1 M. Stapfer and M. Ruel have also selected this Essay as an example of
Montaigne's method, and Ruel gives an admirable analysis of it. (See Stapfer,
Montaigne, p. 127 ; Ruel, op. cit. 374 ff.) My balder summary originally app

in Macmillan's Magazine, 1890.



i; 4 MONTAIGNE [CH.

and in the ordinary text of the Essays there are plenty of long
sentences, some indeed of quite remarkable length. But this
is in a large measure due to the system of punctuation
adopted by Naigeon in his edition of 1802, which is not
Montaigne's any more than the orthography, but which sub-
sequent editors blindly followed. In the reformed text of
MM. Courbet and Royer the numerous colons and semi-colons
are replaced by full-stops 1 . This is in accordance with a
direction given by Montaigne to his printer. Cest un langage
coupe" > qu'il ny espargne les poinds et lettres majuscules 2 . But it
is not merely a question of punctuation. Though from the
first Montaigne, with his true artistic instinct, often relieved
his long sentences by short ones, his tendency as his style
developed was to make all his sentences shorter.

It is remarkable that Estienne Pasquier notes as a special
feature of the Essays that it is un vrai seminaire de belles et
notables sentences. He then proceeds to quote eighteen which
La Rochefoucauld might have envied. Yet he omits many of
the most striking, such as : Tout abrege sur un bon livre est
un sot abrege ; Touts jugemens e7i gros sont lasches et im-
parfaicts ; La plus grande chose du monde cest de savoir estre
a soy ; En nostre langage je trouve assez destoffe, mats un pen
fan lie de /aeon 3 .

Next to the realism or impressionism — whichever you like
to call it — of Montaigne's style its most remarkable feature is
its imaginative character. Metaphor succeeds metaphor in
careless profusion. The following passage is a good illus-
tration of this quality :

A qui n'a dresse en gros sa vie a une certaine fin, il est impossible de
disposer les actions particulieres. II est impossible de renger ses pieces,
a. qui n'a une forme du total en sa teste. A quoy faire la provision des
couleurs, a qui ne scait ce qu'il a a peindre? Aucun ne fait certain
dessein de sa vie, et n'en deliberons qu'a parcelles. L'archer doit
premierement scavoir oil il vise, et puis y accomoder la main, l'arc, la

1 A good instance will be found in the Essay On Coaches in the passage
beginning, La liberality mesme n'est pas Men.
- Bordeaux MS (Courbet and Royer, V. 4).
■' -Montaigne's apophthegms are noticed by Villemain, Eloge, p. 25.



XXI] MONTAIGNE



175



corde, la flesche, et les mouvemens. Nos conseils fourvoyent, par ce
qu'ils n'ont pas d'adresse et de but. Nul vent fait pour celuy qui n'a
point de port destine* 1 .

Nor is it merely in the use of metaphor that Montaigne's
imagination reveals itself; he is fond of picturesque words,
words which call up a sensuous image, and in which the
French language of the sixteenth century was particularly
rich. It is with justice that the chapter in which Malebranche
criticises Montaigne is entitled ' On the Imagination' and one
can understand Montesquieu's meaning when he speaks of
him as ' one of the four great poets 2 .' Sainte-Beuve rightly
compares him with Ovid and Ariosto, for it is in liveliness and
rapidity rather than in concentrated power that his imagi-
nation excels. Occasionally, however, as in the well-known
description of the death-chamber, to which I have already
referred, he can paint in a few words a complete and striking
picture :

Je croy a la verite que ce sont ces mines et appareils effroyables,
dequoy nous l'entournons, qui nous font plus de peur qu'elle : une toute
nouvelle forme de vivre : les cris des meres, des femmes, et des enfans :
la visitation des personnes estonnees, et transies : l'assistance d'un
nombre de valets pasles et eplores : une chambre sans jour : des cierges
allumez : nostre chevet assiege de medecins et de pescheurs : somme
tout horreur et tout effroy autour de nous. Nous voyla des-ja ensevelis
et enterrez 3 .

Montaigne belongs to that somewhat small class of writers
who write for the eye rather than for the ear. His style as a
rule is wanting in the rich harmony which is so distinguishing
a feature of Rabelais. Yet occasionally this feature is also
present, as in the magnificent description of philosophy in
the Essay On the Education of Children, or in the following
description of Paris :

Je ne veux pas oublier cecy, que je ne me mutine jamais tant contre
la France, que je ne regarde Paris de bon ceil. Elle a mon cceur des
mon enfance. Et m'en est advenu comme des choses excellentes : plus
j'ay veu depuis d'autres villes belles, plus la beaute - de cette cy, peut, et
gaigne sur mon affection. Je L'ayme par elle mesme, et, plus en son

1 II. 1 (De rinconstance de nos actions).

- His other three are Plain, Malebranche, and Shaftesbury.

3 1. 19.



I7 6 MONTAIGNE [CH.

estre scul, que rechargee de pompe estrangere. Je l'ayme tendrement,
jusques a ses vermes et a ses tasches. Je ne suis Francois que par cette
grande cite : grande en peuples, grande en felicite de son assiette : mais
sur tout grande, et incomparable en variete, et diversity de commoditez :
la "loire de la France, et l'un des plus nobles ornements du monde.
Dieu en chasse loing nos divisions : entiere et unie, je la trouve defifendue
de tout autre violence. Je l'advise, que de tous les partis, le pire sera
celuy qui la metra en discorde 1 .

But his ordinary style is a style comique et prive,. . .trop
scrn\ desordonne, coicpe 2 . Add to this its rich imagery and
you have a style as unlike as possible to that which made
French prose so illustrious in the days of Louis XIV. Yet
the man of genius to whom the triumph of this new prose was
due was evidently a close student not only of Montaigne's
thought but of his style. For he learnt from Montaigne that
there can be no really great prose unless it is touched with
emotion, and unless it is the sincere expression of the writer's
thought.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Editions.

Essais... Liure premier &■ second, 2 vols. Bordeaux, 1580; edition seconde,
reueu'e & augmente'e, Bordeaux, 1582 ; cinquiesme edition, augmentie
d'vn troisiesme liure &" de six cens additions aux deux premiers, Paris,
1588; edition nouvelle, trovvee apres le deceds de t'Autheur, reueue &>
augmente'e par luy d'vn tiers plus qit aux precedences Impressions, Paris,
1 595 (with a preface by M Ue de Gournay). The third edition (Paris, 1587)
is merely a reproduction of the second, and the fourth edition is unknown.
Of these original editions the text of 1580 has been reproduced by
Dezeimeris and Barckhausen, 2 vols. Bordeaux, 1870; that of 1588 by
Motheau and Jouaust, 7 vols. 1886; that of 1595 by E. Courbet and
Ch. Royer, 5 vols. 187 2- 1900.

The last edition has a critical apparatus giving the various readings
of the original editions and of the MS additions inserted by Montaigne in
a copy of the 1588 text which is preserved in the municipal library at
Bordeaux. In 1802 an edition was published in 4 vols, by Naigeon,
based on this copy, but as the readings were not faithfully reproduced, it is

1 in. 9 (De la vanite).

2 !■ 39- Comique means 'familiar,' the style of comedy as opposed to that of
tragedy.



XXI] MONTAIGNE



177



of no value. Some of the more interesting readings are given by Gustave
Brunet in his Les Essais de Michel de Montaigne, Lecons inedites, 1844.

An edition shewing in a convenient form the successive stages of the
Essays and furnished with a sufficient commentary is still much needed.
See R. Dezeimeris, Recherches sur la recension du texte posthume des
Essais, Bordeaux, 1866; L. Manchon, De la constitution du texte des
Essais in Leon Manchon, Laval, 1886.

M lle de Gournay published at least ten editions subsequent to that of
1595 ; of these the most interesting are that of 1598, in which the long
preface of 1595 is replaced by a much shorter one ; that of 161 1, the first
edition with the names of the authors of the quotations ; and that of
1635, dedicated to Richelieu, with some changes in the text and with the
original preface restored in a modified and improved form.

Of the later editions the most important besides those named above
are the following : ed. P. Coste, 3 vols. London, 1724 ; ed. J. V. Le Clerc
5 vols. 1826, with an introduction and with notes which form the basis of
later commentaries (the text of this edition was the valgate for many years ;
the orthography and punctuation were supposed to be Montaigne's, but are
really Naigeon's); ed. C. Louandre, 4 vols. Charpentier, 1854 (a variorum
edition, frequently reprinted) ; 4 vols. Gamier, 1865 (with Le Clerc's
notes and a study by Prevost-Paradol) ; 2 vols. 1874 (a convenient
reprint of the last edition).

La theologie naturelle de Raymond Sebon, 1 569 ; Journal du 7'oyage
de Michel de Montaigne en Italie par la Suisse et VAllemagne en 1 580 et
1 581, ed. Meusnier de Ouerlon, 3 vols, (or 1 vol. 4to.), Rome and Paris,
1774 ; ed. A. d'Ancona, with notes, Citta di Castello, 1889.



Translations.

John Florio's famous translation was published in 1603, and has been
republished several times in recent years, viz. in 1886, with an introduc-
tion by H. Morley ; in the Tudor Translations, 3 vols. 1892, with an
introduction by G. Saintsbury ; and in the Temple Classics, 6 vols. [897.
Charles Cotton's translation appeared in 3 vols. 1685. It was repub-
lished by W. Hazlitt in 1842, and by \V. C. Hazlitt, 3 vols. 1877, and,
after revision, 4 vols. 1902. Both Florio and Cotton often miss
Montaigne's meaning, especially Florio, but Florio is more akin to
Montaigne in spirit, writing in the rich and imaginative style of tin-
Elizabethan age. Mr Hazlitt's revision is often less accurate- than
Cotton's original translation. An Italian translation of sonic oi tin-
Essays by G. Naselli was published at Fcrrara in 1590. The Journal
du Voyage has recently been translated with an introduction and notes
by W. G. Waters, 3 vols. 1903.

T. II. I-



17 8 MONTAIGNE [CH.



Life.

Dr J. F. Payen, an ardent admirer of Montaigne, formed a large
and important collection of documents relating to his life and writings.
These are now preserved in the Bibliotheque nationale, and a catalogue
has been published by G. Richou, Inventaire de la collection des
ouvrages et documents reunis par J. F. Payen et J. B. B as tide sur M. de
Montaigne, suivi de lettres inedites de Francoise de la Chassagne (M me
de Montaigne), 1878. Payen published in his life-time four series of
Documents inedits in 1847, 1850, 1855 and 1856 respectively. Another
important contribution to the biography of Montaigne is T. Malvezin,
Michel de Montaigne, son origine, sa famille, Bordeaux, 1875. A ^ these
materials have been utilised in the excellent life by P. Bonnefon,
Montaigne, I'homme et Voenvre, 4to. 1893, with numerous illustrations
and facsimiles; reprinted in Montaigne et ses amis, 2 vols. 1897.
See also the Notice by E. Courbet in vol. v. of Courbet and Royer's
edition, 1900. The older English life by Bayle St John, 2 vols. 1858, is
sensible and appreciative.



TO BE CONSULTED.

E. Pasquier, Lettres, xvi 1 1. 1, 1592. Pascal, Entrelien avec M. de
Saci sur Epictete et Montaigne. Malebranche, Recherche de la verite,
11. 3, 5, 1675. A. Villemain, Eloge de Montaigne, 1812. H. Hallam,
Literature of Europe, 1837-39 (4th ed. 1854, II. 26 ff.). C. A. Sainte-
Beuve, Port-Royal, bk III. cc. 1 — 3, 1842 ; Causeries du Lundi, IV.
76 ff., 185 1 (also two unimportant articles in Nouveaux Lundis, II. and
vi.). R. W. Emerson in Representative Men, 1850 ("The Montaigne of
Mr E. is Mr E. himself,'' Bayle St John). A. Griin, La vie publique
de Michel Montaigne, 1855 (uncritical). R. W. Church (Dean of St Paul's)
in Oxford Essays, 1857, reprinted in Miscellaneous Essays, 1888. A. Vinet,
Moralistes des seizieme et dix-septihne siecles, 1859. E. Galy and
L. Lapeyre, Montaigne chez lid, Perigueux, 1861. Prevost-Paradol, Etude,
prefixed to Garnier's edition of 1865, reprinted in Etudes sur les moralistes
franqais, 8th ed. 1895. A. Desjardins, Les moralistes francais du seizieme
siecle, 1870. H. Thiinme, Der Skepticisnius Montaignes, Gottingen,
1875. W. L. Collins, Montaigne, 1879 (in Foreign Classics for English
Readers, an excellent little book). F. Combes, Essai sur les ide'es
politiques de Montaigne et la Boetie, Bordeaux, 1882. W. H. Pater,
cc. IV. and V. of an unfinished romance, Gaston de Latour, first printed
in Macmillarts Magazine, 1889, republished in vol. IV. of Works ^a most
charming and sympathetic appreciation). John Owen, Skeptics of the
French Renaissance, 1893. E. Faguet, Seizieme siecle, 1894. M. Lanusse,
Montaigne (in Classiques populaires), 1895. P. Stapfer, Montaigne (in



XXI] MONTAIGNE 1 79

Les grands ecrivains francais), 1895 ; La famille et les amis de
Montaigne, 1896 (both well-balanced and sensible). R. Doumic, Etudes
stir la litterature francaise, \ re se'rie, Legoisme de Montaigne, 1896.
M. E. Lowndes (Miss), Michel de Montaigne, Cambridge, 1898 (based on
M. Bonnefon's book, but shewing independent research). G. Guizot,
Montaigne, 1899 (posthumous fragments with a preface by E. Faguet,
the work of a close student of Montaigne, who, like Pascal, combined
with a strong admiration for his style an equally strong dislike of his
doctrines). E. Ruel, Du sentiment artistiqne dans la morale de Montaigne,
1901 (another posthumous work, also introduced by E. Faguet ; the writer
was a professor of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts ; no warmer appreciation of
Montaigne has ever appeared, and the central idea that he observed
life as an artist, if sometimes pressed too far, is undoubtedly true).
E. Champion, Introduction aux Essais de Montaigne, 1900.



La Boetie.

CEuvres completes, ed. P. Bonnefon, 1892. Life, by G. Colletet in
Vies des poetes bordelais et pe'rigourdins ed. P. Tamizey de Larroque, 1873.
L. Feugere, E. de la Boetie, 1845, reprinted in Caracteres et portraits
litteraires du xvi e siecle, 1859. J. F. Payen, Notice bio-bibliographique
sur La Boetie, 1853. C. A. Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du Lundi, IX. 1853.

For a fuller bibliography of Montaigne and La Boetie see P. Bonnefon
in Petit de Julleville, ill. 483 — 5.



\i z



CHAPTER XXII



THE FOLLOWERS OF RABELAIS

It was inevitable that a writer of such marked individuality
of style as Rabelais should produce a crop of imitators, and
that these imitators, failing to catch any reflexion of his real
genius, should attach themselves to his peculiarities, or even
to his defects. The grosser imitations, such as Le disciple
de Pantagruel under its various titles or the Mythistoire
Barragouyne de Fanfreluche et Gondichon, may be left out of
account 1 . But there were writers who, while the form and
style of their works mark them as true disciples of Rabelais,
yet retain enough of independence to give them a place in
literature. For the one lesson that they learnt in common
from their master was of sufficiently wide interpretation to
cover much difference of treatment. This lesson was the
possibility of obtaining a hearing for the discussion of grave
topics under the cloak of broad laughter. Lacking however
for the most part Rabelais's deep vein of humour, which
enlivens the most ordinary matters by a sympathetic touch,
they were left to the short story or conte as their chief resource
for raising laughter.

Hence these writers are generally classed in histories of
French literature under the heading of conteurs, though this
title by no means expresses the real aim and character of their

1 See F. A. Arnstadt, F. Rabelais und sein Traite d Education, Leipsic, 1S7:,
pp. 68 ff.



CH. XXII] THE FOLLOWERS OF RABELAIS iSl

work. It is in fact hardly better suited to them than it is to
Rabelais himself 1 . They are really essayists in form, and
observers, for the most part satirical observers, of society in
substance. Indeed all of them are inferior in the art of
telling a story to two men who figure elsewhere in this
history, Henri Estienne and Agrippa d'Aubigne. Before,
however, coming to these followers of Rabelais mention
must be made of a writer whose book does consist exclusively
of stories, and of stories told, not in the off-hand manner of
the essayists, but with the amplitude and detail of the
Heptameron — in a word nouvelles rather than contes.

In the year 1 571, when the peace of Saint-Germain (August
1570) had given a respite to the horrors of civil war, Jacques
Iver or Yver, a gentleman of Poitou, was moved by the success
of the French translation of Bandello to write some original
stories of a similar character 2 . Bandello had published the
first three parts of his Novelle in 1554 3 , and his work, as the
production of a French bishop (for he had been appointed to
the see of Agen in 1550), had immediately attracted attention
in his adopted country 4 . In 1559 Pierre Boaisteau, who had
just edited the Heptameron, and Francois de Belleforest pro-
duced translations of some of the stories, Boaisteau translating
six and Belleforest twelve. These were republished together
in 1568, and the work was continued by Belleforest alone,
a second volume appearing in 1569 and a third in 1570 s .

Yver now set to work to rival Bandello, adopting a similar
framework for his stories to that of the Heptameron. The
tellers of the stories are three gentlemen and two ladies who
meet at the chateau of Printemps, the ladies being the daughter
and niece of the diatclaine. By Printemps is evidently meant

1 Marty-Laveaux says very truly, Les bibliograpkes et les critiques ont Jadis
enferme Rabelais dans la categorie des conteurs, nuxis V importance de wt

brise Tctroitesse de ce compartiment, Petit de Julleville, in. 72.

2 See Yver's preface.

3 At Lucca.

4 Bandello took refuge in France about the year [530.

5 The fourth part of Bandello's Novelle was published at Lyons in 15;.

his death, and in 1582 and 1583 the sixth and seventh volumes "I the French
translation were published.



[82 THE FOLLOWERS OF RABELAIS [CH.

the celebrated chateau of Lusignan 1 , distant sixteen miles from
Poitiers, which on Shrove-Tuesday 1574 was surprised by the
Huguenots, and after a siege of nearly four months' duration
capitulated in January 1575 and was razed to the ground 2 .
Yver's stories are all of considerable length, each being
supposed to occupy a day in the telling. As in the
Heptameron they are preceded and followed by a discussion.
As might be expected from a rival of Bandello they are all of
a thoroughly romantic and tragic character. The manner of
telling them is somewhat diffuse and artificial, and the style is
wanting in ease and directness, but a certain air of distinction
saves it from being wearisome. The most noteworthy of the
five stories is the first, which relates to the loves of Eraste and
Perside, the scene being laid in Rhodes. It furnished the
theme for an English tragedy, Solyman and Perseda\ at the
close of the sixteenth century, and for several French plays
and a novel by M lle de Scudery in the next century 4 . The
scene of the second story is laid at Mainz, of the third at
Mantua, of the fifth at Padua, while the fourth relates to
William the Conqueror.

The author did not live to enjoy the popularity of his
Printemps, for he died in 1572 before its publication. In the
same year it went through three editions, which had increased
to eleven by the end of the century 5 . It also produced some
imitations, such as L'Ete by Benigne Passenot (1583) and
Le Printemps d'Ete by Nicolas de Montreux. An English
translation by Henry Wotton was published in 1578 under
the title of A Courtlie Controversie of Cupid's Caute/s 6 .

1 It was said to have been built by the Fairy Melusine.

2 D'Aubigne, Hist. Univ. bk vii. c. 13 (iv. 311); Brantome, (Ettvres, v. 16—20.
:i Printed in 1599 and ascribed to Kyd by both Dr Ward and Mr Boas. It is

the ' play within the play ' of The Spanish Tragedy.

4 See E. Sieper in Zeitschrift fur vergleich. Lift. IX. 33 ff.

5 The first edition was published at Paris by L'Angelier, the second at Antwerp,
the third at Paris (copy in the Brit. Mus.), the fourth at Antwerp, 1573, the fifth
and sixth at Paris, 1575 and 1576.

6 Only two copies are known to exist, one in the British Museum and the other
in the Bodleian ; both are imperfect. The translator must not be confused with
Sir Henry Wotton. It may be noted here that a French translation of the first



XXII] THE FOLLOWERS OF RABELAIS 183

While Le Printemps d Yver is modelled on the Hep tamer on
and consists wholly of tragic stories told at some length, Les
escraignes dijonnoises is a collection of short tales of the
popular gaidois type like those of the Joyettx Devis. But
they have none of the merits of that remarkable work, or
indeed any other merit. They appeared in 1588, the author
being Estienne Tabourot, who was born at Dijon in 1547,
became prociireur du roi in 1582 and died in 1590. Previous
to the Escraignes dijonnoises he had published a far more
interesting work which he whimsically entitled Les Bigarrures
du Seigneur des Accords^. It consists almost entirely of essays
on various artificial forms of verse, such as rebuses, vers
rapportes, equivoques or puns, and leonine verses. There are
also chapters on anagrams and epitaphs, so that the whole
book throws a good deal of light on the literary fashions
of Tabourot's day. It had considerable success, editions
appearing in each year from 1583 to 1586. A copy of
the second edition was sent by the author to Estienne
Pasquier, who acknowledged it in an interesting letter 2 . In
1585 a second part was added, consisting only of three
chapters, of which one, like the first book, deals with the
subject of French verse 3 . This new edition included the first
instalment of the Apophtegmes du Seigneur de Goulard, an
imaginary person whose 'pleasant, witlesse and simple speeches'
are meant to be humorous. Tabourot also wrote five books



part of Straparola's Piacevoli notte by Louveau appeared in 1 560 and one of the
second part by Pierre Larivey in 1573, and that in 1584 that indefatigable translator
from the Italian and Spanish, Gabriel Chappuys of Tours, published his Lei
facetieuses journees.

1 The first known edition, that of 1583, is not the first ; this must havi
published in 1581 or 1582 and was probably only a small volume. The publisher,
writing in 1581, says the book was first put into his hands ' about four j
and in the edition of 1584 fotir is altered to eight.

a Lettres, vm. 14. I have already had occasion to refer to this lettei in
discussing the authorship of fla&Joyeux Devis (ante, 1. :

3 Tabourot calls this new book the fourth, car ce volume entier ne teroit /</<
Men bizarre s'il suivoit la facon des ordinaires icrivains. The /



Online LibraryArthur Augustus TilleyThe literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 34)