Arthur Augustus Tilley.

The literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) online

. (page 28 of 34)
Online LibraryArthur Augustus TilleyThe literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) → online text (page 28 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

but Horace as represented by a single satire, the sixth of the
First book, the only one which is at once an epistle in form
and autobiographical in character 1 . In fact Ariosto's satires,
as well in spirit as in form, are familiar epistles rather than
true satires. In the first place they lack the dramatic form
which Horace, mindful of the origin of Roman satire, has
given to the whole of his Second book, except the opening of
the Sixth satire, and has largely introduced even in his First
book 2 . Secondly Ariosto's satirical intention, which, like
Horace's in his Second book, never exceeds the measure of
good-natured irony, is always subservient to his charming
faculty of self-revelation. As De Sanctis says, his aim is
neither ridicule nor censure, but the relief of his own mind.

On the other hand Burlesque gives us that side of Horace's
work which is represented by the Dinner of Xasidienus
(II. 8) and the Journey to Brundisium (I. 5). Not that
Burlesque is classical in its origin, for it is derived partly from
the popular sonnets of the Florentine barber, Burchiello, and
partly from Lorenzo de' Medici's Simposio or Beoui, a parody
of the Divina Commedia, written in terza timet and divided
into capitoli. It is from this latter fact that the name of
capitolo was specially given to a burlesque poem. The past
master of this kind of poetry was Berni, and Bernesque was
used as an equivalent to Burlesqued Next to him ranks
Mauro, and there were many others, chiefly men who had

1 Mr Mackail's remark in his Latin Literature that "the Satires are full from
end to end of himself and his own affairs " is an exaggeration.

2 In the mss. of Horace the satires and epistles are alike entitled scrmones,
but he uses the word satura in two places. Sermo merely denotes a familiar
style, more akin to prose than to poetry. The oldest meaning of satura, so far
as the evidence goes, is that of a medley of metres, or of prose and verse. But
Nettleship conjectured that its original meaning, before it was applied to a literary
composition, was "a dramatic performance or story which was a medley of scenes
or incidents" (H. Nettleship, The original form of Roman satura, 1878). The
earliest literary form which satura took is probably best represented by the work
of Petronius.

'■' II Lasca published in 1548 a collected edition of opere burlesche of Berni
and others. Both forms of Italian satire are included in vol. XXVII. of Parnaso
Italiano, Venice, 1787.


distinguished themselves in other branches of literature, such
as the novelists Firenzuola and II Lasca, Annibale Caro, the
translator of the JEneid, and Delia Casa, the letter-writer.

As we have seen, it was Ariosto and Berni who inspired
Joachim du Bellay with the idea of his Regrets, Ariosto
suggesting the autobiographical character and Berni the use
of the sonnet-form. Then in 1559, the year after the publica-
tion of the Regrets, he produced in Le poete courtisan a poem
which may fairly claim to be the first French satire. But in
its elaborate irony, its studied art of saying one thing and
meaning another, it still reminds one, not of Horace, but of a
capitolo 1 . We have seen that Ronsard's Discours des mi seres
de ce temps contain some satirical passages, and a certain
amount of autobiography. This latter characteristic is made
the special feature of another discours, Contrc fortune, and of
two poems addressed to Pierre Lescot and to Catharine de'
Medici 2 . But they are epistles and not satires, and so Ronsard
regarded them. In a poem which he addressed to Henry III
soon after his accession to the throne, he announces his
intention of writing satires after the manner of Horace, and
the poem itself would have served admirably as an intro-
ductory satire 3 . M. Vianey, however, is doubtless right in
pointing out that it was Ronsard's example which definitely
determined the form of French satire, that of a familiar epistle
written in the alexandrine metre.

Shortly before Ronsard wrote the poem addressed to

1 M. Chamard, p. 429, points out that the immediate source >>f the inspiration
is a Latin letter by Turnebe, a translation of which, evidently by I »u Bell
published with his Le poete courtisan under the title of h

son profit des letlres. He further points out that a sort of imitation of Du I
satire appeared in the same year under the title of Le Medecin Court: an. It i^
printed in the Kecueil de poesies francoiscs, X. </> ff.

2 (Euvres, vi. 156 ff., 18S ff . ; in. 369. The two formei poem
published in r.160; the third was written in 1560 or [561.

3 sans vostre faveur, - ire,
Je n'ose envenimer ma langue ;i la Batyre.

je seray satyrique,
Disoy-je a vostre frere, a Charles mon seigneur.


Henry III Jean de la Taille published in the same volume
with his play the Gabeonites (1573) a poem entitled Le
courtisan retire, which has a long satirical passage on the
court, and which is noteworthy as being in form not an epistle
but a narrative with a slight element of dialogue 1 . The
satire however is of no great force, and the best part of the
poem is the elegiac passage in which the old courtier paints
the charms of country life. La Taille also wrote some satirical
sonnets 2 . There was also, as we have seen, a satirical vein in
Passerat, Rapin, and Durant, which bore fruit in the verses of
the Satire Menippee, but none of them wrote regular satires 3 .
The first French satires, definitely so-called, were those of
Vauquelin de la Fresnaye published in 1605 in his volume of
Diverses poesies. They are thirty-four in number, divided into
five books, but of this respectable total M. Vianey has shewn
that twenty-one are direct translations of Horace and the
Italian satirists, while the rest are mosaics put together from
the same sources. Vauquelin evidently used Sansovino's
collection, even borrowing his preface. In this preface it is
worth noting that the distinction in form between the satire
and the epistle to which Horace has rigidly adhered in all his
satires except two 4 is completely missed 5 , a mistake which is
natural enough in Sansovino, whose model was Ariosto.

Thus when Regnier began to write satires there was little
or nothing in his native language to serve as a direct model.
His earliest satire, the Second, shews him at the outset wavering
between Juvenal and Horace.

Mais c'est trop sermone de vice, et de vertu :
II faut suiure un sentier qui soit moins rebatu,
Et conduit d'Apollon recognoistie la trace
Du libre Juvenal, trop discret est Horace

1 Ed. R. de Maulde, m. xxii. ff.

2 Sonnets Satyriques dit camp de Poitoii, 1568, ib. III. ff.

3 There is a historical sketch of French satire prefixed to Viollet le Due's
edition of Regnier, but it does not give much information.

4 The first and sixth satires of the First book.

5 // riy a pas grande difference entre les Epistres et les Sat y res a" Horace, fors
que volontiers il escrit les Epistres a gens absents et d personnes elonguces. Les diverses
poesies, ed. Travers, p. 131.


Pour un homme pique, joint que la passion
Comme sans jugement, est sans discretion :
Cependant il vaut mieux sucrer nostre moutarde :
L'homme pour un caprice est sot qui se hazarde 1 .

But in fact this is the only one of Regnier's satires which
shews any traces of that tone of personal irritation and
disappointment which is so marked in Juvenal. Regnier
soon came round to the more genial and tolerant mood of
Horace. A few lines further on we come upon a translation
of Ariosto :

Et que, la grace a Dieu Phoebus et son troupeau,
Nous n'eusmes sur le dos jamais vn bon manteau 2 ,

and the autobiographical character points to the same influence.
Lastly the eloquent appeal to Ronsard,

et vous autres esprits
Oue pour estre viuans en mes vers ie n'escris,

(referring especially to Desportes) marks Regnier as a loyal
follower of the Pleiad, while the famous line

Meditant vn sonnet, medite vne Evesche

is surely a reminiscence of Du Bellay's Poete courtisan
and his

Car vn petit sonnet qui n'a rien que le son, ecc.

Generally this first attempt of Regnier's shews a prentice
hand. It is ill-composed and disconnected, and its chief
merit lies in the concentrated energy of some of the lines,
as for instance the following description of vice :

Le vice qui pompeux tout merite repousse,

Et va comme vn banquier en carrosse et en housse.

The Third satire, which probably comes next in date of
composition, is much better' 5 . It still shews the same in-

1 Ed. Courbet, p. 14. This satire was written ten years (ib. p. 16) after
Regnier entered the service of Joyeuse, and therefore according to my view in

2 Apollo tua merce, tua merce, saute >
Collegio delle Muse, io non possedo

Tanto per voi, ch' io possa farmi un manto. Sat. II.

3 M. Vianey assigns it conjecturally to the autumn of 1598; I slum]. I put
it in the late summer of 1603.


fluences ; it is modelled to some extent on the first part of
Juvenal's Third satire, it has a passage of eight lines
translated from Ariosto 1 , and it has in the manner of Ariosto
a version of a well-known fable.

We now come to two satires, the Fourth and the Sixth,
both apparently written between 1603 and 1605 2 , in which
a new influence appears, that of Italian Burlesque. In the
Fourth, a palpable reminiscence of Ronsard's epistle to Pierre
Lescot is followed by an arrangement of various passages
from a capitolo of Dolce. The Sixth is little more than
a translation of two capitoli of Mauro, In disJwnore delf honor,
which had already been translated in part by Amadis Jamyn 3 .
Neither satire however has much merit.

Regnier, as we have seen, probably returned to France
from his last journey to Italy in May, 1605, and for the rest
of his life lived chiefly if not entirely at Paris. The Fifth
satire which is addressed to the poet Bertaut, apparently
before he was made Bishop of Seez (1606), has been acutely
and convincingly assigned by M. Vianey to the latter half of
1605 4 . Except the Thirteenth, which is quite different in
character, it is the finest of all the satires, the one in which
Regnier is most successful in catching the true spirit and
tone of Horace, that is to say in making himself the text for a
commentary on human nature.

For this indeed he had a model nearer home, and much of
the satire is in fact strongly reminiscent of Montaigne. Thus
the first forty-six lines which are summed up in the single
line :

Et le bien et le mal despend du goust des homines
recall the Apology for Raimond Sebond, while the striking

1 Compare the passage beginning Que me serf de irfasseoir le premier a la
table (ed. Courbet, p. 27) with Ariosto, II. Che giova a me sedere, &rc.

2 The reference to the publisher Mamert Patisson shews, says M. Vianey,
that the Fourth cannot be much later than 1604. He goes on to identify Dame
Fredegonde with Marguerite de Valois and to date the satire by her return to
Paris in August, 1605, but this seems very doubtful. The Sixth, addressed to
M. Bethune, Sully's brother, was written at Rome, and therefore either between
August, 1603, and May, 1604, or between November, 1604, and May, 1605.

3 Vianey, pp. 119— 123; Jamyn, CEuvres poitiques, ed. Ch. Brunet, ii. 203 ff.

4 Vianey, p. 19.



passage on the different ages of man shews a close study
of the great Essay on Repentance. But though Regnier
owes much in this satire to Horace and Montaigne, it is no
paradox to say that in no satire is he more himself. For his
debt is to his own spiritual ancestors. Montaigne has been
called the French Horace, and Regnier the Montaigne of
French poetry 1 . The three men are of one spiritual kin.

The Seventh satire has nothing in it to determine its date,
but from its general character I should assign it to the same
period as the Fifth. It is the most personal of all, being an
apology for the author's readiness to fall in love. The Eighth
and Ninth satires must both have been written before
Desportes's death in October, 1606, and probably both belong
to that year. The Ninth contains the celebrated answer to
Malherbe's attack on the Pleiad 2 , and the Eighth is an
imitation of Horace's Ibatn forte via sacra': These eight
satires together with the First, a dedicatory epistle to the
King, and the Twelfth, an apology for satire suggested by
the Fourth satire of Horace's First book, were published in

The second edition, which appeared in 1609, contained two
new satires, the Tenth and its continuation the Eleventh.
They are very different in character to any of the preceding
ones. In the first place they are much longer, in the second
they are not epistles but narratives of personal adventure, like
the Journey to Brundisium and the Supper of Xasidienus. But
the immediate model is not Horace, but Berni, in whose
capitolo addressed to Fracastoro will be found the outline
as well as many episodes of the story. Besides this part
of the long and famous description of the pedant is taken
almost word for word from a capitolo of Cesare Caporali 4 , who
had revived the art of Bernesque satire in the second half of
the sixteenth century, and who, since he lived till the year 1601,

1 By Sainte-Beuve, who belongs to the same spiritual family.
- Malherbe arrived in Paris in August, [605.

3 It contains a reference to the approaching completion of the Pont-Neuj
(Vianey, p. 28).

4 Rime piacevoli, 2 vols. Florence, 1820, II. 171 ff. See Vianey, pp. 124 (L


may have been personally known to Regnier. Thus for the
first time we find in Regnier's work a specimen of that
elaborately descriptive vein which is one of the marked
features of Berni's satires. If in some parts, especially where
he is influenced by Caporali's heavier touch, he keeps up the
character of comic exaggeration which is inherent in Bernesque,
he shews elsewhere a realistic fidelity, which Balzac might
have envied.

The third edition of the Satires, published in 1612 and the
last which appeared in Regnier's lifetime contained only one
new satire, the most famous of all, Macette. Though like the
two which preceded it, it is a narrative in form and not an
epistle, it is in other respects a complete contrast to them.
Instead of a story of adventure it is a simple portrait with
only just enough action to give it life. In the place of
elaborate descriptions of material things we have a pure study
of character, in which nothing external is noticed except
gestures and movement.

The sources of this celebrated portrait have been ex-
amined with great care, but with some tendency to multiply
them unnecessarily. Keeping to what seems fairly certain,
the idea was doubtless suggested to Regnier by a poetical
Discours which appeared in 1609 in a collection entitled
Nouveau Recueil des plus beaux vers de ce temps, and which
was written by a friend of Regnier's named Charles de
Lespine 1 . The poem in question is based entirely on an
elegy in Ovid's Amoves, which fifty years before had inspired
Du Bellay, Jean Doublet, and possibly Ronsard. Regnier
evidently knew Doublet's elegy as is shewn by a comparison
between the close of the two poems. But in the hands
of Ovid and his imitators the prototype of Macette is merely
an ordinary lena ; in Regnier's she is also a religious
hypocrite. Whence did he derive this idea ? On this
point there is a considerable divergence of opinion between
M. Vianey and some pupils of M. Brunot who with his

1 It has been reprinted with an introduction by E. Courbet as La Macette du
sieur de Lespine, 1875. M. Vianey has identified Lespine with a secretary of
Cardinal du l'erron who was at Rome in 160^.


assistance have published an excellent commentary on
Regnier's satire 1 . While M. Vianey finds the chief source
of inspiration in Aretino, they point to the Roman de la
Rose, of which the traces are undoubted, to the famous
Celestina with its numerous French translations, and to
characters like Francoise in Odet de Turnebe's Les Contents.
I have already said that the influence of the Celestina on this
comedy in particular and on French comedy in general seems
to me doubtful 2 , and I doubt still more whether it influenced
Regnier. Celestina is not a hypocrite. Her character, it
must be admitted, has defects, but hypocrisy is not one of
them. Her religion is that of a true Spaniard, none the less
genuine, because inconsistent with her calling. It is an
inherent part of her character and not merely a mask. On
the other hand her Italian sisters having taken to religion
in their declining years as a sign of respectability may
fairly be called hypocrites. I agree therefore with M. Vianey
that it was from Italian rather than from Spanish or French
comedy that Regnier took the idea of Macette, and possibly
his special model may have been the Alvigia of Aretino' s play

But whatever her ancestry Macette is of her time and
country. She does not practice sorcery like Ovid's Dipsas and
most of her prototypes in Italian comedy, nor has religious
hypocrisy become with her, as with Alvigia, a second nature.
Her religion is purely a mask which she soon lays aside to
appear in her true character. Her advice is thoroughly
worldly in tone, and she does not like Tartuffe suggest that
'evil actions may be rectified by pure intentions.' It has
been said that religious hypocrisy did not exist in Regnier's
day. Possibly not, but at any rate a religious revival, the
result of the Counter-reformation, was in full activity at Paris.
In 1604 the Jesuits had been recalled. In 1602 St Francois

1 Macette publiee et commentee par F. Brunot et P. Bloume, L. Fourniols,
G. Peyre et A. Weil, 1900.

2 See ante, p. 112.

3 Venice, 1552. In the 3rd Giomata of the second part of the Ragionamenti
La Comare says Hippocrasie e consciejitie sono apellammti de le nostre cattivita,
but the resemblance between her and Macette is not at all close.



de Sales had spent some months there and had doubtless
made an impression on the Parisian ladies by his skill as
a director of conscience, an impression which was deepened
bv the publication in 1609 of his Introduction to the devout
life. But the devotional works which were the most widely
read in France at this time were the writings of St Teresa ;
so that in reading her Meditations Macette was only following
the fashion. Now this outburst of religious fervour is spoken
of in the Journal of Pierre de l'Estoile, an honest man and
a sincere Christian, as a sign of bigotry and hypocrisy. What
then must it have seemed to Regnier, who ' shunned all
novelty ' and was a libertine to boot? In making his Macette
a representative of religious hypocrisy, he probably intended
to increase the pungency of his satire. If he confused true
religion with hypocrisy he is not the only man of pleasure nor
the only satirist who has done so. Macette then is in some
respects an imaginary portrait, but she is none the less
magnificently alive. That she seemed so to the creator of
Tartuffe we may feel assured. There are many signs that he
had given careful study to her, but I will only notice one
here. Just as Macette's appearance on the scene is heralded
by a description of her character, so throughout the first two
acts of Moliere's play Tartuffe dominates the interest without
actually appearing on the stage.

Macette was the last satire which Regnier lived to see
published, but he left behind him three others — or four if you
count the Seventeenth — of which two at least, the Fourteenth
and the Sixteenth, were probably written before Macette 1 .
These, with some other pieces, were published after his death,
before the close of the year 161 3. They are mainly ethical in
character, and apart from the excellence of the versification
of no great merit as a whole. But the opening lines of the
Fourteenth, which is addressed to Sully, are admirable, and so
is the first half of the Fifteenth.

A satirist is presumably a moralist, but this can hardly be
said of Regnier. His ethical standard is that of Montaigne

1 XIV. must have been written before Sully's retirement in January, 161 1 ; and
xvi. before Fourquevaux's death in March of that year (Vianey, p. 3a).


in his easiest mood and he borrows from him a few of his most
comfortable doctrines. But if he is no moralist, he is a
marvellous observer and painter of life and manners. The
Paris of his day — its streets, its buildings, and above all, its
inhabitants — lives again in his verse. For if in parts of the
Tenth and Eleventh Satires he resembles a Dutch painter of
still life this is not his most characteristic note. His genre-
painting with its lively action reminds one rather of Jan Steen.
But the painter to whom he is most akin is his younger con-
temporary, Frans Hals. He has the same mastery over
physiognomy and gesture, the same gay audacity, the same
brilliant and varied palette. Here is the portrait of the 'bore' :

Un ieune frise, releue de moustache,
De galoche, de botte, et d'vn ample pennache.

Laissons le discourir,
Dire cent, et cent fois, il en faudroit mourir,
Sa Barbe pingoter, cageoller la science,
Releuer ses cheueux, dire en ma conscience,
Faire la belle main, mordre vn bout de ses guents,
Rire hors de propos, monstrer ses belles dents,
Se carrer sur vn pied, faire arser son espee,
Et s'adoucir les yeux ainsi qu'vne poup^e 1 .

More elaborate and more fantastic in its imaginative
audacity is the portrait of the pedant in the Tenth Satire, and
the same may be said of the trois vieilles in the Eleventh, but
they are less true to nature. Besides these more finished
portraits there are plenty of sketches sparkling with life and
colour. But Regnier's satire is never personal.

Tout le monde s'y voit et ne s'y sent nommer-

is his just boast, and it earned him the name of le bon Regnier.
His chief artistic defect is his inability to construct a
complete poem. He was too indolent to think out his subject
beforehand, and he was content to borrow the setting for his
pictures from Horace or Juvenal, or the Italian satirists. As

1 Sat. viii. M. Vianey points out the resemblance between this portrait and
D'Aubigne's Faeneste. M. Rostand's Cyrano is a heroic representative of the
same type.

2 Sat. XII.


long as he keeps closely to the lines of his model he is safe;
Macette, for instance, which is based on Ovid's simple frame-
work, is the one satire which is well constructed. But when,
as in the Eighth satire, he tries to improve upon his model,
failure awaits him. The narrative in this satire is as inferior
to Horace's in clearness and artistic construction as the
portrait is superior in brilliance and actuality. It is worse
when Regnier trusts entirely to his own invention. The
Second satire is remarkable for incoherence, and the Ninth
satire which opens so admirably with the famous attack on
Malherbe, degenerates into a string of more or less dis-
connected passages.

We have seen that Regnier was indebted to other writers
for more than the mere framework of his satires. He helped
himself with quite as free a hand to their thoughts and even
to their language. In borrowing from the Italians he was
only following the footsteps of his predecessors, especially of
his uncle, Desportes, but he improved on their example by
treating them in a similar fashion. The first part of his
Fourth satire is so closely modelled on the Epistle to Pierre
Lescot that it echoes Ronsard's words and even his rhymes 1 .
His debt to Desportes in Macette is considerable ; he appro-
priates his language as if it were family property' 2 . Yet with
all this no writer has a more thoroughly individual style or
one which is less an imitation of the writers from whom he
borrows. The general style of the poets of the Pleiad
school, except when they are confined within the fourteen
lines of a sonnet, is flowing, redundant, and somewhat nerve-
less. The epithet doux-coulant, which was specially applied
to Du Bellay, is equally well-suited to most of Ronsard's
disciples 1 '. Regnier, on the other hand, is concise, vigorous,
pregnant. He attains this result partly by an expressive
vocabulary, which if it is limited in extent is exceedingly well-

1 Parquet — caquet ; terre — guerre.

2 See for Regnier's debt to Ronsard and his disciples Vianey pp. 95 — 105. He
however exaggerates the debt to Ronsard in the Ninth satire. M. Vianey also
notes the influence of Rabelais (p. 138), but one of the instances he gives is from

Online LibraryArthur Augustus TilleyThe literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) → online text (page 28 of 34)