« AnteriorContinuar »
marked with the traces of the Revolution: idiomatic phrases were corrupted; and a species of slang was introduced into general usage, which has not yet been fully reformed... Formerly ladies called their most private room their cabinet: after the Revolution they adopted the language of the courtesans, and called it their boudoir. In the reign of Louis XV. if a gentleman were attached to a lady, it was said, Il est occupé d'elle, a delicate mode of expression, which was ill exchanged during the Revolution for the rude phrase, il en est amoureux. Suppers, which formerly gave a seasonable zest to society, and were celebrated for their gaiety, were discontinued, on account of the spectacle being prolonged to too late an hour at night. These and many other innovations, which no person could have judged of with so much accuracy, which no writer could have seized with so much delicacy, as Madame DE GENLIS, are all enumerated in a very lively vein. It is highly amusing to observe the earnestness with which this lady of the olden time detects and laments the decay of antient manners, and the substitution of others which she deems little less than barbarous; and to see how soon and how easily she yields to the desire of the Emperor, that she should write to him once a fortnight, on politics, finance, literature, morality, and every thing that passed through her head!' (sur tout ce qui me passeroit par la tête,) a title sufficiently extensive.
Extracts from several of Madame DE GENLIS's letters to Napoleon are given in the fifth volume of these Memoirs. They are of course the most inoffensive to the reigning dynasty, and the least exaggerated specimens, which she could select. Nevertheless, they are sufficient to shew that in politics she was a perfect " Vicar of Bray," only not quite so fortunate. She has also given abundant evidence to shew, that in her letters she took advantage of the general title above mentioned, and that the conduct of individuals sometimes, if not indeed principally, assisted her to a theme. We have here an instance, which serves at once to illustrate her own powers of adulation, as well as those of the celebrated Cardinal Maury.
The Cardinal Maury will be an excellent archbishop: he has a great deal of mind, and a good mind, animated and sensible, firm and conciliatory: he would be a most excellent ambassador. He told me that nothing could equal the emotion which he felt on taking the oath (of allegiance); and that the Emperor, in bestowing his gifts, displays so much grace and majesty, that one would feel delighted, in such moments, to die for him. He added, that he trembled so much, that he could not support himself; not that he is by any means naturally timid: he might have said to his Majesty, what a veteran officer, dazzled by the splendor of royalty, said to Louis XIV., "Sire, I do not tremble thus before your enemies."'
Had the conduct of the Cardinal been different, is it to be supposed that she would not have described it with equal minuteness? though we must, in fairness, add, that we give much credit to Madame DE GENLIS for good intentions. Much is to be excused to her womanly character; and we are disposed to believe her, when she says that she never made use of her correspondence with the Emperor for the purpose of injuring any human being. We think her incapable of it.
Through the favor of M. Chaptal, Madame DE GENLIS was lodged, during the greater part of the Emperor's reign, in the Arsenal, near the Bibliotheque, where she had an opportunity of referring to every book she wished to consult. While in that agreeable residence, she produced several works, among others, the Memoirs of Dangeau, which she extracted from the original MS., and published, with notes.* It appears that she was patronized by Talleyrand, and also by the Duchess de Courlande, who placed in her hand several letters from Napoleon to Josephine, which prove his affection for that amiable woman, but seem to be of no other value.
In her sixth volume, Madame DE GENLIS describes, in rather an embarrassed manner, the fall of the Emperor, the restoration, the return from Elba, and the second restoration themes which are now quite worn out, and upon which she has shed little additional light. She intersperses the volume with some remarks on the living French writers, which are very impartial, and distinguished by correct taste. We are apprehensive that the two concluding volumes of her Memoirs, which are yet to appear, will be rather inferior to those now before us. She seems already to have exhausted all her matter. Still they will necessarily excite attention, as coming from a woman, who, whatever may have been her personal indiscretions, has essentially served the interests of literature and of education in France.
ART. IX. The Orlando Furioso. Translated into English Verse, from the Italian of Ludovico Ariosto, with Notes. By William Stewart Rose. 8vo. Vols. I. II. III. 17.8s. 6d. Boards. Murray. 1823-5.
WITHIN the last few years a number of excellent translations have been made, both in poetry and prose, which promise greatly to enlarge the boundaries of our enjoyment. The mirthful wit of Aristophanes and the plaintive tenderness of Sophocles are now laid open to the English reader,
* For a review of the Memoirs of Dangeau see vol. lxxxiii. of the M. R., p. 514.
in versions worthy of the nation: from foreign novelists he may now derive the highest entertainment; from Bouterwek and Sismondi admirable principles of criticism, and a more intimate acquaintance with the poets of Italy and Spain. From the latter of these countries have been naturalised two choice collections of romantic ballads, instinct with chivalry and love, as well as the classic pictures and Virgilian sweetness of the muse of Garcilaso: from the former we are promised the yet superior creations of Tasso and Ariosto.
We confess that we are inclined to receive with peculiar satisfaction translations from the Italian poets. Their works have long since conferred signal benefits on our language and versification. Chaucer, not to speak of the use which he made of Boccaccio, was perfectly conversant with Petrarch. Spenser's fancy seems entirely imbued with the brilliant coloring and romantic vein of Boiardo and Ariosto, sublimed, it may be, to a chaster and more serious tone, but still essentially Italian in its character. It was unquestionably from the Italian poets that he borrowed the model, as well as the occasional embellishment, of his Faery Queen; and with many of their graces he has copied also some of their faults, and rendered the incidents of his story as confused as those of the Orlando itself. This pervading defect, this marring of emotion, and utter want of unity in the conduct of the narrative, disclose to us the grand secret why Ariosto has been in England less popular than Tasso; and this, if we were called upon to pronounce between them, would go a great way indeed to induce us to give the preference to the more lucid writer of the two.
As to Ariosto, however, we must be content to take him as we find him. Whatever faults we may find with the conduct of his poem, our admiration he commands in every page of his delightful cantos. Fervid, volatile, or gay; capricious, humorous, tender, or voluptuous; in all his many moods he plays the tyrant over us, and alternately vexes and delights us. He is the Mercutio of poets; the Ariel of fine romancers; playing, now, a thousand tricks with our good humor and our feelings, and now, by the power of his dexterous enchantments, lapping the soul in Elysian reveries. His heroes and his heroines have all a touch of the fairy in them, and come and vanish like forms called up by the magician's wand, or like the vision of which Comus speaks, of
"Some gay creatures of the element,
Mr. Rose's Parthenopea de Blois recommended him as one well versed in the lore and love of chivalry: his translation of Casti assured us of his keen relish for satiric wit. To these qualifications were added a perfect knowlege of the Italian language, great facility of versification, a mercurial fancy, and the mastership of a copious stock of poetic phraseology. Our principal distrust of him originated in the fear, that to the highest and most noble flights of his author, and to the preservation of that constant flow of harmony which peculiarly distinguishes him, the translator might be found unequal: how far this has actually been the case remains to be seen.
That Mr. Rose is intitled to the full praise of a faithful translator, will be evident at once to those familiar with the original. He seems to have taken every practicable means of making it perfect in this particular, by submitting his proofs to various poets and Italian scholars, upon whose imprimatur alone we should be satisfied to rest its accuracy. We might, indeed, often chide him for his very strict scrupulosity, inasmuch as it removes from him the noblest motive of exertion in a translator, the ambition of excelling his original, without which he must often fall beneath it. Yet we are not disposed to deny, that he often combines with his fidelity great elegance and delicacy. The celebrated description of Alcina is a favorable touchstone and specimen of his powers. We subjoin the Italian stanzas in order to facilitate the comparison.
• Her shape is of such perfect symmetry,
As best to feign the industrious painter knows,
Not yellow gold with brighter lustre glows.
Quanto me' finger san pittori industri;
Misto color di rose e di ligustri:
Two black and slender arches rise above
Two clear black eyes, say suns of radiant light;
Round these appears to sport in frolic flight,
Hence scattering all his shafts, the little Love,
Son duo negri occhi, anzi duo chiari soli,
Intorno cui par ch' Amor scherzi e voli,
E che visibilmente i cori involi :
"As if between two vales, which softly curl,
The mouth with vermeil tint is seen to glow:
Which her delicious lips shut up or show.
However rude, hence courteous accents flow;
La bocca sparsa di natío cinabro:
Che chiude ed apre un bello e dolce labro;
Da render molle ogni cor rozzo e scabro;
Like milk the bosom, and the neck of snow;
Round is the neck, and full and large the breast,
Which rise and fall, as, to the margin pressed
Il collo è tondo, il petto colmo e largo.
Vengono e van come onda al primo margo
Non potria l'altre parti veder Argo:
Vol. ii. pp. 6, 7.
The beauty, and the closeness of this translation to the text, are truly admirable; nor can we perceive in it a single LI 4 fault,