Front Page Titles (by Subject) WRITINGS OF ALFRED DE VIGNY 1838 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume I - Autobiography and Literary Essays
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WRITINGS OF ALFRED DE VIGNY 1838 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume I - Autobiography and Literary Essays 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume I - Autobiography and Literary Essays, ed. John M. Robson and Jack Stillinger, introduction by Lord Robbins (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981).
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WRITINGS OF ALFRED DE VIGNY
Dissertations and Discussions, 2nd ed. (1867), Vol. I, pp. 287-329. Title footnoted: “Consisting of—1. Souvenirs de Servitude et de Grandeur Militaires. 2. Cinq-Mars, ou, une Conjuration sous Louis XIII. 3. Stello; ou, les Consultations du Docteur Noir. 4. Poemes. 5. Le More de Venise, tragédie traduite de Shakespeare en Vers Français. 6. La Maréchale d’Ancre, drame. 7. Chatterton, drame.—London and Westminster Review, April 1838.” Running title: “Alfred de Vigny.” Republished from L&WR, VII & XXIX (Apr., 1838), 1-44, where it is headed. “Art. I.—Œuvres de Alfred de Vigny. Bruxelles [and Leipzig: Hochhausen and Fournes], 1837. Consisting of [the same list as above].” Running titles, left-hand, “Poems and Romances of Alfred de Vigny”; right-hand, “Royalist Poetry” (the equivalent of pp. 466.28-471.26), “Cinq-Mars” (pp. 472.26-475.7), “Military Recollections” (pp. 487.28-492.17), “Stello” (pp. 493.16-496.11), and “Moïse, Eloa, etc.” (pp. 497.13-500.9). Signed: “A.” Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “An article on the ‘Poems and Romances of Alfred de Vigny’ in the same number of the same review”—i.e., as that (Jan., 1838) in which “Ware’s Letters from Palmyra” appeared, but in fact the article was in the next number (Apr., 1838); the copyist who transcribed the bibliography may have allowed her eye to jump back to the preceding entry, for “Radical Party and Canada,” which properly concludes “in the same number of the same review” (MacMinn, p. 50). The copy (tear sheets) of the L&WR version in Somerville College has no corrections or emendations.
For comment, see the Introduction, pp. xl-xli above.
The following text, taken from the 2nd ed. of D&D (the last in Mill’s lifetime) is collated with that in D&D, 1st ed., and that in L&WR. In the footnoted variants, “38” indicates L&WR; “59” indicates D&D, 1st ed. (1859); and “67” indicates D&D, 2nd ed. (1867).
Writings of Alfred de Vigny
in the french mind (the most active national mind in Europe at the present moment) one of the mosta stirring elements, and among the fullest of promise for the futurity of France and of the world, is the Royalist, or Carlist, ingredient. We are not now alluding to the attempts of M. de Genoude, and that portion of the Carlist party of which the Gazette de France is the organ, to effect an alliance between legitimacy and universal suffrage; nor to the eloquent anathemas hurled against bthe existingb institutions of societyc by a man of a far superior order, the Abbé de la Mennais, whose original fervour of Roman Catholic absolutism has given place to a no less fervour of Roman Catholic ultra-Radicalism. These things too have their importance as symptoms, and even intrinsically are not altogether without their value. But we would speak rather of the somewhat less obvious inward working, which (ever since the Revolution of 1830 annihilated the Carlist party as a power in the State) has been going on in the minds of that accomplished andd numerous portion of the educated youth of France, whose family connexions or early mental impressions ranked them with the defeated party; who had been brought up, as far as the age permitted, in the old ideas of monarchical and Catholic France; were allied by their feelings or imaginations with whatever of great and heroic those old ideas had produced in the past; had not been sullied by participation in the selfish struggles for Court favour and power, of which the same ideas were the pretext in the present—and to whom the Three Days were really the destruction of something which they had loved and revered, if not for itself, at least for the reminiscences associated with it.
These reflections present themselves naturally when we are about to speak of the writings of Alfred de Vigny, one of the earliest in date, and one of the most genuine, true-hearted, and irreproachable in tendency and spirit, of the new school of French literature, termed the romantic. It would, in fact, be impossible to understand M. de Vigny’s writings, especially the later and better portion, or to enter sympathizingly into the peculiar feelings which pervade them, without this clue. M. de Vigny is, in poetry and art, as a estill more eminente man, M. de Tocqueville, is in philosophy, a result of the influences of the age upon a mind and character trained up in opinions and feelings opposed to those of the age. Both these writers, educated in one set of views of life and society, found, when they attained manhood, another set predominant in the world they lived in, and, at length, after 1830, enthroned in its high places. The contradictions they had thus to reconcile—the doubts and perplexities and misgivings which they had to find the means of overcoming before they could see clearly between these cross-lights—were to them that, for want of which so many otherwise well-educated and naturally-gifted persons grow up hopelessly commonplace. To go through life with a set of opinions ready-made and provided for saving them the trouble of thought, was a destiny that could not be theirs. Unable to satisfy themselves with either of the conflicting formulas which were given them for the interpretation of what lay in the world before them, they learnt to take formulas for what they were worth, and ftof look into the world itself for the philosophy of it. They looked with both their eyes, and saw much there, which was neither in the creed they had been taught, nor in that which they found prevailing around them: much that the prejudices, either of Liberalism or of Royalism, amounted to a disqualification for the perception of, and which would have been hid from themselves if the atmosphere of either had surrounded them both in their youth and in their maturer years.
That this conflict between a Royalist education, and the spirit of the modern world, triumphant in July 1830, must have gone for something in giving to the speculations of a philosopher like M. de Tocqueville the catholic spirit and comprehensive range which distinguish them, most people will readily admit. But, that the same causes must have exerted an analogous influence over a poet and artist, such as Alfred de Vigny is in his degree; that a political revolution can have given to the genius of a poet what principally distinguishes it—may not appear so obvious, at least to those who, like most Englishmen, rarely enter into either politics or poetry with their whole soul. Worldly advancement, or religion, are an Englishman’s real interests: for Politics, except in connexion with one of those two objects, and for Art, he keeps only bye-corners of his mind, which naturally are far apart from each other: and it is but a gsmallg minority among Englishmen who can comprehend, that there are nations among whom Politics, or the pursuit of social well-being, and Poetry, or the love of hbeautyh and of imaginative emotion, are passions as intense, as absorbing—influencing as much the whole tendencies of the character, and constituting as large a part of the objects in life of a considerable portion of the cultivated classes, as either the religious feelings, or those of worldly interest. Where both politics and poetry, instead of being either a trade or a pastime, are takeni completely au sérieux, each will be more or less coloured by the other; and that close relation between an author’s politics and his poetry, which with us is only seenj in the great poetic figures of their age,k a Shelley, a Byron, or a Wordsworth, is broadly conspicuous in France (for example), through the whole range of her literature.
It may be worth while to employ a moment in considering what are the general features which, in an age of revolutions, may be expected to distinguish a Royalist or Conservative from a Liberal or Radical poet or imaginative writer. We are not speaking of political poetry, of Tyrtæus[*] or Korner,[†] of Corn-Law Rhymes,[‡] or sonnets on the Vaudois or on Zaragoza;[§]lthesel are rather oratory than poetry. We have nothing to do with the Radical poet as the scourge of the oppressor, or with the Tory one as the mdenouncer ofm infidelity or jacobinism. They are not poets by virtue of what is negative or combative in their feelings, but by what is positive and sympathizingn . The pervading spirit, then, of the one, will be love of the Past; of the other, faith in the Future. The partialities of the one will be towards things established, settled, regulated; of the other, towards human free-will, cramped and fettered in all directions, both for good and ill, by those establishments and regulations. Botho, being poets,o will have a heroic sympathy with heroismp ; but the one will respond most readily to the heroism of endurance and self-control, the other to that of qactionq and struggle. Of the virtues and beauties of our common humanity, the one will view with most affection those which have their natural growth under the shelter of fixed habits and firmly settled opinions: local and family attachments, tranquil tastes and pleasures, those gentle and placid feelings towards man and nature, ever most easy to those upon whom is not imposed the burthen of being their own protectors and their own guides. rGreaterr reverence, deeper humility, the virtues of abnegation and forbearance carried to a higher degree, will distinguish his favourite personages: while, as subjection to a common faith and law brings the most diverse characters to the same standard, and tends more or less to efface their differences, a certain monotony of goodness will be apparent, and a degree of distaste for prononcé characters, as being snearlys allied to ill-regulated ones. The sympathies of the Radical or Movement poet will take the opposite direction. Active qualities are what he will demand, rather than passive; those which fit tpersonst for making changes in the circumstances which surround them, rather than for accommodating themselves to those circumstances. Sensible he must of course be of the necessity of restraints, but usince he isu dissatisfied with those which exist, his dislike of established opinions and institutions turns naturally into sympathy with all things, not in themselves bad, which those opinions and institutions restrain, that is, vwithv all natural human feelings. Free and vigorous developments of human nature, even when he cannot refuse them his disapprobation, will command his sympathy: a more marked individuality will usually be conspicuous in his creations; his heroic characters will be all armed for conflict, full of energy and strong self-will, of grand conceptions and brilliant virtues, but, in habits of virtue, often below those of the Conservative school: there will not be so broad and black a line between his good and bad personages; his characters of principle will be more tolerant of his characters of mere passion. Among human affections, the Conservative poet will give the preference to those which can be invested with the character of duties; to those of which the objects are as it were marked out by the arrangements weitherw of nature xor of societyx , we ourselves exercising no choice: as the parental—the filial—the conjugal yaftery the irrevocable union, or a solemn betrothment equivalent to it, and with due observance of all decencies, both real and conventional. The other will delight in painting the affections which choose their own objects, especially the most powerful of these, passionate love; and of that, the more vehement oftener than the more graceful aspects; will select by preference its subtlest workings, and its most unusual and unconventional forms; will show it at war with the forms and customs of society, nay even with its laws and its religion, if the laws and tenets which regulate that branch of human relations are among those which have begun to be murmured against. By the Conservative, feelings and states of mind which he disapproves will be indicated rather than painted; to lay open the morbid anatomy of human nature will appear to him contrary to good taste always, and often to morality: and inasmuch as feelings intense enough to threaten established decorums with any danger of violation will most frequently have the character of morbidness in his eyes, the representation of passion in the colours of reality will commonly be left to the Movement poet. To him, whatever exists will appear, from that alone, fit to be represented: to probe the wounds of society and humanity is part of his business, and he will neither shrink from exhibiting what is in nature, because it is morally culpable, nor because it is physically revolting. Even in their representations of inanimate nature there will be a difference. The pictures most grateful and most familiar to the one will be those of a universe at peace within itself—of stability and duration—of irresistible power serenely at rest, or moving in fulfilment of the established arrangements of the universe: whatever suggests unity of design, and the harmonious co-operation of all the forces of nature towards zendsz intended by a Being in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of change. In the creations of the other, nature will oftener appear in the relations which it bears to the individual, rather than to the scheme of the universe; there will be a larger place assigned to those of its aspects which reflect back the troubles of an unquiet soul, the impulses of a passionate, or the enjoyments of a voluptuous one; and on the whole, here too the Movement poet will extend so much more widely the bounds of the permitted, that his sources both of effect and of permanent interest will have a far larger range; and he will generally be more admired than the other, by all those by whom he is not actually condemned.
There is room in the world for poets of both these kinds; and the greatest will always partake of the nature of both. A comprehensive and catholic mind and heart will doubtless feel and exhibit all these different sympathies, each in its due proportion and degree; but what that due proportion may happen to be, is part of the larger question which every one has to ask of himself at such periods, viz., whether it were for the good of humanity at the particular era, that Conservative or Radical feeling should most predominate? For there is a perpetual antagonism between these two; and until ahuman affairsa are bmuch betterb ordered cthan they are likely to be for some time to comec , each will require to be, in a greater or less degree, tempered by the other: nor until the ordinances of law and of opinion are so framed as to give full scope to all individuality not positively noxious, and to restrain all that is noxious, will the two classes of sympathies ever be entirely reconciled.
Suppose, now, a poet of conservative sympathies, surprised by the shock of a revolution, which sweeps away the surviving symbols of what was great in the Past, and decides irrevocably the triumph of new things over the old: what will be the influence of this event on his imagination and feelings? To us it seems that they will become both sadder and wiser. He will lose that blind faith in the Past, which previously might have tempted him to fight for it with a mistaken ardour, against what is generous and worthy in the new doctrines. The fall of the objects of his reverence, will naturally, if he has dany discernmentd , open ehis minde to the perception of that in them whereby they deserved to fall. But while he is thus disenchanted of the old things, he will not have acquired that faith in the new, which fanimatesf the Radical poet. Having it not before, there is nothing in the triumph of those new things which can inspire him with it: institutions and creeds fall by their own badness, not by the goodness of that which strikes the actual blow. The destiny of mankind, therefore, will naturally appear to him in rather sombre colours; gloomy he may not be, gbut he will everywhere tendg to the elegiac, to the contemplative and melancholy rather than to the epic and active; his song will be a subdued and plaintive symphony, more or less melodious according to the measure of his genius, on the old theme of blasted hopes and defeated aspirations. Yet there will now be nothing partial or one-sided in his sympathies: no sense of a conflict to be maintained, of a position to be defended against assailants, will warp the impartiality of his pity—will make him feel that there are wrongs and sufferings which must be dissembled, inconsistencies which must be patched up, vanities which he must attempt to consider serious, false pretences which he must try to mistake for truths, lest he should be too little satisfied with his own cause to do his duty as a combatant for it: he will no longer feel obliged to treat all that part of human nature which rebelled against the old ideas, as if it were accursed—all those human joys and sufferings, hopes and fears, which hareh the strength of the new doctrines, and which the old ones did not take sufficient account of, as if they were unworthy of his sympathy. His heart will open itself freely and largely to the love of all that is loveable, to pity of all that is pitiable: every cry of suffering humanity will strike a responsive chord in his breast; whoever carries nobly his own share of the general burthen of human life, or generously helps to lighten that of iothersi , is sure of his homage; while he has a deep fraternal charity for the erring and disappointed—for those who have aspired and fallen—who have fallen because they have aspired, because they too have felt those infinite longings for something greater than merely to live and die, which he as a poet has felt—which, as a poet, he cannot but have been conscious that he would have purchased the realization of by an even greater measure of error and suffering—and which, as a poet disenchanted, he knows too well the pain of renouncing, not to feel a deep indulgence for those who are victims of their inability to make the sacrifice.
In this ideal portraiture may be seen the genuine lineaments of Alfred de Vigny. The same features may, indeed, be traced more or less, in the greater part of the Royalist literature of young France; even in Balzac all these characteristics are distinctly visible, blended of course with his individual peculiarities, and modified by them. But M. de Vigny is ja morej perfect type, because he, more entirely than most others, writes from his real feelings, and not from mere play of fancy. Many a writer in France, of no creed at all, and who therefore gives himself all the latitude of a Movement poet, is a Royalist with his imagination merely, for the sake of the picturesque effect of donjons and cloisters, crusaders and troubadours. And in retaliation many a Liberal or Republican critic will stand up stiffly for the old school in literature, for the grand siècle, becuase, like him, it ktakesk its models from Greece or Rome; and will keep no terms with the innovators who find anything grand and poetical in the middle ages, or who fancy that barons or priests may look well in rhyme. But this is accident; an exception to the ordinary relation between political opinions and poetic tendencies. A Radical who finds his political beau idéal still lfartherl back in the Past than the Royalist finds his, is not the type of a Radical poet; he will more resemble the Conservative poet of ages back: less of the Movement spirit may be found in him, than in many a nominal Royalist whose Royalist convictions have no very deep root. But when we would see the true character of a Royalist poet, we must seek for it in one like M. de Vigny, a conservative in feeling, and not in mere fancy, and a man (mif we may judge from his writingsm ) ofn rare simplicity of heart, and freedom from egotism and self-display. The most complete exemplification of the feelings and views of things which we have described as naturally belonging to the Royalist poet of young France, will be found in his oproductionso , subsequent to the Revolution of 1830. But we must first see him as he was before 1830, and in writings in which the qualities we have enumerated had as yet manifested themselves only in a small degree.
Count Alfred de Vigny was born on the 27th pofp March 1799, at Loches in Touraine, that province which has given birth to so many of the literary celebrities of France. His father was an old cavalry officer of ancient lineage, who had served in the Seven Years War, and whose stories of his illustrious friends Chevert and d’Assas, and of the great Frederic (who was not a little indebted even for his victories, to the prestige he exercised over the enthusiastic imaginations of the French officers who fought against him), were the earliest nourishment of the son’s childish aspirations. In the latter years of Napoleon our author was a youth at college; and he has qdescribedq , in the first chapter of his Souvenirs de Servitude Militaire, the restless and roving spirit, the ardour for military glory and military adventure, the contempt of all pursuits and wishes not terminating in a Marshal’s bâton, which were the epidemic diseases of every French schoolboy during those years when “the beat of drum,” to use his own expression, “drowned the voice of the teacher,”[*] and of which M. de Vigny confesses, in all humility, that the traces in himself are not entirely effaced. On the fall of Napoleon, he entered, at sixteen, into the royal guard; accompanied the Bourbons to Ghent during the Hundred Days, and remained in the army up to 1828. Fourteen years a soldier without seeing any service (for he was not even in the rbriefr Spanish campaign)—the alternation of routine duties and enforced idleness, the ennui of an active profession without one opportunity for action except in obscure and painful civil broils, would have driven many to find relief in dissipation; M. de Vigny found it in contemplation and solitary thought.
Those years of my life, [he says,] would have beens wasted, if I had not employed them in attentive and persevering observation, storing up the results for future years. I owe to my military life views of human nature which could never have reached me but under a soldier’s uniform. There are scenes which one can only arrive at through disgusts, which, to one not forced to endure them, would be unendurable. . . . Overcome by an ennui which I had little expected in that life so ardently desired, it became a necessity for me to rescue at least my nights from the empty and tiresome bustle of a soldier’s days. In those nights I enlarged in silence what knowledge I had received from our tumultuoust public studies; and thence uthe origin of my writingsu .[*]
M. de Vigny’s first publications were poems, of which we shall say a few words presently, and which, whatever be the opinion formed of their absolute merit, are considered by a sober and impartial critic, M. Sainte-Beuve, as of a more completely original character than those of either Lamartine or Victor Hugo.[†] It isv , therefore, wonly in the common course of things,w that they were xat the timex but moderately successful. The first of his works which attained popularity was Cinq-Mars, or a Conspiracy under Louis XIII, an historical romance of the school of Sir Walter Scott, then at the height of his popularity in France, and who was breathing the breath of life into the historical literature of France, and, through France, of all Europe.y
M. de Vigny has chosen his scene at that passage of French history, which completed the transformation of the feudal monarchy of the middle ages into the despotic and courtly monarchy of Louis XIV. The iron hand of Richelieu, reigning in the name of a master who both feared and hated him, but whom habit and conscious incapacity rendered his slave, had broken the remaining strength of those great lords, once powerful enough to cope single-handed with their sovereign, and several of whom, by confederating, could, to a very late period, dictate for themselves terms of capitulation. The crafty and cruel policy of the minister had mowed down all of zthesez who, by position and personal qualities, stood pre-eminent above the rest. As for those whom, because they could not be dangerous to him, he spared, their restlessness and turbulence, surviving their power, might, during a royal minority, break out once more into impotent and passing tumults, but the next generation of them were and could be nothing but courtiers; an aristocracy still for purposes of rapine and oppression, for resistance to the despotism of the monarch they were as the feeblest of the multitude. A most necessary and salutary transformation in European society, and which, whether completed by the hands of a Richelieu or a Henry the Seventh, was, as M. de Vigny clearly sees (and perhaps no longer laments), the destined and inevitable preparation for the era of modern liberty and democracy. But the age was one of those (there are several of them in history) in which the greatest and most beneficial ends were accomplished by the basest means. It was the age of struggle between unscrupulous intellect and brute force; intellect not yet in a condition to assert its inherent right of supremacy by pure means, and no longer wielding, as in the great era of the Reformation, the noble weapon of an honest popular enthusiasm. Iago prime minister, is the type of the men who crumbled into dust the feudal aristocracies of Europe. In no period were the unseen springs both of the good and the evil that was done, so exclusively the viler passions of humanity: what little of honourable or virtuous feeling might exist in high places during that era, awasa probably boftenestb found in the aristocratic faction so justly and beneficially extirpated; for in the rule of lawless force, some noble impulses are possible in the rulers at least—in that of cunning and fraud, none.
Towards the close of Richelieu’s career, when the most difficult part of his task was done, but his sinking health, and the growing jealousy and fear of that master, one word of whom would even then have dismissed him into private life, made the cares of his station press heavier on him, and required a more constant and anxious watchfulness than ever; it was his practice to amuse the frivolous monarch with a perpetual succession of new favourites, who served his purpose till Louis was tired of them, or whom, if any of them proved capable of acquiring a permanent tenure of the royal favour, and of promoting other designs than his own, he well knew how to remove. The last, the most accomplished, and the most unfortunate of these was Henri d’Effiat, Marquis de Cinq-Mars, and of him our author has made the hero of his tale.c*
* * * * *
Such is Cinq-Mars, or a Conspiracy under Louis XIII—a work not free from the fault, so far as it is a fault, most common in the romantic literature of young France; it partakes somewhat of the “Literature of Despair;”[*] it too much resembles M. Eugène Sue’s dearlyd novels,[†] in which every villain dies honoured and prosperous at a good old age, after every innocent person in the tale has been crushed and exterminated by him without pity or remorse—through which the mocking laugh of a chorus of demons seems to ring in our ears that the world is delivered over to eane evil spirit, and that man is his creature and his prey. But such is not the character of M. de Vigny’s writings, and the resemblance in this single instance is only casual. Still, as a mere work of art, if the end of art be, as conceived by the ancients and by the great German writers, the production of the intrinsically beautiful, Cinq-Mars cannot be commended. A story in which the odious and the contemptible in man and life act so predominant a part, which excites our scorn or our hatred so much more than our pity—comes within a far other category than that of the Beautiful, and can be justified on no canons of taste of which that is the end. But it is not possible for the present generation of France to restrict the purposes of art within this limit. They are too much in earnest. They take life too much au sérieux. It may be possible (what some of his fmoref enthusiastic admirers say of Goethe) that a thoroughly earnest mind may struggle upwards through the region of clouds and storms to an untroubled summit, where all other good sympathies and aspirations confound themselves in a serene love and culture of the calmly beautiful—looking down upon the woes and struggles of perplexed humanity with as calm a gaze (though with a more helping arm) as that of him who is most placidly indifferent to human weal. But however this may be, the great majority of persons in earnest will remain always in the intermediate region; will feel themselves more or less militant in this world—having something to pursue in it, different from the Beautiful, different from their own mental tranquillity and health, and which they will pursue, if they have the gifts of an artist, by all the resources of art, whatever becomes of canons of criticism, and beauty in the abstract. The writers and readers of works of imagination in France have the desire of amusement as much as English readers, the sense of gbeautyg generally much more; but they have also, very generally, a thirst for something which shall address itself to their real-life feelings, and not to those of imagination merely—which shall give them an idea or a sentiment connected with the actual world. And if a story or a poem is hpossessedh by an idea—if it powerfully exhibits some form of real life, or some conception respecting human nature or society which may tend to consequences, not only is it not necessarily expected to represent abstract beauty, but it is pardoned for exhibiting even hideousness. These considerations should enable us to understand and tolerate such works as Le Père Goriot, of Balzac, or Leoni, of George Sand, and to understand, iifi we do not tolerate, such as the Antony, or Richard Darlington, of Alexandre Dumas.[*]
Now, among the ideas with which French literature has been jpossessedj for the last ten years, is that of realizing, and bringing home to the imagination, the history and spirit of past ages. Sir Walter Scott, having no object but to please, and having readers who only sought to be pleased, would not have told the story of Richelieu andk Cinq-Mars without greatly softening the colouring; and the picture would have been more agreeable than M. de Vigny’s, but it would not have been so true to the age. M. de Vigny preferred the truer to the more pleasing, and his readers have sanctioned the preference.
Even according to this view of its object, the work has obvious defects. The characters of some of the subordinate personages, Friar Joseph for instance, are even more revolting than the truth of history requires. De Thou, the pious and studious man of retirement, cast out into storms for which he was never meant—the only character of principle in the tale, yet who sacrifices principle as well as life to romantic friendship—is but coldly represented; his goodness is too simple, his attachment too instinctive, too dog-like, and so much intensity of friendship is not sufficiently accounted for; Balzac would have managed these things better. The author also crowds his story too much with characters; he cannot bear that any celebrated personage whom the age affords should be passed over, and consequently introduces many who ought not to lhave beenl drawn at all unless they could be drawn truly, and on whom he has not been able to employ the same accurate study as he has on his principal characters.m Richelieu andn Louis oXIIIo arep historical figures qofq which he has taken the trouble to rform a well-digested conceptionr ; but he can know slittles of Milton, whom he introduces, on his way from Italy, reading his Paradise Lost, not written till twenty years after, to Corneille, Descartes, and a crowd of other poets, wits, and philosophers, in the tsalont of the celebrated courtezan, Marion uDelorme.u But these are minor blemishes. As a specimen of art employed in embodying the character of an age, vthe merit of Cinq-Mars is very great. Thev spirit of the age penetrates every nook and corner of it; the same atmosphere which hangs over the personages of the story hangs over us; we feel the eye of the omnipresent Richelieu upon us, and the influences of France in its Catholic and aristocratic days, of ardent, pleasure-loving, laughter-loving, and danger-loving France, all waroundw us. To this merit is to be added,x that the representations of feeling are always simple and graceful; the author has not, like so many inferior writers, supplied by the easy resource of mere exaggeration of colouring, the incapacity to show us anything subtle or profound, any trait we knew not before, in the workings of passion in the human heart. On the whole, Cinq-Mars is admirable as a first production of its kind, but altogether of an inferior order to its successors, the Grandeur et Servitude Militaires, and Stello; to which we proceed.
Of M. de Vigny’s prose works. Cinq-Mars alone was written previous to the revolution of 1830; and though the yroyalisty tendency of the author’s political opinions is manifest throughout—indeed the book is one long protest against the levelling of the feudal aristocracy—it does not, nor does any part of the zroyalistz literature of the last twenty years, entirely answer to our description of the Conservative school of poetry and romance. To find a real Conservative literature in France one must look earlier than the first Revolution, as, to study the final transformation of that literature, one must descend below the last. One must distinguish three periods; Conservatism triumphant, Conservatism militant, Conservatism vanquished. The first is represented by Racine, Fénélon, and Voltaire in his tragedies, before he quitted the paths of his predecessors. Jean Jacques Rousseau is the father and founder of the Movement literature of France, and Madame de Staël its second great apostle: in them first the revolt of the modern mind against the social arrangements and doctrines which had descended from of old, spoke with the inspired voice of genius.a At the head of the literature of Conservatism in its second or militant period, stands Chateaubriand: a man whose name marks one of the turning points in the literary history of his country: bpoetically a Conservativeb to the inmost core—rootedly feudal and Catholic—whose genius burst into life during the tempest of a revolution which hurled down from their pedestals all his objects of reverence; which saddened his imagination, modified (without impairing) his Conservatism by the addition of its cmultiformc experiences, and made the world to him too full of disorder and gloom, too much a world without harmony, and ill at ease, to allow of his exhibiting the pure untroubled spirit of Conservative poetry asd exemplified in Southey, or still more in Wordsworth. To this literature, of Conservatism discouraged but not yet disenchanted, still hopeful and striving to set up again its old idols, Cinq-Mars belongs. From the final and hopeless overthrow of the old order of society in July 1830, begins the era of Conservatism disenchanted—Conservatism which is already in the past tense—which for practical purposes is abandoned, and only contributes its share, as all past associations and experiences do, towards shaping and colouring the individual’s impressions of the present.
This is the character which pervades the two principal of M. de Vigny’s more recent works, the Servitude et Grandeur Militaires, and Stello. He has lost his faith in Royalism, and in the system of opinions connected with it. His eyes are opened to all the iniquities and hypocrisies of the state of society which is passing away. But he cannot take up with any of the systems of politics, and of either irreligious or religious philosophy, which profess to lay open the mystery of what is to follow, and to guarantee that the new order of society will not have its own iniquities and hypocrisies of as dark a kind. He has no faith in any systems, eore in man’s power of prophecy; nor is he sure that the new tendencies of society, take them for all in all, have more to satisfy the wants of a thoughtful and loving spirit, than the old had; at all events not so much more, as to make the condition of human nature a cheerful subject to him. He looks upon life, and sees most things crooked, and (saving whatever assurance his religious impressions may faffordf to him that in some unknown way all things must be working for good) sees not how they shall be made straight. This is not a happy state of mind, but it is not an unfavourable one to poetry. If the gworseg forms of it produce a “Literature of Despair,” the better are seen in a writer like M. de Vigny—who having now no htheories of his own or of his teachersh to save the credit of, looks life steadily in the face—applies himself to understanding whatever of evil, and of heroic struggle with evil, it presents to his individual experience—and gives forth his pictures of both, with deep feeling, but with the calmness of one who has no point to carry, no quarrel to maintain, over and above “the general one of every son of Adam with his lot here below.”
M. de Vigny has been a soldier, and he has been, and is, a poet: the situation and feelings of a soldier (especially a soldier not in active service), and, so far as the measure of his genius admits, those of a poet, are what he is best acquainted with, and what, therefore, as a man of earnest mind, not now taking anything on trust, it was most natural he should attempt to delineate. The Souvenirs Militaires are the embodiment of the author’s experiences in the one capacity, Stello, in the other. Each consists of three touching and beautifully told stories, founded on fact, in which the life and position of a soldier in modern times, and of a poet at all times, in their relation to society, are shadowed out. In relation to society chiefly; for that is the prominent feature in all the speculations of the French mind; and thence it is that their poetry is so much shallower than ours, and their works of fiction so much deeper; that, of the metaphysics of every mode of feeling and thinking, so little is to be learnt from them, and of its social influences so much.
The soldier, and the poet, appear to M. de Vigny alike misplaced, alike ill at ease, in the present condition of human life. In the soldier he sees a human being set apart for a profession doomed to extinction, and doomed consequently, in the interval, to a continual decrease of dignity and of the sympathies of mankind. War he sees drawing to a close; compromises and diplomatic arrangements now terminate the differences among civilized nations; the army is reduced more and more to mere parade, or the functions of a police; called out from time to time, to shed its own blood and that of malcontent fellow-citizens in tumults where much popular hatred is to be earned, but no glory; disliked by taxpayers for its burthensomeness; looked down upon by the industrious for its enforced idleness: its employers themselves always in dread of its numbers, and jealous of its restlessness, which, in a soldier, is but the impatience of a man who is useless and nobody, for a chance of being useful and iof beingi something. The soldier thus remains with all the burthens, all the irksome restraints of his condition, aggravated, but without the hopes which lighted it up, the excitements which gave it zest. Those alone, says M. de Vigny, who have been soldiers, know what servitude is. To the soldier alone is obedience, passive and active, the law of his life, the law of every day and of every moment; obedience not stopping at sacrifice, nor even at crime. In him alone is the abnegation of his self-will, of his liberty of independent action, absolute and unreserved; the grand distinction of humanity, the responsibility of the individual as a moral agent, being made over, once for all, to superior authority. The type of human nature which these circumstances create, well deserves the study of the artist and the philosopher. M. de Vigny has deeply meditated on it. He has drawn with delicacy and profundity that mixture of Spartan and stoical impassibility with child-like insouciance and bonhomie, which is the result, on the one hand, of a life of painful and difficult obedience to discipline—on the other, of a conscience freed from concern or accountability for the quality of the actions of which that life is made up. On the means by which the moral position of the soldier might be raised, and his hardships alleviated, M. de Vigny has jideasj worthy of the consideration of him who is yet to come—the statesman who has care and leisure for plans of social amelioration unconnected with party contests and the cry of the hour. His stories, full of melancholy beauty, will carry into thousands of minds and hearts which would otherwise have been unvisited by it, a conception of a soldier’s trials and a soldier’s virtues it times which, like ours, are not those of martial glory.
The first of these tales at least, if not all the three, if the author’s words are to be taken literally, is unvarnished fact. But familiar as the modern French romance-writers have made us with the artifice of assimilating their fictions, for the sake of kartistick reality, to actual recollections, we dare not trust these appearances; and we must needs suppose that, though suggested by facts, the stories are indebted to M. de Vigny’s invention not only for their details, but for some of their main circumstances. If he lhad beenl so fortunate as to meet with facts which, related as they actually occurred, served so perfectly as these do his purposes of illustration, he would hardly have left any possibility of doubt as to their authenticity. He must know the infinite distance, as to power of influencing the mind, between the best contrived and most probable fiction, and the smallest fact.
The first tale, “Laurette, ou Le Cachet Rouge,”[*] is the story of an old chef de bataillon (an intermediate grade between captain and major), whom the author, when following Louis XVIII in the retreat to Ghent, overtook on his march. This old man was leading along the miry road, on a day of pelting rain, a shabby mule drawing “a little wooden cart covered over with three hoops and a piece of black oilcloth, and resembling a cradle on a pair of wheels.”[†] On duty he was mescortingm the King as far as the frontier, and on duty he was about to return from thence to his regiment, to fight nagainstn the King at Waterloo. He had begun life at sea, and had been taken from the merchant service to command a brig of war, when the navy, like the army, was left without officers by the emigration. In 1797, under the government of the Directory, he weighed anchor for Cayenne, with sixty soldiers and a prisoner, one of those whom the coup d’état of the 18th oofo Fructidor had consigned to deportation. Along with this prisoner, whom he was ordered to treat with respect, he received a packet “with three red seals, the middle one of enormous size,”[*] not to be opened till the vessel reached one degree north of the Line. As he was nailing-up this packet, the possession of which made him pfeelp uncomfortable, in a nook of his cabin, safe and in sight, his prisoner, a mere youth, entered, holding by the hand a beautiful girl of seventeen. His offence, it appeared, was a newspaper article: he had “trusted in their liberty of the press,”[†] had stung the Directory, and, only four days after his marriage, he was seized, tried, and received sentence of death, commuted for deportation to Cayenne, whither his young wife determined on accompanying him. We will not trust ourselves to translate any of the scenes which exhibit these two: a Marryat would be required to find a style for rendering the sailor-like naiveté of the honest officer’s recital. A more exquisite picture we have never seen of innocence and ingenuousness, true warm-hearted affection, and youthful buoyancy of spirits breaking out from under the load of care and sorrow which had been laid so early and so suddenly on their young heads. They won the good-natured captain’s heart: he had no family and no ties; he offered, on arriving at Cayenne, to settle there with his little savings, and adopt them as his children. On reaching the prescribed latitude he broke the fatal seal, and shuddered at beholding the sentence of death, and an order for immediate execution. After a terrible internal struggle, military discipline prevailed: he did as was commanded him, and “that moment,” says he, “has lasted for me to the present time; as long as I live I shall drag it after me as a galley-slave drags his chain.” Laurette became an incurable idiot. “I felt something in me which said—remain with her to the end of thy days and protect her.” Her mother was dead; her relations wished to put her into a madhouse; “I turned my back upon them, and kept her with me.”[‡] Taking a disgust to the sea, he exchanged into the army; the unhappy girl was with him in all Napoleon’s campaigns, even in the retreat from Russia, tended by him like a daughter, and when the author overtook him he was conducting her in the cart with its three hoops and its canvas cover. The author shows her to us—a picture not inferior to Sterne’s Maria,[*] and which qdeserves toq live as long: to detach it from the rest of the story would be unjust to the author. M. de Vigny parted from the old rofficerr at the frontier, and learnt, long after, that he perished at Waterloo; she, left alone, and consigned to a madhouse, died in three days.
“La Veillée de Vincennes”[†] is a less tragical story: the life and destiny of an old adjutant of artillery, with whom the author, an officer in the guards, then in garrison at Vincennes, made acquaintance in the court-yard of the fortress, the evening previous to a general review and inspection. The old adjutant, who was in charge of the powder, was anxiously casting up long columns of figures, feeling himself eternally disgraced if there should be found on the morrow the most trifling inaccuracy in his books; and regretting the impossibility, from the late hour, of giving another glance that night at the contents of the powder magazine. The soldiers of the guard, who were not merely the élite of the army, but the élite of the élite, “thought themselves,” says our author,
dishonoured by the most insignificant fault. “Go, you are puritans of honour, all of you,” said I, tapping him on the shoulder. He bowed, and withdrew towards the barrack where he was quartered; then, with an innocence of manners peculiar to the honest race of soldiers, he returned with a handful of hempseed for a hen who was bringing up her twelve chickens under the old bronze cannon on which we were seated.[‡]
This hen, the delight of her master and the pet of the soldiers, could not endure any person not in uniform. At a late hour that night the author caught the sound of music from an open window: he approached; the voices were those of the old adjutant, his daughter, and a young non-commissioned officer of artillery, her intended husband; they saw him, invited him in, and we owe to this evening a charming description of the simple, innocent interior of this little family, and their simple history. The old soldier was the orphan child of a villager of Montreuil, near Versailles; brought up, and taught music and gardening, by the curé of his village. At sixteen, a word sportively dropped by Marie Antoinette when, alone with the Princess de Lamballe, she met him and his pretty playmate Pierrette in the park of Montreuil, made him enlist sass a soldier, hoping to be made a serjeant and to marry Pierrette. The latter wish was in time accomplished through the benevolence of Marie Antoinette, who, finding him resolute not to owe the attainment of his wishes to the bounty of a patron, herself taught Pierrette to sing and act in the opera of Rose et Colas,[§] and through her protection the début of the unknown actress was so successful that in one representation she earned a suitable portion for a soldier’s wife. The merit of this little anecdote of course lies in the management of the details, which, for nature and gracefulness, would do credit to the first names in French literature. Pierrette died young, leaving her husband with two treasures, an only daughter, and a miniature of herself, painted by the Princess de Lamballe. Since then he had lived a life of obscure integrity, and had received all the military honours attainable by a private soldier, but no promotion, which, indeed, he had never much sought, thinking it a greater honour to be a serjeant in the guard than a captain in the line. “How poor,” thought M. de Vigny.
are the mad ambitions and discontents of us young officers, compared with the soul of a soldier like this, scrupulous of his honour, and thinking it sullied by the most trifling negligence or breach of discipline; without ambition, vanity, or luxury, always a slave, and always content and proud of his servitude; his dearest recollection being one of gratitude; and believing his destiny to be regulated for his good by an overruling Providence![*]
An hour or two after this time the author was awakened from sleep by something like the shock of an earthquake: part of one of the powder magazines had exploded. With difficulty and peril the garrison stopped the spread of mischief. On reaching the seat of the catastrophe, they found the fragments of the body of the old adjutant, whot, apparently havingt risen at early dawn for one more examination of the powder, had, by some accident, set it on fire. The King presently arrived to return thanks and distribute rewards: he came, and departed. “I thought,” says M. de Vigny, “of the family of the poor adjutant: but I was alone in thinking of them. In general, when princes pass anywhere they pass too quickly.”[†]
“La Vie et la Mort du Capitaine Renaud, ou La Canne de Jonc,”[‡] is a picture of a more elevated description than either of these two, delineating a character of greater intellectual power and a loftier moral greatness. uCaptainu Renaud is a philosopher; one like those of old, who has learnt the wisdom of life from its experiences; has weighed in the balance the greatnesses and littlenesses of the world, and has carried with him from every situation in which he has been placed, and every trial and temptation to which he has been subject, the impressions it was fitted to leave on a thoughtful and sensitive mind. There is no story, no incident, in this life; there is but a noble character, unfolding to us the process of its own formation; not vso much tellingv us, wasw making us xseex , how one circumstance disabused it of false objects of esteem and admiration, how another revealed to it the true. We feel with the young soldier his youthful enthusiasm for Napoleon, and for all of which that name is a symbol; we see this enthusiasm die within him as the truth dawns upon him that this great man is an actor, that the prestige with which he overawed the world is in much, if not in the largest portion of it, the effect of stage-trick, and that a life built upon deception, and directed to essentially selfish ends, is not the ideal he had worshipped. He learns to know a real hero in Collingwood, whose prisoner he is for five years; and never was that most beautiful of military and naval characters drawn in a more loving spirit, or with a nobler appreciation, than in this book. From Collingwood, all his life a martyr to duty—the benignant father and guardian angel of all under his command—who pining for an English home, his children growing up to womanhood without having seen him, lived and died at sea, because his country or his country’s institutions could not furnish him a successor;—from him the hero of our author’s tale learnt to exchange the paltry admiration of mere power and success, the worship of the vulgar objects of ambition and vanity, for a heartfelt recognition of the greatness of devotion and self-sacrifice. A spirit like that of Collingwood governed and pervaded the remainder of his life. One bitter remembrance he had: it was of a night attack upon a Russian outpost, in which, hardly awakened from sleep, an innocent and beautiful youth, one of the boys of fourteen who sometimes held officers’ commissions in the Russian army, fell dead in his gray-haired father’s sight, by the unconscious hand of Renaud. He never used sabre more, and was known to the soldiers by carrying ever after a canne de jonc, which dropped from the dying hand of the poor boy. Many and solemn were the thoughts on war and the destiny of a soldier, which grewy in him from this passage in his life—nor did it ever cease to haunt his remembrance, and, at times, vex his conscience with misgivings. Unambitious, unostentatious, and therefore unnoticed, he did his duty always and everywhere without reward or distinction, until, in the Three Days of July 1830, a military point of honour retaining him with his corps on the Royalist side, he received his death-wound by a shot from a poor street-boy—who tended him in tears and remorse in his last moments, and to whom he left by will a provision for his education and maintenance, on condition that he should not become a soldier.
Such is a brief outline of this remarkable book: to which we have felt throughout, and feel still more on looking back, what scanty justice we have done. Among the writings of our day we know not one which breathes a nobler spirit, or in which every detail is conceived and wrought out in a manner more worthy of that spirit. But whoever would know what it is, must read the book itself. No résumé can convey any idea of it; the impression it makes is not the sum of the impressions of particular incidents or particular sayings, it is the effect of the tone and colouring of the whole. We do not seem to be listening to the author, to be receiving a “moral” from any of his stories, or from his characters an “example” prepense; the poem of human life is opened before us, and M. de Vigny does but chaunt from it, in a voice of subdued sadness, a few strains telling of obscure wisdom and unrewarded virtue; of those antique characters which, without self-glorification or hope of being appreciated, “carry out,” as he expresses it, “the sentiment of duty to its extremest consequences,”[*] and whom he avers, as a matter of personal experience, that he has never met with in any walk of life but the profession of arms.
Stello[†] is a work of similar merit to the Military Recollections, though, we think, somewhat inferior. The poet, and his condition—the function he has to perform in the world, and its treatment of him—are the subject of the book. Stello, a young poet, having, it would appear, no personal cause of complaint against the world, but subject to fits of nervous despondency, seeks relief under one of these attacks from a mysterious personage, the docteur noir; and discloses to him that in his ennui and his thirst for activity and excitement, he has almost determined to fling himself into politics, and sacrifice himself for some one of the parties or forms of government which are struggling with one another in the world. The doctor prescribes to him three stories, exhibiting the fate of the poet under every form of government, and the fruitlessness of his expecting from the world, or from men of the world, aught but negligence or contempt. The stories are of three poets, all of whom the docteur noir has seen die, as, in fact, the same person might have been present at all their deaths: under three different governments—in an absolute monarchy, a constitutional government, and a democratic revolution. Gilbert, the poet and satirist, called from his poverty Gilbert sans-culotte, who died mad in a hospital at Paris, he who wrote in the last days of his life the verses beginning
driven to suicide at eighteen by the anguish of disappointment and neglect; and André Chénier, the elder brother of Chénier the revolutionary poet—whose own poems, published not till many years after his death,[¶] were at once hailed by the new school of poetry in France as having anticipated what they zhadz since done, and given the real commencement to the new era: he perished by the guillotine only two days before the fall of Robespierre; on the scaffold he exclaimed, striking his forehead, “Il y avait pourtant quelque chose là!”[*] The stories adhere strictly to the spirit of history, though not to the literal facts, and are, as usual, beautifully told, especially the last and most elaborate of them, “André Chénier.”[†] In this tale we are shown the prison of Saint-Lazare during the reign of terror, and the courtesies and gallantries of polished life still blossoming in the foulness of the dungeon and on the brink of the tomb. Madame de St. Aignan, with her reserved and delicate passion for André Chénier, is one of the most graceful of M. de Vigny’s creations. We are brought into the presence of Robespierre and Saint-Just—who are drawn, not indeed like Catoes and Brutuses, though there have been found in our time Frenchmen not indisposed to take that view of them. But the hatred of exaggeration a which always characterizes M. de Vigny, does not desert him here: the terrorist chiefs do not figure in his pages as monsters thirsting for blood, nor as hypocrites and impostors with merely the low aims of selfish ambition: either of these representations would have been false to history. He shows us these men as they were, as such men could not but have been; men distinguished, morally, chiefly by two qualities, entire hardness of heart, and the most overweening and bloated self-conceit: for nothing less, assuredly, could lead any man to believe that his individual judgment respecting the public good is a warrant to him for exterminating all who are suspected of forming any other judgment, and for setting up a machine to cut off heads,b sixty or seventy every day, till some unknown futurity be accomplished, some Utopia realized.
The lesson which the docteur noir finds in these tragical histories, for the edification of poets, is still that of abnegation: to expect nothing cfor themselvesc from changes in society or in political institutions; to renounce for ever the idea that the world will, or can be expected to fall at their feet and worship them; to consider themselves, once for all, as martyrs, if they are so, and instead of complaining, to take up their cross and bear it.
This counsel is so essentially wise, andd so much required everywhere, but above all in France—where the idea that intellect ought to rule the world, an idea in itself true and just, has taken such root that every youth who fancies himself a thinker or an artist thinks ethate he has a right to everything society has to give, and fdeems himselff the victim of ingratitude because he is not loaded with its riches and honours; M. de Vigny has so genuine a feeling of the true greatness of a poet, of the spirit which has dwelt in all poets deserving the name of great—that he may be pardoned for what there is in his picture of a poet’s position and destiny in the actual world, somewhat morbid and overcharged, though with ag foundation of universal truth. It is most true that, whether in poetry or in philosophy, a person endowed in any eminent degree with genius—originality—the gift of seeing truths at a greater depth than the world can penetrate, or of feeling deeply and justly things which the world has not yet learnt to feel—that such a person hneedsh not hope to be appreciated, to be otherwise than made light of and evil entreated, in virtue of what is greatest in him, his genius. For (except in things which can be reduced to mathematical demonstration, or made obvious to sense) that which all mankind iwill bei prepared to see jand understand to-morrowj , it cannot require much genius to perceive kto-dayk ; and all persons of distinguished originality, whether thinkers or artists, are subject to the eternal law, that they must themselves create the tastes or the habits of thought by lmeans ofl which they will afterwards be appreciated.[*] No great poet or philosopher msince the Christian eram (apart from the accident of a rich patron) could have ngained either rankn or subsistence oaso a poet or a philosopher; but things are not, and have seldom been, so badly ordered in the world, as that he could not get it in any other way. Chatterton, and probably Gilbert, could have earned an honest livelihood, if their inordinate pride would have acceptedp it in the common paths of obscure industry. And much as it is to be lamented, for the world’s sake more than that of the individual, that they who are equal to the noblest things are not reserved for such,—it is nevertheless true that persons of genius, persons whose superiority is that they can do what others cannot do, can generally also, if they choose, do better than others that which others do, and which others are willing to honour and reward. If they cannot, it is usually from something ill regulated in themselves, something to be cured of which would be for the health even of their own minds; perhaps oftenest because they will not take the pains which less gifted persons are willing to take, though less than half as much would suffice; because the habit of doing with ease things on a large scale, makes them impatient of slow and unattractive toil. It is their own choice, then. If they wish for worldly honour and profit, let them seek it in the way others do; the struggle indeed is hard, and the attainment uncertain, but not specially so to them; on the contrary, they have advantages over most of their competitors. If they prefer their nobler vocation, they have no cause of quarrel with the world because they follow that vocation under the conditions necessarily implied in it. If it were possible that they should qfrom the firstq have the acclamations of the world, they could not be deserving of them; all they could be doing for the world must be comparatively little: they could not be the great men they fancy themselves.
A story, or a poem, might nevertheless be conceived, which would throw tenfold more light upon the poetic character, and upon the condition of a poet in the world, than any instance, either historical or fictitious, of the world’s undervaluing of him. It would exhibit the sufferings of a poet, not from mortified vanity, but from the poetic temperament itself—under arrangements of society made by and for harder natures, and in a world whichr, for any but the unsensitive, is not a place of contentment ever, nor of peacesuntils after many a hard-fought battler. That M. de Vigny could conceive such a subject in the spirit in which it should be conceived, is clear from the signs by which his Stello recognises himself as a poet.
Because there is in nature no beauty, nor grandeur, nor harmony, which does not cause in me a prophetic thrill—which does not fill me with a deep emotion, and swell my eyelids with tears divine and inexplicable. Because of the infinite pity I feel for mankind, my companions in suffering, and the eager desire I feel to hold out my hand to them, and raise them incessantly by words of commiseration and of love. Because I feel in my inmost being an invisible and undefinable power which resembles a presentiment of the future, and a revelation of the mysterious causes of the present:[*]
a presentiment which is not always imaginary, but often the instinctive insight of a sensitive nature, which from its finer texture vibrates to impressions so evanescent as to be unfelt by others, and, by that faculty as by an additional sense, is apprised, it cannot tell how, of things without, which escape the cognizance of the less delicately organized.
These are the tests, or some of the tests, of a poetic nature; and it must be evident that to such, even when supported by a positive religious faith, and that a cheerful one, this life is naturally, or at least may easily be, a vale of tears; a place in which there is no rest. The poet who would speak of such, must do it in the spirit of those beautiful lines of Shelley—himself the most perfect type of that which he described:
The remainder of M. de Vigny’s works are plays and poems. The plays are Le More de Venise, a well-executed and very close translation of Othello; La Maréchale d’Ancre, from the same period of history as Cinq-Mars; and Chatterton, the story in Stello, with the characters more developed, the outline more filled up.[*] Without disparagement to these works, we think the narrative style more suitable than the dramatic to the quality of M. de Vigny’s genius. If we had not read these plays, we should not have known how much of the impressiveness of his other writings comes from his own tpresencet in them (if the expression may be allowed), animating and harmonizing the picture, by blending with its natural tints the colouring of his own feelings and character.
Of the poems[†] much were to be said, if a foreigner could be considered altogether a competent judge of them. For our own part we confess that, of the admirable poetry uto be foundu in French literature, that part is most poetry to us, which is written in prose. In regard to verse-writing, we would even exceed the severity of Horace’s precept against mediocrity;[‡] we hold, that nothing should be written in verse which is not exquisite. In prose, anything may be said which is worth saying at all; in verse, only what is worth saying better than prose can say it. The gems alone of thought and fancy, are worth setting with so finished and elaborate a workmanship; and even of them, those only whose effect is heightened by it: which takes place under two conditions; and in one or other of these two, if we are not mistaken, must be found the origin and justification of all composition in verse. A thought or feeling requires verse for its adequate expression, when in order that it may dart into the soul with the speed of a lightning-flash, the ideas or images that are to convey it require to be pressed closer together than is compatible with the rigid grammatical construction of vthe prose sentencev . One recommendation of verse, therefore, is, that it affords a language more condensed than prose. The other is derived from one of the natural laws of the human mind, in the utterance of its thoughts impregnated with its feelings. All emotion which has taken possession of the whole being—which flows unresistedly, and therefore equably—instinctively seeks a language that flows equably like itself; and must either find it, or be conscious of an unsatisfied want, which even impedes and prematurely stops the flow of the feeling. Hence, ever since man has been man, all deep and sustained feeling has tended to express itself in rhythmical language; and the deeper the feeling, the more characteristic and decided the rhythm; provided always the feeling be sustained as well as deep; for a fit of passion has no natural connexion with verse or music, a mood of passion has the strongest. No one, who does not hold this distinction in view, will comprehend the importance which the Greek lawgivers and philosophers attached to music, and which appears inexplicable till we understand how perpetual an aim of their polity it was to subdue fits of passion, and to sustain and reinforce moods of it.* This view of the origin of rhythmic utterance in general, and verse in particular, naturally demands short poems, it being impossible that a feeling so intense as to require a more rhythmical cadence than that of eloquent prose, should sustain itself at its highest elevation for long together; and we xthink (heretical as the opinion may be)x that, except in the ages when the absence of written books occasioned all things to be thrown into verse for facility of memory, or in those other ages in which writing in verse may happen to be a yfashiony , a long poem will always be felt z(though perhaps unconsciously)z to be something unnatural and hollow; something which it requires the genius of a Homer, a Dante, or a Milton, to induce posterity to read, or at least to read through.
Verse, then, being only allowable where prose would be inadequate; and the inadequacy of prose arising either from its not being sufficiently condensed, or from its not having cadence enough to express sustained passion, which is never long-winded—it follows, that if prolix writing is vulgarly called prosy writing, a very true feeling of the distinction between verse and prose shows itself in the vulgarism; and that the one unpardonable sin in a versified composition, next to the absence of meaning, and of true meaning, is diffuseness. From this sin it will be impossible to exculpate M. Alfred de Vigny. His poems, graceful and often fanciful though they be, are, to us, marred by their diffuseness.
Of the more considerable among them, that which most resembles what, in our conception, a poema ought to be, is “Moise.”[*] The theme is still the sufferings of the man of genius, the inspired man, the intellectual ruler and seer: not however, this time, the great man persecuted by the world, but the great man honoured by it, and in his natural place at the helm of it, bheb on whom all rely, whom all
reverence—Moses on Pisgah, Moses the appointed of God, the judge, captain and hierarch of the chosen race—crying to God in anguish of spirit for deliverance and rest; that the cares and toils, the weariness and solitariness of heart, of him who is lifted altogether above his brethren, be no longer imposed upon him—that the Almighty may withdraw his gifts, and suffer him to sleep the sleep of common humanity. His cry is heard; when the clouds disperse, which veiled the summit of the mountain from the Israelites waiting in prayer and prostration at its foot, Moses is no more seen: and now, “marching towards the promised land, Joshua advanced, pale and pensive of mien; for he was already the chosen of the Omnipotent.”[*]
The longest of the poems is “Eloa; or, the Sister of the Angels;”[†] a story of a bright being, created from a tear of the Redeemer, and who falls, tempted by pity for the Spirit of Darkness. The idea is fine, and the details graceful, a word we have often occasion to use in speaking of M. de Vigny: but this and most of his other poems are written in the heroic verse, that is to say, he has aggravated the imperfections, for his purpose, of the most prosaic language in Europe, by choosing to write in its most prosaic metre. The absence of prosody, of long and short or accented and unaccented syllables, renders the French language essentially unmusical; while—the unbending structure of its sentence, of which there is essentially but one type for verse and prose, almost precluding inversions and elisions—all the screws and pegs of the prose sentence are retained to encumber the verse. If it is to be raised at all above prose, variety of rhythm must be sought in variety of versification; there is no room for it in the monotonous structure of the heroic metre. Where is it that Racine, always an admirable writer, appears to us more than an admirable prose writer? In his irregular metres—in the choruses of Esther and of Athalie.[‡] It is not wonderful then if the same may be said of M. de Vigny. We shall conclude with the following beautiful little poem, one of the few which he has produced in the style and measure of lyric verse:
[a]38 active and
[b-b]38 all the
[c]38 taken together,
[h-h]38 the Beautiful
[j]38 , and that but faintly,
[[*] ]See, e.g., The War-Songs of Tyrtaeus, trans. Richard Polwhele, in The Idylls of Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, and the War-Songs of Tyrtaeus (London: Bohn, 1853), pp. 337-43.
[[†] ]See Karl Theodor Körner, Leyer und Schwerdt (Berlin: Nicolaischen Buchhandlung, 1814).
[[‡] ]A reference to works such as that, with this title, by Ebenezer Elliott. See p. 348 above.
[[§] ]Wordsworth, “The Vaudois,” in Yarrow Revisited, and Other Poems (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, et al., 1835), p. 282; and “Hail, Zaragoza,” in Poetical Works (1827), Vol. III, p. 174.
[m-m]38 inveigher against
[n]38 ; it is in that aspect only that we would speak of them
[p]38 , for both are poets
[r-r]38 A greater spirit of
[z-z]38 the end
[a-a]38 all things
[b-b]38 as well
[c-c]38 as they can ever be
[d-d]38 an eye
[f-f]38, 59 animated
[g-g]38 for to be gloomy is to be morbid, but there will be everywhere a tendency
[h-h]38, 59 were
[j-j]38 the most
[m-m]38 as it seems to us
[q-q]38 held up to us
[[*] ]Translated from Souvenirs, in Oeuvres, p. 9.
[t]Source [in French], 38 and
[u-u]Source [in French], 38 my poems and my books
[[*] ]Ibid., pp. 8, 10.
[[†] ]See Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, “M. de Vigny,” Revue des Deux Mondes, ser. 4, IV (Oct., 1835), 216-17.
[v]38 no wonder
[y]38 The reputation of this work in its native country has survived the vogue of the moment, and, as it is entirely unknown in England, we will offer to our readers a brief sketch of it
[z-z]59 those [printer’s error?]
[c][paragraph] The story opens in this Byron-like, or Goethe-like manner; “Know you that region which has been surnamed the Garden of France? that country of pure air and verdant plains, watered by a mighty river”—followed by a tasteful description of Touraine, and, in Touraine, of the château of Chaumont, where, “in a morning of June 1639, the bell having, at the usual hour of noon, called the family to their repast, there passed in that old dwelling things which were not usual.” [Translated from Cinq-Mars, in Oeuvres, pp. 77, 78.] The household of the widowed Maréchale d’Effiat was in the commotion of preparation for the departure of her second son, Henri de Cinq-Mars, to the royal camp before Perpignan, the minister’s all-seeing eye having singled him out, unknown to himself, as a fit person to fill during his employer’s pleasure the dangerous and now vacant post of favourite. To share the solemnities of his leave-taking there were assembled at table, besides the family, some nobles of the suite of a young princess of Mantua, whom family circumstances had caused to remain for some time under the protection of Madame d’Effiat before joining the French court, two illustrious friends of the family, M. de Puy-Laurens and the celebrated Maréchal de Bassompierre; and a deaf abbé, advanced in years, who turns out to be a spy of Richelieu. Bassompierre, the old companion in arms of Henri Quatre, the very soul of honour and of bonhomie, represents the chivalrous hero of the preceding generation. While he, with natural open-heartedness, artfully drawn out by M. de Launay (one of the attendant noblemen), utters his affectionate regret for the days of the great and good Henry, and his lamentations and forebodings over the jealous and artful rule of the cardinal-minister, the young Cinq-Mars is casting a last melancholy look upon the tranquil splendour of the magnificent landscape, with its azure sky, its bright green isles, its waves of limpid gold, and the white sails of the barks descending the Loire, and sighs a last farewell to quiet joys and youthful remembrances—“O Nature, beautiful Nature, adieu! Ere long my heart will not be simple enough to feel thee, and thou wilt no longer be grateful to my eyes; already consumed by a profound passion, the sound of worldly interests fills me with an unknown trouble, I must enter into this labyrinth, perhaps to perish, but for Marie’s sake—” [Ibid., p. 81.] And stifling his feelings, he takes a rapid leave, and gallops off for Tours.
[[*] ]See Sarah Austin, Characteristics of Goethe, Vol. II, pp. 318-19, where she is translating from Theodor Adam Heinrich Friedrich von Müller, Goethe in seiner practischen Wirksamkeit (Weimar: Hoffmann, 1832), p. 45, in which the key phrase (applied to modern French literature) is “Literatur der Verzweiflung.”
[[†] ]E.g., Kernock le pirate (1830), Atar-Gull (1831), La salamandre (1832), and La coucaratcha (1832-34).
[g-g]38 the beautiful
[[*] ]Honoré de Balzac, Le père Goriot, 2 vols. (Paris: Werdet, 1835); Amandine Aurore Dupin (“George Sand”), Leone Leoni (Paris: Bonnaire, 1835); Alexandre Dumas, Antony (Paris: Auffray, 1831), and (with Jacques Félix Beudin and Prosper Parfait Goubaux), Richard Darlington (Paris: Barba, 1832).
[o-o]38 the XIIIth
[p]38 admirable, for these are
[s-s]38, 59 nothing
[v-v]38 there are few works superior to Cinq-Mars the
[x]38 what our extracts sufficiently testify,
[a]38 What Voltaire did, with all his infidelity, was but child’s play compared with these two.
[b-b]38 a Conservative poet
[d]38 we see it
[[*] ]In Souvenirs de servitude militaire, Oeuvres, pp. 13-24.
[[†] ]Ibid., p. 14.
[[*] ]Ibid., p. 16.
[[†] ]Ibid., p. 19.
[[‡] ]Ibid., pp. 21-2.
[[*] ]In Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, 2 vols. (London: Becket and De Honat, 1768).
[r-r]38 chef de bataillon
[[†] ]In Souvenirs, pp. 27-43.
[[‡] ]Ibid., p. 28.
[[§] ]Pierre Alexandre Monsigny, Rose et Colas (first London performance, Covent Garden, 18 Sept., 1778).
[[*] ]Souvenirs, p. 40.
[t-t]38 having apparently
[[†] ]Ibid., p. 41.
[[‡] ]Ibid., pp. 45-71.
[u-u]38 The Capitaine
[[*] ]Ibid., p. 24.
[[†] ]Stello, ou les diables bleus (blue devils), in Oeuvres, pp. 225-303.
[[‡] ]Nicolas Joseph Laurent Gilbert, “Ode imitée de plusieurs pseaumes,” in Oeuvres complètes (Paris: Le Jay, 1788), p. 81; Vigny quotes the first of these verses, p. 238.
[[§] ]Wordsworth, “Resolution and Independence,” in Poetical Works (1827), Vol. II, p. 127 (ll. 44-5).
[[¶] ]André Marie Chénier, Oeuvres posthumes (1819), 2nd ed., ed. D. C. Robert, intro. H. J. de Latouche (Paris: Guillaume, 1826).
[[*] ]Ibid., Intro., p. xix.
[[†] ]See Vigny, Stello, Oeuvres, pp. 255-95.
[a]38 (that vice of the day)
[d]38 of such deep import, and is
[j-j]38 the next minute
[k-k]38 in this
[[*] ]Cf. Wordsworth, “Essay, Supplementary to the Preface,” in Poems (1815), Vol. I, p. 368.
[m-m]38 that ever lived
[n-n]38 got either honour
[o-o]38, 59 as
[r-r]38 its Creator himself did not intend to be a place of contentment or peace for any but the unsensitive
[[*] ]Stello, p. 232.
[[†] ]Percy Bysshe Shelley, Epipsychidion (London: Ollier, 1821), pp. 7-8 (ll. 13-20).
[[*] ]In Oeuvres, pp. 355-407, 413-64, and 465-504, respectively.
[[†] ]Ibid., pp. 305-53.
[u-u]38 which abounds
[[‡] ]Ars poetica, in Satires, Epistles, and Ars poetica, p. 480 (ll. 372-3).
[v-v]38 prose: this, the inversions and elisions of verse, afford the means of accomplishing
[[*] ]Oeuvres, pp. 311-12.
[x-x]38 are persuaded
[a]38 in verse
[[*] ]Oeuvres, pp. 311-12.
[b-b]38 the man
[[*] ]Oeuvres, pp. 311-12.
[w]38 Milton understood this:
[[*] ]Translated from “Moise,” p. 312.
[[†] ]Oeuvres, pp. 323-30.
[[‡] ]Jean Racine, Esther (Paris: Thierry, 1689), and Athalie (Paris: Thierry, 1691).
[[*] ]Vigny, “Le bateau,” Oeuvres, p. 352.
[c][paragraph] The story opens in this Byron-like, or Goethe-like manner; “Know you that region which has been surnamed the Garden of France? that country of pure air and verdant plains, watered by a mighty river”—followed by a tasteful description of Touraine, and, in Touraine, of the château of Chaumont, where, “in a morning of June 1639, the bell having, at the usual hour of noon, called the family to their repast, there passed in that old dwelling things which were not usual.” [Translated from Cinq-Mars, in Oeuvres, pp. 77, 78.] The household of the widowed Maréchale d’Effiat was in the commotion of preparation for the departure of her second son, Henri de Cinq-Mars, to the royal camp before Perpignan, the minister’s all-seeing eye having singled him out, unknown to himself, as a fit person to fill during his employer’s pleasure the dangerous and now vacant post of favourite. To share the solemnities of his leave-taking there were assembled at table, besides the family, some nobles of the suite of a young princess of Mantua, whom family circumstances had caused to remain for some time under the protection of Madame d’Effiat before joining the French court, two illustrious friends of the family, M. de Puy-Laurens and the celebrated Maréchal de Bassompierre; and a deaf abbé, advanced in years, who turns out to be a spy of Richelieu. Bassompierre, the old companion in arms of Henri Quatre, the very soul of honour and of bonhomie, represents the chivalrous hero of the preceding generation. While he, with natural open-heartedness, artfully drawn out by M. de Launay (one of the attendant noblemen), utters his affectionate regret for the days of the great and good Henry, and his lamentations and forebodings over the jealous and artful rule of the cardinal-minister, the young Cinq-Mars is casting a last melancholy look upon the tranquil splendour of the magnificent landscape, with its azure sky, its bright green isles, its waves of limpid gold, and the white sails of the barks descending the Loire, and sighs a last farewell to quiet joys and youthful remembrances—“O Nature, beautiful Nature, adieu! Ere long my heart will not be simple enough to feel thee, and thou wilt no longer be grateful to my eyes; already consumed by a profound passion, the sound of worldly interests fills me with an unknown trouble, I must enter into this labyrinth, perhaps to perish, but for Marie’s sake—” [Ibid., p. 81.] And stifling his feelings, he takes a rapid leave, and gallops off for Tours.“The day was triste and the supper silent at the château of Chaumont. At ten in the evening the old Marshal retired to the north tower, near the gate of the castle, and on the contrary side to the river. The air was sultry; he opened the casement, and, wrapping himself in an ample robe of silk, placed a heavy lamp upon the table, and dismissed his attendant. The window looked out upon the plain, which the waning moon lighted with butan uncertain glimmer; the sky was becoming overcast, and the scene was tinged with melancholy. Reverie was no part of Bassompierre’s character, yet the turn which the conversation had taken came back upon his mind, and he recalled in memory the events of his previous life; the sad changes brought by the new reign, which seemed to have breathed upon him the breath of calamity; the death of a cherished sister; the disorders of the heir of his name, the loss of his estates and favour; the recent end of his friend, the Maréchal d’Effiat, whose chamber he occupied, all these thoughts drew from him an involuntary sigh: he placed himself at the window for breath.“At this moment he seemed to hear, in the direction of the wood, the sound of a troop of horse, but the wind rising at the same moment, made him think himself mistaken, and all sound suddenly ceasing, it passed from his memory. He watched for some time the various lights of the castle as they were successively extinguished, after winding among the embrasured windows of the staircases and flitting about the court-yards and stables, then reposing on his vast tapestry-covered fauteuil, his arm leaning on the table, he sunk into reflection, and presently taking from his bosom a medallion, suspended by a black ribbon, ‘Come,’ said he, ‘my kind old master, converse with me as thou didst so often; forget thy court in the joyous laugh of a true friend, consult me once again on Austria and her ambition; tell me once more, inconstant knight, of the bonhomie of thy loves and the frankness of thy inconstancies, reproach me again, heroic soldier, with outshining thee in combat—ah! why did I not so at Paris—why received I not thy fatal would! The blessings thy reign brought to the world have perished with thee.”“His tears dimmed the glass of the medallion, and he was effacing them by respectful kisses, when his door hastily opened, made him start, and lay his hand on his sword Qui va là? he cried in a tone of surprise. His surprise was greater on recognizing M. De Launay, who advanced to him hat in hand, and said with some embarrassment. ‘M. le Maréchal, it is with a heart full of grief that I am forced to inform you that the King has commanded me to arrest you. A coach awaits you at the gate, with thirty mousquetaires of M. the Cardinal-Duke.’“Bassompierre was still seated, and had the medallion in his left hand, his sword in the right. He extended it disdainfully to the man, and said, ‘Monsieur, I know that I have lived too long, and it was of that I was thinking. It is in the name of the great Henry that I peaceably surrender my sword to his son, Follow me.’ He said this with a look of so much firmness that De Launay could not meet it, and followed him with downcast looks as if he himself had just been arrested by the noble old man.” [Ibid., pp. 83-4.]As De Launay and his prisoner passed through a defile in a wood, the carriage was stopped by an attempt at rescue; the young Cinq-Mars, returning secretly to the château for a parting interview with the lady of his love, would have liberated the Marshal, had not his submissive loyalty rejected the offer of escape. They part, the one to his twelve years’ captivity in the Bastille, where our history leaves him, the other to the chamber-window of the Princess Marie de Gonzague.“It was past midnight, and the roofs and turrets of the castle formed a black mass, but just distinguishable in the extreme darkness from the clouded sky. Without dismounting, he lifted the jalousie of the window, and was answered by a soft low voice from behind the casement, ‘Is it you, M. de Cinq-Mars?’—‘Alas! who else should it be, that returns like a malefactor to his paternal home, without visiting his mother and bidding her again adieu? who, but I, would return to bewail the present, expecting nothing from the future?’“The soft voice faltered, and tears accompanied the answer. ‘Alas! Henri, of what do you complain? Have I not done more, far more than I ought? Is it my fault if my ill-fate has willed that a sovereign prince should be my father? Can we choose our parents, and say, I will be born a shepherdess? For two years I have warred in vain against my ill-fortune which separates us, and against you who turn me from my duty. You know it, I have wished to be thought dead—I have almost prayed for revolutions! I could have blest the blow which should have taken away my rank, I thanked God when my father was deprived of his throne. But the Court wonders, the Queen demands me, our dreams must take flight Henri, our slumber has been too long; let us awake with courage. Think no more of these two cherished years forget all, remember only our great resolution—have but one thought; be ambitious from—ambitious for me . . .“ ‘And must all be forgotten, Marie?’ said Cinq-Mars, in a gentle tone.“She hesitated. ‘Yes—all that I have myself forgotten,’ she replied. An instant after, she resumed with vivacity—“ ‘Yes; forget our happy days, our long evenings, and even our walks in the wood and on the lake; but remember the future, go, your father was a Marshal, be more, be Constable, Prince Go; you are young, noble, rich, brave, beloved—’“ ‘For ever?’ asked Henri.“ ‘For life and eternity.’“Cinq-Mars started with emotion, and extending his hand, cried, ‘I swear then, by the Virgin whose name you bear, you shall be mine, Marie, or my head shall fall on the scaffold.’“ ‘Heavens! what say you?’ cried she, as her white hand, stretched from the casement, joined his. ‘No, swear to me that your efforts shall never be criminal, that you will never forget that the King of France is your master—love him more than all, yet after her who will sacrifice everything to you, and will wait for you in suffering.’ ‘Adieu,’ said he, ‘I go to accomplish my destiny,’ and the casement closed slowly on their two hands still joined.” [Ibid., pp. 84-5.]The light of this honest and genuine passion, illuminating the narrow and slippery paths through which the hero of the tale is conducted by his ambitious projects, bespeaks for him the truest human interestwhich he excites, and along with the disinterested attachment of his simple and upright friend De Thou, constitutes the romance of the book.The reader, having been already brought into the midst of the age by these opening passages, is now at once introduced into its darkest recesses, by a transfer of the scene to the little town of Loudun in Poitou, during the perpetration of a tragedy, familiar to readers of the Causes Célèbres, and which will be found recorded by our author with perfect fidelity, the trial and burning of Urbain Grandier, curé of Loudun, accused of having, by magical arts, caused devils to take possession of certain Ursuline nuns of that place. [See François Gayot de Pitaval, “Urbain Grandier,” Causes célèbres et intéressantes, 6 vols. (The Hague: Neaulme, 1735), Vol. II, pp. 247-397.] The characters, and almost the minutest incidents, in this part of our author’s narrative, are historical: the extraordinary beauty of this young priest; his talents and fervid eloquence, which excited the jealousy and hatred of rival ecclesiastics; his unfortunate, and so far as is known, chaste attachment to the beautiful Madeleine de Brou, and the manuscript treatise against the celibacy of the clergy, written to calm her scruples, which was found among his papers; the tutoring of the nuns by Urbain’s enemies, the juggleries in simulation of supernatural agency, the detection of some of these, and the failure, for a long time, of all attempts to procure a condemnation; the disgrace of imposture which fell upon the accusers, and in which Jeanne de Belfiel, the young and beautiful superior of the convent, being implicated, her uncle Laubardemont, the well-known instrument of Richelieu’s judicial enormities, obtained a commission for himself to try the cause, by working upon the Cardinal’s resentment for a trifling affront received from Grandier some years before, and for a lampoon of which he was led to believe him the author. No less true to history are the horrid iniquities of this final trial; the peculiarly atrocious mode in which the torture was administered to the prisoner, the appearance in court of two of the accusing nuns, smitten by remorse, to declare the whole mystery of their subornation and of their feigned convulsions; but our author has heightened this last trait by making Jeanne de Belfiel herself one of these repentant false witnesses, incited originally by the jealousy of slighted love, and driven to insanity by the unexpected result of the machinations she had been a tool of. One other incident is of our author’s invention, at least we find no traces of it in the history of the transaction. As the procession advanced towards the fatal pile, amidst a storm of lightning and rain, four priests exorcising the air which the magician breathed, the earth which he touched, and the wood with which he was to be burnt, the lieutenant criminel meanwhile reading aloud in a hurried manner the condemnation and sentence; Cinq-Mars, who was among the crowd under the portico of the church from which the procession issued, was struck by the words, “The magician cannot utter the name of the Saviour, and rejects his image.” [Ibid., p. 101.] Lactance, one of his persecutors, at this moment came forth from among the Grey Penitents, holding, with great apparent precaution and respect, an immense iron crucifix.“He made it approach the lips of the sufferer, who did certainly shrink backward, and rallying his remaining strength, made a gesture with his arm which made the crucifix fall from the hands of the capuchin ‘See,’ exclaimed the monk, ‘he has flung down the crucifix.’ A murmur of doubtful import arose ‘Profanation!’ cried the priests. The procession advanced towards the pile. Meanwhile Cinq-Mars, who, from behind one of the columns, had been an eager looker-on, perceived that the crucifix, falling on the steps of the portico, which were moistened by the rain, smoked and made a hissing sound. While the crowd were looking another way he rushed forward, laid his hand on it, and felt it burning hot. In a transport of indignation he seized the crucifix in the folds of his mantle, advanced to Laubardemont, and striking him on the forehead, ‘Villain,’ cried he, ‘bear the brand of this burning iron.’ The multitude heard and rushed forward. ‘Arrest the madman,’ exclaimed in vain the unworthy magistrate. He was himself seized by men crying, ‘Justice, Justice, in the King’s name.’ ‘We are lost,’ said Lactance, ‘quick to the pile.’ ” [Ibid.]The monks dragged their victim to the place of torment, while the mounted gendarmerie made head against the crowd, who pressed against them with passionate strength, drove them inch by inch into a closer circle round the pile, and at last, by one violent effort, broke and scattered them, but too late: the sacrifice was accomplished, and all that remained of Urbain was “a blackened hand, preserved from the flames by an enormous iron bracelet and chain: the fingers still grasped a small ivory cross, and an image of St. Mary Magdalen,” the patron saint of his beloved. [Ibid., pp. 101-2.]Under these sinister auspices does Cinq-Mars enter into life. His coming fate, as was doubtless intended, casts its shadow by anticipation over the very commencement of the story, we feel from the first that we are about to witness the progressive development of a dark tragedy. The author crowds with gloomy presages the outset of his hero: ominous accidents accompany his leaving the paternal home, on the night of the catastrophe of Grandier he sees, in a dream, Marie de Gonzague leading him by the hand, but pale and sad of mien, amidst the strange shouts of a mysterious multitude, up the steps of a throne, and when he reached it and turned to kiss her hand, it was the hand of the executioner. He awoke shuddering, and found the maniac Jeanne de Belfiel by his bedside, chanting over him the service for the dead, and reading in his face that he is destined to a violent death: l’homme que tu as frappé te tuera [Ibid., p. 104.] As the mere machinery of a story all this would be childish, but it is not without its worth, even for the truth of the performance viewed as a poem or work of art, it puts the reader into the desired frame of mind, into that which is suitable to the story and to the times, and does for the scene what is done by atmosphere for a picture on canvas.We are now conducted to Narbonne on the Mediterranean, and to the cabinet of an old man, who, seated in an immense and luxurious fauteuil, surrounded by attendants busy in arranging papers but noiseless as the grave, is engaged alternately in dictating to four pages (who pass what they write to eight secretaries employed in copying round a large table) and in writing on his knee private memoranda to be slipped into the packets before sealing them with his own hand. This old man, with “an expanded forehead and a few exceedingly white hairs, large mild eyes, a pale wiry face, to which a short white beard, terminating in a point, gave that air of subtlety noticeable in all the portraits of that age, a mouth compressed, and with scarcely any lips, bordered by two grey moustaches, and a rovale (a sort of ornament then fashionable, and in shape somewhat like a comma), on his head a red calotte or cardinal’s hat, on his feet, hose of purple silk; his form enveloped in a vast robe de chambre,” was Armand Duplessis, Cardinal de Richelieu. [Ibid., p.106.]A mirror suddenly betrays to this personage that his youngest page is writing a few hurried words on a slip of paper, and then hiding it under the sheet of a larger size, which the Cardinal has ordered him to fill. “Come here, Monsieur Olivier.”“These words were a thunder-bolt to the poor boy, who seemed not more than sixteen years of age. He, however, stood up immediately, and placed himself before the minister, with downcast looks and dependant arms. The other pages and the secretaries took no more notice than soldiers do when one of them is struck dead by a cannon-shot.“ ‘What is that you are writing?’ ‘Monseigneur, what your Eminence is dictating to me.’ ‘What!’ ‘Monseigneur, the letter to Don Juan de Braganza.’ ‘No evasions, Sir, you are doing something else.’ ‘Monseigneur,’ said the page, with tears in his eyes, ‘it was a note to one of my cousins.’ ‘Let me see it.’“The page trembled all over, and was forced to lean on the chimneypiece, while he said, in a low voice. ‘It is impossible.’“ ‘M. le Vicomte Olivier d’Entraigues,’ said the minister, without showing the least emotion, ‘you are no longer in my service.’“The page withdrew, he knew there was nothing more to be said; he slipped his billet into his pocket, and opening the folding-door just wide enough to make room to pass, slid through it like a bird escaping from his cage. The minister continued the memoranda which he was writing on his knee.” [Ibid.]A man of sinister aspect, in the most austere dress of the Franciscan order, appeared at the door: the attendants instantly withdrew, and left Richelieu alone with his celebrated secret agent, known by the soubriquet of l’Eminence grise—Father Joseph,the capuchin friar. The conversation which follows, like all those in which the character of Richelieu is unfolded to us, is full of dramatic power, and admirably true to the age. The mixture of hypocrisy and frankness in the communications between these two the employer canting to his tool, yet opening to him his real feelings also, trusting him with all his secrets, except one, his detestation of the confident himself, and intention to break his promises with him; while the friar, no less treacherous to his employer, makes himself necessary to him by playing upon his jealousies and apprehensions and his colossal amour propre—are finely true to nature; and no less so are the workings of such a mind as the Cardinal’s, when, after jesting with the lives of all the great men of the court, he sheds tears for the fate of Strafford, a minister abandoned by his master—when being told that the King has “ideas which he never had before,” “that he thinks of recalling the Queen-mother from exile,” he exclaims—“Recal my enemy, recal his mother, what perfidy! That thought never came from himself—he dared not—but what said he? tell me his exact words.”“ ‘He said, publicly, and in the presence of his brother, the Duke of Orleans, “I know that one of the first duties of a christian is to be a good son, and I shall not much longer resist the murmurs of my conscience.” ’“ ‘Christian? Conscience? those are no words of his, it is Father Caussin, it is his confessor, who betrays me. Perfidious jesuit! I must turn off that confessor, Joseph; he is an enemy of the state, I see clearly. I have been negligent these last days. I have not hastened sufficiently the arrival of this little D’Effiat, who will succeed, no doubt, he is handsome and spirituel, they say. What a blunder! I deserve to be turned out for it. To leave this old fox of a jesuit near the King without secret instructions, without any hostage, any pledge of his fidelity! Take a pen, Joseph, and write this for the next confessor—Father Sirmond. I think, will do.’ ” [Ibid., pp. 107-8.]And when he had done dictating his instructions to the royal confessor—“ ‘What tiresomeness, what interminable ennui! If an ambitious man saw me, he would fly to a desert. What is my dominion! A miserable reflexion of the royal power: and what toils eternally renewed, to keep that flickering light steadily upon me! For twenty years I try it in vain. There is no comprehending that man! He dares not fly me, but they steal him away from me, he slips through my fingers! What things could I not have done with his hereditary rights, if I had had them? But such a world of combinations expended only to keep my balance—what faculties have I left for my undertakings! I hold all Europe in my hand, and my destiny hangs by a hair. His cabinet of six feet square gives me more trouble to govern than the whole earth. What it is to be a prime minister! Envy me my guards, now, if you can!’ ” [Ibid., p. 108.]From this time the story is full of movement and bustle the Cardinal’s levee, with all the illustrious personages of the period, then the King’s camp before Perpignan, where we come into the midst of Richelieu’s enemies, and the Abbé de Gondi, afterwards so well known as Cardinal de Retz, begins to flit about the scene, laughing, chattering, fighting, conspiring, the most busy and restless political intriguer of his time, having nothing ecclesiastical about him but his priest’s habit, which he took by compulsion, and desires to get rid of: the first adventure of Cinq-Mars on his arrival in the camp is to be engaged as one of his seconds, in a duel after the fashion of the time (the seconds as well as the principals fighting) with our former acquaintance De Launay. The King is then introduced; in the midst of his nobles, all disaffected to Richelieu (at least in his absence), and endeavouring, but without committing themselves, to strengthen the feeble-minded monarch in his timid half-purposes of breaking with the terrible Cardinal. The King, talking quick and excitedly, and venturing an occasional jest to the nobles around him at the Cardinal’s expense, tries to screw up his courage to speak the decisive word. Richelieu’s enemies are in joyful expectation, and when the Cardinal enters, he sees in the face and demeanour of every courtier the forecast of his downfal all shun him save Fabert, the commander of the troops, who with military frankness advances and addresses him—and Mazarin, the supple insinuating man of the world, who gives him a look unseen by all other eyes, expressive of the deepest respect and affliction. Richelieu takes his resolution instantly, he approaches the King, and begs permission to restore into the hands of his sovereign a power of which he had long been weary, and prepare in retirement, by prayer and meditation, for his approaching end. The King, though taken by surprise, yet shocked by some haughty expressions, and feeling that the eyes of all his court are upon him, gives none of his usual signs of weakness and indecision, but coldly, and with a look of dignity, accepts the resignation. Nothing embarrassed by this unexpected stroke, the Cardinal proceeded.“ ‘The only recompense I ask for my services is, that your Majesty will deign to accept as a gift from me the Palais Cardinal’ (now Palais Royal), ‘erected in Paris at my expense.’“The King, astonished, gave a nod of consent; a murmur of surprise went through the assembled court.“ ‘I also implore your Majesty to grant me the revocation of a severity of which I was the adviser, and which I, perhaps mistakenly, deemed needful for the repose of the state. There is a personage, Sire, whom, in spite of her faults towards your Majesty, and although for the good of the state I forgot too much my oldest feelings of respect and attachment, I have always loved, one who, notwithstanding her armed enterprises against your person, cannot but be dear to you; to whom, now that I am detached from the world and its interests, I feel that I owe reparation, and whom it is my parting entreaty that you will recall from her exile—Queen Mary de’ Medici, your royal mother.’ ” [Ibid., p. 118.]The King, who little expected this name, uttered an involuntary cry. The whole fabric of his resolution was overset, his heart was touched, he held out his hand to the Cardinal, and this moment decided the destiny of France. Soon after a courier enters with a packet, sealed with black, to be delivered into the King’s own hand; it is the news of his mother’s death, known to Richelieu the day before.A duel follows, under the walls of the besieged town, ending in the storm of an outwork by Cinq-Mars, Gondi, and others; and a battle arranged by Richelieu to amuse the King, without the intention of its leading to any result—an artifice in some danger of being disconcerted by the impetuous valour of Louis himself, whose feebleness (conformably to history) vanishes in the presence of the enemy; and who returns, flushed with victory, to resume his pale and melancholy look under the cold shadow of his minister. Cinq-Mars is presented to the King, taken at once into favour, and accompanies him to Paris: while the Cardinal, now apprised of his attempt to rescue Bassompierre, and of his escapade at Loudun, and discovering that he may be dangerous, lays his plans to ruin him by sending his agent Joseph (already the enemy of Cinq-Mars) to Paris, as a spy upon him. Richelieu himself remains at a distance, that his enemies may be encouraged to put themselves in his power by another, which he knows will be the last, conspiracy. “Wretches,” says he, as his tools, Joseph and Laubardemont, each the other’s bitter enemy, leave his tent—“wretches—go, accomplish a few more of my secret designs, and then be crushed yourselves, impure instruments of my power. Soon the King will sink under the slow malady which consumes him; I shall be Regent—King—I shall have no longer to fear the caprices of his feebleness; I will destroy, without redemption, all those arrogant houses; I will pass the scythe of Tarquin over them. I will be alone above them all, Europe shall tremble—I . . .” he is interrupted by a gush of blood from his mouth, himself a prey to an incurable disease. [Ibid., p. 134.]The story here passes over two years, and carries us to the Louvre, where Cinq-Mars is now Grand-Ecuyer, and the soul of a conspiracy, of which the King was tacitly the chief, to which the Queen was privy, to which the King’s only brother, Gaston, Duke of Orleans, lent his name, and the Duke de Bouillon, the most powerful of the nobles, and commander of the army in Italy, his counsels. For ten days Cinq-Mars has been, not married, but affianced (by his worthy old preceptor, the Abbé Quillet, the defender of Grandier) to the Princess of Mantua, whom, constantly in attendance on the Queen, he but rarely sees in private, and that in a church and in the presence of the good Abbé, but the love of whom is the sole animating principle of his designs. The Queen, Anne of Austria, in whom our author shows us a pleasing picture of dignity and gentleness in misfortune, is not in the secret of the lovers, but, suspecting it, looks on with a melancholy interest. After an émeute, in which the populace heap execrations on Richelieu, and shout for the King and Cinq-Mars, but which, like all the other proceedings of this unfortunate cabal, ends in nothing—the Princess speaking hopefully to the Queen of the Cardinal’s loss of favour, and the King’s attachment to another—“The Queen smiled, she contemplated for awhile in silence the innocent and open countenance of the beautiful Marie, and the look full of ingenuousness which was raised languidly towards her, she parted the dark locks which veiled that fair forehead—kissed her cheek, and said: ‘Thou suspectest not, poor child, the sad truth, that the King loves no one, and that those who seem most in his favour are nearest to being abandoned, and flung to the man who swallows up and devours everything.’“ ‘Ah! good heavens, what is it you tell me!’“ ‘Know’st thou how many he has destroyed?’ continued the Queen, in a lower voice, ‘know’st thou the end of his favourites? have they told thee of the exile of Baradas, that of Saint Simon, the shame of D’Hautefort, the convent of La Fayette, the death of Chalais? All have fallen before an order from Richelieu to his master, and but for that favour, which thou mistakest for attachment, their lives would have been peaceful; his affection is deadly; they perish like the Semele on that tapestry, it dazzles while it consumes them.’“But the young Princess was no longer in a condition to listen, her large dark eyes, veiled by tears, remained fixed on the Queen, who held her trembling hands, while her lips quivered convulsively.“ ‘I am very cruel, am I not, Marie?’ continued the Queen, in the gentlest voice, caressing her like a child who is to be coaxed into confession, ‘your heart is full, my child, come, tell me what has passed between you and Cinq-Mars?’“At these words grief forced itself a way, and, still kneeling at the Queen’s feet, Marie hid her face and broke out into a deluge of tears, with infantine sobs, and violent convulsive emotions of her head and neck, as if her heart would burst. The Queen waited long for the end of this first gush of emotion, lulling her in her arms to appease her grief, and soothing her with kind expressions.“ ‘Ah, Madame,’ cried she, ‘I am very culpable towards you, but I did not think to find such a heart, I have been very wrong, I shall, perhaps, be cruelly punished for it. But alas! Madame, how could I have dared speak to you? It was not opening my heart that would have been difficult; but confessing to you that I needed that you should read in it.’ ” [Ibid., p. 152.]The Queen receives her full confidence, and after some gentle reproaches, continues, as if soliloquizing:“ ‘But the mischief is done, let us think of the future. Cinq-Mars is well in himself, he is brave, accomplished, profound even in his conceptions; I have observed him, he has made much way in two years, and I see that it was for Marie. He conducts himself well; he is worthy, yes, he is worthy of her in my eyes, but in the eyes of Europe, not. He must rise still higher; the Princess of Mantua must not have married less than a Prince. He must become one. As for me, I can do nothing: I am not the Queen—I am the neglected wife of the King. There is only the Cardinal, the eternal Cardinal, and he is his enemy, and perhaps this émeute—’“ ‘Alas! it is the beginning of war between them, I saw it too plainly this moment.’“ ‘He is lost, then!’ cried the Queen, embracing Marie. ‘Forgive me, my child, I am tearing your heart, but we must see all and say all now; he is lost unless he can himself overthrow that wicked man, for the King will not renounce him; force alone—’“ ‘He will overthrow him, Madame, he will if you assist him. You are the providence of France. Oh! I conjure you, protect the angel against the demon, it is your cause, that of your royal family, of your nation—.’“The Queen smiled ‘It is thy cause above all, is it not, my child; and as such will I embrace it with all my power, that power is but small, as I have told thee, but the whole of it shall be given to thee, provided, however, that this angel do not stoop to mortal sins,’ said she, with a look full of acuteness; ‘I heard his name shouted this night by voices very unworthy of him.’ ” [Ibid., p. 154.]The story developes itself in a narrative rapid and enchaining, crowded with incidents, and with tableaux full of life and character. But we see that the enterprise is not fated to succeed. Of the conspirators, Cinq-Mars alone shows any spirit or conduct; and with him it is a desperate throw for Marie or a scaffold: he knows that the poor-spirited chiefs of the conspiracy “tremble while they threaten, and are ready at the first word to make their peace by the sacrifice of him.” [Ibid., p. 164.] He does what man can do, but an unseen hand plays with him from two hundred leagues off, like a cat with a mouse: the contest is with a mightier than he, and we see that he is doomed.One scene, that of the evening rendezvous of Cinq-Mars and Marie in the church of St. Eustache, tells the story both of what precedes and of what follows:“The young and trembling Marie pushed with a timid hand the heavy door of the church, she found there Cinq-Mars, in his accustomed disguise, anxiously waiting for her. Scarcely had she recognized him, when, with a hurried step, she rushed across the church, her velvet mask over her face, and took refuge in a confessional, while Henri carefully closed the door by which she entered. Having made sure that it could not be opened from without, he followed her, to kneel, according to their custom, in the place of penitence. Arrived an hour before her, he had found the door open, the usual sign that the Abbé Quillet, his preceptor, was waiting in the accustomed place, and joyful at the good abbé’s punctuality, without going to thank him, he, in his anxiety to prevent surprise, remained at the entrance till Marie’s arrival.“The old parish church of St. Eustache would have been in total darkness, but for the lamp which was always burning, and four flambeaux of yellow wax, attached to as many principal columns, over the bénitiers, throwing a ruddy light across the grey and black marbles of the deserted temple. This glimmering light scarcely penetrated into the more distant niches in the aisles of the sacred edifice. In one of the most sombre of these was the confessional, all of which, except the little dome and the wooden cross, was masked by a high iron grating, lined with thick planks. Cinq-Mars and Mary of Mantua knelt down on the two sides; they could but just see each other, and they found that, as usual, the abbé, seated between them, had been long waiting. They could see through the little grating the shadow of his camail. Henri d’Effiat had approached slowly, this hour was to fix the remainder of his destiny. He was about to appear, not now before his King, but before a more powerful sovereign, her for whom he had undertaken his immense enterprise. He was about to try her faith, and he trembled.“He shook still more when his young betrothed knelt face to face with him; the sight of her recalled to him all the happiness he was perhaps about to lose, he dared not be the first to speak, but remained gazing, in the dim light, at that young head, on which rested all his hopes. In spite of all his love, whenever he saw her he could not help feeling a sort of terror at having undertaken so much for a girl whose passion was but a feeble reflection of his, and who, perhaps, had not appreciated all his sacrifices—his character bent, for her sake, to the compliances of a courtier, condemned to the intrigues and sufferings of ambition, to the anxious combinations, the criminal meditations, the dark and violent labours of a conspirator. Hitherto, in their secret and chaste interviews, she had heard every new step in his progress with a child-like joy, asking him with naiveté how soon he should be Constable, and when they should be married, as she might have asked when he would come to the tilt, and if it was fine weather. Till now he had smiled at this inexperience, so pardonable at eighteen, in a child born on a throne and bred in an atmosphere of grandeur, but he now reflected more seriously, and when, after the voices of the conspirators swearing to commence a vast war had scarcely done sounding in his ears, he heard the first words of her for whom that war had been undertaken, he feared, for the first time, that this innocence might be levity, and the childishness might extend to the heart, he resolved to penetrate it.“ ‘O heavens!’ said she, ‘how afraid I am, Henri! you make me come without carriage or guards. I tremble lest my people should see me as I leave the palace. Shall I have to hide myself much longer like a guilty person? The Queen was not pleased when I made my confession to her, if she speaks about it to me again, it will be with that severe look which you know, and which always makes me weep—I am terrified.’“She was silent, and Cinq-Mars only answered by a deep sigh.“ ‘What! do you not speak to me?’ said she.“ ‘Are those all your terrors?’ answered he, bitterly.“ ‘Ought I to have greater ones? Oh my beloved,’ said she, ‘in what a tone, in what a voice you speak to me! Are you displeased because I have arrived too late?’“ ‘Too soon, Madame, much too soon, for the things you have to hear—for you are far very far from them.’“Marie wept. ‘Alas! what have I done, that you should call me Madame, and speak so harshly to me?’“ ‘Ah! take courage,’ replied Cinq-Mars, ironically. ‘You have done nothing, I alone am guilty, not against you, but for your sake.’“ ‘Have you done any wrong then? have you ordered the death of any one? O no, I am sure of it, you are so gentle!’“ ‘What!’ said Cinq-Mars, ‘have you then no part in my projects? did I misunderstand that look which you gave me in the presence of the Queen? can I no longer read in your eyes? the admiration you promised to him who should dare tell all to the King, where is it gone? Was it all falsehood?’“Her tears burst out afresh, ‘I do not deserve this, if I speak not to you of this dreadful conspiracy, think you I have forgotten it? am I not unhappy enough? if you wish to see my tears, behold them. Believe me, if in our late meetings I have avoided the terrible subject, it was for fear of learning too much—have I one thought but that of your dangers? Alas, if you combat for me, have I not to maintain as cruel a struggle for you? Happier than I, you have only to contend against hatred. I against affection—the Cardinal will send armed men against you, but the Queen, the gentle Anne of Austria, employs only tenderness, caresses, and tears.’“ ‘Touching and invincible constraint!’ said Cinq-Mars with bitterness, ‘to make you accept a throne’ [she was asked in marriage by the King of Poland]. ‘I acknowledge, some efforts are required to resist such seductions: but first, Madame, it is necessary to release you from your vows,’“ ‘Alas! great God, what is there then against us?’“ ‘God is over us, and against us,’ said Henri in a severe voice. ‘The King has deceived me.’“The Abbé stirred in the confessional.“ ‘I had a presentiment of it,’ exclaimed Marie, ‘that was the misfortune I dreaded. Am I the cause of it?’“ ‘He deceived me while he grasped my hand,’ continued Cinq-Mars, ‘he has betrayed me by means of the wretch Joseph, whom they have offered me to poignard.’“The Abbé made a gesture of horror, which half opened the door of the confessional.“ ‘Ah, fear nothing, Father,’ said Henri, ‘your pupil will never strike such blows. Those I prepare will be heard afar off, and seen in broad daylight, but I have first a duty to perform: your child is about to immolate himself before you. Alas! I have not lived long for happiness. Your hand, which gave it to me, is now perhaps about to take it back.’“While he said this he opened the little grating which separated him from his old preceptor, who, still silent, lowered his camail over his forehead.“ ‘Restore,’ said Cinq-Mars in a less firm voice, ‘restore this nuptial ring to the Duchess of Mantua; I cannot keep it, unless she gives it to me a second time, for I am no longer the same man of whom she promised to be the wife.’“The priest took the ring hastily, and passed it through the bars of the grating on the other side; this mark of indifference surprised Cinq-Mars. ‘What! Father,’ said he, ‘are you too changed!’“Marie’s tears had ceased, and lifting up her angelic voice, which awakened a gentle echo along the vaulted building, like the softest note of an organ, she said,“ ‘O my beloved! be no more angry with me; I understand you not, can we break what God has but just joined, and can I quit you when I know you are unhappy? If the King loves you no longer, be sure he will do you no ill, as he has done none to the Cardinal, whom he never loved. Do you think all lost because he was perhaps unwilling to discard his old servant? Well, then, let us wait the return of his friendship; forget those conspirators, who terrify me. If they have no hope, I thank God for it; I shall no longer have to tremble for you. Why afflict ourselves needlessly? The Queen loves us, we are both very young, let us wait. We are united and sure of each other; the future is ours. Tell me what the King said to you at Chambord; how I followed you with my eyes! how sad, to me, was that hunting party!’“ ‘He has betrayed me, I repeat,’ answered Cinq-Mars, ‘and who would have thought it, when you saw him pressing our hands, passing from his brother to me, from me to the Duke of Bouillon—when he made us inform him of the minutest particulars of the plot, inquired the very day when Richelieu was to be arrested at Lyons, fixed the place of his exile (they wished for his death, but I thought of my father, and begged his life)! The King said he would himself direct everything at Perpignan; and at that very time Joseph, that foul spy, was coming out of his secret cabinet! O Marie! when I learnt this I was at first stupified. I doubted every thing, the universe seemed to totter from its foundations, when truth quitted the heart of a King. Our whole edifice was blown up; one hour longer, the conspiracy was scattered, and I lost you for ever, one resource was left me, I have used it.’“ ‘What?’ said Marie.“ ‘The treaty with Spain was in my hands, I have signed it.’“ ‘O heavens! destroy it!’“ ‘It is sent.’“ ‘Who bears it?’“ ‘Fontrailles.’“ ‘Recal him!’“ ‘He must by this time have got beyond Oléron, in passing the Pyrenees,’ said Cinq-Mars, rising. ‘All is ready at Madrid, at Sédan, armies are waiting me, Marie, armies! and Richelieu is in the midst of them He totters, there needs but one blow to overthrow him, and you are united to me for ever, to Cinq-Mars triumphant!’“ ‘To Cinq-Mars a rebel!’ said she, with a groan.“ ‘A rebel, then, but at least no longer a favourite. A rebel, a criminal, worthy of the scaffold, I know it,’ cried the impassioned young man, falling again on his knees—‘but a rebel for love, a rebel for you, whom my sword shall make mine for ever!’“ ‘Alas!’ said she, ‘a sword dipped in your country’s blood, is it not a poignard?’“ ‘For pity’s sake, Marie! let kings desert me, let warriors abandon me, I shall but stand the firmer, but one word from you would fling me prostrate. Besides, the time for reflection is past for me, yes, I am a criminal, and therefore do I hesitate to think myself still worthy of you. Renounce me, Marie, take back this ring.’“ ‘I cannot,’ said she: ‘whatever you are, I am your wife.’“ ‘You hear, Father,’ said Cinq-Mars, transported with happiness, ‘your blessing on this second union, it is that of sacrifice, more glorious still than that of love. Make her mine, mine till death!’“Without answering, the Abbé opened the door of the confessional, ran hastily out, and had left the church before Cinq-Mars could rise and follow.“ ‘Whither go you? what mean you?’ he cried. But no one answered, nor came.“ ‘In heaven’s name do not cry out,’ said Marie, ‘or I am lost, he must have heard some one move in the church.’“But D’Effiat, in alarm, rushed, without answering, across the church, to a door which he found closed. Drawing his sword he made the tour of the building, and arriving at the entrance, supposed to be guarded by Grandchamp [his servant], called to him, and listened.” [Ibid., pp. 183-8. The square brackets indicate Mill’s additions.]They found the old Abbé, his preceptor, alone in the snow, his head uncovered, himself bound and gagged. The man who had taken his place in the confessional was Father Joseph. “ ‘Fly,’ exclaimed Marie, ‘or you are lost!’ ” [Ibid., p. 188.]The sequel may be abridged Marie de Gonzague verifies too well the misgivings of Cinq-Mars. The Queen, who was interested for her, not for him, and to whom Cinq-Mars is now nothing but “un petit ambitieux qui s’est perdu,” [ibid., p. 194,] uses all her efforts, not in vain, to turn the thoughts of the weak-minded girl into another channel, and at the moment when Cinq-Mars, at the camp at Perpignan, is about to fire the pistol-shot which is the signal of the insurrection, he receives the following letter:“ ‘Monsieur le Marquis de Cinq-Mars.“ ‘I write this to conjure you to restore to her duty our beloved adopted daughter, the Princess Marie de Gonzague, whom your affection alone withholds from the throne of Poland, which is offered to her. I have sounded her soul; she is very young as yet, and I have reason to believe that she would accept the crown with less of effort and of grief than you perhaps believe.“ ‘It is for her that you have undertaken a war which will fill with fire and slaughter my dear and noble kingdom of France, I implore you to act with the honour of a nobleman, and generously release the Duchess of Mantua from the promises she may have made you, thus restoring peace to her heart and tranquillity to our dear country.“ ‘The Queen, who throws herself at your feet if it be necessary—“ ‘Anne of Austria.’“Cinq-Mars replaced calmly the pistol on the table, his first movement had been to turn it against himself, but he laid it down, and seizing a pencil wrote on the back of the same letter.“ ‘Madame,“ ‘Marie de Gonzague, being my wife, can only be Queen of Poland after my death, I am dying.“ ‘Cinq-Mars.’“And as if not to give himself a moment of reflexion, thrusting it into the hand of the messenger, ‘To horse, to horse,’ he cried, in a furious voice. ‘if thou remainest an instant longer thou art dead.’“The messenger gone, he re-entered. Alone with his friend, he stood still for an instant, but pale, his eyes fixed, and gazing on the earth like a madman. He felt himself tottering.“ ‘De Thou!’ cried he.“ ‘What would you have, friend, dear friend! I am near you, you have been grand, noble, sublime!’“ ‘De Thou!’ he cried again in a terrible voice, and fell with his face to the ground like a tree uprooted by the tempest.” [Ibid., p. 198.]He countermands the insurrection, sends passports to all the conspirators, and goes to deliver himself up, with his faithful and innocent friend De Thou, who, disapproving the conspiracy, had entered into it from love of him, and to watch over his safety; and now joins him in surrendering himself, resolved to die with him. Had the insurrection proceeded he would have found, instead of the whole army, a few companies only faithful to him; the rest had Richelieu’s permission to give a simulated obedience: the Duke of Bouillon had already been arrested at the head of his troops, the King’s brother had made his peace by abject submission, and the intercepted treaty was in Richelieu’s hands, to be shown to the King, to extort from him the death of Cinq-Mars. An admirable scene follows. Louis holds out long. At length Richelieu leaves him, among masses of papers, and secretaries of state in attendance, to try his hand at governing. The first half hour’s difficulties throw the unfortunate monarch into despair. He recals the Cardinal, says to him “Reign,” and almost dead with suffering, signs the death-warrant of Cinq-Mars and De Thou. [Ibid., p. 206.]The friar Joseph visits them in their prison, the castle of Pierre-Encise near Lyons—offers them escape and to poison the Cardinal, if Cinq-Mars will promise him protection and promotion when restored to the King’s favour, the offer is heroically refused. They are tried in prison by Laubardemont, that the prophecy may be fulfilled, l’homme que tu as frappé te tuera. [See above, p. 477.] In fulfilment of Grandier’s dying curse, Laubardemont himself perishes the same day, being employed first to try his accomplices in that catastrophe, whose time like his own is now come, and immediately after precipitated along with them through a trap-door into the Saone. Cinq-Mars and De Thou are led out for execution. The conspirators from the camp at Perpignan, instead of making their escape, had come in disguise to Lyons, to rescue their two friends by a coup de main, all is arranged, they have contrived to inform the prisoners, near every soldier there is a conspirator prepared to cut him down at the expected signal, when Cinq-Mars, in passing to the scaffold, gives the sign by putting his hat on his head, he is to be free. But he no longer desires to live: he passes, flings his hat away from him, and his head falls.