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No. CCCCXCIX. • New SERIES, JULY 1, 1908.
THE INFLUENCE OF ENGLISH THOUGHT ON THE
A RESULT OF THE REVOCATION OF THE EDICT OF NANTES.
CHARLES VIII.'s wars in Italy had brought to France the Renaissance, which, from the end of the fifteenth century to the middle of the seventeenth, governed the French intellect. The French theatres were influenced by Spanish dramatic art.
However paradoxical may appear the following assertion : The intellectual dealings between France and England were developed at the end of the seventeenth century and up till 1815, during periods of war,-it is nevertheless an expression of facts easy to verify.
From the Hundred Years' War, ended in 1453, up to the War of the League of Augsburg, in 1688, France and England had maintained pacific relations, even going so far, from time to time, as to make alliances. And yet, during those two hundred and thirtyfive years, the intellectual intercourse between France and England was practically nil. We know, thanks to letters written in French, such as Bacon's letters to the Marquis of Effiat, Hobbes' to Gassendi, that Englishmen of distinction knew French ; but Frenchmen, with the exception of a few merchants, for whose benefit a few grammars were brought out in the seventeenth century, were ignorant of English. In 1665, the Journal des Savants could not give an account of the proceedings of the Royal Society of London, through lack of a contributor knowing
(1) The Alliance Franco-Britannique asked me to deliver a lecture. I chose for subject : Intellectual Intercourse between France and England. This article is not a reproduction of the lecture, which I delivered viva voce and did not write. I have added a certain number of facts, and have modified certain parts. On June 20th, Mr. Churton Collins, professor in the University of Birmingham, delivered at London the counterpart of my lecture; he spoke on "The Influence of French Thought on the English Mind.” VOL. LXXXIV. N.S.
English ; and Le Clerc wrote : “ The English have many good works, it is a pity that the authors of that country should only write in their own tongue.'
Nevertheless, Bacon's Essays had been translated as early as 1611, as also Hobbes' works, a few fictional works, Godwin's Man in the Moon, John Wilkins' Discourse on a New World, Sydney's Arcadia. But with the exception of La Fontaine, no writer appeared to pay any attention to these translations.
Saint Evremond, who took shelter in London, in 1661, after his sarcastic letter to Crequy concerning the Peace of the Pyrenees, informed the French of the existence of an English theatre and an English literature, but that was all.
The intellectual intercourse between France and England increased at the very time when the two countries were separated by political dissension, and indeed such political dissension has some part in bringing about closer intellectual intercourse. In 1685 Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, forbidding the Protestants to leave a kingdom in which they were no longer allowed to live. The result was the exodus of a crowd of persons of energetic character and strong convictions. The number of those who took refuge in England is estimated at between seventy and eighty thousand. They were well received there, some found official situations, as, for instance, Justel, who became librarian to the King. In 1709 Parliament granted them, as a body, the naturalisation which they had already acquired so far as moral and intellectual standing were concerned.
Those refugees were anxious to win their native land to the ideas which they had found in the land of exile. It was their revenge. Either directly or through Holland they published French translations of the works of Locke, Addison, of Pope's poems, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Steele's writings (1711-1714). Armand de la Chapelle managed the “ Bibliothèque Anglaise” during ten years, and therein he published extracts and summaries of English productions; he contributed during twenty-five years to the Bibliothèque raisonnée des Savants de l'Europe also. Le Clerc disdained literature, but in the Bibliothèque Universelle he gave extracts and résumés of scientific, political, theological, and historical works, Basnage de Beauval carried on until 1718 the “Nouvelles de la République des Lettres" founded by Bayle at Amsterdam in 1684. De la Roche published “Les mémoires littéraires de la Grande Bretagne from 1720 to 1724.
(1) Weiss : Histoire des Réfugiés protestants de France. Rathery : Des relations sociales et intellectuelles entre la France et l'Angleterre. Joseph Texte : J. J. Rousseau et le cosmopolitisme littéraire.
The Abbé Prévost, author of the celebrated novel Manon Lescaut, was a polygraphist who, after various adventures, settled in 1728 in London, where he remained several years, and he multiplied translations from English into French; in his Mémoires d'un Homme de qualité "he strove to make known a country which is not as much appreciated as it should be by the other European nations, because it is not sufficiently known to them. ... There is no country where one finds so much straightforwardness, so much humane feeling, such just standards of honour, wisdom, and happiness as among the English.” He praises the political virtue of the English, "who have known how to preserve their freedom against all attempts at tyranny."
From 1733 to 1740 Prévost published a paper, Le Pour et le Contre, in which he tried, not to make an apology of the English nation, but “ to make known, as historian, all interesting peculiarities concerning their genius, the curiosities of London, and the special features of their island, the daily progress they make in sciences and art." Desmaizeaux made known in England Bayle, Boileau, Saint Evremond; he used to translate from English to French, and he also wrote in English. He brought out the unpublished works of Clarke, Newton, and Collins, and acted as intermediary between all the illustrious men of England and of the Continent.
Rapin de Thoyras, who followed the Prince of Orange from Holland to England, and who afterwards became tutor to Lord Portland's sons, published a History of England in eight volumes. It showed the other nations in what manner the English had acquired those institutions which ensured their freedom and strength.
The Bernese, Béat de Muralt, published in 1725 Les Lettres sur les Français et les Anglais, which had been written in 1694 and 1695 and were already in circulation. He praised the English, saying : “ Among the English there are persons who think more strongly and who have those strong thoughts in greater number than intellectual men of other nations."
VOLTAIRE AND THE PHILOSOPHICAL LETTERS.
Professor J. Churton Collins' has indicated May 30th, 1786, for one of the most important events of the intellectual history of the eighteenth century, the landing of Voltaire at Greenwich. He was then aged thirty-two, and had already brought out Edipe and some other tragedies, had published his epic poem La
(1) Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau in England.
Henriade, had composed numerous light poems greatly admired in drawing-rooms. He had been expelled from France because, having been insulted by a certain Chevalier de Rohan-Chabot, and having claimed reparation, his insulter had obtained his imprisonment at the Bastille -a sentence which, owing to favour, was changed to one of exile. His stay in England lasted two years and eight months. With his great activity and keen intellectual curiosity, thanks to Lord Bolingbroke, whom he had known in France, and to the merchant Falkener, he initiated himself into the science, literature, and institutions of England, and he summarised his impressions in twenty-four letters, entitled Philosophical Letters. Thus, not only was French literature enriched by a true masterpiece of composition, but Frenchmen were shown, in a summary of two hundred pages, the works of Bacon, Locke, Newton, Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope. In his essay on epic poems, first printed in English, he calls The Paradise Lost the noblest work ever attempted by human imagination.
It is often said that Voltaire somewhere called Shakespeare "a drunken Barbarian,” but it is too often forgotten that Voltaire revealed Shakespeare to France and to Europe. This is how he expresses his first impression :
'I saw Shakespeare's Cæsar acted, and from the first scene, when I heard the tribune reproach the people of Rome for their ingratitude towards Pompey and their attachment to Cæsar, Pompey's conqueror, I began to feel interested, and to be touched, and I felt that the play was taking a hold on me. There is much that is natural; the ridiculous note is exaggerated, but not tedious. Some sublime features shine forth from time to time.'
He presented Shakespeare as “a genius full of strength and fecundity.” When he recognises that he owes to Shakespeare : Brutus, taken from the Death of Cæsar; Zaire, from Othello ; two scenes of Mahomet from Macbeth ; the spectres of Eliphile and of Semiramis from Hamlet, he is rendering an unquestioned homage to Shakespeare, for he seeks inspiration from him.
In a letter to Helvetius, written long after his stay in England, Voltaire said : “We have gained from the English their sinking-funds, the building and working of vessels, power of attraction, differential-calculus, the seven primary colours, inoculation, we shall insensibly take their noble freedom of thought and their profound disdain for all scholastic twaddle."
Lord Byron was not exaggerating when he said : " There is not another writer to whom the authors of England owe so