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to express ourselves, we should say Madame de Genlis has a very large portion of a very small mind, and that portion is particularly active. Her intellectual arsenal is boundlessly stored with sparrow-shot.
With such endowments Madame de Genlis is fully adequate to write what she has published; there is nothing in the very best of her novels which demands greater powers than these. That, when she criticises works, which, like her own, are the offspring of petty faculties, she may find them commensurate to her ideas of excellence, is therefore natural; and we were not surprized at the praises bestowed by her in this piece of auto-biography upon the most insipid of the dead, Madame Deshoulières, and
upon the most narrow-minded and prejudiced of the living, Monsieur de Bopald. For the same reasons we were not astonished when we read her remarks upon authors of different dimensions from these, and found her utterly incapable of appreciating such minds as Byron and Scott; or their Gallic imitator Lamartine; or deciding, in direct opposition to the received opinion, upon the merits of Gibbon as an historian. Her favourite M. de Bonald is the author of several works, principally political, the most remarkable of which is that entitled Législation Primitive.' Another is · Théorie du Pouvoir Politique et Religieux;' and his last, a pamphlet, just published, on the liberty of the press. M. de Bonald is the champion and the hero of that party in France which would put a stop to the progress of mankind, and bring back the world to the very spot on which it stood half a century ago. We certainly are not partisans of the means which his countrymen have devised for the improvement of the species, and the promotion of freedom; and we differ from them entirely in their estimation of good and bad, political as well as moral. But we cannot go quite so far as this author does, and indiscriminately wish undone every thing that has been done, even in the period of their most violent confusion. M. de Bonald has some power of language, and can turn a few periods with plausibility. But better were it to have no discourse of reason, than to think as he does think:-We quote a single phrase from his last pamphlet.
Je cherche de très bonne foi les avantages de la liberté de la presse, et je ne les apperçois pas.'
With regard to M. Lamartine, we are far from saying that, even to minds accustomed to the boldest strains of English poetry, his productions can appear devoid of faults. Still more must his innovations in thought and language make him appear extravagant, nd even barbarous, to the French, who measure poetry by the rule and compass, and give laws to inspiration.
Yet the mind of this author is cast in a larger poetical mould than ever before was used by nature to create a Frenchman. Madame de Genlis asserts that he is not of a good school. He is not indeed of her school, nor of any school which assumes pettiness as its principle. He has emancipated himself from the trammels which bound up all his predecessors. Should the poetry, which the French affect to stiginatize under the epithet of romantic, ever get footing among them, M. de Lamartine will be remembered as the founder of a school which shall supersede the classical mythological coldness and uniformity that prevail in all that has yet appeared in this department of French literature. But the person against whom Madame de Genlis seems to be the most envenomed is precisely that towards whom good taste, and self-respect would have made her the most tolerant, Madame de Staël. Of this lady she says, on her first acquaintance, Madame de Staël being then but sixteen and unmarried « Elle m'étonna sans
me plaire..... Madame Necker l'avoit fort mal élevée en lui laissant passer dans son salon les trois quarts de ses journées avec la foule des beaux esprits de ce tems qui tous entouroient Mademoiselle Necker ; et tandis que sa mère s'occupoit des autres personnes, les beaux esprits dissertoient avec Mademoiselle Necker sur les passions et sur l'amour.'.... Elle apprit à parler vîte et beaucoup sans réfléchir ; et c'est ainsi qu'elle a écrit. Elle eut fort peu d'instruction, n'approfondit rien ; elle a mis dans ses ouvrages, pon le résultat de souvenirs de bonnes lectures, mais un nombre infini de reminiscences de conversations incohérentes.'
She is still more abusive in another place, when she accuses Mad. de Staël of not knowing her own language, and
that she (Mad. de Genlis) was of use to her in correcting her style and reforming her affectation. She attributes much of the success of her rival in her last years to a large fortune and an excellent house; and concludes her invidious criticism thus :
· Elle m'a inspiré mille fois une idée et un sentiment qu'elle n'a jamais soupçonné; souvent, en pensant à elle, j'ai regretté qu'elle n'eût pas été ma fille, ou mon élève ; Je lui aurois donné de bons principes littéraires
, des idées justes et du naturel ; et avec une telle éducation, l'esprit qu'elle avoit et une ame généreuse, elle eût été une personne accomplie, et la femme auteur la plus justement célèbre de notre tems.'
But she pronounces the opinion of her own superiority in more decided terms. A journalist, drawing a comparison between the two rival authoresses, parodies a well known line of poetry"Je ne décide point entre Genève et Rome'— and says
- Je ne décide point entre Genève et Paris.' The Parisian rival unhesis tatingly exclaims:
Une femme, et un auteur, ne pouvoit manquer de saisir tout ce que ce -trait a de fin et d'obligeant ; il faut convenir qu'en littérature Française
lorsque les deux villes se trouveront en rivalité, Paris vaudra toujours mieux que Genève.'
To the narrowed dimensions of mind which prevent Mad. de Genlis from measuring the great authors previously mentioned, she adds, in the present instance, the still narrower feeling of envy. We certainly are not partisans of Mad. de Staël. We coincide in very few of ber opinions, political or inoral; neither do we admit her philosophical reasonings to be just. But we cannot help admiring the large and powerful spirit which impelled her, even where we think her in the wrong. Every thought, every feeling of hers, even her errors, belong to a great intellect; and the most presumptuous thing we ever heard of was that such a pigmy, comparatively, as Mad. de Genlis, could imagine that the author of Corinne would not have been the worse for her tuition ! We can hardly conceive two minds, both prolific in the same walk of literature, more different than these two. Of one of them we have already spoken. Of the other we need but say that what was deficient in the former was, in this, filled up even to exaggeration. No faculty was wanting to the Genevese rival, whose defects arose from the too great activity of one or two of them, which overthrew the equilibrium of the aggregate. Her judgment, in itself strong and powerful, when not counteracted by some vehement feeling, never would have wandered into the impracticable paths of republicanism, had she not been led astray by the conviction of an ideal perfection in mankind, of which society, hitherto at least, has given no large example. She never would have called suicide a sublime act—as she certainly did-bad she not been dazzled by the grandeur of the moral sentiments which sometimes have accompanied or seemed to accompany it. From such faults Madame de Genlis is indeed exempt, but she is also exempt from corresponding beauties.
As a compensation for the perpetual depreciation of a person so much her superior in intellect, our authoress lavishes her encomiuins
upon another lady, but one of a very different cast either from Mad. de Staël or de Genlis, namely, the Comtesse de Choiseul-Gouffier, née Princesse de Beauftremont.' Every thing which this lady does is exquisite. A bronze writing-stand presented by her to Madame de Genlis, and on which was engraved
Cuvres de Genlis,’ is ' le présent le plus ingénieux et le plus charmant que j'ai reçu de ma vie.' A little screen also, on which were writtey some verses of Madame de Genlis's, in the midst of a guirlande d'immortelles et de feuilles de chêne, portant des noir de galle dont on fait l'encre,' appears to have been very ravishing,
But to proceed to greater matters-for our plan, if we can fulfil it, is to go on crescendo--the malignity of this accomplished
instructress of youth is even greater towards her own aunt, Madame de Montesson, than towards her literary competitor: and indeed this feeling is, next to mere vanity, the predominant inspiration of the work before us. From what this animosity arose she does not entirely state, neither shall we inquire. We shall not presume to probe any deeper than our original, but that is enough.-One of the tirst charges brought against this lady by her niece is
Qu'elle jouoit fort mal la comédie, parcequ'en cela, comme en toute chose, elle manquoit de naturel. Mais elle avoit beaucoup d'habitude, et l'espèce de talent d'une comédienne de province, parvenue par son âge aux premiers emplois.'
But, in the sequel, it appears that Madame de Montesson was sufficiently skilled in this art. After the marriage of Madame de Genlis, her aunt gave her many proofs of affection, and among
elle m'avoit confié que M. le Duc d'Orléans étoit amoureux d'elle, et qu'il étoit jaloux du Comte de Guignes.'
The aunt confessed that she too was attached to the latter for life, but altogether platonically. However, as the Comte de Guignes was very attentive to the Countess Amélie de Boufflers, Madame de Montesson was platonically jealous. At the same time she avowed a tendre amitié for the royal duke, which she used all her efforts to subdue. She contrived to engage many persons of her society in her interest, and persuaded them to praise her constantly in his presence. All the ladies readily entered into this plan; because, as the duke was at that time living with a courtesan, they could not decently appear in his house; whereas, whether Madame de Montesson became his mistress or his wife, they might again figure in his circle. Madame de Montesson spread all her snares to entrap him, and among them was the following: she extracted a comedy from one of Marivaux's novels, read it in secret to the duke, who found it charmante:
"Eh bien,' said she, je vous la donne. Je jouirai mieux de votre succès
du mien ; d'ailleurs je ne veux pas que l'on sache que je suis auteur.'
A day was fixed for reading the play before the best judges whom his society offered, Madame de Genlis being one of these :
* Le succès fut complet; jamais lecture de Molière n'en eut un pareil ; on étoit en extase.'— On ne distinguoit que ces mots, ravissant, sublime, parfait.'
The duke, overcome with rapture, could no longer contain his emotion, but bursting into tears, proclaimed the real author, who, of course, fainted with modesty. She was, however, restored to life, amidst many invidious grimaces. The applauses, which could not now be retracted, confirmed the Duke of Orleans in his belief that the talents of Madame de Montesson were boundless. Some time after this, during a visit to the Prince de Conti, at L'Ile-Adam, the Count de Guignes showed the most marked attention to Madame de Boufflers, at which Madame de Montesson sickened, and was seized, every evening, regularly, with pains which we cannot name, though our authoress does. In this situ. ation she always withdrew to her own apartment, whither she was followed by M. de Guignes, the Duke of Orleans, and a chosen few, males and females, who were employed in applying warm napkins to the part affected. There she confessed to the duke that platonic jealousy was the cause of her sufferings; and he so far sympathized with her, as to be almost unable to retain his indignation against the faithless lover, although his rival. The confidant of Madame de Montesson, during this coniedy, which lasted some months, was her own niece, Madame de Genlis.
About this time, Monsieur de Montesson, who was fifty-nine years older than his wife, very conveniently departed this life, leaving the field open to the ambitious platonism of his widow, who, according to all appearances, had long since formed her plan of marrying the Duke of Orleans, as soon as she should become what the ladies of that day, and of this too, compare to being maréchal de France-i. e. a young widow. Numerous and petty were the artifices to which, as related by her niece and confidant, she had recourse; but we can recount only one.
She had persuaded the duke that, victim as she was to her sentiment, she could neither eat, drink, nor sleep. One day, however, when she was most healthfully acquitting herself with a wine posset, he suddenly paid her a visit. The potation was thrust under the bed, but its invisible spirit,' rising to the royal nose, betrayed the secret.
She reluctantly confessed that her reason told her to take some nourishment; and her confidant adds, that reason prevailed five times every day.
The duke was not yet entirely caught in her snares, but the following incident, certainly as extraordinary as any that ever blew a nascent spark into a fame, threw his royal heart into a state of amorous carditis.
Speluncam Dido, dux et Trojanus eandem, &c.' The duke was occupied by another woman, when, being at a stag hunt with her and Madame de Montesson, he was accidentally separated from the rest of the hunters in a distant alley, having no companion near at the moment but Madame de Montesson. His highness was corpulent; the weather warm, the scenery romantic; what think you happened in this situation? We transcribe the words of our authoress, who had the tale from the duke himself. VOL. XXXIV. NO. LXVIII.