De Mille en L'influence de puissants princes comme Jean de Gand ou Philippe le Hardi essaye de contrebalancer celle des rois, ce qui conduit les royaumes de France et d'Angleterre vers la guerre civile. Il fut, entre autres, titulaire d'un jaghir. Marco Sanudo ? Charles X et la famille royale fuient Paris. Pour J. L'ouverture se fait le 5 mai Lire la suite de l'article Devenu empereur, il passe une enfance et une adolescence tristes et solitaires.
En , ils partent ensemble pour un long voyage en Asie. Odeurs, senteurs et parfum Fantasy et fantastique Baroque Horreur. One of the car- dinal deficiencies of our life and literature, as contrasted with French, is a certain lack of grace and gaiety. John- son's Rasselas is a fine thing; but the world has always preferred its typically French counterpart, which a curious coincidence brought to birth in the same year, — Voltaire's Candide. The English Heraclitus and the French Democritus agree in essentials; but men turn to the laughing philosopher. The other age-old charge against us is that of hypoc- risy.
This, too, is exaggerated; but it has only too good foundation. The truth is not so much that we are inno- cent, as that the charge is wrongly worded. We are not hypocrites in the strict sense — Tartuffes deliberately and consciously counterfeiting virtues that we know we do not possess or want to possess. The English are merely intellectually dishonest, and highly skilled at deceiving themselves; it is one more example of their instinctive practicality; it enables them to behave as ill as their interests require, without even being demoralised by pangs of conscience.
Conscious charlatanism would have disguised itself more cunningly; this is the nakedness of innocence. This is, no doubt, intellectually more contemptible than cool fraud; but it is less likely to lead to an unamiable cynicism except, indeed, in its victims. So today our laws about divorce and public morality are framed and administered in a way that might shake the sides of an intelligent Polynesian. Yet they survive all the industry of reformers, not so much because the English are, or wish to seem, more virtuous than the French as, I believe, because the English mind in its blind, intuitive way feels that love affairs interfere terribly with business.
It is better to play golf. Long ago, Montesquieu noted that the English preferred, rather than galanterie, 'une debauche qui leur laisserait toute leur liberte et leur loisir'. So Cato praised the young Roman he met emerging from a house of ill-fame characteristic English circumlocu- tion ; in England, even in the eighteenth century, the young man would have been more careful not to be seen, and Cato, unconsciously, more careful not to see him; but the principle was the same.
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Hence that perpetual source of rage to the English intelligentsia, who have to live as foreigners and exiles in their own country — our official tolerance of any amount of frivolous indecency in a musical comedy, while any serious dramatic treat- ment of a subject like incest is relentlessly banned. Yet there is, again, a certain method even in this madness: it is not conventional joking, but unconventional thinking, that endangers conventional morality. Tennyson and Browning both liked smoking-room stories; there exist 1 Sweet Enemy' 9 letters from Browning to Miss Isa Blagden filled with a sort of preparatory-school impropriety that, coming from him, takes the breath away; but Tennyson was instant to denounce 'poisonous honey brought from France', Browning deeply perturbed at his wife's meeting a person with a past like George Sand's.
Even a supposedly ad- vanced thinker like Samuel Butler becomes so appalled at the obvious situation behind Shakespeare's Sonnets as to pervert dates and facts.
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Fortune was indeed witty the day she made three ostrich-feathers the crest of our heir- apparent; for it is certainly an emblem more appropriate to England than to the blindest king of Bohemia. The strength of the English instinct to rely on instinct and distrust intelligence comes out nowhere more clearly than in our methods of training and education.
We still value for the flower of our youth the playing-fields above the laboratories of Eton; for the flower of our army, Chelsea barrack-square above aeroplane and tank. In the War it was an article of faith in my regiment that our first battalion was invincible in action because, on the march, whatever the heat, the men were never allowed to undo their collars or wear their caps on the back of their heads; even in the first-line trenches, where shaving was agony, we acted on the principle that if our sentries were allowed to remain unbarbered one day, they would run like rabbits the next; and when we came out, we were kept 'sloping arms' and 'presenting arms', as if we were the following week to mount guard at Potsdam.
The French might grow shaggy beards, march out of step, and otherwise excite our military contempt, without fighting a whit the worse for it; but with English soldiers, so the theory went, the battle might be lost for an undone button. It was stupid; it was lazy — it became so easy to give the order, 'Handling arms this morning'; and yet, io Studies French and English for English troops, this homemade psychology, though inadequate, remained not altogether false.
And yet this frowning fastness has long proved itself a tower of strength — though men are beginning to ask uneasily whether so much instinct is not growing a little out of date before the march of modern science. The English regard the intellectual muddle they live in as a sort of Twilight of the Gods.
If they are not careful, it may prove so. But turn to a typical French book — the atmosphere changes at once to that of an intelligent salon. There is a new world, the home not of earnest and lonely individuals, but of a society where thoughts and tongues run freely.
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Here are characters self-conscious in a different sense — not with a red embarrassment, or a solemn egotism, but with an amused and unashamed awareness of themselves; with an awareness, also, of others, of the importance of being clear and simple, not a pedant or a bore. For this society 1 Similarly when, after the War, the English railways were re- organised: a trifling case, yet typical.
There was no point in calling one 'Great', when it was not even the greatest; in naming 'London' in the titles of two lines when all four served the capital alike; or in calling one railway exclusively 'Scottish' when Scotland is served equally by another.
But the English mind is not tidy and remains unworried by such anomalies; sentiment and conservatism were stronger. When, however, it comes to material things like railway engines, it is the English ones, unlike the French, that are groomed and neat in their exterior as racehorses. The answer to that demand is the most characteristic prose of France. Behind the salon lies the boudoir; and women — women like the Marquise de Ram- bouillet, women like Ninon de l'Enclos — have moulded more than any other the civilisation of this country whose emblematic figure in its Art and on its coinage is always so proudly feminine.
Only French prose, indeed, could adequately express that peculiar charm, which makes other races seem thick- ankled in comparison. Forgotten here is the ponderous seriousness of the Saxon, with the world on his shoulders and his head in the clouds. Again, 'to take French leave' is applied by us to a moral lapse, like stealing a holiday; Yen aller a l'anglaise' is a lapse of manners, to vanish from a party without taking leave.
Life is in France more an Art; and less a Mission. And Art in its turn is only a part, though an essential part, of life; not a rather tearful sort of religion.
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C'est peu d'etre agreable er charmant dans un livre, 11 faut savoir encore et converser et vivre. Byron's impatience with 'an author that's all author', with 'these home-keeping min- strels', his contemporaries, would only have deepened, if he had lived longer in nineteenth-century England. But though letters have always remained, to the typical French intelligence, only a part of life, they have played 12 Studies French and English a very essential part.
If the English traveller ever blushed, he would do so every time he looked at a French railway bookstall or a French provincial bookshop; not because of the audacity of some of the works displayed there, but because of their intellectual level as a whole. It is vain to try to discount their obvious and crushing superiority by the plea that we have more circulating libraries.
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Where we do excel is in our daily and weekly papers; but whether this is a ground for unmixed triumph is another matter, when one thinks of the amount of time and thought we daily squander in producing and reading what will be out of date tomorrow. But as a charming instance of the general appreciation of serious literature in France, I have always remembered the case of one Laurent, 'dit Coco', accused of burglary in April , who proved an alibi because 'Juste a cette heure-la je me trouvais chez un marchand de vin de la rue de Tracy et je discutais avec un camarade au sujet de la mere de Britannicus dans la tragedie de Racine'.
This discussion was proved to have lasted three-quarters of an hour. No doubt, burglars in England might discuss the character of Hamlet in a public- house; but no magistrate would believe it. When our lower classes pursue culture, there tends to be about it all a conscientious taint of the philanthropy of the Sunday School.
It is, no doubt, difficult to generalise; but I have never forgotten being shown round Carcassonne by the custodian, an ex-soldier of the war. A rather peevish French youth in the party, perhaps taking me for an American, threw out as we went along some casual suggestion that all Americans ought to be charged double; and was instantaneously trodden underfoot by our guide with the cold and curt half-dozen words: 'Ce n'est pas tres intelligent. For this electric energy of the brain, which the English- man tends to regard as a useful but dangerous means of getting work done, to the French mind seems rather a delightful source of illumination in which also to enjoy himself.
He is not afraid of what it may reveal in corners and cupboards. The writers of a race are its children, and so share its qualities; but they may also, as exceptional children, be rebels, and in violent reaction against those qualities.
This is particularly true of England; both because we are commonly individualists, and because the English artist has so often to fight with both Puritan and Philistine. Often, indeed, the Puritan and the Philistine are inside himself. That is partly why the English have excelled in literature rather than other arts; for literature is closest to the activities of every day, and is also best able to influence these daily activities, by imparting useful knowledge or preaching useful ser- mons.
Literature, in a word, is the least pure of the Fine Arts; and therefore, to the Puritan, the least impure. But if our passion for the useful and the moral has served 2 Anglais, Frangais, Espagnols, a brilliant book in which I have found much to agree with, much to learn. The English novelists, above all, would have produced much more vital offspring had their conceptions been less immaculate. Malory already flounders in an unhappy muddle between ethical disapproval and aesthetic admira- tion for a love like Guinevere's. With Defoe the thin veil of edification, however violently brandished about, is too transparent to obscure his vigorous outlines; but, by the time it has fallen on Richardson, this mantle has become that stuffy woollen blanket whose folds the eighteenth- century good sense of Fielding indignantly set out to tear aside; as for the English novel of the nineteenth century, who shall number the thickness of petticoats under which a few of its strongest specimens have contrived somehow or other to live and move, even down to our own day?
But at what a cost! To pass from Dickens to Balzac, from Thackeray to Flaubert, from Meredith to Stendhal, is like leaving school and schoolmasters for the company of intelligent and untrammelled adults. And I own I find it very hard to go back again.
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These robust moralists whose stifled emotions burst out, instead, into grotesque extrava- gances of humour or sentiment, seem so provincial and parochial: caricaturists, not painters, of life. The difference between them and the French is the difference between the Bible narrative of Judah and Israel, interested not in under- standing the true character of their Kings, but only in whether they did good or evil in the sight of the Lord, and the passionate dispassionateness of a Thucydides.
The first may contain great imagination at moments, and flashes of great poetry; but it is singularly inadequate as a presentation of life.
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