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Ch. 1: The Subject Defined

To attempt at the outset a rigid definition of the word romanticism would be to anticipate the substance of this volume. To furnish an answer to the question—What is, or was, romanticism? or, at least, What is, or was English romanticism?—is one of my main purposes herein, and the reader will be invited to examine a good many literary documents, and to do a certain amount of thinking, before he can form for himself any full and clear notion of the thing. Even then he will hardly find himself prepared to give a dictionary definition or romanticism. There are words which connote so much, which take up into themselves so much of the history of the human mind, that any compendious explanation of their meaning—any definition which is not, at the same time, a rather extended description—must serve little other end than to supply a convenient mark of identification. How can we define in a sentence words like renaissance, philistine, sentimentalism, transcendental, Bohemia, pre-Raphaelite, impressionist, realistic? Definitio est negatio. It may be possible to hit upon a form of words which will mark romanticism off from everything else—tell in a clause what it is not; but to add a positive content to the definition—to tell what romanticism is, will require a very different and more gradual process.[1]

Nevertheless a rough, working definition may be useful to start with. Romanticism, then, in the sense in which I shall commonly employ the word, means the reproduction in modern art or literature of the life and thought of the Middle Ages. Some other elements will have to be added to this definition, and some modifications of it will suggest themselves from time to time. It is provisional, tentative, classic, but will serve our turn till we are ready to substitute a better. It is the definition which Heine gives in his brilliant little book on the Romantic School in Germany.[2] "All the poetry of the Middle Ages," he adds, "has a certain definite character, through which it differs from the poetry of the Greeks and Romans. In reference to this difference, the former is called Romantic, the latter Classic. These names, however, are misleading, and have hitherto caused the most vexatious confusion."[3]

Some of the sources of this confusion will be considered presently. Meanwhile the passage recalls the fact that romantic, when used as a term in literary nomenclature, is not an independent, but a referential word. It implies its opposite, the classic; and the ingenuity of critics has been taxed to its uttermost to explain and develop the numerous points of contrast. To form a thorough conception of the romantic, therefore, we must also form some conception of the classic. Now there is an obvious unlikeness between the thought and art of the nations of pagan antiquity and the thought and art of the peoples of Christian, feudal Europe. Everyone will agree to call the Parthenon, the "Diana" of the Louvre, the "Oedipus" of Sophocles, the orations of Demosthenes classical; and to call the cathedral of Chartres, the walls of Nuremberg—die Perle des Mittelalters—the "Legenda Aurea" of Jacobus de Voragine, the "Tristan und Isolde" of Gottfried of Strasburg, and the illuminations in a Catholic missal of the thirteenth century romantic.

The same unlikeness is found between modern works conceived in the spirit, or executed in direct imitation, of ancient and medieval art respectively. It is easy to decide that Flaxman's outline drawings in illustration of Homer are classic; that Alfieri's tragedies, Goethe's "Iphigenie auf Tauris" Landor's "Hellenics," Gibson's statues, David's paintings, and the church of the Madeleine in Paris are classical, at least in intentions and in the models which they follow; while Victor Hugo's "Notre Dame de Paris," Scott's "Ivanhoe," Fouqué's "Der Zauberring," and Rossetti's painting, "The Girlhood of Mary," are no less certainly romantic in their inspiration.

But critics have given a wider extension than this to the terms classic and romantic. They have discerned, or imagined, certain qualities, attitudes of mind, ways of thinking and feeling, traits of style which distinguish classic from romantic art; and they have applied the words accordingly to work which is not necessarily either antique or medieval in subject. Thus it is assumed, for example, that the productions of Greek and Roman genius were characterized by clearness, simplicity, restraint, unity of design, subordination of the part to the whole; and therefore modern works which make this impression of noble plainness and severity, of harmony in construction, economy of means and clear, definite outline, are often spoken of as classical, quite irrespective of the historical period which they have to do with. In this sense, it is usual to say that Wordsworth's "Michael" is classical, or that Goethe's "Hermann and Dorothea" is classical; though Wordsworth may be celebrating the virtues of a Westmoreland shepherd, and Goethe telling the story of two rustic lovers on the German border at the time of the Napoleonic wars.

On the other hand, it is asserted that the work of mediaeval poets and artists is marked by an excess of sentiment, by over-lavish decoration, a strong sense of color and a feeble sense of form, an attention to detail, at the cost of the main impression, and a consequent tendency to run into the exaggerated, the fantastic, and the grotesque. It is not uncommon, therefore, to find poets like Byron and Shelly classified as romanticists, by virtue of their possession of these, or similar, characteristics, although no one could be more remote from medieval habits of thought than the author of "Don Juan" or the author of "The Revolt of Islam."

But the extension of these opposing terms to the work of writers who have so little in common with either the antique or the medieval as Wordsworth, on the one hand, and Byron, on the other, does not stop here. It is one of the embarrassments of the literary historian that nearly every word which he uses has two meanings, a critical and a popular meaning. In common speech, classic has come to signify almost anything that is good. If we look in our dictionaries we find it defined somewhat in this way: "Conforming to the best authority in literature and art; pure; chaste; refined; originally and chiefly used of the best Greek and Roman writers, but also applied to the best modern authors, or their works." "Classic, n. A work of acknowledged excellence and authority." In this sense of the word, "Robinson Crusoe" is a classic; the "Pilgrim's Progress" is a classic; every piece of literature which is customarily recommended as a safe pattern for young writers to form their style upon is a classic.[4]

Contrariwise the word romantic, as popularly employed, expresses a shade of disapprobation. The dictionaries make it a synonym for sentimental, fanciful, wild, extravagant, chimerical, all evident derivatives from their more critical definition, "pertaining or appropriate to the style of the Christian and popular literature of the Middle Ages, as opposed to the classical antique." The etymology of romance is familiar. The various dialects which sprang from the corruption of the Latin were called by the common name of romans. The name was then applied to any piece of literature composed in this vernacular instead of in the ancient classical Latin. And as the favorite kind of writing in Provençal, Old French, and Spanish was the tale of chivalrous adventure that was called par excellence, a roman, romans, or_ romance_. The adjective romantic is much later, implying, as it does, a certain degree of critical attention to the species of fiction which it describes in order to a generalizing of its peculiarities. It first came into general use in the latter half of the seventeenth century and the early years of the eighteenth; and naturally, was marked from birth with that shade of disapproval which has been noticed in popular usage.

The feature that struck the critics most in the romances of the Middle Ages, and in that very different variety of romance which was cultivated during the seventeenth century—the prolix, sentimental fictions of La Calprenède, Scudéri, Gomberville, and D'Urfé—was the fantastic improbability of their adventures. Hence the common acceptation of the word romantic in such phrases as "a romantic notion," "a romantic elopement," "an act of romantic generosity." The application of the adjective to scenery was somewhat later,[5] and the abstract romanticism was, of course, very much later; as the literary movement, or the revolution in taste, which it entitles, was not enough developed to call for a name until the opening of the nineteenth century. Indeed, it was never so compact, conscious, and definite a movement in England as in Germany and France; and its baptism doubtless came from abroad, from the polemical literature which attended the career of the German _romanticismus _and the French romantisme.

While accepting provisionally Heine's definition, it will be useful to examine some of the wider meanings that have been attached to the words classic and romantic, and some of the analyses that have been attempted of the qualities that make one work of art classical and another romantic. Walter Pater took them to indicate opposite tendencies or elements which are present in varying proportions in all good art. It is the essential function of classical art and literature, he thought, to take care of the qualities of measure, purity, temperance. "What is classical comes to us out of the cool and quiet of other times, as a measure of what a long experience has shown us will, at least, never displease us. And in the classical literature of Greece and Rome, as in the classics of the last century, the essentially classical element is that quality of order in beauty which they possess, indeed, in a pre-eminent degree."[6] "The charm, then, of what is classical in art or literature is that of the well-known tale, to which we can nevertheless listen over and over again, because it is told so well. To the absolute beauty of its form is added the accidental, tranquil charm of familiarity."

On the other hand, he defines the romantic characteristics in art as consisting in "the addition of strangeness to beauty"—a definition which recalls Bacon's saying, "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." "The desire of beauty," continues Pater, "being a fixed element in every artistic organization, it is the addition of curiosity to this desire of beauty that constitutes the romantic temper." This critic, then, would not confine the terms classic and classicism to the literature of Greece and Rome and to modern works conceived in the same spirit, although he acknowledges that there are certain ages of the world in which the classical tradition predominates, i.e., in which the respect for authority, the love of order and decorum, the disposition to follow rules and models, the acceptance of academic and conventional standards overbalance the desire for strangeness and novelty. Such epochs are, e.g., the Augustan age of Rome, the Siècle de Louis XIV, in France, the times of Pope and Johnson in England—indeed, the whole of the eighteenth century in all parts of Europe.

Neither would he limit the word romantic to work conceived in the spirit of the Middle Ages. "The essential elements," he says, "of the romantic spirit are curiosity and the love of beauty; and it is as the accidental effect of these qualities only, that it seeks the Middle Ages; because in the overcharged atmosphere of the Middle Age there are unworked sources of romantic effect, of a strange beauty to be won by strong imagination out of things unlikely or remote." "The sense in which Scott is to be called a romantic writer is chiefly that, in opposition to the literary tradition of the last century, he loved strange adventure and sought it in the Middle Age."

Here again the essayist is careful to explain that there are certain epochs which are predominately romantic. "Outbreaks of this spirit come naturally with particular periods: times when . . . men come to art and poetry with a deep thirst for intellectual excitement, after a long ennui." He instances, as periods naturally romantic, the time of the early Provençal troubadour poetry: the years following the Bourbon Restoration in France (say, 1815-30); and "the later Middle Age; so that the medieval poetry, centering in Dante, is often opposed to Greek or Roman poetry, as romantic to classical poetry."

In Pater's use of the terms, then, classic and romantic do not describe particular literature, or particular periods in literary history, so much as certain counterbalancing qualities and tendencies which run through the literatures of all times and countries. There were romantic writings among the Greeks and Romans; there were classical writings in the Middle Ages; nay, there are classical and romantic traits in the same author. If there is any poet who may safely be described as a classic, it is Sophocles; and yet Pater declares that the "Philoctetes" of Sophocles, if issued to-day, would be called romantic. And he points out—what indeed has been often pointed out—that the "Odyssey"[7] is more romantic than the "Iliad:" is, in fact, rather a romance than a hero-epic. The adventures of the wandering Ulysses, the visit to the land of the lotus-eaters, the encounter with the Laestrygonians, the experiences in the cave of Polyphemus, if allowance be made for the difference in sentiments and manners, remind the reader constantly of the medieval romans d'aventure. Pater quotes De Stendhal's saying that all good art was romantic in its day. "Romanticism," says De Stendhal, "is the art of presenting to the nations the literary works which, in the actual state of their habits and beliefs, are capable of giving them the greatest possible pleasure: classicism, on the contrary, presents them with what gave the greatest possible pleasure to their great grand-fathers"—a definition which is epigrammatic, if not convincing.[8] De Stendhal (Henri Beyle) was a pioneer and a special pleader in the cause of French romanticism, and, in his use of the terms, romanticism stands for progress, liberty, originality, and the spirit of the future; classicism, for conservatism, authority, imitation, the spirit of the past. According to him, every good piece of romantic art is a classic in the making. Decried by the classicists of to-day, for its failure to observe traditions, it will be used by the classicists of the future as a pattern to which new artists must conform.

It may be worth while to round out the conception of the term by considering a few other definitions of romantic which have been proposed. Dr. F. H. Hedge, in an article in the Atlantic Monthly[9] for March, 1886, inquired, "What do we mean by romantic?" Goethe, he says, characterized the difference between classic and romantic "as equivalent to [that between] healthy and morbid. Schiller proposed 'naïve and sentimental.'[10] The greater part [of the German critics] regarded it as identical with the difference between ancient and modern, which was partly true, but explained nothing. None of the definitions given could be accepted as quite satisfactory."[11]

Dr. Hedge himself finds the origin of romantic feeling in wonder and the sense of mystery. "The essence of romance," he writes, "is mystery"; and he enforces the point by noting the application of the word to scenery. "The woody dell, the leafy glen, the forest path which leads, one knows not whither, are romantic: the public highway is not." "The winding secret brook . . . is romantic, as compared with the broad river." "Moonlight is romantic, as contrasted with daylight." Dr. Hedge attributes this fondness for the mysterious to "the influence of the Christian religion, which deepened immensely the mystery of life, suggesting something beyond and behind the world of sense."

This charm of wonder or mystery is perhaps only another name for that "strangeness added to beauty" which Pater takes to be the distinguishing feature of romantic art. Later in the same article, Dr. Hedge asserts that "the essence of romanticism is aspiration." Much might be said in defense of this position. It has often been pointed out, e.g., that a Gothic cathedral expresses aspiration, and a Greek temple satisfied completeness. Indeed if we agree that, in a general way, the classic is equivalent to the antique, and the romantic to the medieval, it will be strange if we do not discover many differences between the two that can hardly be covered by any single phrase. Dr. Hedge himself enumerates several qualities of romantic art which it would be difficult to bring under his essential and defining category of wonder or aspiration. Thus he announces that "the peculiarity of the classic style is reserve, self-suppression of the writer"; while "the romantic is self-reflecting." "Clear, unimpassioned, impartial presentation of the subject . . . is the prominent feature of the classic style. The modern writer gives you not so much the things themselves as his impression of them." Here then is the familiar critical distinction between the objective and subjective methods—Schiller's naiv and sentimentalisch—applied as a criterion of classic and romantic style. This contrast the essayist develops at some length, dwelling upon "the cold reserve and colorless simplicity of the classic style, where the medium is lost in the object"; and "on the other hand, the inwardness, the sentimental intensity, the subjective coloring of the romantic style."

A further distinguishing mark of the romantic spirit, mentioned by Dr. Hedge in common with many other critics, is the indefiniteness or incompleteness of its creations. This is a consequence, of course, of its sense of mystery and aspiration. Schopenbauer said that music was the characteristic modern art, because of its subjective, indefinite character. Pursuing this line of thought, Dr. Hedge affirms that "romantic relates to classic somewhat as music relates to plastic art. . . It [music] presents no finished ideal, but suggests ideals beyond the capacity of canvas or stone. Plastic art acts on the intellect, music on the feelings; the one affects us by what it presents, the other by what it suggests. This, it seems to me, is essentially the difference between classic and romantic poetry"; and he names Homer and Milton as examples of the former, and Scott and Shelley of the latter school.

Here then we have a third criterion proposed for determining the essential differentia of romantic art. First it was mystery, then aspiration; now it is the appeal to the emotions by the method of suggestion. And yet there is, perhaps, no inconsistency on the critic's part in this continual shifting of his ground. He is apparently presenting different facets of the same truth; he means one thing by this mystery, aspiration, indefiniteness, incompleteness, emotion suggestiveness: that quality or effect which we all feel to be present in romantic and absent from classic work, but which we find it hard to describe by any single term. It is open to any analyst of our critical vocabulary to draw out the fullest meanings that he can, from such pairs of related words as classic and romantic, fancy and imagination, wit and humor, reason and understanding, passion and sentiment. Let us, for instance, develop briefly this proposition that the ideal of classic art is completeness[12] and the ideal of romantic art indefiniteness, or suggestiveness.

A.W. Schlegel[13] had already made use of two of the arts of design, to illustrate the distinction between classic and romantic, just as Dr. Hedge uses plastic art and music. I refer to Schlegel's famous saying that the genius of the antique drama was statuesque, and that of the romantic drama picturesque. A Greek temple, statue, or poem has no imperfection and offers no further promise, indicates nothing beyond what it expresses. It fills the sense, it leaves nothing to the imagination. It stands correct, symmetric, sharp in outline, in the clear light of day. There is nothing more to be done to it; there is no concealment about it. But in romantic art there is seldom this completeness. The workman lingers, he would fain add another touch, his ideal eludes him. Is a Gothic cathedral ever really finished? Is "Faust" finished? Is "Hamlet" explained? The modern spirit is mystical; its architecture, painting, poetry employ shadow to produce their highest effects: shadow and color rather than contour. On the Greek heroic stage there were a few figures, two or three at most, grouped like statuary and thrown out in bold relief at the apex of the scene: in Greek architecture a few clean, simple lines: in Greek poetry clear conceptions easily expressible in language and mostly describable in sensuous images.

The modern theater is crowded with figures and colors, and the distance recedes in the middle of the scene. This love of perspective is repeated in cathedral aisles,[14] the love of color in cathedral windows, and obscurity hovers in the shadows of the vault. In our poetry, in our religion these twilight thoughts prevail. We seek no completeness here. What is beyond, what is inexpressible attracts us. Hence the greater spirituality of romantic literature, its deeper emotion, its more passionate tenderness. But hence likewise its sentimentality, its melancholy and, in particular, the morbid fascination which the thought of death has had for the Gothic mind. The classic nations concentrated their attention on life and light, and spent few thoughts upon darkness and the tomb. Death was to them neither sacred nor beautiful. Their decent rites of sepulture or cremation seem designed to hide its deformities rather than to prolong its reminders. The presence of the corpse was pollution. No Greek could have conceived such a book as the "Hydriotaphia" or the "Anatomy of Melancholy."

It is observable that Dr. Hedge is at one with Pater, in desiring some more philosophical statement of the difference between classic and romantic than the common one which makes it simply the difference between the antique and the medieval. He says: "It must not be supposed that ancient and classic, on one side, and modern and romantic, on the other, are inseparably one; so that nothing approaching to romantic shall be found in any Greek or Roman author, nor any classic page in the literature of modern Europe. . . The literary line of demarcation is not identical with the chronological one." And just as Pater says that the Odyssey is more romantic than the Iliad, so Dr. Hedge says that "the story of Cupid and Psyche,[15] in the 'Golden Ass' of Apuleius, is as much a romance as any composition of the seventeenth or eighteenth century." Medievalism he regards as merely an accident of romance: Scott, as most romantic in his themes, but Byron, in his mood.

So, too, Mr. Sidney Colvin[16] denies that "a predilection for classic subjects . . . can make a writer that which we understand by the word classical as distinguished from that which we understand by the word romantic. The distinction lies deeper, and is a distinction much less of subject than of treatment. . . In classical writing every idea is called up to the mind as nakedly as possible, and at the same time as distinctly; it is exhibited in white light, and left to produce its effect by its own unaided power.[17] In romantic writing, on the other hand, all objects are exhibited, as it were, through a colored and iridescent atmosphere. Round about every central idea the romantic writer summons up a cloud of accessory and subordinate ideas for the sake of enhancing its effect, if at the risk of confusing its outlines. The temper, again, of the romantic writer is one of excitement, while the temper of the classical writer is one of self-possession. . . On the one hand there is calm, on the other hand enthusiasm. The virtues of the one style are strength of grasp, with clearness and justice of presentment; the virtues of the other style are glow of the spirit, with magic and richness of suggestion." Mr. Colvin then goes on to enforce and illustrate this contrast between the "accurate and firm definition of things" in classical writers and the "thrilling vagueness and uncertainty," the tremulous, coruscating, vibrating or colored light—the "halo"—with which the romantic writer invests his theme. "The romantic manner, . . . with its thrilling uncertainties and its rich suggestions, may be more attractive than the classic manner, with its composed and measured preciseness of statement. . . But on the other hand the romantic manner lends itself, as the true classical does not, to inferior work. Second-rate conceptions excitedly and approximately put into words derive from it an illusive attraction which may make them for a time, and with all but the coolest judges, pass as first-rate. Whereas about true classical writing there can be no illusion. It presents to us conceptions calmly realized in words that exactly define them, conceptions depending for their attraction, not on their halo, but on themselves."

As examples of these contrasting styles, Mr. Colvin puts side by side passages from "The Ancient Mariner" and Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale," with passages, treating similar themes, from Landor's "Gebir" and "Imaginary Conversations." The contrast might be even more clearly established by a study of such a piece as Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," where the romantic form is applied to classical content; or by a comparison of Tennyson's "Ulysses" and "The Lotus Eaters," in which Homeric subjects are treated respectively in the classic and the romantic manner.

Alfred de Musset, himself in early life a prominent figure among the French romanticists, wrote some capital satire upon the baffling and contradictory definitions of the word romantisme that were current in the third and fourth decades of this century.[18] Two worthy provincials write from the little town of La Ferté-sous-Jouarre to the editor of the "Revue des Deux Mondes," appealing to him to tell them what romanticism means. For two years Dupuis and his friend Cotonet had supposed that the term applied only to the theater, and signified the disregard of the unities. "Shakspere, for example makes people travel from Rome to London, and from Athens to Alexandria in a quarter of an hour. His heroes live ten or twenty years between two acts. His heroines, angels of virtue during a whole scene, have only to pass into the coulisses, to reappear as wives, adulteresses, widows, and grandmothers. There, we said to ourselves, is the romantic. Contrariwise, Sophocles makes Oedipus sit on a rock, even at the cost of great personal inconvenience, from the very beginning of his tragedy. All the characters come there to find him, one after the other. Perhaps he stands up occasionally, though I doubt it; unless, it may be, out of respect for Theseus, who, during the entire play, obligingly walks on the high-way, coming in or going out continually. . . There, we said to ourselves, is the classic."

But about 1828, continues the letter, "we learned that there were romantic poetry and classical poetry, romantic novels and classical novels, romantic odes and classical odes; nay, a single line, my dear sir, a sole and solitary line of verse might be romantic or classic, according as the humor took it. When we received this intelligence, we could not close our eyes all night. Two years of peaceful conviction had vanished like a dream. All our ideas were turned topsy-turvy; for it the rules of Aristotle were no longer the line of demarcation which separated the literary camps, where was one to find himself, and what was he to depend upon? How was one to know, in reading a book, which school it belonged to? . . . Luckily in the same year there appeared a famous preface, which we devoured straightway[19]. . . This said very distinctly that romanticism was nothing else than the alliance of the playful and the serious, of the grotesque and the terrible, of the jocose and the horrible, or in other words, if you prefer, of comedy and tragedy."

This definition the anxious inquirers accepted for the space of a year, until it was borne in upon them that Aristophanes—not to speak of other ancients—had mixed tragedy and comedy in his drama. Once again the friends were plunged in darkness, and their perplexity was deepened when they were taking a walk one evening and overheard a remark made by the niece of the sous-prefet. This young lady had fallen in love with English ways, as was—somewhat strangely—evidenced by her wearing a green veil, orange-colored gloves, and silver-rimmed spectacles. As she passed the promenaders, she turned to look at a water-mill near the ford, where there were bags of grain, geese, and an ox in harness, and she exclaimed to her governess, "Voilà un site romantique."

This mysterious sentence roused the flagging curiosity of MM. Dupuis and Contonet, and they renewed their investigations. A passage in a newspaper led them to believe for a time that romanticism was the imitation of the Germans, with, perhaps, the addition of the English and Spanish. Then they were tempted to fancy that it might be merely a matter of literary form, possibly this vers brisé (run-over lines, enjambement) that they are making so much noise about. "From 1830 to 1831 we were persuaded that romanticism was the historic style (genre historique) or, if you please, this mania which has lately seized our authors for calling the characters of their novels and melodramas Charlemagne, Francis I., or Henry IV., instead of Amadis, Oronte, or saint-Albin. . . From 1831 to the year following we thought it was the genre intime, about which there was much talk. But with all the pains that we took we never could discover what the genre intime was. The 'intimate' novels are just like the others. They are in two volume octavo, with a great deal of margin. . . They have yellow covers and they cost fifteen francs." From 1832 to 1833 they conjectured that romanticism might be a system of philosophy and political economy. From 1833 to 1834 they believed that it consisted in not shaving one's self, and in wearing a waistcoat with wide facings very much starched.

At last they bethink themselves of a certain lawyer's clerk, who had first imported these literary disputes into the village, in 1824. To him, they expose their difficulties and ask for an answer to the question, What is romanticism? After a long conversation, they receive this final definition. "Romanticism, my dear sir! No, of a surety, it is neither the disregard of the unities, nor the alliance of the comic and tragic, nor anything in the world expressible by words. In vain you grasp the butterfly's wing; the dust which gives it its color is left upon your fingers. Romanticism is the star that weeps, it is the wind that wails, it is the night that shudders, the bird that flies and the flower that breathes perfume: it is the sudden gush, the ecstasy grown faint, the cistern beneath the palms, rosy hope with her thousand loves, the angel and the pearl, the white robe of the willows. It is the infinite and the starry," etc., etc.

Then M. Ducoudray, a magistrate of the department, gives his theory of romanticism, which he considers to be an effect of the religious and political reaction under the restored Bourbon monarchy of Louis XVIII, and Charles X. "The mania for ballads, arriving from Germany, met the legitimist poetry one fine day at Ladvocat's bookshop; and the two of them, pickax in hand, went at nightfall to a churchyard, to dig up the Middle Ages." The taste for medievalism, M. Ducoudray adds, has survived the revolution of 1830, and romanticism has even entered into the service of liberty and progress, where it is a manifest anachronism, "employing the style of Ronsard to celebrate railroads, and imitating Dante when it chants the praises of Washington and Lafayette." Dupuis was tempted to embrace M. Ducoudray's explanation, but Cotonet was not satisfied. He shut himself in, for four months, at the end of which he announced his discovery that the true and only difference between the classic and the romantic is that the latter uses a good many adjectives. He illustrates his principle by giving passages from "Paul and Virginia" and the "Portuguese Letters," written in the romantic style.

Thus Musset pricks a critical bubble with the point of his satire; and yet the bubble declines to vanish. There must really be some more substantial difference than this between classic and romantic, for the terms persist and are found useful. It may be true that the romantic temper, being subjective and excited, tends to an excess in adjectives; the adjective being that part of speech which attributes qualities, and is therefore most freely used by emotional persons. Still it would be possible to cut out all the adjectives, not strictly necessary, from one of Tieck's Märchen without in the slightest degree disturbing its romantic character.

It remains to add that romanticism is a word which faces in two directions. It is now opposed to realism, as it was once opposed to classicism. As, in one way, its freedom and lawlessness, its love of novelty, experiment, "strangeness added to beauty," contrast with the classical respect for rules, models, formulae, precedents, conventions; so, in another way, its discontent with things as they are, its idealism, aspiration, mysticism contrast with the realist's conscientious adherence to fact. "Ivanhoe" is one kind of romance; "The Marble Faun" is another.[20]


[1] Les définitions ne se posent pas a priori, si ce n'est peutêtre en mathématiques. En histoire, c'est de l'étude patiente de is la réalité qu'elles se dégagent insensiblement. Si M. Deschanel ne nous a pas donné du romantisme la définition que nous réclamions tout à l'heure, c'est, à vrai dire, que son enseignement a pour objet de préparer cette définition même. Nous la trouverons où elle doit être, à la fin du cours et non pas à début.—_F. Brunetière: "Classiques et Romantiques, Études Critiques," _Tome III, p. 296.

[2] Was war aber dis romantische Schule in Deutschland? Sie war nichts anders als die Wiedererweckung der Poesie des Mittelalters, wie sie sich in dessen Liedern, Bild- und Bauwerken, in Kunst und Leben, manifestiert hatte.—Die romanticsche Schule (Cotta edition), p. 158.

[3] "The Romantic School" (Fleishman's translation), p. 13.

[4] Un classique est tout artiste à l'ecole de qui nous pouvons nous mettre sans craindre que ses leçons on ses exemples nous fourvoient. Ou encore, c'est celui qui possède . . . des qualités dont l'imitation, si elle ne peut pas faire de bien, ne peut pas non plus faire de mal.—F. Brunetière, "Études Critiques," Tome III, p. 300.

[5] Mr. Perry thinks that one of the first instances of the use of the word _romantic _is by the diarist Evelyn in 1654: "There is also, on the side of this horrid alp, a very romantic seat."—_English Literature in the Eighteenth Century, by Thomas Sergeant Perry, _p. 148, note.

[6] "Romanticism," Macmillan's Magazine, Vol. XXXV.

[7] The Odyssey has been explained throughout in an allegorical sense. The episode of Circe, at least, lends itself obviously to such interpretation. Circe's cup has become a metaphor for sensual intoxication, transforming men into beasts; Milton, in "Comus," regards himself as Homer's continuator, enforcing a lesson of temperance in Puritan times hardly more consciously than the old Ionian Greek in times which have no other record than his poem.

[8] "Racine et Shakespeare, Études en Romantisme" (1823), p. 32, ed. of Michel Lévy Frères, 1954. Such would also seem to be the view maintained by M. Émile Deschanel, whose book "Le Romantisme des Classiques" (Paris, 1883) is reviewed by M. Brunetière in an article already several times quoted. "Tous les classiques," according to M. Deschanel—at least, so says his reviewer—"ont jadis commencé par être des romantiques." And again: "Un romantique seraut tout simplement un classique en route pour parvenir; et, réciproquement, un classique ne serait de plus qu'un romantique arrivé."

[9] "Classic and Romantic," Vol. LVII.

[10] See Schiller's "Ueber naive and sentimentalische Dichtung."

[11] Le mot de romantisme, après cinquante ans et plus de discussions passionnées, ne laisse pas d'être encore aujourd'hui bien vague et bien flottant.—Brunetière, ibid.

[12] Ce qui constitue proprement un classique, c'est l'équilibre en lui de toutes les facultés qui concourent à la perfection de l'oeuvre d'art.—Brunetière, ibid.

[13] "Vorlesungen über dramatische Kunst und Litteratur."

[14] Far to the west the long, long vale withdrawn,
Where twilight loves to linger for a while.
Beattie's "Minstrel."

[15] The modernness of this "latest born of the myths" resides partly in its spiritual, almost Christian conception of love, partly in its allegorical theme, the soul's attainment of immortality through love. The Catholic idea of penance is suggested, too, in Psyche's "wandering labors long." This apologue has been a favorite with platonizing poets, like Spenser and Milton. See "The Faïrie Queene," book iii. canto vi. stanza 1., and "Comus," lines 1002-11

[16] "Selections from Walter Savage Landor," Preface, p. vii.

[17] See also Walter Bagehot's essay on "Pure, Ornate, and Grotesque Art," "Literary Studies, Works" (Hartford, 1889), Vol I. p. 200.

[18] Lettres de Dupuis et Cotonet (1836), "Oeuvres Complètes" (Charpentier edition, 1881), Tome IX. p. 194.

[19] Preface to Victor Hugo's "Cromwell," dated October, 1827. The play was printed, but not acted, in 1828.

[20] In modern times romanticism, typifying a permanent tendency of the human mind, has been placed in opposition to what is called realism. . . [But] there is, as it appears to us, but one fundamental note which all romanticism . . . has in common, and that is a deep disgust with the world as it is and a desire to depict in literature something that is claimed to be nobler and better.—Essays on German Literature, by H. H. Boyesen, pp. 358 and 356.

Henry Augustin Beers

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