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character,. Love was never so unlike itself as in 1750; it was enough to make the world regret the bureaux of intellect and the bureaux of fashion (as they were affectedly called) of Mademoiselle de Scudéry; those assaults with epigrams of an affected conceit, and with far-fetched madrigals when the result was nonsense, but everything was conducted in all decency and honour, in the sentimental style of the day.
Art, in 1750, was only a plaything like love; it was a mere warbling and cooing of birds. Ask the composers of musical airs, how they had to spice their musical ragouts; the painters of pastels how they had to put the roses into the cheeks; the small poets what a number of artificial bouquets and pretty nothings in verse they had to get up. Art, sacrificing its majestic beauty, followed the train of Madame de Parabère, all painted, perfumed, wearing patches, gorgeous with lace and ribands. Hence all those poetical bouquets to Chloris, those Graces in déshabille, those licentious madrigals, those unceremonious musical airs of the little operas, those Cupids whose roses even crowned their torches. One day, France had wandered so far from Nature and all virtue, that poetry and painting, as if from a chaste remembrance of earlier times, or, perhaps, in order to veil in history the scandals of their day, sang and painted the pure heaven of innocence; the idyl flourished again; but in spite of the pure rays and fresh dews which came from Germany, it flourished badly. The breath exhausted in pleasure, was wanting for poetry.”
The specimens of the wit and the poetry of the French Sardanapalus, we have not time to quote.
The first volume ends with the statuettes of three Graces of the Opera. Mademoiselle de Camargo, Sophie Arnould, and Mademoiselle Guimaud. They are as necessary parts in the drama of the eighteenth century, as some ladies of the same sort are in the charming pages of Gil Blas.
Crebillon, the tragic, and Crebillon, the gay, are two portraits we would gladly spend some time before, only
fear that we shall rob our readers of pleasure by giving them too many draughts in anticipation.
We extract a short anecdote from the life of Buffon:
"One day when the Natural History,' was quoted in the presence of Voltaire, "Not so natural,' he replied. Voltaire, with his hatred of the deluge, allowed himself to contradict the opinion of Buffon in regard to the shells found upon the surface of the earth, which, according to the naturalist, had been deposited there by the sea. In Voltaire's opinion, the pilgrims in the times of the Cru
sades, had brought these shells to France from Syria. It took a naturalist like Buffon to mistake this joke for serious. At first he got angry, and then afterwards acknowledged that he was wrong in so doing. This little quarrel was soon settled ; each of the two opponents settled it in his peculiar way : Voltaire by a stroke, “I do not wish to remain at sword's point with M. de Buffon for a cockleshell;' and Buffon by an elegant phrase, 'It may be thought, as I think myself, that I have not treated M. de Voltaire with sufficient seriousness. I acknowledge that
I acknowledge that it would have been better not to have uttered this opinion at all, than to have uttered it with a joke. I declare so much for M. de Voltaire, myself, and posterity. This interchange of courtesies did not stop here. Buffon presented Voltaire with a copy of his works ; Voltaire wrote him a letter of thanks, in which he spoke of Archimedes the first, as the predecessor of Buffon. Buffon, in reply, remarked that a second Voltaire would never be spoken of.”
It would not do to pass over Watteau ; he, perhaps, is the truest representative of the age among its painters.
“What a beautiful romance could be made out of a landscape of Watteau! The romance is, however, ready made ; there is but one page; all that is needed for the romance of happiness. Mark those ever-verdant trees, on which the sun throws all its brilliancy; advance under their shadow, where are scattered the most beautiful of women and most ardent of lovers. Listen: it is an intoxicating concert: the breeze shakes the roses and violets; the fountain spreads its crystals on the moss ; in so beautiful a place the dove flaps her wings in passing; the turtle-dove coos near by. Listen yet! here those rosy lips are singing of love; the charming mouth promises happiness ! 'Do you hear, farther off, those gentle words, that kiss taken ere granted? Do you perceive the eloquent silence? The grass is fresh and covered with flowers ; come forward again, to admire the ornaments of these beautiful ladies ; they have none other than their smile and their glance ! Find me a diamond as sparkling as that eye, a rose as fresh as that smiling mouth! They are covered with nothing, as if from the love of God! An indiscreet bodice, where a hand is sometimes placing a bouquet, a rumpled petticoat, a scarf which plays in the wind and plays with love; more frequently a domino, satin slippers, and a fan, that is all, but quite enough, I fancy. It, however, often happens that this dress is doffed for a bath in the river. What capricious naiads ! We have then no other veil than the waves, the foliage, the evening mist, the atmosphere. The landscape is alwaya a master-piece. A statue stands near the old elm tree, art amid nature. The vapoury distances attract, the brilliancy of the foreground dazzles you,
however, not to see in the corner of the picture the little beggar gayly munching his crust, at the side of the road. Such a newcomer would perhaps be a happy contrast to those happy groups of lovers; it would be a recollection of the truths of humanity face to face with all these brilliant falsehoods ; the women would be none the less handsome; the lovers none the less gallant; on the contrary, every one would be the gainer, especially the spectator. A great master never forgets that poetry is beautiful only by its contrasts; a perpetual smile lasts too long; the fairest falsehood deludes but for a moment."
The style of M. Houssaye is, as has been seen, extremely brilliant and antithetical-it is at once picturesque and epigrammatic. After our imagination has been led into one of the vividly decorated saloons of this luxurious epoch, and we have listened to the conversation of its long vanished inmates, a single sparkling phrase makes us see the true character and motives of the actors. History has of late times called on poetry often to aid her in invisaging the past, and, in our days, a mere catalogue of events will hardly secure readers unless the “faculty divine” may gather some pictures from the page. But criticism and a knowledge of character are likewise necessary to give point to the narrative, and even a succession of vividly coloured scenes would be tame, if they lacked this pungent condiment of the mind. M. Houssaye meets all the requirements of the new, or rather the revived art of historical composition.
The objection has been urged that too many scenes of seductive voluptuousness are displayed in these pages, and too many of the goddesses of the opera, and beauties of the court, are introduced. The author would, certainly, have been false to historical truth if he had excluded them -it was the age of Madame de Pompadour. They, however, meet the reward of their choice, and virtue is vindicated by the remorse, penitence, and misery of age and the death-bed. The historian has not, in painting the crime, forgotten to relate its punishment. Is not this the order of nature, and the moral lesson which it is the great aim of history to inculcate ?
ART. V.-THE BATTLE OF CHURUBUSCO.
The victory of Contreras was the first part of the eventful drama, which was enacted on the 20th of August. The others followed in rapid succession; the fall of San Antonio ; the defeat and dispersion of the Mexican reserves ; the storming of the tête-de-pont; the surrender of the convent. These several affairs, according to Gen. Scott's report, constituted the five acts, the five great triumphs, of the day's tragedy. The three battles of Churubusco-each one distinct in action, yet ultimately connected with the other, and conducing to a single result, formed the grand dénouement of the plot. It exhibited some of the highest traits of the soldier; bravery, energy, and fortitude. It disclosed, also, the prominent characteristics of our people; enthusiasm, tenacity of purpose, the unconquerable spirit: and the strategic operations of the general-in-chief, proved his possession of the qualities of a great captain. Severe criticism, cold through want of sympathy, or interested from prejudice, by adopting extreme rules, and misapplying some of them, has detracted from the merits of this combat, in denouncing its blundering conduct, and, at best, its wanton sacrifice of human life. But, even were the opinions true, that its immediate result was not important ; that it was not essential to the crowning achievement of occupying the enemy's capital; and that it fruitlessly impaired the integrity of the army for enduring efforts ; still, it would not be denied that the tone of our troops was vastly elevated ; that the enemy, with great odds of numbers, driven from his strong position and broken in spirit, was rendered more susceptible of subsequent overthrow; that the prowess of our arms was illustrated anew, and that additional lustre was given to the American character. Whatever errors, gross or trivial, there
have been committed,--and whatever regret may be awakened by the recollection of individual losses,-no one, we are sure, would consent to blot Churubusco from the page of our history. In compensation for our losses, all would rather receive, though with melancholy pleasure, the world-wide renown and the national glory, which are the immortal trophies of heroic deeds. For the warrior, in his bloody
shroud, what nobler epitaph, than that, in the discharge of patriotic duty, despising fear, and emulous in the conflict, he fell in the hour of triumph. And were it the fortune of all such demi-gods of conquest, to lie where they fall, unnoticed and unnamed,* without a record to emblazon to posterity their separate fame, the proud monument of their achievements would yet exist, in the enhanced reputation of their country, and in the increased moral power of their countrymen. Nothing of great actions perishes utterly, whatever the fate of the actors. The philosopher who dies in promulgating the successful experiment of a long studied theory—the poet who wears out existence in developing the mysteries of his inspiration—the painter who breathes on convass the ideal of his soul, and exhausts the springs of life in its elaboration or the sculptor, who sinks nerveless, after long toil, before the perfect statue which his own chisel had wrought-all leave their impress on the human heart, and advance the progress of the human mind. Equally effective, does the hero of battle, pouring out his life-blood for his country's sake, and disclosing or establishing a principle of his art, touch some lasting cord of sympathy, or prompt to useful and multiplying thought. Nor can the tendency of his profession to destroy life, degradet it from the pale of elevated
* We have no present sympathy with the movement of Kossuth, and may therefore be pardoned for introducing a passage from his speech at Birmingham, England. Its allusion is exclusively military. “ The glory of battles is ascribed to the leaders, in history—theirs are the laurels of immortality. And yet, in meeting the danger, they knew that, alive or dead, their name will live forever on the lips of the people. How different, how purer, is the light spread on the image of thousands of the people's sons, who, knowing that where they fall they will lie unknown, their names unhonoured and unsung ; but who, nevertheless, animated by the love of freedom and fatherland, went on, calmly singing national anthems, against the batteries whose crossfire vomited death and destruction on them, and took them without firing a shot—they who fell, falling with the shout, “Hurra for Hungary.?”. “ Even the features of Cato partook of the 'impression of his dreariness. A shadow passed over the brow of Socrates, on drinking the hemlock cup. With us, those who bent over the nameless victims of the love of country, lying on the death-field beneath Buda’s walls, met but the impression of a sinile on the frozen lips of the dead, and the dying answered those who would console, but by the words, · Never mind; Buda is ours.'
† The germ of these illustrations might form the text of a metaphysical essay. In using them, we have not the pretension to conflict with those phi. losophers who maintain the innate existence of notions or laws of thought, which determine abstract aud necessary truth ; nor with those who believe that even axioms are but generalizations from experience. While conforming