Puslapio vaizdai
[blocks in formation]






[blocks in formation]

ONE of the anomalies of literary his tory is that it has often been the lot of those men who have contributed largely to the mirth or recreation of others to endure a more than ordinary share of misery and want in their own lives. The most entertaining portions of literature have been written by men whose hearts have been bowed down by sorrow, and at moments when that sorrow has been heaviest. It was in the gloom of a mother's death, deepened by his own poverty, that Johnson penned the charming tale of "Rasselas ;" it was in the chill desolation of a bare and fireless garret that poor Goldsmith, the beloved vagrant of literature, sketched the brightest pictures of domestic happiness the world has ever had; it was from a sick bed, in sore distress, and in a necessitous exile, that Tom Hood shook all England with laughter. The enchantment of Scott, the satire of Jerrold, half the gems of English wit and humour, have been thrown out by genius in its most sorrowful moments. The subject of this brief memoir fell under the same fatality; it was his destiny, though harrassed by the greatest domestic calamities which can befal a man, to amuse the most fastidious court that ever gathered round the throne of a monarch so fastidious as Louis Quatorze-to depict upon the stage, in all the sprightliness and brilliancy of comedy, the very domestic sorrows to which he was a victimto submit the wretchedness of his VOL. LXVI.-NO. CCCXCI.

own existence to the alembic of his wit and reproduce it for the amusement of others-to satirize the faithlessness of wives and the jealousy of husbands, his own wife being notoriously faithless, and himself torn by the pangs of a well founded jealousy. Such was the vocation of this great poet, whose woes, whose works, and whose surroundings we shall proceed to delineate, not only as a phase of human life worthy of contemplation, but more especially as a picture of that marvellous episode in human history known as the times of Louis Quatorze, when there were gathered together in one spot more glory and more shame, more sons of genius, and more daughters of infamy, more pulpit oratory, and more open vice than could be well found in the same limited period in the history of any other country. It seemed as though art, science, and every effort of genius had been exhausted to make the court of that monarch one of the grandest spectacles upon which men had ever gazed; and yet mingled with all that grandeur, that gorgeous life, that endless gaiety, was the fatal element of ruin-just as in some of the productions of the great masters of music, when the harmony mounts to its highest pitch, there is to be heard an undertone of discord-a wail stealing up through the volume of melody like a wail of human suffering; so in this loud boisterous joy there was already audible the undertone of an oppressed and crushed


« AnkstesnisTęsti »