FRENCH HUMANISM AND MONTAIGNE.
By A. A. TILLEY, M.A., Fellow of King's College.
Change in the character of French humanism . 53
Turnèbe. Lambin. Dorât. . 54
The Pléiade. Ronsard. Du Bellay . 55
Dorât. Amyot . 56
Henri Estienne. Ramus and his logic . 57
Jurists. Cujas. 58
Dumoulin. The Massacre of St Bartholomew and humanism. Scaliger . 59
Casaubon. P. Pithou . 60
Jesuit learning. Desportes. Du Bartas . 61
Other Huguenot writers. Historical research. Hotman. Bodin. 62
Pasquier. Modern French history . 63
De Thou. D'Aubigné. Monluc . 64
La Noue. Brantôme. Montaigne . 65
Montaigne's Essays . 66
Montaigne and the Wars of Religion . 67
His scepticism. . 68
His relations to humanism . 69
Satyre Ménippée. Du Vair. Charron . 70
Malherbe. Régnier . 71
Malherbe and French prose . 72
CHAPTER II. FRENCH HUMANISM AND MONTAIGNE.
THE fall of Florence in 1530, together with the building of the new royal château at Fontainebleau and the marriage of the second son of Francis I with Catharine de' Medici, had led to a large influx of Italians, mostly Florentines, into France. On the accession of Catharine's husband, Henry II, to the throne, they began to make their influence felt alike in politics, society, literature, and art. The result was that the Renaissance in France entered upon a distinctly Italian phase of development, which lasted for forty years, though after the first five-and-twenty of these a species of reaction ensued.
At the same time a change took place in the character of French humanism. Instead of being more or less encyclopaedic, it began to specialise in particular branches of knowledge, and in two of them, philology and jurisprudence, speedily took the lead. The quarter of a century from 1547 to 1572 was the golden age alike of French philology and French jurisprudence. Moreover French literature, both poetry and prose, now received a strong and lasting impulse from humanism, which had hitherto neglected the vernacular language.
A few days after the death of Francis I, Adrien Tournebus (1512-65), known to scholars as Turnebus, was appointed to succeed Jacques Toussain (Tusanus) as regius professor of Greek at Paris. The difference between the two men marks the change in the character of French humanism. Toussain was nicknamed " the living library " ; Turnèbe, to call him by the French form of his Latinised name, though a man of wide interests, devoted himself to the task of reconstructing, translating, and commenting on classical texts. His name stood so high in his own day that German professors raised their caps when they mentioned it in their lectures, while to Montaigne's partial eyes he seemed the greatest man of letters the world had seen for a thousand years. His most notable contributions to scholarship were editions of Philo, JSschylus, and Sophocles, all of which he printed himself in his capacity of King's printer for Greek. His edition of Philo was the first complete one ; the merits of that of Sophocles have been pointed out in OB. n.
His friend and colleague Denys Lambin (1516-72), though a professor of Greek, made his mark chiefly as a Latin scholar. According to H. A. J. Munro, "his knowledge of Cicero and the older Latin writers, as well as the Augustan poets, has never been surpassed and rarely equalled.'1 He edited brilliantly Plautus, Lucretius, Cicero, and Horace. In his Lucretius he acknowledges his obligations to Turnèbe and Jean Dorat (Auratus) who also held a chair of Greek in the Royal College. Gottfried Hermann is said to have regarded Dorat as the most illustrious of .ZEschylean critics, and his emendations, though less numerous than those of Turnèbe, go somewhat deeper. But he is chiefly known as a teacher of genius. For a time he was tutor to some of the royal princes and princesses and in various noble families, one of his pupils being Jean Antoine de Baïf, the future poet. Being appointed about the year 1544 to the headship of the College of Coqueret at Paris he began to lecture on Greek poetry to an enthusiastic class, which included Baïf and his friend, Pierre de Ronsard, and, somewhat later, Joachim du Bellay. Thus the group of French poets known under the name of the Pléiade had its origin in Dorafs lecture-room. Hitherto Frenchmen had read the great classical authors for their subject-matter. Dorat taught them to appreciate the perfection of classical form.
The leader of this youthful band of humanists who now set themselves to revolutionise French poetry was Ronsard, but it was du Bellay who wrote their manifesto. This work, which appeared in 1549 under the title of Defence et Illustration de la Langue Française, is less remarkable for sustained argument than for its confident and vigorous eloquence, and for its grasp of the vital principle, that without style there can be no great poetry. If Frenchmen, du Bellay says in effect, would make their language "illustrious," they must abandon the inferior forms of poetry hitherto in fashion, and take for their models the Greek and Latin poets, or the modern Italians. They must write odes like Horace, eclogues like Theocritus and Virgil, elegies like Ovid, sonnets like Petrarch. Poetry is an art, and therefore natural capacity is not sufficient in itself; it must be trained and cultivated by study and labour.
Another important principle, namely, that poetic style is distinct from prose style, requiring an embellished and heightened diction, though fully recognised by du Bellay, is more clearly enunciated by Ronsard in his preface to the Franciade and in his Abrégé de Tart
On the other hand, a feature of the Pléiade poetry which recent research has brought to light is that its direct debt to Italian models is far larger than to classical ones. Petrarch, Ariosto, Bembo, Sannazaro, and many less known poets of the Italian Renaissance, are freely laid under contribution. Another Italian who had great influence on the whole movement was the Florentine exile, Luigi Alamanni, who, since 1530, had resided at the French Court, and had received many substantial marks of favour from Francis I. He was a poet of no great originality, but he had a strong feeling for style, and was an ardent classicist. Ronsard's Pindaric odes resemble his hymns in structure, while du Bellay, when recommending in his Deffence certain kinds of poetry, is possibly influenced by the practice of the seigneur Lays Aleman.
The new school of poetry naturally did not supplant its predecessor without a struggle ; but by the year 1554 the victory was assured, and Ronsard was hailed as the " prince of French poets." His followers were originally known as the Brigade ; but now he and six others assumed, in imitation of a group of Alexandrian poets of the third century B.C., the name of the Pléiade. His colleagues were Dorât, du Bellay, Baïf, Estienne Jodelle, Remy Belleau, and Pontus de Tyard. In 1560 the crown was put on Ronsard's reputation by the publication of his collected poems in four volumes. It is significant partly of the pedantry of the age, and partly of the close connexion of the new poetry with humanism, that the first book of the Amours was provided with a commentary from the pen of Marc-Antoine Muret (Muretus), who, having abandoned French poetry for classical scholarship, was on his way to become the foremost Latin stylist in Europe.
There is no great depth or originality of thought in Ronsard's poetry, no intense passion ; but his best pieces are signal examples of the power of style when it has imagination or emotion to support it. The famous ode, A Cassandre, the equally fine one beginning Pourquoi chétif laboureur, several of the sonnets to Marie and to Hélène, including the perfect Quand vous serez bien vieille, with many passages in the elegies, hymns, and other longer poems, bear witness that Ronsard was not only a great artist in verse, but a true poet.
Du Bellay's genius was somewhat longer in finding its true bent. It was not till 1558, less than two years before his early death, that he
The close relations of the Pléiade with the Court made its members ardent Royalists. This was especially the case with Ronsard, who had been page in succession to two of the sons of Francis I. Moreover, like du Bellay, he was dependent on the royal favour for the Church preferment which was in those days the recognised method of rewarding men of letters. It was this attachment to the throne which led him, who had all a humanist's aversion from political or religious strife, to take up a militant attitude in the great struggle, and in the two Discours des misères de se temps, written towards the close of the year 1562, to throw all the blame of the war on the Protestants. This led to reprisals from the Huguenot camp, and Ronsard was attacked in several venomous poems, which along with much that was false contained a certain amount of truth, especially as regards the irregularities of his life and the licentiousness of some of his verses. Stung to fury, he replied in another Discours, which was too violent to be effective. Moreover, he could not do away with the fact that in his own person he was a conspicuous example of the corruption from which the Church was suffering.
If Dorafs lectures gave a stimulus to French poetry, the work of another scholar largely contributed to the successful development of French prose. In 1559, the year between the publication of du Bellay's Regrets and that of Ronsard's collected poems, Jacques Amyot (1513-93), formerly a poor scholar of the college of Navarre, and now abbot of Bellozane, published a complete translation of the Lives of Plutarch. The translation of the Moralia or moral treatises of the same author followed in 1572, when Amyot was Grand Almoner of France and Bishop of Auxerre, to both of which posts he had been appointed by his former pupil, Charles IX. His Plutarch is one of the rare instances of a translation which has taken its place as an original work in the literature of its adopted country ; and the secret of its success lies in the double fidelity with which the translator has preserved at once the meaning of the original author and the spirit of his own language. Though Amyot's scholarship is very seldom at fault, he never allows either the Greek idiom or Plutarch's idiosyncrasies to colour his own style. And that style, from its high artistic qualities, its feeling for order and
Another French scholar of this period who did not disdain to cultivate his own language was Henri Estienne (1528-98). Trained in Latin and Greek from his childhood, and endowed with a rare natural instinct for language, he knew Greek as if it were his native tongue. His home was at Geneva, where he had inherited the printing-press of his father, Robert Estienne ; but, with a full share of the restlessness which is so characteristic of the Renaissance, he was a constant traveller, especially during the last eighteen years of his life. The best part of his work was done between 1554 and 1579, and it was enormous. About one hundred and thirty editions of Greek and Latin authors issued from his press, comprising eighteen first editions of Greek authors, and such important undertakings as Plato, Plutarch, and an edition of ^Eschylus in which for the first time the Agamemnon was printed in its entirety and as a separate play. They were all, or nearly all, of his own editing; and in spite of the rapidity with which he worked, he was at once a scrupulous and a careful editor. Moreover, owing to his instinctive knowledge of the Greek language, he was the first to show what conjecture could do towards restoring really corrupt passages. But his greatest legacy to scholarship is the Thesaurus Graecae Linguae (1572). After making due allowance for the materials collected by his father and for the assistance given him by the German scholar Sylburg, it stands forth as a monument of industry and sound learning, and remains to this day the most complete Greek dictionary. He also wrote several French works which, though they bear evident marks of haste, are remarkable not only for their racy and picturesque language, but for the logical construction of the sentences, a rare quality at that time. Three of these writings (1575-9) are devoted to establishing the merits of the French language and its superiority over Italian, one of them being especially directed against the prevailing fashion of interlarding French with Italian words and forms. They were signs of the growing reaction against Italian influences in France.
The services of Pierre de la Ramée, better known as Ramus (1515-72), to the French language were of a different character. His only
French writings were a French grammar, a few speeches and prefaces, and a translation of his famous treatise on logic (1555) ; but this last is important as almost the first scientific work written in the vernacular, and as a practical expression of Ramus' view that learned as well as popular works should be written in French. It was one of the many reforms advocated by this many-sided and original thinker, whose reforming spirit, rather than his actual achievements, makes him of such importance in the history of thought. The fame of the. Ramist logic was due far less to its intrinsic merits than to its patronage by Protestant universities (excepting Oxford) ; but it still has an historical interest as a revolt against the Aristotelian tyranny. The man himself was greater than his work. As president of the College of Presles and regius professor of eloquence and philosophy he was for more than a quarter of a century a power in the university life of Paris. This was due partly to his brilliance as a lecturer, but chiefly to the breadth of his views and the dignity of his character.
From humanist logic we turn to humanist jurisprudence. Its pioneer in France was Pierre de l'Estoile (Stella), the grandfather of the well-known diarist, who began to lecture at Orleans in 1512 ; but its real founder was the Italian, Andrea Alciati, who, coming to Bourges in 1528, definitely restored the Corpus Juris to the place which had been usurped by the Gloss. Under the wise patronage of Margaret, Duchess of Berry, daughter of Francis I, and afterwards wife of Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, Bourges became the first school of jurisprudence in Europe, and was illustrated by such names as Baron, Baudouin, Duaren, Doneau, Hotman, and, greatest of all, Cujas. The services of Jacques Cujas (1522-90), " the pearl of jurists," to jurisprudence were similar to those of Turnèbe in the field of classical scholarship. He resolved the Corpus Juris into its component parts, purified the text, and enriched it with a commentary. His labours included Papinian, Ulpian, Paul, Justinian's Institutes, the last three books of the Codex Justinianeus, three books of the Codex Theodosianus, and the Lex Bomana Burgundiorum.
On the other hand, Hugues Doneau or Donellus (1527-91) aimed at a philosophical conception of the Roman law as a whole, a task which was rendered easier by the publication in 1583 of an edition of the whole Corpus iuris civilis by Denys Godefroi, father of a greater son, Jacques Godefroi. The text was a mere reproduction of earlier editions, but it remained the standard one till the close of the eighteenth century. The commentary has still some value. Mention also may be made of Barnabe Brisson, a man of great erudition, who wrote a dictionary of Roman law and who paid the penalty of political ambition. Having been appointed by the League First President of the Paris Parliament in the room of the royalist de Harlay, he was three years later put to death by the stalwarts of the party (November, 1591). With the almost solitary exception of Brisson, the great French jurists did not
A sound training in Roman law was absolutely necessary in those provinces of France which acknowledged that law as the basis of their jurisprudence ; but part of France was subject, not to the Droit Écrit, but to the Droit Coutumïer, or law based on local usage. Of this vast and varied domain Charles Dumoulin (1500-66) was the master whose European reputation vied with that of Cujas. But, unlike Cujas, he took an active part in the political and religious disputes of his day, and especially opposed the publication of the decrees of the Council of Trent in France. Even Dumoulin did not escape the influence of Roman law, for it was from the jurists of the Antonine era that he derived those ideas of the law of Nature which were destined to play at a later date so important a part in the history of French thought.
The Massacre of St Bartholomew, with its sequels on a smaller scale in large towns like Orleans, Bourges, Bordeaux, and Toulouse, dealt a blow to French humanism from which it never recovered. The Religious Wars in themselves had been a serious hindrance to the pursuit of learning, but down to the Massacre they had been relieved by considerable intervals of peace. Even Protestant professors, especially if they made no parade of their religious opinions, had been able to continue their teaching in comparative security. Now, all was changed. Ramus, hunted down by a rival professor, perished in the Massacre ; Lambinus died of the shock a month later ; Doneau and Hotman fled from Bourges to Geneva; and the same city provided a refuge for the younger Scaliger, the rising hope of French scholarship. When Scaliger returned to France in 1574, Cujas and Dorat were almost the only scholars left in the land ; and a year later even Cujas was driven by religious disturbances from Bourges, as he had already been driven from Valence eight years earlier.
Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609) is the greatest name in the history of French classical scholarship. To a mastery over Greek and Latin and a critical sense equal, if not superior, to that of any of his predecessors, he added a range of learning, a sureness of method, and a constructive power that have never been surpassed. The firstfruits of his labours after his return to France were editions of Festus, and of the Latin elegiac poets Catullus, Tibullus, and Propertius. But, having shown his capacity for the restoration of texts, he turned to a new field of labour,
Three years later a French scholar was restored to France in the person of Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614), who had been living for nearly twenty years at Geneva, where he had married the daughter of Henri Estienne. He had neither Scaliger's constructive genius nor his instinctive feeling for language, but, thanks to his patient industry and lively memory, he acquired, as Scaliger himself admitted, an even greater knowledge of Greek. His special aim was, in Mark Pattison's words, " to revive the picture of the ancient world,"-a work which his special gifts enabled him to carry out with great success. His editions of Athenaeus, Theophrastus, and Strabo, have never been superseded ; while those of Polybius, Persius, Suetonius, and the Scriptures Historiae Augustae, are indispensable to students of those particular authors. He was professor at Montpellier till 1600, when Henry IV summoned him to Paris and made him one of the regius professors of Greek. But the assassination of the King deprived him of his only protector; and he gladly accepted an invitation, with the offer of a prebendal stall, from Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury. It was no longer possible for a scholar who was a Protestant to make a livelihood in France.
The decline of scholarship in France was partly due to the fact that the study of Greek, though it had flourished greatly for a time, had never taken deep root. At the first touch of adversity it began to wither; and henceforth French culture and civilisation became almost exclusively Latin. After the departure of Scaliger the most learned man in France was Pierre Pithou (1539-96), and Scaliger could say of him that he was nothing of a Greek scholar. But he was an excellent Latin scholar, and we owe to him editiones principes of Phaedrus (1596), the Pervigilium Veneris (1577), Salvianus (1580), and the Edict of Theodoric (1579). He also edited Petronius, and the Lex Visigothorum. The text of most of these editions was based on manuscripts in his own library. His many-sided activity also displayed itself in the publication of medieval historical texts, and in various short treatises, of which the best known is Les libertés de F Église gallicane. We shall meet him again as one of the authors of the Satire Ménippée.
One effect of the Counter-Reformation in France was to divert the energies of French scholars from pagan to Christian studies. This was in a large measure due to the Jesuits. They saw that, if they wished to dominate thought, they must train men to vie with Scaliger and Casaubon in learning. Partly as a result of this policy, a succession of excellent editions of Christian writers began to issue from the Paris presses early in the seventeenth century. Thus Fronton du Duc (1558-1624) edited St John Chrysostom (1621-4) and a collection of minor writers under the title of Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum (1624) ; Jacques Sirmond (1559-1652) edited Sidonius Apollinaris (1614) and a large number of writers on ecclesiastical history and doctrine. Denys Petau (1583-1652) edited Synesius (1612) and Epiphanius (1622). All these were Jesuits, and the two latter had been educated in Jesuit colleges. Another illustrious pupil of the Jesuits, though he never became a Jesuit, was Nicolas Rigault (1577-1654), who, after editing a few classical authors, turned his attention to the Latin Apologists and Fathers and produced important editions of Tertullian (1634) and Cyprian (1648). All this hardly accords with the theory that Jesuit education owing to its excessive devotion to style and language did not produce men of learning. Even more eminent instances to the contrary are Ducange and Adrien de Valois.
French poetry cannot be said to have suffered from the Massacre of St Bartholomew to the same extent as French scholarship; but nevertheless a certain deviation in its development may be traced to this period. Within a month of the massacre Ronsard published the first books of his epic, La Frandade, but he never completed it, and eighteen months later retired from the Court. Though he lived till 1585, his work was practically done. After his retirement the poetical stream divided into two channels-the one represented by the Catholic courtier and ecclesiastic Philippe Desportes, and the other by the Huguenot country gentleman and soldier Salluste du Bartas. Both were disciples and admirers of Ronsard, but they deviated from his methods in exactly opposite directions. Desportes (1546-1606) has more esprit and less imagination than Ronsard ; his language is less poetical but more lucid and correct ; and he is an excellent writer of courtly songs. If in his choice of frivolous subjects and in his devotion to Italian models he went even beyond his predecessor, his style marks a return to the more genuinely French tradition of Marot. On the other hand, du Bartas (1544-90) deliberately chose sacred subjects as a protest against the frivolous and pagan character of the contemporary muse. He wrote the epics, Judith and La Semaine-the latter a long poem on the Creation, which was received with acclamation not only in France but in all Protestant countries. But his work has not stood the test of time, and nowhere has it been rejected more decisively than in France. For, though he has imagination of the highest order, his execution is seldom equal to his
It was the perusal of part of La Semaine which moved another Huguenot, Agrippa d'Aubigné (1550-1630), to write a rival epic on the same subject. It was a complete failure. In 1577 he began a new one, taking for his subject the great religious struggle, and entitling it Les Tragiques. Constant fighting left him little leisure for poetry, but he wrote as furiously as he fought ; and the poem, though not printed till 1616, seems to have been practically completed before the death of Henry III. An epic in intention, or rather, as the author describes it, a poem in seven tableaux, it is chiefly the satirical parts which have any merit. The description of the mignons, the portrait of Henry III, the account of the young man's arrival at Court, evidently a personal reminiscence, show a concentrated energy and a fire of declamation equal to anything in Juvenal. But on the whole Les Tragiques is, like La Semaine, a poem of fine passages and still finer single lines.
To one department of study, that of historical research, the Massacre of St Bartholomew gave a certain indirect impetus. The treatment which the Protestants had received from their rulers led them to investigate the origin and limits of the royal authority. Among numerous treatises on the subject, two stand forth conspicuous, the Vindiciae contra tyrannos, written almost certainly by Duplessis-Mornay, and not, as was long supposed, by Hubert Languet, and the Franco-Gallia (1573) of François Hotman. While the former is mainly philosophical in character, the latter, though a pièce de circonstance written with a definite political object, pursues a strictly historical method. In masterly fashion Hotman establishes the German origin of the Franks and gives the true explanation of the Salic law; his whole work is based on the best original authorities, and it is a sign of his historic insight that he was the first to recognise the importance of Gregory of Tours. Six years later Claude Fauchet (1530-1601) published the first part of his Recueil des antiquités Gauloises et Francoises, in which, independently of Hotman, he pointed out that the Franks were a German tribe. His work was eventually carried down to the close of the Carolingian dynasty.
Another writer who, like Hotman, had a wider knowledge and a rounder conception of history than any of the professed historians was Jean Bodin (1530-96). In his Methodus adfacilem historiarum cog-nitionem (1566) he had declared that political history is the only true history; ten years later appeared his great work, the Six livres de la République, which laid the foundations of modern political science. It had a great success; and, when Bodin went to England in 1579, he found a Cambridge professor lecturing on it in a Latin translation. This was so bad that he made a new one himself which, owing to the
Fauchet's work on the origin and early history of the nation was preceded by the Recherches de la France of Estienne Pasquier (1529-1615), who had won great distinction as advocate for the University of Paris in her first dispute with the Jesuits. The first book appeared in 1566, but the whole work was not published in a complete form till after the author's death. It contains much valuable information on various subjects, especially on the history of French institutions and French poetry, and is written in a style which, though not quite of the first rank, gives it considerable literary importance. Pasquier's antiquarian researches were largely inspired by his patriotism. The same patriotism and the same interest in the early history of his country led Pierre Pithou to edit from his own manuscripts two collections of French medieval chroniclers (1588 and 1596). Similar work was done by the diplomatist, Jacques Bongars (1554-1612), a man of many-sided learning, who at the close of his active life published, under the title of Dei gesta per Francos, a collection of contemporary writers on the French crusades. These were the forerunners of André Duchesne (1584-1640) and Adrien de Valois (1607-92), the former of whom, at the date of Bongars' death, had already been giving to the world for some years the fruits of his marvellous erudition.
In spite of all this historical research no great result was achieved in the actual writing of history. It is true that in 1576 Bernard du Haillan (circ. 1536-1610) produced the first modern history of France written in French. His work, as he claims in his preface, is far superior in treatment to that of a mere chronicler like his contemporary Belieferest ; but his standard of research is anything but a high one, and his history is after all little more than a reproduction in elevated language of the Grandes Chroniques with rhetorical additions translated from the Latin History of Paolo Emilio of Verona. The only writer who dealt with the later history in a really critical spirit was Nicolas Vignier (1530-96),
Contemporary history was treated with greater success. Jacques-Auguste de Thou (1553-1627) produced in his Latin History of his Times (from 1543 to 1607) a work which not only achieved an immediate continental reputation, but retained it till the close of the eighteenth century. The first part appeared in 1604, the complete work in 1620-1. It is a testimony to the Catholic historian's honesty and impartiality that his work was formally condemned by the Congregation of the Index ; but his very endeavours to avoid giving offence to either Catholics or Protestants have caused modern critics to accuse him, not unjustly, of timidity. Moreover, the difficulties which beset a writer of contemporary history were increased in his case by the use of the Latin language and subservience to Latin models. That his work should fail to satisfy the modern scientific standard is only to be expected, but we also miss in it that atmosphere of contemporary thought which makes contemporary narratives valuable as historical documents.
It is this atmosphere which, accompanied by a large measure of fair-mindedness, gives value to the Huguenot history, Histoire Universelle (1616-20), of Agrippa d'Aubigné. Save however for a few chapters in which he gives some excellent summaries of the political and religious situation, it partakes more of the nature of personal memoirs than of a regular history. It was supplemented by the charming autobiography ( Vie à ses enfants) which he wrote towards the end of his long life (circ. 1625), and which closes the long series of memoirs in which so many of the leading actors in the stirring drama of the Religious Wars recorded their manifold experiences.
The earlier memoirs of the sixteenth century were rather contemporary narratives than personal reminiscences. Such are the political and military memoirs of Guillaume and Martin du Bellay for the reign of Francis I, and the account of the campaigns in the Low Countries from 1551 to 1559 by François de Rabutin. The first man who set the example of employing the evening of an active life in writing down his own experiences for the benefit of posterity seems to have been the celebrated Gascon commander, Biaise de Monluc (1502-77), the hero of the siege of Siena, who began to write his Commentaires in 1574. In the opinion of French judges he is the first in merit as well as in time. His style at the outset is somewhat stiff and awkward, but, once at his ease, he writes with all the racy and picturesque charm which makes Frenchmen the best raconteurs in the world. His book was written chiefly for the instruction
It is likewise characteristic of the Renaissance that a rough soldier like Monluc should have borrowed not only the idea but the title of his work from Caesar's Commentaries. In the memoirs of Michel de Castelnau, which he began to write in 1575 when he was ambassador to the English Court, we find numerous references to ancient history with other touches of pedantry common to the books of the day. Though his book is unimportant from a literary point of view, it is among our surest sources of information for events between 1559 and 1569.
The Discours politiques et militaires of the Protestant leader, François de La Noue (1531-91), which he wrote while a prisoner in the fortress of Limburg (1580-5), are, as the title indicates, a series of reflexions suggested by the author's political, military, and moral experiences, rather than personal memoirs. They are a noble contribution to that work of moral reconstruction of which France was so urgently in need, and they breathe a spirit of lofty and hopeful patriotism, akin to that of Plutarch, the careful reading of whose works was one of the consolations of La Noue's imprisonment.
With Pierre de Bourdeilles, Abbé de Brantôme (1534-«:. 1614), as with Montluc, the predisposing cause of his memoirs was the love of posthumous fame, but the immediate cause was a bodily accident. In Brantôme's case it was a fall from his horse, which, like Monluc's gunshot wound, put an end to his active career in 1584. His Vies des grands capitaines, dames illustres, and dames galantes, which make up the greater part of his work, though biographical in form, are so full of personal reminiscences that they fairly come under the category of personal memoirs. But they are at the same time a valuable historical document, not because Brantôme has been at any pains to control the copious and varied information which his insatiable and aimless curiosity led him to collect, but because the whole courtly society of the later French Renaissance is here mirrored before our eyes in all its manifold aspects. Vice and virtue have no meaning for Brantôme ; he cares only for intensity of life. When he is not an actor in the drama he is content to sit among the spectators, to applaud but not to criticise.
It was far otherwise with Michel de Montaigne (1533-92). He, too, was an interested spectator in the stirring drama of his day, but he was a deeply reflecting one, a critic of singular sincerity, shrewdness, and penetration. " There are some men, and these not the worst, who look for no other profit but to watch how and why everything is done, and to be spectators of the lives of others, in order to judge of them, and by them to regulate their own." It was in the year 1571, on his thirty-eighth birthday, that Montaigne, having resigned his post of councillor in the Parlement of Bordeaux, retired to the château which three years
It was soon after writing this essay that, gradually and with some hesitation, a plan began to shape itself in Montaigne's mind, which, carried into execution in his own desultory fashion, gave unity and cohesion to his book. His Essays from the first revealed his interest in human nature, in the study and analysis of human motives. But, living as he did somewhat out of the world, he had little opportunity for observation at first hand. It was chiefly from books that he got his material, from Plutarch and Seneca, and his favourite historians, where he found " man drawn more to the life and more completely than elsewhere." There was one man, however, with whom he was in daily intercourse, and whom he had unrivalled opportunity of observing-and that was himself. On this subject he believed that he was the " most learned man alive." So he would make his book a portrait of himself-not a grand imaginative portrait to be hung up in some public place, but a likeness "simple, natural and ordinary, without study and without artifice." Such was the portrait he offered to the world in 1580 in the form of two books of Essays.
Immediately after their publication he set out for an extended tour through Germany to Italy, from which, at the end of eighteen months, he was recalled by the news that he had been elected Mayor of Bordeaux. He accepted the post unwillingly, and only after being practically compelled by the King ; but he served two terms of office, four years in all, acting throughout with judgment and moderation. When, during his second term the death of Anjou (which left Henry of Navarre next in succession to the throne) rendered the state of affairs more critical, and there was a danger of Bordeaux being seized by the League, he showed vigilance, promptitude and coolness. Then, released from office, he returned to his beloved Essays, and, encouraged by the success of his design, continued it with increasing freedom and boldness. The old Essays were expanded and new ones written ; and thus enlarged a new edition of his work in three books was published in 1588. It is in the third book that Montaigne reaches the full maturity of his genius. The Essay on
Repentance shows a profound knowledge of human nature ; that on the Art of Conversation roused Pascal's admiration for its " incomparable author"; finest perhaps of all is the Essay on Vanity, containing the splendid burst of eloquence on the grandeur of Rome, and rich in details of Montaigne's life and character. After this he wrote no fresh Essays, but went on correcting and adding to the old ones down to his death on September 13, 1592.
The term of Montaigne's literary labours was almost coincident with what may be called the acute stage of the Wars of Religion, that which followed the Massacre of St Bartholomew. His attitude towards the great struggle was peculiarly his own. He was on friendly terms with the leaders of both parties, and was even entrusted by them with delicate negotiations. His was the only country-house in France, he believed, "which, with no guard or sentinel but the stars," was left "to the protection of heaven." Yet it was never pillaged. It was not, however, to any hesitation between the rival forms of religion that his neutrality was due. Distrust of change and respect for duly constituted authority combined to make him, outwardly at least, a loyal adherent of the Catholic Church. He had no doubt that "the best and the soundest cause was that which maintained the ancient religion and government of the country." Nor had he any sort of sympathy with Protestantism. That enquiring habit of mind which seemed to him so desirable in all other matters was, he held, wholly out of place in the sphere of religion. He objected to the promiscuous singing of Psalms, and he regarded the translation of the Holy Scriptures into the vernacular as more dangerous than useful. But he was deterred from taking a side, partly by his love of ease and tranquillity and independence, but still more by his love of toleration. It is worthy of note that he dedicated his edition of La Boëtie's writings in terms of warm admiration to the fallen statesman, Michel de l'Hôpital, the one man who had tried to carry out a tolerant policy. In Montaigne's case toleration sprang not so much from any philosophical principle as from a hatred of civil war. It was "a monstrous war." Nor did he believe religion to be the real cause of it. " Pick out from the Catholic army all the men who are actuated either by a pure zeal for religion or by loyalty to their country or their Prince, and you will not find enough to form one complete company." He was especially shocked by what he calls the " horrible impudence " with which the rival parties interchanged their principles, as for instance that of the right of rebellion in defence of religion, which, originally set up by the Protestants after the Massacre of St Bartholomew, was adopted by the League as soon as the death of Anjou had made Henry of Navarre heir to the throne. But, however parties might shift and multiply, he never budged. He was always a royalist and a patriot. Thus, on the death of Henry III, he found himself in agreement with the now united Politique party, ready to recognise the legitimate successor, the strongest and the
Thus it was in no indifferent spirit that Montaigne from his quiet corner looked on the troubles of his country. Rather they colour his whole book, or what is almost the same, his whole estimate of man. It was the self-seeking, the dissimulation, the want of principle of most of the party leaders which made this partisan of truth doubt at times of its very existence. It was the singular corruption of the age which, added to his inborn dislike of taking a side, and his love of balancing contrary arguments without coming to a final decision, gave to his mind its sceptical quality, and made it a congenial soil for the doctrines of the Greek sceptics. But Montaigne's scepticism was never crystallised into a definite system either for his own use or for that of others. His sceptical habit did not prevent him from holding very definite opinions on many subjects, on politics, morals, education, literature. The sum of his moral philosophy was rather the old precept, " to live according to Nature " ; though, like Rabelais and like the Renaissance generally, he interpreted it in a very different fashion from either the Academy or the Porch. For him as for them it meant that every man should follow his own nature ; and towards the close of his life, in his last Essay, he could say "that he was grateful for what Nature had done for him,1' " that he loved life and cultivated it as it had pleased God to grant it to him." His imagination might sometimes soar to lofty heights (as it sometimes descended to unsavoury depths), but at heart he was no transcendentalist. "The fairest lives are, in my opinion, those which conform to the common human pattern, well-ordered, but without miracle or extravagance." This was his conclusion of the whole matter.
This sober and tempered estimate of human nature marks the close of the Renaissance. We are far from Pico della Mirandola's treatise On the Dignity of Man, far even from Rabelais' Abbey of Thelema and Oracle of the Bottle. Man is no longer the centre of the universe: he is rather in Pascal's phrase " the epitome of an atom, or at best a thinking reed." So too Montaigne's attitude towards that literature which had impressed the earlier humanists with so strong a sense of human dignity differs considerably from theirs. Yet he had been educated on thoroughly humanistic lines. So anxious was his father to carry out the humanistic theory that boys should learn to speak as well as write pure
Latin that from his infancy no other language was spoken in his presence. At the age of six he was sent to the College of Guienne at Bordeaux, a revival on humanistic lines of the old College of Arts, and already under its principal, André de Govea, the most flourishing place of education in the kingdom. Here he studied under distinguished scholars, among whom were George Buchanan and Marc-Antoine Muret, and acted in Latin plays which those scholars wrote for their pupils. His studies were mainly in Latin ; and, though he probably exaggerates when he says that he knew little or no Greek, he was never anything of a Greek scholar. But he studied with none of the enthusiasm and ardour which we find in the early humanists, or even in some of his own contemporaries. " Greek and Latin," he wrote afterwards, " are no doubt fine accomplishments, but we pay too dear for them." And though in his retirement he learnt to love the classical writers, and pillaged them in his Essays, taking, as he quaintly says, "a wing here and a leg there," his love stopped short of superstition. They were to him great writers dealing with a world which he thought in many respects better than his own ; but they were not the only great writers, and their opinions, like those of everyone else, had to be brought to the bar of common sense. This attitude of Montaigne's to the classics was a wholesome correction to the pedantry which in his day had largely taken the place of the simple enthusiasm of the early Renaissance. Though he has not escaped the charge of pedantry himself, he at any rate recognised that mere erudition was neither learning nor wisdom. He valued the classical writers mainly as interpreters of life, and he approached them in that spirit of free enquiry which was after all the chief characteristic of the Renaissance. If his cultivation of that spirit produced on the one hand a tendency to scepticism and inaction, on the other it fostered common sense and independence of thought. For his professed disciples, the libertins of the seventeenth century, half free-thinkers, half sensualists, he may have been a dangerous teacher; but France and the world at large owe a great debt to the sincerity and practical good sense which, underlying his scepticism and love of paradox, form the real basis of his character.
Some six months after Montaigne's death a member of the Politique party in Paris, Pierre Le Roy, a canon of the Sainte-Chapelle, turned the weapon of ridicule against the League by writing a short burlesqued account of the meeting of the Estates, held in the spring of 1593. It is not clear that in this form it was ever published, but it circulated freely in manuscript. A year later, having been to some extent recast, and with very considerable additions, it was printed under the title of La Satyre Ménippée. In this enlarged form it was the joint production of several writers, including Pierre Pithou and two other scholars of repute, Florent Chrestien and Jean Passerat. The whole period of the
French Religious Wars is remarkable for the quantity and quality of its pamphlet literature. Ever since the Tigre of Hotman, published in the year of the conspiracy of Amboise (1560), there had been a long succession of pamphlets, many of considerable literary merit. But it is only the Satyre Ménippée, the last missile of the war, which has attained to the position of a French classic. The merit of its conception and initial design, to which sufficient justice has perhaps hardly been done, is due, as we have seen, to Le Roy ; but the comparatively easier task of filling in the details has been carried out with equal success. Designed to be at once a comedy and a party manifesto, the speakers of the League party in the Estates are by a happy stroke, while preserving their own idiosyncrasies, compelled, as in a Palace of Truth, to reveal their real aims and ambitions. Mayenne, the papal Legate, the French pensioners of Spain, each in turn disclose their selfish and anti-national policy. Finally, the Sieur d'Aubray, the leader of the Paris Politiques, in a long speech, in which burlesque and irony are allowed no place, and which good authority ascribes to Pierre Pithou, declares the sentiments of his party. It is an excellent piece of reasoned logic, and in its finest passages reaches a high standard of patriotic eloquence, not unworthy of a Demosthenes, a Cicero, or a Burke.
Quiescendum-this was the motto on the bookplate of Jacques Gillot, one of the authors of the Satyre Ménippée, at whose house the other contributors used to meet, and it expressed the longing for peace and repose felt by the whole of France. The first task which awaited Henry IV, after he had cleared the kingdom of its enemies without and within, was reconstruction. The Theatre d'Agriculture of Olivier de Serres (1539-1619), which had only been waiting for a favourable moment for publication, and which was now published with the King's warm approval (1600), dealt in adequate fashion with the true basis of the material prosperity of the nation. But before this an attempt had been made to reconstruct the moral basis. In a series of lectures of which the most important is the De la constance et consolation es calamïtez publiques, written apparently in September or October, 1590, though not published till 1594, Guillaume du Vair (1556-1621), a councillor of the Paris Parlement and the most eloquent speaker of his day, urged his countrymen not to despair of their country ; and in one of these treatises, La philosophie morale des Sto'iques, offered them a moral code based not on a revealed religion, but on that Stoic law of Nature with which the study of the Roman law had familiarised French writers.
The same lines were followed in his De la Sagesse (1601) by the popular preacher, Pierre Charron (1541-1603), who borrowed literally and liberally from his predecessor, adding little of his own but a more systematic arrangement. Unfortunately he combined with this system of positive morality an equally systematic réchauffé of Montaigne's sceptical tirades, thus elaborately wrecking the foundation of human
The love of order which manifests itself in the divisions and subdivisions of Charron's book appears also in the poems of Jean Bertaut, Bishop of Séez (1552-1611), published in the same year. In his preference for serious subjects, whether religious or official, and in his habitual use of the Alexandrine line, he is the forerunner of the man in whom the new order of literature was embodied. It was in the year 1605 that François Malherbe (1555-1628), the future dictator and legislator of the French Parnassus, came to reside in Paris, and before long directed his critical batteries against the poetry of the Pléiade in general and that of Desportes, the reigning chief of the school, in particular. As he left no treatise on the art of poetry we have to gather his views from the uncivil comments which he inserted on the margins of a copy of Desportes1 works. They are based on the heresy, that versification apart, there is practically no difference between poetry and prose. This was a direct denial of the cardinal doctrine of the Pléiade. " C'est proser de la rime et rimer de la prose,'" said Mathurin Régnier (1573-1613), the nephew of Desportes, in a satire which he wrote in defence of the old school, and in which he attacked in nervous and pregnant lines the theory and practice of the new. The last poet of the Pléiade, the first great French satirist, Régnier stands between two ages. Like Ronsard, Du Bellay, and Desportes, he "takes his property wherever he finds it," from Horace and Juvenal, from Ariosto and Berni, from Ronsard and Desportes themselves ; and even more than his predecessors he is indifferent to order and composition and grammatical correctness. But in his close and sincere observation of life, especially in its social aspects, and in his firm and manly versification he announces the great writers of the reign of Louis XIV.
At the time of Regnier's early death in 1613 the cause for which he pleaded was already a losing one. By 1624, the j'ear in which Richelieu became first minister, the success of the new school was assured. At his death in 1628 Malherbe was the recognised dictator of French literature. None but a prosaic age could have hailed him as a great poet, and French lyric poetry would never have withered as it did under his cold touch, had it not been for the barrenness of the soil. The only merits of Malherbe's own poetry are an occasional felicity of expression, and a versification which, though it lacks the charm of mystery and variety, compels admiration by its sustained dignity of movement and its virile harmony. But without such an instrument the classical drama of France would never have attained its perfection. Further, Malherbe's critical theories were of the greatest service to French prose. The qualities of purity, clearness, and precision upon which he insisted, and which he