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HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
FROM THE LIBRARY OF
SEPT. 28, 1933
In the preparation of this edition of Corneille's Cinna, the purpose has been to treat the play distinctly as a piece of literature. The Introduction contains a discussion of the sources of the play and other questions of literary interest; and in the Notes, points of literary criticism and gossip have been freely added, and all allusions of any sort have been carefully explained, the aim being to construct the frame within which the picture will appear to its best advantage.
At the same time the grammatical side of the play could not be neglected, since Cinna presents serious difficulties to the student. The places where these Notes are added have been carefully tested during several readings of the text with different classes. I hope that no real difficulty has escaped my attention, and, above all, that the Notes will be found to be of the right kind, suggestive and helpful, pointing out the solution without depriving the student of the benefits to be derived from grammatical discipline.
The differences in syntax and linguistic usage between the XVII and XIX. centuries form another category of points calling for annotation. Here the only explanation which is admissible is the historical one. I have tried to be concise, and I trust that the criticism of useless erudition will not be applicable. If I have succeeded in giving the student glimpses of the growth of language, and of a field of study where the harvest is indeed plentiful for the diligent laborer, I shall have attained my object.
The questions concerning the versification of this play did not demand special explanations, after the full treatment of the Alexandrine line in Dr. Eggert's excellent edition of Racine's Athalie (D. C. Heath & Co.).
The text presented here is that contained in the complete edition of Corneille's works in the series of “Les Grands Écrivains de la France.” Some slight changes in the orthography have, however, been introduced in accord with the present usage.
In closing it is a pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to the admirable edition of Cinna published by Petit de Julleville (Hachette et Cie., 1894), whose careful work and sound judgment furnished me with much information on the points which I sought to explain.
JOHN E. MATZKE.
LELAND STANFORD JR. UNIVERSITY
December 4, 1902
The tragedy of Cinna ou la Clémence d'Auguste is the third in that series of great plays, which Corneille composed, beginning with the Cid. It shows all the .excellencies of the author's dramatic genius, while its plan and composition unquestionably give evidence of the serious reflexions which filled his mind after the literary battle, which the first representations of the Cid had occasioned.
The immediate result of the Quarrel of the Cid seemed to be a complete victory for the enemies of Corneille. He left Paris, and returned to his native town of Rouen. What he did during the months that followed can only be surmised, for all documents concerning his work are lacking. We may believe, however, that he was occupied with the extensive reading, the results of which are embodied in that long series of tragedies on subjects of Roman history, which he was to begin so soon, and that he attended to the official duties of his position as conseiller et avocat général à la table de marbre des eaux et forêts de Rouen with an occasional visit to Paris. His enemies thought they had silenced him forever. On January 15, 1639, Chapelain wrote to Balzac: Corneille est ici depuis trois jours ... Il ne fait plus rien, et Scudéry a du moins gagné cela, en le querellant, qu'il l'a rebuté du métier, et lui a tari sa veine. Je l'ai, autant que j'ai pu, réchauffé et encouragé à se venger, et de Scudéry et de sa protectrice, en faisant quelque nouveau Cid, qui attire encore les suffrages de tout le monde, et qui montre que l'art n'est pas ce qui fait la beauté; mais il n'y a pas moyen de l'y résoudre; et il ne parle plus que de règles et que des choses qu'il eût pu répondre aux académiciens, s'il n'eût point craint de choquer les puissances, mettant au reste Aristote entre les auteurs apocryphes, lorsqu'il ne s'accommode pas à ses imaginations.”
Yet, very soon after the interview referred to in this letter, Corneille must have set to work on the composition of Horace, his next play, for in another letter of Chapelain, under date of March 9, 1640, the first representation of this tragedy is spoken of as something that had taken place shortly before.
Cinna, the play which followed, is usually assigned to the same year as Horace. There are valid grounds, however, for placing its first representation in the early months of 1641. Chapelain's letters extend to December, 1640, and considering his relations to Corneille, it seems altogether unlikely that he should have let Cinna go by unnoticed, had he known the play. On the other hand, it is certain that Cinna had appeared before Corneille's marriage, for it is mentioned in the Latin epigram, written by Ménage at the report of Corneille's death from pneumonia on the day of his wedding. This marriage was of recent occurrence when Corneille wrote the letter from Rouen under date of July 1, 1641, published Euvres de Corneille, volume X, page 433, and his first child was born on January 10, 1642. Taking all these facts into consideration, it seems reasonably certain that Cinna belongs to the period between December,
1 Cp. Warren, Corneille from 1640–1650 ; Modern Language Notes, IX, col. 392 ff.
2 Euvres de Corneille, I, page xxix.