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shadows of his maniacal suspicions. At last he returned to France, to end his life, after years of lingering misery, in obscurity and despair.

Rousseau and Voltaire both died in 1778hardly more than ten years before the commencement of the Revolution. Into that last decade of the old régime there seemed to be concentrated all the ardour, all the hope, all the excitement, all the brilliance of the preceding century. Had not Reason and Humanity triumphed at last? Triumphed, at any rate, in spirit; for who was not converted? All that remained now was the final, quick, easy turn which would put into action the words of the philosophers and make this earth a paradise. And still new visions kept opening out before the eyes of enthusiasts-strange speculations and wondrous possibilities. The march of mind seemed so rapid that the most advanced thinkers of yesterday were already out of date. “Voltaire est bigot: il est déiste," exclaimed one of the wits of Paris, and the sentiment expressed the general feeling of untrammelled mental freedom and swift progression which was seething all over the country. It was at this moment that the production of Beaumarchais' brilliant comedy, Le Mariage de Figaro, electrified the intellectual public of Versailles and the capital. In that play the old régime was presented, not in the dark colours of satire, but under the sparkling light of frivolity, gaiety, and idleness—a vision of endless intrigue and vapid love-making among the antiquated remains of feudal privileges and social caste. In this fairyland one being alone has reality -Figaro, the restless, fiendishly clever, nondescript valet, sprung from no one knows where, destined to no one knows what, but gradually emerging a strange and sinister profile among the laughter and the flowers. 'What have you done, Monsieur le Comte, he bursts out at last to his master, “to deserve all these advantages?—I know. Vous vous êtes donné la peine de naître!In that sentence one can hear-far off, but distinct-the flash and snap of the guillotine. To those happy listeners, though, no such sound was audible. Their speculations went another way. All was roseate, all was charming as the coaches dashed through the narrow streets of Paris, carrying their finely powdered ladies and gentlemen, in silks and jewels, to the assemblies of the night. Within, the candles sparkled, and the diamonds, and the eyes of the company, sitting round in gilded delicate chairs. And then there was supper, and the Marquise was witty, and the Comte was sententious, while yet newer vistas opened of yet happier worlds, dancing on endlessly through the floods of conversation and champagne.

CHAPTER VI

THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT

The French Revolution was like a bomb, to the making of which every liberal thinker and writer of the eighteenth century had lent a hand, and which, when it exploded, destroyed its creators. After the smoke had rolled away, it became clear that the old régime, with its despotisms and its persecutions, had indeed been abolished for ever; but the spirit of the Philosophes had vanished likewise. Men's minds underwent a great reaction. The traditions of the last two centuries were violently broken. In literature particularly, it seemed as if the very foundations of the art must be laid anew; and, in this task, if men looked at all for inspiration from the Past, it was towards that age which differed most from the age of their fathers—towards those distant times before the Renaissance, when the medieval Church reigned supreme in Europe.

But before examining these new developments more closely, one glance must be given at a writer whose qualities had singularly little to do with his surroundings. ANDRÉ CHÉNIER passed the active years of his short life in the thick of the revolutionary ferment, and he was guillotined at the age of thirtytwo; but his most characteristic poems might have been composed in some magic island, far from the haunts of men, and untouched by “the rumour of periods.” He is the only French writer of the eighteenth century in whom the pure and undiluted spirit of poetry is manifest. For this reason, perhaps, he has often been acclaimed as the forerunner of the great Romantic outburst of a generation later; but, in reality, to give him such a title is to misjudge the whole value of his work. For he is essentially a classic; with a purity, a restraint, a measured and accomplished art which would have delighted Boileau, and which brings him into close kinship with Racine and La Fontaine. If his metrical technique is somewhat looser than the former poet's, it is infinitely less loose than the latter's; and his occasional departures from the strict classical canons of versification are always completely subordinated to the controlling balance of his style. In his Églogues the beauty of his workmanship often reaches perfection. The short poems are Attic in their serenity and their grace. It is not the

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