Page images

cut down. On the other hand, we have included all authors of great importance of whom there exist no easily accessible editions and whose individual products are not often read in full even in French institu. tions of higher learning.

As to the method of selecting our texts, we wish to emphasize strongly that these are not our selections. We have kept this precept of Boileau always in mind:

« Lorsque des écrivains ont été admirés durant un fort grand nombre de siècles et n'ont été méprisés que par des gens d'un goût bizarre, alors ... il y a de la folie d vouloir douter du mérite de ces écrivains; que si vous ne voyez point la beauté de leurs écrits, il ne faut pas en conclure qu'elles n'y sont point, mais que vous êtes aveugle et que vous n'avez point de goût.) Thus, the following texts do not necessarily gratify our own personal tastes, and they may not even be the best; they simply are those sanctioned by a sort of tacit vote cast by the intellectual élite of past generations.

We give the texts with few notes - historical mainly, and such as the average instructor would not have ready at a moment's notice, and with such preliminary comments only as are necessary to direct the student's thoughts along the proper lines. We leave it with the instructor to supply all the necessary information or refer students to some history of literature."

1 We would not advise the use of histories of French literature prepared in France - except perhaps Pellissier's Précis de l'histoire de la littérature française – for the following reasons: being written for French students they take for granted many things unfamiliar to American students, thus leav

While the chronological order of arranging our material would be the most impersonal, we could not quite make up our minds to adopt it, as it means chaos; accident prevails at every turn. Moreover, to apply that order is not as easy as at first may seem. Shall the determining date be the date of the birth of an author, or that of his death, — or if one chooses the dates of the works, then which work? the first, the last, the best? — which is the best? It seemed better to adopt resolutely an order which would not separate Corneille and Racine, and which would allow us to group Descartes, not with the Hôtel de Rambouillet and Voiture, but rather with Bossuet, Pascal, etc.

Our order - which of course will not be binding on any instructor who wishes to use the book — is the following:

An Introductory Chapter, emphasizing the transition from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century. While the first was an age of freedom, almost anarchy, the second was to be an age of authority; it so happened that the struggle was particularly spirited in the domain of lyric poetry, Malherbe who stands on the threshold of the new age being the central figure.

Chapters I and II offer various texts in connection with two institutions which played a great part in the development of the literature of the seventeenth century, the Hôtel de Rambouillet, and the Académie Française,

ing vague notions in the minds of the latter. Then, these French manuals are still permeated in most cases with a critical attitude towards authors which is not in agreement with modern methods of objective teaching. And also th may be beyond the philosophical prehension of American students who are only beginning their studies of French literature; this is especially true of Lanson's remarkable Histoire de la littérature française.

[A chapter on the THEATER is omitted, as explained above; let us mark its place here.]

Chapter III: Boileau, who gave expression to the literary standards of the seventeenth century, some of which standards he found applied by those of his contemporaries who contributed most to the fame of this artistic age, some of which he adopted on his own authority.

Chapter IV is a short one on the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes in which Boileau took a prominent part.

Chapter V: La Fontaine, who, while not at all a stranger to his age, gives at the same time absolute evidence that the seventeenth century had retained its sense of the human in the broadest meaning of the word.

We have then grouped the philosophers Descartes (Chapter VI), Pascal, the author of the Pensées, and the representative of Port Royal (Chapter VII) with the theologians and orators of the pulpit, Bossuet and Fénelon (Chapters VIII and IX).

Under Chapter X we have placed the two chief moralists, La Bruyère and La Rochefoucauld.

And finally, Chapter XI is devoted to the three great women writers of the seventeenth century, Mme de La Fayette, Mme de Sévigné, and Mme de Maintenon.

We realize that we have not exhausted the list of great authors of this period. A notable omission is that we have no representatives of the writers of Mémoires. Retz, we considered, required too much historical knowledge of the time to be made enjoyable. However, we beg to remark that the element of Mémoires is duly represented; e.g. in our extracts from a novel of Mlle de Scudéry, in our Oraisons of Bossuet, in our Portraits of La Bruyère;

not to speak of Mme de Sévigné or Tallemant des Réaux.

[ocr errors]

We have endeavored to give generous passages from each author represented; our purpose has been to furnish such a range of material that those who do not wish to read all, can still make their selections from our selections. We have also aimed to give only complete passages, but in some cases we have deemed it necessary to forego our own rule. This by way of explanation: In Boileau we have omitted


passages containing allusions to very special circumstances. Our choice was to cut, or to explain in full, which meant. constant interruption of thought, - we preferred cutting.

From Mme de la Fayette's Princesse de Clèves we have only relatively short extracts. We could not possibly print the whole novel; and we could not possibly omit her name. It was a question of space.

The question of space also determined our action with regard to Bossuet: we could have either one Oraison entire, or two with omissions. The latter seemed more reasonable.

In the case of Pascal we did not follow the general choice of Provinciales 1, 4, or 13. We preferred 5 because it seemed so much easier and more comprehensive for students of a foreign country.

We believe that none of the parts of the philosophy of Descartes which we have embodied in this volume can be understood with less than we offer. But an instructor may summarize those parts he chooses, and read what he chooses; or he may even omit the selections altogether.

« PreviousContinue »