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History; the contemporaneous settling down of France into the equilibrium of power-an equilibrium not established without five hearty civil wars and perhaps a hundred campaigns—all these so separated the two worlds of thought as to leave France excusable for her blindness towards the destinies and nature of England, and England excusable for her continued emptiness of knowledge upon the energy and genius of France: though these were increasing daily, immensely, at our very side.

We have assisted at some straining of such barriers. A long peace, the sterility of Germany, the interesting activities of the Catholic Church, have perhaps not yet changed, but have at least disturbed the mind of the north, and ours, a northern people's, with it. The unity, the passionate patriotism, the close oligarchic polity, the very silence of the English has arrested the eyes of France. By a law which is universal where bodies are bound in one system, an extreme of separation has wrought its own remedy and the return towards a closer union is begun. I do not refer to such ephemeral and artificial manifestations as a special and somewhat humiliating need may demand; I consider rather that large sweep of tendency which was already apparent fifteen years after the Franco-Prussian War. An approach in taste, manners and expression well defined during our undergraduate years, has now introduced much of our inmost life to the French, to us already a hint of their philosophy.

I think you believe, as I do, that the return has begun.

We shall not live to see that fine unity of the west which lent the latter seventeeeth and eighteenth centuries their classical repose. No common rule of verse or prose will satisfy men's permanent desire for harmony: no common rule of manners, of honour, of international ethics, of war. We shall not live to see, though we are young now, a Paris reading some new Locke or Hume, a London moved to attentive delight in some latter trinity of Dramatists, some future Voltaire. ... The high, protected class, which moved at ease between the Capitals of the World, has disappeared; that which


should take its place is not yet formed. We are both of that one Faith which can but regard our Christendom as the front of mankind and which, therefore, looks forward, as to a necessary goal, to the re-establishment of its common comprehension. But the reversion to such stability is slow. We shall not live to see it.

It is none the less our duty (if I may use a word of so unsavoury a connotation) to advance the accomplishment of this good fatality.

Not indeed that a vulgar cosmopolitan beatitude can inspire an honest man. To abandon one's patriotism, and to despise a frontier or a flag, is, we are agreed, the negation of Europe. There are Frenchmen who forget their battles, and Englishmen to whom a gold mine, a chance federal theory, a colonial accent, or a map, is more of an inheritance than the delicate feminine profile of Nelson or the hitherto unbroken traditions of our political scheme. To such men arms are either abhorrent, or, what is worse, a very cowardly (and thank God! unsuccessful) method of acquiring or defending their very base enjoyments. Let us forget them. It is only as nationalists, and only in an intense sympathy with the highly individual national unities of Europe that we may approach the endeavour of which I have spoken.

With us, I fear, that endeavour must take a literary form, but such a channel is far from ignoble or valueless. He that knows some part of the letters of a foreign nation, be it but the graces or even the vagaries of such letters, knows something of that nation's mind. To portray for the populace one religion welding the west together, to spread a common philosophy, or to interpret and arrange political terms, would certainly prove a more lasting labour: but you will agree with me that mere sympathy in letters is not to be despised.

We have observed together that the balance in this matter is heavily against the English. M. Jusserand is easily the first authority upon popular life in England at the close of the middle ages. M. Boutmy has produced an analysis of our political development which our Universities have justly recognized. Our friend M. Angellier of the Ecole Normale has written what is acknowledged by the more learned Scotch to be the principal existing monograph upon Robert Burns; Mr. Kipling himself has snatched the attention of M. Chevrillon. You know how many names might be added to this list to prove the close, applied and penetrating manner in which French scholars have latterly presented our English writers to their fellow-citizens.

We have both believed that something of the sort might be attempted in the converse; that a view could be given—a glimpse at least—of that vast organism whose foundations are in Rome, coeval with the spring of Christianity, and whose last growth seems as vigorous and as fecund as though it were exempt from any

laws of age.


But, I say, we know how heavy is the balance against us.

The Gallic ritual is unrecognized, even by our over-numerous class of clerical antiquarians. The Carolingian cycle is neglected, save perhaps for a dozen men who have seen the Song of Roland. The Complaints of Rustebauf, the Fabliaux, all the local legendary poetry, all the chroniclers (save Froissart--for he wrote of us), the tender simplicity of Joinville, the hard steel of Villehardouin, no one has handled.

The fifteenth century, the storm of the Renaissance, are not taught. Why, Rabelais himself might be but an unfamiliar name had not a northern squire of genius rendered to the life three quarters of his work.

The list is interminable. Even the great Drama of the great century is but a text for our schools ·leaving no sort of trace upon the mind: and as for the French moderns (I have heard it from men of liberal education) they are denied to have written any poetry at all: so exact, so subtle, so readily to be missed, are the proportions of their speech.



If you ask me why I should myself approach the matter, I can plead some inheritance of French blood, comparable, I believe, to your own; and though I have no sort of claim to that unique and accomplished scholarship which gives you a mastery of the French tongue unmatched in England, and a complete familiarity with its history, application and genius, yet I can put to my credit a year of active, if eccentric, experience in a French barrack room, and a complete segregation during those twelve memorable months wherein I could study the very soul of this sincere, creative, and tenacious people.

Your learning, my singular adventure, have increased in us, it must be confessed, a permanent and reasoned admiration for this people's qualities. Such an attitude of mind is rare enough and often dangerous: it is but a qualification the more for beginning the work. It permits us to follow the main line of the past of the French, to comprehend and not to be troubled by the energy of their present, to catch the advancing omens of their future.

Indeed, if anything of France is to be explained in English and to people reading English, I could not desire a better alliance than yours and mine.

But if you ask me why the Renaissance especially—or why in the Renaissance these six poets alone-should have formed the subject of my first endeavour, I can only tell you that in so vast a province, whereof the most ample leisure could not in a lifetime exhaust a tithe, Chance, that happy Goddess, led me at random to their groves.

Whether it will be possible to continue such interpretation I do not know, but if it be so possible, I know still less what next may be put into my hands: Racine, perhaps, may call me, or those forgotten men who urged the Revolution with phrases of fire.


. CHELSEA, January, 1904.

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