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IN submitting this translation of my book, Jean-Jacques Rousseau et le cosmopolitisme littéraire, to the English public, mention should be made of the fact that a considerable number of errors have been corrected in view of the present edition. Several books and articles published during the past three years have been laid under contribution, as will be seen by reference to the notes. In short, I have done my best to bring this translation up to the level of the latest publications upon this immense subject.
Nevertheless, having said so much, I am fully aware that the book must needs still present more than one lacuna. Studies in the comparative history of modern literatures involve, by reason of their complexity, peculiar difficulties, which have hitherto prevented them from attaining the development they deserve and are destined. to receive in the future. Those, at any rate, who have prosecuted researches of this nature, will know how especially difficult it is to be complete in the matter of bibliography. I have repeatedly been made aware of this fact while writing this essay in comparative literature, and am still more sensible of it now that the book is about to appear in a new form.
I must acknowledge that I have incurred obligations
towards more than one of the critics who have spoken of this book. I would at any rate tender my thanks to Mr W. M. Fullerton for his constant sympathy, and to my translator, Mr J. W. Matthews, for the conscientious care which has enabled him to correct certain errors in points of detail, particularly in the matter of quotations. JOSEPH TEXTE.
LYON, January 1899.
"THERE exist two entirely distinct literatures," wrote Madame de Staël in the closing year of the eighteenth century, "that which springs from the South and that which springs from the North" on the one hand, the group of romance literatures, derived from the Latin tradition, with the literature of France as its chief representative; on the other, the group of "Northern," that is to say Germanic and Slavonic, literatures, free—or so, at least, thought Mme. de Staël-from this absorbing Latin influence, "the most remarkable" among them, in her opinion, being the literature of England.
To-day, however, we no longer divide the literatures of Europe, with the same assurance as did Mme. de Staël, into two groups separated by a hard and fast line. We have learnt that among "Southern," no less than among "Northern" literatures, there are essential distinctions to be drawn. In a word, we have multiplied the data of the problem, and obtained glimpses of more complex solutions. Have we shaken ourselves free from the central idea of Mme. de Staël's theory? Have we given up contrasting Latin with non-Latin tradition, Southern literature with Northern, "humanism "-as we say now-a-days-with "exoticism," or "cosmopolitanism"?
Clearly, we have not. Quite recently a brilliant discussion was started upon this question,-to-day more real than ever before-as to the influence of the "Northern literatures" and of "cosmopolitanism" upon the literature of France, and all who took part in it, whether opponents of "exoticism" or its partisans, were agreed in distinguishing the "Latin tradition " from what M. Jules Lemaître has wittily named "septentriomania." 1
1 Articles, by M. Jules Lemaître on "L'influence des littératures du Nord " (Revue des Deux Mondes, December 1894), by M. Melchior de Vogüé on the "Renaissance latine” (ib. January 1895), by M. André Hallays on "L'influence
M. E. Faguet, a few months earlier, seeking a definition for the "classical" spirit, declared that the direction which French literature is henceforth to take is at the present moment disputed by two conflicting influences, namely, humanism on the one hand and exoticism on the other.1
Is France to remain faithful to that veneration for antiquity to which the national intellect has adhered for three or four centuries? Or will she allow herself to be carried away by the movement which, for a hundred years and more, has been urging her in the same direction as literatures which are younger and more independent of classical tradition? Will she come back to Greece, to Rome, to the French classics? Or will she turn to England, to Germany, to Russia, to Norway,-in short, to the North? Since the question can be asked, it is clear that the distinction formerly drawn by Mme. de Staël still holds good in substance: whether founded upon reason or not, her theory has been, for nearly a hundred years, one of the leading ideas of nineteenth century criticism.
But how did that theory come to be formulated? What are the facts upon which it was based? How, and where did it arise, and under the influence of what circumstances? Such is the problem which I have attempted to solve.
It seemed to me that the origins and successive forms of the influence of the classical spirit upon the French genius had been studied repeatedly and at great length, but that the origins of the cosmopolitan spirit, which had assailed and threatened to supplant that influence, had been less frequently—and very inaccurately-dealt with.
What then was it that cosmopolitanism, or "exoticism," represented at the outset? Few of the historians of French literature have asked themselves the question. By some of the greatest, Nisard for instance, it has been evaded; others have touched lightly upon it, as a side issue, when treating of the
des littératures étrangères" (Revue de Paris, February 1895). See also M. F. Brunetière's essay: Le cosmopolitisme et la littérature nationales, reprinted in Études critique sur l'histoire de la littérature française, 6th series.
1 Study on Alexandrinism (Revue des Deux Mondes, May 1894).
origins of romanticism or of Mme. de Staël. The majority, after devoting a few hurried pages to the anglomania or the "germanomania of the romantic school, assert that this fashion had no very great vogue, and hasten, as Nisard expressed it, to "restore the true guides of the French spirit," namely, the ancient writers, to their rightful place.
Unfortunately, however, the present is an age in which the French mind, rebelling-rightly or wrongly-against the counsels of criticism, refuses adherence to its old masters, and when as Emile Hennequin observes-French literature "is less than ever adequate to express the prevailing sentiments of French society." Not only so, but French society "has found its own feelings more faithfully expressed, and has taken greater pleasure, in the productions of certain foreign writers of genius, than in those of the poets and novelists to whom it has itself given birth." Whence it follows that between minds there exist "voluntary bonds, at once more free and more enduring than the long-established community of blood, of native soil, of speech, of history and of custom, by which nations appear to be formed and divided."1 The question of race is therefore at the basis of the question of cosmopolitanism; it is the existence of the national genius of France that exoticism leads us to consider, at any rate in so far as this genius is conceived as the lawful and privileged heir of the genius of antiquity.
In the present work I have endeavoured to determine the origins of this movement, and it has seemed to me necessary to go back not merely, as is usually done, to the romantic school, but to the eighteenth century and to Rousseau.
True, it was the romanticists who, if I may say so, let loose the cosmopolitan spirit in France; but the master of all the romantic school, as well. of Mme. de Staël,-the man whose aspirations they did but formulate, whose influence they did but extend and strengthen-was Rousseau. He it was who, on behalf of the Germanic races of Europe, struck a blow at the time-honoured
1 E. Hennequin, Ecrivains francisés, p. iii. Cf. H. M. Posnett, Comparative Literature (London, 1886), book iv., ch. 1 (What is World-literature?).