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and whose light ashes are at this day trodden by the aërial feet of a Taglioni.
When you peruse a correspondence for any length of time, you turn the page, and the name upon one side is no longer found on the other. A new Genonville, a new Du Chatelet appear, and twenty letters forward they vanish in their turn: friendships succeed friendships, loves follow loves.
The illustrious veteran, as he advances in years, ceases to be connected, except by glory, with the rising generations; he still addresses them from the desert of Ferney, but he has nothing more than his voice among them. What a distance between the lines to the only son of Louis XIV.,
sang du plus grand de rois, Son amour et notre esperance,
and the stanzas to Madame du Deffant,
Eh quoi ! vous êtes étonnée,
Quelque fois un peu de verdure
The King of Prussia, the Empress of Russia, all the great, all the celebrated, of the earth, receive on their knees, as though it were a diploma of immortality, a few words from the writer, who saw Louis XIV. expire, Louis XV. and his age pass away, Louis XVI. born and reigning, and who, placed between the great king and the martyr king, is himself alone the whole history of France during his time.
But a private correspondence between two persons who have loved each other presents, perhaps, something still more sad, for it is no longer men, but the man, that one sees.
At first the letters are long, lively, frequent. The day is not sufficient for them. The writer commences at sunset: he pens a few words by moonlight, charging the chaste, silent, discreet luminary to cover with its modesty a thousand wishes. The lovers parted at dawn; they await its first rays to write what they had forgotten to say during the hours of rapture. A thousand vows cover the paper on which are reflected the roses of Aurora; a thousand kisses are deposited on the burning words, which seem to emanate from the first look of the sun. Not an idea, an image, a reverie, an incident, an uneasiness, but has its letter.
Some morning or other, something scarcely perceptible fixes itself upon the beauty of this passion, like the first wrinkle on the brow of an adored female. The breath and the perfume of love expire in those pages of youth, as a breeze languishes at evening among the flowers: we perceive it, but will not confess it to ourselves. The letters become shorter and less frequent; they are filled with news, with descriptions, with extraneous matters : some are delayed, but we are less uneasy; certain of loving, and being beloved, the parties are become reasonable; they have ceased to grumble, they submit to absence. Vows are still interchanged; they are still the same words; but they are dead words,—the soul is wanting. The “ I love you,” is now but an expression of habit, an obligatory phrase, the “I have the honour to be” of an ordinary epistle. By-and-by the manner becomes cold or angry. The post-day is no longer awaited with impatience; it is dreaded; it becomes a fatigue to write. We blush at the thought of the follies that we have committed to paper; how glad we should be to get back our letters, and to throw them into the fire! How has this come to pass? Is it a new attachment that is commencing, or an old attachment that is ending? No matter : it is love that is expiring before the object loved.
violence, and are never impaired by that secret operation which is incessantly going on in human nature—the slow fever of time, which produces disgust and lassitude, which dispels all illusion and all enchantment, which undermines our passions, blights our loves, and changes our hearts, as it changes our hair and our years.
There is, however, an exception to this infirmity of human things: it sometimes happens that in an energetic soul love lasts long enough to transform itself into passionate friendship, to become a duty, to assume the qualities of virtue; it then loses its natural frailty and lives in its immortal principles. Richardson has wonderfully delineated a passion of this kind in the character of Clementine.
For the rest, setting aside the fictitious letters of novels, and considering only the epistolary language, the English have nothing comparable with the letters of Madame de Sevigné. The letters of Pope, Swift, Arbuthnot, Bolingbroke, Lady Mary Wortley Montague, and lastly, those of Junius, which are supposed to be by Sir Philip Francis, are works, not letters: they are all more or less like the letters of the younger Pliny and of Voiture. For my own part, I should prefer to them a few letters of the unfortunate Lord Russel, of Lady Russel, of Miss Anne Seward, and the little that we know of the letters of Lord Byron.
FROM Clarissa and Tom Jones have sprung the two principal branches of the family of the modern English Novels—the novels containing family pictures and domestic dramas; and the novels composed of adventures and delineations of general society. After Richardson's time the manners of the west end of the town made an irruption into the domain of fiction: novels were filled with castles and country-seats, lords and ladies, adventures at watering-places, horse-races, balls, at the opera, at Ranelagh, with a chit-chat, a tittletattle, that knew no end. Presently, the scene was transferred to Italy; the lovers crossed the Alps, amidst tremendous perils and mental agonies that would have drawn tears from lions. The jargon of high life was adopted : hence the fashion of certain words, the affectation of a certain language, of a certain pronunciation, changing in the upper class of English society almost with every session