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more that it never imparted life to what ought to die.
Expect not now-a-days so modest and so silly a condescension from our writers. Vanity has exalted itself into frenzy: pride is the disease of the time we no longer blush to confess our own merits and to proclaim all the gifts which bountiful Nature has bestowed upon us. Hear us speak of ourselves we have the kindness to take upon ourselves all the expense of the praises which people were preparing to give us; we charitably enlighten the reader respecting our merits; we teach him to relish our beauties; we soothe his enthusiasm; we seek his admiration at the bottom of his heart; we spare his delicacy the task of discovering it to us himself.
Every one of us, in his conscience and most sincerely, believes himself to be the man of our age; the man who has opened a new career; the man who has eclipsed the past; the man in whose presence all reputations dwindle to nothing; the man who will survive and alone survive; the man of posterity, the man of the renovation of things, the man of the future. Happy the day that witnessed our birth! Happy the society that bore us in its womb! Amidst the effusions of our pride, the good folks run the risk of being stifled; they are almost obliged to arm themselves with vanity
in self-defence against that of the passenger; as in a pot-house we are forced to smoke ourselves to repel the fumes of our neighbour's pipe.
To be just, however, we must admit that, if the criticism of detail has lost its power, from the want of acknowledged rules, from the revolt of hardened self-love, historical and general criticism has made considerable advances. I am not aware that at any period there was to be found in any country an assemblage of men so learned, so distinguished, as those who at this day grace the public chairs in France.
What will be the fate of the English language? That which is the fate of all languages. About the year 1400, a Prussian poet, at a banquet given by the grand-master of the Teutonic order, sang in old Prussian the heroic achievements of the ancient warriors of the country: nobody understood him, and one hundred empty walnuts were given to him by way of reward. At the present day, the Low Breton, the Basque, and the Welsh, are dying off from hut to hut, in proportion as the herdsmen and labourers die away. In the English county of Cornwall, the native language became extinct about the year 1676. A fisherman said to some travellers, "I know but four or five persons who speak British, and they are old people, like myself, of between sixty and eighty."
Tribes which once inhabited the banks of the Oronoko no longer exist. Nothing is left of their language but a dozen words uttered in the tops of the trees by parrots, which have regained their liberty. Agrippina's thrush chattered Greek words on the balustrades of Latin palaces. Such will be sooner or later the fate of our modern jargons some starling of New Place will whistle from the top of an apple-tree verses of Shakspeare's, unintelligible to the passenger; some raven, escaped from the cage of the last FrancoGaulish curé, will say from the ruinous steeple of a forsaken cathedral to the foreigners, our successors: "Listen to the accents of a voice that was known to you; ye will put an end to all this talk."
Be, then, a Shakspeare or a Bossuet, that, as a last result, your master-piece may in the memory of a bird survive your language and the remembrance of you among men.
THERE WILL BE NO MORE UNIVERSAL
AND FOR WHAT REASON.
THE multiplicity and the diversity of modern languages ought to induce men tortured with the thirst of living to ask themselves this sad question : Can there now be in literature universal reputations such as those which have come down to us from antiquity?
In the ancient civilised world two languages predominated; two nations passed judgment, alone and without appeal, on the monuments of their genius. Victorious over the Greeks, Rome paid the same respect to the works of the intelligence of the vanquished as Alexander and Athens had done. The fame of Homer and Virgil was religiously transmitted to us by the monks, the priests, and the clergy, the teachers of the Barbarians in the ecclesiastical schools, the monasteries, the seminaries, and the universities. An hereditary admi
ration descended to us from race to race, in virtue of the lessons of a professorship, the chair of which, vacant for fourteen centuries past, has incessantly confirmed the same judgment.
This is no longer the case in the modern civilised world, in which five languages now flourish: each of these five languages possesses master-pieces, which are not acknowledged as such in the countries where the four other languages are spoken. In this there is nothing surprising.
In living literature no person is a competent judge but of works written in his own language. In vain you imagine yourself to be complete master of a foreign idiom; you lack the nurse's milk, as well as the first words that she teaches you at the breast and in your swaddling clothes: certain accents belong exclusively to the country. The English and the Germans have the most absurd notions of our writers; they adore what we despise; they despise what we adore: they understand neither Racine nor La Fontaine, nor even Molière completely. It is laughable to know which are our great writers in London, Vienna, Berlin, Petersburg, Munich, Leipzig, Göttingen, Cologne; to know what people there read with enthusiasm, and what they do not read. I have expressed my opinion concerning a number of English writers: it is very possible that I may be mistaken, that my