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in French Literature
Traced by a series of texts
selected and edited
ARTHUR TILLEY, M.A.
Fellow of King's College
T is a mistake to suppose that the Classical movement
of the Renaissance. On the contrary, it was, in part, a reaction from it. The superstitious reverence for classical antiquity and the subservience to classical models had given way to an instinctive desire to create a truly national literature-a literature which should embody the deepest and most permanent qualities of the nation. The movement was slow and gradual. The first quality to find expression was Order, and, since after the long anarchy of the Religious Wars the whole nation sighed for Order, Malherbe had no difficulty in enforcing it in literature. The next quality was Sincerity: Descartes introduced it into thought, Pascal into morals, and both into literary expression. Thus Reason, which governs sincerity in thought, became the mistress faculty, and Imagination was mistrusted as the folle du logis, as a will-o'-the-wisp leading men astray from truth. But she was not to be ousted without a struggle. In the dramas of Corneille she plays a not inconspicuous part, and in the novels of La Calprenède and Mlle de Scudéry, reflecting as they do the military ardour and chivalric spirit of the nation, she roams unchecked.
The death of Richelieu was followed by a fresh outburst of disturbance and civil war, and by a wave of bad taste in literature, which threatened to submerge the gains of the previous years. It was time that another quality, which is fundamental, though sometimes strangely obscured, in the French nation, should find expression in literature—the quality of Taste. But Taste is in the main