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court presided over the dialogue. The great talents of Corneille and Racine corrected many of the absurdities in this system; but the plan was fallacious, and their poetry unfortunately accustomed their countrymen to a style which, had it not been for them, would have fallen into contempt."
"We have in France our literary prejudices as the English have theirs ; but we nevertheless yield more and more to the influence of new ideas. The dramatic art is still in arrear as to matters of innovation; but it will also in turn be disposed to make concessions. A great revolution has taken place in our literature; to this you have contributed; but we have also our great man in the literary world, who is now in London."
Sir W. S.—" Viscount Chateaubriand?"
"He represents both Political and Literary France."
I could have wished that Sir Walter Scott had added something to the name of the most illustrious of our writers; but the name only supplied him with an occasion for referring to another,— that of a female more known and praised in Eng. land, because she has incorporated herself more with the opinions of the English in politics as in literature. He remarked—
Sir W. S.—" We have the Baron de Stael here; and he has done me the honour to come and see me. Do you know him?"
"I have sometimes seen him at the house of M. Guizot, one of our publicists, who is most profound in his profession, and deeply versed in modern literature."
Sir Walter Scott.—" And have you been acquainted with Madame de Stael?"
"I was very young when she was pointed out to me at a party; but a great many persons were round her. I scarcely heard, and comprehended two of her remarks."
Sir W. S.—" It is said that she was astonishing in her conversation,—more astonishing than in her works, where she often thinks and writes like a man."
"I have heard the charm of her drawing-room improvisations boasted by Madame Guizot."
Sir W. S.—" She constituted a power in .the literary world. Her son appeared to me a remarkable man; he speaks English with a degree of perfection for a stranger. Has not Madame de Stael also left a daughter?"
"Yes; and she is a lady of great talent, who has married the Duke De Broglia, one of the chiefs of our opposition in the chamber of peers."
Sir W. S.—" Politics occupy you greatly in France, and absorb all your talents."
"They have abstracted some from literature, properly so called; but they have imparted to their character a loftier and more serious purpose. You have paid a visit to Paris?"
Sir W. S.—" Yes, in 1815; but I saw very little of France. J should not have desired to see it through the cloud of foreign arms with which it was covered. Every foreigner must have appeared like an enemy; eveiy family kept itself aloof. I visited more English and Germans at Paris than Frenchmen."
"Do you propose returning there?"
Sir W. S.—" I am afraid it is not probable."
"Your name was not known to a hundred persons at that epoch! It is now a name as much known and beloved as those of our favourite authors."
Sir W. Scott modestly smiled.
"Your Paul's Letters," I continued, "are not sufficient for us. Your observations on France have, however, been considered tolerably impartial by impartial Frenchmen. But we hope to be better known by you, and more correctly appreciated."
I had often heard Paul's Letters, by Sir Walter Scott, quoted as a tissue of calumnies against France. Some journals have been eager to brand them with this reputation; and many persons have sat down contented with this ready cut and dry opinion, without taking the trouble to read for themselves. To say that this work is true in all its details is foreign to my intention; many things superficially seen have led the author into erroneous conclusions. There are also prejudices appertaining to the Englishman and the Tory, from which it has been cut of his power to emancipate himself during his short stay amongst us. But he does justice to more than one French virtue, while so many of his countrymen do not allow us the possession of one. Nations are like great babies which require to be flattered. English travellers have not spoiled us in that particular; and comparatively Paul has conceded to us a tolerably fair portion of his esteem. We must not forget that he belongs to a rival and inimical nation, and we shall not then find him so severe. PauPs Letters have also been confounded with a Visit to Paris in 1815, by Mr. John Scott, an impudent calumniator, who was afterwards killed in a duel growing out of a quarrel between him and Mr. Lockhart, Sir Walter Scott's son-inlaw.
I return to our conversation. • Sir Walter repeated to me thathe did not think he should be able to make an early voyage to France. He added some polite questions concerning myself. I did not prolong my first visit any farther, and proceeded to the house of Professor Thomson.
In reporting this and the following conversations, I am bound in candour to confess that I make use of my notes taken on the day of my visits, and that I suppress more than I add. But in committing them to paper, I have been anxious to have recourse to the printed opinions of Sir Walter Scott, in order to be more sure of my memory, and not to put any thing in his mouth which might give occasion for disavowal. In order to secure correctness wherever my notes were imperfect, through over-abridgement, I have preferred omitting them altogether. I may perhaps have rounded some phrase, but without altering it, and for the sake of supplying the emphasis of conversation, which cannot often be rendered, except by an additional epithet, or a second explanatory phrase.
P. S. I may as well add in this place, with reference to the head of Robert Bruce, that it has seriously occupied the phrenological societies of Scotland.* A Mr. William Scott has published, in the transactions of one of these societies, a memoir on the analogies that existed between the character of the famous King Robert and the development of his cerebral organs. He has detected all the protuberances indicative of his life, and of each of his exploits.
TO MR. FRED. L*AB.
Since I have seen Sir Walter Scott, it appears to me that no one can occupy his attention with any thing else but him in his native town; but I vainly pronounced his name to several persons whom I met in the streets, or to whom I paid visits. Public attention had for several days been taken up with a still greater personage. The worthy li
* Dr. Spurzheim and his system have had great success in Scotland. I shall have occasion to speak of them in my work on the medical practice, the physicians, the medical societies, &c of Great Britain. _