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very much as if he doubted the accuracy of the doctor's

time:2023-11-29 13:00:38Classification:controlsource:rna

One great proof that he did beautify the distant, may be found in the contrast of some of the descriptions in the "Voyage a l'Ile de France," and those in "Paul and Virginia." That spot, which when peopled by the cherished creatures of his imagination, he described as an enchanting and delightful Eden, he had previously spoken of as a "rugged country covered with rocks,"--"a land of Cyclops blackened by fire." Truth, probably, lies between the two representations; the sadness of exile having darkened the one, and the exuberance of his imagination embellished the other.

very much as if he doubted the accuracy of the doctor's

St. Pierre's merit as an author has been too long and too universally acknowledged, to make it needful that it should be dwelt on here. A careful review of the circumstances of his life induces the belief, that his writings grew (if it may be permitted so to speak) out of his life. In his most imaginative passages, to whatever height his fancy soared, the starting point seems ever from a fact. The past appears to have been always spread out before him when he wrote, like a beautiful landscape, on which his eye rested with complacency, and from which his mind transferred and idealized some objects, without a servile imitation of any. When at Berlin, he had had it in his power to marry Virginia Tabenheim; and in Russia, Mlle. de la Tour, the niece of General Dubosquet, would have accepted his hand. He was too poor to marry either. A grateful recollection caused him to bestow the names of the two on his most beloved creation. Paul was the name of a friar, with whom he had associated in his childhood, and whose life he wished to imitate. How little had the owners of these names anticipated that they were to become the baptismal appellations of half a generation in France, and to be re-echoed through the world to the end of time!

very much as if he doubted the accuracy of the doctor's

It was St. Pierre who first discovered the poverty of language with regard to picturesque descriptions. In his earliest work, the often- quoted "Voyages," he complains, that the terms for describing nature are not yet invented. "Endeavour," he says, "to describe a mountain in such a manner that it may be recognised. When you have spoken of its base, its sides, its summit, you will have said all! But what variety there is to be found in those swelling, lengthened, flattened, or cavernous forms! It is only by periphrasis that all this can be expressed. The same difficulty exists for plains and valleys. But if you have a palace to describe, there is no longer any difficulty. Every moulding has its appropriate name."

very much as if he doubted the accuracy of the doctor's

It was St. Pierre's glory, in some degree, to triumph over this dearth of expression. Few authors ever introduced more new terms into descriptive writing: yet are his innovations ever chastened, and in good taste. His style, in its elegant simplicity, is, indeed, perfection. It is at once sonorous and sweet, and always in harmony with the sentiment he would express, or the subject he would discuss. Chenier might well arm himself with "Paul and Virginia," and the "Chaumiere Indienne," in opposition to those writers, who, as he said, made prose unnatural, by seeking to elevate it into verse.

The "Etudes de la Nature" embraced a thousand different subjects, and contained some new ideas on all. It is to the honour of human nature, that after the uptearing of so many sacred opinions, a production like this, revealing the chain of connection through the works of Creation, and the Creator in his works, should have been hailed, as it was, with enthusiasm.

His motto, from his favourite poet Virgil, "Taught by calamity, I pity the unhappy," won for him, perhaps many readers. And in its touching illusions, the unhappy may have found suspension from the realities of life, as well as encouragement to support its trials. For, throughout, it infuses admiration of the arrangements of Providence, and a desire for virtue. More than one modern poet may be supposed to have drawn a portion of his inspiration, from the "Etudes." As a work of science it contains many errors. These, particularly his theory of the tides,[*] St. Pierre maintained to the last, and so eloquently, that it was said at the time, to be impossible to unite less reason with more logic.

[*] Occasioned, according to St. Pierre, by the melting of the ice at the Poles.

In "Paul and Virginia," he was supremely fortunate in his subject. It was an entirely new creation, uninspired by any previous work; but which gave birth to many others, having furnished the plot to six theatrical pieces. It was a subject to which the author could bring all his excellences as a writer and a man, while his deficiencies and defects were necessarily excluded. In no manner could he incorporate politics, science, or misapprehension of persons, while his sensibility, morals, and wonderful talent for description, were in perfect accordance with, and ornaments to it. Lemontey and Sainte- Beuve both consider success to be inseparable from the happy selection of a story so entirely in harmony with the character of the author; and that the most successful writers might envy him so fortunate a choice. Buonaparte was in the habit of saying, whenever he saw St. Pierre, "M. Bernardin, when do you mean to give us more Pauls and Virginias, and Indian Cottages? You ought to give us some every six months."


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