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Racan, in his lyrical poetry, is much inferior to his master; but as a pastoral writer, he justifies the eulogy which Boileau passed upon him:
Racan chante Phillis, les bergers et les bois. He first caught the true pastoral spirit, which he had studied, in Virgil. His style, notwithstanding its incorrectness and inequality, for which Malherbe justly reproached him, breathes that graceful softness, and sweet melancholy, which love ought to feel, when it sighs in rural solitude, and which reminds us of the reply of a lady, who, upon being asked which of the pleasures of her youth she most regretted, said: the pleasing pains of e rural scene. The verses of Racan possess a rhythmus, and sometimes an elegance, in a happy degree:
Plaisant séjour desames affligées,
Qui recelez la nuit, le silence et l'effroi;
Viennent faire leur plainte,
Soit que la jour dissipant les étoiles,
Et peigne l'orient de diverses couleurs,
Tombe dans les compagnes
Ainsi Daphnis rempli d'inquiétude
Contait sa peine en cette solitude,
Et l'amoureux Zephire
There are some faults in these stanzas, of which the first isimitated from Ovid; but they are, in general, very interesting. The rhyme is well chosen, with the exception of the two first verses. We may remark, that provided one has ever so little of an ear, the verses of four feet mingle very well with the hexameter:but that of five feet never will, but must go alone.
Racan, who formed his taste by that of the ancients, often borrowed their moral ideas upon the employment of time, and its rapid flight, on the certainty of death, and the pleasures of retirement. But he paraphrases rather too profusely, and if he imitates their nature, he wants their precision. This is the only defect in his versés on retirement, which has often been cited as one of his best pieces. The verses slide into each other with great ease; they are sweet and smooth; but as the piece is soinewhat too long, that sort of languor which is pleasing in three or four stanzas, becomes monotonous when it extends to seven or eight. Take the following specimen:
Tircis il faut penser à faire la retraite;
O bien heureux celui qui peut de sa mémoire
It is curious to compare the language in which precisely the same ideas are conveyed in the same number of verses, by the great versificator, Despreaux:
Qu'heureux est le mortel, qui du monde ignoré,
Perhaps it would be difficult to give the preference between these writers. In the latter, the expression is certainly more poetical; but this elegance is balanced by a sort of carelessness which pervades the other.
FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
QUERIES ON POINTS OF ENGLISH HISTORY.
In the year 1782, or thereabout, I happened to have lodgings for a short time at a house, the tenant of which had been for twenty or thirty years a servant to George Lewis Scott, esq. of Leicester square, London, the private tutor of his present majesty, George the third. He gave me a manuscript copy in the handwriting of Mr. Scott, of the following queries and suggestions, proposed by that gentleman to Mr. Macpherson, then engaged in writing the history of England during the period alluded to.
George Lewis Scott was the son of a Mr. Scott, a Dutchman of considerable abilities. The latter had been sent from England in a diplomatic capacity to Poland; thence to Saxony; thence to Hanover, where his son, George Lewis Scott, was born, and named after the elector, who was his godfather. The father staid long enough in Hanover for his son to become his private secretary, who there became acquainted with M: Cresset, his school-fellow, a Hanoverian. The following queries were pro. posed, partly from Mr. Scott's own knowledge, in consequence of the information he derived as secretary to his father, and partly from papers entrusted to him by lady Talbot, from which he made extracts for the use of Mr. Macpherson. These papers lady Talbot, though often importuned, would never consent to publish during her life; nor do I know whether they have yet been published. I have heard that they strongly tend to confirm the assertions of Dalrymple and Macpherson, relating to the secret history of that era, and may be considered as authentic, being the papers of Mr. Cardonal, the father of lady Talbot, and
for a long time secretary to the great duke of Marlborough. Mr. Cardonal's opportunities of information, therefore, were very good. It is remarkable, that lord Bolingbroke and this Mr. Car. donal were the only persons of the court, at that time, who had any knowledge of the French language, as I find by my transcripts of Mr. Scott's notes.
George Lewis Scott, esquire, died about the year 1780, to the best of my recollection. He was very little known except as a man of considerable learning. I remember his name once only connected with the politics of the day, in a ludicrous account given by the whig party of the time, of his speech at a meeting in York, on the subject of an address, to remove his majesty's then ministers. He was strongly attached to lord Bute's interest, and opposed to the whigs. The queries and suggestions bear internal marks of authenticity; and I am much more inclined to give them credit, from the well known characters of the persons mentioned, than I would to the charges made against Russel by Dalrymple, on the very suspicious testimony of Basillon, whose interest it was to conceal his own fraudulent disposal of the money entrusted to him.
T. C. Carlisle, September, 1813.
QUERIES AND SUGGESTIONS TO MR. MACPBERSON. “A negotiation between William the third and Louis fourteenth, for securing the succession to the throne of England to the pretender, on condition that king William should not be disturbed in his lifetime. This negotiation was carried on by the earl of Jersey
“ A treaty between Louis fourteenth and Philip the fifth, by which the latter yielded the Netherlands to the former, on condition that he should help Philip to conquer Genoa and Leghorn.
« Did the duke of Marlborough offer his fourth daughter to the pretender? It is certain he offered her to the then electoral prince of Hanover, now king of England? Watkins saw the letter.
« Did the duke of Marlborough offer to make peace with France, in 1709, for a certain sum of money?
« Did prince Eugene, when he lay at Harwich, send a boat on shore to inquire whether the duke of Marlborough was still
in commission; and being informed he was not, did not the prince exclaim, Je suis le plus infortuné de tous les hommes!',
“ Was not the intent of his coming to England to raise a rebellion, had the duke of Marlborough continued in commission? by which he might legally have brought the troops into a body.
« Did prince Eugene write to count Zinzendorf, then at the Hague, that the discontented party in England proposed to him an assassination of the earl of Oxford and lord Bolingbroke, and ask the count's opinion upon it?
“ Did not the count consult the pensioner upon it, and report their joint opinions, that it was not advisable? Did not prince Eugene write to the count, that if it was to be done at all, the best way of doing it would be à la negligence, as those two lords went home late at night in their chairs?
« Did prince Eugene write to the count, that the whigs were ill men, and were more intent upon wreaking their own revenge, than supporting the common cause?
“ Did the duke of Marlborough correspond with the court of St. Germain during the whole course of the war? David Lloyd said he did; and that he himself conveyed several letters and answers. The same correspondence was capried on with lord Godolphin. They both gave assurances of services in general terms; but could never be prevailed on to come to particulars.
“ Did the court of France discover the correspondence to the English ministers, on condition the duke of Marlborough should not be prosecuted?
“ Did the duke of Marlborough meet lord Oxford in Park street, and agree with him to go abroad, and not obstruct any longer the queen's measures? This also was on condition that the duke should not be prosecuted.
“ Did lord Wharton tell the duke that he knew of his bargain; and that if he was innocent he need not fly or forsake his friends? Did prince Eugene urge the same thing?
“ Did the duke of Marlborough, by Mr. Cresset, offer the then elector of Hanover any pledge of his fidelity? Did the elector desire he might have the command of some English troops on the river Rhine, that he might be acquainted with the English officers? Did he vow revenge on the refusal? Did not Mr. Cresset