« PoprzedniaDalej »
Madame de la Fayette preferred poetry to prose; but she was delighted with Montaigne, and often repeated, that it gave her great pleasure in having him for a neighbour. She used to compare bad translators to lacqueys, who converted into follies the compliments they were entrusted with; and it was one of her maxims, that "he who puts himself above others, however extensive his talents, places himself beneath his understanding."
Her first work was the novel of Zaide, which she published under the name of Segrais. It had a prodigious success; and Fontenelle confessed, that he read it four times in succession. The Princess de Montpensier, and the Princess de Cleves, confirmed the reputation of Madame de la Fayette, who, according to the opinions of Voltaire, was the first writer of romances, in which the manners of virtuous persons are represented, and adventures founded in nature are gracefully displayed.
Madame de la Fayette was born in the year 1633, was married in 1655, and died in 1693. In her latter days she was solely occupied in her religious duties. Among her papers several manuscripts were found, many of which were lost through the negligence of her son-the rest were published at the end of the works before-mentioned. Of their merit, the numerous editions that have been called for bear sufficient proof.
- DU FRESNOY devoted himself no less to the study of the belles lettres than to painting; and, perhaps, was more learned in the theory than in the practical part of his art. Although he left behind him many admirable pictures, he is principally indebted to his poem de Arte Graphicú, for the reputation he enjoys.
Charles Alphonso du Fresnoy was born, at Paris, in the year 1611. He, like his friend Mignard, was intended for the profession of physic, and received a very liberal education. To a taste for poetry he united, very early, a disposition for painting. To oppose this inclination, his parents had recourse to the most rigorous measures, but all their exertions were fruitless to check him in his career. After passing two years in the schools of Perrier and Simon Vouet, he set out for Rome without the smallest resource. To supply himself with necessaries, he at first painted the ruins of celebrated edifices, among which he was wont to meditate. In conjunction with Mignard, who participated in all his labours, his pleasures, and his indigence, he undertook several works that developed the profound knowledge he had of his art. By the aid of poetry he engraved in his memory the principles of painting, and it is to this precaution that his poem may be ascribed. Accustomed to meditation, he devoted a considerable portion of his time in contemplating the chef d'oeuvres of the great masters; and often laid aside his pencil to record their pe
culiar beauties. The pictures of Titian he copied with a degree of enthusiasm. He explored, at Venice, new sources of information; and, after having communicated his poem to the most celebrated and best informed painters of Italy, he returned into France, where he brought a work to perfection which had been his principal occupation for a series of years. His misfortunes, however, followed him to his native country, but Mignard, who had risen to a state of affluence, made him participate in his comforts, and lodged him in his house. At length, having received an apoplectic attack, he was conveyed to his brother's residence at Villiers-le-Bel, where he terminated a very unhappy life in the year 1665, at the age of fifty-four.
There are but few pictures of this master mentioned by any writer, but they attest, that in his style of colouring he imitated Titian, and in his taste of design, the manner of the Caracci.
In the opinion of connoisseurs, the poem of Du Fresnoy is divested of grace and elegance, but full of useful and judicious precepts. It exhibits a mind cultivated by reading of the best authors, and possessing the most familiar acquaintance with the objects of which it speaks. This elaborate performance has been translated into various languages; but the English version by Mason, with the commentary of Sir Joshua Reynolds, is esteemed the best.