An unsigned review of The French Renascence, by Charles Sarolea
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[ 409 An unsigned review of The French Renascence, by Charles Sarolea London: Allen & Unwin, 1916. Pp. 302.1 The New Statesman, 7 (1 July 1916) 309-10 Thetitleofthisbookismisleading.ThereisnoreasonwhyDr.Saroleashould not publish a volume of essays on various figures of French history and letters from Montaigne to Raymond Poincaré; but they are not sufficiently bound together by the panegyric on the French genius which forms the introduction and the close. “The French Renascence” apparently refers to contemporary France, but one finds essays on Pascal, Madame de Maintenon, Rousseau, Mirabeau, Robespierre, Marie Antoinette.2 The historical essays are too slight to demand mention, except the rather interesting “Napoleon as a Socialist”; the literary studies are platitudinous. We do not know how the news that Bergson was the father of Pragmatism will be received in America: but the essay on Bergson and the essay on Maeterlinck are quite worth reading.3 Notes 1. Charles Sarolea (1870-1953), professor of French at the University of Edinburgh, was a citizen of Belgium, ravaged by Germany in the opening months of WWI. In the introduction and conclusion, he deplores what he considers to be the late nineteenth-century tendency to glorify everything German and depreciate everything French, and within this frame, he sketches a series of portraits of French cultural heroes, past and present. 2. Sarolea moves from essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533-92) to French president Raymond Poincaré (1860-1934). His catalog of iconic figures, many associated with the Revolution, includes the mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-62); the second wife of Louis XIV, Madame de Maintenon (1635-1719); Rousseau; the statesman Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau (1749-91); the revolutionist Maximilien Robespierre (1758-94); and Queen Marie Antoinette (1755-93). 3. Though Sarolea recognizes James’s “famous book,” he asserts that in the genealogy of Pragmatism James and Bergson “came directly or indirectly under the influence of Pascal’s genius” and that Pascal is “really the Father of Modern Pragmatism” (71), before later declaring Bergson “the father of Pragmatism” (299). The Belgian poet Maurice Maeterlinck wrote in French and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911. ...