restricted access Chapter 19.a Some Observations on the Theater of Democratic Peoplesb
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845 s4s4s4s4s4 c h a p t e r 1 9a Some Observations on the Theater of Democratic Peoplesb a. 1. It is in the theater that the literary repercussions of the political revolution first make themselves felt. Spectators are carried away by their secret tastes withouthaving the time to acknowledge it. 2. The literary revolution takes place more suddenly in the theater than elsewhere. Even in aristocracies the people have their voice in the theater. When the social state becomes democratic, the people become sovereign and overthrow by riot the literary laws of the aristocracy. 3. It is in the theater that the literary revolution is always most visible. The theater puts into relief most of the qualities and all of the defects inherent in democratic literatures. 1. Scorn for erudition. No ancient subjects. 2. Subjects taken from current society and presenting its inconsistencies. 3. Few fixed rules. 4. Style (illegible word) careless. 5. Improbabilities. 4. The Americans show all these instincts when they go to the theater, but they rarely go. Why (YTC, CVf, p. 20). b. On the jacket of the manuscript: CH. [perhaps M (ed.)] to whom I have just read this chapter (22 December 1838) immediately found 1. that it greatly resembled literary physiognomy. 2. that it was a bit serious given the subject. 3. that it would be desirable to introduce more citations and less argumentation./ Doesn’t interest begin to tire and isn’t this chapter, which is only the development of literary physiognomy, too much? Examine the impression of those who hear it./ I believe, taking everything into account, that this chapter should be deleted. CH could indicate Charles Stoffels or Ernest de Chabrol. Tocqueville read part of his manuscript to Chateaubriand, but a letter to Beaumont obliges us to place this reading 846 the theater of democratic peoples When the revolution that changed the social and political state of an aristocratic people begins to make itself felt in literature, it is generally in the theater that it is first produced, and it is there that it always remains visible. The spectator of a dramatic work is in a way taken unprepared by the impression that is suggested to him. He does not have time to search his memory or to consult experts; he does not think about fighting the new literary instincts that are beginning to emerge in him; he yields to them before knowing them. Authors do not take long to discover which way public taste is thus secretly leaning. They turn their works in that direction; and plays, afterserving to make visible the literary revolution that is being prepared, soon end by carrying it out. If you want to judge in advance the literature of apeople that is turning toward democracy, study its theater. Among aristocratic nations themselves, moreover, plays form the most democratic portions of literature. There is no literary enjoyment more accessible to the crowd than those that you experience seeing the stage. Neither preparation nor study is needed to feel them. They grip you amid your preoccupations and your ignorance. When the love, still half crude, for the pleasures of the mind begins to penetrate a class of citizens, it immediately drives them to the theater. The theaters of aristocratic nations have always been full of spectators who do not belong to the aristocracy. It is only in in January 1839. If it concerns M, Tocqueville’s wife, Mary Mottley, must be considered . On a loose sheet with the manuscript of the chapter: Perhaps this chapter should be reduced to only the new ideas that it contains, only recalling all the others in passing. The new ideas are: 1. It is in the theater that the literary revolution first shows itself. 2. It is there that it is most sudden. 3. It is there that it is always most visible. the theater of democratic peoples 847 the theater that the upper classes have mingled with the middle and lower classes, and that they have agreed if not to accept the advice of the latter, at least to allow them to give it. It is in the theater that the learned and the lettered have always had the most difficulty making their taste prevail over that of the people, and keeping themselves from being carried away by the taste of the people. There the pit has often laid down the law for the boxes. [So democracy not only introduces the lower classes into the theater, it makes...