Page:Studies of a Biographer 4.djvu/275

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
261
COSMOPOLITAN LITERATURE

for St. James's. The novelty was that as the habit of reading spread to a lower social stratum, literature had to adopt new ideals, and to leave off some of the fine lace and full-bottomed wigs which it still had to wear in the elegant world. Rousseau, brought up in a similar atmosphere, took the hint, and no doubt himself shared the taste of his class. He was the first French writer, so far, to exemplify one symptom of the great social changes which were to bring about the Revolution. Literature in England was already taking the middle class instead of the aristocracy for its patrons. Rousseau naturally sympathised with the ' plebeian ' tendency, and was ready to take advantage of Richardson's innovation.

The enthusiasm which greeted the Nouvelle Héloïse was due, of course, to the sentiment which found easier expression in the new form. Here, again, Richardson was followed by Rousseau. The generation which wept over the wrongs of Clarissa was succeeded by the generation which wept over the death of Julie. We, though we have a sentimentalism of our own, find it rather difficult to shed tears upon either tomb. We can see that both writers were men of genius, though we cry 'with difficulty' over the pathos. But did