A History of French Literature

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Purchase of this book includes free trial access to www.million-books.com where you can read more than a million books for free. This is an OCR edition with typos. Excerpt from book: BOOK THE SECOND THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY CHAPTER I RENAISSANCE AND REFORMATION THE literature of the sixteenth century is dominated by two chief influences—that of the Renaissance and that of the Reformation. When French armies under Charles VIII. and Louis XII. made a descent on Italy, they found everywhere a recognition of the importance of art, an enthusiasm for beauty, a feeling for the aesthetic as well as the scholarly aspects of antiquity, a new joy in life, an universal curiosity, a new confidence in human reason. To Latin culture a Greek culture had been added; and side by side with the mediaeval master of the understanding, Aristotle, the master of the imaginative reason, Plato, was held in honour. Before the first quarter of the sixteenth century closed, France had received a great gift from Italy, which profoundly modified, but by no means effaced, the characteristics of her national genius. The Reformation was a recovery of Christian antiquity and of Hebraism, and for a time Ihe religious movement made common cause with theRenaissance; but the grave morals, the opposition of grace to nature, and the dogmatic spirit of theology after a time alienated the Reforming party from the mere humanism of literature and art. An interest in general ideas and a capacity for dealing with them were fostered by the study of antiquity both classical and Christian, by the meeting of various tendencies, and by the conflict of rival creeds. To embody general ideas in art under a presiding feeling for beauty, to harmonise thought and form, was the great work of the seventeenth century ; but before this could be effected it was necessary that France should enjoy tranquillity after the strife of the civil wars. Learning had received the distinction of court patronage when Louis XI... --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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