T. FISHER UNWIN
[All Rights reserved]
With exception of one, that on the poems of Mr Blunt, all these essays have previously appeared in The Fortnightly Review, The Nineteenth Century Review, or the Nuova Antologia. The two published in The Nuova Antologia were written by me in Italian. I have now turned them into English myself. The article on D'Annunzio, in the Fortnightly, was the first ever printed in English on a writer who is now well known to all. I do not think that he has, since it was published, created anything equal to the Trionfo. The character of his genius is not adapted to the theatre, to which he now chiefly devotes himself. It will be interesting to see if it can be adapted to political life, which has lately tempted him. Perhaps he may become a new Rienzi. One is greatly needed in Italy.
In the world of letters the name of Gabriele d'Annunzio is now famous. There is no cultured society which does not know something at least of the author of the Innocente and the Trionfo, and is not aware that, in him, one of the ablest and most delicate of living critics believes that he has seen the personification of a renascence of Latin genius. Imprisoned as his novels were in the limits of a language which, however great its beauty, is but little known except in its own land, he has been extraordinarily fortunate in finding such sponsors in the outside world as he has obtained in M. Herelle, in René Doumic, and in the Vicomte de Vogüé. Never has any romance been so admirably heralded as the Trionfo in the Révue des Deux Mondes, and never certainly, since lyre was strung or laurels were woven, was any praise ever heard so dulcet and so lavish as that with which he, who has been called the second Chateaubriand, has welcomed and introduced the new Boccaccio.
The grace and beauty of the style of the Vicomte de Vogüé, and the culture of his intelligence, have gained him in literature this name of the second Chateaubriand. They are both incontestable. But they are apt to lead his readers away from the consideration of the value of his literary judgments. He is a critic of exquisite delicacy and fineness, but also of great enthusiasms, and these enthusiasms are at times much stronger than his judgment and overpower it. What he admires he admires toto corde, and is apt to lose in this generous ardour his power of selection, his accuracy of appraisement.
This fact has been always conspicuous in all his writings on Pasteur, and it has been equally conspicuous in the unmeasured idolatry with which he has dipped his pen in all the honey of Hymettus to sing the praises of the man he loves. But this adoption of D'Annunzio into French literature has, with its incontestable advantages, equal penalties and disadvantages for the author; for one reader outside Italy who will read him in the original text, ten thousand will know him only in the French version, and twenty thousand will accept De Vogüé's description of his works without attempting to judge those for themselves. In the French version the romances gain in certain points; their excessive detail is abridged, their crudities are softened down, their wearisome analyses and too frequent obscenities are omitted. The translations of M. Herelle are, as all must know, admirable in grace and elegance, but, though as perfect as translations which are guilty of continual excisions can be, they fail to render the genius of D'Annunzio as it is to be seen and felt by those who read the works in the original tongue. In the French version they are much milder, much more tempered, much less unbridled, and much less cynically nude; but they are also much less vigorous, virile, impassioned, and furiously scornful. Many fine passages have been esteemed longueurs, and have been omitted altogether, and entire chapters have been sacrificed to the exigencies of taste or of space.
In the French edition of the Trionfo, nearly the whole book, entitled La Vita Nuova, containing the pilgrimage to Casalbordino is omitted. But without perusal of this marvellous reproduction of a scene of Italian fanaticism and frenzy, and of similar portions of his works, it is impossible to estimate fully the real D'Annunzio, and judge of his magnificent powers of observation and description, as well as of