ACADEMIES OF BELLES LETTRES Belgium.—Belgium has always been famous for its literary societies. The little town of Diest boasts that it possessed a society of poets in 13o2, and the Catherinists of Alost date from 1107. It is at least certain that numerous chambers of rhetoric (so academies were then called) existed in the first years of the rule of the house of Burgundy.
The number of members was fixed at 4o, but it was not till 1639 that the full number was completed. Their first undertaking consisted of essays written by the members in rotation. Next, at the instance of Cardinal Richelieu, they undertook a criticism of Corneille's Cid, the most popular work of the day. It was a rule of the academy that no work could be criticized except at the author's request, but fear of incurring the cardinal's displeasure wrung from Corneille an unwilling consent. The critique of the academy was re-written several times before it met with the cardi nal's approbation. Af ter six months of elaboration it was pub lished under the title, Sentiments de l'academie francaise sur le Cid. This judgment did not satisfy Corneille, as a saying attrib uted to him on the occasion shows. "Horatius," he said, referring to his last play, "was condemned by the Duumviri, but he was absolved by the people." But the crowning labour of the academy, begun in 1639, was a dictionary of the French language. By the 26th article of their statutes they were pledged to compose a dic tionary, a grammar, a treatise on rhetoric and one on poetry. Jean Chapelain, one of the original members, drew up a plan for compiling the dictionary, which was to a great extent carried out. C. F. de Vaugelas was appointed editor-in-chief. The first edition of this dictionary appeared in 1694, the sixth and last in 1835, since when complements have been added.
The class of the institute which deals with the language and literature takes precedence, and is known as the Academie fran caise. There was at first no perpetual secretary, each secretary of sections presiding in turn. Shortly afterwards J. B. Suard was elected to the post, and ever since the history of the academy has been determined by the reigns of its successive perpetual secre taries. The secretary, to borrow an epigram of Sainte-Beuve, both reigns and governs. Among the best known in the i9th century were Suard, Francois Juste Raynouard, Francois Andrieux and Villemain. Under Raynouard the academy ran a tilt against the abbe Delille and his followers. Under Auger it did battle with romanticism, "a new literary schism." Auger did not live to see the election of Lamartine in 1829, and it needed ten more years for Victor Hugo after many vain assaults to enter by the breach. The academy is professedly non-political. It accepted and even welcomed in succession the empire, the restoration and the reign of Louis Philippe, and it tolerated the republic of 1848 ; but to the Second Empire it offered a passive resistance, and no politician of the Second Empire, whatever his gifts as an orator or a writer, obtained an armchair. The one seeming exception, Emile 011ivier, confirms the rule. He was elected on the eve of the Franco-Ger man War, but his discours de reception, a eulogy of the emperor, was deferred and never delivered. The institute has large vested funds in property, including the magnificent estate and library of Chantilly bequeathed to it by the duc d'Aumale. It awards various prizes, of which the most considerable are the Montyon prizes, each of 2o,000frs., one for the poor Frenchman who has per formed the most virtuous action during the year, and one for the French author who has published the book calculated to prove of most service to morality.
A point of considerable interest is the degree in which, since its foundation, the French Academy has or has not represented the best literary life of France. It appears from an examination of the lists of members that a surprising number of authors of the highest excellence have, from one cause or another, escaped the honour of academic "immortality." When the academy was founded in 1634, the moment was not a very brilliant one in French letters. Among the 4o original members we find only ten who are remembered in literary history ; of these four may rea sonably be considered famous still—Balzac, Chapelain, Racan and Voiture. In that generation Scarron was never one of the 4o, nor do the names of Descartes, Malebranche or Pascal occur. The one astounding omission of the 17th century, however, is the name of Moliere, who was excluded by his profession as an actor ; but the academy has made the amende honorable by placing in the Salle des seances a bust of Moliere, with the inscription "Bien ne manque a sa gloire, it manquait a la notre." On the other hand, the French Academy was never more thoroughly representative of letters than when Boileau, Corneille, La Fontaine, Racine and Quinault were all members. Of the great theologians of that and the subsequent age, the academy included Bossuet, Flechier, Fenelon and Massillon, but not Bourdaloue. La Bruyere and Fon tenelle were among the 4o, but not Saint-Simon, whose claims as a man of letters were unknown to his contemporaries. Early in the 18th century almost every literary personage of eminence found his place naturally in the academy. The only exceptions of importance were Vauvenargues, who died too early for the honour, and two men of genius but of dubious social position, Le Sage and the abbe Prevost d'Exiles. The approach of the Revolution affected gravely the personnel of the academy. Montesquieu and Voltaire belonged to it, but not Rousseau or Beaumarchais. Of the Encyclopaedists, the French Academy opened its doors to D'Alem bert, Condorcet, Volney, Marmontel and La Harpe, but not to Diderot, Rollin, Condillac, Helvetius or the Baron d'Holbach. Apparently the claims of Turgot and of Quesnay did not appear to the academy sufficient, since neither was elected. In the transi tional period, when the social life of Paris was distracted and the French Academy provisionally closed, neither Andre Chenier nor Benjamin Constant nor Joseph de Maistre became a member. In the early years of the 19th century considerations of various kinds excluded from the ranks of the 4o the dissimilar names of Lamennais, Prud'hon, Comte and Beranger. Critics of the French Academy are fond of pointing out that neither Stendhal, nor Bal zac, nor Theophile Gautier, nor Flaubert, nor Zola penetrated into the Mazarine palace. It is not so often remembered that writers so academic as Thierry and Michelet and Quinet suffered the same exclusion. In later times neither Alphonse Daudet nor the brothers de Goncourt, nor Guy de Maupassant were members. Verlaine, although a poet of genius, was of the kind that no academy can ever be expected to recognize.
Concerning the influence of the French Academy on the lan guage and literature, the most opposite opinions have been ad vanced. Thus Matthew Arnold, in his Essay on the Literary In fluence of Academies, has pronounced a glowing panegyric on the French Academy as a high court of letters, and a rallying-point for educated opinion, as asserting the authority of a master in mat ters of tone and taste. To it he attributes in a great measure that thoroughness, that openness of mind, that absence of vulgarity which he finds everywhere in French literature; and to the want of a similar institution in England he traces that eccentricity, that provincial spirit, that coarseness which, as he thinks, are barely compensated by English genius. Thus, too, Renan, one of its most distinguished members, says that owing to the academy "one can say everything in the language of well-bred persons without being pedantic. Do not say they have done nothing, these obscure devotees of culture who spend their lives in investigating the cre dentials of words and weighing up syllables. They have produced a masterpiece—the French language." On the other hand, its in herent defects have been vigorously summed up by P. Lanfrey in his Histoire de Napoleon. The truth probably lies midway between the two extremes. Like all national institutions, the French Academy is a rather conservative body to which only people of a certain age and with well established reputations are elected. As a protest against such a state of things, the Academie Goncourt was founded by E. de Goncourt in 1896. It contains ten acad emicians whose principal function is to award an annual prize of 5,00o francs, preferably to a young novelist. None the less, since 189o, the Academie francaise may be said to have been fairly representative of the nation's culture. Among the critics may be cited, Brunetiere Lemaitre, Foguet; among the poets, Sully Prudhomme, Richepin, de Regnier, Valery ; among the novelists, Bourget, Anatole France, Loti, Prevost; among the dramatists, Hervieu, Curel, Rostand, Brieux ; among the histo rians, Masson, Vandal, Hanotaux, etc. ; among the philosophers, Boutroux and Bergson. Of the writers best known abroad who have not been elected members of the academy are Maeterlinck, Romain Rolland, Proust and Gide.
Among the numerous other literary academies of Italy we may mention the Academy of Naples, founded about 144o by Alphonso, the king ; the Academy of Florence, founded 1540, to illustrate and perfect the Tuscan tongue, especially by the close study of Pe trarch; the Intronati of Siena, 1525; the Infiammati of Padua, 1534; the Rozzi of Siena, suppressed by Cosimo, 1568. In 1690 the Accademia degli Arcadi was founded at Rome, for the purpose of reviving the study of poetry, by Crescimbeni, the author of a history of Italian poetry. Its members came to its meetings masked and dressed like Arcadian shepherds. Within ten years from its establishment the number of academicians was 600. The Royal Academy of Savoy was founded in 1719, and made a royal academy by Charles Albert in 1848. Its emblem was a gold orange-tree full of flowers and fruit ; its motto "Flores fructusque perennes," the same as that of the famous Florimentane Academy, founded at Annecy by St. Francis de Sales. It published valuable memoirs on the history and antiquities of Savoy. Mention should also be made of the Society Dantesca Italiana.