The fifteenth century, the storm of the Renaissance, are not taught. Why, Rabelais himself might be but an unfamiliar name had not a northern squire of genius rendered to the life three quarters of his work.
The list is interminable. Even the great Drama of the great century is but a text for our schools leaving no sort of trace upon the mind: and as for the French moderns (I have heard it from men of liberal education) they are denied to have written any poetry at all: so exact, so subtle, so readily to be missed, are the proportions of their speech.
If you ask me why I should myself approach the matter, I can plead some inheritance of French blood, com-parable, I believe, to your own; and though I have no sort of claim to that unique and accomplished scholar-ship which gives you a mastery of the French tongue unmatched in England, and a complete familiarity with its history, application and genius, yet I can put to my credit a year of active, if eccentric, experience in a French barrack room, and a complete segregation during those twelve memorable months wherein I could study the very soul of this sincere, creative, and tenacious people.
Your learning, my singular adventure, have increased in us, it must be confessed, a permanent and reasoned admiration for this people's qualities. Such an attitude of mind is rare enough and often dangerous: it is but a qualification the more for beginning the work. It permits us to follow the main line of the past of the French, to comprehend and not to be troubled by the energy of their present, to catch the advancing omens of their future.
Indeed, if anything of France is to be explained in English and to people reading English, I could not desire a better alliance than yours and mine.