Chastellux, Francis John, Marquis De

, a marshal in the French army, and a member of the French academy, and of many other literary societies, was born in 1734, of a distinguished family. His military talents raised him to the rank of brigadier-general, and he is said to have served in that capacity with great reputation in America. Of his military, however, we know less than of his literary career, which he pursued amidst all his public employments. He had early in life a strong passion for poetry and music. Many of his comedies, written for private theatres, and heard with transport, might have been equally successful on the public stages, had he had courage sufficient to make the experiment. He was an officer in the French guards in 1765, when he published his ingenious “Essay on the Union of Poetry and Music.” This essay was the | consequence of a voyage into Italy, where he seems to have adopted an exclusive taste for the dramatic music of that country, as Rousseau had done before. He even adopts some of Rousseau’s ideas upon music; but in general he thinks for himself, both deeply and originally. By his reflections on the musical drama, he not only offended the musicians of France, but the lyric poets of every country; not scrupling to assert that in an opera, music, which ought to be the principal consideration, had been too long a slave to syllables; for since the cultivation of the melo-drama, it was found that music had its own language, its tropes, metaphors, colouring, movements, passions, and expression of sentiment. This little tract, for it was but a pamphlet of 90 or 100 pages, 12mo, gave birth to a long controversy in France, in which the author was supported by the abbe Arnaud, M. D’Alembert, the abb Morellet, and M. Marmontel. His chief antagonist was the author of a “Treatise on the Melo-Drama,” who, loving poetry better than music, wished to reduce the opera to a mere recitative or musical declamation. During the subsequent feuds between the Gluckists and Piccinists, the opponents of the marquis de Chastellux enlisted with the former, and his friends with the latter of these sects.

The next work which the marquis wrote, was his essay “De la felicite publique,” published at Amsterdam, without his name, which was given to the English public in a translation entitled “An Essay on Public Happiness, investigating the state of human nature, under each of its particular appearances, through the several periods of history to the present times,London, 2 vols. 8vo. While the marquis was engaged on this work he frequently shifted his abode, and was also obliged to attend his regiment (that of Guienne) during four months of the year: at these times he could only have recourse to such books as were at hand, many of which were translations, and but a small number originals; yet, notwithstanding these disadvantages, he has brought together a great variety of historical information, accompanied with many useful, and some fanciful observations. Viewing the then placid state of society in his own and neighbouring countries, he was deceived by his love of peace and happiness, into a kind of prediction that wars would be no more so frequent, or produce such great calamities, as they had in ages past! The | translation, we have heard, was by J. Kent, esq. a country gentleman.

We have already noticed that the marquis served in America, under Rochatnbeau, during the war with Great Britain. This produced his “Voyage dans l’Amerique,” which was immediately translated into English, under the title “Travels in North- America, in the years 1780, 1781, 1782,1787, 2 vols. 8vo. In this work, which is rather to be read as amusing than relied on as authentic, there is much of that enthusiasm for theoretic liberty and happiness which pervades the marquis’s former work; but his want of impartiality did not escape even his own countrymen. Brissot de Warville wrote an “Examen Critique' 7 of the travels, in which he convicted the writer of great partiality, as well as of unjust representations of events; and the same charges were brought against him by an anonymous writer in our own country, who, after the appearance of the translation, published” Remarks on the Travels, &c.“1787, 8vo. The only other publication of the marquis’s pen, was” Notice sur la vie et les ecrits d’Helvetius,“printed with his poem” Du Bonheur." We give this on the authority of the Dict. Hist, but it has been attributed to Duclos, to Saurin, and to the baron Holbach. The marquis de Chastellux died suddenly at Paris, Oct. 24, 1788. 1

1 Dict. Hist. Essay on Public Happiness, notes to vol. I. Burners Memoirs of Metaatasio, vol. II. p. 329.