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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1 - From the Beginning to 1800
by George Saintsbury
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Then come two more startling events. A wicked Prince Phraortes bolts with the unwilling Araminta, and the King of Assyria (alias Philidaspes) slips away in search of Mandane on his own account—two things inconvenient to Cyrus in some ways, but balancing themselves in others. For if it is unpleasant to have a very violent and rather unscrupulous Rival hunting the beloved on the one hand, that beloved's jealousy, if not cured, is at least not likely to be increased by the disappearance of its object. This last, however, hits Spithridates, who is, as it has been and will be seen, the souffre-douleur of the book, much harder. And the double situation illustrates once more the extraordinary care taken in systematising—and as one might almost say syllabising—the book. It is almost impossible that there should not somewhere exist an actual syllabus of the whole, though, my habit being rather to read books themselves than books about them, I am not aware of one as a fact.[178]

Another characteristic is also well illustrated in this context, and a further translated extract will show the curious, if not very recondite, love-casuistry which plays so large a part. But these French writers of the seventeenth century[179] did not know one-tenth of the matter that was known by their or others' mediaeval ancestors, by their English and perhaps Spanish contemporaries, or by writers in the nineteenth century. They were not "perfect in love-lore"; their Liber Amoris was, after all, little more than a fashion-book in divers senses of "fashion." But let them speak for themselves:

[Sidenote: The judgment of Cyrus in a court of love.]

[Menecrate and Thrasimede are going to fight, and have, according to the unqualified legal theory[180] and very occasional actual practice of seventeenth-century France, if not of the Medes and Persians, been arrested, though in honourable fashion. The "dependence" is a certain Arpalice, who loves Thrasimede and is loved by him. But she is ordered by her father's will to marry Menecrate, who is now quite willing to marry her, though she hates him, and though he has previously been in love with Androclee, to whom he has promised that he will not marry the other. A sort of informal Cour d'Amour is held on the subject, the President being Cyrus himself, and the judges Princesses Timarete and Palmis, Princes Sesostris and Myrsilus, with "Toute la compagnie" as assessors and assessoresses. After much discussion, it is decided to disregard the dead father's injunction and the living inconstant's wishes, and to unite Thrasimede and Arpalice. But the chief points of interest lie in the following remarks:]

"As it seems to me," said Cyrus, "what we ought most to consider in this matter is the endeavour to make the fewest possible persons unhappy, and to prevent a combat between two gentlemen of such gallantry, that to whichever side victory inclines, we should have cause to regret the vanquished. For although Menecrate is inconstant and a little capricious, he has, for all that, both wits and a heart. We must, then, if you please," added he, turning to the two princesses, "consider that if Arpalice were forced to carry out her father's testament and marry Menecrate, everybody would be unhappy, and he would have to fight two duels,[181] one against Thrasimede and one against Philistion (Androclee's brother), the one fighting for his mistress, the other for his sister." "No doubt," said Lycaste, "several people will be unhappy, but, methinks, not all; for at any rate Menecrate will possess his mistress." "'Tis true," said Cyrus, "that he will possess Arpalice's beauty; but I am sure that as he would not possess her heart, he could not call himself satisfied; and his greatest happiness in this situation would be having prevented the happiness of his Rival. As for the rest of it, after the first days of his marriage, he would be in despair at having wedded a person who hated him, and whom he, perhaps, would have ceased to love; for, considering Menecrate's humour, I am the most deceived of all men if the possession of what he loves is not the very thing to kill all love in his heart. As for Arpalice, it is easy to see that, marrying Menecrate, whom she hates, and not marrying Thrasimede, whom she loves, she would be very unhappy indeed; nor could Androclee, on her side, be particularly satisfied to see a man like Menecrate, whom she loves passionately, the husband of another. Philistion could hardly be any more pleased to see Menecrate, after promising to marry his sister, actually marrying another. As for Thrasimede, it is again easy to perceive that, being as much in love with Arpalice as he is, and knowing that she loves him, he would have good reason for thinking himself one of the unhappiest lovers in the world if his Rival possessed his mistress. Therefore, from what I have said, you will see that by giving Arpalice to Menecrate, everybody concerned is made miserable; for even Parmenides [not the philosopher, but a friend of Menecrate, whose sister, however, has rejected him], though he may make a show of being still attached to the interests of Menecrate, will be, unless I mistake, well enough pleased that his sister should not marry the brother of a person whom he never wishes to see again, and by whom he has been ill-treated. Then, if we look at the matter from the other side and propose to give Arpalice to Thrasimede, it remains an unalterable fact that these two people will be happy; that Philistion will be satisfied; that justice will be done to Androclee; that nothing disobliging will be done to Parmenides, and that Menecrate will be made by force more happy than he wishes to be; for we shall give him a wife by whom he is loved, and take from him one by whom he is hated. Moreover, things being so, even if he refuses to subject his whim to his reason, he can wish to come to blows with Thrasimede alone, and would have nothing to ask of Philistion; besides which, his sentiments will change as soon as Thrasimede is Arpalice's husband. One often fights with a Rival, thinking to profit by his defeat, when he has not married the beloved object; but one does not so readily fight the husband of one's mistress, as being her lover.[182]"

Much about the "Good Rival" (as we may call him) Mazare follows, and there is an illuminative sentence about our favourite Doralise's humeur enjouee et critique, which, as the rest of her part does, gives us a "light" as to the origin of those sadly vulgarised lively heroines of Richardson's whom Lady Mary very justly wanted to "slipper." Doralise and Martesie are ladies, which the others, unfortunately, are not. And then we pay for our ecphrasis by an immense Histoire of the Tyrian Elise, its original.

At the beginning of VII. ii. Cyrus is in the doldrums. Many of his heroes have got their heroines—the personages of bygone histoires—and are honeymooning and (to borrow again from Mr. Kipling) "dancing on the deck." He is not. Moreover, the army, like all seventeenth-century armies after victory and in comfortable quarters, is getting rather out of hand; and he learns that the King of Pontus has carried Mandane off to Cumae—not the famous Italian Cumae, home of the Sibyl whom Sir Edward Burne-Jones has fixed for us, and of many classical memories, but a place somewhere near Miletus, defended by unpleasant marshes on land, and open to the sea itself, the element on which Cyrus is weakest, and by which the endlessly carried off Mandane may readily be carried off again. He sends about for help to Phoenicia and elsewhere; but when, after a smart action by land against the town, a squadron does appear off the port, he is for a time quite uncertain whether it is friend or foe. Fortunately Cleobuline, Queen of Corinth, a young widow of surpassing beauty and the noblest sentiments, who has sworn never to marry again, has conceived a Platonic-romantic admiration for him, and has sent her fleet to his aid. She deserves, of course, and still more of course has, a Histoire de Cleobuline. Also the inestimable Martesie writes to say that Mandane has been dispossessed of her suspicions, and that the King of Pontus is, in the race for her favour, nowhere. The city falls, and the lovers meet. But if anybody thinks for a moment that they are to be happy ever afterwards, Arithmetic, Logic, and Literary History will combine to prove to him that he is very much mistaken. In order to make these two lovers happy at all, not only time and space, but six extremely solid volumes would have to be annihilated.

The close of VII. ii. and the whole of VIII. i. are occupied with imbroglios of the most characteristic kind. There is a certain Anaxaris, who has been instrumental in preventing Mandane from being, according to her almost invariable custom, carried off from Cumae also. To whom, though he is one of the numerous "unknowns" of the book, Cyrus rashly confides not only the captainship of the Princess's guards, but various and too many other things, especially when "Philip Devil" turns up once more, and, seeing the lovers in apparent harmony, claims the fulfilment of Cyrus's rash promise to fight him before marrying. This gets wind in a way, and watch is kept on Cyrus by his friends; but he, thinking of the parlous state of his mistress if both her principal lovers were killed—for Prince Mazare is, so to speak, out of the running, while the King of Pontus is still lying perdu somewhere—entrusts the secret to Anaxaris, and begs him to take care of her. Now Anaxaris—as is so usual—is not Anaxaris at all, but Aryante, Prince of the Massagetae and actually brother of the redoubtable Queen Thomyris; and he also has fallen a victim to Mandane's fascinations, which appear to be irresistible, though they are, mercifully perhaps, rather taken for granted than made evident to the reader. One would certainly rather have one Doralise or Martesie than twenty Mandanes. However, again in the now expected manner, the fight does not immediately come off. For "Philip Devil," in his usual headlong violence, has provoked another duel with the Assyrian Prince Intaphernes,[183] and has been badly worsted and wounded by his foe, who is unhurt. This puts everything off, and for a long time the main story drops again (except as far as the struggles of Anaxaris between honour and love are depicted), first to a great deal of miscellaneous talk about the quarrel of King and Prince, and then to a regular Histoire of the King, Intaphernes, Atergatis, Princess Istrine, and the Princess of Bithynia, Spithridates's sister and daughter of a very robustious and rather usurping King Arsamones, who is a deadly enemy of Cyrus. The dead Queen Nitocris, and the passion for her of a certain Gadates, Intaphernes's father, and also sometimes, if not always, called a "Prince," come in here. The story again introduces the luckless Spithridates himself, who is first, owing to his likeness to Cyrus, persecuted by Thomyris, and then imprisoned by his father Arsamones because he will not give up Araminta and marry Istrine, whom Nitocris had wanted to marry her own son Philidaspes—a good instance of the extraordinary complications and contrarieties in which the book indulges, and of which, if Dickens had been a more "literary" person, he might have thought when he made the unfortunate Augustus Moddle observe that "everybody appears to be somebody else's." Finally, the volume ends with an account of the leisurely progress of Mandane and Cyrus to Ecbatana and Cyaxares, while the King of Assyria recovers as best he can. But at certain "tombs" on the route evidence is found that the King of Pontus has been recently in the land of the living, and is by no means disposed to give up Mandane.

The second volume of this part is one of the most eventless of all, and is mainly occupied by a huge Histoire of Puranius, Prince of Phocaea, his love Cleonisbe, and others, oddly topped by a passage of the main story, describing Cyrus's emancipation of the captive Jews. He is for a time separated from the Princess.

The first pages of IX. i. are lively, though they are partly a recit. Prince Intaphernes tells Cyrus all about Anaxaris (Aryante), and how by representing Cyrus as dead and the King of Assyria in full pursuit of her, he has succeeded in carrying off Mandane; how also he has had the cunning, by availing himself of the passion of another high officer, Andramite, for Doralise, to induce him to join, in order that the maid of honour may accompany her mistress. Accordingly Cyrus, the King of Assyria himself, and others start off in fresh pursuit; but the King has at first the apparent luck. He overtakes the fugitives, and a sharp fight follows. But the guards whom Cyrus has placed over the Princess, and who, in the belief of his death, have followed the ravishers, are too much for Philidaspes, and he is fatally wounded; fulfilling the oracle, as we anticipated long ago, by dying in Mandane's arms, and honoured with a sigh from her as for her intended rescuer.

She herself, therefore, is in no better plight, for Aryante and Andramite continue the flight, with her and her ladies, to a port on the Euxine, destroying, that they may not be followed, all the shipping save one craft they select, and making for the northern shore. Here after a time Aryante surrenders Mandane to his sister Thomyris, as he cannot well help doing, though he knows her violent temper and her tigress-like passion for Cyrus, and though, also, he is on rather less than brotherly terms with her, and has a party among the Massagetae who would gladly see him king. Meanwhile the King of Pontus and Phraortes, Araminta's carrier-off, fight and kill each other, and Araminta is given up—a loss for Mandane, for they have been companions in quasi-captivity, and there is no longer any subject of jealousy between them.

Having thus created a sort of "deadlock" situation such as she loves, and in the interval, while Cyrus is gathering forces to attack Thomyris, the author, as is her fashion likewise, surrenders herself to the joys of digression. We have a great deal of retrospective history of Aryante, and at last the famous Scythian philosopher, Anacharsis, is introduced, bringing with him the rest of the Seven Ancient Sages—with whom we could dispense, but are not allowed to do so. There is a Banquet of them all at the end of the first volume of the Part; and they overflow into the second, telling stories about Pisistratus and others, and discussing "love in the aib-stract," as frigidly as might be expected, on such points as, "Can you love the same person twice?"[184] But the last half of this IX. ii. is fortunately business again. There is much hard fighting with Thomyris, who on one occasion wishes to come to actual sword-play with Cyrus, and of whom we have the liveliest ecphrasis, or set description, in the whole romance.

[Sidenote: Thomyris on the warpath.]

As for Thomyris, she was so beautiful that day that there was no one in the world save Mandane, who could have disputed a heart with her[185] without the risk of losing. This Princess was mounted on a fine black horse, trapped with gold; her dress was of cloth of gold, with green panels shot with a little carnation, and was of the shape of that of Pallas when she is represented as armed. The skirt was caught up on the hip with diamond clasps, and showed buskins of lions' muzzles made to correspond with the rest. Her head-dress was adorned with jewels, and a great number of feathers—carnation, white and green—hung over her beautiful fair tresses, while these, fluttering at the wind's will, mixed themselves with the plumes as she turned her head, and with their careless curls gave a marvellous lustre to her beauty. Besides, as her sleeves were turned up, and caught on the shoulder, while she held the bridle of her horse with one hand and her sword with the other, she showed the loveliest arms in the world. Anger had flushed her complexion, so that she was more beautiful than usual; and the joy of once more seeing Cyrus, and seeing him also in an action respectful towards her,[186] effaced the marks of her immediately preceding fury so completely that he could see nothing but what was amiable and charming.

Thomyris, however, is as treacherous and cruel as she is beautiful; and part of her reason for seeming milder is that more of her troops may turn up and seize him.

On another occasion, owing to false generalship and disorderly advance on the part of the King of Hyrcania, Cyrus is in no small danger, but he "makes good," though at a disastrous expense, and with still greater dangers to meet. Thomyris's youthful son (for young and beautiful widow as she is, she has been an early married wife and a mother), Spargapises, just of military age, is captured in battle, suffers from his captors' ignorance what has been called "the indelible insult of bonds," and though almost instantly released as soon as he is known, stabs himself as disgraced. His body is sent to his mother with all sorts of honours, apologies, and regrets, but she, partly out of natural feeling, partly from her excited state, and partly because her mind is poisoned by false insinuations, sends, after transports of maternal and other rage, a message to Cyrus to the effect that if he does not put himself unreservedly in her hands, she will send him back Mandane dead, in the coffin of Spargapises. And so the last double-volume but one ends with a suitable "fourth act" curtain, as we may perhaps call it.

The last of all, X. i. and ii., exhibits, in a remarkable degree, the general defects and the particular merits and promise of this curious and (it cannot be too often repeated) epoch-making book. In the latter respect more especially it shows the "laborious orient ivory sphere in sphere" fashion in which the endless and, it may sometimes seem, aimless episodes, and digressions, and insets are worked into the general theme. The defects will hardly startle, though they may still annoy, any one who has worked through the whole. But if another wickedly contented himself with a sketch of the story up to this point, and thought to make up by reading this Part of two volumes carefully, he would probably feel these defects very strongly indeed. We—we corrupt moderns—do expect a quickening up for the run-in. The usual beginning may seem to the non-experts to promise this, or at least to give hopes of it; for though there is a vast deal of talking—with Anacharsis as a go-between and Gelonide (a good confidante), endeavouring to soften Thomyris, one can but expect it—the situation itself is at once difficult and exciting. The position of Aryante in particular is really novel-dramatic. As he is in love with Mandane, he of course does not want his sister to murder her. But inasmuch as he fears Cyrus's rivalry, he does not want him to be near Mandane for two obvious reasons: first, the actual proximity, and, secondly, the danger of Thomyris's temper getting the better (or worse) of her when both the lovers are in her power. So he sends private messengers to the Persian Prince, begging him not to surrender. Cyrus, however, still thinks of exchanging himself for Mandane. At this point the neophyte's rage may be excited by being asked to plunge into the regular four-hundred page Histoire of a certain Arpasie, who has two lovers—a Persian nobleman Hidaspe, and a supposed Assyrian champion Meliante, who has come with reinforcements for Thomyris. And no doubt the proportion is outrageous. But "wait and see," a phrase, it may be observed, which was not, as some seem to think, invented by Mr. Asquith.

At last the business does begin again, and a tremendous battle takes place for the possession of certain forests which lie between the two armies, and are at first held by the Scythians. Cyrus, however, avails himself of the services of an engineer who has a secret of combustibles, sets the forests ablaze, and forces his way through one or two open defiles, with little loss to himself and very heavy loss to the enemy, whose main body, however, is still unbroken. This affords a fine subject for one of the curious frontispieces known to all readers of seventeenth century books. A further wait for reinforcements takes place, and the author basely avails herself of it for a no doubt to herself very congenial (they actually called her in "precious" circles by the name of the great poetess) and enormous Histoire of no less a person than Sappho, which fills the last 250 pages of the first (nineteenth) volume and about as much of the second (twentieth) or last. It has very little connection with the text, save that Sappho and Phaon (for the self-precipitation at Leucas is treated as a fable) retire to the country of the Sauromatae, to live there a happy, united, but unwed and purely Platonic (in the silly sense) existence. The foolish side of the precieuse system comes out here, and the treatment confirms one's suspicion that the author's classical knowledge was not very deep.

It does come to an end at last, however, and at last also we do get our "run-in," such as it is. The chief excuse for its existence is that it brings in a certain Mereonte, who, like his quasi-assonant Meliante, is to be useful later, and that the tame conclusion is excused by a Sapphic theory—certainly not to be found in her too fragmentary works—that "possession ruins love," a doctrine remembered and better put by Dryden in a speech of that very agreeable Doralice, whose name, though not originally connected with this part of it, he also, as has been noted, borrowed from the Grand Cyrus.

The actual finale begins (so to speak) antithetically with the last misfortune of the unlucky Spithridates. His ill-starred likeness to Cyrus, assisted by a suit of armour which Cyrus has given to him, make the enemy certain that he is Cyrus himself, and he is furiously assaulted in an off-action, surrounded, and killed. His head is taken to Thomyris, who, herself deceived, executes upon it the famous "blood-bath" of history or legend.[187] Unfortunately it is not only in the Scythian army that the error spreads. Cyrus's troops are terrified and give way, so that he is overpowered by numbers and captured. Fortunately he falls into the hands, not of Thomyris's own people or of her savage allies, the Geloni (it is a Gelonian captain who has acted as executioner in Spithridates's case), but of the supposed Assyrian leader Meliante, who is an independent person, admires Cyrus, and, further persuaded by his friend Mereonte (v. sup.), resolves to let him escape. The difficulties, however, are great, and the really safest, though apparently the most dangerous way, seems to lie through the "Royal Tents" (the nomad capital of Thomyris) themselves. Meanwhile, Aryante is making interest against his sister; some of Cyrus's special friends, disguised as Massagetae, are trying to discover and rescue him, and the Sauromatae are ready to desert the Scythian Queen. One of her transports of rage brings on the catastrophe. She orders the Gelonian bravo to poniard Mandane, and he actually stabs by mistake her maid-of-honour Hesionide—the least interesting one, luckily. Cyrus himself, after escaping notice for a time, is identified, attacked, and nearly slain, when the whole finishes in a general chaos of rebellion, arrival of friends, flight of Thomyris, and a hairbreadth escape of Cyrus himself, which unluckily partakes more of the possible-improbable than of the impossible-probable. The murders being done, the marriages would appear to have nothing to delay them; but an evil habit, the origin of which is hard to trace, and which is not quite extinct, still puts them off. Meliante has got to be rewarded with the hand of Arpasie, which is accomplished after he has been discovered, in a manner not entirely romantic, to be the son of the King of Hyrcania, and both his marriage and that of Cyrus are interfered with by a supposed Law of the Medes and of certain minor Asiatic peoples, that a Prince or Princess may not marry a foreigner. Fresh discoveries get rid of this in Meliante's case, while in that of Cyrus a convenient Oracle declares that he who has conquered every kingdom in Asia cannot be considered a foreigner in any. So at last the long chart is finished, Doralise retaining her character as lightener of this rather solid entertainment by declaring that she cannot say she loves her suitor, Prince Myrsilus, because every phrase that occurs to her is either too strong or too weak. So we bless her, and stop the water channels—or, as the Limousin student might have more excellently said, "claud the rives."

* * * * *

[Sidenote: General remarks on the book and its class.]

If the reader, having tolerated this long analysis (it is perhaps most probable that he will not have done so), asks what game one pretends to have shown for so much expenditure or candle, it is, no doubt, not easy to answer him without a fresh, though a lesser, trial of his patience. You cannot "ticket" the Grand Cyrus, or any of its fellows, or the whole class, with any complimentary short description, such as a certain school of ancient criticism loved, and corresponding to our modern advertisement labels—"grateful and comforting," "necessary in every travelling bag," and the like. They are, indeed, as I have endeavoured to indicate indirectly as well as directly, by no means so destitute of interest of the ordinary kind as it has generally been the fashion to think them. From the charge of inordinate length it is, of course, impossible to clear the whole class, and Artamene more particularly.[188] Length "no more than reason" is in some judgments a positive advantage in a novel; but this is more than reason. I believe (the moi, I trust, is not utterly haissable when it is necessary) that I myself am a rather unusually rapid, without being a careless or unfaithful, reader; and that I have by nature a very little of that faculty with which some much greater persons have been credited, of being able to see at a glance whether anything on a page needs more than that glance or not, a faculty not likely to have been rendered abortive (though also not, I hope, rendered morbid) by infinite practice in reviewing. I do not say that, even now, I have read every word of this Artamene as I should read every word of a sonnet of Shakespeare or a lyric of Shelley, even as I should read every word of a page of Thackeray. I have even skimmed many pages. But I have never found, even in a time of "retired leisure," that I could get through more than three, or at the very utmost four, of the twenty volumes or half-volumes without a day or two of rest or other work between. On the other hand, the book is not significantly piquant in detail to enable me to read attentively fifty or a hundred pages and then lay it down.[189] You do, in a lazy sort of way, want to know what happened—a tribute, no doubt, to Mlle. Madeleine—and so you have to go on ploughing the furrow. But several weeks' collar-work[190] is a great deal to spend on a single book of what is supposed to be pastime; and the pastime becomes occasionally one of doubtful pleasure now and then. In fact, it is, as has been said, best to read in shifts. Secondly, there may, no doubt, be charged a certain unreality about the whole: and a good many other criticisms may be, as some indeed have been already, made without injustice.

The fact is that not only was the time not yet, but something which was very specially of the time stood in the way of the other thing coming, despite the strong nisus in its favour excited by various influences spoken of at the beginning of this chapter. This was the devotion—French at almost all times, and specially French at this—to the type. There are some "desperate willins" (as Sam Weller called the greengrocer at the swarry) who fail to see much more than types in Racine, though there is something more in Corneille, and a very great deal more in Moliere. In the romances which charmed at home the audiences and spectators of these three great men's work abroad, there is nothing, or next to nothing, else at all. The spirit of the Epistle to the Pisos, which acted on the Tragedians in verse, which acted on Boileau in criticism and poetry, was heavier on the novelist than on any of them. Take sufficient generosity, magnanimity, adoration, bravery, courtesy, and so forth, associate the mixture with handsome flesh and royal blood, clothe the body thus formed with brilliant scarfs and shining armour, put it on the best horse that was ever foaled, or kneel it at the feet of the most beautiful princess that ever existed, and you have Cyrus. For the princess herself take beauty, dignity, modesty, graciousness, etc., quant. suff., clothe them in garments again magnificent, and submit the total to extreme inconveniences, some dangers, and an immense amount of involuntary travelling, but nothing "irreparable," and you have Mandane. For the rest, with the rare and slight exceptions mentioned, they flit like shadows ticketed with more or less beautiful names. Even Philidaspes, the most prominent male character after the hero by far, is, whether he be "in cog" as that personage or "out of cog" as Prince and King of Assyria, merely a petulant hero—a sort of cheap Achilles, with no idiosyncrasy at all. It is the fault, and in a way the very great fault, of all the kind: and there is nothing more to do with it but to admit it and look for something to set against it.

How great a thing the inception (to use a favourite word of the present day, though it be no favourite of the writer's) of the "psychological" treatment of Love[191] was may, of course, be variously estimated. The good conceit of itself in which that day so innocently and amusingly indulges will have it, indeed, that the twentieth century has invented this among other varieties of the great and venerable art of extracting nourishment from eggs. "We have," somebody wrote not long ago—the exact words may not be given, but the sense is guaranteed—"perceived that Love is not merely a sentiment, an appetite, or a passion, but a great means of intellectual development." Of course Solomon did not know this, nor Sappho, nor Catullus, nor the fashioners of those "sentiments" of the Middle Ages which brought about the half-fabulous Courts of Love itself, nor Chaucer, nor Spenser, nor Shakespeare, nor Donne. It was reserved for—but one never names contemporaries except honoris causa.

It is—an "of course" of another kind—undeniable that the fashion of love-philosophy which supplies so large a part of the "yarn" of Madeleine de Scudery's endless rope or web is not our fashion. But it is, in a way, a new variety of yarn as compared with anything used before in prose, even in the Greek romances[192] and the Amadis group (nay, even in the Astree itself). Among other things, it connects itself more with the actual society, manners, fashions of its day than had ever been the case before, and this is the only interesting side of the "key" part of it. This was the way that they did to some extent talk and act then, though, to be sure, they also talked and acted very differently. It is all very well to say that the Hotel de Rambouillet is a sort of literary-historical fiction, and the Precieuses Ridicules a delightful farce. The fiction was not wholly a fiction, and the farce was very much more than a farce—would have been, indeed, not a farce at all if it had not satirised a fact.

It is, however, in relation to the general history and development of the novel, and therefore in equally important relation to the present History, that the importance of the Grand Cyrus, or rather of the class of which it was by far the most popular and noteworthy member, is most remarkable. Indeed this importance can hardly be exaggerated, and is much more likely to be—indeed has nearly always been—undervalued. Even the jejune and partial analysis which has been given must have shown how many of the elements of the modern novel are here—sometimes, as it were, "in solution," sometimes actually crystallised. For any one who demands plot there is one—of such gigantic dimensions, indeed, that it is not easy to grasp it, but seen to be singularly well articulated and put together when it is once grasped. Huge as it is, it is not in the least formless, and, as has been several times pointed out, hardly the most (as it may at first appear) wanton and unpardonable episode, digression, or inset lacks its due connection with and "orientation" towards the end. The contrast of this with the more or less formless chronicle-fashion, the "overthwart and endlong" conduct, of almost all the romances from the Carlovingian and Arthurian[193] to the Amadis type, is of the most unmistakable kind.

Again, though character, as has been admitted, in any real live sense, is terribly wanting still; though description is a little general and wants more "streaks in the tulip"; and though conversation is formal and stilted, there is evident, perhaps even in the first, certainly in the second and third cases, an effort to treat them at any rate systematically, in accordance with some principles of art, and perhaps even not without some eye to the actual habits, manners, demands of the time—things which again were quite new in prose fiction, and, in fact, could hardly be said to be anywhere present in literature outside of drama.

To set against these not so very small merits in the present, and very considerable seeds of promise for the future, there are, of course, serious faults or defects—defaults which need, however, less insistence, because they are much more generally known, much more obvious, and have been already admitted. The charge of excessive length need hardly be dealt with at all. It has already been said that the most interesting point about it is the opportunity of discovering how it was, in part, a regular, and, in fact, almost the furthest possible, development of a characteristic which had been more or less observable throughout the progress of romance. But it may be added that the law of supply and demand helped; for people evidently were not in the least bored by bulk, and that the fancy for having a book "on hand" has only lately, if it has actually, died out.[194] Now such a "book on hand" as the Grand Cyrus exists, as far as my knowledge goes, in no Western literature, unless you count collections of letters, which is not fair, or such memoirs as Saint-Simon's, which do not appeal to quite the same class of readers.

A far more serious default or defect—not exactly blameworthy, because the time was not yet, but certainly to be taken account of—is the almost utter want of character just referred to. From Cyrus and Mandane downwards the people have qualities; but qualities, though they are necessary to character, do not constitute it. Very faint approaches may be discerned, by very benevolent criticism, in such a personage as Martesie with her shrewdness, her maid-of-honour familiarity with the ways and manners of courtly human beings, and that very pardonable, indeed agreeable, tendency, which has been noticed or imagined, to flirt in respectful fashion with Cyrus, while carrying on more regular business with Feraulas. But it is little more than a suggestion, and it has been frankly admitted that it is perhaps not even that, but an imagination merely. And the same observation may apply to her "second string," Doralise. No others of the women have any character at all, and we have already spoken of the men.

Now these things, in a book very widely read and immensely admired, could not, and did not, fail to have their effect. Nobody—we shall see this more in detail in the next chapter—can fail to perceive that the Princesse de Cleves itself is, from one point of view, only a histoire of the Grand Cyrus, taken out of its preposterous matrix of other matter, polished, charged with a great addition of internal fire of character and passion, and left to take its chance alone and unencumbered. Nobody, on the other hand, who knows Richardson and Mademoiselle de Scudery can doubt the influence of the French book—a century old as it was—on the "father of the English novel." Now any influence exerted on these two was, beyond controversy, an influence exerted on the whole future course of the kind, and it is as exercising such an influence that we have given to the Great Cyrus so great a space.

* * * * *

[Sidenote: The other Scudery romances—Ibrahim.]

After the exhaustive account given of Artamene, it is probably not necessary to apologise for dealing with the rest of Mlle. de Scudery's novel work, and with that of her comrades in the Heroic romance, at no very great length. Ibrahim ou L'Illustre Bassa has sometimes been complimented as showing more endeavour, if not exactly at "local colour," at technical accuracy, than the rest. It is true that the French were, at this time, rather amusingly proud of being the only Western nation treated on something like equal terms by the Sublime Porte, and that the Scuderys (possibly Georges, whose work the Dedication to Mlle. de Rohan, daughter of the famous soldier, pretty certainly is) may have taken some pains to acquire knowledge. "Sandjak" (or "Sanjiac"), not for a district but for its governor, is a little unlucky perhaps; but "Aderbion" is much nearer "Azerbaijan" than one generally expects in such cases from French writers of the seventeenth or even of other centuries. The Oriental character of the story, however, is but partial. The Illustrious Pasha himself, though First Vizir and "victorious" general of Soliman the Second, is not a Turk at all, but a "Justinian" or Giustiniani of Genoa, whose beloved Isabelle is a Princess of Monaco, and who at the end, after necessary dangers,[195] retires with her to that Principality, with a punctilious explanation from the author about the Grimaldis. The scene is partly there and at Genoa—the best Genoese families, including the Dorias, appearing—partly at Constantinople: and the business at the latter place is largely concerned with the intrigues, jealousies, and cruelties of Roxelane, who is drawn much more (one regrets to say) as history paints her than as the agreeable creature of Marmontel's subsequent fancy. The book is a mere cockboat beside the mighty argosy of the Cyrus, running only to four volumes and some two thousand pages. But though smaller, it is much "stodgier." The Histoires break out at once with the story of a certain Alibech—much more proper for the young person than that connected with the same name by Boccaccio,—and those who have acquired some knowledge of Mlle. Madeleine's ways will know what it means when, adopting the improper but defensible practice of "looking at the end," they find that not merely "Justinian" and Isabelle, but a Horace and a Hypolite, a Doria and a Sophronie, an Alphonse and a Leonide are all married on the same day, while a "French Marquis" and an Emilie vow inviolable but celibate constancy to each other; they will know, that is to say, that in the course of the book all these will have been duly "historiated." To encourage them, a single hint that Leonide sometimes plays a little of the parts of Martesie and Doralise in the Cyrus may be thrown in.

There is, however, one sentence in the second volume of Ibrahim which is worth quotation and brief comment, because it is a text for the whole management and system of these novels, and accounts for much in their successors almost to the present day. Emilie is telling the Histoire of Isabelle, and excuses herself for not beginning at the beginning: "Puisque je sais que vous n'ignorez pas l'amour du Prince de Masseran, les violences et les artifices de Julie, la trahison de Feliciane, le genereux ressentiment de Doria [this is another Doria], la mort de cet amant infortune, et ensuite celle de Julie." In other words, all these things have been the subject of previous histories or of the main text. And so it is always. Diderot admired, or at least excused, that procedure of Richardson's which involved the telling of the conversation of an average dinner-party in something like a small volume. But the "Heroic" method would have made it necessary to tell the previous experiences of the lady you took down to dinner, and the man that you talked to afterwards, while, if extended from aristocratic to democratic ideas, it would have justified a few remarks on the cabmen who brought both, and the butcher and fishmonger who supplied the feast. The inconvenience of this earlier practice made itself felt, and by degrees it dropped off; but it was succeeded by a somewhat similar habit of giving the subsequent history of personages introduced—a thing which, though Scott satirised it in Mrs. Martha Buskbody's insistence on information about the later history of Guse Gibbie,[196] by no means ceased with his time. Both were, in fact, part of the general refusal to accept the conditions of ordinary life. If "tout passe" is an exaggeration, it is an exaggeration of the truth: and in fiction, as in fact, the minor shapes must dissolve as well as arise without too much fuss being made about them.[197]

[Sidenote: Almahide.]

Almahide is, I think, more readable than Ibrahim; but the English reader must disabuse himself of the idea (if he entertains it) that he will find much of the original of The Conquest of Granada. The book does, indeed, open like the play, with the faction-fights of Abencerrages and Zegrys, and it ends with Boabdelin's jealousy of his wife Almahide, while a few of the other names in both are identical. But Almahide contains nothing, or hardly anything, of the character of Almanzor, and Dryden has not attempted to touch a hundredth part of the copious matter of the French novel, the early history of Almahide, the usual immense digressions and side-histoires, the descriptions (which, as in Ibrahim, play, I think, a larger relative part than in the Cyrus), and what not.

[Sidenote: Clelie.]

[Sidenote: Perhaps the liveliest of the set.]

Copious as these are, however, in both books, they do not fill them out to anything like the length of the Cyrus itself, or of its rival in size, and perhaps superior in attraction, the Clelie. I do not plead guilty to inconsistency or change of opinion in this "perhaps" when it is compared with the very much larger space given to the earlier novel. Le Grand Cyrus has been estated too firmly, as the type and representative of the whole class, to be dislodged, and there is, as we shall see presently, a good deal of repetition from it in Clelie itself. But this latter is the more amusing book of the two; it is, though equally or nearly as big, less labyrinthine; there is somewhat livelier movement in it, and at the same time this is contrasted with a set or series of interludes of love-casuistry, which are better, I think, than anything of the kind in the Cyrus.[198] The most famous feature of these is, of course, the well-known but constantly misnamed "Carte de Tendre" ("Map of the Country of Tenderness"—not of "Tenderness in the aibstract," as du Tendre would be). The discussion of what constitutes Tenderness comes quite early; there is later a notable discourse on the respective attractions of Love and of Glory or Ambition; a sort of Code and Anti-code of lovers[199] occurs as "The Love-Morality of Tiramus," with a set of (not always) contrary criticism thereof; and a debate of an almost mediaeval kind as to the respective merits of merry and melancholy mistresses. Moreover, there is a rather remarkable "Vision of Poets"—past, present, and to come—which should be taken in connection with the appearance, as an actual personage, of Anacreon. All this, taken in conjunction with the "business" of the story, helps to give it the superior liveliness with which it has, rightly or wrongly, been credited here.

[Sidenote: Rough outline of it.]

Of that business itself a complete account cannot, for reasons given more than once, be attempted; though anybody who wants such a thing, without going to the book itself, may find it in the places also above mentioned. There is no such trick played upon the educated but not wideawake person as (v. inf.) in La Calprenede's chief books. Clelie is the real Clelia, if the modern historical student will pass "real" without sniffing, or even if he will not. Her lover, "Aronce," although he probably may be a little disguised from the English reader by his spelling, is so palpably the again real "Aruns," son of Porsena, that one rather wonders how his identity can have been so long concealed in French (where the pronunciations would be practically the same) from the readers of the story. The book begins with a proceeding not quite so like that of the Cyrus as some to be mentioned later, but still pretty close to the elder overture. "The illustrious Aronce and the adorable Clelia" are actually going to be married, when there is a fearful storm, an earthquake, and a disappearance of the heroine. She has, of course, been carried off; one might say, without flippancy, of any heroine of Madeleine de Scudery's not only that she was, as in a famous and already quoted saying, "very liable to be carried off," but that it was not in nature that she should not be carried off as early and as often as possible. And her abductor is no less a person than Horatius—our own Horatius Cocles—the one who kept the bridge in some of the best known of English verses, not he who provoked, from the sister whom he murdered, the greatest speech in all French tragedy before, and perhaps not merely before, Victor Hugo. Horatius is the Philidaspes of Clelie, but, as he was bound to be, an infinitely better fellow and of a better fate. Of course the end knits straight on to the beginning. Clelie and Aronce are united without an earthquake, and Porsena, with obliging gallantry, resigns the crown of Clusium (from which he has himself long been kept out by a "Mezentius," who will hardly work in with Virgil's), not to Aronce, but to Clelie herself. The enormous interval between (the book is practically as long as the Cyrus) is occupied by the same, or (v. sup.) nearly the same tissue of delays, digressions, and other maze-like devices for setting you off on a new quest when you seem to be quite close to the goal. A large part of the scene is in Carthage, where, reversing the process in regard to Mezentius, Asdrubals and Amilcars make their appearance in a very "mixedly" historical fashion. A Prince of Numidia (who had heard of Numidia in Tarquin's days?) fights a lively water-combat with Horatius actually as he is carrying Clelie off, over the Lake of Thrasymene. All the stock legends of the Porsena siege and others are duly brought in: and the atrocious Sextus, not contented with his sin against Lucrece, tries to carry off Clelie likewise, but is fortunately or wisely prevented. Otherwise the invariable propriety which from the time of the small love-novels (v. sup. pp. 157-162) had distinguished these abductions might possibly have been broken through. These outlines might be expanded (and the process would not be very painful to me) into an abstract quite as long as that of Cyrus; but "It Cannot Be."

One objection, foreshadowed, and perhaps a little more, already, must be allowed against Clelie. That tendency to resort to repetition of situations and movements—which has shown itself so often, and which practically distinguishes the very great novelists from those not so great by its absence or presence—is obvious here, though the huge size of the book may conceal it from mere dippers, unless they be experts. The similarity of the openings is, comparatively speaking, a usual thing. It should not happen, and does not in really great writers; but it is tempting, and is to some extent excused by the brocard about le premier pas. It is so nice to put yourself in front of your beginning—to have made sure of it! But this charity will hardly extend to such a thing as the repetition of Cyrus's foolish promise to fight Philidaspes before he marries Mandane in the case of Aronce, Horatius, and Clelie. The way in which Aronce is kept an "unknown" for some time, and that in which his actual relationship to Porsena is treated, have also too much of the replica; and though a lively skirmish with a pirate which occurs is not quite so absurd as that ready-made series of encores which was described above (pp. 181-2), there is something a little like it in the way in which the hero and his men alternately reduce the enemy to extremity, and run over the deck to rescue friends who are in the pirates' power from being butchered or flung overboard. "Sapho's" invention, though by no means sterile, was evidently somewhat indiscriminate, and she would seem to have thought it rather a pity that a good thing should be used only once.

Nevertheless the compliment given above may be repeated. If I were sent to twelve months' imprisonment of a mild description, and allowed to choose a library, I should include in it, from the heroic or semi-heroic division, Clelie, La Calprenede's two chief books, Gomberville's Polexandre, and Gombauld's Endimion (this partly for the pictures), with, as a matter of course, the Astree, and a choice of one other. By reading slowly and "savouring" the process, I should imagine that, with one's memories of other things, they might be able to last for a year. And it would be one of the best kind of fallows for the brain. In anticipation, let us see something of these others now.

[Sidenote: La Calprenede: his comparative cheerfulness.]

It has seemed, as was said, desirable to follow the common opinion of literary history in giving Madeleine de Scudery the place of honour, and the largest as well as the foremost share in our account of this curious stage in the history of the novel. But if, to alter slightly a famous quotation, I might "give a short hint to an impartial reader," I should very strongly advise him to begin his studies (or at least his enjoyment) thereof, not with "Sapho," but with Gauthier de Costes, Seigneur de la Calprenede, himself according to Tallemant almost the proverbial "Gascon et demi"; a tragic dramatist, as well as a romantic writer; a favourite of Mme. de Sevigne, who seldom went wrong in her preferences, except when she preferred her very disagreeable daughter to her very agreeable son; and more than any one else the inventor, or at least perfecter, of the hectoring heroic style which we associate with Dryden's plays. Indeed the Artaban of Cleopatre is much more the original of Almanzor and Drawcansir than anything in Madeleine, though Almahide was actually the source of Dryden's story, or heroine. Besides this, though La Calprenede has rather less of the intricate-impeach character than his she-rival, there is much more bustle and "go" in him; he has, though his books are proper enough, much less fear of dealing with "the kissing and that sort of thing," as it was once discreetly put; and he is sometimes positively exciting in his imbroglios, as when the beautiful Amazon princess Menalippe fights a real duel on horseback with Prince, afterwards King, Alcamenes of Scythia, under the impression that he has killed a certain Alcimedon, who was her lover; discovers, after no small time and considerable damage, that he is Alcimedon himself; and, like a sensible and agreeable girl, embraces him heartily in the sight of men and angels.

[Sidenote: Cleopatre—the Cypassis and Arminius episode.]

This is among the numerous divertissements of Cleopatre (not the earliest, but perhaps the chief of its author's novels[200]), the heroine of which is not

The laughing queen that caught the world's great hands

herself, but her daughter by Antony, who historically married Juba of Mauretania, and is here courted by him under the name of Coriolanus, while he is in disgrace with Augustus. La Calprenede (all these romancers are merciful men and women to the historically unlucky, and cruel only, or for the most part, to fictitious characters) saves her half-brother Caesarion from his actual death, and, after the due thousands of pages, unites him happily to Queen Candace of AEthiopia. There is the same odd muddle (which made a not unintelligent Jesuit label this class of books "historia mixta") with many other persons. Perhaps the most curious of all episodes of this kind is the use made of Ovid's "fusca Cypassis." If Mrs. Grundy could be supposed ever to have read the Amores, the mere sight of the name of that dusky handmaid—to whom Ovid behaved, by his own confession, in such an exceedingly shabby as well as improper fashion—would make her shudder, if not shriek. But La Calprenede's Cypassis, though actually a maid of honour to Julia, as her original was a handmaid to Corinna, is of unblemished morality, flirted with certainly by Ovid, but really a German princess, Ismenia, in disguise, and beloved by, betrothed to, and in the end united with no less a compatriot than Arminius. This union gives also an illustration of the ingenious fashion in which these writers reconcile and yet omit. La Calprenede, as we have seen, does not give Arminius's wife her usual name of Thusnelda, but, to obviate a complaint from readers who have heard of Varus, he invents a protest on "Herman sla lerman" part against that general, who has trepanned him into captivity and gladiatorship, and makes him warn Augustus that he will be true to the Romans unless Varus is sent into his country.[201]

[Sidenote: The book generally.]

This episode is, in many ways, so curious and characteristic, that it seemed worth while to dwell on it for a little; but the account itself must have shown how impossible it is to repeat the process of general abstract. There are, I think, in the book (which took twelve years to publish and fills as many volumes in French, while the English translation is an immense folio of nearly a thousand pages in double column, also entitled Hymen's Praeludia[202]) fewer separate Histoires, though there are a good many, than in the Cyrus, but the intertwined love-plots are almost more complicated. For instance, the Herod-and-Mariamne tragedy is brought in with a strictly "proper" lover, Tiridates, whom Salome uses to provoke Herod's patience, and who has, at the very opening of the book, proved himself both a natural philosopher of no mean order by seeing a fire at sea, and "judging with much likelihood that it comes from a ship," and a brave fellow by rescuing from the billows no less a person than the above-mentioned Queen Candace. From her, however, he exacts immediate, and, as some moderns might think, excessive, payment by making her listen to his own Histoire.

Not the least attractive part of Cleopatre to some people will be that very "Phebus," or amatory conceit, which made the next ages scorn it. When one of the numerous "unknowns" of both sexes (in this case a girl) is discovered (rather prettily) lying on a river bank and playing with the surface of the water, "the earth which sustained this fair body seemed to produce new grass to receive her more agreeably"—a phrase which would have shocked good Bishop Vida many years before, as much as it would have provoked the greater scorn of Mr. Addison about as many after. There are many "ecphrases" or set descriptions of this kind, and they show a good deal of stock convention. For instance, the wind is always "most discreetly, most discreetly" ready, as indeed it was in Mlle. de Scudery's own chaste stories, to blow up sleeves or skirts a little, and achieve the distraction of the beholders by what it reveals. But on the whole, as was hinted above, Gauthier de Costes de La Calprenede is the most natural creature of the heroic band.

[Sidenote: Cassandre.]

His earlier Cassandre is not much inferior to Cleopatre, and has a little more eccentricity about it. The author begins his Second Part by making the ghost of Cassandra herself (who is not the Trojan Cassandra at all) address a certain Calista, whom she mildly accuses of "dragging her from her grave two thousand years after date," adding, as a boast of his own in a Preface, that the very name "Cassandre" has never occurred in the First Part—a huge cantle of the work. The fact is that it is an alias for Statira, the daughter of Darius and wife of Alexander, and is kept by her during the whole of her later married life with her lover Oroondates, King of Scythia, who has vainly wooed her in early days before her union with the great Emathian conqueror. Here, again, the mere student of "unmixed" history may start up and say, "Why! this Statira, who was also called Barsine [an independent personage here] was murdered by Roxana after Alexander's death!" But, as was also said, these romancers exercise the privilege of mercy freely; and though La Calprenede's Roxana is naughty enough for anything (she makes, of course, the most shameless love to Oroondates), she is not allowed to kill her rival, who is made happy, after another series of endless adventures of her own, her lover's, and other people's. The book opens with a lively interest to students of the English novel; for the famous two cavaliers of G. P. R. James appear, though they are not actually riding at the moment, but have been, and, after resting, see two others in mortal combat. Throughout there is any amount of good fighting, as, for the matter of that, there is in Cleopatre also; and there is less duplication of detail here than in some other respects, for La Calprenede is rather apt to repeat his characters and situations. For instance, the fight between Lysimachus and Thalestris (La Calprenede is fond of Amazons), though not in the details, is of course in the idea a replica of that between Alcamenes and Menalippe in Cleopatre; and names recur freely. Moreover, in the less famous story, the whole situation of hero and heroine is exactly duplicated in respect of the above-mentioned Lysimachus and Parisatis, Cassandra's younger sister, who is made to marry Hephaestion at first, and only awarded, in the same fashion as her elder sister, at last to her true lover.

By the way, the already-mentioned "harmonising" is in few places more oddly shown than by the remark that Plutarch's error in representing Statira as killed was due to the fact that he did not recognise her under her later name of Cassandra—a piece of Gascon half-naivete, half-jest which Mlle. de Scudery's Norman shrewdness[203] would hardly have allowed. There is also much more of the supernatural in these books than in hers, and the characters are much less prim. Roxana, who, of course, is meant to be naughty, actually sends a bracelet of her hair to Oroondates! which, however, that faithful lover of another instantly returns.

[Sidenote: Faramond.]

La Calprenede's third novel, Faramond, is unfinished as his work, and the continuation seems to have more than one claimant to its authorship. If the "eminent hand" was one Vaumoriere, who independently accomplished a minor "heroic" in Le Grand Scipion, he was not likely to infuse much fire into the ashes of his predecessor. As it stands in La Calprenede's own part, Faramond is a much duller book than Cassandre or Cleopatre. It must, of course, be remembered that, though patriotism has again and again prompted the French to attack these misty Merovingian times (the Astree itself deals with them in the liberal fashion in which it deals with everything), the result has rarely, if ever, been a success. Indeed I can hardly think of any one—except our own "Twin Brethren" in Thierry and Theodoret—who has made anything good out of French history before Charlemagne.[204] The reader, therefore, unless he be a very thorough and conscientious student, had better let Faramond alone; but its elder sisters are much pleasanter company. Indeed the impolite thought will occur that it is much more like the Scudery novels, part of which it succeeded, and may possibly have been the result—not by any means the only one in literature—of an unlucky attempt to beat a rival by copying him or her.

[Sidenote: Gomberville—La Caritee.]

If any one, seeking acquaintance with the works of Marin le Roy, Seigneur de Gomberville, begins at the beginning with his earliest work, and one of the earliest of the whole class, La Caritee (not "Caritie," as in some reference books), he may not be greatly appetised by the addition to the title, "contenant, sous des temps, des personnes, et des noms supposes, plusieurs rares et veritables histoires de notre temps." For this is a proclamation, as Urfe had not proclaimed it,[205] of the wearisome "key" system, which, though undoubtedly it has had its partisans at all times, is loathsome as well as wearisome to true lovers of true literature. To such persons every lovable heroine of romance is, more or less, suggestive of more or fewer women of history, other romance, or experience; every hero, more or less, though to a smaller extent, recognisable or realisable in the same way; and every event, one in which such readers have been, might have been, or would have liked to be engaged themselves; but they do not care the scrape of a match whether the author originally intended her for the Princess of Kennaquhair or for Polly Jones, him and it for corresponding realities. Nor is the sequel particularly ravishing, though it is dedicated to "all fair and virtuous shepherdesses, all generous and perfect shepherds." Perhaps it is because one is not a generous and perfect shepherd that one finds the "Great Pan is Dead" story less impressive in Gomberville's prose than in Milton's verse at no distant period; is not much refreshed by getting to Rome about the death of Germanicus, and hearing a great deal about his life; or later still by Egyptian bergeries—things in which somehow one does not see a concatenation accordingly; and is not consoled by having the Phoenix business done—oh! so differently from the fashion of Shakespeare or even of Darley. And when it finishes with a solemn function for the rise of the Nile, the least exclusively modern of readers may prefer Moore or Gautier.

[Sidenote: Polexandre.]

But if any one, deeming not unjustly that he had drunk enough of Caritee, were to conclude that he would drink no more of any of the waters of Gomberville, he would make a mistake. Cytheree[1] I cannot yet myself judge of, except at second-hand; but the first part of Polexandre, if not also the continuation, Le Jeune Alcidiane,[206] may be very well spoken of. It, that is to say the first part of it, was translated into English by no less a person than William Browne, just at the close of his life; and, perhaps for this reason, the British Museum does not contain the French original; but those who cannot attain to this lose the less, because the substance of the book is the principal thing. This makes it one of the liveliest of the whole group, and one does not feel it an idle vaunt when at the end the author observes cheerfully of his at last united hero and heroine, "Since we have so long enjoyed them, let us have so much justice as to think it fitting now that they should likewise enjoy each other." Yet the unresting and unerring spirit of criticism may observe that even here the verbosity which is the fault of the whole division makes its appearance. For why not suppress most of the words after "them," and merely add, "let them now enjoy each other"?

The book is, in fact, rather like a modernised "number" of the Amadis series,[207], and the author has had the will and the audacity to exchange the stale old Greeks and Romans—not the real Greeks, who can never be stale, or the real Romans, who can stand a good deal of staling, but the conventional classics—as well as the impossible shadows of the Dark Ages, for Lepanto and the Western Main, Turks and Spaniards and Mexicans, and a Prince of Scotland. Here also we find in the hero something more like Almanzor than Artamene, if not than Artaban: and of the whole one may say vulgarly that "the pot boils." Now, with the usual Heroic it too often fails to attain even a gentle simmer.

[Sidenote: Camus—Palombe, etc.]

Jean Camus [de Pontcarre?],[208] Bishop of Belley and of Arras—friend of St. Francis of Sales and of Honore d'Urfe; author of many "Christian" romances to counteract the bad effects of the others, of a famous Esprit de Saint Francois de S., and of a very great number of miscellaneous works,—seems to have been a rather remarkable person, and, with less power and more eccentricity, a sort of Fenelon of the first half of the century. His best known novel, Palombe, stands practically alone in its group as having had the honour of a modern reprint in the middle of the nineteenth century.[209] The title-giver is a female, not a male, human dove, and of course a married one. Camus was a divine of views which one does not call "liberal," because the word has been almost more sullied by ignoble use in this connection than in any other—but unconventional and independent; and he provoked great wrath among his brethren by reflecting on the abuses of the conventual system. Palombe appears to be not uninteresting, but after all it is but one of those parasitic exercises which have rarely been great except in the hands of very great genius. Historically, perhaps, the much less famous Evenemens Singuliers (2 vols., 1628) are more important, though they cannot be said to be very amusing. For (to the surprise, perhaps, of a reader who comes to the book without knowing anything about it) it is composed of pure Marmontel-and-Miss-Edgeworth Moral Tales about L'Ami Desloyal, La Prudente Mere, L'Amour et la Mort, L'Imprecation Maternelle, and the like. Of course, as one would expect from the time, and the profession of the author, the meal of the morality is a little above the malt of the tale; but the very titles are "germinal."

* * * * *

[Sidenote: Hedelin d'Aubignac—Macarise.]

Francois Hedelin, Abbe d'Aubignac, is one of those unfortunate but rarely quite guiltless persons who live in literary history much more by the fact of their having attacked or lectured greater men than themselves, and by witticisms directed against them, than by their own actual work, which is sometimes not wholly contemptible. He concerns us here only as the author of a philosophical-heroic romance, rather agreeably entitled Macarise ou La Reine des Iles Fortunees, where the bland naivete of the pedantry would almost disarm the present members of that Critical Regiment, of which the Abbe, in his turn, was not so much a chaplain as a most combatant officer. The very title goes on to neutralise its attractiveness by explaining—with that benignant condescension which is natural to at least some of its author's class—that it "contains the Moral Philosophy of the Stoics under the veil of several agreeable adventures in the form of a Romance"; and that we may not forget this, various side-notes refer to passages in an Abrege of that philosophy. The net is thus quite frankly set in the sight of the bird, and if he chooses to walk into it, he has only himself to blame. The opening is a fine example of that plunge into the middle of things which Hedelin had learnt from his classical masters to think proper: "Les cruels persecuteurs d'Arianax l'ayant reduit a la necessite de se precipiter[210] dans les eaux de la Sennatele avec son frere Dinazel...." The fact that the presupposed gentle reader knows nothing of the persons or the places mentioned is supposed to arouse in him an inextinguishable desire to find out. That he should be at once gratified is, of course, unthinkable. In fact his attention will soon be diverted from Arianax and Dinazel and the banks of the Sennatele altogether by the very tragical adventures of a certain Clearte. He, with a company of friends, visits the country of a tyrant, who is accustomed to welcome strangers and heap them with benefits, till a time comes (the allegory is something obvious) when he demands it all back, with their lives, through a cruel minister (again something "speakingly" named) "Thanate." The head of this company, Clearte, on receiving the sentence, talks Stoicism for many pages, and when he is exhausted, somebody else takes up the running in such a fascinating manner that it "seemed as if he had only to go on talking to make the victims immortal!" But the atrocious Thanate cuts, at the same moment, the thread of the discourse and the throat of Clearte—who is, however, transported to the dominions of Macarise,—and histoires and "ecphrases" and interspersions of verse follow as usual. But the Abbe is nowise infirm of purpose; and the book ends with the strangest mixture of love-letters and not very short discourses on the various schools of philosophy, together with a Glossary or Onomasticon interpreting the proper names which have been used after the following fashion: "Alcarinte. La Crainte, du mot francais par anagramme sans aucun changement," though how you can have an anagram without a change is not explained.

[Sidenote: Gombauld—Endimion.]

Perhaps one may class, if, indeed, classification is necessary, with the religious romances of Camus and the philosophical romance of Hedelin d'Aubignac, the earlier allegorical ones of the poet Gombauld, Endimion and Amaranthe. The latter I have not yet seen. Endimion is rather interesting; there was an early English translation of it; and I have always been of those who believe that Keats, somehow or other, was more directly acquainted with seventeenth-century literature than has generally been allowed.[211] The wanderings of the hero are as different as possible in detail; but the fact that there are wanderings at all is remarkable, and there are other coincidences with Keats and differences from any classical form, which it might be out of place to dwell on here. Endymion is waked from his Latmian sleep by the infernal clatter of the dwellers at the base of the mountain, who use all the loudest instruments they possess to dispel an eclipse of the moon: and is discovered by his friend Pyzandre, to whom he tells the vicissitudes of his love and sleep. The early revealings of herself by Diana are told with considerable grace, and the whole, which is not too long, is readable. But there are many of the naivetes and awkwardnesses of expression which attracted to the writers of this time the scorn of Boileau and others down to La Harpe. The Dedication to the Queen may perhaps be excused for asserting, in its first words, that as Endymion was put to sleep by the Moon, so he has been reawakened by the Sun,[212] i.e. her Majesty. But a Nemesis of this Phebus follows. For, later, it is laid down that "La Lune doit toujours sa lumiere au Soleil." From which it will follow that Diana owed her splendour to Anne of Austria, or was it Marie de Medicis?[213] It was fortunate for Gombauld that he did not live under the older dispensation. Artemis was not a forgiving goddess like Aphrodite.

Again, when Diana has disappeared after one of her graciousnesses, her lover makes the following reflection—that the gods apparently can depart sans etre en peine de porter necessairement les pieds l'un devant l'autre—an observation proper enough in burlesque, for the idea of a divine goose-step or marking time, instead of the incessus, is ludicrous enough. But there is not the slightest sign of humour anywhere in the book. Yet, again, this is a thing one would rather not have said, "Diane cessant de m'etre favorable, Ismene[214] me pouvait tenir lieu de Deesse." Now it is sadly true that the human race does occasionally entertain, and act upon, reflections of this kind: and persons like Mr. Thomas Moore and Gombauld's own younger contemporary, Sir John Suckling, have put the idea into light and lively verse. But you do not expect it in a serious romance.

Nevertheless it may be repeated that Endimion is one of the most readable of the two classes of books—the smaller sentimental and the longer heroic—between which it stands in scope and character. The author's practice in the "other harmony" makes the obligatory verse-insertions rather less clumsy than usual; and it may be permitted to add that the illustrations of the original edition, which are unusually numerous and elaborate, are also rather unusually effective. "Peggy's face" is too often as "wretched" as Thackeray confessed his own attempts were; but the compositions are not, as such, despicable—even in the case of the immortal and immortalising kiss-scene itself. The "delicious event," to quote the same author in another passage, is not actually coming off—but it is very near. But it was perhaps a pity that either Gombauld or Keats ever waked Endymion.

[Sidenote: Mme. de Villedieu.]

The most recent book[215] but one about Mme. de Villedieu contains (and, oddly enough, confesses itself to contain) very little about her novels, which the plain man might have thought the only reason for writing about her at all. It tells (partly after Tallemant) the little that is known about her (adding a great deal more about other people, things, and places, and a vast amount of conjecture), and not only takes the very dubious "letters" published by herself for gospel, but attributes to her, on the slightest evidence, if any, the anonymous Memoires sur la Vie de Henriette Sylvie de Moliere, and, what is more, accepts them as autobiographic; quotes a good deal of her very valueless verse and that of others, and relates the whole in a most marvellous style, the smallest and most modest effervescences of which are things like this: "La religion arrose son ame d'une eau parfumee, et les fleurs noirs du repentir eclosent" or "Soixante ans pesaient sur son crane ennuage d'une perruque."[216] A good bibliography of the actual work, and not a little useful information about books and MS. relating to the period, may reconcile one class of readers to it, and a great deal of scandal another; but as far as the subject of this history goes no one will be much wiser when he closes the volume than he was when he opened it.

The novelist-heroine's actual name was Marie Catherine Hortense des Jardins, and she never was really Mme. de Villedieu at all, though there was a real M. de Villedieu whom she loved, went through a marriage ceremony and lived with, left, according to some, or was left by, according to others. But he was already married, and this marriage was never dissolved. Very late in life she seems actually to have married a Marquis de Chaste, who died soon. But most of the time was spent in rather scandalous adventures, wherein Fouquet's friend Gourville, the minister Lyonne, and others figure. In fact she seems to have been a counterpart as well as a contemporary of our own Afra, though she never came near Mrs. Behn in poetry or perhaps in fiction. Her first novel, Alcidamie, not to be confounded with the earlier Alcidiane, was a scarcely concealed utilising of the famous scandal about Tancrede de Rohan (Mlle. des Jardins' mother had been a dependant on the Rohan family, and she herself was much befriended by that formidable and sombre-fated enchantress, Mme. de Montbazon). In fact, common as is the real or imputed "key"-interest in these romances from the Astree onwards, none seems to have borrowed more from at least gossip than this. Her later performances, Les Annales Galantes de la Grece (said to be very rare), Carmente, Les Amours des Grands Hommes, Les Desordres de l'Amour, and some smaller pieces, all rely more or less on this or that kind of scandal. Collections appeared three or four times in the earlier eighteenth century.

[Sidenote: Le Grand Alcandre Frustre.]

Since M. Magne wrote (and it is fair to say that the main purpose of his book was frankly avowed by its appearance as a member of a series entitled Femmes Galantes), a somewhat more sober account, definitely devoted in part to the novels, has appeared.[217] But even this is not exhaustive from our point of view. The collected editions (of which that of 1702, in 10 vols., said to be the best, is the one I have used) must be consulted if one really wishes to attain a fair knowledge of what "this questionable Hortense" (as Mr. Carlyle would probably have called her) really did in literature; and no one, even of these, appears to contain the whole of her ascribed compositions. What used sometimes to be quoted as her principal work, Le Grand Alcandre Frustre (the last word being often omitted), is, in fact, a very small book, containing a bit of scandal about the Grand Monarque, of the same kind as those which myriad anonyms of the time printed in Holland, and of which any one who wants them may find specimens enough in the Bibliotheque Elzevirienne edition of Bussy-Rabutin. Its chief—if not its only—attraction is an exceedingly quaint frontispiece—a cavalier and lady standing with joined hands under a chandelier, the torches of which are held by a ring of seven Cupids, so that the lower one hangs downwards, and the disengaged hand of the cavalier, which is raised, seems to be grabbing at him.

[Sidenote: The collected love-stories.]

Most of the rest, putting aside the doubtful Henriette de Moliere already referred to, are collections of love-stories, which their titles, rather than their contents, would seem to have represented to the ordinary commentator as loose. There is really very little impropriety, except of the mildest kind, in any of them,[218] and they chiefly consist of the kind of quasi-historic anecdote (only better told) which is not uncommon in English, as, for instance, in Croxall's Novelist. They are rather well written, but for the most part consist of very "public" material, scarcely made "private" by any striking merit, and distinguished by curious liberties with history, if not with morals.

[Sidenote: Their historic liberties.]

[Sidenote: Carmente, etc.]

For instance, in one of her Amours Galantes the Elfrida-Ethelwold-Edgar story is told, not only with "Edward I. of England" for the deceived and revengeful king, but with a further and more startling intrusion of Eleanor of Guyenne! That of Inez de Castro is treated in a still more audacious manner. Also (with what previous example I know not, but Hortense was exceedingly apt to have previous examples) the names of the heretic to whom Dante was not merciful and of his beloved Margaret—names to which Charles Kingsley made the atonement of two of the most charming of his neglected poems—appear as "Dulcin" and "Marguerite," King and Queen of Lombardy, but guilty of more offensive lubricity than the sternest inquisitor ever charged on the historical Dolcino and his sect. For this King and Queen set up, in cold blood, two courts of divorce, in one of which each is judge, with the direct purpose of providing themselves with a supply of temporary wives and husbands. Some have maintained that no less a thing than the Princesse de Cleves itself was suggested by something of Mme. de Villedieu's; but this seems to me merely the usual plagiarism-hunter's blunder of forgetting that the treatment, not the subject, is the crux of originality. Of her longer books, Alcidamie, the first, has been spoken of. The Amours des Grandes Hommes and Cleonice ou le Roman Galant belong to the "keyed" Heroics; while the Journal Amoureux, which runs to nearly five hundred pages, has Diane de Poitiers for its chief heroine. Lastly, Carmente (or, as it was reprinted, Carmante) is a sort of mixed pastoral, with Theocritus himself introduced, after a fashion noted more than once before.

[Sidenote: Her value on the whole.]

Her most praised things, recently, have been the story of the loves of Henri IV. and Mme. de Sauve (lightly touched on, perhaps "after" her in both senses, by Dumas) in the Amours Galantes, and a doubtful story (also attributed to the obscure M. de Preschac of the Cabinet des Fees[219]) entitled L'Illustre Parisienne, over which folk have quarrelled as to whether it is to be labelled "realist" or not. One regrets, however, to have to say that—except for fresh, if not very strong, evidence of that "questing" character which we find all over the subjects of these two chapters—the interest of Mme. de Villedieu's work can hardly be called great. By a long chapter of accidents, the present writer, who had meant to read her some five-and-thirty years ago, never read her actually till the other day—with all good will, with no extravagant expectation beforehand, but with some disappointment at the result. She is not a bookmaker of the worst kind; she evidently had wits and literary velleities; and she does illustrate the blind nisus of the time as already indicated. But beyond the bookmaking class she never, I think, gets. Her mere writing is by no means contemptible, and we may end by pointing out two little points of interest in Carmente. One is the appearance of the name "Ardelie," which our own Lady Winchelsea took and anglicised as her coterie title. It may occur elsewhere, but I do not recollect it. The other is yet a fresh anticipation of that bold figure of speech which has been cited before from Dickens—one of the characters appearing "in a very clean shepherd's dress and a profound melancholy." Mme. de Villedieu (it is about the only place she has held hitherto, if she has held any, in ordinary Histories of French Literature) has usually been regarded as closing the Heroic school. We may therefore most properly turn from her directly to the last and most cheerful division of the subjects of this chapter—the Fairy Tale.

* * * * *

[Sidenote: The fairy tale.]

One of the greatest solaces of the writer of this book, and, he would fain hope, something of a consolation to its readers, has been the possibility, and indeed advisability, of abstention from certain stock literary controversies, or at worst of dismissing them with very brief mention. This solace recurs in reference to the large, vague, and hotly debated subject of folklore and fairy stories, their connection, and the origin of the latter. It is true that "the pleasure gives way to a savour of sorrow," to adopt a charming phrase of Mr. Dobson's, when I think of the amiable indignation which the absence of what I shall not say, and perhaps still more the presence of some things that I shall say, would have caused in my friend, and his friend, the late Mr. Andrew Lang.[220] But the irreparable is always with us. Despite the undoubted omnipresence of the folk-story, with its "fairy" character in the general sense, I have always wanted more proof than I have ever received, that the thing is of Western rather than of Eastern origin, and that our Western stories of the kind, in so far as they affected literature before a very recent period, are independent. But I attach no particular value to this opinion, and it will influence nothing that I say here. So with a few more half-words to the wise, as that Mme. d'Aulnoy had been in Spain, that the Crusades took place in the eleventh century, that, independently thereof, Scandinavians had been "Varangians" very early at Constantinople, etc. etc., let us come to the two great literary facts—the chorus of fairy tale-telling proper at the end of the century (of which the coryphaei are the lady already mentioned and Perrault), and the epoch-making translation of The Arabian Nights by Galland.

[Sidenote: Its general characteristics—the happy ending.]

In a certain sense, no doubt, the fairy tale may be said to be merely a variety of the age-old fabliau and nouvelle. But it is, for literary purposes, a distinctly and importantly new variety—new not merely in subject, even in the widest possible sense of that rather disputable (or at least disputed) word, but in that nescio quid between subject and treatment for which I know no better term than the somewhat vague one "atmosphere." It has the priceless quality of what may be called good childishness; it gives not merely Fancy but Imagination the freest play, and, till it has itself created one, it is free from any convention. It continued, indeed, always free from those "previous" conventions which are so intolerable. For it is constantly forgotten that a convention in its youth is often positively healthy, and a convention in the prime of its life a very tolerable thing. It is the old conventions which, as Mahomet rashly acknowledged about something else (saving himself, however, most dexterously afterwards), cannot be tolerated in Paradise. Moreover, besides creating of necessity a sort of fresh dialect in which it had to be told, and producing a set of personages entirely unhackneyed, it did an immense service by introducing a sort of etiquette, quite different from the conventions above noticed,—a set of manners, as it may almost be called, which had the strongest and most beneficial influence—though, like all strong and good things, it might be perverted—on fiction generally. In this all sorts of nice things, as in the original prescription for what girls are made of, were included—variety, gaiety, colour, surprise, a complete contempt of the contemptible, or of that large part of it which contains priggishness, propriety, "prunes, and prism" generally. Moreover (and here I fear that the above promised abstinence from the contentious must be for a little time waived) it confirmed a great principle of novel and romance alike, that if you can you should "make a good end," as, teste Romance herself, Guinevere did, though the circumstances were melancholy.

The termination of a fairy tale rarely is, and never should be, anything but happy. For this reason I have always disliked—and though some of the mighty have left their calm seats and endeavoured to annihilate me for it, I still continue to dislike—that old favourite of some part of the public, The Yellow Dwarf. That detestable creature (who does not even amuse me) had no business to triumph; and, what is more, I don't believe he did. Not being an original writer, I cannot tell the true history as it might be told; but I can criticise the false. I do not object to this version because of its violation of poetical justice—in which, again, I don't believe. But this is neither poetical, nor just, nor amusing. It is a sort of police report, and I have never much cared for police reports. I should like to have set Maimoune at the Yellow Dwarf: and then there would have been some fun.

It is probably unnecessary to offer any translations here, because the matter is so generally known, and because the books edited by that regretted friend of mine above mentioned have spread it (with much other matter of the same kind) more widely than ever. But the points mentioned above, and perhaps some others, can never be put too firmly to the credit of the fairy tale as regards its influence on fiction, and on French fiction particularly. It remains to be seen, in the next chapter, how what a few purists may call its contamination by, but what we may surely be permitted to call its alliance with, "polite literature" was started, or practically started, through the direct agency of no Frenchman, but of a man who can be claimed by England in the larger and national sense, by Scotland and Ireland and England again in the narrower and more parochial—by Anthony Hamilton. His work, however, must be left till that next chapter, though in this we may, after the "blessed originals" just mentioned, take in their sometimes degenerate successors for nearly a hundred years after Perrault's time.

[Sidenote: Perrault and Mme. d'Aulnoy.]

Well, however, as the simpler and purer fairy-tales may be known to all but twentieth-century children (who are said not to like them), it is doubtful whether many people have considered them in the light in which we have to regard them here, so as to see in them both a link in the somewhat complicated chain of novel development, and also one which is not dead metal, but serves as a medium for introducing powerful currents of influence on the chain itself. We have dwelt on one point—the desirableness, if not necessity, of shortness in them—as specially valuable at the time. No doubt they need not all be as short as Perrault's, though even among his there are instances (not to mention L'Adroite Princesse for the moment), such as Peau d'Ane, of more than twenty pages, as against the five of the Chaperon Rouge and the ten of Barbe Bleue, Le Chat Botte, and Cendrillon. Mme. d'Aulnoy's run longer; but of course the longest[221] of all are mites to the mammoths of the Scudery romance. A fairy story must never "drag," and in its better, and indeed all its genuine, forms it never does. Further (it must be remembered that "Little Red Riding Hood," in its unadulterated and "unhappy ending" form, is not a fairy story at all, for talking animals are not peculiar to that), "fairiness," the actual presence of these gracious or ungracious but always between-human-and-divine-creatures, is necessary,[222] and their agency must be necessary too. In this and other ways it is interesting to contrast two stories (which are neighbours to each other, with Peau d'Ane between them, in the convenient one-volume collection of French Fairy Tale classics published by Gamier), Mme. d'Aulnoy's Gracieuse et Percinet and L'Adroite Princesse ou Les Aventures de Finette, which appeared with Perrault's, but which I can hardly believe to be his. They are about the same length, but the one is one of the best and the other one of the worst examples of its author and of the general style. It may be worth while to analyse both very briefly. As for Perrault's better work, such analysis should be as unnecessary as it would be irreverent.

[Sidenote: Commented examples—Gracieuse et Percinet.]

That Gracieuse et Percinet is of an essentially "stock" character is not in the least against it, for so it ought to be: and the "stock" company that plays its parts plays them well. The father is perhaps rather excessively foolish and unnatural, but then he almost had to be. The wicked and ugly stepmother tops, but does not overtop, her part, and her punishment is not commonplace. Gracieuse herself deserves her name, not only "by her comely face and by her fair bodie," but by her good but not oppressive wits, and her amiable but not faultless disposition. She ought not to have looked into the box; but then we should not have liked her nearly as much if she had not done so. She was foolishly good in refusing to stay with Percinet; but we are by no means certain that we should like her better if she had thrown herself into his arms at the first or second time of asking. Besides, where would have been the story? As for Percinet, he escapes in a wonderful fashion, though partly by help of his lady's little wilfulnesses, the dangers of the handsome, amiable, in a small way always successful, and almost omnipotent hero. There is a sort of ironic tenderness, in his letting Gracieuse again and again go her wilful way and show her foolish filiality, which saves him. He is always ready, and does his spiriting in the politest and best manner, particularly when he shepherds all those amusing but rebellious little people into their box again—a feat which some great novelists have achieved but awkwardly in their own cases. There is even pathos in the apparently melancholy statement that the fairy palace is dead, and that Gracieuse will never see it till she is buried. I should like to have been Percinet, and I should particularly like to have married Gracieuse.

Moreover, the thing is full of small additional seasonings of incident and phrase to the solid feast of fairy working which it provides. Gracieuse's "collation," with its more than twenty pots of different jams, has a delightful realty (which is slightly different from reality) even for those to whom jam has never been the very highest of human delights, because they prefer savouries to sweets. Even the abominable duchess seems to have had a splendid cellar, before she took to filling the casks with mere gold and jewels to catch the foolish king. It is impossible to imagine a scene more agreeably compounded of politeness and affection than Percinet's first introduction of himself to the Princess: and it is extraordinarily nice to find that they knew all about each other before, though we have had not the slightest previous information as to the acquaintance. I am very much afraid that he made his famous horse kick and plunge when Grognon was on him; but it must be remembered that he had been made to lead that animal against his will. The description of the hag's flogging Gracieuse with feathers instead of scourges is a quite admirable adaptation of some martyrological stories; and when, in her dilapidated condition, she remarks that she wishes he would go away, because she has always been told that she must not be alone with young gentlemen, one feels that the martyrdom must have been transferred, in no mock sense, to Percinet himself. If she borrows Psyche's trials, what good story is not another good story refreshed?[223]

[Sidenote: L'Adroite Princesse.]

But if almost everything is good and well managed in Gracieuse, it may also be said that almost everything is badly managed in Finette.[224] To begin with, there is that capital error which has been noticed above, that it is not really a fairy tale at all. Except the magic quenouilles, which themselves are of the smallest importance in the story, there is nothing in it beyond the ways of an ordinary adventurous nouvelle. The touch of grivoiserie by which the Princesses Nonchalante and Babillarde allow the weaknesses ticketed in their names to hand them over as a prey to the cunning and blackguard Prince Riche-Cautele, under pretence of entirely unceremonised and unwitnessed "marriage," is in no way amusing. Finette's escapes from the same fate are a little better, but the whole is told (as its author seems to have felt) at much too great length; and the dragging in of an actual fairy at the end, to communicate to the heroine the exceedingly novel and recondite maxim that "Prudence is the mother of safety," is almost idiotic. If the thing has any value, it is as an example, not of a real fairy tale nor of a satire on fairy tales (for which it is much too much "out of the rules" and much too stupid), but of something which may save an ordinary reader, or even student, from attacking, as I fear we shall have to do, the Cabinet des Fees at large, and discovering, by painful experience, how excessively silly and tedious the corruption of this wise and delightful kind may be.

One might, of course, draw lessons from others of the original batches, but this may suffice for the specimen batch under immediate review. Peau d'Ane, one of the most interesting to "folklorists" and origin-hunters, is, of course, also in itself interesting to students of literature. Its combination of the old theme of the incestuous passion of a father for his daughter, with the special but not invariable shadow of excuse in the selfish vanity of the mother's dying request, is quite out of the usual way of these things. So is the curious series of fairy failures—things apparently against the whole set of the game—beginning with the unimaginative conception of dresses, weather-, or sky-, moon-, and sun-colour, rendered futile by the success of the artists, and ending in the somewhat banal device of making yourself ugly and running away, with the odd conclusion-contrast of Peau d'Ane's squalid appearance in public and her private splendour in the fairy garments.

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