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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2 - To the Close of the 19th Century
by George Saintsbury
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Outside the "Histoire de Chactas" (which might, like Atala and Rene themselves, have been isolated with great advantage), and excepting likewise the passages concerning Outougamiz and Mila—which possess, in considerable measure and gracious fashion, what some call the "idyllic" quality—I have found it, on more than one attempt, difficult to take much interest in Les Natchez, not merely for the reasons already given, but chiefly owing to them. Rene's appearances (and he is generally in background or foreground) serve better than anything in any other book, perhaps, to explain and justify the old notion that accidia[29] of his kind is not only a fault in the individual, but a positive ill omen and nuisance[30] to others. Neither in the Indian characters (with the exceptions named) nor among the French and creole does one find relief: and when one passes from them to the "machinery" parts—where, for instance, a "perverse couple," Satan and La Renommee (not the ship that Trunnion took), embark on a journey in a car with winged horses—it must be an odd taste which finds things improved. In Greek verse, in Latin verse, or even in Milton's English one could stand Night, docile to the orders of Satan, condescending to deflect a hatchet which is whistling unpleasantly close to Rene's ear, not that he may be benefited, but preserved for more sufferings. In comparatively plain French prose—the qualification is intentional, as will be seen a little later—with a scene and time barely two hundred years off now and not a hundred then, though in a way unfamiliar—the thing won't do. "Time," at the orders of the Prince of Darkness, cutting down trees to make a stockade for the Natchez in the eighteenth century, alas! contributes again the touch of weak allegory, in neither case helping the effect; while, although the plot is by no means badly evolved, the want of interest in the characters renders it ineffective.

[Sidenote: Les Martyrs.]

The defects of Les Martyrs[31] are fewer in number and less in degree, while its merits are far more than proportionally greater and more numerous. Needing less historical reinforcement, it enjoys much more. Les Natchez is almost the last, certainly the last important novel of savage life, as distinguished from "boys' books" about savages. Les Martyrs is the first of a line of remarkable if not always successful classical novels from Lockhart's Valerius to Gissing's Veranilda. It has nothing really in common with the kind of classical story which lasted from Telemaque to Belisarius and later. And what is more, it is perhaps better than any of its followers except Kingsley's Hypatia, which is admittedly of a mixed kind—a nineteenth-century novel, with events, scenes, and decor of the fifth century. If it has not the spectacular and popular appeal of The Last Days of Pompeii, it escapes, as that does not, the main drawback of almost all the others—the "classical-dictionary" element: and if, on the other, its author knew less about Christianity than Cardinals Wiseman and Newman, he knew more about lay "humans" than the authors of Fabiola and Callista.

It is probably unnecessary to point out at any great length that some of the drawbacks of Les Natchez disappear almost automatically in Les Martyrs. The supernatural machinery is, on the hypothesis and at the time of the book, strictly congruous and proper; while, as a matter of fact, it is in proportion rather less than more used. The time and events—those of the persecution under Diocletian—are familiar, interesting, and, in a French term for which we have no exact equivalent, dignes. There is no sulky spider of a Rene crawling about the piece; and though history is a little strained to provide incidents,[32] "that's not much," and they are not in themselves improbable in any bad sense or degree. Moreover, the classical-dictionary element, which, as has been said, is so awkward to handle, is, at least after the beginning, not too much drawn upon.

The book, in its later modern editions, is preceded not merely by several Prefaces, but by an Examen in the old fashion, and fortified by those elaborate citation-notes[33] from authorities ancient and modern which were a mania at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, and which sometimes divert and sometimes enrage more modern readers in work so different as Lalla Rookh and The Pursuits of Literature, while they provided at the time material for immortal jokes in such other work as the Anti-Jacobin poems. In the Prefaces Chateaubriand discusses the prose epic, and puts himself, quite unnecessarily, under the protection of Telemaque: in the Examen he deals systematically with the objections, religious, moral, and literary, which had been made against the earlier editions of the book. But these things are now little more than curiosities for the student, though they retain some general historical importance.

[Sidenote: The story.]

The book starts (after an "Invocation," proper to its scheme but perhaps not specially attractive "to us") with an account of the household of Demodocus, a Homerid of Chios, who in Diocletian's earlier and unpersecuting days, after living happily but for too short a time in Crete with his wife Epicharis, loses her, though she leaves him one little daughter, Cymodocee, born in the sacred woods of Mount Ida itself. Demodocus is only too glad to accept an invitation to become high priest of a new Temple of Homer in Messenia, on the slopes of another mountain, less, but not so much less, famous, Ithome. Cymodocee becomes very beautiful, and receives, but rejects, the addresses of Hierocles, proconsul of Achaia, and a favourite of Galerius. One day, worshipping in the forest at a solitary Altar of the Nymphs, she meets a young stranger whom (she is of course still a pagan) she mistakes for Endymion, but who talks Christianity to her, and reveals himself as Eudore, son of Lasthenes. As it turns out, her father knows this person, who has the renown of a distinguished soldier.

From this almost any one who has read a few thousand novels—almost any intelligent person who has read a few hundred—can lay out the probable plot. Love of Eudore and Cymodocee; conversion of the latter; jealousy and intrigues of Hierocles; adventures past and future of Eudore; transfer of scene to Rome; prevalence of Galerius over Diocletian; persecution, martyrdom, and supernatural triumph. But the "fillings up" are not banal; and the book is well worth reading from divers points of view. In the earliest part there is a little too much Homer,[34] naturally enough perhaps. The ancient world changed slowly, and we know that at this particular time Greeks (if not also Romans) rather played at archaising manners. Still, it is probably not quite safe to take the memorable, if not very resultful, journey in which Telemachus was, rather undeservedly, so lucky as to see Helen and drink Nepenthe[35] and to reproduce it with guide- and etiquette-book exactness, c. A. D. 300. Yet this is, as has been said, very natural; and it arouses many pleasant reminiscences.

[Sidenote: Its "panoramic" quality.]

The book, moreover, has two great qualities which were almost, if not quite, new in the novel. In the first place, it has a certain panoramic element which admits—which indeed necessitates—picturesqueness. Much of it is, almost as necessarily, recit (Eudore giving the history of his travels and campaigns); but it is recit of a vividness which had never before been known in French, out of the most accomplished drama, and hardly at all in prose. The adventures of Eudore require this most, of course, and they get it. His early wild-oats at Rome, which earn him temporary excommunication; his service in the wars with the Franks, where, for almost the only time in literature, Pharamond and Merovee become living creatures; his captivity with them; his triumphs in Britain and his official position in Brittany, where the entrance of the Druidess Velleda and the fatal love between them provide perhaps the most famous and actually one of the most effective of the episodes of the book—all "stand out from the canvas," as the old phrase goes. Nor is the mastery lost when recit becomes direct action, in the scenes of the persecution, and the final purification of the hero and crowning of the heroine in the amphitheatre. "The work burns"; and, while it is practically certain that the writer knew the Scudery romances, the contrast of this "burning" quality becomes so striking as almost to justify, comparatively if not positively, the accusations of frigidity and languor which have been somewhat excessively brought against the earlier performances. There is not the passion of Atala—it would have been out of place: and there is not the soul-dissection of Rene, for there is nothing morbid enough to require the scalpel. But, on the other hand, there is the bustle—if that be not too degrading a word—which is wanting in both; the vividness of action and of change; colour, variety, suspense, what may perhaps best be called in one word "pulse," giving, as a necessary consequence, life.

[Sidenote: And its remarkable advance in style.]

And this great advance is partly, if not mainly, achieved by another—the novelty of style. Chateaubriand had set out to give—has, indeed, as far as his intention goes, maintained throughout—an effort at le style noble, the already familiar rhetoric, of which, in French, Corneille had been the Dryden and Racine the Pope, while it had, in his own youth, sunk to the artifice of Delille in verse and the "emphasis" of Thomas in prose. He has sometimes achieved the best, and not seldom something that is by no means the worst, of this. But, consciously or unconsciously, he has more often put in the old bottles of form new wine of spirit, which has not only burst them, but by some very satisfactory miracle of literature shed itself into new receptacles, this time not at all leathery but glass of iridescent colour and graceful shape. It was almost inevitable that such a process, at such a time, and with such a language—for Chateaubriand did not go to the real "ancient mother" of pre-grand siecle French—should be now and then merely magniloquent, that it should sometimes fall short of, or overleap, even magniloquence and become bombast. But sometimes also, and not so seldom, it attains magnificence as well; and the promise, at least the opportunity, of such magnificence in capable followers can hardly be mistaken. As in his younger contemporary, compatriot, and, beyond all doubt, disciple, Lamennais, the results are often crude, unequal, disappointing; insufficiently smelted ore, insufficiently ripened and cellared wine. But the quantity and quality of pure metal—the inspiriting virtue of the vintage—in them is extraordinary: and once more it must be remembered that, for the novel, all this was absolutely new. In this respect, if in no other, though perhaps he was so in others also, Chateaubriand is a Columbus of prose fiction. Neither in French nor in English, very imperfectly in German, and, so far as I know, not in any other language to even the smallest degree, had "prose-poetry" been attempted in this department. "Ossian" perhaps must have some of the credit: the Bible still more. But wherever the capital was found it was Chateaubriand who put it into the business of novel-writing and turned out the first specimens of that business with the new materials and plant procured by the funds.

[Sidenote: Chateaubriand's Janus-position in this.]

Some difficulties, which hamper any attempt to illustrate and support this high praise, cannot require much explanation to make them obvious. It has not been the custom of this book to give large untranslated extracts: and it is at least the opinion of its author that in matters of style, translation, even if it be of a much higher quality than he conceives himself able to offer, is, if not quite worthless, very inadequate. Moreover, it is (or should be) well known that the qualities of the old French style noble—which, as has been said, Chateaubriand deliberately adopted, as his starting-point if nothing more—are, even in their own language, and still more when reproduced in any other, full of dangers for foreign appreciation. The no doubt largely ignorant and in any case mistaken contempt for French poetry and poetic prose which so long prevailed among us, and from which even such a critic and such a lover (to some extent) of French as Matthew Arnold was not free, was mainly concerned with this very point. To take a single instance, the part of De Quincey's "Essay on Rhetoric" which deals with French is made positively worthless by the effects of this almost racial prejudice. Literal translation of the more flamboyant kind of French writing has been, even with some of our greatest, an effective, if a somewhat facile, means of procuring a laugh. Furthermore, it has to be remembered that this application of ornate style to prose fiction is undoubtedly to some extent an extraneous thing in the consideration of the novel itself. It is "a grand set off" (in the old phrase) to tale-telling; but it is not precisely of its essence. It deserves to be constate, recorded and set to the credit of those who practise it, and especially of those who first introduced it. But it is a question whether, in the necessarily limited space of a book like this, the consideration of it ought to occupy a large room.

Still, though the warning, "Be not too bold," should never be forgotten, it should be remembered that it was given only once and its contrary reiterated: so here goes for one of the most perilous of all possible adventures—a translation of Chateaubriand's own boldest undertaking, the description of the City of God, in which he was following not only the greatest of the Hebrew prophets, but the Vision of Patmos itself.

("Les Martyrs," Book III., opening. The Prayer of Cyril, Bishop of Lacedaemon, has come before the Throne.)

[Sidenote: Illustrated.]

At the centre of all created worlds, in the midst of innumerable stars which serve as its bastions as well as avenues and roads to it, there floats the limitless City of God, the marvels whereof no mortal tongue can tell. The Eternal Himself laid its twelve foundations, and surrounded it with the wall of jasper that the beloved disciple saw measured by an angel with a rod of gold. Clothed with the glory of the Most High, the unseen Jerusalem is decked as a bride for her bridegroom. O monumental structures of earth! ye come not near these of the Holy City. There the richness of the matter rivals the perfection of the form. There hang, royally suspended, the galleries of diamond and sapphire feebly imitated by human skill in the gardens of Babylon. There rise triumphal arches, fashioned of brightest stars. There are linked together porticoes of suns extended across the spaces of the firmament, like the columns of Palmyra over the sands of the desert. This architecture is alive. The City of God has a soul of its own. There is no mere matter in the abiding places of the Spirit; no death in the locality of eternal existence. The grosser words which our muse is forced to employ deceive us, for they invest with body that which is only as a divine dream, in the passing of a blissful sleep.

Gardens of delight extend round the radiant Jerusalem. A river flows from the throne of the Almighty, watering the Celestial Eden with floods of pure love and of the wisdom of God. The mystic wave divides into streams which entwine themselves, separate, rejoin, and part again, giving nourishment to the immortal vine, to the lily that is like unto the Bride, and to all the flowers which perfume the couch of the Spouse. The Tree of Life shoots up on the Hill of Incense; and, but a little farther, that of Knowledge spreads on all sides its deep-planted roots and its innumerable branches, carrying hidden in the golden leafage the secrets of the Godhead, the occult laws of Nature, the truths of morality and of the intellect, the immutable principles of good and of evil. The learning which intoxicates us is the common food of the Elect; for in the empire of Sovereign Intelligence the fruit of science no longer brings death. Often do the two great ancestors of the human race come and shed such tears as the Just can still let flow in the shadow of the wondrous Tree.

The light which lightens these abodes of bliss is compact of the rose of morning, of the flame of noon, of the purple of even; yet no star appears on the glowing horizon. No sun rises and no sun goes down on the country where nothing ends, where nothing begins. But an ineffable clearness, showering from all sides like a tender dew, maintains the unbroken[36] daylight in a delectable eternity.

Of course any one who is so minded may belittle this as classically cold; even as to some extent neo-classically bedizened; as more like, let us say, Moore's Epicurean than like our greater "prose-poets" of the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries. The presence in Chateaubriand of this dose of the style that was passing, and that he helped to make pass, has been admitted already: but I confess I think it is only a dose. Those who care to look up the matter for themselves might, if they do not choose to read the whole, turn to the admirable picture of camp-life on the Lower Rhine at the opening of Book VI. as a short contrast, while the story is full of others. Nor should one forget to add that Chateaubriand can, when he chooses, be epigrammatic as well as declamatory. "Such is the ugliness of man when he bids farewell to his soul and, so to speak, keeps house only with his body" is a phrase which might possibly shock La Harpe, but which is, as far as I remember, original, and is certainly crisp and effective enough.

Reassembling, then, the various points which we have endeavoured to make in respect of his position as novelist, it may once more be urged that if not precisely a great master of the complete art of novel-writing, by actual example, he shows no small expertness in various parts of it: and that, as a teacher and experimenter in new developments of method and indication of new material, he has few superiors in his own country and not very many elsewhere. That in this pioneer quality, as well as in mere contemporaneousness, he may, though a greater writer, be yoked with the authoress of Corinne need hardly be argued, for the accounts given of the two should have sufficiently established it.

FOOTNOTES:

[8] Although, except in special cases, biographical notices are not given here, the reader may be reminded that she was born in 1766, the daughter of Necker and of Gibbon's early love, Susanne Curchod; married at twenty the Swedish ambassador, Baron of Stael-Holstein; sympathised at first with the Revolution, but was horrified at the murder of the king, and escaped, with some difficulty, from Paris to England, where, as well as in' Germany and at Coppet, her own house in Switzerland, she passed the time till French things settled down under Napoleon. With him she tried to get on, as a duplicate of himself in petticoats and the realm of mind. But this was clearly impossible, and she had once more to retire to Coppet. She had separated, though without positive quarrel, from her husband, whom, however, she attended on his death-bed; and the exact character of her liaisons with others, especially M. de Narbonne and Benjamin Constant, is not easy to determine. In 1812 she married, privately, a young officer, Rocca by name, returned to Paris before and after the Hundred Days, and died there in 1817.

[9] I never can make up my mind whether I am more sorry that Madame Necker did not marry Gibbon or that Mademoiselle Necker did not, as was subsequently on the cards, marry Pitt. The results in either case—both, alas! could hardly have come off—would have been most curious.

[10] The most obvious if not the only possible reason for this would be intended outrage, murder, and suicide; but though Valorbe is a robustious kind of idiot, he does not seem to have made up such mind as he has to this agreeable combination.

[11] I forget whether other characters have been identified, but Leonce does not appear to have much in him of M. de Narbonne, Corinne's chief lover of the period, who seems to have been a sort of French Chesterfield, without the wit, which nobody denies our man, or the real good-nature which he possessed.

[12] Perhaps, after all, not too many, for they all richly deserve it.

[13] Eyes like the Ravenswing's, "as b-b-big as billiard balls" and of some brightness, are allowed her, but hardly any other good point.

[14] I never pretended to be an art-critic, save as complying with Blake's negative injunction or qualification "not to be connoisseured out of my senses," and I do not know what is the technical word in the arts of design corresponding to [Greek: dianoia] in literature.

[15] I hope this iteration may not seem too damnable. It is intended to bring before the reader's mind the utterly willowish character of Oswald, Lord Nelvil. The slightest impact of accident will bend down, the weakest wind of circumstance blow about, his plans and preferences.

[16] That he seems to have unlimited leave is not perhaps, for a peer in the period, to be cavilled at; the manner in which he alternately breaks blood-vessels and is up to fighting in the tropics may be rather more so.

[17] As I may have remarked elsewhere, they often seem to confuse it with "priggishness," "cant," and other amiable cosas de Inglaterra. (The late M. Jules Lemaitre, as Professor Ker reminds me, even gave the picturesque but quite inadequate description: "Le snob est un mouton de Panurge pretentieux, un mouton qui saute a la file, mais d'un air suffisant.") We cannot disclaim the general origin, but we may protest against confusion of the particular substance.

[18] Corinne, ou l'Italie.

[19] If anybody thinks Wilhelm Meister or the Wahlverwandtschaften a good novel, I am his very humble servant in begging to differ. Freytag's Soll und Haben is perhaps the nearest approach; but, on English or French standards, it could only get a fair second class.

[20] Corinne "walks and talks" (as the lady in the song was asked to do, but without requiring the offer of a blue silk gown) with her Oswald all over the churches and palaces and monuments of Rome, "doing" also Naples, Venice, etc.

[21] She was rather proud of these mighty members: and some readers may recall that not least Heinesque remark of the poet who so much shocks Kaiser Wilhelm II., "Those of the Venus of Milo are not more beautiful."

[22] Including also a third short story, Le Dernier Abencerage, which belongs, constructively, rather to the Voyages. It is in a way the liveliest (at least the most "incidented") of all, but not the most interesting, and with very little temporal colour, though some local. It may, however, be taken as another proof of Chateaubriand's importance in the germinal way, for it starts the Romantic interest in Spanish things. The contrast with the dirty rubbish of Pigault-Lebrun's La Folie Espagnole is also not negligible.

[23] For the mother, in a fashion which the good Father-missionary most righteously and indignantly denounces as unchristian, had staked her own salvation on her daughter's obedience to the vow.

[24] Its author, in the Memoires d'Outre-Tombe, expressed a warm wish that he had never written it, and hearty disgust at its puling admirers and imitators. This has been set down to hypocritical insincerity or the sourness of age: I see neither in it. It ought perhaps to be said that he "cut" a good deal of the original version. The confession of Amelie was at first less abrupt and so less effective, but the newer form does not seem to me to better the state of Rene himself.

[25] There had been a very early French imitation of Werther itself (of the end especially), Les dernieres aventures du sieur d'Olban, by a certain Ramond, published in 1777, only three years after Goethe. It had a great influence on Ch. Nodier (v. inf.), who actually republished the thing in 1829.

[26] This "out-of-bounds" passion will of course be recognised as a Romantic trait, though it had Classical suggestions. Chateaubriand appears to have been rather specially "obsessed" by this form of it, for he not merely speaks constantly of Rene as le frere d'Amelie, but goes out of his way to make the good Father in Atala refer, almost ecstatically, to the happiness of the more immediate descendants of Adam who were compelled to marry their sisters, if they married anybody. As I have never been able to take any interest in the discussions of the Byron and Mrs. Leigh scandal, I am not sure whether this tic of Chateaubriand's has been noticed therein. But his influence on Byron was strong and manifold, and Byron was particularly apt to do things, naughty and other, because somebody else had done or suggested them. And of course it has, from very early days, been suggested that Amelie is an experience of Chateaubriand's own. But this, like the investigations as to time and distance and possibility in his travels and much else also, is not for us. Once more I must be permitted to say that I am writing much about French novels, little about French novelists, and least of all about those novelists' biographers, critics, and so forth. Exceptions may be admitted, but as exceptions only.

[27] I once had to fight it out in public with a valued and valiant friend for saying something like this in regard to Edgar of Ravenswood—no doubt, in some sort a child of Rene's or of Nelvil's; but I was not put to submission. And Edgar had truer causes for sulks than his spiritual ancestor had—at least before the tragedy of Amelie.

[28] Not in the strict theological meaning of this phrase, of course; but the misuse of it has aesthetic justification.

[29] I.e. not mere "sloth," but the black-blooded and sluggish melancholy to which Dante pays so much attention in the Inferno. This deadly sin we inadequately translate "sloth," and (on one side of it) it is best defined in Dante's famous lines (Inf. vii. 121-3):

Tristi fummo Nell' aer dolce che dal sol s' allegra, Portando dentro accidioso fummo.

Had Amelie sinned and not repented she might have been found in the Second circle, flying alone; Rene, except speciali gratia, must have sunk to the Fourth.

[30] For instance, he goes a-beaver-hunting with the Natchez, but his usual selfish moping prevents him from troubling to learn the laws of the sport, and he kills females—an act at once offensive to Indian religion, sportsmanship, and etiquette, horrifying to the consciences of his adopted countrymen, and an actual casus belli with the neighbouring tribes.

[31] Its second title, ou Le Triomphe de la Religion Chretienne, connects it still more closely than Les Natchez with Le Genie du Christianisme, which it immediately succeeded in composition, though this took a long time. No book (it would seem in consequence) exemplifies the mania for annotation and "justification" more extensively. In vol. i. the proportion of notes to text is 112 to 270, in vol. ii. 123 to 221, and in vol. iii., including some extracts from the Pere Mambrun, 149 to 225.

[32] Such as Eudore's early friendship at Rome, before the persecution under Diocletian, with Augustine, who was not born till twenty years later.

[33] See note above.

[34] There cannot be too much Homer in Homer; there may be too much outside Homer.

[35] If one had only been Telemachus at this time! It would have been a good "Declamation" theme in the days of such things, "Should a man—for this one experience—consent to be Telemachus for the rest of his life—and after?"

[36] In the original the word which I have translated "unbroken" is eternel, and with the adjacent eternite illustrates (as do tonnerre and etonnante in Bossuet's famous passage on the death of "Madame") one of the minor but striking differences between French and English rhetoric. Save for some very special purpose, we should consider such repetition a jingle at best, a cacophony at worst: they think it a beauty.



CHAPTER II

PAUL DE KOCK, OTHER MINORS OF 1800-1830, AND NODIER

[Sidenote: The fate of popular minor novelists.]

The mediocre poet has had a hard fate pronounced against him of old; but the minor novelist, perhaps because he is much more likely to get some good things in his own time, has usually a harder lot still, and in more than one way, after physical or popular death. In fact it may be said that, the more popular he is in the one day, the more utterly forgotten he is likely to be in the other. Besides the obvious facts that his popularity must always have been gained by the adoption of some more or less ephemeral fashion, and that plenty of his own kind are always ready to take his place—doing, like the heir in the old story, all they can to substitute Requiescat in Pace for Resurgam on his hatchment—there is a more mechanical reason for his occultation. The more widely he or she has been read the more certain either has been of being "read to pieces."

[Sidenote: Examples of them.]

These fates, and especially the last, have weighed upon the minor French novelists of the early nineteenth century perhaps even more heavily than upon our own: for the circulating library was an earlier and a more widely spread institution in France than in England, and the lower and lowest middle classes were a good deal more given to reading, and especially to "light" reading, there than here. Nor can it be said that any of the writers to be now mentioned, with one possible and one certain exception, is of importance to literature as literature. But all have their importance to literary—and especially departmental-literary—history, in ways which it is hoped presently to show: and there is still amusement in some. The chief, though not the only, names that require notice here are those of Mesdames de Montolieu and (again) de Genlis, of Ducray-Duminil, born almost as early as Pigault-Lebrun, even earlier a novelist, and yoked with him by Victor Hugo in respect of his novel Lolotte et Fanfan in the sneer noted in the last volume;[37] the other Ducange, again as much "other" as the other Moliere;[38] the Vicomte d'Arlincourt; and—a comparative (if, according to some, blackish) swan among these not quite positive geese—Paul de Kock. The eldest put in his work before the Revolution and the youngest before Waterloo, but the most prolific time of all was that of the first two or three decades of the century with which we are dealing.

With these, but not of them—a producer at last of real "letters" and more than any one else except Chateaubriand (more "intensively" perhaps even than he was) a pioneer of Romanticism—comes Charles Nodier.

[Sidenote: Paul de Kock.]

Major Pendennis, in a passage which will probably, at least in England, preserve the name of the author mentioned long after his own works are even more forgotten with us than they are at present, allowed, when disparaging novels generally, and wondering how his nephew could have got so much money for one, that Paul de Kock "certainly made him laugh." In his own country he had an enormous vogue, till the far greater literary powers and the wider range of the school of 1830 put the times out of joint for him, and even much later. He actually survived the Terrible Year: but something like a lustrum earlier, when running over a not small collection of cheap novels in a French country inn, I do not remember coming across anything of his. And he had long been classed as "not a serious person" (which, indeed, he certainly was not) by French criticism, not merely of the most academic sort, but of all decidedly literary kinds. People allowed him entrain, a word even more difficult than verve to English exactly, though "go" does in a rough sort of way for both. They were of course not very much shocked at his indecorums, which sometimes gave occasion for not bad jokes.[39] But if any foreigner made any great case of him they would probably have looked, if they did not speak their thoughts, very much as some of us have looked, if we have not spoken, when foreigners take certain popular scribes and playwrights of our own time and country seriously.[40]

Let us see what his work is really like to the eyes of impartial and comparative, if not cosmopolitan, criticism.

[Sidenote: L'Enfant de ma Femme.]

Paul de Kock, whose father, a banker, was a victim, but must have been a late one, of the Terror, was born in 1794, and took very early to letters. If the date of his first book, L'Enfant de ma Femme, is correctly given as 1812, he must apparently have written it before he was eighteen. There is certainly nothing either in the quantity or the quality of the performance which makes this incredible, for it does not fill quite two hundred pages of the ordinary 18mo size and not very closely packed type of the usual cheap French novel, and though it is not unreadable, any tolerably clever boy might easily write it between the time when he gets his scholarship in spring and the time when he goes up in October. The author had evidently read his Pigault and adopted that writer's revised picaresque scheme. His most prominent character (the hero, Henri de Framberg, is very "small doings"), the hussar-soldier-servant, and most oddly selected "governor" of this hero as a boy, Mullern, is obviously studied off those semi-savage "old moustaches" of whom we spoke in the last volume, though he is much softened, if not in morals, in manners. In fact this softening process is quite obvious throughout. There is plenty of "impropriety" but no mere nastiness, and the impropriety itself is, so to speak, rather indicated than described. As nearly the last sentence announces, "Hymen hides the faults of love" wherever it is possible, though it would require a most complicated system of polygamy and cross-unions to enable that amiable divinity to cover them all. There is a villain, but he is a villain of straw, and outside of him there is no ill-nature. There seems to be going to be a touch of "out-of-boundness" when Henri, just about to marry his beloved Pauline, is informed that she is his sister, and when the pair, separating in horror, meet again and, let us say, forget to separate. But the information turns out to be false, and Hymen duly uses the not uncomfortable extinguisher which, as noted above, is supplied to him as well as the more usual torch.

To call the book good would be ridiculous, but a very large experience of first novels of dates before, the same as, and after its own may warrant allotment to it of possibilities of future good gifts. The history, such as it is, runs currently; there are no hitches and stops and stagnations, the plentiful improbabilities are managed in such fashion that one does not trouble about them, and there is an atmosphere, sometimes of horseplay but almost always of good humour.

[Sidenote: Petits Tableaux de Moeurs.]

The matter which, by accident or design, goes with this in mid-century reprints of Paul, is of much later date, but it shows that, for some time, its author had been exercising himself in a way valuable to the novelist at any time but by no means as yet frequently practised. Petits Tableaux de Moeurs consists of about sixty short sketches of a very few pages each (usually two or three) and of almost exactly the same kind as those with which Leigh Hunt, a little earlier in England, transformed the old Spectator essay into the kind of thing taken up soon afterwards by "Boz" and never disused since. They are sketches of types of men, of Parisian cafes, gardens, and restaurants; fresh handlings of old subjects, such as the person who insists on taking you home to a very bad "pot-luck" dinner, and the like. Once more, there is no great brilliance in these. But they are lightly and pleasantly done; it must be obvious to every one that they are simply invaluable training for a novelist who is to leave the beaten track of picaresque adventure and tackle real ordinary life. To which it may be added, as at least possible, that Thackeray himself may have had the creation of Woolsey and Eglantine in The Ravenswing partly suggested by a conversation between a tailor and a hairdresser in Paul's "Le Banc de Pierre des Tuileries." As this is very short it may be worth giving:

To finish our observations, my friend and I went and sat behind two young men dressed in the extreme of the fashion, who, with their feet placed on chairs as far as possible from those in which they were sitting, gracefully rocked themselves, and evidently hoped to attract general attention.

In a minute we heard the following conversation:

"Do you think my coat a success?" "Superb! delicious! an admirable cut!" "And the pantaloons?" "Ravishing! Your get up is really stunning." "The governor told me to spend three hours in the Grand Alley, and put myself well forward. He wants people to take up this new shape and make it fashionable. He has already one order of some consequence." "And, as for me, do you think my hair well done?" "Why, you look like a very Adonis. By the way, my hair is falling off. Do give me something to stop that." "You must give it nourishment. You see hairs are plants or flowers. If you don't water a flower, you can see it withering." "Very true. Then must I use pommade?" "Yes, but in moderation; just as a tree too much watered stops growing. Hair is exactly like vegetables." "And both want cutting?" "Why, yes; it's like a plantation; if you don't prune and thin the branches it kills the young shoots. Cutting helps the rise of the sap." "Do you hold with false fronts?" "I believe you! Why, I make them; it's just like putting a new roof on a house." "And that does no harm to one's head?" "Impossible! neither glue nor white of egg, which needs must hinder growth, are used. People who wear them mix their own hair with the front. They are two flocks, which unite to feed together, as M. Marty says so well in the Solitaire."[41] "Two torrents which join in the valley: that is the image of life!"

We had heard enough, and so we left the tailor's young man and the romantic hairdresser to themselves.

[Sidenote: Gustave.]

In Gustave ou Le Mauvais Sujet, a book still early but some years later than L'Enfant, Paul de Kock got nearer to his proper or improper subject—bachelor life in Paris, in the sense of his contemporary Pierce Egan's Life in London.[42] The hero may be called a French Tom Jones in something (but not so much as in the original phrase) of the sense in which Klopstock was allowed to be a German Milton. He has his Allworthy in a benevolent uncle-colonel, peppery but placable; he is far more plentifully supplied than even Tom was with persons of the other sex who play the parts of Black George's daughter and Mrs. Waters, if not exactly of Lady Bellaston. A Sophia could hardly enter into the Kockian plan, but her place in that scheme (with something, one regrets to add, of Lady Bellaston's) is put in commission, and held by a leash of amiable persons—the erring Madame de Berly, who sacrifices honour and beauty and very nearly life for the rascal Gustave; Eugenie Fonbelle, a rich, accomplished, and almost wholly desirable widow, whom he is actually about to marry when, luckily for her, she discovers his fredaines, and "calls off"; and, lastly, a peasant girl, Suzon, whom he seduces, whom he keeps for six weeks in his uncle's house, after a fashion possibly just not impossible in a large Parisian establishment; who is detected at last by the uncle; who runs away when she hears that Gustave is going to marry Eugenie, and who is at the end produced, with an infant ready-made, for Paul's favourite "curtain" of Hymen, covering (like the curtain) all faults. The book has more "scabrous" detail than L'Enfant de ma Femme, and (worse still) it relapses into Smollettian-Pigaultian dirt; but it displays a positive and even large increase of that singular readableness which has been noticed. One would hardly, except in cases of actual novel-famine, or after an immense interval, almost or quite involving oblivion, read a book of Paul's twice, but there is seldom any difficulty in reading him once. Only, beware his moral moods! When he is immoral it is in the bargain; if you do not want him you leave him, or do not go to him at all. But when, for instance, the unfortunate Madame de Berly has been frightfully burnt and disfigured for life by an act of her own, intended to save—and successful in saving—her vaurien of a lover, Paul moralises thus at the end of a chapter—

Julie perdit en effet tous ses attraits: elle fut punie par ou elle avait peche. Juste retour des choses ici-bas.

there being absolutely no such retour for Gustave—one feels rather inclined, as his countrymen would say, to "conspue" Paul.[43] It is fair, however, to say that these accesses of morality or moralising are not very frequent.

[Sidenote: The caricatured Anglais.]

But there is one thing of some interest about Gustave which has not yet been noticed. Paul de Kock was certainly not the author,[44] but he must have been one of the first, and he as certainly was one of the most effective and continuous, promoters of that curious caricature of Englishmen which everybody knows from French draughtsmen, and some from French writers, of the first half of the nineteenth century. It is only fair to say that we had long preceded it by caricaturing Frenchmen. But they had been slow in retaliating, at least in anything like the same fashion. For a long time (as is again doubtless known to many people) French literature had mostly ignored foreigners. During the late seventeenth and earlier eighteenth centuries few, except the aristocracy, of either country knew much of the other, and there was comparatively little (of course there was always some) difference between the manners and customs of the upper classes of both. Prevost and Crebillon, if not Marivaux,[45] knew something about England. Then arose in France a caricature, no doubt, but almost a reverential one, due to the philosophes, in the drawing whereof the Englishman is indeed represented as eccentric and splenetic, but himself philosophical and by no means ridiculous. Even in the severe period of national struggle which preceded the Revolutionary war, and for some time after the beginning of that war itself, the scarecrow-comic Anglais was slow to make his appearance. Pigault-Lebrun himself, as was noted in the last volume, indulges in him little if at all. But things soon changed.

In the book of which we have been speaking, Gustave and a scapegrace friend of his determine to give a dinner to two young persons of the other sex, but find themselves penniless, and a fresh edition of one of the famous old Repues Franches (which date in French literature back to Villon and no doubt earlier) follows. With this, as such, we need not trouble ourselves. But Olivier, the friend, takes upon him the duty of providing the wine, and does so by persuading a luckless vintner that he is a "Milord."

In order to dress the part, he puts on a cravat well folded, a very long coat, and a very short waistcoat. He combs down his hair till it is quite straight, rouges the tip of his nose, takes a whip, puts on gaiters and a little pointed hat, and studies himself in the glass in order to give himself a stupid and insolent air, the result of the make-up being entirely successful. It may be difficult for the most unbiassed Englishman of to-day to recognise himself in this portrait or to find it half-way somewhere about 1860, or even, going back to actual "temp. of tale," to discover anything much like it in physiognomies so different as those of Castlereagh and Wellington, of Southey and Lockhart, nay, even of Tom and Jerry.[46] But that it is the Englishman of Daumier and Gavarni, artistement complet already, nobody can deny.

Later in the novel (before he comes to his very problematical "settling down" with Suzon and the ready-made child) Gustave is allowed a rather superfluous scattering of probably not final wild oats in Italy and Germany, in Poland and in England. But the English meesses are too sentimentales (note the change from sensibles); he does not like the courses of horses, the combats of cocks, the bets and the punches and the plum-puddings. He is angry because people look at him when he pours his tea into the saucer. But what annoys him most of all is the custom of the ladies leaving the table after dinner, and that of preferring cemeteries for the purpose of taking the air and refreshing oneself after business. It may perhaps diminish surprise, but should increase interest, when one remembers that, after Frenchmen had got tired of Locke, and before they took to Shakespeare, their idea of our literature was largely derived from "Les Nuits de Young" and Hervey's Meditations among the Tombs.

Another bit of copy-book (to revert to the Pauline moralities) is at the end of the same very unedifying novel, when the benevolent and long-suffering colonel, joining the hands of Gustave and Suzon, remarks to the latter that she has proved to him that "virtues, gentleness, wits, and beauty can serve as substitutes for birth and fortune." It would be unkind to ask which of the "virtues" presided over Suzon's original acquaintance with her future husband, or whether the same or another undertook the charge of that wonderful six weeks' abscondence of hers with him in this very uncle's house.

[Sidenote: Edmond et sa Cousine.]

But no doubt this capacity for "dropping into" morality stood Paul in good stead when he undertook (as it was almost incumbent on such a universal provider of popular fiction to do) what the French, among other nicknames for them, call berquinades—stories for children and the young person, more or less in the style of the Ami des Enfants. He diversified his gauloiseries with these not very seldom. An example is bound up with Gustave itself in some editions, and they make a very choice assortment of brimstone and treacle. The hero and heroine of Edmond et sa Cousine are two young people who have been betrothed from their youth up, and neither of whom objects to the situation, while Constance, the "She-cosen" (as Pepys puts it) is deeply in love with Edmond. He also is really fond of her, but he is a bumptious and superficial snob, who, not content with the comfortable[47] income which he has, and which will be doubled at his marriage, wants to make fame and fortune in some way. He never will give sufficient scope and application to his moderate talents, and accordingly fails very plumply in music, playwriting, and painting. Then he takes to stock-exchange gambling, and of course, after the usual "devil's arles" of success, completely ruins himself, owes double what he has, and is about to blow out his somewhat unimportant brains. But Constance, in the truest spirit of melodrama, and having long sought him in vain under the guidance of a quarta persona, of whom more presently, realises almost the whole of her fortune, except a small pittance, dashes it down before him in the nick of time, and saves him for the moment.

Perhaps the straitest sect of the Berquinaders would have finished the story here, made the two marry on Constance's pittance, reconciled Edmond to honest work, and so on. Paul, however, had a soul both above and below this. Edmond, with the easy and cheap sham honour of his kind, will not "subject her to privations," still hopes for something to turn up, and in society meets with a certain family of the name of Bringuesingue—a father who is a retired mustard-maker with some money and no brains, a mother who is a nonentity, and a daughter Clodora,[48] a not bad-looking and not unamiable girl, unfortunately dowered with the silliness of her father and the nullity of her mother combined and intensified. There is some pretty bad stock farce about M. Bringuesingue and his valet, whom he pays to scratch his nose when his master is committing solecisms; and about Edmond's adroitness in saving the situations. The result is that the Bringuesingues throw their not unwilling daughter at Edmond's head. To do him the only justice he ever deserves, he does not like to give up Constance; but she, more melodramatic than ever, contrives to imbue him with the idea that she is false to him, and he marries Clodora. Again the thing might have been stopped; but Paul once more goes on, and what, I fear, must be called his hopeless bad taste (there is no actual bad blood in him), and the precious stage notion that "Tom the young dog" may do anything and be forgiven, make him bring about a happy ending in a very shabby fashion. Edmond is bored by his stupid though quite harmless and affectionate wife, neglects her, and treats his parents-in-law with more contempt still. Poor Clodora dies, but persuades her parents to hand over her fortune to Edmond, and with it he marries Constance. "Hide, blushing honour! hide that wedding-day." But, you see, the Paul-de-Kockian hero was not like Lord Welter. There was hardly anything that this "fellow couldn't do."

Paul, however, has kept his word with his subscribers by shutting out all sculduddery, even of the mildest kind, and has, if not reconciled, partly conciliated critics by throwing in some tolerable minor personages. Pelagie, Constance's lively friend, has a character which he could somehow manage without Richardsonian vulgarity. Her amiable father, an orchestra musician, who manages to find des jolies choses even in a damned piece, is not bad; and, above all, Pelagie's lover, and, till Edmond's misconduct, his friend, M. Ginguet—a modest Government clerk, who adores his mistress, is constantly snubbed by her, but has his flames crowned at last,—is, though not a particularly novel character, a very well-played part.

[Sidenote: Andre le Savoyard.]

One of the author's longer books, Andre le Savoyard, is a curious blend of the berquinade with what some English critics have been kind enough to call the "candour" of the more usual French novel. The candour, however, is in very small proportion to the berquinity. This, I suppose, helped it to pass the English censorship of the mid-nineteenth century; for I remember a translation (it was the first book of the author's I ever read) far away in the 'fifties, among a collection of books where nothing flagrantly scabrous would have been admitted. It begins, and for the most part continues, in an almost completely Marmontelish or Edgeworthian fashion. A selfish glutton and petit-maitre of a French count, M. de Francornard, loses his way (with a postilion, a valet, and his little daughter, whom he has carried off from her mother) in the hills of Savoy, and is rescued and guested by a good peasant, whom he rewards with a petit ecu (three livres, not five or six). The peasant dies, and his two eldest boys set out for Paris as chimney-sweeps. The elder (eleven-year-old) Andre himself is befriended by a good Auvergnat water-carrier and his little daughter Manette; after which he falls in with the Francornards—now, after a fashion, a united family. He is taken into their household and made a sort of protege by the countess, the child Adolphine being also very fond of him; while, though in another way, their soubrette Lucile, a pretty damsel of eighteen, is fonder still. Years pass, and the fortunate Andre distributes his affections between the three girls. Manette, though she ends as his wife, is more of a sister at first; Adolphine is an adored and unhoped-for idol; while Lucile (it is hardly necessary to say that it is in the scenes with her that "candour" comes in) is at first a protectress, then a schoolmistress of the school of Cupid, in process of time a mistress in the other sense, and always a very good-natured and unselfish helper. In fact, Manette is so preternaturally good (she can't even be jealous in a sufficiently human way), Adolphine so prettily and at last tragically null, that one really feels inclined to observe to Andre, if he were worth it, the recondite quotation

Ne sit ancillae tibi amor pudori,

though perhaps seven years is a long interval in the first third of life.

[Sidenote: Jean.]

A still better instance of the modified berquinade—indeed, except for the absence of riotous fun, one of the best of all Paul de Kock's books—is Jean, also an example of his middle and ripest period. If translated into English it might have for second title "or, The History of a Good Lout." The career of Jean Durand (one of the French equivalents for John Brown or Jones or Robinson) we have from the moment of, and indeed a little before, his birth to that crowning of a virtuous young Frenchman's hopes, which consists in his marrying a pretty, amiable, sensible, and well-to-do young widow.[49] Jean is the son of a herbalist father who is an eccentric but not a fool, and a mother who is very much of a fool but not in the least eccentric. The child, who is born in the actual presence (result of the usual farcical opening) of a corporal and four fusiliers, is put out to nurse at Saint-Germain in the way they did then, brought home and put out to school, but, in consequence of his mother's absurd spoiling, allowed to learn absolutely nothing, and (though he is not exactly a bad fellow) to get into very bad company. With two of the choicest specimens of this he runs away (having, again by his mother's folly, been trusted with a round sum in gold) at the age of sixteen, and executes a sort of picaresque journey in the environs of Paris, till he is brought to his senses through an actual robbery committed by the worst of his companions. He returns home to find his father dead: and having had a substantial income left him already by an aunt, with the practical control of his mother's resources, he goes on living entirely a sa guise. This involves no positive debauchery or ruination, but includes smoking (then, it must be remembered, almost as great a crime in French as in English middle-class circles), playing at billiards (ditto), and a free use of strong drink and strong language. He spends and gives money freely, but does not get into debt; flirts with grisettes, but falls into no discreditable entanglement, etc., etc.

His most characteristic peculiarity, however, is his absolute refusal to learn the rudiments of manners. He keeps his hat on in all companies; neglects all neatness in dress, etc.; goes (when he does go) among ladies with garments reeking of tobacco and a mouth full of strange oaths, and generally remains ignorant of, or recalcitrant to, every form of conventional politeness in speech and behaviour.

The only person of any sense with whom he has hitherto come in contact, an old hairdresser named Bellequeue (it must be remembered that this profession or vocation is not as traditionally ridiculous in French literature as in ours), persuades his mother that the one chance of reforming Jean and making him like other people is to marry him off. They select an eligible parti, one Mademoiselle Adelaide Chopard, a young lady of great bodily height, some facial charms, not exactly a fool, but not of the most amiable disposition, and possessed of no actual accomplishment (though she thinks herself almost a "blue") except that of preserving different fruits in brandy, her father being a retired liqueur manufacturer. Jean, who has never been in the least "in love," has no particular objection to Adelaide, and none at all to the preserved cherries, apricots, etc., and the scenes of his introduction and, after a fashion, proposal to the damsel, with her first resentment at his unceremonious behaviour and later positive attraction by it, are far from bad. Luckily or unluckily—for the marriage might have turned out at least as well as most marriages of the kind—before it is brought about, this French Cymon at last meets his real Iphigenia. Walking rather late at night, he hears a cry, and a footpad (one of his own old comrades, as it happens) rushes past him with a shawl which he has snatched from two ladies. Jean counter-snatches the shawl from him and succours the ladies, one of whom strikes his attention. They ask him to put them into a cab, and go off—grateful, but giving no address. However, he picks up a reticule, which the thief in his fright has dropped, discovers in it the address he wants, and actually ventures to call on Madame Caroline Derville, who possesses, in addition to viduity, all the other attractions catalogued above.

Another scene of farce, which is not so far short of comedy, follows between the lout and the lady, the fun being, among other things, caused by Jean's unconventional strolling about the room, looking at engravings, etc., and showing, by his remarks on things—"The Death of Tasso," "The Marriage of Peleus and Thetis," and the like—that he is utterly uneducated.

There is about half the book to come, but no more abstract can be necessary. The way in which Jean is delivered from his Adelaide and rewarded with his Caroline, if not quite probable (for Adelaide is made to blacken her own character to her rival), is not without ingenuity. And the narrative (which has Paul de Kock's curious "holding" quality for the hour or two one is likely to bestow on it) is diversified by the usual duel, by Jean's noble and rather rash conduct, in putting down his pistols to bestow sacks of five-franc pieces on his two old friends (who try to burgle and—one of them at least—would rather like to murder him), etc., etc.[50] But the real value—for it has some—of the book lies in the vivid sketches of ordinary life which it gives. The curious Cockneydom, diversified by glimpses of a suburban Arcadia, in which the French bourgeois of the first half of the nineteenth century seems to have passed his time; the humours of a coucou journey from Paris to Saint-Germain; all sorts of details of the Durand and Chopard households—supply these. And not the least of them is given by the bachelor menage of Bellequeue with his eighteen-year-old bonne Rose, the story whereof need not sadden or shock even Mrs. Grundy, unless she scents unrecounted, indeed not even hinted at, improprieties. Bellequeue, as noted above, is by no means a fool, and achieves as near an approach to a successful "character" as Paul de Kock has ever drawn; while Rose plays the same part of piebald angel as Lucile in Andre, with a little more cleverness in her espieglerie and at least no vouched-for unlawfulnesses.

[Sidenote: La Femme, le Mari et l'Amant.]

But perhaps if any one wants a single book to judge Paul de Kock by (with one possible exception, to follow this), he cannot do better than take La Femme, le Mari et l'Amant, a novel again of his middle period, and one which, if it shows some of his less desirable points, shows them characteristically and with comparatively little offence, while it exhibits what the shopkeepers would, I believe, call "a range of his best lines." The autobiographic hero, Paul Deligny, is one of his nearest approaches to a gentleman, yet no one can call him insipid or priggish; the heroine, Augustine Luceval, by marriage Jenneville, is in the same way one of his nearest approaches to a lady, and, though not such a madcap as the similarly situated Frederique of Une Gaillarde (v. inf.), by no means mawkish. It is needless to say that these are "l'Amant" and "la Femme," or that they are happily united at the end: it may be more necessary to add that there is no scandal, but at the same time no prunes and prism, earlier. "Le Mari," M. Jenneville, is very much less of a success, being an exceedingly foolish as well as reprobate person, who not only deserts a beautiful, charming, and affectionate wife, but treats his lower-class loves shabbily, and allows himself to be swindled and fooled to the nth by an adventuress of fashion and a plausible speculator. On the other hand, one of this book's rather numerous grisettes, Ninie, is of the more if not most gracious of that questionable but not unappetising sisterhood. Dubois, the funny man, and Jolivet, the parsimonious reveller, who generally manages to make his friends pay the bill, are not bad common form of farce. One of the best of Paul's own special scenes, the pancake party, with a bevy of grisettes, is perhaps the liveliest of all such things, and, but for one piece of quite unnecessary Smollettism or Pigaulterie, need only scandalise the "unco guid." The whole has, in unusual measure, that curious readableness which has been allowed to most of our author's books. Almost inevitably there is a melodramatic end; but this, to speak rather Hibernically, is made up for by a minute and curious account, at the beginning, of the actual presentation of a melodrama, with humours of pit, box, and gallery. If the reader does not like the book he will hardly like anything else of its author's; if he does, he will find plenty of the same sort of stuff, less concentrated perhaps, elsewhere. But if he be a student, as well as a consumer, of the novel, he can hardly fail to see that, at its time and in its kind, it is not so trivial a thing as its subjects and their treatment might, in the abstract, be pronounced to be by the grave and precise.

[Sidenote: Mon Voisin Raymond.]

Yet somebody may say, "This is all very well, but what was it that made Major Pendennis laugh?" Probably a good many things in a good many books; but I do not know any one more likely to have received that crown than the exception above mentioned, Mon Voisin Raymond, which also bears (to me) the recommendation of a very competent friend of mine. My experience is that you certainly do begin laughing at the very beginning, and that the laughter is kept up, if not without cessation, with very few intervals, through a remarkable series of comic scenes. The book, in fact, is Paul de Kock's Gilbert Gurney, and I cannot sink the critic in the patriot to such an extent as to enable me to put Theodore, even in what is, I suppose, his best long story, above, or even on a level with, Paul here.

The central point, as one sees almost at once, is that this Raymond (I think we are never told his other name), a not entirely ill-meaning person, but a facheux of almost ultra-Molieresque strength, is perpetually spoiling his unlucky neighbour's, the autobiographic Eugene Dorsan's, sport, and, though sometimes paid out in kind, bringing calamities upon him, while at last he actually capots his friend and enemy by making him one of the derniers already mentioned! This is very bold of Paul, and I do not know any exact parallel to it. On the other hand, Eugene is consoled, not only by Raymond's death in the Alps (Paul de Kock is curiously fond of Switzerland as a place of punishment for his bad characters), but by the final possession of a certain Nicette, the very pearl of the grisette kind. We meet her in the first scene of the story, where Dorsan, having given the girl a guiltless sojourn of rescue in his own rooms, is detected and exposed to the malice of a cast mistress by Raymond. I am afraid that Paul rather forgot that final sentence of his own first book; for though Pelagie, Dorsan's erring and unpleasant wife, dies in the last chapter, I do not observe that an actual Hymen with Nicette "covers the fault" which, after long innocence, she has at last committed or permitted. But perhaps it would have been indecent to contract a second marriage so soon, and it is only postponed to the unwritten first chapter of the missing fifth volume.[51]

The interval between overture and finale is, as has been said or hinted, uncommonly lively, and for once, not only in the final retribution, Paul has distributed the peine du talion pretty equally between his personages. Dorsan has already lost another grisette mistress, Caroline (for whose sake he has neglected Nicette), and a femme du monde, with whom he has for a short time intrigued; while in both cases Raymond, though not exactly the cause of the deprivation, has, in his meddling way, been mixed up with it. In yet other scenes we have a travelling magic-lantern exhibition in the Champs Elysees; a night in the Tivoli Gardens; an expedition to a party at a country house, which, of course, Raymond's folly upsets, literally as well as metaphorically; a long (rather too long) account of a musical evening at a very lower-middle-class house; a roaringly farcical interchange of dinners en cabinet particulier at a restaurant, in which Raymond is the victim. But, on the whole, he scores, and is a sort of double cause of the hero's last and greatest misfortune. For it is a lie of his about Nicette which determines Dorsan to make a long-postponed visit to his sister in the country, and submit at last to her efforts to get him married to the exaggeratedly ingenue Pelagie, and saddled with her detestable aunt, Madame de Pontchartrain. The end of the book is not quite equal to some other parts of it. But there is abundance of excellent farce, and Nicette might reconcile the veriest sentimentalist.

[Sidenote: Le Barbier de Paris.]

At one time in England—I cannot speak for the times of his greatest popularity in France—Paul de Kock's name, except for a vague knowledge of his grisette and mauvais sujet studies, was very mainly connected with Le Barbier de Paris. It was an instance of the constant mistakes which almost all countries make about foreign authors. I imagine, from a fresh and recent reading of it, that he probably did take more trouble with it than with most of his books. But, unfortunately, instances of lost labour are not confined to literature. The subject and the author are very ill matched. It is a romance of 1632, and so in a way competing with the most successful efforts of the great Romantics. But for such a task Paul had no gifts, except his invariable one of concocting a readable story. As for style, imagination, atmosphere, and such high graces, it would be not so much cruel as absurd to "enter" the book with Notre-Dame de Paris or the Contes Drolatiques, Le Capitaine Fracasse or the Chronique de Charles IX. But even the lower ways he could not tread here. He did not know anything about the time, and his wicked Marquis de Villebelle is not early Louis Treize at all, but rather late Louis Quinze. He had not the gift (which Scott first showed and Dumas possessed in no small measure) of writing his conversations, if not in actual temporal colour of language, at any rate in a kind of lingua franca suitable to, or at the worst not flagrantly discordant with, any particular time and any particular state of manners. He could throw in types of the kind so much admired by no less a person than Sir Philip Sidney—a garrulous old servant, an innocent young girl, a gasconading coward, a revengeful daughter of Italy, a this and that and the other. But he could neither make individual character nor vivid historical scene. And so the thing breaks down.

The barber-hero-villain himself is the most "unconvincing" of barbers (who have profited fiction not so ill in other cases), of heroes (who are too often unconvincing), and even of villains (who have rather a habit of being so).[52] Why a man who is represented as being intensely, diabolically, wicked, but almost diabolically shrewd, should employ, and go on employing, as his instrument a blundering poltroon like the Gascon Chaudoreille, is a question which recurs almost throughout the book, and, being unanswered, is almost sufficient to damn it. And at the end the other question, why M. le Marquis de Villebelle—represented as, though also a villain, a person of superior intelligence—when he has discovered that the girl whom he has abducted and sought to ruin is really his daughter; when he has run upstairs to tell her, has knocked at her locked door, and has heard a heavy body splashing into the lake under her window,—why, instead of making his way at once to the water, he should run about the house for keys, break into the room, and at last, going to the window, draw from the fact that "an object shows itself at intervals on the surface, and appears to be still in a state of agitation," the no doubt quite logical inference that Blanche is drowning—when, and only then, he precipitates himself after her,—this question would achieve, if it were necessary, the damnation.

[Sidenote: The Pauline grisette.]

The fact is, that Paul had no turn for melodrama, history, or tragic matter of any kind. He wrote nearly a hundred novels, and I neither pretend to have read the whole of them, nor, if I had done so, should I feel justified in inflicting abstracts on my readers. As always happens in such cases, the feast he offers us is "pot-luck," but, as too seldom happens, the luck of the pot is quite often good. With the grisette, to whom he did much to give a niche (one can hardly call it a shrine) in literature, whom he celebrated so lovingly, and whose gradual disappearance he has so touchingly bewailed, or with any feminine person of partly grisettish kind, such as the curious and already briefly mentioned heroine of Une Gaillarde,[53] he is almost invariably happy. The above-mentioned Lucile is not technically a grisette (who should be a girl living on her own resources or in a shop, not in service) nor is Rose in Jean, but both have the requirements of the type—minois chiffonne (including what is absolutely indispensable, a nez retrousse), inexhaustible gaiety, extreme though by no means promiscuous complaisance, thorough good-nature—all the gifts, in short, of Beranger's bonne fille, who laughs at everything, but is perfectly capable of good sense and good service at need, and who not seldom marries and makes as good a wife as, "in a higher spear," the English "garrison hack" has had the credit of being. Quite a late, but a very successful example, with the complaisance limited to strictly legitimate extent, and the good-nature tempered by a shrewd determination to avenge two sisters of hers who had been weaker than herself, is the Georgette of La Fille aux Trois Jupons, who outwits in the cleverest way three would-be gallants, two of them her sisters' actual seducers, and extracts thumping solatia from these for their victims.[54]

[Sidenote: Others.]

On the other hand, the older and, I think, more famous book which suggested the title of this—L'Homme aux Trois Culottes, symbolising and in a way giving a history of the times of the Revolution, the Empire, and the Restoration, and finishing with "July"—seems to me again a failure. As I have said, Paul could not manage history, least of all spread-out history like this; and the characters, or rather personages, though of the lower and lower-middle rank, which he could manage best, are to me totally uninteresting. Others may have been, or may be, more fortunate with them.

So, too, Le Petit Fils de Cartouche (which I read before coming across its first part, Les Enfants du Boulevard) did not inspire me with any desire to look up this earlier novel; and La Pucelle de Belleville, another of Paul's attempts to depict the unconventional but virtuous young person, has very slight interest as a story, and is disfigured by some real examples of the "coarse vulgarity" which has been somewhat excessively charged against its author generally. Frere Jacques is a little better, but not much.[55]

Something has been said of "periods"; but, after all, when Paul has once "got into his stride" there is little difference on the average. I have read, for instance, in succession, M. Dupont, which, even in the Belgian piracy, is of 1838, and Les Demoiselles de Magazin, which must be some quarter of a century later—so late, indeed, that Madame Patti is mentioned in it. The title-hero of the first—a most respectable man—has an ingenue, who loves somebody else, forced upon him, experiences more recalcitrance than is usually allowed in such cases, and at last, with Paul's usual unpoetical injustice, is butchered to make way for the Adolphe of the piece, who does not so very distinctly deserve his Eugenie. It contains also one Zelie, who is perhaps the author's most impudent, but by no means most unamusing or most disagreeable, grisette. Les Demoiselles de Magazin gives us a whole posy of these curious flower-weeds of the garden of girls—pretty, middling, and ugly, astonishingly virtuous, not virtuous at all, and couci-couci (one of them, by the way, is nicknamed "Bouci-Boula," because she is plump and plain), but all good-natured, and on occasion almost noble-sentimented; a guileless provincial; his friend, who has a mania for testing his wife's fidelity, and who accomplishes one of Paul's favourite fairy-tale or rather pantomime endings by coming down with fifteen thousand francs for an old mistress (she has lost her beauty by the bite of a parrot, and is the mother of the extraordinarily virtuous Marie); a scapegrace "young first" or half-first; a superior ditto, who is an artist, who rejects the advances of Marie's mother, and finally marries Marie herself, etc. etc. You might change over some of the personages and scenes of the two books; but they are scarcely unequal in such merit as they possess, and both lazily readable in the fashion so often noted.

If any one asks where this readableness comes from, I do not think the answer is very difficult to give, and it will of itself supply a fuller explanation (the words apology or excuse are not really necessary) for the space here allotted to its possessor. It comes, no doubt, in the first place, from sheer and unanalysable narrative faculty, the secret of the business, the mystery in one sense of the mystery in the other. But it also comes, as it seems to me, from the fact that Paul de Kock is the very first of French novelists who, though he has no closely woven plot, no striking character, no vivid conversation or arresting phrases, is thoroughly real, and in the good, not the bad, sense quotidian. The statement may surprise some people and shock others, but I believe it can be as fully sustained as that other statement about the most different subject possible, the Astree, which was quoted from Madame de Sevigne in the last volume. Paul knew the world he dealt with as well almost as Dickens[56] knew his very different but somewhat corresponding one; and, unlike Dickens, the Frenchman had the good sense to meddle very little[57] with worlds that he did not know. Of course it would be simply bete to take it for granted that the majority of Parisian shop- and work- and servant-girls have or had either the beauty or the amiability or the less praiseworthy qualities of his grisettes. But somehow or other one feels that the general ethos of the class has been caught.[58] His bourgeois interiors and outings have the same real and not merely stagy quality; though his melodramatic or pantomimic endings may smack of "the boards" a little. The world to which he holds up the mirror may be a rather vulgar sort of Vanity Fair, but there are unfortunately few places more real than Vanity Fair, and few things less unreal than vulgarity.

The last sentence may lead to a remark of a graver kind than has been often indulged in here. Thackeray defined his own plan in Vanity Fair itself as at least partly an attempt to show people "living without God in the world." There certainly is not much godliness in the book, but he could not keep it out altogether; he would have been false to nature (which he never was) if he had. In Paul de Kock's extensive work, on the other hand, the exclusion is complete. It is not that there is any expressed Voltairianism as there is in Pigault. But though the people are married in church as well as at the mairie, and I remember one casual remark about a mother and her daughter going to mass, the whole spiritual region—religious, theological, ecclesiastical, and what not—is left blank. I do not remember so much as a cure figuring personally, though there may be one. And it is worth noting that Paul was born in 1794, and therefore passed his earliest childhood in the time when the Republic had actually gagged, if not stifled, religion in France—when children grew up, in some cases at any rate, without ever hearing the name of God, except perhaps in phrases like pardieu or parbleu. It is not my business or my intention to make reflections or draw inferences; I merely indicate the fact.

Another fact—perhaps so obvious already that it hardly needs stating—is that Paul de Kock is not exactly the person to "take a course of," unless under such conditions as those under which Mr. Carlyle took a course of a far superior writer, Marryat, and was (one regrets to remember) very ungrateful for the good it did him. He is (what some of his too critical countrymen have so falsely called Dumas) a mere amuseur, and his amusement is somewhat lacking in variety. Nevertheless, few critical readers[59] of the present history will, I think, consider the space given to him here as wasted. He was a really powerful schoolmaster to bring the popular novel into still further popularity; and he made a distinct advance upon such persons as Pigault-Lebrun and Ducray-Duminil—upon the former in comparative decency, if not of subject, of expression; upon the latter in getting close to actual life; and upon both in what may be called the furniture of his novels—the scene-painting, property-arranging, and general staging. This has been most unfairly assigned to Balzac as originator, not merely in France, but generally, whereas, not to mention our own men, Paul began to write nearly a decade before the beginning of those curious efforts, half-prenatal, of Balzac's, which we shall deal with later, and nearly two decades before Les Chouans. And, horrifying as the statement may be to some, I venture to say that his mere mise en scene is sometimes, if not always, better than Balzac's own, though he may be to that younger contemporary of his as a China orange to Lombard Street in respect of plot, character, thought, conversation, and all the higher elements, as they are commonly taken to be, of the novel.

* * * * *

[Sidenote: The minors before 1830.]

It has been said that the filling-up of this chapter, as to the rank and file of the novelists of 1800-1830, has been a matter of some difficulty in the peculiar circumstances of the case. I have, however, been enabled to read, for the first time or afresh, examples not merely of those writers who have preserved any notoriety, but of some who have not, and to assure myself on fair grounds that I need not wait for further exploration. The authors now to be dealt with have already been named. But I may add another novelist on the very eve of 1830, Auguste Ricard, whose name I never saw in any history of literature, but whose work fell almost by accident into my hands, and seems worth taking as "pot-luck."

* * * * *

[Sidenote: Mme. de Montolieu—Caroline de Lichtfield.]

Isabelle de Montolieu—a Swiss by birth but a French-woman by extraction, and Madame de Crousaz by her first marriage—was a friend of Gibbon's friend Georges Deyverdun, and indeed of Gibbon himself, who, she says, actually offered to father her novel. Odd as this seems, there really is in Caroline de Lichtfield[60] not merely something which distinguishes it from the ordinary "sensibility" tale of its time (it was first printed at Lausanne in 1786), but a kind of crispness of thought now and then which sometimes does suggest Gibbon, in something the same way as that in which Fanny Burney suggests Johnson. This is indeed mixed with a certain amount of mere "sensibility" jargon,[61] as when a lover, making a surprisingly honest confession to his beloved, observes that he is going "to destroy those sentiments which had made him forget how unworthy he was of them," or when the lady (who has been quite guiltless, and has at last fallen in love with her own husband) tells this latter of her weakness in these very engaging words: "Yes! I did love Lindorf; at least I think I recognise some relation between the sentiments I had for him and those that I feel at present!"

[Sidenote: Its advance on "Sensibility."]

A kind of affection was avowed in the last volume for the "Phoebus" of the "heroics," and something similar may be confessed for this "Jupiter Pluvius," this mixture of tears and stateliness, in the Sentimentalists. But Madame de Montolieu has emerged from the most larmoyante kind of "sensible" comedy. If her book had been cut a little shorter, and if (which can be easily done by the reader) the eccentric survival of a histoire, appended instead of episodically inserted, were lopped off, Caroline de Lichtfield would not be a bad story. The heroine, having lost her mother, has been brought up to the age of fifteen by an amiable canoness, who (to speak rather Hibernically) ought to have been her mother but wasn't, because the actual mother was so much richer. She bears no malice, however, even to the father who, well preserved in looks, manners, and selfishness, is Great Chamberlain to Frederick the Great.

That very unsacred majesty has another favourite, a certain Count von Walstein, who is ambassador of Prussia at St. Petersburg. It pleases Frederick, and of course his chamberlain, that Caroline, young as she is, shall marry Walstein. As the girl is told that her intended is not more than thirty, and knows his position (she has, naturally, been brought up without the slightest idea of choosing for herself), she is not displeased. She will be a countess and an ambassadress; she will have infinite jewels; her husband will probably be handsome and agreeable; he will certainly dance with her, and may very possibly not object to joining in innocent sports like butterfly-catching. So she sets off to Berlin quite cheerfully, and the meeting takes place. Alas! the count is a "civil count" (as Beatrice says) enough, but he is the reverse of handsome and charming. He has only one eye; he has a huge scar on his cheek; a wig (men, remember, were beginning to "wear their own hair"), a bent figure, and a leaden complexion. Caroline, promptly and not unnaturally, "screams and disappears like lightning." Nor can any way be found out of this extremely awkward situation. The count (who is a thoroughly good fellow) would give Caroline up, though he has taken a great fancy to her, and even the selfish Lichtfield tries (or says he tries) to alter his master's determination. But Frederick of course persists, and with a peculiarly Frederician enjoyment in conferring an ostensible honour which is in reality a punishment, sees the marriage ceremony carried out under his own eye. Caroline, however, exemplifies in combination certain old adages to the effect that there is "No will, no wit like a woman's." She submits quite decently in public, but immediately after the ceremony writes a letter[62] to her husband (whose character she has partly, though imperfectly, gauged) requesting permission to retire to the canoness till she is a little older, under a covert but quite clearly intelligible threat of suicide in case of refusal. There are of course difficulties, but the count, like a man and a gentleman, consents at once; the father, bon gre mal gre, has to do so, and the King, a tyrant who has had his way, gives a sulky and qualified acquiescence. What follows need only be very rapidly sketched. After a little time Caroline sees, at her old-new home, an engaging young man, a Herr von Lindorf; and matters, though she is quite virtuous, are going far when she receives an enormous epistle[62] from her lover, confessing that he himself is the author of her husband's disfigurement (under circumstances discreditable to himself and creditable to Walstein), enclosing, too, a very handsome portrait of the count as he was, and but for this disfigurement might be still. What happens then nobody ought to need, or if he does he does not deserve, to be told. There is no greatness about this book, but to any one who has an eye for consequences it will probably seem to have some future in it. It shows the breaking of the Sensibility mould and the running of the materials into a new pattern as early as 1786. In 1886 M. Feuillet or M. Theuriet would of course have clothed the story-skeleton differently, but one can quite imagine either making use of a skeleton by no means much altered. M. Rod would have given it an unhappy ending, but one can see it in his form likewise.[63]

[Sidenote: Madame de Genlis iterum.]

Of Stephanie Felicite, Comtesse de Genlis, it were tempting to say a good deal personally if we did biographies here when they can easily be found elsewhere. How she became a canoness at six years old, and shortly afterwards had for her ordinary dress (with something supplementary, one hopes) the costume of a Cupid, including quiver and wings; how she combined the offices of governess to the Orleans children and mistress to their father; how she also combined the voluptuousness and the philanthropy of her century by taking baths of milk and afterwards giving that milk to the poor;[64] how, rather late in life, she attained the very Crown-Imperial of governess-ship in being chosen by Napoleon to teach him and his Court how to behave; and how she wrote infinite books—many of them taking the form of fiction—on education, history, religion, everything, can only be summarised. The last item of the summary alone concerns us, and that must be dealt with summarily too. Mlle. de Clermont—a sort of historico-"sensible" story in style, and evidently imitated from La Princesse de Cleves—is about the best thing she did as literature; but we dealt with that in the last volume[65] among its congeners. In my youth all girls and some boys knew Adele et Theodore and Les Veillees du Chateau. From a later book, Les Battuecas, George Sand is said to have said that she learnt Socialism: and the fact is that Stephanie Felicite had seen so much, felt so much, read so much, and done so much that, having also a quick feminine wit, she could put into her immense body of work all sorts of crude second-hand notions. The two last things that I read of hers to complete my idea of her were Le Comte de Corke and Les Chevaliers du Cygne, books at least possessing an element of surprise in their titles. The first is a collection of short tales, the title-piece inspired and prefaced by an account of the Boyle family, and all rather like a duller and more spun-out Miss Edgeworth, the common relation to Marmontel accounting for this. The concluding stories of each volume, "Les Amants sans Amour" and "Sanclair," are about the best. Les Chevaliers du Cygne is a book likely to stir up the Old Adam in some persons. It was, for some mysterious reason, intended as a sort of appendix—for "grown-ups"—to the Veillees du Chateau, and is supposed to have incorporated parabolically many of the lessons of the French Revolution (it appeared in 1795). But though its three volumes and eleven hundred pages deal with Charlemagne, and the Empress Irene, and the Caliph "Aaron" (Haroun), and Oliver (Roland is dead at Roncevaux), and Ogier, and other great and beloved names; though the authoress, who was an untiring picker-up of scraps of information, has actually consulted (at least she quotes) Sainte-Palaye; there is no faintest flavour of anything really Carlovingian or Byzantine or Oriental about the book, and the whole treatment is in the pre-historical-novel style. Indeed the writer of the Veillees was altogether of the veille—the day just expired—or of the transitional and half-understood present—never of the past seen in some perspective, of the real new day, or, still less, of the morrow.

[Sidenote: The minor popular novel—Ducray-Duminil—Le Petit Carilloneur.]

The batch of books into which we are now going to dip does not represent the height of society and the interests of education like Madame de Genlis; nor high society again and at least strivings after the new day, like the noble author of the Solitaire who will follow them. They are, in fact, the minors of the class in which Pigault-Lebrun earlier and Paul de Kock later represent such "majority" as it possesses. But they ought not to be neglected here: and I am bound to say that the very considerable trouble they cost me has not been wholly vain.[66] The most noted of the whole group, and one of the earliest, Ducray-Duminil's Lolotte et Fanfan, escaped[67] a long search; but the possession and careful study of the four volumes of his Petit Carillonneur (1819) has, I think, enabled me to form a pretty clear notion of what not merely Lolotte (the second title of which is Histoire de Deux Enfants abandonnes dans une ile deserte), but Victor ou L'Enfant de la Foret, Caelina ou L'Enfant du Mystere, Jules ou le Toit paternel, or any other of the author's score or so of novels would be like.

The book, I confess, was rather hard to read at first, for Ducray-Duminil is a sort of Pigault-Lebrun des enfants; he writes rather kitchen French; the historic present (as in all these books) loses its one excuse by the wearisome abundance of it, and the first hundred pages (in which little Dominique, having been unceremoniously tumbled out of a cabriolet[68] by wicked men, and left to the chances of divine and human assistance, is made to earn his living by framed-bell-ringing in the streets of Paris) became something of a corvee. But the author is really a sort of deacon, though in no high division of his craft. He expands and duplicates his situations with no inconsiderable cunning, and the way in which new friends, new enemies, and new should-be-indifferent persons are perpetually trying to find out whether the boy is really the Dominique d'Alinvil of Marseilles, whose father and mother have been foully made away with, or not, shows command of its own particular kind of ingenuity. Intrigues of all sorts—violent and other (for his wicked relative, the Comtesse d'Alinvil, is always trying to play Potiphar's wife to him, and there is a certain Mademoiselle Gothon who would not figure as she does here in a book by Mr. Thomas Day)—beset him constantly; he is induced not merely to trust his enemies, but to distrust his friends; there is a good deal of underground work and of the explained supernatural; a benevolent musician; an excellent cure; a rather "coming" but agreeable Adrienne de Surval, who, close to the end of the book, hides her trouble in the bosom of her aunt while Dominique presses her hand to his heart (the aunt seems here superfluous), etc., etc. Altogether the book is, to the historian, a not unsatisfactory one, and joins its evidence to that of Pigault as showing that new sources of interest and new ways of dealing with them are being asked for and found. In filling up the map of general novel-development and admitting English examples, we may assign to its author a place between Mrs. Radcliffe and the Family Herald: confining ourselves to French only, he has again, like Pigault, something of the credit of making a new start. He may appeal to the taste of the vulgar (which is not quite the same sort of thing as "a vulgar taste"), but he sees that the novel is capable of providing general pastime, and he does his best to make it do so.

[Sidenote: V. Ducange.]

[Sidenote: L'Artiste et le Soldat.]

"The other Ducange," whose patronymic appears to have been Brahain, and who perhaps took the name of the great scholar[69] for the sake of contrast, was even more famous for his melodramas[70] than for his fiction, one piece especially, "Trente Ans, ou La Vie d'un Joueur," having been among the triumphs of the Porte-Saint-Martin and of Frederick Lemaitre. As a novelist he did not write for children like Ducray-Duminil, and one of his novels contains a boastful preface scoffing at and glorying in the accusations of impropriety brought against him. I have found nothing very shocking in those books of his which I have read, and I certainly have not thought it necessary to extend my acquaintance in search of it. He seems to have been a quarrelsome sort of person, for he got into trouble not only with the moralists, not only with the Restoration government, but with the Academy, which he attacked; and he is rather fond of "scratchy" references such as "On peut meriter encore quelque interet sans etre un Amadis, un Vic-van-Vor [poor Fergus!], un Han, ou un Vampire." But his intrinsic merit as a novelist did not at first seem to me great. A book worse charpente than that just quoted from, L'Artiste et le Soldat, I have seldom read. The first of its five volumes is entirely occupied with the story (not badly, though much too voluminously told) of a captain who has lost his leg at Waterloo, and though tended by a pretty and charming daughter, is in great straits till helped by a mysterious Black Nun, who loves les militaires, and has been entrusted with money to help them by the Empress Josephine. The second, "without with your leave or by your leave" of any kind,[71] jumps back to give us, under a different name for a long time, the early history of this captain, which occupies two whole volumes and part of a third (the fourth of the book). Then another abrupt shift introduces us to the "artist," the younger brother, who bears a third name, itself explained by another jump back of great length. Then a lover turns up for Suzanne, the captain's daughter, and we end the fifth volume with a wedding procession in ten distinct carriages.

[Sidenote: Ludovica.]

Ludovica ou Le Testament de Waterloo, a much later book, was, the author tells us, finished in June 1830 under the fiendish tyranny of "all-powerful bigots, implacable Jesuits, and restored marquises"; but the glorious days of July came; a new dynasty, "jeune, forte, sincere" (Louis Philippe "young and sincere"!), was on the throne; the ship of state entered the vast sea of liberty; France revived; all Europe seemed to start from its shroud—and Ludovica got published. But the author's joy was a little dashed by the sense that, unlike its half-score of forerunners, the book had not to battle with the bigots and the Jesuits and the "restored marquises"—the last a phrase which has considerable charms of suggestion.

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