A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2 - To the Close of the 19th Century
by George Saintsbury
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[199] For, as a rule, the critical faculty is like wine—it steadily improves with age. But of course anybody is at liberty to say, "Only, in both cases, when it is good to begin with."

[200] I suppose this was what attracted Mr. Hearn; but, as I have said, I do not know his book itself.

[201] I do not know how many of the users of the catchword "purely decorative," as applied to Moore, knew what they meant by it; but if they meant what I have just said, I have no quarrel with them.

[202] Yet even inside poetry not so very much before 1830.

[203] Of course I know what a dangerous word this is; how often people who have not a glimmering of it themselves deny it to others; and how it is sometimes seen in mere horseplay, often confounded with "wit" itself, and generally "taken in vain." But one must sometimes be content with [Greek: phoneenta] or [Greek: phonanta] (the choice is open, but I prefer the latter) [Greek: synetoisi], and take the consequences of them with the [Greek: asynetoi].

[204] Some would allow it to Plautus, but I doubt; and even Martial did not draw as much of it from Spanish soil as must have been latent there—unless the Goths absolutely imported it. Perhaps the nearest approach in him is the sudden turn when the obliging Phyllis, just as he is meditating with what choice and costly gifts he shall reward her varied kindnesses, anticipates him by modestly asking, with the sweetest preliminary blandishments, for a jar of wine (xii. 65).

[205] La Fontaine may be desiderated. His is certainly one of the most humouresque of wits; but whether he has pure humour I am not sure.

[206] This is an exception to the rule of tout passe, if not of tout casse. You can still buy avanturine wax; only, like all waxes, except red and black, it seals very badly, and makes "kisses" in a most untidy fashion. Avanturine should be left to the original stone—to peat-water running over pebbles with the sun on it—and to eyes.

[207] I once knew an incident which might have figured in these scenes, and which would, I think, have pleased Theo. But it happened just after his own death, in the dawn of the aesthetic movement. A man, whom we may call A, visited a friend, say B, who was doing his utmost to be in the mode. A had for some time been away from the centre; and B showed him, in hopes to impress, the blue china the Japanese mats and fans, the rush-bottomed chairs, the Morris paper and curtains, the peacock feathers, etc. But A looked coldly on them and said, "Where is your brass tray?" And B was saddened and could only plead, "It is coming directly; but you know too much."

[208] They are both connected with the "orgie"-mania, and the last is a deliberate burlesque of the originals of P. L. Jacob, Janin, Eugene Sue, and Balzac himself.

[209] It is here that the famous return of a kiss revu, corrige et considerablement augmente is recorded.

[210] He (it is some excuse for him that this suggested a better thing in certain New Arabian Nights) buys, furnishes, and subsequently deserts an empty house to give a ball in, and put his friends on no scent of his own abode; but he makes this "own abode" a sort of Crystal Palace in the centre of a whole ring-fence of streets, with the old fronts of the houses kept to avert suspicion of the Seraglio of Eastern beauties, the menagerie and beast fights, and the slaves whom (it is rather suggested than definitely stated) he occasionally murders. He performs circus-rider feats when he meets a lady (or at least a woman) in the Bois de Boulogne; he sets her house on fire when it occurs to him that she has received other lovers there; and we are given to understand that he blows up his own palace when he returns to the East. In fact, he is a pure anticipated cognition of a Ouidesque super-hero as parodied by Sir Francis Burnand (and independently by divers schoolboys and undergraduates) some fifty years ago.

[211] I have seen an admirable criticism of this "thing" in one word, "Cold!"

[212] On the cayenne-and-claret principle which Haydon (one hopes libellously, in point of degree) attributed to Keats. (It was probably a devilled-biscuit, and so quite allowable.)

[213] "Theo" has no repute as a psychologist; but I have known such repute attained by far less subtle touches than this.

[214] For more on them, with a pretty full abstract of Le Capitaine Fracasse, see the Essay more than once mentioned.

[215] V. sup. Vol. I. p. 279-286. Of course the duplication, as literature, is positively interesting and welcome.

[216] I—some fifty years since—knew a man who, with even greater juvenility, put pretty much the same doctrine in a Fellowship Essay. He did not obtain that Fellowship.

[217] It might possibly have been shortened with advantage in concentration of effect. But the story (pleasantly invented, if not true) of Gautier's mother locking him up in his room that he might not neglect his work (of the nature of which she was blissfully ignorant) nearly excuses him. A prisoner will naturally be copious rather than terse.

[218] It may amuse some readers to know that I saw the rather famous lithograph (of a lady and gentleman kissing each other at full speed on horseback), which owes its subject to the book, in no more romantic a place that a very small public-house in "Scarlet town," to which I had gone, not to quench my thirst or for any other licentious purpose, but to make an appointment with—a chimney-sweep.

[219] Some might even say he had too much.

[220] For reference to previous dealings of mine with Merimee see Preface.

[221] It is sad, but necessary, to include M. Brunetiere among the latter class.

[222] He was never a professor, but was an inspector; and, though I may be biassed, I think the inspector is usually the more "donnish" animal of the two.

[223] And perhaps in actual life, if not in literature, I should prefer a young woman who might possibly have me murdered if she discovered a blood-feud between my ancestors and hers, to one in whose company it would certainly be necessary to keep a very sharp look-out on my watch. The two risks are not equally "the game."

[224] Many a reader, I hope, has been reminded, by one or the other, or both, of the Anatomy of Melancholy, which also contains the story: and has gone to it with the usual consequence of reading nothing else for some time.

[225] "Merimee etait gentilhomme: Sainte-Beuve ne l'etait pas." I forget who said this, but it was certainly said, and I think it was true.

[226] This is not merely a waste of explosives. I have actually seen the story dismissed as a "merely faithful record of the facts" or something of the sort. One was at least obliged to the man for reminding one of Partridge on Garrick.

[227] A very "gentle" reader may perceive something not quite explained, and I should be happy to allow it.

[228] And perhaps—though Merimee does not allege this—by doing good to his neighbours likewise; for he rescues twelve companions of his own naughtiness from the infernal regions. The mixture of pagan and Christian eschatology, if not borrowed, is exceedingly well and suitably "found."

[229] He had at one time introduced a smirch of grime by which nothing was gained and a good deal lost—the abduction being not at once cut short, and the bear being suggested as the Count's actual sire (see Burton again). But he had the taste as well as the sense to cut this out. The management of the outsiders mentioned above contrasts remarkably in point of art with the similar things which, as noted (v. sup. pp. 93-4), do not improve Ines de las Sierras.

[230] He blue-spectacled, she black-veiled.

[231] Uncarpeted and polished, French fashion, of course.

[232] Merimee represents his Englishman (and an Englishman who can read Greek, too!) as satisfied with, and ordering a second bottle of, an extemporised "port" made of ratafia, "quinze sous" ordinaire, and brandy! This could deceive few Englishmen; and (till very recent years) absolutely no Englishman who could read Greek at a fairly advanced period of life. From most of the French Novelists of the time it would not surprise us; but from Merimee, who was constantly visiting England and had numerous English friends, it is a little odd. It may have been done lectoris gratia (but hardly lectricis), to suit what even the other novelists just mentioned occasionally speak of as the Anglais de vaudeville.

[233] I use this adverb from no trade-jealously: for I have made as many translations myself as I have ever wished to do, and have always been adequately paid for them. But there is no doubt that the competition of amateur translation too often, on the one hand, reduces fees to sweating point, and on the other affects the standard of competence rather disastrously. I once had to review a version of Das Kalte Herz, in which the wicked husband persecuted his wife with a "pitcher," Peitsche being so translated by the light of nature, or the darkness of no dictionary.

[234] Professed renderings of Spanish plays which never existed. La Guzla—a companion volume with an audacious anagrammatising of "Gazul," etc., etc.—is a collection of pure ballads similarly attributed to a non-existent Slav poet, Hyacinthe Maglanovich. Both, in their influence on the Romantic movement, were only second to the work of actual English, German, and Spanish predecessors, and may rank with that of Nodier.

[235] Of the collection definitely called Nouvelles.

[236] I have left the shortest story in the volume, Croisilles, to a note. It has, I believe, been rather a favourite with some, but it seems to me that almost anybody could have written it, as far as anything but the mere writing goes. Nor shall I criticise Mimi Pinson and other things at length. I cannot go so far as a late friend of mine, who maintained that you must always praise the work of a writer you like. But I think one has the option of silence—partial at any rate.

[237] If anybody pleads for Louis Bertrand of Gaspard de la Nuit as a thirdsman, I should accept him gladly, though he is even farther from the novel-norm than Gerard himself. I once had the pleasure of bringing him to the knowledge of the late Lord Houghton, who, the next time I met him, ejaculated, "I've got him, and covered him all over with moons and stars as he deserves." I hope Lord Crewe has the copy. (For Baudelaire's still less novelish following of Gaspard, see below. As far as style goes, both would enter this chapter "by acclamation.")

[238] This has been already referred to above. After one of the abscondences or disappearances brought about by his madness, he was found dead—hanging to a balcony, or outside stair, or lamp-post, or what not, in one of those purlieus of Old Paris which were afterwards swept away, but which Hugo and Meryon have preserved for us in different forms of "black and white." Suicide, as always in such cases, is the orthodox word in this, and may be correct. But some of his friends were inclined to think that he had been the victim of pure murderous sport on the part of the gangs of voyous, ancestors of the later "apaches," who infested the capital.

[239] The quality will not be sought in vain by those who read Mr. Lang's own poems—there are several—on and from Gerard.

[240] "Perhaps not, my dear; perhaps not."

[241] What, I suppose, is the "standard" edition—that of the so-called Oeuvres Completes—contains them all, but with some additions and more omissions to and from the earlier issues. And the individual pieces, especially Sylvie, which is to be more fully dealt with here than any other, are subjected to a good deal of rehandling.

[242] I may be taken to task for rendering lisiere "fringes," but the actual English equivalent "list" is not only ambiguous, not only too homely in its specific connotation, but wrong in rhythm. And "selvage," escaping the first and last objections, may be thought to incur the middle one. Moreover, while both words signify a well-defined edge, lisiere has a sense—special enough to be noted in dictionaries—of the looser-planted border of trees and shrubs which almost literally "fringes" a regular forest.

[243] Angelique, which used to head Les Filles du Feu, in front of Sylvie, but was afterwards cut away by the editors of the Oeuvres Completes for reasons given under the head of Les Faux Saulniers (vol. iv. of that edition), is a specially Sternian piece, mixing up the chase for a rare book, and some other matters, with the adventures of a seventeenth-century ancestress of this book's author, who eloped with a servant, zigzagged as much as possible. It is quite good reading, but a little mechanical. Perhaps it is not too officious to remark that Filles du Feu is to be interpreted here in the sense of our "Faces in the fire."

[244] Gerard was a slightly older man than Theo, but they were, as they could not but be, close friends.

[245] Even those who care little for mere beauty of style—or who cannot stand the loss of it in translation—may find here a vivid picture, by a hand of the most qualified, of the mental condition which produced the masterpieces of 1825-1850. And the contrast with the "discouraged generation" which immediately followed is as striking.

[246] Especially, it may be, if one has heard Galuppi's own music played by a friend who is himself now dead.

[247] Some would make it a quintet with Leconte de Lisle, but I think "the King should consider of it" as to this. He is grand sometimes: but so are Pere Le Moyne and others. It is hit or miss with them; the Four can make sure of it.

[248] It does, of course, deserve, and in this place specially should receive, the credit of being the first French historical novel of the modern kind which possessed great literary merit.

[249] Alexander, though he actually wrote histories of a kind, was far below Alfred in political judgment.

[250] Vide infra on Dumas himself.

[251] About Plato and Homer, who are very welcome, and "Le Mensonge Social," which is, perhaps, a little less so.

[252] But see note 2 on next page.

[253] One wonders if the Black Doctor was so sure of this on his own death-bed?

[254] The first line of Gilbert's swan-song—the only song of his that is remembered. It sets Stello himself on the track which the "Black Doctor" has concealed up to the point. As the original rhythm could not be kept without altering the substance, I have substituted another—not so unconnected as it may seem.—By the way, Vigny has taken as much liberty with French dates in this story as with English facts in the Chatterton one. Gilbert died in 1780, and Louis XV. had passed from the arms of his last mistress, Scarlatina Maligna, six years before, to be actually made the subject of a funeral panegyric by the poet. In fact, the sufferings of the latter have been argued to be pure legend. But this of course affects literature hardly at all; and Vigny had a perfect right to use the accepted version.

[255] Why should a "basket" be specially silly? The answer is that the original comparison was to a "panier perce," a basket which won't hold anything. But the phrase got shortened.

[256] He not only, in the face of generally known and public history, makes the man who was positively insolent to George III. a flunky of royalty, but assigns, as the immediate cause of the poet's suicide, the offer to him of a lucrative but menial office in the Mansion House! Now, if not history, biography tells us that Beckford's own death, and the consequent loss of hope from him, were at least among the causes, if not the sole cause, of the subsequent catastrophe.

[257] He has contrived, with the help of the gaoler's daughter Rose, to suppress an earlier inclusion of Chenier's name in the tumbril-list; and thus might have saved him altogether, but for the father's insane reminder to Robespierre.

[258] But she had to go backwards through the circles between Thermidor and Brumaire, and can hardly be said to have "seen the stars" even then. Vigny has, as we shall see, touched on the less enormous and flagrant—but as individual things scarcely less atrocious—crimes of the Directory in the first story of his next book.

[259] There might of course have been spy-subordinates (cf. the case of D'Artagnan and Belleisle), with secret commissions to meet and render futile his disobedience; but nothing of the sort is even hinted.

[260] Vigny, with perfect probability, but whether with complete historical accuracy or not I do not know, represents this useless exposure as wanton bravado on Napoleon's part.

[261] There may perhaps have been some private reasons for his enthusiasm. At any rate it is pleasant to compare it with the offensive manner in which this "heroic sailor-soul" and admirably good man has sometimes been treated by the more pedantic kind of naval historian.



There is always a risk (as any one who remembers a somewhat ludicrous outburst of indignation, twenty or thirty years ago, among certain English versemen will acknowledge) in using the term "minor." But it is too useful to be given up; and in this particular case, if the very greatest novelists are not of the company, there are those whose greatness in other ways, and whose more than mediocrity in this, should appease the admirers of their companions. We shall deal here with the novel work of Sainte-Beuve, the greatest critic of France; of Eugene Sue, whose mere popularity exceeded that of any other writer discussed in this half of the volume except Dumas; of men like Sandeau, Charles de Bernard, and Murger, whose actual work in prose fiction is not much less than consummate in its own particular key and subdivisions; of one of the best political satirists in French fiction, Louis Reybaud; and of others still, like Soulie, Mery, Achard, Feval, Ourliac, Roger de Beauvoir, Alphonse Karr, Emile Souvestre, who, to no small extent individually and to a very great extent when taken in battalion, helped to conquer that supreme reputation for amusingness, for pastime, which the French novel has so long enjoyed throughout Europe. And these will supply not a little material for the survey of the general accomplishment of that novel in the first half of the century, which will form the subject of a "halt" or Interchapter, when Dumas himself—the one "major" left, and left purposely—has been discussed.

[Sidenote: Sainte-Beuve.—Volupte.]

When Sainte-Beuve, thirty years after the book first appeared, subjoined a most curious Appendix to his only novel, Volupte, he included a letter of his own, in which he confesses that it is "not in the precise sense a novel at all." It is certainly in some respects an outlier, even of the outlying group to which it belongs—the group of Rene and Adolphe and their followers.

[Sidenote: Its "puff-book."]

I do not remember anything, even in a wide sense, quite like this Appendix—at least in the work of an author majorum gentium. It consists of a series of extracts, connected by remarks of Sainte-Beuve's own, from the "puff"-letters which distinguished people had sent him, in recompense for the copies of the book which he had sent them. Most people who write have had such letters, and "every fellow likes a hand." The persons who enjoy being biographied expect them, I suppose, to be published after their deaths; and I have known, I think, some writers of "Reminiscences" who did it themselves in their lifetimes. But it certainly is funny to find the acknowledged "first critic" in the Europe or the world of his day paralleling from private sources the collections which are (quite excusably) added as advertisements from published criticisms to later editions of a book. Intrinsically the things, no doubt, have interest. Chateaubriand, whose Rene is effusively praised in the novel, opens with an equally effusive but rather brief letter of thanks, not destitute of the apparent artificiality which, for all his genius, distinguished that "noble Whycount," and perhaps, for all its "butter," partly responsible for the aigre-doux fashion in which the praisee subsequently treated the praiser. Michelet, Villemain, and Nisard are equally favourable, and perhaps a little more sincere, though Nisard (of course) is in trouble about Sainte-Beuve's divagations from the style of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Brizeux applauds in prose and verse. Madame de Castries (Balzac's "Duchesse de Langeais"), afterwards an intimate personal friend of the critic's, acknowledges, in an anonymous letter, her "profound emotion." Lesser, but not least, people like Magnin join. Eugenie de Guerin bribes her future eulogist. Madame Desbordes-Valmore, the French poetess of the day, is enthusiastic as to the book: and George Sand herself writes a good half-dozen small-printed and exuberant pages, in which the only (but repeated) complaint is that Sainte-Beuve actually makes his hero find comfort in Christianity. Neither Lamartine (as we might have expected) nor Lamennais (whose disciple Sainte-Beuve had tried to be) liked it; but Lacordaire did not disapprove.

[Sidenote: Itself.]

Before saying anything more about it, let us give a brief argument of it—a thing which it requires more (for reasons to be given later) than most books, whether "precisely" novels or not. It is the autobiographic history of a certain "Amaury" (whose surname, I think, we never hear), addressed as a caution to a younger friend, no name of whom we ever hear at all. The friend is too much addicted to the pleasures of sense, and Amaury gives him his own experience of a similar tendency. Despite the subject and the title, there is nothing in the least "scabrous" in it. Lacordaire himself, it seems, gave it a "vu et approuve" as being something that a seminarist or even a priest (which Amaury finishes, to the great annoyance of George Sand, as being) might have composed for edifying purposes. But the whole is written to show the truth of a quatrain of the Judicious Poet:

The wise have held that joys of sense, The more their pleasure is intense, More certainly demand again Usurious interest of pain;

though the moral is enforced in rather a curious manner. Amaury is the only, and orphan, representative of a good Norman or Breton family, who has been brought up by an uncle, and arrives at adolescence just at the time of the Peace of Amiens or thereabouts. He has escaped the heathendom which reigned over France a decade previously, and is also a good Royalist, but very much "left to himself" in other ways. Inevitably, he falls in love, though at first half-ignorant of what he is doing or what is being done to him. The first object is a girl, Amelie de Liniers, in every way desirable in herself, but unluckily not enough desired by him. He is insensibly divided from her by acquaintance with the chief royalist family of the district, the Marquis and Marquise de Couaen, with the latter of whom he falls again in much deeper love, though never to any guilty extent. She, who is represented as the real "Elle," is again superseded, at least partially, by a "Madame R.," who is a much less immaculate person, though the precise extent of the indulgence of their affections is left veiled. But, meanwhile, Amaury's tendency towards "Volupte" has, after his first visit to Paris, led him to indulge in the worship of Venus Pandemos, parallelement with his more exalted passions. No individual object or incident is mentioned in any detail; and the passages relating to this side of the matter are so obscurely phrased that a very innocent person might—without stupidity quite equal to the innocence—be rather uncertain what is meant. But the twin ravages—of more or less pure passion unsatisfied and wholly impure satisfied appetite—ruin the patient's peace of mind. Alongside of this conflict there is a certain political interest. The Marquis de Couaen is a fervent Royalist, and so willing to be a conspirator that he actually gets arrested. But he is an ineffectual kind of person, though in no sense a coward or a fool. Amaury meets with a much greater example of "Thorough" in Georges Cadoudal, and only just escapes being entangled in the plot which resulted in the execution[262] of Cadoudal himself; the possible suicide but probable murder[262] of Pichegru, if not of others; the kidnapping and unquestionable murder[262] of the Duc d'Enghien, and the collapse of the career of Moreau. Some other real persons are brought in, though in an indirect fashion. Finally, the conflict of flesh and spirit and the general tumult of feeling are too much for Amaury, and he takes refuge, through the seminary, in the priesthood. The last event of the book is the death and burial of Madame de Couaen, her husband and Amaury somewhat melodramatically—and perhaps with a slight suggestion both of awkward allegory and possible burlesque—hammering literal nails into her coffin, one on each side.

In addition to the element of passion (both "passionate" in the English and "passionnel" in the French sense) and that of politics, there is a good deal of more abstract theology and philosophy, chiefly of the mixed kind, as represented in various authors from Pascal—indeed from the Fathers—to Saint-Martin.[263]

[Sidenote: Its character in various aspects.]

Now the book (which is undoubtedly a very remarkable one, whether it does or does not deserve that other epithet which I have seen denied to it, of "interesting") may be regarded in two ways. The first—as a document in regard to its author—is one which we have seldom taken in this History, and which the present historian avoids taking as often as he can. Here, however, it may be contended (and discussion under the next head will strengthen the contention) that it is almost impossible to do the book justice, and not very easy even to understand it, without some consideration of the sort. When Sainte-Beuve published it, he had run up, or down, a rather curious gamut of creeds and crazes. He had been a fervent Romantic. He had (for whatever mixture of reasons need not be entered into here) exchanged this first faith, wholly or partially, for that singular unfaith of Saint-Simonianism, which, if we had not seen other things like it since and at the present day, would seem incredible as even a hallucination of good wits. He had left this again to endeavour to be a disciple of Lamennais, and had, not surprisingly, failed. He was now to set himself to the strange Herculean task of his Port-Royal, which had effects upon him, perhaps stranger at first sight than on reflection. It left him, after these vicissitudes and pretty certainly some accompanying experiences adumbrated in Volupte itself, "L'oncle Beuve" of his later associates—a free-thinker, though not a violent one, in religion; a critic, never perhaps purely literary, but, as concerns literature and life combined, of extraordinary range, sanity, and insight; yet sometimes singularly stunted and limited in respect of the greatest things, and—one has to say it, though there is no need to stir the mud as it has been stirred[264] —something of a "porker of Epicurus."

Now, with such additional light as this sketch may furnish, let us return to the book itself. I have said that it has been pronounced "uninteresting," and it must be confessed that, in some ways, the author has done all he could to make it so. In the first place it is much too long; he has neglected the examples of Rene and Adolphe, and given nearly four hundred solid and closely packed pages to a story with very little incident, very little description, only one solidly presented character, and practically no conversation. There is hardly a novel known to me from which the disadvantages of some more or less mechanical fault of presentation—often noticed in this History—could be better illustrated than from Volupte. I have called the pages "solid," and they are so in more than the general, more even than the technical printer's sense. One might imagine that the author had laid a wager that he would use the smallest number of paragraph-breaks possible. There are none at all till page 6 (the fourth of the actual book); blocks of the same kind occur constantly afterwards, and more than one, or at most two, "new pars" are very rare indeed on a page. Even such conversation as there is is not extracted from the matrix of narrative, and the whole is unbroken recit.

It may seem that there is, and has been elsewhere, too much stress laid upon this point. But if I, who am something of a helluo librorum, and very seldom find anything that resists my devouring faculty, feel this difficulty, how much more must persons who require to be tempted and baited on by mechanical and formal allurements?

Still, some strong-minded person may say: "These are 'shallows and miseries'—base mechanical considerations. Tell me why the book, as matter, has been found uninteresting." In this instance there will be no difficulty in complying with the request. Let me at once say that I do not consider it uninteresting myself; that, in fact (and stronger testimony is hardly possible), after reading great part of it without appetite and "against the grain," I began to take a very considerable interest in it. But this did not prevent my having a pretty clear notion of what seem to me faults of treatment, and even of conception, quite independent of those already mentioned.

The main one is somewhat "tickle of the sere" to handle. It has been said that, despite its alarming title, there is nothing in the book that even prudery, unless it were of the most irritable and morbid kind, could object to. There is no dwelling on what Defoe ingeniously calls "the vicious part" of the matter; there is no description of it closer than, if as close as, some passages of the Book of Proverbs (which are actually quoted), and, above all, there is no hint of any satisfaction whatever being derived from the sins by the sinner. His course in this respect might have been a succession of fits of vertigo or epilepsy as far as pleasure goes. There is even a rather fine piece of real psychology as to his state of mind after his first succumbing to temptation. But all this abstinence and reticence, however laudable in a sense it may be, necessarily deprives the passages of anything but purely psychological interest, and leaves most of them not much of that. Luxury in vacuo may, no doubt, be perilous to the culprit; but it has, for others, nearly as much of the unreal and chimerical as Gluttony confined to "Second intentions."

Yet there is another objection to Volupte which is even more closely "psychological," and which has been indicated in the word "parallelement," suggested by, though largely transposed from, Verlaine's use thereof in a title. There is no connection established—there is even, it may seem, a great gulf fixed between Amaury's actual "loves" for Amelie de Liniers, for Lucy de Couaen, and even for the more questionable Madame R., and those "sippings of the lower draught" which are so industriously veiled. If Amaury had "disdamaged" himself, for his inability to possess any of his real and superior loves, by lower indulgences, it would have been discreditable but human. But there is certainly no expression—there is, unless I mistake, hardly any suggestion—of anything of the kind. The currents of spiritual and animal passion seem to have run independently of each other, like canals at different heights on the slope of a hill. I do not know that this is less discreditable; but it seems to me infinitely less human. And, while carefully abstaining from any attempt to connect the peculiarity with the above-mentioned scandals about Sainte-Beuve's life and conversation in detail, one may suggest that it offers some explanation of the unquestioned facts about this; also (and this is of infinitely more importance) of that absence of ability to love literature in anything like a passionate way, which, with a certain other inability to love literature for itself, prevents him from attaining the absolutely highest level in criticism, though his command of ranges just below the highest is wider and firmer than that of any other critic on record.

* * * * *

[Sidenote: Jules Sandeau and Charles de Bernard.]

We may next take, to some extent together, two writers of the novel who made their reputation in the July Monarchy, though one of them long outlived it; who, though this one inclined to a sort of domestic tragedy and the other to pure comedy, resembled each other not a little in clinging to ordinary life, and my estimate of whom is considerably higher than that recently (or, I think, at present) entertained by French critics or by those English critics who think it right to be guided by their French confreres. This estimate, however, has been given at length in another place,[265] and I quite admit that the subjects, though I have not in the least lowered my opinion of them, can hardly be said (like Gautier, Merimee, Balzac, and Dumas, in the present part of this volume, or others later) to demand, in a general History, very large space in dealing with them. I shall therefore endeavour to summarise my corrected impressions more briefly than in those other cases. This shortening may, I think, be justified doubly: in the first place, because any one who is enough of a student to want more can go to the other handling; and, in the second, because the only excellent way, of reading the books themselves, may be adopted with very unusual absence of any danger of disappointment. I hardly know any work of either Jules Sandeau or of Charles de Bernard which is not worth reading by persons of fairly catholic tastes in novel pastime.

The first-named—the younger by some half-dozen years, but the first to publish by more than as many—concerns those who take a merely or mainly anecdotic interest in literature by his well-known liaison with George Sand—to whom he gave dimidium nominis, and perhaps for a time at least dimidium cordis, though he probably did not get it back so much "in a worse estate"[266] as was the case with Musset and Chopin. Sandeau's collaboration with her in novel-writing was long afterwards succeeded by another in dramaturgy with Emile Augier, which resulted in at least one of the most famous French plays of the nineteenth century, Le Gendre de M. Poirier, based on Sandeau's Sacs et Parchemins. But we need busy ourselves only with the novels themselves.

[Sidenote: Sandeau's work.]

Sandeau was barely twenty when he wrote Rose et Blanche, during the time of, and with his partner in, that most dangerous of all possible liaisons. But he was nearly thirty when he produced his own first work of note, Marianna. In this, in Fernand, and in Valcreuse, all books above the average in merit, there is what may be called, from no mere Grundyite point of view, the drawback that they are all studies of "the triangle." They are quite decently, and in fact morally, though not goodily, handled. But it certainly may be objected that trigonometry[267] of this kind occupies an exorbitant place in French literature, and one may be a little sorry to see a neophyte of talent taking to it. However, though Sandeau in these books showed his ability, his way did not really lie in, though it might lie through, them. He had, indeed, as a novelist should have, good changes of strings to his bow, if not even more than one or two bows to shoot in.

No Frenchman has written a better boy's book than La Roche aux Mouettes, deservedly well known to English readers in translation: and whether he did or did not enter into designed competition with his quondam companion on the theme of Pastoral berquinade, I do not myself think that Catherine is much below La Petite Fadette or La Mare au Diable. He was a very considerable master of the short story; you cannot have much better things of the kind than Le Jour sans Lendemain and Un Debut dans la Magistrature. But his special gift lay in treating two situations which sometimes met, or crossed, or even substantially coincided. The one was the contrast of new and old, whether from the side of actual "money-bags and archives" or from others. The second and higher development of, or alternative to, this was the working out of the subdued tragical, in which, short of the very great masters, he had few superiors, while the quietness of his tones and values even, enhances to some tastes the poignancy of the general effect. Mlle. de La Seigliere is, I suppose, the best representative of the first class as a novel, for Sacs et Parchemins, as has been said, waited for dramatisation to bring out its merits. The pearls or pinks of the other are Mlle. de Kerouare and La Maison de Penarvan, the latter the general favourite, the former mine. Both have admirably managed peripeteias, the shorter story (Mlle. de Kerouare) having, in particular, a memorable setting of that inexorable irony of Fate against which not only is there no armour, but not even the chance and consolement of fighting armourless. When Marie de Kerouare accepts, at her father's wish, a suitor suitable in every way, but somewhat undemonstrative; when she falls in love (or thinks she does) with a handsome young cousin; when the other aspirant loses or risks all his fortune as a Royalist, and she will not accept what she might have, his retirement, thereby eliciting from her father a mot like the best of Corneille's;[268] when, having written to a cousin excusing herself, she gets a mocking letter telling her that he is married already; when the remorseless turn of Fortune's wheel loses her the real lover whom she at last really does love—then it is not mere sentimental-Romantic twaddle; it is a slice of life, soaked in the wine of Romantic tragedy.[269]

[Sidenote: Bernard's]

In Charles de Bernard (or, if anybody is unable to read novels published under a pseudonym with sufficient comfort, Charles Bernard du Grail de la Villette[270]) one need not look for high passions and great actions of this kind. He does try tragedy sometimes,[271] but, as has been already admitted, it is not his trade. Occasionally, as in Gerfaut, he takes the "triangle" rather seriously a la George-Sand-and-the-rest-of-them. The satirists have said that, though not invariably (our present author contains cautions on that point) yet as a rule, if you take yourself with sufficient seriousness, mankind will follow suit. It is certainly very risky to appear to take yourself not seriously. Gerfaut, I believe, is generally held to be Bernard's masterpiece. I remember that even my friend Mr. Andrew Lang, who seldom differed with me on points of pure literature, almost gravely remonstrated with me for not thinking enough of it. There are admirable things in Gerfaut; but they are, as it seems to me, separately admirable, and so are more like grouped short stories than like a whole long novel. He wrote other books of substance, two of them, Un Beau-pere and Le Gentilhomme Campagnard, each extending to a brace of well-filled volumes. But these, as well as the single-volume but still substantial Un Homme Serieux and Les Ailes d'Icare, like Gerfaut itself, could all, I think, be split up into shorter stories without difficulty and with advantage. It is of course very likely that the comparative slighting which the author has received from M. Brunetiere and other French critics of the more theoretic kind is due to this. The strict rule-system no doubt disapproves of the mere concatenation of scenes—still more of the mere accumulation of them.

We, on the other hand, quibus est nihil negatum, or who at any rate deny nothing to our favourite authors so long as they amuse or interest us, ought to be—and some of the best as well as the not-best of us have been—very fond of Charles de Bernard. How frankly and freely Thackeray praised, translated, and adapted him ought to be known to everybody; and indeed there was a great similarity between the two. The Frenchman had nothing of Thackeray's strength—of his power of creating character; of his intensity when he cared to be intense; of his satiric sweep and "stoop"; of his spacious view and masterly grasp of life. But in some ways he was a kind of Thackeray several degrees underproof—a small-beer Thackeray that was a very excellent creature. In his grasp of a pure and simple comic situation; in his faculty of carrying this out decently to its appropriate end; and, above all, in the admirable quality of his conversation, he was really a not so very minor edition of his great English contemporary. Almost the only non-technical fault that can be found with him—and it has been found by French as well as English critics, so there is no room for dismissing the charge as due to a merely insular cult of "good form"—is the extreme unscrupulousness of some of his heroes, who appear to have no sense of honour at all. Yet, in other ways, no French novelist of the century has obtained or deserved more credit for drawing ladies and gentlemen. It has been hinted that the inability to do this has been brought as a charge against even the mighty Honore,[272] and that, here at any rate, it has been found impossible to deny it absolutely. But if the company of the Human Comedy falls short in this respect, it is not because some of its members do "shady" things. It is because the indefinable, but to those who can perceive it unmistakable, aura of "gentility"—in the true and not the debased sense—is, at best, questionably present. This is not the case with Bernard.

It is particularly difficult, in such a book as this, to deal with so large a collection of what may be most appropriately called "Scenes and Characters" as that which constitutes his most valuable if not all his valuable work. In the older handling referred to, I selected, for pretty full abstract and some translation, Un Homme Serieux among longer books, and Le Gendre among the short stories; and I still think them the best, except Le Pied d'Argile, which, from Thackeray's incomparable adaptation[273] of it in The Bedford Row Conspiracy, remains as a standing possibility of acquaintance with Charles de Bernard's way for those who do not read French, or do not care to "research" for the original. Thackeray also gave a good deal of Les Ailes d'Icare in abstract and translation, and he borrowed something more from it in A Shabby Genteel Story. La Peau du Lion and La Chasse aux Amants have some slight resemblance to Le Gendre, in that the gist of all three is concerned with the defeat of unscrupulous lovers, and neither is much inferior to it. I never knew anybody who had read La Femme de Quarante Ans and its history of sentimental star-gazing a deux without huge enjoyment; and L'Arbre de la Science, as well as the shorter Un Acte de Vertu, deserve special mention.

But, in fact, take the volumes entitled L'Ecueil, Le Noeud Gordien, Le Paravent, and Le Paratonnerre; open any of them where you like, and it will go hard but, in the comic stories at any rate, you will find yourself well off. The finest of the tragic ones is, I think, L'Anneau d'Argent, which in utilising the sad inefficacy of the Legitimist endeavours to upset the July Monarchy, comes close to the already-mentioned things of Sandeau and Ourliac.

That a critic like M. Brunetiere should dismiss Bernard as "commonplace" (I forget the exact French word, but the meaning was either this or "mediocre"), extending something the same condemnation, or damningly faint praise, to Sandeau, may seem strange at first sight, but explains itself pretty quickly to those who have the requisite knowledge. Neither could, by any reasonable person, be accused of that grossierete which offended the censor so much, and to no small extent so rightly. Neither was extravagantly unacademic or in other ways unorthodox. But both might be called vulgaire from the same point of view which made Madame de Stael so call her greatest contemporary as a she-novelist—one, too, so much greater than herself.[274] That is to say, they did deal with strictly ordinary life, and neither attempted that close psychological analysis and ambitious schematism which (we have been told) is the pride of the French novel, and which, certainly, some French critics have supposed to be of its essence. These points of view I have left undiscussed for the most part, but have consistently in practice declined to take, in the first volume, while they are definitely opposed and combated in more than one passage of this.[275] I admit that Sandeau, save in the one situation where I think he comes near to the first class—that of subdued resignation to calamity—is not passionate; I admit that Bernard has a certain superficiality, and that, as has been confessed already, his "form" sometimes leaves to desire. But they both seem to me to have, in whatever measure and degree, what, with me, is the article of standing or falling in novels—humanity. And they seem—also to me, and speaking under correction—to write, if not consummately, far more than moderately well, and to tell in a fashion for which consummate is not too strong a word. While for pure gaiety, unsmirched by coarseness and unspoilt by ill-nature, you will not find much better pastime anywhere than in the work of the author of L'Ecueil and Le Paratonnerre.

Indeed these two—though the berquinade tendency, considerably masculated, prevails in one, and the esprit gaulois, decorously draped, in the other—seem to me to run together better than any two other novelists of our company. They do not attempt elaborate analysis; they do not grapple with thorny or grimy problems; they are not purveyors of the indecent, or dealers in the supernatural and fantastic, or poignant satirists of society at large or individuals in particular. But they can both, in their different ways, tell a plain tale uncommonly well, and season it with wit or pathos when either is suitable. Their men and women are real men and women, and the stages on which they move are not mere stages, but pieces of real earth.

* * * * *

[Sidenote: Sue, Soulie, and the novel of melodrama—Le Juif Errant, etc.]

As regards one formerly almost famous and still well-known novelist, Eugene Sue, I am afraid I shall be an unprofitable servant to such masters in the guise of readers as desire to hear about him. For he is one more of those—I do not think I have had or shall have to confess to many—whom I have found it almost impossible to read. I acknowledge, indeed, that though at the first reading (I do not know how many years ago) of his most famous work, Le Juif Errant, I found no merit in it at all, at a second, though I do not think that even then I quite got through it, I had to allow a certain grandiosity. The Mysteries of Paris has always defeated me, and I am now content to enjoy Thackeray's very admirable precis of part of it. Out of pure goodness and sheer equity I endeavoured, for the present volume, to make myself acquainted with one of his later books—the immense Sept Peches Capitaux, which is said to be a Fourierist novel, and explains how the vices may be induced, in a sort of Mandeville-made-amiable fashion, to promote the good of society. I found it what Mrs. Browning has made somebody pronounce Fourier himself in Aurora Leigh, "Naught!"[276] except that I left them at the end actually committing an Eighth deadly sin by drinking iced Constantia![277] Sue, who had been an army surgeon and had served during the Napoleonic war, both on land and at sea, wrote, before he took to his great melodramas, some rather extravagant naval novels, which are simply rubbish compared with Marryat, but in themselves not quite, I think, so difficult to read as his better known work. I remember one in particular, but I am not certain whether it was La Coucaratcha or La Vigie de Koatven. They are both very nice titles, and I am so much afraid of disillusionment that I have thought it better to look neither up for this occasion.[278]

[Sidenote: Melodramatic fiction generally.]

The fact is, as it seems to me, that the proper place for melodrama is not the study but the stage. I fear I have uttered some heresies about the theatre in this book, and I should not be sorry if I never passed through its doors again. If I must, I had rather the entertainment were melodrama than anything else. The better the play is as literature, the more I wish that I might be left to read it in comfort and see it acted with my mind's eye only. But I can rejoice in the valiant curate when (with the aid of an avalanche, if I remember rightly) he triumphs over the wicked baronet, who is treading on the fingers of the heroine as she hangs over the precipice. I can laugh and applaud when the heroic mother slashes her daughter's surreptitious portrait in full Academy. The object of melodrama is to make men rejoice and laugh; but it seems to me to require the stage to do it on, or at any rate to receive an immense assistance from theatrical presentation. So given, it escapes the curse of segnius irritant, because it attacks both ear and eye; being entirely independent of style (which is in such cases actually genant), it does not need the quiet and solitary devotion which enjoyment of style demands; and it is immensely improved by dresses and decor, scenery and music, and "spectacle" generally—all things which, again, interfere with pure literary enjoyment. I shall hope to have demonstrated, or at any rate done something to show, how Dumas, when at his best, and even not quite at his best, escapes the actual melodramatic. Perhaps this was because he had purged himself of the stagy element in his abundant theatric exercise earlier. Sue, of course, dramatised or got dramatised a considerable part of his many inventions; but I think one can see that they were not originally stage-stuff.

If, however, any one must have melodrama, but at the same time does not want it in stage form, I should myself recommend to him Frederic Soulie in preference to Eugene Sue. Soulie is, indeed, a sort of blend of Dumas and Sue, but more melodramatic than the former, and less full of grime and purpose and other "non-naturals" of the novel than the latter. It is evident that he has taken what we may call his schedules pretty directly from Scott himself; but he has filled them up with more melodramatic material. It is very noteworthy, too, that Soulie, like Dumas, turned his stagy tastes and powers on to actual stage-work, and so kept the two currents duly separate. And it seems to be admitted that he had actual literary power, if he did not achieve much actual literary performance.

[Sidenote: Le Chateau des Pyrenees.]

For myself, I think that Le Chateau des Pyrenees is a thing, that in De Quincey's famous phrase, you can recommend to a friend whose appetite in fiction is melodramatic. Here is, if not exactly "God's plenty," at any rate plenty of a kind—plenty whose horn is inexhaustible and the reverse of monotonous. You never, though you have read novels as the waves of the sea or the sands of the shore in number, know exactly what is going to happen, and when you think you know what is happening, it turns out to be something else. Persons who wear, as to the manner born, the jackets of lackeys turn out to be bishops; and bishops prove to be coiners. An important jeune premier or quasi-premier, having just got off what seems to be imminent danger, is stabbed in the throat, is left for dead, and then carries out a series of risky operations and conversations for several hours. A castle, more than Udolphian in site, size, incidents, and opportunities, is burnt at a moment's notice, as if it were a wigwam. Everybody's sons and daughters are somebody else's daughters and sons—a state of things not a little facilitated by the other fact that everybody's wife is somebody else's mistress. Everybody knows something mysterious and exceedingly damaging about everybody else; and the whole company would be cleared off the stage in the first few chapters if something did not always happen to make them drop the daggers in a continual stalemate. Dukes who are governors of provinces and peers of France are also heads (or think they are) of secret societies—the orthodox members of which chiefly do the coining, but are quite ignorant that a large number of other members are Huguenots (it is not long after the "Revocation") and are, in the same castle, storing arms for an insurrection. Spanish counts who are supposed to have been murdered fifteen years ago turn up quite uninjured, and ready for the story to go on sixteen years longer. When you have got an ivory casket supposed to be full of all sorts of compromising documents, somebody produces another, exactly like it, but containing documents more compromising still. There is a counsellor of the Parliament of Toulouse—supposed to be not merely a severe magistrate, but a man of spotless virtue, and one who actually submits fearlessly to great danger in doing his duty, but who turns out to be an atrocious criminal. And in the centre of all the turmoil there is a wondrous figure, a sorcerer-shepherd, who is really an Italian prince, who pulls all the strings, makes all cups slip at all lips, sets up and upsets all the puppets, and is finally poniarded by the wicked counsellor, both of them having been caught at last, and the counsellor going mad after commission of his final crime.

Now, if anybody wants more than this—there is, in fact, a great deal more in the compass of two volumes,[279] containing between them less than six hundred pages—all I can say is that he is vexatious and unreasonable, and that I have no sympathy whatever with him. Of course the book is of its own kind, and not of another. Some people may like that kind less than others; some may not like it at all. But in that case nobody obliges them to have anything to do with it.

Soulie wrote nearly two score novels or works of fiction, ranging from Contes pour les Enfants to Memoires du Diable. I do not pretend to have read all or even very many of them, for, as I have confessed, they are not my special kind. In novels of action there should be a great deal of fighting and a great deal of love-making, and it does not seem to me that either[280] was Soulie's forte. But as the Memoires are sometimes quoted as his masterpiece, something should, I suppose, be said about them.

[Sidenote: Les Memoires du Diable.]

One thing about the book is certain—that it is much more ambitiously planned than the Chateau; and I do not think it uncritical to say that the ambition is, to a certain extent, successful. One credit, at any rate, can hardly be denied it. Considering the immense variety in circumstances of the bargains with the Devil which are made in actual life, it may seem strange that the literary treatment of the subject should be so comparatively monotonous as it is. Soulie, I think, has been at least as original as anybody else, though it was of course almost impossible for him to avoid suggestions, if not of Marlowe, of Lesage, Goethe, Maturin (whose wide popularity in France at this time must never be forgotten), and others. At the very beginning there is one touch which, if not absolutely invented, is newish in the connection. The Chateau of Ronquerolles, again in the Pyrenean district (besides the advantages of a mountainous country, Soulie himself was born at Foix), has a range of mysterious windows, each of which has for many generations emerged, with the room appertaining, from wall and corridor without anybody remembering it before.[281] As a matter of fact these chambers have been the scenes of successive bargains between the Lords of Ronquerolles and the Prince of Darkness; and a fresh one is opened whenever the last inheritor of an ancestral curse (details of which are explained later) has gone to close his account. The new Count de Luizzi knows what he has to do, which is to summon Satan by a certain little silver bell at the not most usual but sufficiently witching hour of two A.M., saying at the same time, "Come!" After a slightly trivial farce-overture of apparitions in various banal forms, Luizzi compels the fallen archangel to show himself in his proper shape; and the bargain is concluded after some chaffering. It again is not quite the usual form; there being, as in Melmoth's case, a redemption clause, though a different one. If the man can say and show, after ten years, that he has been happy he will escape. The "consideration" is also uncommon. Luizzi does not want wealth, which, indeed, he possesses; nor, directly, pleasure, etc., which he thinks he can procure for himself. He wants (God help him!) to know all about other people, their past lives, their temptations, etc.—a thing which a person of sense and taste would do anything, short of selling himself to the Devil, not to know. There are, however, some apparently liberal, if discreditable, concessions—that Luizzi may reveal, print, and in any other way avail himself of the diabolic information. But, almost immediately, the metaphorical cloven foot and false dice appear. For it seems that in certain circumstances Luizzi can only rid himself of his ally when unwelcome, and perform other acts, at the price of forfeiting a month of his life—a thing likely to abridge and qualify the ten years very considerably, and the "happiness" more considerably still.[282] And this foul play, or at any rate sharp practice, continues, as might be expected, throughout. The evil actions which Luizzi commits are not, as usual, committed with impunity as to ordinary worldly consequences, while he is constantly enlarging the debt against his soul. He is also always getting into trouble by mixing up his supernatural knowledge with his ordinary life, and he even commits murder without intending or indeed knowing it. This is all rather cleverly managed; though the end—the usual sudden "foreclosure" by Diabolus, despite the effort of no less than three Gretchens who go upwards, and of a sort of inchoate repentance on Luizzi's own part before he goes downwards—might be better.

The bulk, however, of the book, which is a very long one—three volumes and nearly a thousand closely printed pages—consists of the histoires or "memoirs" (whence the title) of other people which the Devil tells Luizzi, sometimes by actual recit, sometimes otherwise. Naturally they are most of them grimy; though there is nothing of the Laclos or even of the Paul de Kock kind. I find them, however, a little tedious.

[Sidenote: Later writers and writings of the class.]

The fact, indeed, is that this kind of novel—as has been hinted sometimes, and sometimes frankly asserted—has its own peculiar appeals; and that these appeals, as is always the case when they are peculiar, leave some ears deaf. There is no intention here to intimate any superfine scorn of it. It has another and a purely literary, or at least literary-scientific, interest as descending from the Terror Novel of the end of the eighteenth century. It shows no sign of ceasing to exist or to appeal to those to whom it is fitted to appeal, and who are fitted to be appealed to by it. Towards the close of the period at which I ceased to see French novels generally, I remember meeting with many examples of it. There was one which, with engaging candour, called itself L'Hotellerie Sanglante, and in which persons, after drinking wine which was, as Rogue Riderhood says, "fur from a 'ealthy wine," retired to a rest which knew no or only a very brief and painful waking, under the guardianship of a young person, who, to any one in any other condition, would have seemed equally "fur" from an attractive young person. There was another, the title of which I forget, in which the intended victim of a plunge into a water-logged souterrain connected with the Seine made his way out and saw dreadful things in the house above. There is really no great interval or discrepancy (except in details of manners and morals) between these and the novels of detective, gentleman-thief, and other impolite life which delight many persons indubitably respectable and presumably intelligent in England to-day.[283] To sneer at these would be ridiculous.

* * * * *

[Sidenote: Murger.]

Henry Murger is not the least of the witnesses to the truth of a remark—which I owe to one of the critics of my earlier volume—that in England people (he was kind enough to except me) are too apt to accept the contemporary French estimates of French contemporary literature and the traditional French estimates of earlier authors. Murger had, I believe, a hardly earned and too brief popularity in his own country; and though it was a little before my time, I can believe that this overflowed into England. But the posthumous and accepted judgments of him altered there to a sort of slighting patronage; and I remember that when, nearly twenty years after his death, I wrote on him in the Fortnightly Review,[284] some surprise at my loftier estimate was expressed here. The reasons for this depreciation are not hard to give, and as they form a base for, and indeed really a part of, my critical estimate they may be stated shortly. The "Bohemia"[285] of which Murger was the laureate, both in prose and verse, is a country whose charms have been admitted by some of the greatest, but which no wise person has ever regarded, much less recommended, as providing any city to dwell in; and which has certainly been the scene if not the occasion, not merely of much mischief, which does not particularly concern us, but of much foolishness and bad taste, which partly does. It was almost—not quite—the only theme of Murger's songs and words. And—last and perhaps most dangerous of all—there was the fact that, if not in definite Bohemianism, there was in other respects a good deal in him of a far minor Musset, and both in Bohemianism and other things still more of an inferior Gerard de Nerval. I believe the case against has been fairly stated here.

[Sidenote: The Vie de Boheme.]

The case for I have put in the essay referred to with the full, though, I think, not more than the fair emphasis allowed to even a critical advocate when he has to demolish charges. The historian passes from bar to bench; and neither ought to speak, nor in this instance is inclined to speak, quite so enthusiastically. I admitted there that I did not think Murger's comparatively early death lost us much; and I admit even more frankly here, that in what he has left there is no great variety of excellence, and that while there are numerous good things in the work, there is little that can be called actually great. But after these admissions no small amount remains to his credit as a writer who can manage both comedy and pathos; who, if he has no wide range or variety of subject, can vary his treatment quite efficiently, and who has a certain freshness rarely surviving the first years of journalism of all work. His faintly but truly charming verse is outside our bounds, and even prose poetry like "The Loves of a Cricket and a Spark of Flame"[286] are on the line, though this particular thing is not far below Gerard himself. The longer novels, Adeline Protat and Le Sabot Rouge, are competent in execution and pleasant enough to read; yet they are not above good circulating-library strength. But the Vie de Boheme, in its various sections, and a great number of shorter tales and sketches, are thoroughly agreeable if not even delightful. Murger has completely shaken off the vulgarity which almost spoilt Pigault, and damaged Paul de Kock not a little. If any one who has not yet reached age, or has not let it make him "crabbed," cannot enjoy Schaunard and the tame lobster; the philosophic humours of Gustave (afterwards His Excellency Gustave) Colline; the great journal Le Castor,[287] which combined the service of the hat-trade with the promotion of high thinking and great writing; and the rest of the comedy of La Vie de Boheme proper, I am sorry for him. He must have been, somehow, born wrong.

[Sidenote: Les Buveurs d'Eau and the Miscellanies.]

The serious Bohemia of the Buveurs d'Eau (the devotees of High Art who carry their devotion to the point of contemning all "commission" work whatsoever) may require more effort, or more special predestination, to get into full sympathy with it. The thing is noble; but it is nobility party per a very thin pale with and from silliness; and the Devil's Advocate has no very hard task in suggesting that it is not even nobility at all, but a compound of idleness and affectation.[288] With rare exceptions, the greatest men of art and letters have never disdained, though they might not love, what one of them called "honest journey-work in default of better"; and when those exceptions come to be examined—as in the leading English cases of Milton[289] and Wordsworth—you generally find that the persons concerned never really felt the pinch of necessity. However, Murger makes the best of his Lazare and the rest of them; and his power over pathos, which is certainly not small, assists him as much here as it does more than assist him—as it practically carries him through—in other stories such as Le Manchon de Francine and La Biographie d'un Inconnu. And, moreover, he can use all these means and more in handfuls of little things—some mere bleuettes (as the French call them)—Comment on Devient Coloriste, Le Victime du Bonheur, La Fleur Bretonne, Le Fauteuil Enchante, Les Premieres Amours du Jeune Bleuet.

With such high praise still allotted to an author, it may seem unfair not to give him more room; and I should certainly have done so if I had not had the other treatment to refer to. Since that existed, as in the similar cases of Sandeau, Bernard, and perhaps one or two more, it seemed to me that space, becoming more and more valuable, might be economised, especially as, in his case and theirs, there is nothing extraordinary to interest, nothing difficult to discuss. Tolle, lege is the suitable word for all three, and no fit person who obeys will regret his obedience.

* * * * *

[Sidenote: Reybaud—Jerome Paturot, and Thackeray on its earlier part.]

Any one who attempts to rival Thackeray's abstract ("with translations, Sir!") of the first part of Louis Reybaud's Jerome Paturot must have a better conceit of himself than that with which the present writer has been gifted, by the Divinity or any other power. The essay[290] in which this appears contains some of the rather rash and random judgments to which its great author was too much addicted; he had not, for instance, come to his later and saner estimate of Dumas,[291] and still ranks him with Sue and Soulie. But the Paturot part itself is simply delightful, and must have sent many who were not fortunate enough to know (or fortunate enough not to know) it already to the book. This well deserved and deserves to be known. Jerome's own earlier career as a romantic and unread poet is not so brilliantly done as similar things in Gautier's Les Jeune-France and other books; but the Saint-Simonian sequel, in which so many mil-huit-cent-trentiers besides Jerome himself and (so surprisingly) Sainte-Beuve indulged, is most capitally hit off. The hero's further experiences in company-meddling (with not dissimilar results to those experienced by Thackeray's own Samuel Titmarsh, and probably or certainly by Thackeray himself); and as the editor of a journal enticing the abonne with a bonus, which may be either a pair of boots, a greatcoat, or a gigot at choice; the side-hits at law and medicine; the relapse into trade and National Guardism; the visit to the Tuileries; the sad bankruptcy and the subsequent retirement to a little place in the prefecture of a remote department—all these things are treated in the best Gallic fashion, and with a certain weight of metal not always achievable by "Gigadibs, the literary man," whether Gallic or Anglo-Saxon. Reybaud himself was a serious historian, a student of social philosophy, who has the melancholy honour of having popularised, if he did not invent, the word "Socialist" and the cheerfuller one of having faithfully dealt with the thing Socialism. And Jerome is well set off by his still more "Jeune-France" friend Oscar, a painter, not exactly a bad fellow, but a poseur, a dauber (he would have been a great Futurist or Cubist to-day), a very Bragadochio in words and flourish, and, alas! as he turns out presently, a Bragadochio also in deeds and courage.

[Sidenote: The windfall of Malvina.]

But the gem of the book perhaps, as far as good novel-matter is concerned (for Jerome himself is not much more than a stalking-horse for satire), is Malvina, his first left-handed and then "regularised" spouse, and very much his better half. Malvina is Paul de Kock's grisette (like all good daughters, she is very fond of her literary father) raised to a higher power, dealt with in a satiric fashion unknown to her parent, but in perfectly kindly temper. She is, though just a little imperious, a thoroughly "good sort," and, with occasional blunders, really a guardian angel to her good-hearted, not uncourageous, but visionary and unpractical lover and husband. She has the sharpest of tongues; the most housewifely and motherly of attitudes; the flamingest of bonnets. It is she who suggests Saint-Simonianism (as a resource, not as a creed), and actually herself becomes a priestess of the first class—till the funds give out. She, being an untiring and unabashed canvasser, gets Jerome his various places; she reconciles his nightcap-making uncle to him; she, when the pair go to the Palace and he is basely occupied with supper, carries him off in dudgeon because none of the princes (and in fact nobody at all) has asked her to dance. And when at last he subsides upon his shelf at the country prefecture, she becomes delightfully domesticated—and keeps canaries.

The book (at least its first two parts) appeared in 1843, when the July Monarchy was still in days of such palminess as it ever possessed, and Thackeray reviewed it soon after. At the close of his article he expressed a hope that M. Reybaud "had more of it, in brain or portfolio, for the benefit of the lazy, novel-reading, unscientific world." Whether, at that time, the hope was in course of gratification I do not know; but years later, when February had killed July, Thackeray's wish was granted. It cannot be said that, as too often happens with wishes, the result was entirely disappointing; but it certainly justified the famous description of a still larger number of them, in that only half was granted and the rest "whistled down the wind."

[Sidenote: The difference of the Second Part.]

Jerome Paturot a la recherche de la meilleure des Republiques almost dooms itself, by its title, to be a very much less merry book than Jerome Paturot a la recherche d'une position sociale. The "sparkle" which Thackeray had justly seen in the first part is far rarer in the second; in fact, were it not for Oscar to some extent and Malvina to a much greater, there would hardly be any sparkle at all. The Republic has been proclaimed; a new "Commissary" ("Prefect" is an altogether unrepublican word) is appointed; he is shortly after stirred up to vigorous action (usually in the way of cashiering officials), and Jerome is a victim of this mot d'ordre. He goes to Paris to solicit; after a certain interval (of course of failure) Malvina comes to look after him, and to exercise the charms of her chapeau grenat once more. But even she fails to find the birds which (such as they were) she had caught in the earlier years' nests, until after the bloodshed of the barricades, where Oscar unfortunately fails to show himself a hero, while Jerome does useful work as a fighter on the side of comparative Order, and Malvina herself shines as a nurse. At last Paturot is appointed "Inspector-General of Arab Civilisation in North Africa," and the pair set out for this promised, if not promising, land. He, like Gigadibs, provides himself with "instruments of labour"; Malvina, agreeable to the last, provides herself with several new dress-patterns of the latest fashion, and a complete collection of the Journal des Modes.

This not very elaborate scenario, as worked out, fills nearly a thousand pages; but it is very much to be feared that the "lazy novel-reader" will get through but a few of them, and will readily return the book to his own or other library shelves. It is, in fact, a bitterly satiric but perfectly serious study—almost history—of the actual events of the earlier part of the interregnum between Louis Philippe and Napoleon the Third, of the latter of whom Reybaud (writing, it would seem, before he was even President), gives a very unflattering, though unnamed, description. Certainly more than half, perhaps more than three-quarters, of the book can claim no novel character at all.[292]

[Sidenote: Not much of a novel.]

It would be possible to extract (if one had space and it were proportionately worth while) passages from the remaining portion of very fair novel interest—the visit of the "Super-Commissary" to the Commissary; the history of the way in which, under the regime of that atelier national which some wiseacres want now with us, a large body of citizens was detailed to carry trees of liberty from a nursery garden in the suburbs of Paris to the boulevards; how these were uprooted without any regard to their arboreal welfare; how the national working-men got mainly drunk and wholly skylarky on the way, and how the unfortunate vegetables were good for nothing but firewood by the time they reached their destination; the humours of the open-air feast of the Republic; the storming of the Assembly by the clubs; the oratory of Malvina (a very delectable morsel) in one of the said clubs devoted to the Rights of Women;[293] the scene where Oscar, coming by his own account from the barricades "with his hands and his feet and his raiment all red," manifests a decided disinclination to return thither—all these are admirable. But they would have to be dug out of a mass of history and philosophy which the "lazy novel-reader" would, it is to be feared, refuse with by no means lazy indignation and disgust.

[Sidenote: But an invaluable document.]

Yet one may venture, at the risk of the charge of stepping out of one's proper sphere, to recommend the perusal of the book, very strongly, to all who care either to understand its "moment" or to prepare themselves for other moments which are at least announced as certain to come. The French revolutionary period of 1848 and the following years was perhaps the most perfect example in all history of a thing being allowed to show itself, in all its natural and therefore ineluctable developments, without disturbing influences of any kind. It was (if one may use patristic if not classical Latin in the first word of the phrase) Revolutio sibi permissa. There was, of course, a good deal of somewhat similar trouble elsewhere in Europe at the time; but there was no European war of much importance, and no other power threatened or was in a position to threaten interference with French affairs—for the excellent reason that all were too much occupied with their own. There was no internal tyranny or trouble such as had undoubtedly caused—and as has been held by some to justify—the outburst of sixty years earlier, nor was there even any serious, though perhaps there was some minor, maladministration. But there had been, for twenty years, a weak, amorphous, discreditable, and discredited government; and there was a great deal of revolutionary spirit, old and new, about. So France determined—in a word unacademic but tempting—to "revolute," and she "revoluted" at discretion, or indiscretion, to the top of her bent. This part of Jerome Paturot gives a minute and (having had a good deal to do with the study both of history and of politics in my time), I think I may say boldly, a faithful account of how she did it. And I think, further, that, if at least some of the innocent folk who the other day hailed the dawn of the Russian revolution had been acquainted with the book, they might have been less jubilant; while acquaintance would have helped others to anticipate the actual consequences. And I wish that some one would, in some form or other, bring its contents before those who, without being actual scoundrels, utter fanatics, or hopeless fools, want to bring revolution nearer home. Reybaud brings out, too verbosely and heavily perhaps, but with absolute truth and justice, the waste, the folly, the absolute illogicality of the popular cries, movements, everything. "Labour" was, happily, not then organised in France as it is in England to-day. But if any one would extract, and translate in a pamphlet form, the dying speech of the misguided tool Comtois in reference to his misleader, the typical "shop-steward" Percheron, he would do a mighty good deed.

Still, of course this is a parenthesis; and the parenthesis is a thing hateful, I am told, perhaps not to gods but to some men.

* * * * *

Students of literature, even in a single language, much more in wider range, are well acquainted with a class of writers, largely increased since the introduction of printing, and more largely still since that of "periodicals," who enjoy a considerable—sometimes almost a great—reputation in their own time, and then are not so much discredited or disapproved as simply forgotten. They disappear, and their habitation is hardly even the dust-bin; it is the oubliette; and their places are taken by others whose fates are not other. In fact, they are, in the famous phrase, "Priests who slay the slayer," etc.

[Sidenote: Mery.]

Of these, in French, I myself hardly know a more remarkable example than Joseph Mery, who, born two years before the end of the eighteenth century, lived for just two-thirds of the nineteenth, wrote, from a very early age till his death, in prose and in verse and in drama; epics, satires, criticisms, novels, travels, Heaven knows what; who had the reputation of being one of the most brilliant talkers of his day; who collaborated[294] with Gautier and Gerard de Nerval and Sandeau and Mme. de Girardin, and other people much greater than himself; from whose pen the beloved old "Collection Michel Levy" contained at least thirty volumes at the date of his death—the wreckage of perhaps a possible three hundred—and of whom, though I have several times in the half-century since dived into his work, I do not think I can find a single story of first, second, or even third-rate quality.[295]

[Sidenote: Les Nuits Anglaises.]

As it happens, one volume of his, Les Nuits Anglaises, contains examples of his various manners, some of which may be noticed. Not all of them are stories, but it is fair to throw in a non-story because it is so very much better than the others. This is a "physionomie" of Manchester, written, it would seem, just at the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria; and it shows that Mery, as a writer of those middle articles or transformed Spectator essays, which have played so large a part in the literature of the last century and a quarter, was not quite a negligible person. Moreover, the sort of thing, though not essential to the novelist's art, is a valuable tool at his disposal.

[Sidenote: The minor stories.]

But here the author, who was a considerable traveller and not a bad judge of art, was to a large extent under the grip of fact: when he got into fiction he exhibited a sad want of discipline. One must allow something, no doubt, for the fact that the goguenard element is avowedly strong in him. The second English Night, with its Oxfordshire election (he has actually got the name of "Parker" right, though Woodstock wobbles from the proper form to "Woostock," "Wostoog," etc.) and its experiences of an Indian gentleman who is exposed at Ellora (near Madras) to the influence of the upas tree, by a wicked emissary of the Royal Society, Sir Wales, as a scientific experiment; and the last, where two Frenchmen, liberated from the hulks at the close of the Napoleonic War, make a fortune by threatening to blow up the city of Dublin; may sue out their writ of ease under the statute of Goguenarderie. A third half-Eastern, half-English story (Mery was fond of the East), Anglais et Chinois, telling quite delicately the surprising adventures of a mate of H.M.S. Jamesina[296] in a sort of Chinese harem, has some positive merit, though it is too long. The longest and most ambitious tale, Histoire d'une Colline, if not "wholly serious" (as a famous phrase has it), seems to aim at a good deal of seriousness. Yet it is, as a matter of fact, rather more absurd than the pure extravaganzas.

[Sidenote: Histoire d'une Colline.]

Sir John Lively—who appears neither to have inherited the title (seeing that his sainted father, a victim of English tyranny, was named Arthur O'Tooley, perhaps one of the tailors of that ilk) nor to have paid M. Mery five or ten thousand pounds for it—is an Irishman of the purest virtue and the noblest sentiments, who possesses a cottage on a hill not far from the village and castle of Stafford. From this interesting height there are two views: one over the beautiful plains of Lancashire, another towards the brumous mountains of Oxfordshire. Lively always looks this latter way, because in coming from London he has seen, at the other village of Bucks, a divine creature who dispenses soda-water and some stronger liquors to the thirsty. She, like the ninepenny kettle of the song, "is Irish tu," and belongs to the well-known sept of the O'Killinghams. They are both fervent Roman Catholics (Mery is astoundingly severe on our "apostate" church, with its "insulted" Saint Paul's and Saint Martin's). She is also persecuted by an abominable English landlord, Mr. Igoghlein. The two meet at mass in "the Catholic Church of the City," to which, "as in the time of Diocletian" (slightly altered to 1830-40), "a few faithful ones furtively glide, and seem to be in fear." To get money, Lively gambles, and (this is the sanest part of the book, for the reason that things went on in much the same way at Paris and at London) is cheated. But the cottage, and the hill with such commanding views, are discovered to be in the way of a new line and to conceal coal. He sells them to a Mr. Copperas; marries the beautiful O'Killingham; the bells of Dublin ring head over heels, "and Ireland hopes." Let it also be mentioned that in the course of the story we are more than once told of the double file of Mauresque, Spanish, Gothic, and Italian colonnades which line the marvellous High Street of Oxford; and that Mr. Copperas visited that seat of learning to consult an expert in railways[297] and see his three largest shareholders. (Oh, these bloated dons!) That three members of "the society of titotal abstinence" drank, at the beautiful O'Killingham's cottage, twenty pints of porter (White-bread), two flagons of whisky, and three of claret, may meet with less incredulity, though the assortment of liquor is barbarous and the quantity is certainly large. But let us turn from this nonsense to the remarkable Manchester article.

[Sidenote: The "Manchester" article.]

It was not for some thirty years later than Mery's visit that I myself knew, and for some time lived in, the new-made "city," as it became, to the horror of Mr. Bright, just before Mery saw it. But though there must have been many changes in those thirty years, they were nothing to those which have taken place in the fifty that have passed subsequently. And I can recognise the Manchester I knew in Mery's sketch. This may seem to be at first an exceedingly moderate compliment—in fact something close to an insult. But it is nothing of the kind. It is true that there is considerable naivete in a sentence of his own: "En general les nationaux sont fort ignorants sur les phenomenes de leur pays; il faut s'adresser aux etrangers pour en obtenir la solution." And it is also true that our "nationals," at that time and since, have been excessively ignorant of phenomena which the French tourists of Louis Philippe's reign discovered here, and surprised, not to say diverted, at the solutions thereof preferred by these obliging strangers. That Mery had something of the Michiels[298] in him, what has been said above should show. But in some strange way Manchester—foggiest and rainiest of all our industrial hells,[299] except Sheffield—seems to have made his brain clear and his sight dry, even in drawing a sort of half-Rembrandt, half-Callot picture. He takes, it is true, some time in freeing himself from that obsession by one of our not-prettiest institutions, "street-walking," which has always beset the French.[300] But he does get clear, and makes a striking picture of the great thoroughfares of Market Street and Piccadilly; of the view—a wonderful one certainly, and then not interfered with by railway viaducts—from and of the Cathedral; and of the extraordinary utilisation of the scanty "naval" capabilities of Irk and Irwell and Medlock. But, as has been said, such things are at best but accidents of the novel.

[Sidenote: Karr.]

If not much is found here about Alphonse Karr, it is certainly not because the present writer undervalues his general literary position. As a journalist and miscellanist, Karr had few superiors in a century of miscellaneous journalism; and as a maker of telling and at the same time solid phrase, he was Voltaire's equal in the first respect and his superior in the second. The immortal "Que MM. les assassins commencent," already referred to, is perhaps the best example in all literature of the terse argumentum joculare which is not more sparkling as a joke than it is crushing as an argument; "Plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose"[301] is nearly as good; and if one were writing a history, not of the novel, but of journalism or essay-writing of the lighter kind, Karr would have high place and large room. But as a novelist he does not seem to me to be of much importance, nor even as a tale-teller, except of the anecdotic kind. He can hardly be dull, and you seldom read him long without coming to something[302] refreshing in his own line; but his tales, as tales, are rarely first-rate, and I do not think that even Sous les Tilleuls, his best-known and perhaps best production, needs much delay over it.

[Sidenote: Roger de Beauvoir—Le Cabaret des Morts.]

Roger de Beauvoir (whose de was genuine, but who embellished "Bully," his actual surname, into the one by which he was generally known) also had, like Bernard and Reybaud, the honour of being noticed, translated, and to some extent commented on by Thackeray.[303] I have, in old times, read more of his novels than I distinctly remember; and they are not very easy to procure in England now. Moreover, though he was of the right third or fourth cru of mil-huit-cent-trente, there was something wanting in his execution. I have before me a volume of short stories, excellently entitled (from the first of them) Le Cabaret des Morts. One imagines at once what Poe or Gautier, what even Bulwer or Washington Irving, would have made of this. Roger (one may call him this without undue familiarity, because it is the true factor in both his names) has a good idea—the muster of defunct painters in an ancient Antwerp pot-house at ghost-time, and their story-telling. The contrast of them with the beautiful living barmaid might have been—but is not—made extremely effective. In fact the fatal improbability—in the Aristotelian, not the Barbauldian sense—broods over the whole. And the Cabaret des Morts itself ceases, not in a suitable way, but because the Burgomaster shuts it up!!! All the other stories—one of Marie Antoinette's Trianon dairy; another of an anonymous pamphlet; yet another of an Italian noble and his use of malaria for vengeance; as well as the last, told by a Sister of Mercy while watching a patient—miss fire in one way or another, though all have good subjects and are all in a way well told. It is curious, and might be made rather instructive by an intelligent Professor of the Art of Story-telling, who should analyse the causes of failure. But it is somewhat out of the way of the mere historian.[304]

[Sidenote: Ourliac—Contes du Bocage.]

Edouard Ourliac, one of the minor and also one of the shorter-lived men of 1830, seems to have been pleasant in his life—at least all the personal references to him that I remember to have seen, in a long course of years, were amiable; and he is still pleasant in literature. He managed, though he only reached the middle of the road, to accumulate work enough for twelve volumes of collection, while probably more was uncollected. Of what I have read of his, the Contes and Nouveaux Contes du Bocage—tales of La Vendee, with a brief and almost brilliant, certainly vivid, sketch of the actual history of that glorious though ill-fated struggle—deserve most notice. Two of the Nouveaux Contes, Le Carton D. (a story of the rescue of her husband by a courageous woman, with the help of the more amiable weaknesses of the only amiable Jacobin leader, Danton) and Le Chemin de Keroulaz (one of treachery only half-defeated on the Breton coast), may rank with all but the very best of their kind. In another, Belle-Fontaine, people who cannot be content with a story unless it instructs their minds on points of history, morality, cosmogony, organo-therapy, and everything quod exit in y, except jollity and sympathy, may find a section on the youth of 1830—really interesting to compare with the much less enthusiastic account by Gerard de Nerval, which is given above. And those who like to argue about cases of conscience may be glad to discuss whether Jean Reveillere, in the story which bears his name, ought to have spared, as he actually did, the accursed conventionnel, who, after receiving shelter and care from women of Jean's family, had caused them to be massacred by the bleus, and then again fell into the Vendean's hands.

* * * * *

But, with one or two more notices, we must close this chapter.

Although Dumas, by an odd anticipatory reversal of what was to be his son's way, spent a great deal of time on more or less trashy[305] plays before he took to his true line of romance, and so gave opportunity to others to get a start of him in the following of Scott, it was inevitable that his own immense success should stir emulation in this kind afresh. In a way, even, Sue and Soulie may be said to belong to the class of his unequal competitors, and others may be noticed briefly in this place or that. But there is one author who, for one book at least, belonging to the successors rather than the avant-coureurs, but decidedly of the pre-Empire kind, must have a more detailed mention.

[Sidenote: Achard.]

Many years ago somebody was passing the small tavern which, dating for aught I know to the times of Henry Esmond, and still, or very lately, surviving, sustained the old fashion of a thoroughfare, fallen, but still fair, and fondly loved of some—Kensington High Street, just opposite the entrance to the Palace. The passer-by heard one loiterer in front of it say to his companion in a tone of emotion, and almost of awe: "There was beef, and beer, and bread, and greens, and everything you can imagine." This pheme occurred to me when, after more than half a century, I read again Amedee Achard's Belle-Rose. I had taken it up with some qualms lest crabbed age should not confirm the judgment of ardent youth; and for a short space the extreme nobility of its sentiments did provoke the giggle of degeneracy. But forty of the little pages of its four original volumes had not been turned when it reassured me as to the presence of "beef, and beer, and bread, and greens, and everything you can imagine" in its particular style of romance. The hero, who begins as a falconer's son and ends as a rich enough colonel in the army and a Viscount by special grace of the Roi Soleil, is a sapeur, but far indeed from being one of those graceless comrades of his to whom nothing is sacred. At one time he does indeed succumb to the sorceries of a certain Genevieve de Chateaufort, a duchess aux narines fremissantes. But who could resist this combination? even if there were a marquise of the most beautiful and virtuous kind, only waiting to be a widow in order to be lawfully his. Besides, the Lady of the Quivering Nostrils becomes an abbess, her rather odd abbey somehow accommodating not merely her own irregularly arrived child (not Belle-Rose's), but Belle-Rose himself and his marchioness after their marriage; and she is poisoned at the end in the most admirably retributive fashion. There are actually two villains—a pomp and prodigality (for your villain is a more difficult person than your hero) very unusual—one of whom is despatched at the end of the second volume and the other at the actual curtain. There is the proper persecuting minister—Louvois in this case. There are valiant and comic non-commissioned officers. There is a brave, witty, and generous Count; a lover of the "fatal" and ill-fated kind; his bluff and soldierly brother; and more of the "affair of the poisons" than even that mentioned above. You have the Passage of the Rhine, fire-raisings, duels, battles, skirmishes, ambuscades, treachery, chivalry—in fact, what you will comes in. And you must be a very ill-conditioned or feeble-minded person if you don't will. Every now and then one might, no doubt, "smoke" a little reminiscence; more frequently slight improbabilities; everywhere, of course, an absence of any fine character-drawing. But these things are the usual spots, and very pardonable ones, of the particular sun. I do not remember any French book of the type, outside the Alexandrian realm, that is as good as Belle-Rose;[306] and I am bound to say that it strikes me as better than anything of its kind with us, from James and Ainsworth to the excellent lady[307] who wrote Whitehall, and Whitefriars, and Owen Tudor.

[Sidenote: Souvestre, Feval, etc.]

It must, however, be evident that of this way in making books, and of speaking of them, there is no end.[308] Fain would I dwell a little on Emile Souvestre, in whom the "moral heresy," of which he was supposed to be a sectary, certainly did not corrupt the pure milk of the tale-telling gift in such charming things as Les Derniers Bretons, Le Foyer Breton, and the rather different Un Philosophe sous les Toits; also on the better work of Paul Feval, who as certainly did not invariably do suit and service to morality, but Sue'd and Soulie'd it in many books with promising titles;[309] and who, once at least, was inspired (again by the witchery of the country between the Baie des Trepasses and the Rock of Dol) to write La Fee des Greves, a most agreeable thing of its kind. Auguste Maquet (or Augustus MacKeat) will come better in the next chapter, for reasons obvious to some readers no doubt already, but to be made so to others there. And so—for this division or subdivision—an end, with one word more on Petrus Borel's Champavert.

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