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Title: A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1 - From the Beginning to 1800
Author: Saintsbury, George, 1845-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1 - From the Beginning to 1800" ***
















In beginning what, if it ever gets finished, must in all probability be
the last of some already perhaps too numerous studies of literary
history, I should like to point out that the plan of it is somewhat
different from that of most, if not all, of its predecessors. I have
usually gone on the principle (which I still think a sound one) that, in
studying the literature of a country, or in dealing with such general
characteristics of parts of literature as prosody, or such coefficients
of all literature as criticism, minorities are, sometimes at least, of
as much importance as majorities, and that to omit them altogether is to
risk, or rather to assure, an imperfect--and dangerously

In the present instance, however, I am attempting something that I have
never, at such length, attempted before--the history of a Kind, and a
Kind which has distinguished itself, as few others have done, by
communicating to readers the _pleasure_ of literature. I might almost
say that it is the history of that pleasure, quite as much as the
history of the kind itself, that I wish to trace. In doing so it is
obviously superfluous to include inferiorities and failures, unless they
have some very special lesson or interest, or have been (as in the case
of the minorities on the bridge of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries) for the most part, and unduly, neglected, though they are
important as experiments and links.[1] We really do want here--what the
reprehensible hedonism of Mr. Matthew Arnold, and his submission to what
some one has called "the eternal enemy, Caprice," wanted in all
cases--"only the chief and principal things." I wish to give a full
history of how what is commonly called the French Novel came into being
and kept itself in being; but I do not wish to give an exhaustive,
though I hope to give a pretty full, account of its practitioners.

In another point, however, I have kept to my old ways, and that is the
way of beginning at the beginning. I disagree utterly with any Balbus
who would build an absolute wall between romance and novel, or a wall
hardly less absolute between verse- and prose-fiction. I think the
French have (what is not common in their language) an advantage over us
in possessing the general term _Roman_, and I have perhaps taken a
certain liberty with my own title in order to keep the noun-part of it
to a single word. I shall extend the meaning of "novel"--that of _roman_
would need no extension--to include, not only the prose books, old and
new, which are more generally called "romance," but the verse romances
of the earlier period.

The subject is one with which I can at least plead almost lifelong
familiarity. I became a subscriber to "Rolandi's," I think, during my
holidays as a senior schoolboy, and continued the subscriptions during
my vacations when I was at Oxford. In the very considerable leisure
which I enjoyed during the six years when I was Classical Master at
Elizabeth College, Guernsey, I read more French than any other
literature, and more novels than anything else in French. In the late
'seventies and early 'eighties, as well as more recently, I had to round
off and fill in my knowledge of the older matter, for an elaborate
account of French literature in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_, for a
long series of articles on French novelists in the _Fortnightly Review_,
and for the _Primer_ and _Short History_ of the subject which I wrote
for the Clarendon Press; while from 1880 to 1894, as a _Saturday
Review_er, I received, every month, almost everything notable (and a
great deal hardly worth noting) that had appeared in France.

Since then, the cutting off of this supply, and the extreme and constant
urgency of quite different demands on my time, have made my cultivation
of the once familiar field "_parc_ and infrequent." But I doubt whether
any really good judge would say that this was a serious drawback in
itself; and it ceases to be one, even relatively, by the restriction of
the subject to the close of the last century. It will be time to write
of the twentieth-century novel when the twentieth century itself has
gone more than a little farther.

For the abundance of translation, in the earlier part especially, I
need, I think, make no apology. I shall hardly, by any one worth
hearing, be accused of laziness or scamping in consequence of it, for
translation is much more troublesome, and takes a great deal more time,
than comment or history. The advantage, from all other points of view,
should need no exposition: nor, I think, should that of pretty full
story-abstract now and then.

There is one point on which, at the risk of being thought to "talk too
much of my matters," I should like to say a further word. All my books,
before the present volume, have been composed with the aid of a
library, not very large, but constantly growing, and always reinforced
with special reference to the work in hand; while I was able also, on
all necessary occasions, to visit Oxford or London (after I left the
latter as a residence), and for twenty years the numerous public or
semi-public libraries of Edinburgh were also open to me. This present
_History_ has been outlined in expectation for a very long time; and has
been actually laid down for two or three years. But I had not been able
to put much of it on paper when circumstances, while they gave me
greater, indeed almost entire, leisure for writing, obliged me to part
with my own library (save a few books with a reserve _pretium
affectionis_ on them), and, though they brought me nearer both to Oxford
and to London, made it less easy for me to visit either. The London
Library, that Providence of unbooked authors, came indeed to my aid, for
without it I should have had to leave the book alone altogether; and I
have been "munitioned" sometimes, by kindness or good luck, in other
ways. But I have had to rely much more on memory, and of course in some
cases on previous writing of my own, than ever before, though, except in
one special case,[2] there will be found, I think, not a single page of
mere "rehashing." I mention this without the slightest desire to beg
off, in one sense, from any omissions or mistakes which may be found
here, but merely to assure my readers that such mistakes and omissions
are not due to idle and careless bookmaking. That "books have fates" is
an accepted proposition. In respect to one of these--possession of
materials and authorities--mine have been exceptionally fortunate
hitherto, and if they had any merit it was no doubt largely due to this.
I have, in the present, endeavoured to make the best of what was not
quite such good fortune. And if anybody still says, "Why did you not
wait till you could supply deficiencies?" I can only reply that, after
seventy, [Greek: nyx gar erchetai] is a more insistent warrant, and
warning, than ever.[3]

                          GEORGE SAINTSBURY.

    [_Edinburgh, 1914-15; Southampton, 1915-16_]
    1 ROYAL CRESCENT, BATH, _May 31, 1917_.


P. 3, _note_.--This note was originally left vague, because, in the
first place, to perform public and personal fantasias with one's spear
on the shield of a champion, with whom one does not intend to fight out
the quarrel, seems to me bad chivalry, and secondly, because those
readers who were likely to be interested could hardly mistake the
reference. The regretted death, a short time after the page was sent to
press, of Mr. W. J. Courthope may give occasion to an acknowledgment,
coupled with a sincere _ave atque vale_. Mr. Courthope was never an
intimate friend of mine, and our agreement was greater in political than
in literary matters: but for more than thirty years we were on the best
terms of acquaintance, and I had a thorough respect for his

P. 20, l. 5.--_Fuerres de Gadres._ I wonder how many people thought of
this when Englishmen "forayed Gaza" just before Easter, 1917?

P. 46, mid-page.--It so happened that, some time after having passed
this sheet for press, I was re-reading Dante (as is my custom every year
or two), and came upon that other passage (in the _Paradiso_, and
therefore not known to more than a few of the thousands who know the
Francesca one) in which the poet refers to the explanation between
Lancelot and the Queen. It had escaped my memory (though I think I may
say honestly that I knew it well enough) when I passed the sheet: but it
seemed to me that perhaps some readers, who do not care much for
"parallel passages" in the pedantic sense, might, like myself, feel
pleasure in having the great things of literature, in different places,
brought together. Moreover, the _Paradiso_ allusion seems to have
puzzled or misled most of the commentators, including the late Mr. A. J.
Butler, who, by his translation and edition of the _Purgatorio_ in 1880,
was my Virgil to lead me through the _Commedia_, after I had sinfully
neglected it for exactly half a life-time. He did not know, and might
easily not have known, the Vulgate _Lancelot_: but some of those whom he
cites, and who evidently _did_ know it, do not seem to have recognised
the full significance of the passage in Dante. The text will give the
original: the _Paradiso_ (xvi. 13-15) reference tells how Beatrice
(after Cacciaguida's biographical and historical recital, and when
Dante, in a confessed outburst of family pride, addresses his ancestor
with the stately _Voi_), "smiling, appeared like her who coughed at the
first fault which is written of Guinevere." This, of course (see text
once more), is the Lady of Malahault, though Dante does not name her as
he does Prince Galahault in the other _locus_. The older commentators
(who, as has been said, _did_ know the original) do not seem to have
seen in the reference much more than that both ladies noticed, and
perhaps approved, what was happening. But I think there is more in it.
The Lady of Malahault (see note in text) had previously been aware that
Lancelot was deeply in love, though he would not tell her with whom. Her
cough therefore meant: "Ah! I have found you out." Now Beatrice, well as
she knew Dante's propensity to love, knew as well that _pride_ was even
more of a besetting weakness of his. This was quite a harmless instance
of it: but still it _was_ an instance--and the "smile" which is _not_
recorded of the Arthurian lady meant: "Ah! I have _caught_ you out."
Even if this be excessive "reading into" the texts, the juxtaposition of
them may not be unsatisfactory to some who are not least worth
satisfying. (Since writing this, I have been reminded that Mr. Paget
Toynbee did make the "juxtaposition" in his Clarendon Press _Specimens
of Old French_ (October, 1892), printing there the "Lady of Malahault"
passage from MSS. copied by Professor Ker. But there can be no harm in
duplicating it.)

P. 121, ll. 8-10. Perhaps instead of, or at least beside, Archdeacon
Grantly I should have mentioned a more real dignitary (as some count
reality) of the Church, Charles Kingsley. The Archdeacon and the Canon
would have fought on many ecclesiastical and some political grounds, but
they might have got on as being, in Dr. Grantly's own words at a
memorable moment "both gentlemen." At any rate, Kingsley was soaked in
Rabelais, and one of the real curiosities of literature is the way in
which the strength of _Gargantua_ and _Pantagruel_ helped to beget the
sweetness of _The Water Babies_.

Chap. viii. pp. 163-175.--After I had "made my" own "siege" of the
_Astrée_ on the basis of notes recording a study of it at the B.M., Dr.
Hagbert Wright of the London Library was good enough to let me know that
his many years' quest of the book had been at last successful, and to
give me the first reading of it. (It was Southey's copy, with his own
unmistakable autograph and an inserted note, while it also contained a
cover of a letter addressed to him, which had evidently been used as a
book-mark.) Although not more than four months had passed since the
previous reading, I found it quite as appetising as (in the text itself)
I had expressed my conviction that it would be: and things not noticed
before cropped up most agreeably. There is no space to notice all or
many of them here. But one of the earliest, due to Hylas, cannot be
omitted, for it is the completest and most sententious vindication of
polyerotism ever phrased: "Ce n'était pas que je n'aimasse les autres:
mais j'avais encore, outre leur place, celle-ci vide dans mon âme." And
the soul of Hylas, like Nature herself, abhorred a vacuum! (This
approximation is not intended as "new and original": but it was some
time after making it that I recovered, in _Notre Dame de Paris_, a
forgotten anticipation of it by Victor Hugo.)

Another early point of interest was that the frontispiece portrait of
Astrée (the edition, see _Bibliography_, appears to be the latest of the
original and ungarbled ones, _imprimée à Rouen, et se vend à Paris_
(1647, 10 vols.)) is evidently a portrait, though not an identical one,
of the same face given in the Abbé Reure's engraving of Diane de
Châteaumorand herself. The nose, especially, is hardly mistakable, but
the eyes have rather less expression, and the mouth less character,
though the whole face (naturally) looks younger.

On the other hand, the portrait here--not of Céladon, but admittedly of
Honoré d'Urfé himself--is much less flattering than that in the Abbé's

Things specially noted in the second reading would (it has been said)
overflow all bounds here possible: but we may perhaps find room for
three lines from about the best of the very numerous but not very
poetical verses, at the beginning of the sixth (_i.e._ the middle of the
original _third_) volume:

    _Le prix d'Amour c'est l'Amour même._
    Change d'humeur qui s'y plaira,
    Jamais Hylas ne changera,

the two last being the continuous refrain of a "villanelle" in which
this bad man boasts his constancy in inconstancy.

P. 265, _note_ 1.--It ought perhaps to be mentioned that Mlle. de
Lussan's paternity is also, and somewhat more probably, attributed to
Eugene's elder brother, Thomas of Savoy, Comte de Soissons. The lady is
said to have been born in 1682, when Eugene (b. 1663) was barely
nineteen; but of course this is not decisive. His brother Thomas
_Amédée_ (b. 1656) was twenty-six at the time. The attribution above
mentioned gave no second name, and did not specify the relationship to
Eugene: so I had some difficulty in identifying the person, as there
were, in the century, three Princes Thomas of Savoy, and I had few books
of reference. But my old friend and constant helper in matters
historical, the Rev. William Hunt, D.Litt., cleared the point up for me.
Of the other two--Thomas _François_, who was by marriage Comte de
Soissons and was grandfather of Eugene and Thomas Amédée, died in the
same year in which Thomas Amédée was born, therefore twenty-six before
Mlle. de Lussan's birth: while the third, Thomas _Joseph_, Eugene's
cousin, was not born till 1796, fourteen years after the lady. The
matter is, of course, of no literary importance: but as I had passed the
sheet for press before noticing the diversity of statements, I thought
it better to settle it.

P. 267. Pajon. I ought not to have forgotten to mention that he bears
the medal of Sir Walter Scott (Introduction to _The Abbot_) as "a
pleasing writer of French Fairy Tales."

Page 453.--Choderlos de Laclos. Some surprise has been expressed by a
friend of great competence at my leaving out _Les Liaisons Dangereuses_.
I am, of course, aware that "persons of distinction" have taken an
interest in it; and I understand that, not many years ago, the
unfortunate author of the beautiful lines _To Cynara_ wasted his time
and talent on translating the thing. To make sure that my former
rejection was not unjustified, I have accordingly read it with care
since the greater part of this book was passed for press; and it shall
have a judgment here, if not in the text. I am unable to find any
redeeming point in it, except that some ingenuity is shown in bringing
about the _dénouement_ by a rupture between the villain-hero and the
villainess-heroine, M. le Vicomte de Valmont and Mme. la Marquise de
Merteuil. Even this, though fairly craftsmanlike in treatment, is banal
enough in idea--that idea being merely that jealousy, in both sexes,
survives love, shame, and everything else, even community in
scoundrelism--in other words, that the green-eyed monster (like "Vernon"
and unlike "Ver") _semper viret_. But it is scarcely worth one's while
to read six hundred pages of very small print in order to learn this. Of
amusement, as apart from this very elementary instruction, I at least
can find nothing. The pair above mentioned, on whom practically hangs
the whole appeal, are merely disgusting. Their very voluptuousness is
accidental: the sum and substance, the property and business of their
lives and natures, are compact of mischief, malice, treachery, and the
desire of "getting the better of somebody." Nor has this diabolism
anything grand or impressive about it--anything that "intends greatly"
and glows, as has been said, with a black splendour, in Marlowesque or
Websterian fashion. Nor, again, is it a "Fleur du Mal" of the
Baudelairian kind, but only an ugly as well as noxious weed. It is
prosaic and suburban. There is neither tragedy nor comedy, neither
passion nor humour, nor even wit, except a little horse-play. Congreve
and Crébillon are as far off as Marlowe and Webster; in fact, the
descent from Crébillon's M. de Clérval to Laclos' M. de Valmont is
almost inexpressible. And, once more, there is nothing to console one
but the dull and obvious moral that to adopt love-making as an
"occupation" (_vide_ text, p. 367) is only too likely to result in the
[Greek: technê] becoming, in vulgar hands, very [Greek: banausos]

The victims and _comparses_ of the story do nothing to atone for the
principals. The lacrimose stoop-to-folly-and-wring-his-bosom Mme. de
Tourvel is merely a bore; the _ingénue_ Cécile de Volanges is, as Mme.
de Merteuil says, a _petite imbécile_ throughout, and becomes no better
than she should be with the facility of a predestined strumpet; her
lover, Valmont's rival, and Mme. de Merteuil's plaything, M. le
Chevalier Danceny, is not so very much better than _he_ should be, and
nearly as much an imbecile in the masculine way as Cécile in the
feminine; her respectable mother and Valmont's respectable aunt are not
merely as blind as owls are, but as stupid as owls are not. Finally, the
book, which in many particular points, as well as in the general
letter-scheme, follows Richardson closely (adding clumsy notes to
explain the letters, apologise for their style, etc.), exhibits most of
the faults of its original with hardly any of that original's merits.
Valmont, for instance, is that intolerable creature, a pattern Bad
Man--a Grandison-Lovelace--a prig of vice. Indeed, I cannot see how any
interest can be taken in the book, except that derived from its
background of _tacenda_; and though no one, I think, who has read the
present volume will accuse me of squeamishness, _I_ can find in it no
interest at all. The final situations referred to above, if artistically
led up to and crisply told in a story of twenty to fifty pages, might
have some; but ditchwatered out as they are, I have no use for them. The
letter-form is particularly unfortunate, because, at least as used, it
excludes the ironic presentation which permits one almost to fall in
love with Becky Sharp, and quite to enjoy _Jonathan Wild_. Of course, if
anybody says (and apologists _do_ say that Laclos was, as a man, proper
in morals and mild in manners) that to hold up the wicked to mere
detestation is a worthy work, I am not disposed to argue the point.
Only, for myself, I prefer to take moral diatribes from the clergy and
aesthetic delectation from the artist. The avenging duel between
Lovelace and Colonel Morden is finely done; that between Valmont and
Danceny is an obvious copy of it, and not finely done at all. Some,
again, of the riskiest passages in subject are made simply dull by a
Richardsonian particularity which has no seasoning either of humour or
of excitement. Now, a Richardson _de mauvais lieu_ is more than a
bore--it is a nuisance, not pure and simple, but impure and complex.

I have in old days given to a few novels (though, of course, only when
they richly deserved it) what is called a "slating"--an
_éreintement_--as I once had the honour of translating that word in
conversation, at the request of a distinguished English novelist, for
the benefit of a distinguished French one. Perhaps an example of the
process is not utterly out of place in a _History_ of the novel itself.
But I have long given up reviewing fiction, and I do not remember any
book of which I shall have to speak as I have just spoken. So _hic
caestus_, etc.--though I am not such a coxcomb as to include _victor_ in
the quotation.


[1] For the opposite or corresponding reasons, it has seemed unnecessary
to dwell on such persons, a hundred and more years later, as Voisenon
and La Morlière, who are merely "corrupt followers" of Crébillon _fils_;
or, between the two groups, on the numerous failures of the
quasi-historical kind which derived partly from Mlle. de Scudéry and
partly from Mme. de la Fayette.

[2] That of the minor "Sensibility" novelists in the last chapter.

[3] I have once more to thank Professors Ker, Elton, and Gregory Smith
for their kindness in reading my proofs and making most valuable
suggestions; as well as Professor Fitzmaurice-Kelly and the Rev. William
Hunt for information on particular points.



INTRODUCTORY                                                    1

The early history of prose fiction--The late classical
stage--A _nexus_ of Greek and French romance?--the facts
about the matter--The power and influence of the "Saint's
Life"--The Legend of St. Eulalia--The _St. Alexis_.


THE MATTERS OF FRANCE, ROME, AND BRITAIN                        9

The _Chanson de Geste_--The proportions of history and
fiction in them--The part played by language, prosody, and
manners--Some drawbacks--But a fair balance of actual story
merit--Some instances of this--The classical borrowings:
Troy and Alexander--_Troilus_--_Alexander_--The Arthurian
Legend--Chrestien de Troyes and the theories about him--His
unquestioned work--Comparison of the _Chevalier à la
Charette_ and the prose _Lancelot_--The constitution of the
Arthuriad--Its approximation to the novel proper--Especially
in the characters and relations of Lancelot and
Guinevere--Lancelot--Guinevere--Some minor
points--Illustrative extracts translated from the "Vulgate":
the youth of Lancelot--The first meeting of Lancelot and
Guinevere--The scene of the kiss--Some further remarks on
the novel-character of the story--And the personages--Books.


ROMANS D'AVENTURES                                             55

Variety of the present group--Different views held of
it--_Partenopeus of Blois_ selected for analysis and


THE BEGINNINGS OF PROSE FICTION                                73

Prose novelettes of the thirteenth century: _Aucassin et
Nicolette_ not quite typical--_L'Empereur Constant_ more
so--_Le Roi Flore et la Belle Jehane_--_La Comtesse de
Ponthieu_--Those of the fourteenth:
_Asseneth_--_Troilus_--_Foulques Fitzwarin_--Something on
these--And on the short story generally.



The connection with prose fiction of allegory--And of the
_fabliaux_--The rise of the _nouvelle_ itself--_Les Cent
Nouvelles Nouvelles_--Analysis of "La Demoiselle
Cavalière"--The interest of _namea_ personages--_Petit Jehan
de Saintré_--_Jehan de Paris._


RABELAIS                                                      105

The anonymity, or at least impersonality, of authorship up
to this point--Rabelais unquestionably the first very great
known writer--But the first great novelist?--Some objections
considered--And dismissed as affecting the general
attraction of the book--Which lies, largely if not wholly,
in its story-interest--Contrast of the _Moyen de
Parvenir_--A general theme possible--A reference, to be
taken up later, to the last Book--Running survey of the
whole--_Gargantua_--The birth and education--The war--The
Counsel to Picrochole--The peace and the Abbey of
Thelema--_Pantagruel_ I. The contrasted
youth--Panurge--Short view of the sequels in Book
II.--_Pantagruel_ II. (Book III.) The marriage of Panurge
and the consultations on it--_Pantagruel_ III. (Book IV.)
The first part of the voyage--_Pantagruel_ IV. (Book V.) The
second part of the voyage: the "Isle Sonnante"--"La
Quinte"--The conclusion and The Bottle.


"AMADIS" ROMANCES                                             134

Subsidiary importance of Brantôme and other
character-mongers--The _Heptameron_--Note on
Montaigne--Character and "problems"--Parlamente on human and
divine love--Despériers--_Contes et Joyeux Devis_--Other
tale-collections--The "provincial" character of these--The
_Amadis_ romances--Their characteristics--Extravagance in
incident, nomenclature, etc.--The "cruel" heroine--Note on
Hélisenne de Crenne.


THE SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY NOVEL--I.                             152

_The Pastoral and Heroic Romance, and the Fairy Story._

Immense importance of the seventeenth century in our
subject--The divisions of its contribution--Note on marked
influence of Greek Romance--The Pastoral in general--Its
beginnings in France--Minor romances preceding the
_Astrée_--Their general character--Examples of their
style--Montreux and the _Bergeries de Juliette_--Des
Escuteaux and his _Amours Diverses_--François de Molière:
_Polyxéne_--Du Périer: _Arnoult et Clarimonde_--Du Croset:
_Philocalie_--Corbin: _Philocaste_--Jean de Lannoi and his
_Roman Satirique_--Béroalde de Verville outside the _Moyen
de Parvenir_--The _Astrée_: its author--The book--Its
likeness to the _Arcadia_--Its philosophy and its general
temper--Its appearance and its author's other work--Its
character and appeals--Hylas and Stella and their
Convention--Narrative skill frequent--The Fountain of the
Truth of Love--Some drawbacks: awkward history--But
attractive on the whole--The general importance and
influence--The _Grand Cyrus_--Its preface to Madame de
Longueville--The "Address to the Reader"--The opening of the
"business"--The ups and downs of the general conduct of the
story--Extracts: the introduction of Cyrus to Mandane--His
soliloquy in the pavilion--The Fight of the Four
Hundred--The abstract resumed--The oracle to
Philidaspes--The advent of Araminta--Her correspondence with
Spithridates--Some interposed comments--Analysis
resumed--The statue in the gallery at Sardis--The judgment
of Cyrus in a court of love--Thomyris on the
warpath--General remarks on the book and its class--The
other Scudéry romances:
_Ibrahim_--_Almahide_--_Clélie_--Perhaps the liveliest of
the set--Rough outline of it--La Calprenède: his
comparative cheerfulness--_Cléopatre_: the Cypassis and
Arminius episode--The book
generally--_Cassandre_--_Faramond_--Gomberville: _La
Caritée_--_Polexandre_--Camus: _Palombe_, etc.--Hédelin
d'Aubignac: _Macarise_--Gombauld: _Endimion_--Mme. de
Villedieu--_Le Grand Alcandre Frustré_--The collected
love-stories--Their historic liberties--_Carmente_,
etc.--Her value on the whole--The fairy tale--Its _general_
characteristics: the happy ending--Perrault and Mme.
d'Aulnoy--Commented examples: _Gracieuse et
Percinet_--_L'Adroite Princesse_--The danger of the
"moral"--Yet often redeemed--The main _Cabinet des Fées_:
more on Mme. d'Aulnoy--Warning against disappointment--Mlle.
de la Force and others--The large proportion of Eastern
Tales--_Les Voyages de Zulma_--Fénelon--Caylus--_Prince
Courtebotte et Princesse Zibeline_--_Rosanie_--_Prince
Muguet et Princesse Zaza_--Note on _Le Diable Amoureux_.


THE SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY NOVEL--II.                            274

_From "Francion" to "La Princesse de Clèves"--Anthony Hamilton._

The material of the chapter--Sorel and _Francion_--The
_Berger Extravagant_ and _Polyandre_--Scarron and the _Roman
Comique_--The opening scene of this--Furetière and the
_Roman Bourgeois_--Nicodème takes Javotte home from
church--Cyrano de Bergerac and his _Voyages_--Mme. de la
Fayette and _La Princesse de Clèves_--Its central
scene--Hamilton and the Nymph--The opening of _Fleur
d'Épine_--_Les Quatre Facardins_.


LESAGE, MARIVAUX, PRÉVOST, CRÉBILLON                          325

The subjects of the chapter--Lesage: his Spanish
connections--Peculiarity of his work generally--And its
variety--_Le Diable Boiteux_--Lesage and Boileau--_Gil
Blas_: its peculiar cosmopolitanism--And its adoption of the
_homme sensuel moyen_ fashion--Its inequality, in the Second
and Fourth Books especially--Lesage's quality: not requiring
many words, but indisputable--Marivaux: _Les Effets de la
Sympathie_ (?)--His work in general--_Le Paysan
Parvenu_--_Marianne_: outline of the story--Importance of
Marianne herself--Marivaux and Richardson:
"Marivaudage"--Examples: Marianne on the _physique_ and
_moral_ of Prioresses and Nuns--She returns the
gift-clothes--Prévost--His minor novels: the opinions on
them of Sainte-Beuve--And of Planche--The books themselves:
_Histoire d'une Grecque Moderne_--_Cléveland_--_Le Doyen de
Killérine_--_The Mémoires d'un Homme de Qualité_--Its
miscellaneous curiosities--_Manon Lescaut_--Its
uniqueness--The character of its heroine--And that of the
hero--The inevitableness of both and the inestimableness of
their history--Crébillon _fils_--The case against him--For
the defendant: the veracity of his artificiality and his
consummate cleverness--The Crébillonesque atmosphere and
method--Inequality of his general work; a survey of it.


THE _PHILOSOPHE_ NOVEL                                        377

The use of the novel for "purpose"; Voltaire--General
characteristics of his tales--_Candide_--_Zadig_ and its
satellites--_Micromégas_--_L'Ingénu_--_La Princesse de
Babylone_--Some minors--Voltaire, the Kehl edition, and
Plato--An attempt at different evaluation of
himself--Rousseau: the novel character of the
_Confessions_--The ambiguous position of _Émile_--_La
Nouvelle Héloïse_--Its numerous and grave faults--The minor
characters--The delinquencies of Saint-Preux--And the less
charming points of Julie; her redemption--And the better
side of the book generally--But little probability of more
good work in novel from its author--The different case of
Diderot--His gifts and the waste of them--The various
display of them--_Le Neveu de Rameau_--_Jacques le
Fataliste_--Its "Arcis-Pommeraye" episode--_La
Religieuse_--Its story--A hardly missed, if missed,
masterpiece--The successors--Marmontel--His "Telemachic"
imitations worth little--The best of his _Contes Moraux_
worth a good deal--_Alcibiade ou le Moi_--_Soliman the
Second_--_The Four Flasks_--_Heureusement_--_Le Philosophe
Soi-disant_--A real advance in these--Bernardin de


NOVEL, _c._ 1800                                              428

"Sensibility"--A glance at Miss Austen--The thing
essentially French--Its history--Mme. de Tencin and _Le
Comte de Comminge_--Mme. Riccoboni and _Le Marquis de
Cressy_--Her other work: _Milady Catesby_--Mme. de Beaumont:
_Lettres du Marquis de Roselle_--Mme. de Souza--Xavier de
Maistre--His illustrations of the lighter side of
Sensibility--A sign of decadence--Benjamin Constant:
_Adolphe_--Mme. de Duras's "postscript"--_Sensibilité_ and
_engouement_--Some final words on the matter--Its importance
here--Restif de la Bretonne--Pigault-Lebrun: the difference
of his positive and relative importance--His life and the
reasons for giving it--His general
characteristics--_L'Enfant du Carnaval_ and _Les Barons de
Felsheim_--_Angélique et Jeanneton_--_Mon Oncle
Thomas_--_Jérôme_--The redeeming points of these--Others:
_Adélaïde de Méran and Tableaux de
Société_--_L'Officieux_--Further examples--Last words on
him--The French novel in 1800.

FICTION NOTICED IN THIS VOLUME                                475

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTES                                         479

INDEX                                                         483



[Sidenote: The early history of prose fiction.]

Although I have already, in two places,[4] given a somewhat precise
account of the manner in which fiction in the modern sense of the term,
and especially prose fiction, came to occupy a province in modern
literature which had been so scantily and infrequently cultivated in
ancient, it would hardly be proper to enter upon the present subject
with a mere reference to these other treatments. It is matter of
practically no controversy (or at least of none in which it is worth
while to take a part) that the history of prose fiction, before the
Christian era, is very nearly a blank, and that, in the fortunately
still fairly abundant remains of poetic fiction, "the story is the least
part" (as Dryden says in another sense), or at least the _telling_ of
the story, in our modern sense, is so. Homer (in the _Odyssey_ at any
rate), Herodotus (in what was certainly not intentional fiction at all),
and Xenophon[5] are about the only Greek writers who can tell a story,
for the magnificent narrative of Thucydides in such cases as those of
the Plague and the Syracusan cataclysm shows all the "headstrong"
_ethos_ of the author in its positive refusal to assume a "story"
character. In Latin there is nothing before Livy and Ovid;[6] of whom
the one falls into the same category with Herodotus and Xenophon, and
the other, admirable _raconteur_ as he is, thinks first of his poetry.
Scattered tales we have: "mimes" and other things there are some, and
may have been more. But on the whole the schedule is not filled: there
are no entries for the competition.

[Sidenote: The late classical stage.]

In later classical literature, both Greek and Latin, the state of things
alters considerably, though even then it cannot be said that fiction
proper--that is to say, either prose or verse in which the
accomplishment of the form is distinctly subordinate to the interesting
treatment of the subject--constitutes a very large department, or even
any regular department at all. If Lucius of Patrae was a real person,
and much before Lucian, he may dispute with Petronius--that
first-century Maupassant or Meredith, or both combined--the actual
foundation of the novel as we have it; but Lucian himself and Apuleius
(strangely enough handling the same subject in the two languages) give
securer and more solid starting-places. Yet nothing follows Apuleius;
though some time after Lucian the Greek romance, of which we have still
a fair number of examples (spread, however, over a still larger number
of centuries), establishes itself in a fashion. It does one thing,
indeed, which in a way refounds or even founds the whole conception--it
establishes the heroine. There are certainly feminine persons, sometimes
not disagreeable, who play conspicuous and by no means mute or
unpractical parts in both Greek and Latin versions of the Ass-Legend;
but one can hardly call them heroines. There need be no chicane about
the application of that title to Chloe or to Chariclea, to Leucippe or
to her very remarkable rival, to Anthia or to Hysmine. Without the
heroine you can hardly have romance: the novel without her (though her
individuality may be put in commission) is an absolute impossibility.

[Sidenote: A _nexus_ of Greek and French romance? The facts about the

The connection between these curious performances (with the much larger
number of things like them which we know to have existed) on the one
side, and the Western mediaeval romance on the other, has been at
various times matter of considerable controversy; but it need not
trouble us much here. The Greek romance was to have very great influence
on the French novel later: on the earlier composition, generally called
by the same name as itself, it would seem[7] to have had next to none.
Until we come to _Floire et Blanchefleur_ and perhaps _Parthenopex_,
things of a comparatively late stage, obviously post-Crusade, and so
necessarily exposed to, and pretty clearly patient of, Greek-Eastern
influence, there is nothing in Old French which shows even the same
kinship to the Greek stories as the Old English _Apollonius of Tyre_,
which was probably or rather certainly in the original Greek itself. The
sources of French "romance"--I must take leave to request a "truce of
God" as to the application of that term and of "epic" for present
purposes--appear to have been two--the Saint's Life and the patriotic or
family _saga_, the latter in the first place indelibly affected by the
Mahometan incursions of the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries. The
story-telling instinct--kindled by, or at first devoted to, these
subjects--subsequently fastened on numerous others. In fact almost all
was fish that came to the magic net of Romance; and though two great
subjects of ours, the "Matter of Britain" (the Arthurian Legend) and the
"Matter of Rome" (classical story generally, including the Tale of
Troy), came traditionally to rank themselves with the "Matter of France"
and with the great range of hagiology which it might have been dangerous
to proclaim a fourth "matter" (even if anybody had been likely to take
the view that it was so), these classifications are, like most of their
kind, more specious than satisfactory.

[Sidenote: The power and influence of the "Saint's Life."]

Any person--though indeed it is to be feared that the number of such
persons is not very large--who has some knowledge of hagiology _and_
some of literature will admit at once that the popular notion of a
Saint's Life being necessarily a dull and "goody" thing is one of the
foolishest pieces of presumptuous ignorance, and one of the most
ignorant pieces of foolish presumption. Not only have modern novelists
sometimes been better informed and better inspired--as in the case of
more than one version of the Legends of St. Mary of Egypt, of St.
Julian, of Saint Christopher, and others--but there remain scores if not
hundreds of beautiful things that have been wholly or all but wholly
neglected. It is impossible to imagine a better romance, either in verse
or in prose, than might have been made by William Morris if he had kept
his earliest loves and faiths and had taken the _variorum_ Legend of St.
Mary Magdalene, as we have it in divers forms from quite early French
and English to the fifteenth-century English Miracle Play on the
subject. That of St. Eustace ("Sir Isumbras"), though old letters and
modern art have made something of it, has also never been fully
developed in the directions which it opens up; and one could name many
others. But it has to be admitted that the French (whether, as some
would say, naturally enough or not) never gave the Saint's Life pure and
simple the development which it received in English. It started them--I
at least believe this--in the story-telling way; but cross-roads, to
them more attractive, soon presented themselves.

[Sidenote: The Legend of St. Eulalia.]

Still, it started them. I hope it is neither intolerably fanciful nor
the mere device of a compiler anxious to make his arrows of all wood, to
suggest that there is something noteworthy in the nature of the very
first piece of actual French which we possess. The Legend of St. Eulalia
can be tried pretty high; for we have[8] the third hymn of the
_Peristephanon_ of Prudentius to compare it with. The metre of this

    Germine nobilis Eulalia

is not one of the best, and contrasts ill with the stately
decasyllables--perhaps the very earliest examples of that mighty metre
that we have--which the infant daughter-tongue somehow devised for
itself some centuries later. But Prudentius is almost always a poet, if
a poet of the decadence, and he had as instruments a language and a
prosody which were like a match rifle to a bow and arrows--_not_ of yew
and _not_ cloth-yard shafts--when contrasted with the dialect and
speech-craft of the unknown tenth-century Frenchman. Yet from some
points of view, and especially from ours, the Anonymus of the Dark Ages
wins. Prudentius spins out the story into two hundred and fifteen lines,
with endless rhetorical and poetical amplification. He wants to say that
Eulalia was twelve years old; but he actually informs us that

    Curriculis tribus atque novem,
    Tres hyemes quater attigerat,

and the whole history of the martyrdom is attitudinised and bedizened in
the same fashion.

Now listen to the noble simplicity of the first French poet and

     A good maiden was Eulalia: fair had she the body, but the
     soul fairer. The enemies of God would fain conquer
     her--would fain make her serve the fiend. She listened not
     to the evil counsellors, that she should deny God, who
     abideth in Heaven aloft--neither for gold, nor for silver,
     nor for garments; for the royal threatenings, nor for
     entreaties. Nothing could ever bend the damsel so that she
     should not love the service of God. And for that reason she
     was brought before Maximian, who was the King in those days
     over the pagans. And he exhorted her--whereof she took no
     care--that she should flee from the name of Christian. But
     she assembled all her strength that she might rather sustain
     the torments than lose her virginity: for which reason she
     died in great honour. They cast her in the fire when it
     burnt fiercely: but she had no fault in her, and so it
     pained her [_or_ she burnt[9]] not.

     To this would not trust the pagan king: but with a sword he
     bade them take off her head. The damsel did not gainsay this
     thing: she would fain let go this worldly life if Christ
     gave command. And in shape of a dove she flew to heaven. Let
     us all pray that she may deign to intercede for us; that
     Christ may upon us have mercy after death, and of His
     clemency may allow us to come to Him.

[Sidenote: The _St. Alexis_.]

Of course this is story-telling in its simplest form and on its smallest
scale: but the essentials are there, and the non-essentials can be
easily supplied--as indeed they are to some extent in the _Life of St.
Leger_ and to a greater in the _Life of St. Alexis_, which almost follow
the _Sainte-Eulalie_ in the making of French literature. The _St.
Alexis_ indeed provides something like a complete scheme of romance
interest, and should be, though not translated (for it runs to between
600 and 700 lines), in some degree analysed and discussed. It had, of
course, a Latin original, and was rehandled more than once or twice. But
we have the (apparently) first French form, probably of the eleventh
century. The theme is one of the commonest and one of the least
sympathetic in hagiology. Alexis is forced by his father, a rich Roman
"count," to marry; and after (not before) the marriage, though of course
before its consummation, he deserts his wife, flies to Syria, and
becomes a beggar at Edessa. After a time, long enough to prevent
recognition, he goes back to Rome, and obtains from his own family alms
enough to live on, though these alms are dispensed to him by the
servants with every mark of contempt. At last he dies, and is recognised
forthwith as a saint. This hackneyed and somewhat repulsive _donnée_
(there is nothing repulsive to the present writer, let it be observed,
either in Stylites or in Galahad) the French poet takes and makes a
rather surprising best of it. He is not despicable even as a poet, all
things considered; but he is something very different indeed from
despicable as a tale-teller. To begin, or, strictly speaking, to end
with (R. L. Stevenson never said a wiser thing than that the end must be
the necessary result of, and as it were foretold in, the beginning), he
has lessened if not wholly destroyed the jar of the situation by (most
unusually and considering the mad chastity-worship of the time rather
audaciously) associating the deserted wife directly with the Saint's
"gustation of God" above:

    Without doubt is St. Alexis in Heaven,
    With him has he God in the company of the Angels,
    _With him the maiden to whom he made himself strange,_
    _Now he has her close to him--together are their souls,_
    _I know not how to tell you how great their joy is._[10]

But there are earlier touches of that life which makes all literature,
and tale-telling most of all. An opening on Degeneracy is scarcely one
of these, for this was, of course, a commonplace millenniums earlier,
and it had the recent belief about the approaching end of the world at
the actual A.D. 1000 to prompt it. The maiden is "bought" for Alexis
from her father or mother. Instead of the not unusual and rather
distasteful sermons on virginity which later versions have, the future
saint has at least the grace to accompany the return of the ring[11]
with only a few words of renunciation of his spouse to Christ, and of
declaration that in this world "love is imperfect, life frail, and joy
mutable." A far more vivid touch is given by the mother who, when search
for the fugitive has proved futile, ruins the nuptial chamber, destroys
its decorations, and hangs it with rags and sackcloth,[12] and who, when
the final discovery is made, reproaches the dead saint in a fashion
which is not easy to reply to: "My son, why hadst thou no pity of _us_?
Why hast thou not spoken to me _once_?" The bride has neither forgotten
nor resented: she only weeps her deserter's former beauty, and swears to
have no other spouse but God. The poem ends--or all but ends--in a
hurly-burly of popular enthusiasm, which will hardly resign its new
saint to Pope or Emperor, till at last, after the usual miracles of
healing, the body is allowed to rest, splendidly entombed, in the Church
of St. Boniface.

Now the man who could thus, and by many other touches not mentioned, run
blood into the veins of mummies,[13] could, with larger range of subject
and wider choice of treatment, have done no small things in fiction.

But enough talk of might-have-beens: let us come to the things that were


[4] The article "Romance" in the _Encyclopaedia Britannica_, 11th ed.;
and the volume on _The English Novel_ in Messrs. Dent's series "Channels
of English Literature," London, 1913.

[5] Plato (or Socrates?) does it only on a small scale and partially,
though there are the makings of a great novelist in the _Dialogues_.
Apollonius Rhodius is the next verse-tale teller to Homer among the
prae-Christian Greeks.

[6] Virgil, in the only parts of the _Aeneid_ that make a good story, is
following either Homer or Apollonius.

[7] To me at least the seeming seems to approach demonstration; and I
can only speak as I find, with all due apologies to those who find

[8] There is, of course, a Latin "sequence" on the Saint which is nearer
to the French poem; but that does not affect our present point.

[9] The literal "cooked," with no burlesque intention, was used of
punitory burning quite early; but it is not certain that the transferred
sense of _cuire_, "to _pain_," is not nearly or quite as old.

[10] Not the least interesting part of this is that it is almost
sufficient by itself to establish the connection between Saint's Life
and Romance.

[11] By a very curious touch he gives her also "les renges de s'espide,"
_i.e._ either the other ring by which the sword is attached to the
sword-belt, or the belt itself. The meaning is, of course, that with her
he renounces knighthood and all worldly rank.

[12] She addresses the room itself, dramatically enough: "Chamber! never
more shalt thou bear ornament: never shall any joy in thee be enjoyed."

[13] Let me repeat that I mean no despite to the "Communion of Saints"
or to their records--much the reverse. But the hand of any _purpose_,
Religious, Scientific, Political, what not, is apt to mummify story.



It has been said already that the Saint's Life, as it seems most
probable to the present writer, started the romance in France; but of
course we must allow considerable reinforcement of one kind or another
from local, traditional, and literary sources. The time-honoured
distribution, also given already, of the "matter" of this romance does
not concern us so much here as it would in a history of French
literature, but it concerns us. We shall indeed probably find that the
home-grown or home-fed _Chanson de Geste_ did least for the novel in the
wide sense--that the "Matter of Rome" chiefly gave it variety, change of
atmosphere to some extent, and an invaluable connection with older
literatures, but that the central division or "Matter of Britain," with
the immense fringes of miscellaneous _romans d'aventures_--which are
sometimes more or less directly connected with it, and are always
moulded more or less on its patterns--gave most of all.

[Sidenote: The _Chanson de Geste_.]

Of these, however, what has been called the family or patriotic part was
undoubtedly the earliest and for a long time the most influential. There
is, fortunately, not the least need here to fight out the old battle of
the _cantilenae_ or supposed _ballad_-originals. I see no reason to
alter the doubt with which I have always regarded their existence; but
it really does not matter, _to us_, whether they existed or not,
especially since we have not got them now. What we have got is a vast
mass of narrative poetry, which latterly took actual prose form, and
which--as early certainly as the eleventh century and perhaps
earlier--turns the French faculty for narrative (whether it was actually
or entirely fictitious narrative or not does not again matter) into
channels of a very promising kind.

The novel-reader who has his wits and his memory about him may perhaps
say, "Promising perhaps; but paying?" The answer must be that the
promise may have taken some time to be fully liquidated, but that the
immediate or short-dated payment was great. The fault of the _Chansons
de Geste_--a fault which in some degree is to be found in French
literature as a whole, and to a greater extent in all mediaeval
literature--is that the class and the type are rather too prominent. The
central conception of Charlemagne as a generally dignified but too
frequently irascible and rather petulant monarch, surrounded by valiant
and in a way faithful but exceedingly touchy or ticklish paladins, is no
doubt true enough to the early stages of feudalism--in fact, to adapt
the tag, there is too much human nature in it for it to be false. But it
communicates a certain sameness to the chansons which stick closest to
the model.

[Sidenote: The proportions of history and fiction in them.]

The exact relation of the _Chansons de Geste_ to the subsequent history
of French fiction is thus an extremely important one, and one that
requires, not only a good deal of reading on which to base any opinion
that shall not be worthless, but a considerable exercise of critical
discretion in order to form that opinion competently. The present writer
can at least plead no small acquaintance with the subject, and a full if
possibly over-generous acknowledgment of his dealings with it on the
part of some French authorities, living and dead, of the highest
competence. But the attractions of the vast and strangely long ignored
body of _chanson_ literature are curiously various in kind, and they
cannot be indiscriminately drawn upon as evidence of an early mastery of
tale-telling proper on the part of the French as a nation.

There is indeed one solid fact, the importance of which can hardly be
exaggerated in some ways, though it may be wrongly estimated in others.
Here is not merely the largest part proportionately, but a very large
bulk positively, of the very earliest part of a literature, devoted to a
kind of narrative which, though some of it may be historic originally,
is pretty certainly worked up into its concrete and extant state by
fiction. The comparison with the two literatures which on the whole bear
such comparison with French best--English and Greek--is here very
striking. People say that there "must have been" many _Beowulfs_: it can
hardly be said that we have so much as a positive assertion of the
existence of even one other, though we have allusions and glances which
have been amplified in the usual fashion. We have positive and not
reasonably doubtful assertion of the existence of a very large body of
more or less early Greek epic; but we have nothing existing except the
_Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_.

[Sidenote: The part played by language, prosody, and manners.]

On this fact, be it repeated, if we observe the canons of sound
criticism in the process, too much stress in general cannot be laid.
There must have been some more than ordinary _nisus_ towards
story-telling in a people and a language which produced, and for three
or four centuries cherished, something like a hundred legends, sometimes
of great length, on the single general[14] subject of the exploits,
sufferings, and what not of the great half-historical, half-legendary
emperor _à la barbe florie_, of his son, and of the more legendary than
historical peers, rebels, subjects, descendants, and "those about both"
generally. And though the assertion requires a little more justification
and allowance, there must have been some extraordinary gifts for more or
less fictitious composition when such a vast body of spirited
fictitious, or even half-fictitious, narrative is turned out.

But in this justification as to the last part of the contention a good
deal of care has to be observed. It will not necessarily follow, because
the metal is attractive, that its attractiveness is always of the kind
purely belonging to fiction; and, as a matter of fact, a large part of
it is not. Much is due to the singular sonority and splendour of the
language, which is much more like Spanish than modern French, and which
only a few poets of exceptional power have been able to reproduce in
modern French itself. Much more is imparted by the equally peculiar
character of the metre--the long _tirades_ or _laisses_, assonanced or
mono-rhymed paragraphs in decasyllables or alexandrines, which, to those
who have once caught their harmony, have an indescribable and
unparalleled charm. Yet further, these attractions come from the strange
unfamiliar world of life and character described and displayed; from the
brilliant stock epithets and phrases that stud the style as if with a
stiff but glittering embroidery; and from other sources too many to
mention here.

[Sidenote: Some drawbacks.]

Yet one must draw attention to the fact that all the named sources of
the attraction, and may perhaps ask the reader to take it on trust that
most of the unnamed, are not essentially or exclusively attractions of
fiction--that they are attractions of poetry. And, on the other hand,
while the weaving of so vast a web of actual fiction remains "to
credit," there are not a few things to be set on the other side of the
account. The sameness of the _chanson_ story, the almost invariable
recurrence of the stock motives and frameworks--of rebellion, treason,
paynim invasion, petulance of a King's son, somewhat too "coming"
affection of a King's daughter, tyrannical and Lear-like _impotentia_ of
the King himself, etc.--may be exaggerated, but cannot be denied. In the
greatest of all by general acknowledgment, the far-famed _Roland_, the
economy of pure story interest is pushed to a point which in a less
unsophisticated age--say the twentieth instead of the twelfth or
eleventh century--might be put down to deliberate theory or crotchet.
The very incidents, stirring as they are, are put as it were in
skeleton argument or summary rather than amplified into full story-flesh
and blood; we see such heroine as there is only to see her die; even the
great moment of the horn is given as if it had been "censored" by
somebody. People, I believe, have called this brevity Homeric; but that
is not how I read Homer.

In fact, so jealous are some of those who well and wisely love the
_chansons_, that I have known objections taken to ranking as pure
examples, despite their undoubted age and merit, such pieces as _Amis et
Amiles_ (for passion and pathos and that just averted tragedy which is
so difficult to manage, one of the finest of all) and the _Voyage à
Constantinoble_, the single early specimen of mainly or purely comic
donnée.[15] This seems to me, I confess, mere prudery or else mistaken
logic, starting from the quite unjustifiable proposition that nothing
that is not found in the _Chanson de Roland_ ought to be found in any
_chanson_. But we may admit that the "bones"--the simplest terms of the
_chanson_-formula--hardly include varied interests, though they allow
such interests to be clothed upon and added to them.

[Sidenote: But a fair balance of actual story merit.]

Despite this admission, however, and despite the further one that it is
to the "romances" proper--Arthurian, classical, and adventurous--rather
than to the _chansons_ that one must look for the first satisfactory
examples of such clothing and addition, it is not to be denied that the
_chansons_ themselves provide a great deal of it--whether because of
adulteration with strictly "romance" matter is a question for debate in
another place and not here. But it would be a singularly ungrateful
memory which should, in this place, leave the reader with the idea that
the _Chanson de Geste_ as such is merely monotonous and dull. The
intensity of the appeal of _Roland_ is no doubt helped by that approach
to bareness--even by a certain tautology--which has been mentioned.
_Aliscans_, which few could reject as faithless to the type, contains,
even without the family of dependent poems which cluster round it, a
vivid picture of the valiant insubordinate warrior in William of Orange,
with touches of comedy or at least horse-play.

[Sidenote: Some instances of this.]

The striking, and to all but unusually dull or hopelessly "modern"
imaginations as unusually beautiful, centre-point of _Amis et
Amiles_,--where one of the heroes, who has sworn a "white" perjury to
save his friend and is punished for it by the terror, "white" in the
other sense, of leprosy, is abandoned by his wife, and only healed by
the blood of the friend's children, is the crowning instance of another
set of appeals. The catholicity of a man's literary taste, and his more
special capacity of appreciating things mediaeval, may perhaps be better
estimated by his opinion of _Amis et Amiles_ than by any other
touchstone; for it has more appeals than this almost tragic one--a much
greater development of the love-motive than either _Roland_ or
_Aliscans_, and a more varied interest generally. Its continuation,
_Jourdains de Blaivies_, takes the hero abroad, as do many other
_chansons_, especially two of the most famous, _Huon de Bordeaux_ and
_Ogier de Danemarche_. These two are also good--perhaps the
best--examples of a process very much practised in the Middle Ages and
leaving its mark on future fiction--that of expansion and continuation.
In the case of Ogier, indeed, this process was carried so far that
enquiring students have been known to be sadly disappointed in the
almost total disconnection between William Morris's beautiful section of
_The Earthly Paradise_ and the original French, as edited by Barrois in
the first attempt to collect the _chansons_ seventy or eighty years ago.
The great "Orange" subcycle, of which _Aliscans_ is the most famous,
extends in many directions, but is apt in all its branches to cling more
to "war and politics." William of Orange is in this respect partly
matched by Garin of Lorraine. No _chanson_ retained its popularity, in
every sense of that word, better than the _Quatre Fils d'Aymon_--the
history of Renaut de Montauban and his brothers and cousin, the famous
enchanter-knight Maugis. As a "boy's book" there is perhaps none better,
and the present writer remembers an extensive and apparently modern
English translation which was a favourite "sixty years since." _Berte
aux grands Piés_, the earliest form of a well-known legend, has the
extrinsic charm of being mentioned by Villon; while there is no more
agreeable love-story, on a small scale and in a simple tone, than that
of Doon and Nicolette[16] in _Doon de Mayence_. And not to make a mere
catalogue which, if supported by full abstracts of all the pieces, would
be inordinately bulky and would otherwise convey little idea to readers,
it may be said that the general _chanson_ practice of grouping together
or branching out the poems (whichever metaphor be preferred) after the
fashion of a family-tree involves of itself no inconsiderable call on
the tale-telling faculties. That the writers pay little or no attention
to chronological and other possibilities is hardly much to say against
them; if this be an unforgivable sin it is not clear how either Dickens
or Thackeray is to escape damnation, with Sir Walter to greet them in
their uncomfortable sojourn.

But it is undoubtedly true that the almost exclusive concentration of
the attention on war prevents the attainment of much detailed
novel-interest. Love affairs--some glanced at above--do indeed make, in
some of the _chansons_, a fuller appearance than the flashlight view of
lost tragedy which we have in _Roland_. But until the reflex influence
of the Arthurian romance begins to work, they are, though not always
disagreeable or ungraceful, of a very simple and primitive kind, as
indeed are the delineations of manners generally.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The classical borrowings--Troy and Alexander.]

The "matter of Rome the Great," as the original text has it (though, in
fact, Rome proper has little to do with the most important examples of
the class), adds very importantly to the development of romance, and
through that, of novel. Its bulk is considerable, and its examples have
interest of various kinds. But for us this interest is concentrated
upon, if not exclusively confined to, the two great groups (undertaken
by, and illustrated in, the three great literary languages of the
earlier Middle Ages, and, as usual, most remarkably and originally in
French) of the Siege of Troy and the life of Alexander. It should be
almost enough to say of the former that it introduced,[17] with
practically nothing but the faintest suggestion from really classical
sources, the great romance-novel of the loves of Troilus and Cressida to
the world's literature; and of the second, that it gives us the first
instance of the infusion of Oriental mystery and marvel that we can
discern in the literature of the West. For details about the books which
contain these things, their authors and their probable sources and
development, the reader must, as in other cases, look elsewhere.[18] It
is only our business here to say something about the general nature of
the things themselves and about the additions that they made to the
capital, and in some cases almost to the "plant," of fiction.

[Sidenote: _Troilus._]

That the Troilus and Cressida romance, with its large provision and its
more large suggestion of the accomplished love-story, evolved from older
tale-tellers by Boccaccio and Chaucer and Henryson and Shakespeare, is
not a pure creation of the earlier Middle Ages, few people who patiently
attend to evidence can now believe. Even in the wretched summaries of
the Tale of Troy by Dictys and Dares (which again no such person as the
one just described can put very early), the real novel-interest--even
the most slender romance-interest--is hardly present at all. Benoît de
Sainte-More in the twelfth century may not have actually invented this;
it is one of the principles of this book, as of all that its writer has
written, that the quest of the inventor of a story is itself the vainest
of inventions. But it is certain that nobody hitherto has been able to
"get behind him," and it is still more certain that he has given enough
base for the greater men who followed to build upon. If he cannot be
credited with the position of the pseudo-Callisthenes (see below) in
reference to the Alexander story, he may fairly share that of his
contemporary Geoffrey of Monmouth, if not even of Nennius, as regards
that of Arthur. The situation, or rather the group of situations, is of
the most promising and suggestive kind, negatively and positively. In
the first place the hero and heroine are persons about whom the great
old poets of the subject have said little or nothing; and what an
immense advantage this is all students of the historical novel of the
last hundred years know. In the second, the way in which they are put in
action (or ready for action) is equally satisfactory, or let us say
stimulating. In a great war a prince loves a noble lady, who by birth
and connections belongs to the enemy, and after vicissitudes, which can
be elaborated according to the taste and powers of the romancer, gains
her love. But the course of this love is interrupted by her surrender or
exchange to the enemy themselves; her beauty attracts, nay has already
attracted, the fancy of one of the enemy's leaders, and being not merely
a coquette but a light-o'-love[19] she admits his addresses. Her
punishment follows or does not follow, is accomplished during the life
of her true lover or not, according again to the taste and fancy of the
person who handles the story. But the scheme, even at its simplest, is
novel-soil: marked out, matured, manured, and ready for cultivation, and
the crops which can be grown on it depend entirely upon the skill of the

For all this some would, as has been said above, see sufficient
suggestion in the Greek Romance. I have myself known the examples of
that Romance for a very long time and have always had a high opinion of
it; but except what has been already noticed--the prominence of the
heroine--I can see little or nothing that the Mediaeval romance could
possibly owe to it, and as a matter of fact hardly anything else in
common between the two. In the last, and to some extent the most
remarkable (though very far from the best if not nearly the worst), of
the Greek Romances, the _Hysminias and Hysmine_ of Eustathius, we have
indeed got to a point in advance, taking that word in a peculiar sense,
even of Troilus at its most accomplished, that is to say, the Marinism
or Marivaudage, if not even the Meredithese, of language and sentiment.
But _Hysminias and Hysmine_ is probably not older than Benoît de
Sainte-More's story, and as has just been said, Renaissance, nay
post-Renaissance, not Mediaeval in character. We must, of course,
abstain from "reading back" Chaucer or even Boccaccio into Benoît or
into his probable plagiarist Guido de Columnis; but there is nothing
uncritical or wrong in "reading forward" from these to the later
writers. The hedge-rose is there, which will develop into, and serve as
a support for, the hybrid perpetual--a term which could itself be
developed in application, after the fashion of a mediaeval _moralitas_.
And when we have actually come to Pandaro and Deiphobus, to the "verse
of society," as it may be called in a new sense, of the happier part of
Chaucer and to the intense tragedy of the later part of Henryson, then
we are in the workshop, if not in the actual show-room, of the completed
novel. It would be easy, as it was not in the case of the _chansons_,
to illustrate directly by a translation, either here from Benoît or
later from the shortened prose version of the fourteenth century, which
we also possess; but it is not perhaps necessary, and would require much

[Sidenote: _Alexander._]

The influence of the Alexander story, though scarcely less, is of a
widely different kind. In _Troilus_, as has been said, the Middle Age is
working on scarcely more than the barest hints of antiquity, which it
amplifies and supplements out of its own head and its own heart--a head
which can dream dream-webs of subtlest texture unknown to the ancients,
and a heart which can throb and bleed in a fashion hardly shown by any
ancient except Sappho. With the Alexander group we find it much more
passively recipient, though here also exercising its talent for varying
and amplification. The controversies over the pseudo-Callisthenes,
"Julius Valerius," the _Historia de Praeliis_, etc., are once more not
for us; but results of them, which have almost or quite emerged from the
state of controversy, are. It is certain that the appearance, in the
classical languages, of the wilder legends about Alexander was as early
at least as the third century after Christ--that is to say, long before
even "Dark" let alone "Middle" Ages were thought of--and perhaps
earlier. There seems to be very little doubt that these legends were of
Egyptian or Asiatic origin, and so what we vaguely call "Oriental." They
long anticipated the importing afresh of such influences by the
Crusades, and they must, with all except Christians and Jews (that is to
say, with the majority), have actually forestalled the Oriental
influence of the Scriptures. Furthermore, when Mediaeval France began to
create a new body of European literature, the Crusades had taken place;
the appetite for things Oriental and perhaps we should say the
half-imaginative power of appreciating them, had become active; and a
considerable amount of literature in the vernacular had already been
composed. It was not wonderful, therefore, that the _trouvères_ should
fly upon this spoil. By not the least notable of the curiosities of
literature in its own class, they picked out a historical but not very
important episode--the siege of Gaza and Alexander's disgraceful cruelty
to its brave defender--and made of this a regular _Chanson de Geste_ (in
all but "Family" connection), the _Fuerres de Gadres_, a poem of several
thousand lines. But the most generally popular (though sometimes
squabbled over) parts of the story, were the supposed perversion of
Olympias, not by the God Ammon but by the magician-king Nectanabus
personating the God and becoming thereby father of the Hero; the Indian
and some other real campaigns (the actual conquest of Persia was very
slightly treated), and, far above all, the pure Oriental wonder-tales of
the descent into the sea, the march to the Fountain of Youth, and other
myths of the kind.

Few things can be more different than the story-means used in these two
legends; yet it must be personal taste rather than strict critical
evaluation which pronounces one more important to the development of the
novel than the other. There is a little love interest in the Alexander
poems--the heroine of this part being Queen Candace--but it is slight,
episodic, and rudimentary beside the complex and all-absorbing passions
which, when genius took the matter in hand, were wrought out of the
truth of Troilus and the faithlessness of Cressid. The joys of fighting
or roaming, of adventure and quest, and above all those of marvel, are
the attractions which the Alexander legend offers, and who shall say
that they are insufficient? At any rate no one can deny that they have
been made the seasoning, if not the stuff and substance, of an enormous
slice of the romance interest, and of a very large part of that of the

[Sidenote: The Arthurian Legend.]

It is scarcely necessary to speak of other classical romances, and it is
of course very desirable to keep in mind that the Alexander story, in no
form in which we have it, attempts any _strictly_ novel interest; while
though that interest is rife in some forms of "Troilus," those forms are
not exactly of the period, and are in no case of the language, with
which we are dealing. It was an Italian, an Englishman, and a Scot who
each in his own speech--one in the admirable vulgar tongue, of which at
that time and as a finished thing, Italian was alone in Europe as
possessor; the others in the very best of Middle English, and, as some
think, almost the best of Middle Scots verse--displayed the full
possibilities of Benoît's story. But the third "matter," the matter of
Britain or (in words better understanded of most people) the Arthurian
Legend, after starting in Latin, was, as far as language went, for some
time almost wholly French, though it is exceedingly possible that at
least one, if not more, of its main authors was no Frenchman. And in
this "matter" the exhibition of the powers of fiction--prose as well as
verse--was carried to a point almost out of sight of that reached by the
_Chansons_, and very far ahead of any contemporary treatment even of the
Troilus story.

[Sidenote: Chrestien de Troyes and the theories about him.]

Before, however, dealing with this great Arthurian story as a stage in
the history of the Novel-Romance in and by itself, we must come to a
figure which, though we have very little substantial knowledge of it,
there is some reason for admitting as one of the first named and "coted"
figures in French literature, at least as regards fiction in verse. It
is well known that the action of modern criticism is in some respects
strikingly like that of the sea in one of the most famous and vivid
passages[20] of Spenser's unequalled scene-painting in words with
musical accompaniment of them. It delights in nothing so much as in
stripping one part of the shore of its belongings, and hurrying them off
to heap upon another part. Chrestien de Troyes is one of the lucky
personages who have benefited, not least and most recently, by this
fancy. It is true that the actual works attributed to him have remained
the same--his part of the shore has not been actually extended like part
of that of the Humber. But it has had new riches, honours, and
decorations heaped upon it till it has become, in the actual Spenserian
language of another but somewhat similar passage (111. iv. 20), a "rich
strond" indeed. Until a comparatively recent period, the opinion
entertained of Chrestien, by most if not all competent students of him,
was pretty uniform, and, though quite favourable, not extraordinarily
high. He was recognised as a past-master of the verse _roman
d'aventures_ in octosyllabic couplet, who probably took his
heterogeneous materials wherever he found them; "did not invent much"
(as Thackeray says of Smollett), but treated whatever he did treat in a
singularly light and pleasant manner, not indeed free from the somewhat
undistinguished fluency to which this "light and lewed" couplet, as
Chaucer calls it, is liable, and showing no strong grasp either of
character or of plot, but on the whole a very agreeable writer, and a
quite capital example of the better class of _trouvère_, far above the
_improvisatore_ on the one hand and the dull compiler on the other; but
below, if not quite so far below, the definitely poetic poet.

To an opinion something like this the present writer, who formed it long
ago, not at second hand but from independent study of originals, and who
has kept up and extended his acquaintance with Chrestien, still adheres.

Of late, however, as above suggested, "Chrestiens" have gone up in the
market to a surprising extent. Some twenty years ago the late M. Gaston
Paris[21] announced and, with all his distinguished ability and his
great knowledge elaborately supported, his conclusions, that the great
French prose Arthurian romances (which had hitherto been considered by
the best authorities, including his own no less admirable father, M.
Paulin Paris, slightly anterior to the poet of Troyes, and in all
probability the source of part at least of his work) were posterior and
probably derivative. Now this, of itself, would of course to some extent
put up Chrestien's value. But it, and the necessary corollaries from
it, as originality and so forth, by no means exhaust the additional
honours and achievements which have been heaped upon Chrestien by M.
Paris and by others who have followed, more or less accepted, and in
some cases bettered his ascriptions. In the first and principal place,
there has been a tendency, almost general, to dethrone Walter Map from
his old position as the real begetter of the completed Arthurian
romance, and to substitute the Troyan. Then, partly in support, but also
to some extent, I think, independently of this immense ennoblement,
discoveries have been made of gifts and graces in Chrestien himself,
which had entirely escaped the eyes of so excellent a critic, so erudite
a scholar, and so passionate a lover of Old French literature as the
elder M. Paris, and which continue to be invisible to the far inferior
gifts and knowledge, but if I may dare to say so, the equal good will
and the not inconsiderable critical experience, of the present

Now with large parts of this matter we have, fortunately enough, nothing
to do, and the actual authorship of the great Arthurian conception,
namely, the interweaving of the Graal story on the one hand and the
loves of Lancelot and Guinevere on the other, with the Geoffrey of
Monmouth matter, concerns us hardly at all. But some have gone even
further than has been yet hinted in the exaltation of Chrestien. They
have discovered in him--"him-by-himself-him"--as the author of his
actual extant works and not as putative author of the real Arthuriad,
not merely a pattern example of the court _trouvère_--as much as this,
or nearly as much, has been admitted here--but almost the inventor of
romance and even of something very like novel, a kind of mediaeval
Scott-Bulwer-Meredith, equally great at adventure, fashion, and
character-analysis; subject only, and that not much, to the limitations
of the time. In fact, if I do not do some of these panegyrists
injustice, we ought to have a fancy bust of Chrestien, with the titles
of his works gracefully inscribed on the pedestal, as a frontispiece to
this book, if not even a full-length statue, robed like a small St.
Ursula, and like her in Memling's presentation at Bruges, sheltering in
its ample folds the child-like figures of future French novelists and
romancers, from the author of _Aucassin et Nicolette_ to M. Anatole

Again, some fifty years of more or less critical reading of novels of
all ages and more than one or two languages, combined with nearly forty
years reading of Chrestien himself and a passion for Old French, leave
the present writer quite unable to rise to this beatific vision. But let
us, before saying any more what Chrestien could or could not do, see, in
the usual cold-blooded way, what he _did_.

[Sidenote: His unquestioned work.]

The works attributed to this very differently, though never
unfavourably, estimated tale-teller--at least those which concern
us--are _Percevale le Gallois_, _Le Chevalier à[22] la Charette_, _Le
Chevalier au Lyon_, _Erec et Enide_, _Cligès_, and a much shorter
_Guillaume d'Angleterre_. This last has nothing to do with the Conqueror
(though the title has naturally deceived some), and is a semi-mystical
romance of the group derived from the above-mentioned legend of St.
Eustace, and represented in English by the beautiful story of _Sir
Isumbras_. It is very doubtfully Chrestien's, and in any case very
unlike his other work; but those who think him the Arthurian magician
might make something of it, as being nearer the tone of the older Graal
stories than the rest of his compositions, even _Percevale_ itself. Of
these, all, except the _Charette_, deal with what may be called outliers
of the Arthurian story. _Percevale_ is the longest, but its immense
length required, by common confession, several continuators;[23] the
others have a rather uniform allowance of some six or seven thousand
lines. _Cligès_ is one of the most "outside" of all, for the hero,
though knighted by Arthur, is the disinherited heir of Constantinople,
and the story is that of the recovery of his kingdom. _Erec_, as the
second part of the title will truly suggest, though the first may
disguise it, gives us the story of the first of Tennyson's original
_Idylls_. The _Chevalier au Lyon_ is a delightful romance of the Gawain
group, better represented by its English adaptation, _Ywain_, than any
other French example. _Percevale_ and the _Charette_ touch closest on
the central Arthurian story, and the latter has been the chief
battlefield as to Chrestien's connection therewith, some even begging
the question to the extent of adopting for it the title _Lancelot_.

[Sidenote: Comparison of the _Chevalier à la Charette_ and the prose

The subject is the episode, well known to English readers from Malory,
of the abduction of Guinevere by Meleagraunce, the son of King
Bagdemagus; of the inability of all knights but Lancelot (who has been
absent from Court in one of the lovers' quarrels) to rescue her; and of
his undertaking the task, though hampered in various ways, one of the
earliest of which compelled him to ride in a cart--a thing regarded, by
one of the odd[24] conventions of chivalry, as disgraceful to a knight.
Meleagraunce, though no coward, is treacherous and "felon," and all
sorts of mishaps befall Lancelot before he is able for the second time
to conquer his antagonist, and finally to take his over and over again
forfeited life. But long before this he has arrived at the castle where
Guinevere is imprisoned; and has been enabled to arrange a meeting with
her at night, which is accomplished by wrenching out the bars of her
window. The ill chances and _quiproquos_ which result from his having
cut his hands in the proceeding (though the actual visit is not
discovered), and the arts by which Meleagraunce ensnares the destined
avenger for a time, lengthen out the story till, by the final contest,
Meleagraunce goes to his own place and the Queen is restored to hers.

Unfortunately the blots of constant tautology and verbiage, with not
infrequent flatness, are on all this gracious story as told by
Chrestien.[25] Among the traps and temptations which are thrown in
Lancelot's way to the Queen is one of a highly "sensational" nature. In
the night Lancelot hears a damsel, who is his hostess, though he has
refused her most thorough hospitality, shrieking for assistance; and on
coming to the spot finds her in a situation demanding instant help,
which she begs, if the irreparable is not to happen. But the poet not
only gives us a heavily figured description of the men-at-arms who bar
the way to rescue, but puts into the mouth of the intending rescuer a
speech (let us be exact) of twenty-eight lines and a quarter, during
which the just mentioned irreparable, if it had been seriously meant,
might have happened with plenty of time to spare. So, in the crowning
scene (excellently told in Malory), where the lover forces his way
through iron bars to his love, reckless of the tell-tale witness of his
bleeding hands, the circumlocutions are _plusquam_ Richardsonian--and do
not fall far short of a serious anticipation of Shakespeare's burlesque
in _A Midsummer Night's Dream_. The mainly gracious description is
spoilt by terrible bathetics from time to time. Guinevere in her white
nightdress and mantle of scarlet and _camus_[26] on one side of the
bars, Lancelot outside, exchanging sweet salutes, "for much was he fain
of her and she of him," are excellent. The next couplet, or quatrain,
almost approaches the best poetry. "Of villainy or annoy make they no
parley or complaint; but draw near each other so much at least that they
hold each other hand by hand." But what follows? That they cannot come
together vexes them so immeasurably that--what? They blame the iron work
for it. This certainly shows an acute understanding[27] and a very
creditable sense of the facts of the situation on the part of both
lovers; but it might surely have been taken for granted. Also, it takes
Lancelot forty lines to convince his lady that when bars are in your way
there is nothing like pulling them out of it. So in the actual
pulling-out there is the idlest exaggeration and surplusage; the first
bar splits one of Lancelot's fingers to the sinews and cuts off the top
joint of the next. The actual embraces are prettily and gracefully told
(though again with otiose observations about silence), and the whole,
from the knight's coming to the window to his leaving it, takes 150
lines. Now hear the prose of the so-called "Vulgate _Lancelot_."

     "And he came to the window: and the Queen, who waited for
     him, slept not, but came thither. And the one threw to the
     other their arms, and they felt each other as much as they
     could reach. "Lady," said Lancelot, "if I could enter
     yonder, would it please you?" "Enter," said she, "fair sweet
     friend? How could this happen?" "Lady," said he, "if it
     please you, it could happen lightly." "Certainly," said she,
     "I should wish it willingly above everything." "Then, in
     God's name," said he, "that shall well happen. For the iron
     will never hold." "Wait, then," said she, "till I have gone
     to bed." Then he drew the irons from their sockets so softly
     that no noise was made and no bar broke."

In this simple prose, sensuous and passionate for all its simplicity, is
told the rest of the story. There are eighteen lines of it altogether in
Dr. Sommer's reprint, but as these are long quarto lines, let us
multiply them by some three to get the equivalent of the "skipping
octosyllables." There will remain fifty to a hundred and fifty, with, in
the prose, some extra matter not in the verse. But the acme of the
contrast is reached in these words of the prose, which answer to some
forty lines of the poet's watering-out. "Great was the joy that they
made each other that night, for long had each suffered for the other.
And when the day came, they parted." Beat that who can!

Many years ago, and not a few before M. Gaston Paris had published his
views, I read these two forms of the story in the valuable joint
edition, verse and prose, of M. Jonckbloet, which some ruffian (may
Heaven _not_ assoil him!) has since stolen or hidden from me. And I said
then to myself, "There is no doubt which of these is the original."
Thirty years later, with an unbroken critical experience of imaginative
work in prose and verse during the interval, I read them again in Dr.
Forster's edition of the verse and Dr. Sommer's of the prose, and said,
"There is less doubt than ever." That the prose should have been
prettified and platitudinised, decorated and diluted into the verse is a
possibility which we know to be not only possible but likely, from a
thousand more unfortunate examples. That the contrary process should
have taken place is practically unexampled and, especially at that time,
largely unthinkable. At any rate, whosoever did it had a much greater
genius than Chrestien's.

This is no place to argue out the whole question, but a single
particular may be dealt with. The curiously silly passage about the bars
above given is a characteristic example of unlucky and superfluous
amplification of the perfectly natural question and answer of the prose,
"May I come to you?" "Yes, but how?" an example to be paralleled by
thousands of others at the time and by many more later. Taken the other
way it would be a miracle. Prose abridgers of poetry did not go to work
like that in the twelfth-thirteenth century--nor, even in the case of
Charles Lamb, have they often done so since.

It is, however, very disagreeable to have to speak disrespectfully of a
writer so agreeable in himself and so really important in our story as
Chrestien. His own gifts and performances are, as it seems to me, clear
enough. He took from this or that source--his selection of the _Erec_
and _Percivale_ matters, if not also that of _Yvain_, suggests others
besides the, by that time as I think, concentrated Arthurian story--and
from the Arthuriad itself the substance of the _Chevalier à la
Charette_. He varied and dressed them up with pleasant etceteras, and
in especial, sometimes, though not always, embroidered the already
introduced love-motive with courtly fantasies and with a great deal of
detail. I should not be at all disposed to object if somebody says that
he, before any one else, set the type of the regular verse _Roman
d'aventures_. It seems likely, again, from the pieces referred to above,
that he may have had originals more definitely connected with Celtic
sources, if not actually Celtic themselves, than those which have given
us the mighty architectonic of the "Vulgate" _Arthur_. In his own way
and place he is a great and an attractive figure--not least in the
history of the novel. But I can see nothing in him that makes me think
him likely, and much that makes me think him utterly unlikely, to be the
author of what I conceive to be the greatest, the most epoch-making, and
almost the originating conception of the novel-romance itself. Who it
was that did conceive this great thing I do not positively know. All
external evidence points to Walter Map; no internal evidence, that I
have seen, seems to me really to point away from him. But if any one
likes let us leave him a mere Eidolon, an earlier "Great Unknown." Our
business is, once more, with what he, whoever he was, did.

[Sidenote: The constitution of the Arthuriad.]

The multiplicity of things done, whether by "him" or "them," is
astonishing; and it is quite possible, indeed likely, that they were not
all done by the same person. Mediaeval continuators (as has been seen in
the case of Chrestien) worked after and into the work of each other in a
rather uncanny fashion; and the present writer frankly confesses that he
no more knows where Godfrey de Lagny took up the _Charette_, or the
various other sequelists the _Percevale_, from Chrestien than he would
have known, without confession, the books of the _Odyssey_ done by Mr.
Broome and Mr. Fenton from those done by Mr. Pope. The _grand-oeuvre_
is the combination of Lancelot as (1) lover of the Queen; (2) descendant
of the Graalwards; (3) author, in consequence of his sin, of the
general failure of the Round Table Graal-Quest; (4) father of its one
successful but half-unearthly Seeker; (5) bringer-about (in more ways
than one[28]) of the intestine dissension which facilitates the invasion
of Mordred and the foreigners and so the Passing of Arthur, of his own
rejection by the repentant Queen, and of his death. As regards minor
details of plot and incident there have to be added the bringing in of
the pre-Round Table part of the story by Lancelot's descent from King
Ban and his connections with King Bors, both Arthur's old allies, and
both, as we may call them, "Graal-heirs"; the further connection with
the Merlin legend by Lancelot's fostering under the Lady of the
Lake;[29] the exaltation, inspiring, and, as it were, unification of
the scattered knight-adventures through Lancelot's constant presence as
partaker, rescuer, and avenger;[30] the human interest given to the
Graal-Quest (the earlier histories being strikingly lacking in this) by
his failure, and a good many more. But above all there are the general
characters of the knight and the Queen to make flesh and blood of the

Not merely the exact author or authors, but even the exact source or
sources of this complicated, fateful, and exquisite imagination are,
once more, not known. Years ago it was laid down finally by the most
competent of possible authorities (the late Sir John Rhys) that "the
love of Lancelot and Guinevere is unknown to Welsh literature."
Originals for the "greatest knight" have been sought by guesswork, by
idle play on words and names, if not also by positive forgery, in that
Breton literature which does not exist. There do exist versions of the
story in which Lancelot plays no very prominent part, and there is even
one singular version--certainly late and probably devised by a proper
moral man afraid of scandal--which makes Lancelot outlive the Queen,
quite comfortably continuing his adventurous career (this is perhaps the
"furthest" of the Unthinkable in literature), and (not, it may be owned,
quite inconsistently) hints that the connection was merely Platonic
throughout. These things are explicable, but better negligible. For my
own part I have always thought that the loves of Tristram and Iseult
(which, as has been said, were originally un-Arthurian) suggested the
main idea to the author of it, being taken together with Guinevere's
falseness with Mordred in the old quasi-chronicle, and perhaps the story
of the abduction by Melvas (Meleagraunce), which seems to be possibly a
genuine Welsh legend. There are in the Tristram-Iseult-Mark trio quite
sufficient suggestions of Lancelot-Guinevere-Arthur; while the far
higher plane on which the novice-novelist sets his lovers, and even the
very interesting subsequent exaltation of Tristram and Iseult themselves
to familiarity and to some extent equality with the other pair, has
nothing critically difficult in it.

But this idea, great and promising as it was, required further
fertilisation, and got it from another. The Graal story is (once more,
according to authority of the greatest competence, and likely if
anything to be biassed the other way) pretty certainly not Welsh in
origin, and there is no reason to think that it originally had anything
to do with Arthur. Even after it obeyed the strange "suck" of legends
towards this centre whirlpool, or Loadstone Rock, of romance, it yielded
nothing intimately connected with the Arthurian Legend itself at first,
and such connection as succeeded seems pretty certainly[31] to be that
of which Percevale is the hero, and an outlier, not an integral part.
But either the same genius (as one would fain hope) as that which
devised the profane romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, or another,
further grafted or inarched the sacred romance of the Graal and its
Quest with the already combined love-and-chivalry story. Lancelot, the
greatest of knights, and of the true blood of the Graal-guardians, ought
to accomplish the mysteries; but he cannot through sin, and that sin is
this very love for Guinevere. The Quest, in which (despite warning and
indeed previous experience) he takes part, not merely gives occasion for
adventures, half-mystical, half-chivalrous, which far exceed in
interest the earlier ones, but directly leads to the dispersion and
weakening of the Round Table. And so the whole draws together to an end
identical in part with that of the Chronicle story, but quite infinitely
improved upon it.

[Sidenote: Its approximation to the novel proper.]

Now not only is there in this the creation of the novel _in posse_, of
the romance _in esse_, but it is brought about in a curiously noteworthy
fashion. A hundred years and more later the greatest known writer of the
Middle Ages, and one of the three or four greatest of the world, defined
the subjects of poetry as Love, War, and Religion, or in words which we
may not unfairly translate by these. The earlier master recognised
(practically for the first time) that the romance--that allotropic form
(as the chemists might say) of poetry--must deal with the same. Now in
these forms of the Arthurian legend, which are certainly anterior to the
latter part of the twelfth century, there is a great deal of war and a
good deal of religion, but these motives are mostly separated from each
other, the earlier forms of the Arthur story having nothing to do with
the Graal, and the earlier forms of the Graal story--so far as we can
see--nothing, or extremely little, to do with Arthur. Nor had Love, in
any proper and passionate sense of the word, anything to do with either.
Women and marriage and breaches of marriage appear indeed; but the
earlier Graal stories are dominated by the most ascetic
virginity-worship, and the earlier Arthur-stories show absolutely
nothing of the passion which is the subject of the magnificent overture
of Mr. Swinburne's _Tristram_. Even this story of Tristram himself,
afterwards fired and coloured by passion, seems at first to have shown
nothing but the mixture of animalism, cruelty, and magic which is
characteristic of the Celts.[32] Our magician of a very different
gramarye, were he Walter or Chrestien or some third--Norman, Champenois,
Breton,[33] or Englishman (Welshman or Irishman he pretty certainly was
_not_)--had therefore before him, if not exactly dry bones, yet the
half-vivified material of a chronicle of events on the one hand and a
mystical dream-sermon on the other. He, or a French or English Pallas
for him, had to "think of another thing."

And so he called in Love to reinforce War and Religion and to do its
proper office of uniting, inspiring, and producing Humanity. He
effected, by the union of the three motives, the transformation of a
mere dull record of confused fighting into a brilliant pageant of
knightly adventure. He made the long-winded homilies and genealogies of
the earlier Graal-legend at once take colour from the amorous and
war-like adventures, raise these to a higher and more spiritual plane,
and provide the due punishment for the sins of his erring characters.
The whole story--at least all of it that he chose to touch and all that
he chose to add--became alive. The bones were clothed with flesh and
blood, the "wastable country verament" (as the dullest of the Graal
chroniclers says in a phrase that applies capitally to his own work)
blossomed with flower and fruit. Wars of Arthur with unwilling subjects
or Saxons and Romans; treachery of his wife and nephew and his own
death; miracle-history of the Holy Vessel and pedigree of its
custodians; Round Table; these and many other things had lain as mere
scraps and orts, united by no real plot, yielding no real characters,
satisfying no real interest that could not have been equally satisfied
by an actual chronicle or an actual religious-mystical discourse. And
then the whole was suddenly knit into a seamless and shimmering web of
romance, from the fancy of Uther for Igerne to the "departing of them
all" in Lyonnesse and at Amesbury and at Joyous Gard. A romance
undoubtedly, but also incidentally providing the first real novel-hero
and the first real novel-heroine in the persons of the lovers who, as in
the passage above translated, sometimes "made great joy of each other
for that they had long caused each other much sorrow," and finally
expiated in sorrow what was unlawful in their joy.

Let us pass to these persons themselves.

[Sidenote: Especially in the characters and relations of Lancelot and

The first point to note about Lancelot is the singular fashion in which
he escapes one of the dangers of the hero. Aristotle had never said that
a hero must be faultless; indeed, he had definitely said exactly the
contrary, of at least the tragic hero. But one of the worst of the many
misunderstandings of his dicta brought the wrong notion about, and
Virgil--that exquisite craftsman in verse and phrase, but otherwise,
perhaps, not great poet and very dangerous pattern--had confirmed this
notion by his deplorable figurehead. It is also fair to confess that all
except morbid tastes do like to see the hero win. But if he is to be a
hero of Rymer, not merely

    Like Paris handsome[34] and like Hector brave,

but as pious as Aeneas; "a rich fellow enough," with blood hopelessly
blue and morals spotlessly copy-bookish--in other words, a Sir Charles
Grandison--he will duly meet with the detestation and "conspuing" of the
elect. Almost the only just one of the numerous and generally silly
charges latterly brought against Tennyson's Arthurian handling is that
his conception of the blameless king does a little smack of this false
idea, does something grow to it. It is one of the chief points in which
he departed, not merely from the older stories (which he probably did
not know), but from Malory's astonishing redaction of them (which he
certainly did).

[Sidenote: Lancelot.]

But Lancelot escapes this worst of fates in the _Idylls_ themselves, and
much more does he escape it in the originals. In the first place, though
he invariably (or always till the Graal Quest) "wins through," he
constantly does not do so without intermediate hairbreadth escapes, and
even not a few adventures which are at first not escapes at all. And
just as his perpetual bafflement in the Quest salts and seasons his
triumphs in the saddle, so does the ruling passion of his sin save, from
anything approaching mawkishness,[35] his innumerable and yet
inoffensive virtues; his chastity, save in this instance, which chastity
itself, by a further stroke of art, is saved from _niaiserie_ by the
plotted adventures with Elaine; his courtesy, his mercifulness, his
wonderfully early notion of a gentleman (_v. inf._), his invariable
disregard of self, and yet his equally invariable naturalness. Pious
Aeneas had not the least objection to bringing about the death of Dido,
as he might have known he was doing (unless he was as great a fool as he
is a prig); and he is probably never more disgusting or Pecksniffian
than when he looks back on the flames of Dido's pyre and is really
afraid that something unpleasant must have happened, though he can't
think what the matter can be. But _he_, one feels sure, would never have
lifted up his hand against a woman, unless she had richly deserved it on
the strictest patriotic scores, as in the case of Helen, when his mamma
fortunately interfered. On the other hand, Lancelot was "of the Asra who
die when they love" and love till they die--nay, who would die if they
did not love. But it is certain (for there is a very nice miniature of
it reproduced from the MS. in M. Paulin Paris's abstract) that, for a
moment, he drew his sword on Elaine to punish the deceit which made him
unwittingly false to Guinevere. It is very shocking, no doubt, but
exceedingly natural; and of course he did not kill or even (like
Philaster) wound her, though nobody interfered to prevent him. Many of
the incidents which bring out his character are well known to moderns by
poem and picture, though others, as well worth knowing, are not. But the
human contrasts of success and failure, of merit and sin, have never, I
think, been quite brought out, and to bring them out completely here
would take too much room. We may perhaps leave this other--quite
other--"_First_ Gentleman in Europe" with the remark that Chrestien de
Troyes gives only one side of him, and therefore does not give him at
all. The Lancelot of board and bower, of travel and tournament, he does
very fairly. But of the Lancelot of the woods and the hermitage, of the
dream at the foot of the cross, of the mystic voyage and the just
failing (if failing) effort of Carbonek, he gives, because he knows,

[Sidenote: Guinevere.]

Completed as he was, no matter for the moment by whom, he is thus the
first hero of romance and nearly the greatest; but his lady is worthy of
him, and she is almost more original as an individual. It is true that
she is not the first heroine, as he is, if not altogether, almost the
first hero. Helen was that, though very imperfectly revealed and
gingerly handled. Calypso (hardly Circe) _might_ have been. Medea is
perhaps nearer still, especially in Apollonius. But the Greek romancers
were the first who had really busied themselves with the heroine: they
took her up seriously and gave her a considerable position. But they did
not succeed in giving her much character. The naughty _not_-heroine of
Achilles Tatius, though she has less than none in Mr. Pope's supposed
innuendo sense, alone has an approach to some in the other. As for the
accomplished Guinevere's probable contemporary, the Ismene or Hysmine of
Eustathius Macrembolites (_v. sup._ p. 18), she is a sort of
Greek-mediaeval Henrietta Temple, with Mr. Meredith and Mr. Disraeli by
turns holding the pen, though with neither of them supplying the brains.
But Guinevere is a very different person; or rather, she _is_ a person,
and the first. To appreciate her she must be compared with herself in
earlier presentations, and then considered fully as she appears in the
Vulgate--for Malory, though he has given much, has not given the whole
of her, and Tennyson has painted only the last panel of the polyptych
wholly, and has rather over-coloured that.[36]

In what we may call the earliest representations of her, she has hardly
any colour at all. She is a noble Roman lady, and very beautiful. For a
time she is apparently very happy with her husband, and he with her; and
if she seems to make not the slightest scruple about "taking up with"
her nephew, co-regent and fellow rebel, why, noble Roman ladies thought
nothing of divorce and not much of adultery. The only old Welsh story
(the famous Melvas one so often referred to) that we have about her in
much detail merely establishes the fact, pleasantly formulated by M.
Paulin Paris, that she was "très sujette à être enlevée," but in itself
(unless we admit the Peacockian triad of the "Three Fatal Slaps of the
Isle of Britain" as evidence) again says nothing about her character.
If, as seems probable if not certain, the _Launfal_ legend, with its
libel on her, is of Breton origin, it makes her an ordinary Celtic
princess, a spiritual sister of Iseult when she tried to kill Brengwain,
and a cross between Potiphar's wife and Catherine of Russia, without any
of the good nature and "gentlemanliness" of the last named. The real
Guinevere, the Guinevere of the Vulgate and partly of Malory, is freed
from the colourlessness and the discreditable end of Geoffrey's queen,
transforms the promiscuous and rather _louche_ Melvas incident into an
important episode of her epic or romantic existence, and gives the lie,
even in her least creditable or least charming moments, to the _Launfal_
libel. As before in Lancelot's case, details of her presentation had in
some cases best be either translated in full or omitted, but I cannot
refuse myself the pleasure of attempting, with however clumsy a hand, a
portrait of our, as I believe, English Helen, who gave in French
language to French, and not only French literature, the pattern of a

There is not, I think, any ancient authority for the rather commonplace
suggestion, unwisely adopted by Tennyson, that Guinevere fell in love
with Lancelot when he was sent as an ambassador to fetch her; thus
merely repeating Iseult and Tristram, and anticipating Suffolk and
Margaret. In fact, according to the best evidence, Lancelot could not
have been old enough, if he was even born. On the contrary, nothing
could be better than the presentation of her introduction to Arthur and
the course of the wooing in the Vulgate--the other "blessed original."
She first sees Arthur as a foe from the walls of besieged Carmelide, and
admires his valour; she has further occasion to admire it when, as a
friend, he rescues her father, showing himself, as what he really was in
his youth, his own best knight. The pair are genuinely in love with each
other, and the betrothal and parting for fresh fight are the most
gracious passages of the _Merlin_ book, except the better version (_v.
sup._) of the love of Merlin himself and the afterwards libelled
Viviane. Anyhow, she was married because she fell in love with him, and
there is no evidence to show that she and Arthur lived otherwise than
happily together. But, if all tales were true, she had no reason to
regard him as a very faithful husband or a blameless man. She may not
have known (for nobody but Merlin apparently did know) the early and
unwitting incest of the King and his half-sister Margause; but the
extreme ease with which he adopted her own treacherous foster-sister,
the "false Guinevere," and his proceedings with the Saxon enchantress
Camilla, were very strong "sets off" to her own conduct. Also she had a
most disagreeable[37] sister-in-law in Morgane-la-Fée. These are not in
the least offered as excuses, but merely as "lights." Indeed Guinevere
never seems to have hated or disliked her husband, though he often gave
her cause; and if, until the great repentance, she thought more lightly
of "spouse-breach" than Lancelot did, that is not uncharacteristic of
women.[38] In fact, she is a very perfect (not of course in the moral
sense) gentlewoman. She is at once popular with the knights, and loses
that popularity rather by Lancelot's fault than by her own, while
Gawain, who remains faithful to her to the bitter end, or at least till
the luckless slaughter of his brethren, declares at the beginning that
she is the fairest and most gracious, and will be the wisest and best of
queens. She shows something very like humour in the famous and fateful
remark (uttered, it would seem, without the slightest ill or double
meaning at the time) as to Gawain's estimate of Lancelot.[39] She seems
to have had an agreeable petulance (notice, for instance, the rebuke of
Kay at the opening of the _Ywain_ story and elsewhere), which sometimes,
as it naturally would, rises to passionate injustice, as Lancelot
frequently discovered. She is, in fact, always passionate in one or
other sense of that great and terrible and infinite[40] word, but never
tragedy-queenish or vixenish. She falls in love with Lancelot because he
falls in love with her, and because she cannot help it. False as she is
to husband and to lover, to her court and her country,[41] it can hardly
be said that any act of hers, except the love itself and its
irresistible consequences, is faulty. She is not capricious,
extravagant, or tyrannical; in her very jealousy she is not cruel or
revengeful (the original Iseult would certainly have had Elaine poisoned
or poniarded, for which there was ample opportunity). If she torments
her lover, that is because she loves him. If she is unjust to him, that
is because she is a woman. Her last speech to Lancelot after the
catastrophe--Tennyson should have, as has been said, paraphrased this as
he paraphrased the passing of her husband, and from the same texts, and
we should then have had another of the greatest things of English
poetry--shows a noble nature with the [Greek: hamartia] present, but
repented in a strange and great mixture of classical and Christian
tragedy. There is little told in a trustworthy fashion about her
personal appearance. But if Glastonbury traditions about her bones be
true, she was certainly (again like Helen) "divinely tall." And if the
suggestions of Hawker's "Queen Gwennyvar's Round"[42] in the sea round
Tintagel be worked out a little, it will follow that her eyes were
divinely blue.

[Sidenote: Some minor points.]

When such very high praise is given to the position of the (further)
accomplished Arthur-story, it is of course not intended to bestow that
praise on any particular MS. or printed version that exists. It is in
the highest degree improbable that, whether the original magician was
Map, or Chrestien, or anybody else (to repeat a useful formula), we
possess an exact and exclusive copy of the form into which he himself threw
the story. Independently of the fact that no MS., verse or prose, of anything
like the complete story seems old enough, independently of the enormous and
almost innumerable separable accretions, the so-called Vulgate cycle of
"_Graal-Merlin-Arthur-Lancelot-Graal-Quest-Arthur's-Death_" has
considerable variants--the most important and remarkable of which by far
is the large alteration or sequel of the "Vulgate" _Merlin_ which Malory
preferred. In the "Vulgate" itself, too, there are things which were
certainly written either by the great contriver in nodding moods, or by
somebody else,--in fact no one can hope to understand mediaeval
literature who forgets that no mediaeval writer could ever "let a thing
alone": he simply _must_ add or shorten, paraphrase or alter. I rather
doubt whether the Great Unknown himself meant _both_ the amours of
Arthur with Camilla and the complete episode of the false Guinevere to
stand side by side. The first is (as such justifications go) a
sufficient justification of Guinevere by itself; and the conduct of
Arthur in the second is such a combination of folly, cruelty, and all
sorts of despicable behaviour that it overdoes the thing. So, too,
Lancelot's "abscondences," with or without madness, are too many and too
prolonged.[43] The long and totally uninteresting campaign against
Claudas, during the greater part of which Lancelot (who is most of all
concerned) is absent, and in which he takes no part or interest when
present, is another great blot. Some of these things, but not all,
Malory remedied by omission.

To sum up, and even repeat a little, in speaking so highly of this
development--French beyond all doubt as a part of literature, whatever
the nationality, domicile, and temper of the person or persons who
brought it about--I do not desire more to emphasise what I believe to be
a great and not too well appreciated truth than to guard against that
exaggeration which dogs and discredits literary criticism. Of course no
single redaction of the legend in the late twelfth or earliest
thirteenth century contains the story, the whole story, and nothing but
the story as I have just outlined it. Of course the words used do not
apply fully to Malory's English redaction of three centuries later--work
of genius as this appears to me to be. Yet further, I should be fully
disposed to allow that it is only by reading the _posse_ into the
_esse_, under the guidance of later developments of the novel itself,
that the estimate which I have given can be entirely justified. But this
process seems to me to be perfectly legitimate, and to be, in fact, the
only process capable of giving us literary-historical criticism that is
worth having. The writer or writers, known or unknown, whose work we
have been discussing, have got the plot, have got the characters, have
got the narrative faculty required for a complete novel-romance. If they
do not quite know what to do with these things it is only because the
time is not yet. But how much they did, and of how much more they
foreshadowed the doing, the extracts following should show better than
any "talk about it."

     [_Lancelot, still under the tutelage of the Lady of the Lake
     and ignorant of his own parentage, has met his cousins,
     Lionel and Bors, and has been greatly drawn to them._]

     [Sidenote: Illustrative extracts translated from the
     "Vulgate." The youth of Lancelot.]

     Now turns herself the Lady back to the Lake, and takes the
     children with her. And when she had gone[44] a good way, she
     called Lancelot a little way off the road and said to him
     very kindly, "King's son,[45] how wast thou so bold as to
     call Lionel thy cousin? for he _is_ a king's son, and of not
     a little more worth and gentry than men think." "Lady," said
     he, who was right ashamed, "so came the word into my mouth
     by adventure that I never took any heed of it." "Now tell
     me," said she, "by the faith thou owest me, which thinkest
     thou to be the greater gentleman, thyself or him?" "Lady,"
     said he, "you have adjured me strongly, for I owe no one
     such faith as I owe you, my lady and my mother: nor know I
     how much of a gentleman I am by lineage. But, by the faith I
     owe you, I would not myself deign to be abashed at that for
     which I saw him weep.[46] And they have told me that all men
     have sprung from one man and one woman: nor know I for what
     reason one has more gentry than another, unless he win it by
     prowess, even as lands and other honours. But know you for
     very truth that if greatness of heart made a gentleman I
     would think yet to be one of the greatest." "Verily, fair
     son," said the Lady, "it shall appear. And I say to you that
     you lose nothing of being one of the best gentlemen in the
     world, if your heart fail you not." "How, Lady!" said he,
     "say you this truly, _as_ my lady?" And she said, "Yes,
     without fail." "Lady," said he, "blessed be you of God, that
     you said it to me so soon [_or_ as soon as you have said
     it]. For to that will you make me come which I never thought
     to attain. Nor had I so much desire of anything as of
     possessing gentry."

     [_The first meeting of Lancelot and Guinevere. The Lady of
     the Lake has prevailed upon the King to dub Lancelot on St.
     John's Day (Midsummer, not Christmas). His protectress
     departing, he is committed to the care of Ywain, and a
     conversation arises about him. The Queen asks to see him._]

     [Sidenote: The first meeting of Lancelot and Guinevere.]

     Then bid he [the King] Monseigneur[47] Ywain that he should
     go and look for Lancelot. "And let him be equipped as
     handsomely as you know is proper: for well know I that he
     has plenty." Then the King himself told the Queen how the
     Lady of the Lake had requested that he would not make
     Lancelot knight save in his own arms and dress. And the
     Queen marvelled much at this, and thought long till she saw
     him. So Messire Ywain went to the Childe [_vallet_] and had
     him clothed and equipped in the best way he could: and when
     he saw that nothing could be bettered, he led him to Court
     on his own horse, which was right fair. But he brought him
     not quietly. For there was so much people about that the
     whole street was full: and the news was spread through all
     the town that the fair Childe who came yester eve should be
     a knight to-morrow, and was now coming to Court in knightly
     garb. Then sprang to the windows they of the town, both men
     and women. And when they saw him pass they said that never
     had they seen so fair a Childe-knight. So he came to the
     Court and alighted from his horse: and the news of him
     spread through hall and chamber; and knights and dames and
     damsels hurried forth. And even the King and the Queen went
     to the windows. So when the Childe had dismounted, Messire
     Ywain took him by the hand, and led him by it up to the

     The King and the Queen came to meet him: and both took him
     by his two hands and went to seat themselves on a couch:
     while the Childe seated himself before them on the fresh
     green grass with which the Hall was spread. And the King
     gazed on him right willingly: for if he had seemed fair at
     his first coming, it was nothing to the beauty that he now
     had. And the King thought he had mightily grown in stature
     and thews.[48] So the Queen prayed that God might make him a
     man of worth, "for right plenty of beauty has He given him,"
     and she looked at the Childe very sweetly: and so did he at
     her as often as he could covertly direct his eyes towards
     her. Also marvelled he much how such great beauty as he saw
     appear in her could come: for neither that of his lady, the
     Lady of the Lake, nor of any woman that he had ever seen,
     did he prize aught as compared with hers. And no wrong had
     he if he valued no other lady against the Queen: for she was
     the Lady of Ladies and the Fountain of Beauty. But if he had
     known the great worthiness that was in her he would have
     been still more fain to gaze on her. For none, neither poor
     nor rich, was her equal.

     So she asked Monseigneur Ywain what was the Childe's name,
     and he answered that he knew not. "And know you," said she,
     "whose son he is and of what birth?" "Lady," said he, "nay,
     except I know so much as that he is of the land of Gaul. For
     his speech bewrayeth him."[49] Then the Queen took him by
     the hand and asked him of whom he came. And when he felt it
     [the touch] he shuddered as though roused from sleep, and
     thought of her so hard that he knew not what she said to
     him. And she perceived that he was much abashed, and so
     asked him a second time, "Tell me whence you come." So he
     looked at her very sheepishly and said, with a sigh, that he
     knew not. And she asked him what was his name; and he
     answered that he knew not that. So now the Queen saw well
     that he was abashed and _overthought_.[50] But she dared not
     think that it was for her: and nevertheless she had some
     suspicion of it, and so dropped the talk. But that she might
     not make the disorder of his mind worse, she rose from her
     seat and, in order that no one might think any evil or
     perceive what she suspected, said that the Childe seemed to
     her not very wise, and whether wise or not had been ill
     brought up. "Lady," said Messire Ywain, "between you and me,
     we know nothing about him: and perchance he is forbidden[51]
     to tell his name or who he is." And she said, "It may well
     be so," but she said it so low that the Childe heard her

     [_Here follows (with a very little surplusage removed
     perhaps) the scene which Dante has made world-famous, but
     which Malory (I think for reasons) has "cut." I trust it is
     neither Philistinism nor perversity which makes me think of
     it a little, though only a little, less highly than some
     have done. There is (and after all this makes it all the
     more interesting for us historians) the least little bit of
     anticipation of_ Marivaudage _about it, and less of the
     adorable simplicity such as that (a little subsequent to the
     last extract given) where Lancelot, having forgotten to take
     leave of the Queen on going to his first adventure, and
     having returned to do so, kneels to her, receives her hand
     to raise him from the ground, "and much was his joy to feel
     it bare in his." But the beauty of what follows is
     incontestable, and that Guinevere was "exceeding wise in
     love" is certain._]

     [Sidenote: The scene of the kiss.]

     "Ha!" said she then, "I know who you are--Lancelot of the
     Lake is your name." And he was silent. "They know it at
     court," said she, "this sometime. Messire Gawain was the
     first to bring your name there...." Then she asked him why
     he had allowed the worst man in the world to lead him by
     the bridle. "Lady," said he, "as one who had command neither
     of his heart nor of his body." "Now tell me," said she,
     "were you at last year's assembly?" "Yes, Lady," said he.
     "And what arms did you bear?" "Lady, they were all of
     vermilion." "By my head," said she, "you say true. And why
     did you do such deeds at the meeting the day before
     yesterday?" Then he began to sigh very very deeply. And the
     Queen cut him short as well, knowing how it was with him.

     "Tell me," she said, "plainly, how it is. I will never
     betray you. But I know that you did it for some lady. Now,
     tell me, by the faith you owe me, who she is." "Ah, Lady,"
     said he, "I see well that it behoves me to speak. Lady, it
     is you." "I!" said she. "It was not for me you took the
     spears that my maiden brought you. For I took care to put
     myself out of the commission." "Lady," said he, "I did for
     others what I ought, and for you what I could." "Tell me,
     then, for whom have you done all the things that you _have_
     done?" "Lady," said he, "for you." "How," said she, "do you
     love me so much?" "So much, Lady, as I love neither myself
     nor any other." "And since when have you loved me thus?"
     "Since the hour when I was called knight and yet was not
     one."[52] "Then, by the faith you owe me, whence came this
     love that you have set upon me?" Now as the Queen said these
     words it happened that the Lady of the Puy of Malahault[53]
     coughed on purpose, and lifted her head, which she had held
     down. And he understood her now, having oft heard her
     before: and looked at her and knew her, and felt in his
     heart such fear and anguish that he could not answer the
     Queen. Then began he to sigh right deeply, and the tears
     fell from his eyes so thick, that the garment he wore was
     wet to the knees. And the more he looked at the Lady of
     Malahault the more ill at ease was his heart. Now the Queen
     noticed this and saw that he looked sadly towards the place
     where her ladies were, and she reasoned with him. "Tell me,"
     she said, "whence comes this love that I am asking you
     about?" and he tried as hard as he could to speak, and said,
     "Lady, from the time I have said." "How?" "Lady, you did it,
     when you made me your friend, if your mouth lied not." "My
     friend?" she said; "and how?" "I came before you when I had
     taken leave of my Lord the King all armed except my head and
     my hands. And then I commended you to God, and said that,
     wherever I was, I was your knight: and you said that you
     would have me to be your knight and your friend. And then I
     said, 'Adieu, Lady,' and you said, 'Adieu, fair sweet
     friend.' And never has that word left my heart, and it is
     that word that has made me a good knight and valiant--if I
     be so: nor ever have I been so ill-bested as not to remember
     that word. That word comforts me in all my annoys. That word
     has kept me from all harm, and freed me from all peril, and
     fills me whenever I hunger. Never have I been so poor but
     that word has made me rich." "By my faith," said the Queen,
     "that word was spoken in a good hour, and God be praised
     when He made me speak it. Still, I did not set it as high as
     you did: and to many a knight have I said it, when I gave no
     more thought to the saying. But _your_ thought was no base
     one, but gentle and debonair; wherefore joy has come to you
     of it, and it has made you a good knight. Yet, nevertheless,
     this way is not that of knights who make great matter to
     many a lady of many a thing which they have little at heart.
     And your seeming shows me that you love one or other of
     these ladies better than you love me. For you wept for fear
     and dared not look straight at them: so that I well see that
     your thought is not so much of me as you pretend. So, by the
     faith you owe the thing you love best in the world, tell me
     which one of the three you love so much?" "Ah! Lady," said
     he, "for the mercy of God, as God shall keep me, never had
     one of them my heart in her keeping." "This will not do,"
     said the Queen, "you cannot dissemble. For many another such
     thing have I seen, and I know that your heart is there as
     surely as your body is here." And this she said that she
     might well see how she might put him ill at ease. For she
     thought surely enough that he meant no love save to her, or
     ill would it have gone on the day of the Black Arms.[54] And
     she took a keen delight in seeing and considering his
     discomfort. But he was in such anguish that he wanted little
     of swooning, save that fear of the ladies before him kept
     him back. And the Queen herself perceived it at the sight of
     his changes of colour, and caught him by the shoulder that
     he might not fall, and called to Galahault. Then the prince
     sprang forward and ran to his friend, and saw that he was
     disturbed thus, and had great pain in his own heart for it,
     and said, "Ah, Lady! tell me, for God's sake, what has
     happened." And the Queen told him the conversation. "Ah,
     Lady!" said Galahault, "mercy, for God's sake, or you may
     lose me him by such wrath, and it would be too great pity."
     "Certes," said she, "that is true. But know you why he has
     done such feats of arms?" "Nay, surely, Lady," said he.
     "Sir," said she, "if what he tells me is true, it was for
     me." "Lady," said he, "as God shall keep me, I can believe
     it. For just as he is more valiant than other men, so is
     his heart truer than all theirs." "Verily," said she, "you
     would say well that he is valiant if you knew what deeds he
     has done since he was made knight," and then she told him
     all the chivalry of Lancelot ... and how he had done it all
     for a single word of hers [_Galahault tells her more, and
     begs mercy for L._]. "He could ask me nothing," sighed she,
     "that I could fairly refuse him, but he will ask me nothing
     at all."... "Lady," said Galahault, "certainly he has no
     power to do so. For one loves nothing that one does not
     fear." [_And then comes the immortal kiss, asked by the
     Prince, delayed a moment by the Queen's demur as to time and
     place, brought on by the "Galeotto"-speech._ "Let us three
     corner close together as if we were talking secrets,"
     _vouchsafed by Guinevere in the words_, "Why should I make
     me longer prayer for what I wish more than you or he?"
     _Lancelot still hangs back, but the Queen_ "takes him by the
     chin and kisses him before Galahault with a kiss long
     enough" so that the Lady of Malahault knows it.] And then
     said the Queen, who was a right wise and gracious lady,
     "Fair sweet friend, so much have you done that I am yours,
     and right great joy have I thereof. Now see to it that the
     thing be kept secret, as it should be. For I am one of the
     ladies of the world who have the fairest fame, and if my
     praise grew worse through you, then it would be a foul and
     shameful thing."

[Sidenote: Some further remarks on the novel character of the story.]

A little more comment on this cento, and especially on the central
passage of it, can hardly be, and ought certainly not to be, avoided in
such a work as this, even if, like most summaries, it be something of a
repetition. It must surely be obvious to any careful reader that here is
something much more than--unless his reading has been as wide elsewhere
as it is careful here--he expected from Romance in the commoner and
half-contemptuous acceptation of that word. Lancelot he may, though he
should not, still class as a mere _amoureux transi_--a nobler and
pluckier Silvius in an earlier _As Yon Like It_, and with a greater than
Phoebe for idol. Malory ought to be enough to set him right there: he
need even not go much beyond Tennyson, who has comprehended Lancelot
pretty correctly, if not indeed pretty adequately. But Malory has left
out a great deal of the information which would have enabled his
readers to comprehend Guinevere; and Tennyson, only presenting her in
parts, has allowed those parts, especially the final and only full
presentation, great as it is, to be too much influenced by his certainly
unfortunate other presentation of Arthur as a blameless king.

I do not say that the actual creator of the Vulgate Guinevere, whoever
he was, has wrought her into a novel-character of the first class. It
would have been not merely a miracle (for miracles often happen), but
something more, if he had. If you could take Beatrix Esmond at a better
time, Argemone Lavington raised to a higher power, and the spirit of all
that is best and strongest and least purely paradoxical in Meredith's
heroines, and work these three graces into one woman, adding the passion
of Tennyson's own Fatima and the queenliness of Helen herself, it might
be something like the achieved Guinevere who is still left to the
reader's imagination to achieve. But the Unknown has given the hints of
all this; and curiously enough it is only of _English_ novel-heroines
that I can think in comparison and continuation of her. This book, if it
is ever finished, will show, I hope, some knowledge of French ones: I
can remember none possessing any touch of Guineveresque quality. Dante,
if his poetic nature had taken a different bent, and Shakespeare, if he
had only chosen, could have been her portrayers singly; no others that I
can think of, and certainly no Frenchman.

[Sidenote: And the personages.]

But here Guinevere's creator or expounder has done more for her than
merely indicate her charm. Her "fear for name and fame" is not exactly
"crescent"--it is there from the first, and seems to have nothing either
cowardly or merely selfish in it, but only that really "last infirmity
of noble minds," the shame of shame even in doing things shameful or
shameless. I have seldom seen justice done to her magnificent
fearlessness in all her dangers. Her graciousness as a Queen has been
more generally admitted, but, once again, the composition and complexity
of her fits of jealousy have never, I think, been fully rationalised.
Here, once more, we must take into account that difference of age which
is so important. _He_ thinks nothing of it; _she_ never forgets it. And
in almost all the circumstances where this rankling kindles into
wrath--whether with no cause at all, as in most cases, or with cause
more apparent than real, as in the Elaine business--study of particulars
will show how easily they might be wrought out into the great character
scenes of which they already contain the suggestion. _This_ Guinevere
would never have "taken up" (to use purposely a vulgar phrase for what
would have been a vulgar thing) with Mordred,[55] either for himself or
for the kingdom that he was trying to steal. And I am bound to say again
that much as I have read of purely French romance--that is to say,
French not merely in language but in certain origin--I know nothing and
nobody like her in it.

That Guinevere, like Charlotte, was "a married lady," that, unlike
Charlotte, she forgot the fact, and that Lancelot, though somewhat
Wertheresque in some of his features, was not quite so "moral" as that
very dull young man, are facts which I wish neither to suppress nor to
dwell upon. We may cry "Agreed" here to the indictment, and all its
consequences. They are not the question.

The question is the suggesting of novel-romance elements which forms the
aesthetic solace of this ethical sin. It should be seen at once that the
Guinevere of the Vulgate, and her fault or fate, provide a character and
career of no small complexity. It has been already said that to
represent her as after a fashion intercepted by love for Lancelot on her
way to Arthur, like Iseult of Ireland or Margaret of Anjou, is, so to
speak, as unhistorical as it is insufficiently artistic. We cannot,
indeed, borrow Diderot's speech to Rousseau and say, "C'est le pont aux
ânes," but it certainly would not have been the way of the Walter whom I
favour, though I think it might have been the way of the Chrestien that
I know. Guinevere, when she meets her lover, rescuer, and doomsman, is
no longer a girl, and Lancelot is almost a boy. It is not, in the common
and cheap misuse of the term, the most "romantic" arrangement, but some
not imperfect in love-lore have held that a woman's love is never so
strong as when she is past girlhood and well approaching age, and that
man's is never stronger than when he is just not a boy. Lancelot himself
has loved no woman (except his quasi-mother, the Lady of the Lake), and
will love none after he has fulfilled the Dead Shepherd's "saw of
might." She _has_ loved; dispute this and you not only cancel gracious
scenes of the text, but spoil the story; but she has, though probably
she does not yet know it, ceased to love,[56] and not without some
reason. To say no more about Arthur's technical "blamelessness," he has,
by the coming of Lancelot, ceased to be altogether heroic. Though never
a mere petulant and ferocious dotard as the _Chansons_ too often
represent Charlemagne, he is very far from being a wise ruler or even
baron. He makes rash promises and vows, accepts charges on very slight
evidence, and seems to have his knights by no means "in hand." So, too,
though never a coward or weakling, he seems pretty nearly to have lost
the pluck and prowess which had won Guinevere's love under the walls of
Carmelide, and of which the last display is in the great fight with his
sister's lover, Sir Accolon. All this may not excuse Guinevere's conduct
to the moralist; it certainly makes that conduct artistically probable
and legitimate to the critic, as a foundation for novel-character.

Her lover may look less promising, at least at the moment of
presentation; and indeed it is true that while "la donna è _im_mobile,"
in essentials and possibilities alike, forms of man, though never losing
reality and possibility, pass at times out of possible or at least easy
recognition. Anybody who sees in the Lancelot of the foregoing scene
only a hobbledehoy and milksop who happens to have a big chest, strong
arms, and plenty of mere fighting spirit, will never grasp him. Hardly
better off will be he who takes him--as the story _does_ give some
handles for taking him--to be merely one of the too common examples of
humanity who sin and repent, repent and sin, with a sort of
Americanesque notion of spending dollars in this world and laying them
up in another. Malory has on the whole done more justice to the
possibilities of the Vulgate Lancelot than he has to Guinevere, and
Tennyson has here improved on Malory. He has, indeed, very nearly "got"
Lancelot, but not quite. To get him wholly would have required Tennyson
for form and Browning for analysis of character; while even this
_mistura mirabilis_ would have been improved for the purpose by touches
not merely of Morris and Swinburne, but of lesser men like Kingsley and
even George Macdonald. To understand Lancelot you must previously
understand, or by some kind of intuition divine, the mystical element
which his descent from the Graal-Wardens confers; the essential or
quintessential chivalric quality which his successive creators agreed in
imparting to him; the all-conquering gift so strangely tempered by an
entire freedom from the boasting and the rudeness of the _chanson_ hero;
the actual checks and disasters which his cross stars bring on him; his
utter loyalty in all things save one to the king; and last and mightiest
of all, his unquenchable and unchangeable passion for the Queen.

Hence what they said to him in one of his early adventures, with no
great ill following, "Fair Knight, thou art unhappy," was always true in
a higher sense. He may have been Lord of Joyous Gard, in title and fact;
but his own heart was always a Garde Douloureuse--a _cor
luctificabile_--pillowed on idle triumphs and fearful hopes and
poisoned satisfactions, and bafflements where he would most fain have
succeeded. He has almost had to have the first kiss forced on him; he is
refused the last on grounds of which he himself cannot deny the
validity. Guinevere is a tragic figure in the truest and deepest sense
of the term, and, as we have tried to show, she is amply complex in
character and temperament. But it is questionable whether Lancelot is
not more tragic and more complex still.

[Sidenote: Books.]

It may perhaps without impropriety be repeated that these are not mere
fancies of the writer, but things reasonably suggested by and solidly
based upon "the French books," when these later are collated and, so to
speak, "checked" by Malory and the romances of adventure branching off
from them. But Arthur and Guinevere and Lancelot by no means exhaust the
material for advanced and complicated novel-work--in character as well
as incident--provided by the older forms of the Legend. There is Gawain,
who has to be put together from the sort of first draft of Lancelot
which he shows in the earlier versions, and the light-o'-love opposite
which he becomes in the later, a contrast continued in the Amadis and
Galaor figures of the Spanish romances and their descendants. There is
the already glanced at group of Arthur's sisters or half-sisters, left
mere sketches and hints, but most interesting. Not to be tedious, we
need not dwell on Palomides, a very promising Lancelot unloved; on
Lamoracke, left provokingly obscure, but shadowing a most important
possibility in the unwritten romance of one of those very sisters; Bors,
of whom Tennyson has made something, but not enough, in the later
_Idylls_; and others. But it is probably unnecessary to carry the
discussion of this matter further. It has been discussed and illustrated
at some length, because it shows how early the elements, not merely of
romance but of the novel in the fullest sense, existed in French

     [_Here follows the noble passage above referred to between
     Lancelot and King Bagdemagus after the death of
     Meleagraunce, whose cousin Lancelot has just slain in
     single combat for charging him with treason. He has kept his
     helm on, but doffs it at the King's request._]

And when the King saw him he ran to kiss him, and began to make such joy
of him as none could overgo. But Lancelot said, "Ah, Sir! for God's
sake, make no joy or feast for me. Certainly you should make none, for
if you knew the evil I have done you, you would hate me above all men in
the world." "Oh! Lancelot," said he, "tell it me not, for I
understand[57] too well what you would say; but I will know[57] nothing
of it, because it might be such a thing" as would part them for ever.


[14] The subdivision of the _gestes_ does not matter: they were all
connected closely or loosely--except the Crusading section, and even
that falls under the Christian _v._ Saracen grouping if not under the
Carlovingian. The real "outside" members are few, late, and in almost
every case unimportant.

[15] There are comic _episodes_ elsewhere; but almost the whole of this
poem turns on the _gabz_ or burlesque boasts of the paladins.--It may be
wise here to anticipate an objection which may be taken to these remarks
on the _chansons_. I have been asked whether I know M. Bédier's handling
of them; and, by an odd coincidence, within a few hours of the question
I saw an American statement that this excellent scholar's researches
"have revised our conceptions" of the matter. No one can exceed me in
respect for perhaps the foremost of recent scholars in Old French. But
my "conception" of the _chansons_ was formed long before he wrote, not
from that of any of his predecessors, but from the _chansons_
themselves. It is therefore not subject to "revisal" except from my own
re-reading, and such re-reading has only confirmed it.

[16] It is not of course intended to be preferred to the far more widely
known tale in which the heroine bears the same name, and which will be
mentioned below. But if it is less beautiful such beauty as it has is
free from the slightest _morbidezza_.

[17] And to this introduction our dealings with it here may be confined.
The accounts of the siege itself are of much less interest, especially
in connection with our special subject.

[18] A sort of companion handbook to the first part of this volume will
be found in the present writer's sketch of twelfth and thirteenth
century European literature, under the title of _The Flourishing of
Romance and the Rise of Allegory_, in Messrs. Blackwood's _Periods of
European Literature_ (Edinburgh and London, 1897), and another in his
_Short History of French Literature_ (Oxford, 7th ed. at press).

[19] It is scarcely rash to say that Cressid is the first representative
of this dread and delightful entity, and the ancestress of all its
embodiments since in fiction, as Cleopatra seems to have been in
history. No doubt "it" was of the beginning, but it lacked its _vates_.
Helen was different.

[20] _Faerie Queene_, v. iv. 1-20.

[21] I hope I may be allowed to emphasise the disclaimer, which I have
already made more than once elsewhere, of the very slightest disrespect
to this admirable scholar. The presumption and folly of such disrespect
would be only inferior to its ingratitude, for the indulgence with which
M. Paris consistently treated my own somewhat rash adventures in Old
French was extraordinary. But as one's word is one's word so one's
opinion is one's opinion.

[22] Sometimes _de_, but _à_ seems more analogical.

[23] Chrestien was rather like Chaucer in being apt not to finish. Even
the _Charette_ owes its completion (in an extent not exactly
determinable) to a certain Godfrey de Lagny (Laigny, etc.).

[24] Of course it is easy enough to assign explanations of it, from the
vehicle of criminals to the scaffold downwards; but it remains a
convention--very much of the same kind as that which ordains (or used to
ordain) that a gentleman may not carry a parcel done up in newspaper,
though no other form of wrapping really stains his honour.

[25] Neither he nor Malory gives one of the most gracious parts of
it--the interview between Lancelot and King Bagdemagus, _v. inf._ p. 54.

[26] Material (chamois skin)? or garment? Not common in O.F., I think,
for _camisia_; but Spenser (_Faerie Queene_, II. iii. xxvi.) has (as
Prof. Gregory Smith reminds me) "a silken _camus_ lilly whight."

[27] As does Pyramus's--or Bottom's--objection to the wall.

[28] This part of the matter has received too little attention in modern
studies of the subject: partly because it was clumsily handled by some
of the probably innumerable and certainly undiscoverable meddlers with
the Vulgate. The unpopularity of Lancelot and his kin is not due merely
to his invincibility and their not always discreet partisanship. The
older "Queen's knights" must have naturally felt her devotion to him;
his "undependableness"--in consequence not merely of his fits of madness
but of his chivalrously permissible but very inconvenient habit of
disguising himself and taking the other side--must have annoyed the
whole Table. Yet these very things, properly managed, help to create and
complicate the "novel" character. For one of the most commonly and not
the least justly charged faults of the average romance is its deficiency
in combined plot and character-interest--the presence in it, at most, of
a not too well-jointed series of episodes, possibly leading to a death
or a marriage, but of little more than chronicle type. This fault has
been exaggerated, but it exists. Now it will be one main purpose of the
pages which follow to show that there is, in the completed Arthuriad,
something quite different from and far beyond this--something perhaps
imperfectly realised by any one writer, and overlaid and disarranged by
the interpolations or misinterpretations of others, but still a "mind"
at work that keeps the "mass" alive, and may, or rather surely will,
quicken it yet further and into higher forms hereafter. (Those who know
will not, I hope, be insulted if I mention for the benefit of those who
do not, that the term "Vulgate" is applied to those forms of the parts
of the story which, with slighter or more important variations, are
common to many MSS. The term itself is most specially applied to the
_Lancelot_ which, in consequence of this popularity throughout the later
Middle Ages, actually got itself printed early in the French
Renaissance. The whole has been (or is being) at last most fortunately
reprinted by Dr. Sommer. See Bibliography.)

[29] This is another point which, not, I suppose, having been clearly
and completely evolved by the first handler, got messed and muddled by
successive copyists and continuators. In what seems to be the oldest,
and is certainly the most consistent and satisfactory, story there is
practically nothing evil about Viviane--Nimiane--Nimue, who is also
indisputably identical with the foster-mother of Lancelot, the
occasional Egeria (always for good) of Arthur himself, and the
benefactress (this is probably a later addition though in the right key)
of Sir Pelleas. For anybody who possesses the Power of the Sieve she
remains as Milton saw her, and not as Tennyson mis-saw part of her. The
bewitching of Merlin (who, let it be remembered, was an ambiguous person
in several ways, and whose magic, if never exactly black, was sometimes
a rather greyish or magpied white) was not an unmixed loss to the world;
she seems to have really loved him, and to have faithfully kept her word
by being with him often. He "could not get out" certainly, but are there
many more desirable things in the outside world than lying with your
head in the lap of the Lady of the Lake while she caresses and talks to
you? "J'en connais des plus malheureux" as the French poet observed of
some one in less delectable case. The author of the _Suite de Merlin_
seems to have been her first maligner. Tennyson, seduced by contrast,
followed and exaggerated the worst view. But I am not sure that the most
"irreligious" thing (as Coleridge would have said) was not the
transformation of her into a mere married lady (with a château in
Brittany, and an ordinary knight for her husband) which astounds us in
one of the dullest parts of the Vulgate about Lancelot--the wars with

[30] I have always thought that Spenser (whose dealings with Arthuriana
are very curious, and have never, I think, been fully studied) took this
function of Lancelot to suggest the presentation of his Arthur. But
Lancelot has no--at least no continuous--fairy aid; he is not invariably
victorious, and he is thoroughly human. Spenser's Prince began the
"blamelessness" which grew more trying still in Tennyson's King. (In the
few remarks of this kind made here I am not, I need hardly say, "going
back upon" my lifelong estimate of Tennyson as an almost impeccable
poet. But an impeccable poet is not necessarily an impeccable plot- and
character-monger either in tale-telling or in drama.)

[31] Of this we have unusually strong evidence in the shape of MS.
interlineations, where the name "Percevale" is actually struck out and
that of "Gala[h]ad" substituted above it.

[32] I do not say that this is their _only_ character.

[33] Brittany had much earlier and much more tradition of chivalry than

[34] The only fault alleged against Lancelot's person by carpers was
that he was something "pigeon"--or "guardsman"--chested. But Guinevere
showed her love and her wit, and her "valiancy" (for so at least on this
occasion we may translate _vaillant_) by retorting that such a chest was
only big enough--and hardly big enough--for such a heart.

[35] Some of the later "redactors" of the Vulgate may perhaps have
unduly multiplied his madnesses, and have exaggerated his early shyness
a little. But I am not sure of the latter point. It is not only "beasts"
that, as in the great Theocritean place, "go timidly because they fear
Cythera"; and a love charged with such dread consequences was not to be
lightly embarked upon.

[36] The early _Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere_, though only external,
is perfect. Many touches in the _Idylls_ other than the title-one are
suitable and even subtle; but the convertite in that one is (as they say
now) "unconvincing." The simpler attitude of the rejection of Lancelot
in the verse _Morte_ and in Malory is infinitely better. As for Morris's
two pieces, they could hardly be better in themselves as poems--but they
are scarcely great on the novel side.

[37] Disagreeable, that is to say, as a sister and sister-in-law. There
must have been something attractive about her in other relations.

[38] Compare one of the not so very many real examples of Ibsen's
vaunted psychology, the placid indifference to her own past of Gina in
the _Wild Duck_.

[39] He had said that if he were a woman he would give Lancelot anything
he asked; and the Queen, following, observes that Gawain had left
nothing for a woman to say.

[40] _Nos passions ont quelque chose d'infini_, says Bossuet.

[41] [Greek: helandros, heleptolis]. She had no opportunity of being
[Greek: helenaus].

[42] Hawker's security as to Cornish men and things is, I admit, a
little Bardolphian. But did he not write about the Quest? (This sort of
argument simply swarms in Arthurian controversy; so I may surely use it
once.) Besides there is no doubt about the blueness of the sea in
question; though Anthony Trollope, in _Malachi's Cove_, has most falsely
and incomprehensibly denied it.

[43] That this is a real sign of decadence and unoriginality, the
further exaggeration of it in the case of the knights of the _Amadis_
cycle proves almost to demonstration.

[44] After the opening sentence I have dropped the historic present,
which, for a continuance, is very irritating in English.

[45] Lancelot himself has told us earlier (_op. cit._ i. 38) that,
though he neither knew nor thought himself to be a king's son, he was
commonly addressed as such.

[46] Lionel (very young at the time) had wept because some one mentioned
the loss of his inheritance, and Lancelot (young as he too was) had
bidden him not cry for fear of landlessness. "There would be plenty for
him, if he had heart to gain it."

[47] This technical title is usually if not invariably given to Ywain
and Gawain as eldest sons of recognised kings. "Prince" is not used in
this sense by the older Romancers, but only for distinguished knights
like Galahault, who is really a king.

[48] There is one admirable word here, _enbarnis_, which has so long
been lost to French that it is not even in Littré. But Dryden's
"_burnish_ into man" probably preserves it in English; for this is
certainly not the other "burnish" from _brunir_.

[49] "Car moult en parole diroit la parole."

[50] Puzzled by the number of new thoughts and emotions.

[51] Ywain suggests one of the commonest things in Romance.

[52] Arthur had, by a set of chances, not actually girded on Lancelot's

[53] Whose prisoner Lancelot had been, who had been ready to fall in
love with him, and to whom he had expressly refused to tell his own
love. Hence his confusion.

[54] The day when Lancelot, at her request, had turned against the side
of his friend Galahault and brought victory to Arthur's.

[55] By the way, the Vulgate Mordred is a more subtle conception than
the early stories gave, or than Malory transfers. He is no mere traitor
or felon knight, much less a coward, from the first; but at that first
shows a mixture of good and bad qualities in which the "dram of eale"
does its usual office. Here once more is a subject made to the hand of a
novelist of the first class.

[56] Some poet or pundit, whether of East or West, or of what place,
from Santiago to Samarcand, I know not, has laid it down, that men can
love many, but without ceasing to love any; that women love only one at
once, but can (to borrow, at fifty years' memory, a phrase of George
Lawrence's in _Sans Merci_) "drop their lovers down _oubliettes_" with
comparative ease.

[57] It is excusable to use two words for the single verb _savoir_ to
bring out the meaning. King Bagdemagus does not "know" as a fact that
Lancelot has slain his son, though he fears it and feels almost sure of



[Sidenote: Variety of the present groups.]

On the whole, however, the most important influence in the development
of the novel originally--that of the _nouvelle_ or _novella_ in French,
and Italian taking the second place in order of time--must be assigned
to the very numerous and very delightful body of compositions (not very
long as a rule,[58] but also never exactly short) to which the name
_Romans d'aventures_ has been given with a limited connotation. They
exist in all languages; our own English Romances, though sometimes
derived from the _chansons_ and the Arthurian Legend, are practically
all of this class, and in every case but one it is true that they have
actual French originals. These _Romans d'aventures_ have a habit, not
universal but prevailing, of "keying themselves on" to the Arthurian
story itself; but they rarely, if ever, have much to do with the
principal parts of it. It is as if their public wanted the connection as
a sort of guarantee; but a considerable proportion keep independence.
They are so numerous, so various, and with rare exceptions so
interesting, that it is difficult to know which to select for elaborate
analysis and translated selection; but almost the entire _corpus_ gives
us the important fact of the increased _freedom_ of fiction. Even the
connection with the Arthurian matter is, as has been said, generally of
the loosest kind; that with the Charlemagne cycle hardly exists. The
Graal (or things connected with its legends) may appear: Gawain is a
frequent hero; other, as one might call them, sociable features as
regards the older stories present themselves. But as a rule the man has
got his own story which he wants to tell; his own special hero and
heroine whom he wants to present. Furthermore, the old community of
handling, which is so noticeable in the _chansons_ more particularly,
disappears almost entirely. Nothing has yet been discovered in French,
though it may be any day, to serve as the origin of our _Gawain and the
Green Knight_, and some special features of this are almost certainly
the work of an Englishman. Our English _Ywain and Gawain_ is, as has
been said, rather better than Chrestien's original. But, as a rule, the
form, which is French form in language (by no means always certainly or
probably French in nationality of author), is not only the original, but
better; and besides, it is with it that we are busied here, though in
not a few cases English readers can obtain an idea, fairly sufficient,
of these originals from the English versions. As these, however, with
the exception of one or two remarkable individuals or even groups, were
seldom written by men of genius, it is best to go to the sources to see
the power and the variety of fictitious handling which have been

[Sidenote: Different views held of it.]

The richness, indeed, of these _Romans d'aventures_ is surprising, and
they very seldom display the flatness and triviality which mar by no
means all but too many of their English imitations. Some of the faults
which are part cause of these others they indeed have--the apparently
irrational catalogues of birds and beasts, stuffs and vegetables; the
long moralisings; the religious passages sometimes (as it may seem to
mere moderns) interposed in very odd contexts; the endless descriptions
of battles and single combats; the absence of striking characterisation
and varied incident. Their interest is a peculiar interest, yet one can
hardly call the taste for it "an acquired taste," because the very
large majority of healthy and intelligent children delight in these
stories under whatever form they are presented to them, and at least a
considerable number of grown-up persons never lose the enjoyment. The
disapproval which rested on "romances of chivalry" for a long time was
admittedly ignorant and absurd; and the reasons why this disapproval, at
least in its somewhat milder form of neglect, has never been wholly
removed, are not very difficult to discover. It is to be feared that
_Don Quixote_, great as it is, has done not a little mischief, and by
virtue of its greatness is likely to do not a little more, though the
_Amadis_ group, which it specially satirises, has faults not found in
the older tales. The texts, though in most cases easily enough
accessible now, are not what may be called obviously and yet
unobtrusively so. They are to a very large extent issued by learned
societies: and the public, not too unreasonably, is rather suspicious,
and not at all avid, of the products of learned societies. They are
accompanied by introductions and notes and glossaries--things the
public (again not wholly to be blamed) regards without cordiality.
Latterly they have been used for educational purposes, and anything
used for educational purposes acquires an evil--or at least an
unappetising--reputation. In some cases they have been messed and
meddled in _usum vulgi_. But their worst enemy recently has been, it may
be feared, the irreconcilable opposition of their spirit to what is
called the modern spirit--though this latter sometimes takes them up and
plays with them in a fashion of maudlin mysticism.

[Sidenote: _Partenopeus of Blois_ selected for analysis and

To treat them at large here as Ellis treated some of the English
imitations would be impossible in point of scale and dangerous as a
competition; for Ellis, though a little too prone to Voltairianise or at
least Hamiltonise things sometimes too good for that kind of treatment,
was a very clever man indeed. For somewhat full abstract and translation
we may take one of the most famous, but perhaps not one of the most
generally and thoroughly known, _Partenopeus_ (or -_pex_[59]) _of
Blois_, which, though it exists in English, and though the French was
very probably written by an Englishman, is not now one of the most
widely read and is in parts very charming. That it is one of the
romances on which, from the fact of the resemblance of its central
incident to the story of Cupid and Psyche, the good defenders of the bad
theory of the classical origin of romance generally have based one of
their few plausible arguments, need not occupy us. For the question is
not whether Denis Pyramus or any one else (modernity would not be
modernity if his claims were not challenged) told it, but _how_ he told
it. Still less need we treat the other question before indicated. Here
is one of the central stories of the world--one of those which Eve told
to her children in virtue of the knowledge communicated by the apple,
one with which the sons of God courted the daughters of men, or, at
latest, one of those which were yarned in the Ark. It is the story of
the unwise lover--in this case the man, not as in Psyche's the
woman--who will not be content to enjoy an unseen, but by every other
sense enjoyable and adorable love, even though (in this case) the single
deprivation is expressly to be terminated. We have it, of course, in all
sorts of forms, languages, and differing conditions. But we are only
concerned with it here as with a gracious example of that kind of
romance which, though not exactly a "fairy tale" in the Western sense,
is pretty obviously influenced by the Eastern fairy tale itself, and
still more obviously influences the modern kind in which "the
supernatural" is definitely prominent.

It was perhaps excusable in the good M. Robert, who wrote the
Introduction to Crapelet's edition of this poem eighty years ago, to
"protest too much" in favour of the author whom he was now presenting
practically for the first time--to a changed audience; but it was
unnecessary and a little unfortunate. Except in one point or group of
points, it is vain to try to put _Partenopeus_ above _Cupid and
Psyche_: but it can perfectly well stand by itself in its own place, and
that no low one. Except in _Floire et Blanchefleur_ and of course in
_Aucassin et Nicolette_, the peculiar grace and delicacy of romance are
nowhere so well shown; and _Partenopeus_, besides the advantage of
length, has that of personages interesting, besides the absolute hero
and heroine. The Count of Blois himself is, no doubt, despite his
beauty, and his bravery, and his good nature, rather of a feeble folk.
Psyche has the excuse of her sex, besides the evil counsel of her
sisters, for her curiosity. But Partenopeus has not the former; nor has
he even that weaker but still not quite invalid one which lost Agib, the
son of Cassib, his many-Houried Paradise on Earth. He is supposed to be
a Frenchman--the somewhat excessive fashion in which Frenchmen make
obedience to the second clause[60] of the Fifth Commandment atone for
some neglect of other parts of the decalogue is well known, or at least
traditionally believed. But most certainly a man is not justified in
obeying his mother to the extent of disobeying--and that in the
shabbiest of ways--his lady and mistress, who is, in fact, according to
mediaeval ideas, virtually, if not virtuously, his wife. But Melior
herself, the heroine, is an absolutely delightful person from her first
appearance (or rather _non_-appearance) as a sweet dream come true, to
her last in the more orthodox and public spousals. The grace of her
Dian-like surrender of herself to her love; the constancy with which she
holds to the betrothal theory of the time; the unselfishness with which
she not only permits but actually advises the lover, whom she would so
fain, but cannot yet, make her acknowledged husband, to leave her; her
frank forgiveness of his only-just-in-time repented and prevented, but
intended, infidelity; her sorrow at and after the separation enforced by
his breach of pact; her interviews with her sister, naturally chequered
by conflicting feelings of love and pride and the rest--are all
charming. But she is not the only charming figure.

The "second heroine," a sister or cousin who plays a sort of superior
confidante's part, is by no means uncommon in Romance. Alexandrine, for
instance, who plays this in _William of Palerne_, is a very nice girl.
But Urraque or Urraca,[61] the sister of Melior--whether full and
legitimate, or "half" illegitimate, versions differ--is much more
elaborately dealt with, and is, in fact, the chief _character_ of the
piece, and a character rather unusually strong for Romance. She plays
the part of reconciler after Partenopeus' fatal folly has estranged him
from her sister, and plays it at great length, but with much less tedium
than might be expected. But the author is an "incurable feminist," as
some one else was once described with a mixture of pity and admiration:
and he is not contented with two heroines. There is a third, Persewis,
maid of honour to Urraque, and also a fervent admirer of the
incomparable Partenopeus, on whose actual beauty great stress is
laid, and who in romance, other than his own, is quoted as a modern
paragon thereof, worthy to rank with ancient patterns, sacred and
profane. Persewis, however, is very young--a "flapper" or a
"[bread-and-]buttercup," as successive generations have irreverently
called the immature but agreeable creature. The poet lays much emphasis
on this youth. She did not "kiss and embrace," he says, just because she
was too young, and not because of any foolish prudery or propriety,
things which he does not hesitate to pronounce appropriate only to ugly
girls. His own attitude to "the fair" is unflinchingly put in one of the
most notable and best known passages of the poem (l. 7095 _sq._):

     When God made all creation, and devised their forms for his
     creatures, He distributed beauties and good qualities to
     each in proportion as He loved it. He loved ladies above all
     things, and therefore made for them the best qualities and
     beauties. Of mere earth made He everything [else] under
     Heaven: but the hearts of ladies He made of honey, and gave
     to them more courtesy than to any other living creature. And
     as God loves them, therefore I love them: hunger and thirst
     are nothing to me as regards them: and I cry "Quits" to Him
     for His Paradise if the bright faces of ladies enter not

It will be observed, of course, how like this is to the most famous
passage of _Aucassin et Nicolette_. It is less dreamily beautiful, but
there is a certain spirit and downrightness about it which is agreeable;
nor do I know anywhere a more forcible statement of the doctrine, often
held by no bad people, that beauty is a personal testimonial of the
Divinity--a scarcely parabolic command to love and admire its

If, however, our poet has something of that Romantic morality to which
Ascham--in a conjoined fit[63] of pedantry, prudery, and
Protestantism--gave such an ugly name, he may excuse it to less
strait-laced judges by other traits. Even the "retainer" of an editor
ought not to have induced M. Robert to say that Melior's original
surrender was "against her will," though she certainly did make a
protest of a kind.[64] But the enchanted and enchanting Empress's
constancy is inviolable. Even after she has been obliged to banish her
foolish lover, or rather after he has banished himself, she avows
herself his only. She will die, she says, before she takes another lord;
and for this reason objects for some time to the proposed tourney for
her hand, in which the already proven invincibility of the Count of
Blois makes him almost a certain victor, because it involves a
conditional consent to admit another mate. To her scrupulousness, a kind
of blunt common-sense, tempering the amiability of Urraca, is a pleasant
set-off, and the freshness of Persewis completes the effect.

Moreover, there are little bits of almost Chaucerian vividness and
terseness here and there, contrasting oddly with the _chevilles_--the
stock phrases and epithets--elsewhere. When the tourney actually comes
off and Partenopeus is supposed to be prisoner of a felon knight afar
off, the two sisters and Persewis take their places at the entrance of
the tower crossing the bridge at Melior's capital, "Chef d'Oire."[65]
Melior is labelled only "whom all the world loves and prizes," but
Urraca and her damsel "have their faces pale and discoloured--for they
have lost much of their beauty--so sorely have they wept Partenopeus."
On the contrary, when, at the close of the first day's tourney, the
usual "unknown knights" (in this case the Count of Blois himself and his
friend Gaudins) ride off triumphant, they "go joyfully to their hostel
with lifted lances, helmets on head, hauberks on back, and shields held
proudly as if to begin jousting."

    Bel i vinrent et bel s'en vont,

says King Corsols, one of the judges of the tourney, but not in the
least aware of their identity. This may occur elsewhere, but it is by no
means one of the commonplaces of Romance, and a well hit-off picture is
motived by a sharply cut phrase.[66]

It is this sudden enlivening of the commonplaces of Romance with vivid
picture and phrase which puts _Partenopeus_ high among its fellows. The
story is very simple, and the variation and multiplication of episodic
adventure unusually scanty; while the too common genealogical preface is
rather exceptionally superfluous. That the Count of Blois is the nephew
of Clovis can interest--outside of a peculiar class of antiquarian
commentator--no mortal; and the identification of "Chef-d'Oire,"
Melior's enchanted capital, with Constantinople, though likely enough,
is not much more important. Clovis and Byzantium (of which the
enchantress is Empress) were well-known names and suited the _abonné_ of
those times. The actual "argument" is of the slightest. One of Spenser's
curious doggerel common measures--say:

    A fairy queen grants bliss and troth
      On terms, unto the knight:
    His mother makes him break his oath,
      Her sister puts it right--

would almost do; the following prose abstract is practically exhaustive.

Partenopeus, Count of Blois, nephew of King Clovis of France, and
descendant of famous heroes of antiquity, including Hector, the most
beautiful and one of the most valiant of men, after displaying his
prowess in a war with the Saracen Sornagur, loses his way while hunting
in the Ardennes. He at last comes to the seashore, and finds a ship
which in fifteen days takes him to a strange country, where all is
beautiful but entirely solitary. He finds a magnificent palace, where he
is splendidly guested by unseen hands, and at last conducted to a
gorgeous bedchamber. In the dark he, not unnaturally, lies awake
speculating on the marvel; and after a time light footsteps approach the
bed, and a form, invisible but tangible, lies down beside him. He
touches it, and finds it warm and soft and smooth, and though it
protests a little, the natural consequences follow. Then the lady
confesses that she had heard of him, had (incognita) seen him at the
Court of France, and had, being a white witch as well as an Empress,
brought him to "Chef d'Oire," her capital, though she denies having
intentionally or knowingly arranged the shepherd's hour itself.[67] She
is, however, as frank as Juliet and Miranda combined. She will be his
wife (she makes a most interesting and accurate profession of Christian
orthodoxy) if he will marry her; but it is impossible for the remainder
of a period of which two and a half years have still to run, and at the
end of which, and not till then, she has promised her vassals to choose
a husband. Meanwhile, Partenopeus must submit to an ordeal not quite so
painful as hot ploughshares. He must never see her or attempt to see
her, and he must not, during his stay at Chef d'Oire, see or speak to
any other human being. At the same time, hunting, exploring the palace
and the city and the country, and all other pastimes independent of
visible human companionship, are freely at his disposal by day.

    Et moi aurès cascune nuit

says Melior, with the exquisite simplicity which is the charm of the
whole piece.

One must be very inquisitive, exceedingly virtuous (the mediaeval value
of consummated betrothal being reckoned), superfluously fond of the
company of one's miscellaneous fellow-creatures, and a person of very
bad taste[68] to boot, in order to decline the bargain. Partenopeus does
not dream of doing so, and for a whole year thinks of nothing but his
fairy love and her bounties to him. Then he remembers his uncle-king and
his country, and asks leave to visit them, but not with the faintest
intention of running away. Melior gives it with the same frankness and
kindness with which she has given herself--informing him, in fact, that
he _ought_ to go, for his uncle is dead and his country in danger. Only,
she reminds him of his pledges, and warns him of the misfortunes which
await his breach of them. He is then magically wafted back on ship-board
as he came.

He has, once more, no intention of playing the truant or traitor, and
does his duty bravely and successfully. But the new King has a niece and
the Count himself has a mother, who, motherlike, is convinced that her
son's mysterious love is a very bad person, if not an actual _maufès_ or
devil, and is very anxious that he shall marry the niece. She has
clerical and chemical resources to help her, and Partenopeus has
actually consented, in a fit of aberration, when, with one of the odd
Wemmick-like flashes of reflection,[69] not uncommon with knights, he
remembers Melior, and unceremoniously makes off to her. He confesses
(for he is a good creature though foolish) and is forgiven, Melior
being, though not in the least insipid or of a put-up-with-anything
disposition, full of "loving _mercy_" in every sense. But the situation
is bound to recur, and now, though the time of probation (probation very
much tempered!) is nearly over, the mother wins her way. Partenopeus is
deluded into accepting an enchanted lantern, which he tries on his
unsuspecting mistress at the first possible moment. What he sees, of
course, is only a very lovely woman--a woman in the condition best
fitted to show her loveliness--whom he has offended irreparably, and

Melior is no scold, but she is also no milksop. She will have nothing
more to do with him, for he has shamed her with her people (who now
appear), broken her magic power, and, above all, been false to her wish
and his word. The entreaties of her sister Urraca (whose gracious figure
is now elaborately introduced) are for the time useless, and Partenopeus
is only saved from the vengeance of the courtiers and the household by
Urraca's protection.[70]

To halt for a moment, the scene of the treason and discovery is another
of those singular vividnesses which distinguish this poem and story. The
long darkness suddenly flashing into light, and the startled Melior's
beauty framed in the splendour of the couch and the bedchamber--the
offender at once realising his folly and his crime, and dashing the
instrument of his treachery (useless, for all is daylight now, the charm
being counter-charmed) against the wall--the half-frightened,
half-curious Court ladies and Court servants thronging in--the
apparition of Urraca,--all this gives a picture of extraordinarily
dramatic power. It reminds one a little of Spenser's famous portrayal of
Britomart disturbed at night, and the comparison of the two brings out
all sorts of "excellent differences."

But to return to the story itself. Although the invariable
cut-and-driedness of romance incidents has been grossly exaggerated,
there is one situation which is almost always treated in the same way.
The knight who has, with or without his own fault, incurred the
displeasure of his mistress, "doth [_always_] to the green wood go," and
there, whether in complete sanity or not, lives for a time a half or
wholly savage life, discarding knightly and sometimes any other dress,
eating very little, and in considerable danger of being eaten himself.
Everybody, from Lancelot to Amadis, does it; and Partenopeus does it
too, but in his own way. Reaching Blois and utterly rejecting his
mother's attempts to excuse herself and console him, he drags out a
miserable time in continual penance and self-neglect, till at last,
availing himself of (and rather shabbily if piously tricking) a Saracen
page,[71] he succeeds in getting off incognito to the vague "Ardennes,"
where his sadly ended adventure had begun. These particular Ardennes
appear to be reachable by sea (on which they have a coast), and to
contain not only ordinary beasts of chase, not only wolves and bears,
but lions, tigers, wyverns, dragons, etc. A single unarmed man has
practically no chance there, and the Count determines to condemn himself
to the fate of the Roman arena. As a preliminary, he dismounts and turns
loose his horse, who is presently attacked by a lion and wounded, but
luckily gets a fair blow with his hoof between his enemy's eyes, and
kills him. Then comes another of the flashes (and something more) of the
piece. Stung by the pain of his wound and dripping with blood, the
animal dashes at full speed, and whinnying at the top of his powers, to
the seashore and along it. The passage is worth translating:

     He [_the horse after he has killed the lion_] lifts his
     tail, and takes to flight down a valley towards nightfall.
     Much he looks about him and much he whinnies. By night-time
     he has got out of the wood and has fled to the sea: but he
     will not stop there. He makes the pebbles fly as he gallops
     and never stops whinnying. Now the moon has mounted high in
     the heavens, all clear and bright and shining: there is not
     a dark cloud in all the sky, nor any movement on the sea:
     sweet and serene is the weather, and fair and clear and
     lightened up. And the palfrey whinnies so loudly that he can
     be heard far off at sea.

He _is_ heard at sea, for a ship is waiting there in the calm, and on
board that ship is Urraca, with a wise captain named Maruc and a stout
crew. The singularity of the event induces them to land (Maruc knows the
dangers of the region, but Urraca has no fears; the captain also knows
how to enchant the beasts), and the horse's bloodmarks guide them up the
valley. At last they come upon a miserable creature, in rags,
dishevelled, half-starved, and altogether unrecognisable. After a little
time, however, Urraca does recognise him, and, despite his forlorn and
repulsive condition, takes him in her arms.

    Si le descouvre un poi le vis.

Yet another of the uncommon "flashlight" sketches, where in two short
lines one sees the damsel as she has been described not so long before,
"tall and graceful, her fair hair (which, untressed, reached her feet
[now, no doubt, more suitably arranged]), with forehead broad and high,
and smooth; grey eyes, large and _seignorous_" (an admirable word for
eyes), "all her face one kiss"; one sees her with one arm round the
tottering wretch, and with the "long fingers" of her other white hand
clearing the matted hair from his visage till she can recognise him.

They take him on board, of course, though to induce him to go this
delightful creature has to give an account of her sister's feelings
(which, to put it mildly, anticipates the truth very considerably), and
also to cry over him a little.[72] She takes him to Saleuces,[73] an
island principality of her own, and there she and her maid-of-honour,
Persewis (see above), proceed to cocker and cosset him up exactly as one
imagines two such girls would do to "a dear, silly, nice, handsome
thing," as a favourite modern actress used to bring down the house by
saying, with a sort of shake, half of tears and half of laughter, in her
voice. Indeed the phrase fits Partenopeus precisely. We are told that
Urraca would have been formally in love with him if it had not been
unsportsgirl-like towards her sister; and as for Persewis, there is once
more a windfall in the description of the "butter-cup's" delight when
Urraca, going to see Melior, has to leave her alone with the Count. The
Princess is of course very sorry to go. "But Persewis would not have
minded if she had stayed forty days, or till August," and she "glories
greatly" when her rival departs. No mischief, however, comes of it; for
the child is "too young," as we are earnestly assured, and Partenopeus,
to do him justice, is both too much of a gentleman, and too dolefully in
earnest about recovering Melior, to dream of any.

Meanwhile, Urraca is most unselfishly doing her very best to reconcile
the lovers, not neglecting the employment of white fibs as before, and
occasionally indulging, not merely in satiric observation on poor
Melior's irresolution and conflict of feeling, but in decidedly sisterly
plainness of speech, reminding the Empress that after all she had
entrapped Partenopeus into loving her, and that he had, for two whole
years, devoted himself entirely to her love and its conditions. At last
a rather complicated and not always quite consistently told provisional
settlement is arrived at, carrying out, in a manner, the undertakings
referred to by Melior in her first interview with her lover. An immense
tourney for the hand of Melior is to be held, with a jury of kings to
judge it: and everybody, Christian or pagan, from emperor to vavasour is
invited to compete. But in case of no single victor, a kind of
"election" by what may be called the States of Byzantium--kings, dukes,
counts, and simple fief-holders--is to decide, and it seems sometimes
as if Melior retained something of a personal veto at last. Of the
incidents and episodes before this actually comes off, the most
noteworthy are a curious instance of the punctilio of chivalry (the
Count having once promised Melior that no one but herself shall gird on
his sword, makes a difficulty when Urraca and Persewis arm him), and a
misfortune by which he, rowing carelessly by himself, falls into the
power of a felon knight, Armans of Thenodon. This last incident,
however, though it alarms his two benefactresses, is not really unlucky.
For, in the first place, Armans is not at home, and his wife, falling a
victim, like every woman, to Partenopeus' extraordinary beauty, allows
him his parole; while the accident enables him to appear at the
tournament incognito--a practice always affected, if possible, by the
knights of romance, and in this case possessing some obvious and special

On his way he meets another knight, Gaudin le Blond, with whom he gladly
strikes up brotherhood-in-arms. The three days of the mellay are not
_very_ different from the innumerable similar scenes elsewhere, nor can
the author be said to be specially happy at this kind of business. But
any possible tedium is fairly relieved by the shrewd and sometimes
jovial remarks made by one of the judging kings, the before-quoted
Corsols--met by grumbles from another, Clarin, and by the fears and
interest of the three ladies, of whom the ever-faithful and shrewd
Urraca is the first to discover Partenopeus. He and Gaudin perform the
usual exploits and suffer the usual inconveniences, but at the end it is
still undecided whether the Count of Blois or the Soldan of Persia--a
good knight, though a pagan, and something of a braggart--deserves the
priceless prize of Melior's hand with the empire of Byzantium to boot.
The "election" follows, and after some doubt goes right, while Melior
now offers no objection. But the Soldan, in his _outrecuidance_, demands
single combat. He has, of course, no right to do this, and the Council
and the Empress object strongly. But Partenopeus will have no stain on
his honour; consents to the fight; deliberately refuses to take
advantage of the Soldan when he is unhorsed and pinned down by the
animal; assists him to get free; and only after an outrageous menace
from the Persian justifies his own claim to belong to the class of

    Who _always_ cleave their foe
        To the waist

--indeed excels them, by entirely bisecting the Soldan.

An episodic restoration of parole to the widow of Armans (who has
actually taken part in the tourney and been killed) should be noticed,
and the piece ends, or rather comes close to an end, with the marriages
which appropriately follow these well-deserved murders. Marriages--not a
marriage only--for King "Lohier" of France most sensibly insists on
espousing the delightful Urraca: and Persewis is consoled for the loss
of Partenopeus by the suit--refused at first and then granted, with the
obviously intense enjoyment of both processes likely in a novice--of his
brother-in-arms, to whom the "Emperor of Byzantium" abandons his own two
counties in France, adding a third in his new empire, and winning by
this generosity almost more popularity than by his prowess.

But, as was hinted, the story does not actually end. There is a great
deal about the festivities, and though the author says encouragingly
that he "will not devise much of breeches," he _does_--and of many other
garments. Indeed the last of his liveliest patches is a mischievous
picture of the Court ladies at their toilette: "Let me see that mirror;
make my head-dress higher; let me show my mouth more; drop the pleat
over the eyes;[74] alter my eyebrows," etc. etc. But beyond the washing
of hands before the feast, this French book that Crapelet printed
fourscore years ago goeth not. Perhaps it was a mere accident; perhaps
the writer had a shrewd notion that whatever he wrote would seem but
stale in its reminder of the night when Partenopeus lay awake, and
seemingly alone, in the enchanted palace--now merely an ordinary place
of splendour and festivity--and when something came to the bed, "step by
step, little by little," and laid itself beside him.

Such are the contents and such some of the special traits and features
of one of the most famous of those romances of chivalry, the reading of
which with anything like the same interest as that taken in Homer,
seemed to the Reverend Professor Hugh Blair to be the most suitable
instance he could hit upon of a total lack of taste. This is a point, of
course, on which each age, and each reader in each age, must judge for
itself and himself. I think the author of the _Odyssey_ (the _Iliad_
comes rather in competition with the chansons than with these romances)
was a better poet than the author of _Partenopeus_, and I also think
that he was a better story-teller; but I do not think that the latter
was a bad story-teller; and I can read him with plenty of interest. So I
can most of his fellows, no one of whom, I think, ever quite approaches
the insipidity of their worst English imitators. The knights do not
weary me with their exploits, and I confess that I am hyperbolical
enough to like reading and thinking as well as talking of the ladies
very much. They are of various sorts; but they are generally lovable.
There is no better for affection and faithfulness and pluck than the
Josiane of _Bevis_, whose husband and her at one time faithful guardian,
but at another would-be ravisher, Ascapart, guard a certain gate not
more than a furlong or two from where I am writing. It is good to think
of the (to some extent justified) indignation of l'Orgueilleuse d'Amours
when Sir Blancandin rides up and audaciously kisses her in the midst of
her train; and the companion picture of the tomb where Idoine apparently
sleeps in death (while her true knight Amadas fights with a ghostly foe
above) makes a fitting pendant. If her near namesake with an L prefixed,
the Lidoine of _Méraugis de Portlesguez_, interests me less, it is
because its author, Raoul de Houdenc, was one of the first to mix love
and moral allegory--a "wanity" which is not my favourite "wanity." To
the Alexandrine of _Guillaume de Palerne_ reference has already been
made. Blanchefleur--known all over Europe with her lover Floire (Floris,
etc.)--the Saracen slave who charms a Christian prince, and is rescued
by him from the Emir of Babylon, to whom she has been sold in hopes of
weaning Floris from his attachment, more than deserved her vogue. But,
as in the case of the _chansons_, mere cataloguing would be dull and
unprofitable, and analysis on the scale accorded to _Partenopeus_
impossible. One must only take up once more the note of this whole early
part of our history, and impress again on the reader the evident
_desire_ for the accomplished novel which these numerous romances show;
the inevitable _practice_, in tale-telling of a kind, which the
production of them might have given; and, above all, the openings,
germs, suggestions of new devices in fiction which are observable in
them, and which remained for others to develop if the first finders left
them unimproved.


[58] That is, of nothing like the length of the latest forms of the
_Chansons de Geste_ or the Arthurian Romances proper. Some of the late
fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Adventure stories, before they dropped
into prose, are indeed long enough, and a great deal too long; but they
show degeneracy.

[59] The _h_ (Part_h_-) does occur in both forms, and there are other
variation, as "Part_o_nopeus," etc. But these are trifles.

[60] Taking honour to the mother as separate from that to the father.

[61] The Spanish-English form is perhaps the prettier. I am sorry to say
that the poet, to get a rhyme, sometimes spells it "Urra_cle_," which is
_not_ pretty. Southey's "Queen _O_rraca" seems to me to have changed her
vowel to disadvantage.

[62] The original author of the _Court of Love_, whether Chaucer or
another, pretty certainly knew it; and Spenser spiritualised the
doctrine itself in the _Four Hymns_.

[63] I think the medical people (borrowing, as Science so often does,
the language which she would fain banish from human knowledge) call this
sort of thing _a syndrome_.

[64] See below on Urraca's plain speaking.

[65] Not too commentatorially identified with Constantinople.

[66] It may be worth noting that in this context appears the original
form of an English word quite common recently, but almost unknown a very
short time ago--"grouse" in the sense of "complain," "grumble": "Ce dist
Corsols et nul n'en _grouce_."

[67] No one will be rude enough to disbelieve her, and, as will be seen,
her supernatural powers had limits; but it was odd, though fortunate,
that they should have broken down exactly at this important juncture.
Who made those rebellious candles take him to that chamber and couch,
unknown to her?

[68] For Melior, though of invisible beauty, is represented as
delightful in every other way, as wise and witty and gracious in speech
as becomes a white witch. And when her lover on one occasion thanks her
for her _sermon_, there is no satire; he only means _sermo_.

[69] Like Guy of Warwick; still more like Mr. Jaggers's clerk, though
the circumstances are reversed. _He_ almost says in so many words,
"Hullo! here's an engagement ring on my finger. We _can't_ have a

[70] The author, _more suo_, intimates that the Court _ladies_ by no
means shared these hostile feelings, and would have willingly been in
Melior's place.

[71] He induces him to turn Christian on the supposition of being his
companion; and then gives him the slip. The neophyte's expressions on
the occasion are not wholly edifying.

[72] The good palfrey is found and in a state to carry his master, who
is quite unable to walk. One hopes they did not leave the beast to the
lions, tigers, wyverns, etc., for he could hardly hope for such a
literal "stroke of luck" again.

[73] The name will suggest, to those who have some wine-lore, no less a
vintage than Château Yquem. Nothing could be better for a person in the
Count's condition as a restorative.

[74] These two directions obviously refer to the common mediaeval
"wimple" arrangement.



[Sidenote: Prose novelettes of the thirteenth century. _Aucassin et
Nicolette_ not quite typical.]

The title of this chapter may seem an oversight or an impertinence,
considering that large parts of an earlier one have been occupied with
discussions and translations of the prose Arthurian Romances. It was,
however, expressly pointed out that the priority of these is a matter of
opinion, not of judgment; and it may be here quite frankly admitted that
one of the most serious arguments against that priority is the extreme
lateness of Old French Prose in any finished literary form. The excuse,
however, if excuse be needed, does not turn on any such hinge as this.
It was desired to treat, in the last two chapters, romance matter proper
of the larger kind, whether that matter took the form of prose or of
verse. Here, on the other hand, the object is to deal with the smaller
but more miscellaneous body of fictitious matter (part, no doubt, of a
larger) which presents it tolerably early, and in character foretells
the immense development of the kind which French was to see later.[75] A
portion of this body, sufficient for us, is contained in two little
volumes of the _Bibliothèque Elzévirienne_, published rather less than
sixty years ago (1856 and 1858) by MM. L. Moland and Ch. d'Héricault,
the first devoted to thirteenth-, the second to fourteenth-century work.
One of these, the now world-famous _Aucassin et Nicolette_, has been so
much written about and so often translated already that it cannot be
necessary to say a great deal about it here. It is, moreover, of a mixed
kind, a _cante-fable_ or blend of prose and verse, with a considerable
touch of the dramatic in it. Its extraordinary charm is a thing long ago
settled; but it is, on the whole, more of a dramatic and lyrical
romance--to recouple or releash kinds which Mr. Browning had perhaps
best never have put asunder--than of a pure prose tale.

[Sidenote: _L'Empereur Constant_ more so.]

Its companions in the thirteenth-century volume are four in number, and
if none of them has the peculiar charm, so none has the technical
disqualification (if that be not too strong a word) of _Aucassin et
Nicolette_. The first, shortest, and, save for one or two points, least
remarkable, _L'Empereur Constant_, is a very much abbreviated and in
more than one sense prosaic version of the story out of which Mr.
William Morris made his delightful _The Man Born to be King_. Probably
of Greek or Greek-Eastern origin, it begins with an astrological passage
in which the Emperor, childless except for a girl, becomes informed of
the imminent birth of a man-child, who shall marry his daughter and
succeed him. He discovers the, as it seems, luckless baby; has it
brought to him, and with his own hand attempts to disembowel it, but
allows himself, most improbably,[76] to be dissuaded from finishing the
operation. The benevolent knight who has prevented the completion of the
crime takes the infant to a monastery, where (after a quaint scene of
haggling about fees with the surgeon) the victim is patched up, grows to
be a fine youth, and comes across the Emperor, to whom the abbot
guilelessly, but in this case naturally enough,[77] betrays the secret.
The Emperor's murderous thoughts as naturally revive, and the
frustration of them by means of the Princess's falling in love with the
youth, the changing of "the letters of Bellerophon," and the Emperor's
resignation to the inevitable, follow the same course as in the English
poem. The latter part is better than the earlier; and the writer is
evidently (as how should he not be?) a novice; but his work is the kind
of experiment from which better things will come.

[Sidenote: _Le Roi Flore et la Belle Jehane._]

These marks of the novice are even more noticeable in a much longer
story, _Le Roi Flore et la Belle Jehane_, which is found not only in the
same printed volume, but in the same original MS. The fault of this is
curious, and--if not to a mere reader for pastime, to a student of
fiction--extremely interesting. It is one not at all unknown at the
present day, and capable of being used as an argument in favour of the
doctrine of the Unities: that is to say, the mixture, by arbitrary and
violent process, of two stories which have nothing whatever to do with
each other, except that they are, wilfully and with no reason, buckled
together at the end. The first, thin and uninteresting enough, is of a
certain King Florus, who has a wife, dearly beloved, but barren. After
some years and some very unmanly shilly-shallyings, he puts her away,
and marries another, with whom (one is feebly glad to find) he is no
more lucky, but who has herself the luck to die after some years.
Meanwhile, King Florus being left "in a cool barge for future use," the
second item, a really interesting story, is, with some intervals,
carried on. A Count of high rank and great possessions has an only
daughter, whom, after experience of the valour and general worthiness of
one of his vassals of no great "having," he bestows on this knight,
Robert, the pair being really in love with each other. But another
vassal knight of greater wealth, Raoul, plots with one of the wicked old
women who abound in these stories, and engages Robert in a rash wager of
all his possessions, that during one of those pilgrimages to "St.
James," which come in so handy, and are generally so unreasonable, he
will dishonour the lady. He fails, but, in a manner not distantly
related to the Imogen-Iachimo scene, acquires what seems to be damning
acquaintance with the young Countess's person-marks. Robert and Jehane
are actually married; but the felon knight immediately afterwards brings
his charge, and Robert pays his debt, and flies, a ruined man, from, as
he thinks, his faithless wife, though he takes no vengeance on her.
Jehane disguises herself as a man, joins him on his journey, supports
him with her own means for a time, and enters into partnership with him
in merchandise at Marseilles, he remaining ignorant of her sex and
relation to him. At last things come right: the felon knight is forced
in single combat (a long and good one) to acknowledge his lie and give
up his plunder, and the excellent but somewhat obtuse Robert recovers
his wife as well. A good end if ever there was one, and not a badly told
tale in parts. But, from some utterly mistaken idea of craftsmanship,
the teller must needs kill Robert for no earthly reason, except in order
that Jehane may become the third wife of Florus and bear him children. A
more disastrous "sixth act" has seldom been imagined; for most readers
will have forgotten all about Florus, who has had neither art nor part
in the main story; few can care whether the King has children or not;
and still fewer can be other than disgusted at the notion of Jehane,
brave, loving, and clever, being, as a widow, made a mere child-bearing
machine to an oldish and rather contemptible second husband. But, once
more, the mistake is interesting, and is probably the first example of
that fatal error of not knowing when to leave off, which is even worse
than the commoner one (to be found in some great artists) of "huddling
up the story." The only thing to be said in excuse is that you could cut
his majesty Florus out of the title and tale at once without even the
slightest difficulty, and with no need to mend or meddle in any other

The remaining stories of the thirteenth-century volume are curiously
contrasted. One is a short prose version of that exquisite _chanson de
geste_, _Amis et Amiles_, of which it has been said above that any one
who cannot "taste" it need never hope to understand mediaeval
literature. The full beauty of the verse story does not appear in the
prose; but some does.

[Sidenote: _Le Comtesse de Ponthieu._]

Of the other, the so-called "Comtesse de Ponthieu" (though she is not
really this, being only the Count's daughter and the wife of a vassal),
I thought rather badly when I first read it thirty or forty years ago,
and till the present occasion I have never read it since. Now I think
better of it, especially as a story suggestive in story-telling art. The
original stumbling-block, which I still see, though I can get over or
round it better now, was, I think, the character of the heroine, who
inherits not merely the tendency to play fast and loose with successive
husbands, which is observable in both _chanson_ and _roman_ heroines,
but something of the very unlovely savagery which is also sometimes
characteristic of them; while the hero also is put in "unpleasant"
circumstances. He is a gentleman and a good knight, and though only a
vassal of the Count of Ponthieu, he, as has been said, marries the
Count's daughter, entirely to her and her father's satisfaction. But
they are childless, and the inevitable "monseigneur Saint _Jakeme_" (St.
James of Compostella) suggests himself for pilgrimage. Thiebault, the
knight, obtains leave from his lady to go, and she, by a device not
unprettily told, gets from him leave to go too. Unfortunately and
unwisely they send their suite on one morning, and ride alone through a
forest, where they are set upon by eight banditti. Thiebault fights
these odds without flinching, and actually kills three, but is
overpowered by sheer numbers. They do not kill him, but bind and toss
him into a thicket, after which they take vengeance of outrage on the
lady and depart, fearing the return of the meyney. Thiebault feels that
his unhappy wife is guiltless, but unluckily does not assure her of
this, merely asking her to deliver him. So she, seeing a sword of one
of the slain robbers, picks it up, and, "full of great ire and evil
will," cries, "I will deliver you, sir," and, instead of cutting his
bonds, tries to run him through. But she only grazes him, and actually
cuts the thongs, so that he shakes himself free, starts up, and wrests
the sword from her with the simple words, "Lady, it is not to-day that
you will kill me." To which she replies, "And right sorry I am
therefor."[78] Their followers come up; the pair are clothed and set out
again on their journey. But Thiebault, though treating his wife with the
greatest attention, leaves her at a monastery, accomplishes his
pilgrimage alone, and on his return escorts her to Ponthieu as if
nothing had happened. Still--though no one knows this or indeed anything
about her actual misfortune and intended crime--he does not live with
her as his wife. After a time the Count, who is, as another story has
it, a "_h_arbitrary" Count, insists that Thiebault shall tell him some
incident of his voyage, and the husband (here is the weak point of the
whole) recounts the actual adventure, though not as of himself and his
lady. The Count will not stand ambiguity, and at last extorts the truth,
which the lady confirms, repeating her sorrow that she had _not_ slain
her husband. Now the Count is, as has been said, an arbitrary Count, and
one day, his county having, as our Harold knew to his cost, a sea-coast
to it, somewhat less disputable than those of Bohemia and the Ardennes,
embarks, with only his daughter, son-in-law, son, and a few retainers,
taking with him a nice new cask. Into this, despite the prayers of her
husband and brother, he puts the lady, and flings it overboard. She is
picked up half-suffocated by mariners, who carry her to "Aymarie" and
sell her to the Sultan. She is very beautiful, and the Sultan promptly
proposes conversion and marriage. She makes no difficulty, bears him two
children, and is apparently quite happy. But meanwhile the Count of
Ponthieu begins--his son and son-in-law have never ceased--to feel that
he has exercised the paternal rights rather harshly; the Archbishop of
Rheims very properly confirms his ideas on this point, and all three go
_outremer_ on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. They are captured by the
Saracens of Aymarie, imprisoned, starved, and finally in immediate
danger of being shot to death as an amusement for the Sultan's
bodyguard. But the Sultaness has found out who they are, visits them in
prison, and "reconciliations and forgivenesses of injuries" follow.

After this, things go in an easily guessable manner. The
Countess-Sultana beguiles her easy-going lord into granting her the
lives of the prisoners one after another, for which she rewards him by
carrying them off, with her son by the second marriage, to Italy, where
the boy is baptized. "The Apostle" (as the Pope is usually called in
Romance), by a rather extensive exercise of his Apostleship, gives
everybody absolution, confirms the original marriage of Thiebault and
the lady who had been so obstinately sorry that she had not killed him,
and who had suffered the paynim spousals so easily; and all goes
merrily. There is a postscript which tells how the daughter of the
Sultan and the Countess, who is termed _La Bele Caitive_, captivates and
marries a Turk of great rank, and becomes the mother of no less a person
than the great Saladin himself--a consummation no doubt very
satisfactory to the Miss Martha Buskbodies of the mediaeval world.

Now this story might seem to one who read it hastily, carelessly, or as
"not in the vein," to be partly extravagant, partly disagreeable, and,
despite its generous allowance of incident, rather dull, especially if
contrasted with its next neighbour in the printed volume, _Aucassin et
Nicolette_ itself. I am afraid there may have been some of these
uncritical conditions about my own first reading. But a little study
shows some remarkable points in it, though the original writer has not
known how to manage them. The central and most startling one--the
attempt of the Countess to murder her husband--is, when you think of it,
not at all unnatural. The lady is half mad with her shame; the witness,
victim, and, as she thinks, probable avenger of that shame is helpless
before her, and in his first words at any rate seems to think merely of
himself and not of her. Whether this violent outburst of feeling was not
likely to result in as violent a revulsion of tenderness is rather a
psychological probability than artistically certain. And Thiebault,
though an excellent fellow, is a clumsy one. His actual behaviour is
somewhat of that "killing-with-kindness" order which exasperates when it
does not itself kill or actually reconcile; and, whether out of delicacy
or not, he does not give his wife the only proof that he acknowledges
the involuntariness of her actual misfortune, and forgives the
voluntariness of her intended crime. His telling the story is
inexcusable: and neither his preference of his allegiance as a vassal to
his duty as knight, lover, and husband in the case of the Count's
cruelty, nor his final acceptance of so many and such peculiar bygones
can be called very pretty. But there are possibilities in the story, if
they are not exactly made into good gifts.

[Sidenote: Those of the fourteenth. _Asseneth._]

The contents of the fourteenth-century volume are, with one exception,
much less interesting in themselves; but from the point of view of the
present enquiry they hardly yield to their predecessors. They are three
in number: _Asseneth_, _Foulques Fitzwarin_, and _Troilus_. The first,
which is very short, is an account of Joseph's courtship of his future
wife, in which entirely guiltless proceeding he behaves at first very
much as if the daughter of Potipherah were fruit as much forbidden as
the wife of Potiphar. For on her being proposed to him (he has come to
her father, splendidly dressed and brilliantly handsome, on a mission
from Pharaoh) he at first replies that he will love her as his sister.
This, considering the Jewish habit of exchanging the names, might not be
ominous. But when the damsel, at her father's bidding, offers to kiss
him, Joseph puts his hand on her chest and pushes her back, accompanying
the action with words (even more insulting in detail than in substance)
to the effect that it is not for God-fearing man to kiss an idolatress.
(At this point one would rather like to kick Joseph.) However, when,
naturally enough, she cries with vexation, the irreproachable but most
unlikable patriarch condescends to pat her on the head and bless her.
This she takes humbly and thankfully; deplores his absence, for he is
compelled to return to his master; renounces her gods; is consoled by an
angel, who feeds her with a miraculous honeycomb possessing a sort of
sacramental force, and announces her marriage to Joseph, which takes
place almost immediately.

It will be at once seen, by those who know something of the matter, that
this is entirely in the style of large portions of the Graal romances;
and so it gives us a fresh and interesting division of the new short
prose tale, allying itself to some extent with the allegory which was to
be so fruitful both in verse and in prose. It is not particularly
attractive in substance; but is not badly told, and would have made
(what it was very likely used as) a good sermon-story.

[Sidenote: _Troilus._]

As _Asseneth_, the first of the three, is by far the shortest, so
_Troilus_, the last, is by far the longest. It is, in fact, nearly
twenty times the length of the history of Joseph's pious impoliteness,
and makes up something like two-thirds of the whole collection. But,
except as a variant of one of the famous stories of the world (_v. sup._
Chap. IV.), it has little interest, and is not even directly taken from
Benoît de Sainte-Maure, but from Guido delle Colonne and Boccaccio, of
whose _Filostrato_ it is, in fact, a mere translation, made apparently
by a known person of high station, Pierre de Beauvau, one of the chief
nobles of Anjou, at the close of the fourteenth and the beginning of the
fifteenth century. It thus brings itself into direct connection with
Chaucer's poem, and has some small importance for literary history
generally. But it has not much for us. It was not Boccaccio's verse but
his prose that was really to influence the French Novel.

[Sidenote: _Foulques Fitzwarin._]

With the middle piece of the volume, _Foulques Fitzwarin_, it is very
different. It is true that the present writer was once "smitten
friendly" by a disciple of the modern severe historical school, who
declared that the adventures of Fitzwarin, though of course adulterated,
were an important historical document, and nothing so frivolous as a
novel. One has, however, a reed-like faculty of getting up again from
such smitings: and for my part I do not hesitate once more to call
_Foulques Fitzwarin_ the first historical prose novel in modern
literature. French in language, as we have it, it is thoroughly English
in subject, and, beyond all doubt, in the original place of composition,
while there is no reason to doubt the assertion that there were older
verse-renderings of the story both in English and French. In fact, they
may turn up yet. But the thing as it stands is a very desirable and even
delectable thing, and well deserved its actual publication, not merely
in the French collection, of which we are speaking, but in the papers of
the too short-lived English Warton Club.

For it is not only our first historical novel, but also the first, as
far as England is concerned, of those outlaw stories which have always
delighted worthy English youth from _Robin Hood_ to _The Black Arrow_.
The Fitzwarins, as concerns their personalities and genealogies, may be
surrendered without a pang to the historian, though he shall not have
the marrow of the story. They never seem to have been quite happy except
when they were in a state of "utlagation," and it was not only John
against whom they rebelled, for one of them died on the Barons' side at

The compiler, whoever he was--it has been said already and cannot be
said too often, that every recompiler in the Middle Ages felt it (like
the man in that "foolish" writer, as some call him, Plato) a sacred duty
to add something to the common stock,--was not exactly a master of his
craft, but certainly showed admirable zeal. There never was a more
curious _macédoine_ than this story. Part of it is, beyond all doubt,
traditional history, with place-names all right, though distorted by
that curious inability to transpronounce or trans-spell which made the
French of the thirteenth century call Lincoln "Nicole," and their
descendants of the seventeenth call Kensington "Stintinton." Part is
mere stock or common-form Romance, as when Foulques goes to sea and has
adventures with the usual dragons and their usual captive princesses.
Part, though not quite dependent on the general stock, is indebted to
that of a particular kind, as in the repeated catching of the King by
the outlaws. But it is all more or less good reading; and there are two
episodes in the earlier part which (one of them especially) merit more
detailed account.

The first still has something of a general character about it. It is the
story of a certain Payn Peveril (for we meet many familiar names), who
seems to have been a real person though wrongly dated here, and has one
of those nocturnal combats with demon knights, the best known examples
of which are those recounted in _Marmion_ and its notes. Peveril's
antagonist, however--or rather the mask which the antagonist
takes,--connects with the oldest legendary history of the island, for he
reanimates the body of Gogmagog, the famous Cornish giant, whom Corineus
slew. The diabolic Gogmagog, however, seems neither to have stayed in
Cornwall nor gone to Cambridgeshire, though (oddly enough the French
editors do not seem to have noticed this) Payn Peveril actually held
fiefs in the neighbourhood of those exalted mountains called now by the
name of his foe. He had a hard fight; but luckily his arms were _or_
with a cross _édentée azure_, and this cross constantly turned the
giant-devil's mace-strokes, while it also weakened him, and he had
besides to bear the strokes of Peveril's sword. So he gave in, remarking
with as much truth as King Padella in similar circumstances, that it was
no good fighting under these conditions. Then he tells a story of some
length about the original Gogmagog and his treasure. The secret of this
he will not reveal, but tells Peveril that he will be lord of
Blanche-lande in Shropshire, and vanishes with the usual unpleasant
accompaniment--_tiel pueur dont Payn quida devier_. He left his mace,
which the knight kept as a testimony to anybody who did not believe the

This is not bad; but the other, which is either true or extraordinarily
well invented, is far finer, and, with some omissions, must be analysed
and partly translated. Those who know the singular beauty of Ludlow Town
and Castle will be able to "stage" it to advantage, but this is not
absolutely necessary to its appreciation as a story.

The Peverils have died out by this time, and the honour and lands have
gone by marriage to Guarin of Metz, whose son, Foulques Fitzguarin or
Warin, starts the subjects of the general story. When the first Foulkes
is eighteen, there is war between Sir Joce of Dinan (the name then given
to Ludlow) and the Lacies. In one of their skirmishes Sir Walter de Lacy
is wounded and captured, with a young knight of his party, Sir Ernault
de Lyls. They have courteous treatment in Ludlow Castle, and Ernault
makes love to Marion de la Brière, a most gentle damsel, who is the
chief maid of the lady of the castle, and as such, of course, herself a
lady. He promises her marriage, and she provides him and his chief with
means of escape. Whether Lisle (as his name probably was) had at this
time any treacherous intentions is not said or hinted. But Lacy,
naturally enough, resents his defeat, and watches for an opportunity of
_revanche_; while Sir Joce[lyn], on the other hand, takes his prisoners'
escape philosophically, and does not seem to make any enquiry into its
cause. At first Lacy thinks of bringing over his Irish vassals to aid
him; but his English neighbours not unnaturally regard this step with
dislike, and a sort of peace is made between the enemies. A match is
arranged between Sir Joce's daughter Hawyse and Foulques Fitzwarin. Joce
then quits Ludlow for a time, leaving, however, a strong garrison there.
Marion, who feigns illness, is also left. And now begins the tragic and
striking part of the story.

     The next day after Joce had gone, Marion sent a message to
     Sir Ernault de Lyls, begging him, for the great love that
     there was between them, not to forget the pledges they had
     exchanged, but to come quickly to speak with her at the
     castle of Dinan, because the lord and the lady and the bulk
     of the servants had gone to Hertilande--also to come to the
     same place by which he had left the castle. [_He replies
     asking her to send him the exact height of the wall (which
     she unsuspiciously does by the usual means of a silk thread)
     and also the number of the household left. Then he seeks his
     chief, and tells him, with a mixture of some truth, that the
     object of the Hertilande journey is to gather strength
     against Lacy, capture his castle of Ewyas, and kill
     himself--intelligence which he falsely attributes to Marion.
     He has, of course, little difficulty in persuading Lacy to
     take the initiative. Sir Ernault is entrusted with a
     considerable mixed force, and comes by night to the
     castle._] The night was very dark, so that no sentinel saw
     them. Sir Ernault took a squire to carry the ladder of hide,
     and they went to the window where Marion was waiting for
     them. And when she saw them, never was any so joyful: so she
     dropped a cord right down and drew up the hide ladder and
     fastened it to a battlement. Then Ernault lightly scaled the
     tower, and took his love in his arms and kissed her: and
     they made great joy of each other and went into another room
     and supped, and then went to their couch, and left the
     ladder hanging.

     But the squire who had carried it went to the forces hidden
     in the garden and elsewhere, and took them to the ladder.
     And one hundred men, well armed, mounted by it and descended
     by the Pendover tower and went by the wall behind the
     chapel, and found the sentinel too heavy with sleep to
     defend himself: and the knights and the sergeants were cut
     to pieces crying for mercy in their beds. But Sir Ernault's
     companions were pitiless, and many a white sheet was dyed
     red with blood. And at last they tossed the watchman into
     the deep fosse and broke his neck.

     Now Marion de la Brière lay by her lover Sir Ernault and
     knew nothing of the treason he had done. But she heard a
     great noise in the castle and rose from her bed, and looked
     out and heard more clearly the cry of the massacred, and saw
     knights in white armour. Wherefore she understood that Sir
     Ernault had deceived and betrayed her, and began to weep
     bitterly and said, "Ah! that I was ever of mother born: for
     that by my crime I have lost my lord Sir Joce, who bred me
     so gently, his castle, and his good folk. Had I not been,
     nothing had been lost. Alas! that I ever believed this
     knight! for by his lies he has ruined me, and what is worse,
     my lord too." Then, all weeping, she drew Sir Ernault's
     sword and said, "Sir knight! awake, for you have brought
     strange company into my lord's castle without his leave. I
     brought in only you and your squire. And since you have
     deceived me you cannot rightly blame me if I give you your
     deserts--at least you shall never boast to any other
     mistress that by deceiving me you conquered the castle and
     the land of Dinan!" The knight started up, but Marion, with
     the sword she held drawn, ran him straight through the body,
     and he died at once. She herself, knowing that if she were
     taken, ill were the death she should die, and knowing not
     what to do, let herself fall from a window and broke her

Now this, I venture to think, is not an ordinary story. Tales of
treachery, onslaught, massacre, are not rare in the Middle Ages, nor
need we go as far as the Middle Ages for them. But the almost heroic
insouciance with which the traitor knight forgets everything except his
immediate enjoyment, and, provided he has his mistress at his will,
concerns himself not in the slightest degree as to what becomes of his
companions, is not an every-day touch. Nor is the strong contrast of the
chambers of feast and dalliance--undisturbed, voluptuous,
terrestrial-paradisaic--with "the horror and the hell" in the courts
below. Nor, last of all, the picture of the more than half innocent
Marion, night-garbed or ungarbed, but with sword drawn, first hanging
over her slumbering betrayer, then dealing the stroke of vengeance, and
then falling--white against the dark towers and the darker ravines at
their base--to her self-doomed judgment.

[Sidenote: Something on these,]

Even more, however, than in individual points of interest or excitement,
the general survey of these two volumes gives matter for thought on our
subject. Here are some half-dozen stories or a little more. It is not
much, some one may say, for the produce of two hundred years. But what
it lacks in volume (and that will be soon made up in French, while it is
to be remembered that we have practically nothing to match it in
English) it makes up in variety. The peculiarity, some would say the
defect, of mediaeval literature--its sheep-like tendency to go in
flocks--is quite absent. Not more than two of the eight, _Le Roi Flore_
and _La Comtesse de Ponthieu_, can be said to be of the same class,
even giving the word class a fairly elastic sense. They are short prose
_Romans d'aventures_. But _Asseneth_ is a mystical allegory; _Aucassin
et Nicolette_ is a sort of idyll, almost a lyric, in which the adventure
is entirely subordinated to the emotional and poetical interest;
_L'Empereur Constant_, though with something of the _Roman d'aventures_
in it, has a tendency towards a _moralitas_ ("there is no armour against
fate") which never appears in the pure adventurous kind; _Troilus_ is an
abridgment of a classical romance; and _Foulques Fitzwarin_ is, as has
been said, an embryonic historical novel. Most, if not all, moreover,
give openings for, and one or two even proceed into, character- and even
"problem"-writing of the most advanced novel kind. In one or two also,
no doubt, that aggression and encroachment of allegory (which is one of
the chief notes of these two centuries) makes itself felt, though not to
the extent which we shall notice in the next chapter. But almost
everywhere a strong _nisus_ towards actual tale-telling and the rapid
acquisition of proper "plant" for such telling, become evident. In
particular, conversation--a thing difficult to bring anyhow into
verse-narrative, and impossible there to keep up satisfactorily in
various moods--begins to find its way. We may turn, in the next chapter,
to matter mostly or wholly in verse forms. But prose fiction is started
all the same.

[Sidenote: And on the short story generally.]

Before we do so, however, it may not be improper to point out that the
short story undoubtedly holds--of itself--a peculiar and almost
prerogative place in the history and morphology or the novel. After a
long and rather unintelligible unpopularity in English--it never
suffered in this way in French--it has been, according to the way of the
world, a little over-exalted of late perhaps. It is undoubtedly a very
difficult thing to do well, and it would be absurd to pretend that any
of the foregoing examples is done thoroughly well. The Italian _novella_
had to come and show the way.[79] But the short story, even of the
rudimentary sort which we have been considering, cannot help being a
powerful schoolmaster to bring folk to good practice in the larger kind.
The faults and the merits of that kind, as such, appear in it after a
fashion which can hardly fail to be instructive and suggestive. The
faults so frequently charged against that "dear defunct" in our own
tongue, the three-volume novel--the faults of long-windedness, of otiose
padding, of unnecessary episodes, etc., are almost mechanically or
mathematically impossible in the _nouvelle_. The long book provides
pastime in its literal sense, and if it is not obvious in the other the
accustomed reader, unless outraged by some extraordinary dulness or
silences, goes on, partly like the Pickwickian horse because he can't
well help it, and partly because he hopes that something _may_ turn up.
In the case of the short he sees almost at once whether it is going to
have any interest, and if there is none such apparent he throws it

Moreover, as in almost every other case, the shortness is appropriate to
_exercise_; while the prose form does not encourage those terrible
_chevilles_--repetitions of stock adjective and substantive and verb and
phrase generally--which are so common in verse, and especially in
octosyllabic verse. It is therefore in many ways healthy, and the space
allotted to these early examples of it will not, it is hoped, seem to
any impartial reader excessive.


[75] The position of "origin" assigned already to the sacred matter of
the Saint's Life may perhaps be continued here as regards the Sermon. It
was, as ought to be pretty generally known, the not ungenial habit of
the mediaeval preacher to tell stories freely. We have them in Ælfric's
and other English homilies long before there was any regular French
prose; and we have, later, large and numerous collections of
them--compiled more or less expressly for the use of the clergy--in
Latin, English, and French. The Latin story is, in fact, very
wide-ranging and sometimes quite of the novel (at least _nouvelle_)
kind, as any one may see in Wright's _Latin Stories_, Percy Society,

[76] This is one, and one of the most glaring, of the _bêtises_ which at
some times have been urged against Romance at large. They are not, as a
matter of fact, very frequent; but their occurrence certainly does show
the essentially uncritical character of the time.

[77] For of course the knight did not tell the _whole_ story.

[78] _I.e._ not sorry for having tried to kill him, but sorry that she
had not done so.

[79] In _prose_. For the very important part played by the home verse
_fabliaux_ see next chapter.



[Sidenote: The connection with prose fiction of allegory.]

It was shown in the last chapter that fiction, and even prose fiction,
of very varied character began to develop itself in French during the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. By the fifteenth the development
was very much greater, and the "disrhyming" of romances, the beginnings
of which were very early, came to be a regular, not an occasional,
process; while, by its latter part, verse had become not the usual, but
the exceptional vehicle of romance, and prose romances of enormous
length were popular. But earlier there had still been some obstacles in
the way of the prose novel proper. It was the period of the rise and
reign of Allegory, and France, preceptress of almost all Europe in most
literary kinds, proved herself such in this with the unparalleled
example of the _Roman de la Rose_. But the _Roman de la Rose_ was itself
in verse--the earlier part of it at least in real poetry--and most of
its innumerable imitations were in verse likewise. Moreover, though
France again had been the first to receive and to turn to use the riches
of Eastern apologue, the most famous example of which is _The Seven Wise
Masters_, these rather serious matters do not seem to have especially
commended themselves to the French people. The place of composition of
the most famous of all, the _Gesta Romanorum_, has been fairly settled
to be England, though the original language of composition is not likely
to have been other than Latin. At any rate, the style of serious
allegory, in prose which should also be literature, never really caught
hold of the French taste.

Comic tale-telling, on the other hand, was germane to the very soul of
the race, and had shown itself in _chanson_ and _roman_ episodes at a
very early date. But it had been so abundantly, and in so popular a
manner, associated with verse as a vehicle in those pieces, in the great
beast-epic of _Renart_, and above all in the _fabliaux_ and in the
earliest farces, that the connection was hard to separate. None of the
stories discussed in the last chapter has, it may be noticed, the least
comic touch or turn.

[Sidenote: And of the _fabliaux_.]

As we go on we must disengage ourselves more and more (though with
occasional returns to it) from attention to verse; and the two great
compositions in that form, the _Romance of the Rose_ and the _Story of
the Fox_, especially the former, hardly require much writing about to
any educated person. They are indeed most strongly contrasted examples
of two modes of tale-telling, both in a manner allegoric, but in other
respects utterly different. The mere story of the _Rose_, apart from the
dreamy or satiric digressions and developments of its two parts and the
elaborate descriptions of the first, can be told in a page or two. An
abstract of the various _Renart_ books, to give any idea of their real
character, would, on the other hand, have to be nearly as long as the
less spun-out versions themselves. But the verse _fabliaux_ can hardly
be passed over so lightly. Many of them formed the actual bases of the
prose _nouvelles_ that succeeded them; not a few have found repeated
presentation in literature; and, above all, they deserve the immense
praise of having deliberately introduced ordinary life, and not
conventionalised manners, into literary treatment. We have taken some
pains to point out touches of that life which are observable in Saint's
Life and Romance, in _chanson_ and early prose tale. But here the case
is altered. Almost everything is real; a good deal is what is called, in
one of the senses of a rather misused word, downright "realism."

Few people who have ever heard of the _fabliaux_ can need to be told
that this realism in their case implies extreme freedom of treatment,
extending very commonly to the undoubtedly coarse and not seldom to the
merely dirty. There are some--most of them well known by modern
imitations such as Leigh Hunt's "Palfrey"--which are quite guiltless in
this respect; but the great majority deal with the usual comic farrago
of satire on women, husbands, monks, and other stock subjects of
raillery, all of which at the time invited "sculduddery." To translate
some of the more amusing, one would require not merely Chaucerian
licence of treatment but Chaucerian peculiarities of dialect in order to
avoid mere vulgarity. Even Prior, who is our only modern English
_fabliau_-writer of real literary merit--the work of people like Hanbury
Williams and Hall Stevenson being mostly mere pornography--could hardly
have managed such a piece as "Le Sot Chevalier"--a riotously "improper"
but excessively funny example--without running the risk of losing that
recommendation of being "a lady's book" with which Johnson rather
capriciously tempered his more general undervaluation. Sometimes, on the
other hand, the joke is trivial enough, as in the English-French
word-play of _anel_ for _agnel_ (or _-neau_), which substitutes "donkey"
for "lamb"; or, in the other, on the comparison of a proper name,
"Estula," with its component syllables "es tu là?" But the important
point on the whole is that, proper or improper, romantic or trivial,
they all exhibit a constant improvement in the mere art of telling; in
discarding of the stock phrases, the long-winded speeches, and the
general _paraphernalia_ of verse; in sticking and leading up smartly to
the point; in coining sharp, lively phrase; in the co-ordination of
incident and the excision of superfluities. Often they passed without
difficulty into direct dramatic presentation in short farces. But on the
whole their obvious destiny was to be "unrhymed" and to make their
appearance in the famous form of the _nouvelle_ or _novella_, in regard
to which it is hard to say whether Italy was most indebted to France
for substance, or France to Italy for form.

[Sidenote: The rise of the _nouvelle_ itself.]

It was not, however, merely the intense conservatism of the Middle Ages
as to literary form which kept back the prose _nouvelle_ to such an
extent that, as we have seen, only a few examples survive from the two
whole centuries between 1200 and 1400, while not one of these is of the
kind most characteristic ever since, or at least until quite recent
days, of French tale-telling. The French octosyllabic couplet, in which
the _fabliaux_ were without exception or with hardly an exception
composed, can, in a long story, become very tiresome because of its want
of weight and grasp, and the temptations it offers to a weak rhymester
to stuff it with endless tags. But for a short tale in deft hands it can
apply its lightness in the best fashion, and put its points with no lack
of sting. The _fabliau_-writer or reciter was not required--one imagines
that he would have found scant audiences if he had tried it--to spin a
long yarn; he had got to come to his jokes and his business pretty
rapidly; and, as La Fontaine has shown to thousands who have never
known--perhaps have never heard of--his early masters, he had an
instrument which would answer to his desires perfectly if only he knew
how to finger it.

At the same time, both the lover of poetry and the lover of tale must
acknowledge that, though alliance between them is not in the least an
unholy one, and has produced great and charming children, the best of
the poetry is always a sort of extra bonus or solace to the tale, and
the tale not unfrequently seems as if it could get on better without the
poetry. The one can only aspire somewhat irrelevantly; the other can
never attain quite its full development. So it was no ill day when the
prose _nouvelle_ came to its own in France.

[Sidenote: _Les Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles._]

The first remarkable collection was the famous _Cent Nouvelles
Nouvelles_, traditionally attributed to Louis XI. when Dauphin and an
exile in Brabant, with the assistance of friends and courtiers, but
more recently selected by critics that way minded as part of the baggage
they have "commandeered" for Antoine de la Salle. The question of
authorship is of scarcely the slightest importance to us; though the
point last mentioned is worth mentioning, because we shall have to
notice the favoured candidate in this history again. There are certainly
some of the hundred that he might have written.

In the careless way in which literary history used to be dealt with, the
_Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles_ were held to be mere imitation of the
_Decameron_ and other Italian things. It is, of course, much more than
probable that the Italian _novella_ had not a little to do with the
precipitation of the French _nouvelle_ from its state of solution in the
_fabliau_. But the person or persons who, in imitating the _Decameron_,
produced the _Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles_ had a great deal more to do--and
did a great deal less--than this mere imitation of their original. As
for a group of included tales, the already-mentioned _Seven Wise
Masters_[80] was known in France much before Boccaccio's time. The title
was indeed admittedly Italian, but such an obvious one as to require no
positive borrowing, and there is in the French book no story-framework
like that of the plague and the country-house visit; no cheerful
personalities like Fiammetta or Dioneo make not merely the intervals but
the stories themselves alive with a special interest. Above all, there
is nothing like the extraordinary mixture of unity and variety--a pure
gift of genius--which succeeds in making the _Decameron_ a real book as
well as a bundle of narratives. Nor is there anything like the literary
brilliancy of the actual style and handling.

Nevertheless, _Les Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles_ is a book of great interest
and value, despite serious defects due to its time generally and to its
place in the history of fiction in particular. Its obscenity, on which
even Sir Walter Scott, the least censorious or prudish-prurient of men,
and with Southey, the great witness against false squeamishness, has
been severe,[81] is unfortunately undeniable. But it is to be doubted
whether Sir Walter knew much of the _fabliaux_; if he had he would have
seen first, that this sort of thing had become an almost indispensable
fashion in the short story, and secondly, that there is here
considerable improvement on the _fabliaux_ themselves, there being much
less mere schoolboy crudity of dirty detail and phrase, though the
situations may remain the same. It suffers occasionally from the heavy
and rhetorical style which beset all European literature (except
Italian, which itself did not wholly escape) in the fifteenth century.
But still one can see in it that improvement of narrative method and
diction which has been referred to: and occasionally, amid the crowd of
tricky wives, tricked husbands, too obliging and too hardly treated
chambermaids, ribald priests and monks, and the like, one comes across
quite different things and persons, which are, as the phrase goes,
almost startlingly modern, with a mixture of the _un_modern heightening
the appeal. One of the most striking of these--not very likely to be
detected or suspected by a careless reader under its sub-title of "La
Demoiselle Cavalière," and by no means fully summarised in the quaint
short argument which is in all cases subjoined--may be briefly analysed.

[Sidenote: Analysis of "La Demoiselle Cavalière".]

In one of the great baronial households of Brabant there lived, after
the usual condition of gentle servitude, a youth named Gerard, who fell
in love, after quite honourable and seemly fashion, with Katherine, the
daughter of the house--a fact which, naturally, they thought known only
to themselves, when, as naturally, everybody in the Court had become
aware of it. "For the better prevention of scandal," an immediate
marriage being apparently out of the question because of Gerard's
inferiority in rank to his mistress, it is decided by the intervention
of friends that Gerard shall take his leave of the Brabantine "family."
There is a parting of the most laudable kind, in which Katherine
bestows on her lover a ring, and a pledge that she will never marry any
one else, and he responds suitably. Then he sets out, and on arriving at
Bar has no difficulty in establishing himself in another great
household. Katherine meanwhile is beset with suitors of the best rank
and fortune; but will have nothing to say to any of them, till one day
comes the formidable moment when a mediaeval father determines that his
daughter shall marry a certain person, will she nill she. But if
mediaeval fatherhood was arbitrary, mediaeval religion was supreme, and
a demand to go on pilgrimage before an important change of life could
hardly be refused. In fact, the parents, taking the proposal as a mere
preliminary of obedience, consent joyfully, and offer a splendid suite
of knights and damsels, "Nous lui baillerons ung tel gentilhomme et une
telle demoiselle, Ysabeau et Marguerite et Jehanneton." But "no," says
Mistress Katherine sagely. The road to St. Nicolas of Warengeville is
not too safe for people travelling with a costly outfit and a train of
women. Let her, dressed as a man, and a bastard uncle of hers (who is
evidently the "Will Wimble" of the house) go quietly on little horses,
and it will save time, trouble, money, and danger. This the innocent
parents consider to show "great sense and good will," and the pair start
in German dress--Katherine as master, the uncle as man,--comfortably,
too, as one may imagine (for uncles and nieces generally get on well
together, and the bend sinister need do no harm). They accomplish their
pilgrimage (a touch worth noticing in Katherine's character), and then
only does she reveal her plan to her companion. She tells him, not
without a little bribery, that she wants to go and see Gerard _en
Barrois_, and to stay there for a short time; but he is to have no doubt
of her keeping her honour safe. He consents, partly with an eye to the
future main chance (for she is her father's sole heir), and partly
because _elle est si bonne qu'il n'y fault guère guet sur elle_.
Katherine, taking the name of Conrad, finds the place, presents herself
to the _maître_ _d'ostel_, an ancient squire, as desirous of
entertainment or _re_tainment, and is very handsomely received. After
dinner and due service done to the master, the old squire having heard
that Katherine--Conrad--is of Brabant, naturally introduces her
countryman Gerard to her. He does not in the least recognise her, and
what strikes her as stranger, neither during their own dinner nor after
says a word about Brabant itself. Conrad is regularly admitted to
Monseigneur's service, and, as a countryman, is to share Gerard's room.
They are perfectly good friends, go to see their horses together, etc.,
but still the formerly passionate lover says not a word of Brabant or
his Brabançonian love, and poor Katherine concludes that she has been
"put with forgotten sins"--not a bad phrase, though it might be
misconstrued. Being, however, as has been already seen, both a plucky
girl and a clever one, she determines to carry her part through. At
last, when they go to their respective couches in the same chamber, she
herself faces the subject, and asks him if he knows any persons in
Brabant. "Oh yes." "Does he know" her own father, his former master?
"Yes." "They say," said she, "that there are pretty girls there: did you
not know any?" "Precious few," quoth he, "and I cared nothing about
them. Do let me go to sleep! I am dead tired." "What!" said she, "can
you sleep when there is talk of pretty girls? _You_ are not much of a
lover." But he slept "like a pig."

Nevertheless, Katherine does not give up hope, though the next day
things are much the same, Gerard talking of nothing but hounds and
hawks, Conrad of pretty girls. At last the visitor declares that he
[she] does not care for the Barrois, and will go back to Brabant. "Why?"
says Gerard, "what better hunting, etc., can you get there than here?"
"It has nothing," says Conrad, "like the women of Brabant," adding, in
reply to a jest of his, an ambiguous declaration that she is actually in
love. "Then why did you leave her?" says Gerard--about the first
sensible word he has uttered. She makes a fiery answer as to Love
sometimes banishing from his servants all sense and reason. But for the
time the subject again drops. It is, however, reopened at night, and
some small pity comes on one for the recreant Gerard, inasmuch as she
keeps him awake by wailing about her love. At last she "draws" the
sluggard to some extent. "Has not _he_ been in love, and does not he
know all about it? But he was never such a fool as Conrad, and he is
sure that Conrad's lady is not such either." Another try, and she gets
the acknowledgment of treason out of him. He tells her (what she knows
too well) how he loved a noble damsel in Brabant and had to leave her,
and it really annoyed him for a few days (it is good to imagine
Katherine's face, even in the dark, at this), though of course he never
lost his appetite or committed any folly of that sort. But he knew his
Ovid (he tells her), and as soon as he came to Bar he made love to a
pretty girl there who was quite amiable to him, and now he never thinks
of the other. There is more talk, and Katherine insists that he shall
introduce her to his new lady, that she may try this remedy of
counter-love. He consents with perfect nonchalance, and is at last
allowed to go to sleep. No details are given of the conversation with
the rival,[82] except the bitterness of Katherine's heart at the fact,
and at seeing the ring she had given to Gerard on his hand. This she
actually has the pluck to play with, and, securing it, to slip on her
own. But the man being obviously past praying or caring for, she
arranges with her uncle to depart early in the morning, writes a letter
telling Gerard of the whole thing and renouncing him, passes the night
silently, leaves the letter, rises quietly and early, and departs, yet
"weeping tenderly," not for the man, but for her own lost love. The pair
reach home safely, and says the tale-teller, with an agreeable dryness
often found here,[83] "There were some who asked them the adventures of
their journey, but whatever they answered they did not boast of the
chief one." The conclusion is so spirited and at the very end so scenic
and even modern (or, much better, universal), that it must be given in
direct translation, with a few _chevilles_ (or pieces of padding) left

     As for Gerard, when he woke and found his companion gone, he
     thought it must be late, jumped up in haste, and seized his
     jerkin: but, as he thrust his hand in one of the sleeves,
     there dropped out a letter which surprised him, for he
     certainly did not remember having put any there. He picked
     it up and saw it subscribed "To the disloyal Gerard." If he
     was startled before he was more so now: but he opened it at
     last, and saw the signature "Katherine, surnamed Conrad."
     Even yet he knew not what to think of it: but as he read the
     blood rose to his face and his heart fluttered, and his
     whole manner was changed. Still, he read it through, and
     learnt how his disloyalty had come to the knowledge of her
     who had wished him so well; and that not at second hand, but
     from himself to herself; what trouble she had taken to find
     him; and how (which stung him most) he had slept three
     nights in her company after all. [_After thinking some time
     he decides to follow her, and arrives in Brabant on the very
     day of her marriage: for she has, in the circumstances, kept
     her word to her parents._] Then he tried to go up to her and
     salute her, and make some wretched excuse for his fault. But
     he was not allowed, for she turned her shoulder on him, and
     he could never manage to speak to her all through the day.
     He even stepped forward once to lead her out to dance, but
     she refused him flatly before all the company, many of whom
     heard her. And immediately afterwards another gentleman
     came, who bade the minstrels strike up, and she stepped down
     from her dais in full view of Gerard and went to dance with
     him. And so did the disloyal lover lose his lady.

Now whether this, as the book asserts and as is not at all improbable,
is a true story or not, cannot matter to any sensible person one
farthing. What does matter is that it is a by no means badly told story,
that it resorts to no illegitimate sources or seasonings of interest,
and that it offers opportunities for amplification and "diversity of
administration" to almost any extent. One can fancy it told, at much
greater length and with more or less adjustment to different times, by
great novelists of the most widely varying classes--by Scott and by
Dumas, by Charles Reade and by George Meredith, to mention no living
writer, as might easily be done. Both hero and heroine have more
character between them than you could extract out of fifty of the usual
_nouvelles_, and each lends him or herself to endless further
development. Not a few of the separate scenes--the good parents fussing
over their daughter's intended cavalcade and her thrifty and ingenious
objections; the journey of the uncle and niece (any of the first three
of the great novelists mentioned above would have made chapters of
this); the dramatic and risky passages at the castle _en Barrois_; the
contrast of Katherine's passion and Gerard's sluggishness; and the
fashion in which this latter at once brings on the lout's defeat and
saves the lady from danger at his hands--all this is novel-matter of
almost the first class as regards incident, with no lack of
character-openings to boot. Nor could anybody want a better "curtain"
than the falling back of the scorned and baffled false lover, the
concert of the minstrels, and Katherine's stately stepping down the dais
to complete the insult by dancing with another.

[Sidenote: The interest of _named_ personages.]

One more general point may be noticed in connection with the superiority
of this story, and that is the accession of interest, at first sight
trivial but really important, which comes from the _naming_ of the
personages. Both in the earlier _fabliaux_ and in these _Nouvelles_
themselves, by far the larger number of the actors are simply called by
class-names--a "knight," a "damsel," a "merchant and his wife," a
"priest," a "varlet." It may seem childish to allow the mere addition of
a couple of names like Gerard and Katherine to make this difference of
interest, but the fact is that there is a good deal of childishness in
human nature, and especially in the enjoyment of story.[84] Only by
very slow degrees were writers of fiction to learn the great difference
that small matters of this kind make, and how the mere "anecdote," the
dry argument or abstract of incident, can be amplified, varied,
transformed from a remainder biscuit to an abundant and almost
inexhaustible feast, by touches of individual character, setting of
interiors, details of conversation, description, nomenclature, and what
not. Quite early, as we saw in the case of the _St. Alexis_, persons of
narrative gift stumbled upon things of the kind; but it was only after
long delays, and hints of many half-conscious kinds, that they became
part of recognised craft. Even with such a master of that craft as
Boccaccio before them, not all the Italian novelists could catch the
pattern; and the French, perhaps naturally enough, were slower still.

It must be remembered, in judging the fifteenth-century French tale,
that just as it was to some extent hampered by the long continuing
popularity of the verse _fabliau_ on the one hand, so it was, as we may
say, "bled" on the other by the growing popularity of the farce, which
consists of exactly the same material as the _fabliaux_ and the
_nouvelles_ themselves, with the additional liveliness of voice and
action. These later additions imposed not the smallest restraint on the
license which had characterised and was to characterise the plain verse
and prose forms,[85] and no doubt the result was all the more welcome to
the taste of the time. But for that very reason the appetites and
tastes, which could glut themselves with the full dramatic
representation, might care less for the mere narrative, on the famous
principle of _segnius irritant_. Nor was the political state of France
during the time very favourable to letters. There are, however, two
separate fifteenth-century stories which deserve notice. One of them is
the rather famous, though probably not widely read, _Petit Jehan de
Saintré_ of the already mentioned Antoine de la Salle, a certain work
of his this time. The other is the pleasant, though to Englishmen
intentionally uncomplimentary, _Jehan de Paris_ of an unknown writer. La
Salle's book must belong to the later middle of the century, though, if
he died in or about 1461, not to a very late middle. _Jehan de Paris_
has been put by M. de Montaiglon nearer the close.

[Sidenote: _Petit Jehan de Saintré._]

The history of "little John of Saintré and the Lady of the Beautiful
Cousins"[86] has not struck all judges, even all English judges,[87] in
the same way. Some have thought it mawkish, rhetorical, clumsily
imitative of the manners of dead chivalry, and the like. Others,
admitting it to be a late and "literary" presentation of the stately
society it describes, rank it much higher as such. Its author was a
bitter enough satirist if he wrote, as he most probably did, the famous
_Quinze Joyes de Mariage_, one of the most unmitigated pieces of
unsweetened irony--next to _A Tale of a Tub_ and _Jonathan Wild_--to be
found in literature; but not couched in narrative form. The same quality
appears of course in the still more famous farce of _Pathelin_, which
few good judges deny very stoutly to him, though there is little
positive evidence. In the _Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles_ again, as has been
said, he certainly had a hand, and possibly a great hand, as well as
perhaps elsewhere. The satiric touch appears even in _Petit Jehan_
itself; for, after all the gracious courtship of the earlier part, the
_dame des belles Cousines_, during an absence of her lover on service,
falls a by no means, as it would seem, very reluctant victim to the
vulgar viciousness of a rich churchman, just like the innominatas of the
_nouvelles_ themselves. But the earlier part _is_ gracious--a word
specifically and intensively applicable to it. It may be a little
unreal; does not the secondary form and sense which has been fastened
upon reality--"realism"--show that, in the opinion of many people at
least, reality is _not_ gracious? The Foozles of this world who "despise
all your kickshaws," the Dry-as-dusts who point out--not in the least
seeing the real drift of their argument--that the fifteenth century was,
in the greater part of Europe if not the whole, at a new point of morals
and manners, may urge these things. But the best part of _Petit Jehan_
remains a gracious sort of dream for gracious dreamers--a picture of a
kind of Utopia of Feminism, when Feminism did not mean votes or anything
foolish, but only adoration of the adorable.

[Sidenote: _Jehan de Paris._]

It would be impossible to find or even to imagine anything more
different than the not much later _Jehan de Paris_, an evident
folk-tale[88] of uncertain origin, which very quickly became a popular
chapbook and lasted long in that condition. Although we Englishmen
provide the fun, he is certainly no Englishman who resents the fact or
fails to enjoy the result, not to mention that we "could tell them tales
with other endings." It is, for instance, not quite historically
demonstrable that in crossing a river many English horsemen would be
likely to be drowned, while all the French cavaliers got safe through;
nor that, in scouring a country, the Frenchmen would score all the game
and all the best beasts and poultry, while the English bag would consist
of starvelings and offal. But no matter for that. The actual tale tells
(with the agreeable introductory "How," which has not yet lost its zest
for the right palates in chapter-headings) the story of a King and Queen
of Spain who have, in recompense for help given them against turbulent
barons, contracted their daughter to the King of France for his son; how
they forgot this later, and betrothed her to the King of England, and
how that King set out with his train, through France itself, to fetch
his bride. As soon as the Dauphin (now king, for his father is dead)
hears of their coming, he disguises himself under the name of John of
Paris, with a splendid train of followers, much more gorgeous than the
English (the "foggy islander" of course cannot make this out), and sets
of _quiproquos_ follow, in each of which the Englishman is outdone and
baffled generally, till at last "John of Paris" enters Burgos in state,
reveals himself, and carries off the Englishman's bride, with the
natural effect of making him _bien marry et courroucé_, though no fight
comes off.

The tale is smartly and succinctly told (there are not many more than a
hundred of the small-sized and large-printed pages of the _Collection
Jannet-Picard_), and there is a zest and _verve_ about it which ought to
please any mood that is for the time in harmony with the much talked of
Comic Spirit. But it certainly does not lose attraction, and it as
certainly does not fail to lend some, when it is considered side by side
with the other "John," especially if both are again compared with the
certainly not earlier and probably later "Prose Romances" in English, to
which that rather ambitious title was given by Mr. Thoms. There is
nothing in these in the very remotest degree resembling _Jehan de
Saintré_: you must get on to the _Arcadia_ or at least to _Euphues_
before you come anywhere near that. There is, on the other hand, in our
stuff, a sort of distant community of spirit with _Jehan de Paris_; but
it works in an altogether lower and less imaginative sphere and fashion;
no sense of art being present, and very little of craft. It is
astonishing that a language which had had, if only in verse, such an
unsurpassable tale-teller as Chaucer, should have been so backward. But
then the whole conditions of the fifteenth century, especially in
England, become only the more puzzling the longer one studies them. Even
in France, it will be observed, the output of Tale is by no means
large.[89] Nor shall we find it very greatly increased even in the next
age, though there is one masterpiece in quantity as well as quality.
But, for our purpose, the _Cent Nouvelles_ and the two separate pieces
just discussed continue, and in more and more striking manner, to show
the vast possibilities when the way shall have been clearly found and
the feet of the wayfarers firmly set in it.


[80] Prose as well as verse.

[81] In the very delightful imaginative introduction to _Quentin

[82] This is one of the points which a modern novelist would certainly
have seized; but whether to advantage or not is another question.

[83] And of course recognised by the "Antonians" as peculiar to La

[84] Only contrast "_Tom, Tom_, the piper's son," with "_There was once_
a piper's son," or think how comparatively uninteresting the enormities
of another hero or not-hero would have been if he had been anonymous
instead of being called "Georgy-Porgy Pudding-and-Pie!" ["Puddenum" is,
or used to be, the preferred if corrupt nursery form.] In more elaborate
and adorned narrative the influence, not merely of the name but of the
beautiful name, comes in, and that of the name itself remains. In that
tragic story of Ludlow Castle which was given above (Chap. iv. pp.
84-6), something, for the present writer at least, would have been lost
if the traitor had been merely "a knight" instead of Sir Ernault Lisle
and the victim merely "a damsel" instead of Marion de la Brière. And
would the _bocca bacciata_ of Alaciel itself be as gracious if it was
merely anybody's?

[85] The amazing farce-insets of Lyndsay's _Satire of the Three Estates_
could be paralleled, and were no doubt suggested, by French farces of
older date.

[86] Nobody seems to be entirely certain what this odd title means:
though there have been some obvious and some far-fetched guesses. But it
has, like other _rhétoriqueur_ names of 1450-1550, such as "Traverser of
Perilous Ways" and the like, a kind of fantastic attraction for some

[87] If I remember rightly, my friend the late R. L. Stevenson was wont
to abuse it.

[88] As such, the substance is found in other languages. But the French
itself has been traced by some to an earlier _roman d'aventure_, _Blonde
d'Oxford_, in which an English heiress is carried off by a French

[89] Perhaps one should guard against a possible repetition of a not
uncommon critical mistake--that of inferring ignorance from absence of
mention. I am quite aware that no exhaustive catalogue of known French
stories in prose has been given; and the failure to supplement a former
glance at the late prose versions of romance is intentional. They have
nothing new in romance-, still less in novel-_character_ for us. The
_Bibliothèque Elzévirienne_ volumes have been dwelt upon, not as a
_corpus_, but because they appear to represent, without any unfair
manipulation or "window-dressing," the kind at the time with a
remarkable combination of interest both individual and contrasted.



[Sidenote: The anonymity, or at least impersonality, of authorship up to
this point.]

Although--as it is hoped the foregoing chapters may have shown--the
amount of energy and of talent, thrown into the department of French
fiction, had from almost the earliest times been remarkably great;
although French, if not France, had been the mother of almost all
literatures in things fictitious, it can hardly be said that any writer
of undeniable genius, entitling him to the first class in the Art of
Letters, had shown himself therein. A hundred _chansons de geste_ and as
many romances _d'aventures_ had displayed dispersed talent of a very
high kind, and in the best of them, as the present writer has tried to
point out, a very "extensive assortment" of the various attractions of
the novel had from time to time made its appearance. But this again had
been done "dispersedly," as the Shakespearean stage-direction has it.
The story is sometimes well told, but the telling is constantly
interrupted; the great art of novel-conversation is, as yet, almost
unborn; the descriptions, though sometimes very striking, as in the case
of those given from _Partenopeus_--the fatal revelation of Melior's
charms and the galloping of the maddened palfrey along the seashore,
with the dark monster-haunted wood behind and the bright moonlit sea and
galley in front--are more often stock and lifeless; while, above all,
the characters are rarely more than sketched, if even that. The one
exception--the great Arthurian history, as liberated from its
Graal-legend swaddling clothes, and its kite-and-crow battles with
Saxons and rival knights, but retaining the mystical motive of the
Graal-search itself and the adventures of Lancelot and other knights;
combining all this into a single story, and storing it with incident for
a time, and bringing it to a full and final tragic close by the loves of
Lancelot himself and Guinevere--this great achievement, it has been
frankly confessed, is so much muddled and distracted with episode which
becomes positive digression, that some have even dismissed its
pretensions to be a whole. Even those who reject this dismissal are not
at one as to any single author of the conception, still less of the
execution. The present writer has stated his humble, but ever more and
more firm conviction that Chrestien did not do it and could not have
done it; others of more note, perhaps of closer acquaintance with MS.
sources, but also perhaps not uniting knowledge of the subject with more
experience in general literary criticism and in special study of the
Novel, will not allow Mapes to have done it.

The _Roman de la Rose_, beautiful as is its earlier part and ingenious
as is (sometimes) its later, is, as a _story_, of the thinnest kind. The
_Roman de Renart_ is a vast collection of small stories of a special
class, and the _Fabliaux_ are almost a vaster collection (if you do not
exclude the "waterings out" of _Renart_) of kinds more general. There is
abundance of amusement and some charm; but nowhere are we much beyond
very simple forms of fiction itself. None of the writers of _nouvelles_,
except Antoine de la Salle, can be said to be a known personality.

[Sidenote: Rabelais unquestionably the first very great known writer.]

There has always been a good deal of controversy about Rabelais, not all
of which perhaps can we escape, though it certainly will not be invited,
and we have no very extensive knowledge of his life. But we have some:
and that, as a man of genius, he is superior to any single person named
and known in earlier French literature, can hardly be contested by any
one who is neither a silly paradoxer nor a mere dullard, nor affected by
some extra-literary prejudice--religious, moral, or whatever it may be.
But perhaps not every one who would admit the greatness of Master
Francis as a man of letters, his possession not merely of consummate
wit, but of that precious thing, so much rarer in French, actual humour;
his wonderful influence on the future word-book and phrase-book of his
own language, nay, not every one who would go almost the whole length of
the most uncompromising Pantagruelist, and would allow him profound
wisdom, high aspirations for humanity, something of a complete
world-philosophy--would at once admit him as a very great novelist. For
my own part I have no hesitation in doing so, and to make the admission
good must be the object of this chapter.

[Sidenote: But the first great novelist?]

It may almost be said that his very excellence in this way has "stood in
its own light." The readableness of Rabelais is extraordinary. The
present writer, after for years making of him almost an Addison
according to Johnson's prescription, fell, by mere accident and
occupation with other matters, into a way of _not_ reading him, except
for purposes of mere literary reference, during a long time. On three
different occasions more recently, one ten or a dozen years ago, one six
or seven, and the third for the purposes of this very book, he put
himself again under the Master, and read him right through. It is
difficult to imagine a severer test, and I am bound to confess (though I
am not bound to specify) that in some, though not many, instances I have
found famous and once favourite classics fail to stand it. Not so Master
Francis. I do not think that I ever read him with greater interest than
at this last time. Indeed I doubt whether I have ever felt the
_catholicon_--the pervading virtue of his book--quite so strongly as I
have in the days preceding that on which I write these words.

[Sidenote: Some objections considered.]

Of course Momus may find handles--he generally can. "You are suffering
from morbid senile relapse into puerile enjoyment of indecency," he or
Mrs. Momus (whom later ages have called Grundy) may be kind enough to
say. "You were a member of the Rabelais Club of pleasant memory, and
think it necessary to live up to your earlier profession." "You have
said this in print before [I have not exactly done so] and are bound to
stick to it," etc. etc. etc., down to that final, "You are a bad critic,
and it doesn't matter what you say," which certainly, in a sense, does
leave nothing to be replied. But whether this is because the accused is
guilty, or because the Court does not call upon him, is a question which
one may leave to others.

Laying it down, then, as a point of fact that Rabelais _has_ this
curious "holding" quality, whence does he get it? As everybody ought to
know, many good people, admitting the fact, have, as he would himself
have said, gone about with lanterns to seek for out-of-the-way reasons
and qualities; while some people, not so good, but also accepting the
fact in a way, have grasped at the above-mentioned indecency itself for
an explanation. This trick requires little effort to kick it into its
native gutter. The greater proportion of the "_Indexable_" part of
Rabelais is mere nastiness, which is only attractive to a very small
minority of persons at any age, while to expert readers it is but a
time-deodorised dunghill by the roadside, not beautiful, but negligible.
Of the other part of this kind--the "naughty" part which is not nasty
and may be somewhat nice--there is, when you come to consider it
dispassionately, not really so very much, and it is seldom used in a
seductive fashion. It may tickle, but it does not excite; may create
laughter, but never passion or even desire. Therefore it cannot be this
which "holds" any reader but a mere novice or a glutton for garbage.

Less easily dismissible, but, it will seem, not less inadequate is the
alleged "key"-interest of the book. Of course there are some people, and
more than a person who wishes to think nobly of humanity might desire to
find, who seem never to be tired of identifying Grandgousier, Gargantua,
and Pantagruel himself with French kings to whom they bear not the
slightest resemblance; of obliging us English by supposing us to be the
Macréons (who seem to have been very respectable people, but who inhabit
an island singularly unlike England in or anywhere near the time of
Rabelais), and so on. But to a much larger number of persons--and one
dares say to all true Pantagruelists--these interpretations are either
things that the Master himself would have delighted to satirise, and
would have satirised unsurpassably, or, at best, mere superfluities and
supererogations. At any rate there is no possibility of finding in them
the magic spell--the "Fastrada's ring," which binds youth and age alike
to the unique "Alcofribas Nasier."

One must, it is supposed, increase the dose of respect (though
some people, in some cases, find it hard) when considering a further
quality or property--the Riddle-attraction of Rabelais. This
riddle-attraction--or attractions, for it might be better spoken of in a
very large plural--is of course quite undeniable in itself. There are as
many second intentions in the ordinary sense, apparently obvious in
_Gargantua_ and _Pantagruel_, as there can have been in the scholastic
among the dietary of La Quinte, or of any possible Chimaera buzzing at
greatest intensity in the extremest vacuum. On the other hand, some of
us are haunted by the consideration, "Was there ever any human being
more likely than François Rabelais to echo (with the slightest change)
the words ascribed to Divinity in that famous piece which is taken, on
good external and ultra-internal evidence, to be Swift's?

    _I_ to such block-heads set my wit!
    _I_ [_pose_] such fools! Go, go--you're bit."

And there is not wanting, amongst us sceptics, a further section who are
quite certain that a not inconsiderable proportion of the book is not
allegory at all, but sheer "bamming," while others again would transfer
the hackneyed death-bed saying from author to book, and say that the
whole Chronicle is "a great perhaps."

[Sidenote: And dismissed as affecting the general attraction of the

These things--or at least elaborate discussions of them--lie somewhat,
though not so far as may at first seem, outside our proper business. It
must, however, once more be evident, from the facts and very nature of
the case, that the puzzles, the riddles, the allegories cannot
constitute the main and, so to speak, "universal" part of the attraction
of the book. They may be a seasoning to some, a solid cut-and-come-again
to others, but certainly not to the majority. Even in _Gulliver_--the
Great Book's almost, perhaps quite, as great descendant--these
attractions, though more universal in appeal and less evasively
presented, certainly do not hold any such position. The fact is that
both Rabelais and Swift were consummate tellers of a story, and
(especially if you take the _Polite Conversation_ into Swift's claim)
consummate originators of the Novel or larger story, with more than
"incidental" attraction itself. But we are not now busied with Swift.

[Sidenote: Which lies, largely if not wholly, in its story-interest.]

Not much serious objection will probably be taken to the place allotted
to Master Francis as a tale-teller pure and simple, although it cannot
be said that all his innumerable critics and commentators have laid
sufficient stress on this. From the uncomfortable birth of Gargantua to
the triumphant recessional scene from the Oracle of the Bottle, proofs
are to be found in every book, every chapter almost, and indeed almost
every page; and a little more detail may be given on this head later.
But the presentation of Rabelais as a novelist-before-novels may cause
more demur, and even suggest the presence of the now hopelessly
discredited thing--paradox itself. Of course, if anybody requires
regular plot as a necessary constituent, only paradox could contend for
that. It _has_ been contended--and rightly enough--that in the general
scheme and the two (or if you take in Grandgousier, three) generations
of histories of the good giants, Rabelais is doing nothing more than
parody--is, indeed, doing little more than simply follow the traditions
of Romance--Amiles and Jourdains, Guy and Rembrun, and many others. But
some of us regard plot as at best a full-dress garment, at the absence
of which the good-natured God or Muse of fiction is quite willing to
wink. Character, if seldom elaborately presented, except in the case of
Panurge, is showered, in scraps and sketches, all over the book, and
description and dialogue abound.

[Sidenote: Contrast of the _Moyen de Parvenir_.]

But it is not on such beggarly special pleading as this that the claim
shall be founded. It must rest on the unceasing, or practically
unceasing, impetus of story-interest which carries the reader through. A
remarkably useful contrast-parallel in this respect, may be found in
that strange book, the _Moyen de Parvenir_. I am of those who think that
it had something to do with Rabelais, that there is some of his stuff in
it, even that he may have actually planned something like it. But the
"make-up" is not more inferior in merit to that of _Gargantua_ and
_Pantagruel_ than it is different in kind. The _Moyen de Parvenir_ is
full of separate stories of the _fabliau_ kind, often amusing and well
told, though exceedingly gross as a rule. These stories are "set" in a
framework of promiscuous conversation, in which a large number of great
real persons, ancient and modern, and a smaller one of invented
characters, or rather names, take part. Most of this, though not quite
all, is mere _fatrasie_, if not even mere jargon: and though there are
glimmerings of something more than sense, they are, with evident
deliberation, enveloped in clouds of nonsense. The thing is not a whole
at all, and the stories have as little to do with each other or with any
general drift as if they were professedly--what they are practically--a
bundle of _fabliaux_ or _nouvelles_. As always happens in such
cases--and as the author, whether he was Béroalde or another, whether or
not he worked on a canvas greater than he could fill, or tried to patch
together things too good for him, no doubt intended--attempts have been
made to interpret the puzzle here also; but they are quite obviously

[Sidenote: A general theme possible.]

[Sidenote: A reference--to be taken up later--to the last Book.]

Such a sentence, however, cannot be pronounced in any such degree or
measure on the similar attempts in the case of _Gargantua_ and
_Pantagruel_; for a reason which some readers may find unexpected. The
unbroken vigour--unbroken even by the obstacles which it throws in its
own way, like the Catalogue of the Library of Saint-Victor and the
burlesque lists of adjectives, etc., which fill up whole chapters--with
which the story or string of stories is carried on, may naturally
suggest that there _is_ a story or at least a theme. It is a sort of
quaint alteration or catachresis of _Possunt quia posse videntur_. There
must be a general theme, because the writer is so obviously able to
handle any theme he chooses. It may be wiser--it certainly seems so to
the present writer--to disbelieve in anything but occasional
sallies--episodes, as it were, or even digressions--of political,
religious, moral, social and other satire. It is, on the other hand, a
most important thing to admit the undoubted presence--now and then, and
not unfrequently--of a deliberate dropping of the satiric and burlesque
mask. This supplies the presentation of the serious, kindly, and human
personality of the three princes (Grandgousier, Gargantua, and
Pantagruel); this the schemes of education (giving so large a proportion
of the small bulk of _not_-nonsense written on that matter). Above all,
this permits, to one taste at least, the exquisite last Book,
presentation of La Quinte and the fresh roses in her hand, the
originality of which, not only in the whole book in one sense, but in
the particular Book in the other, is, to that taste, and such
argumentative powers as accompany it, an almost absolute proof of that
Book's genuineness. For if it had been by another who, _un_like
Rabelais, had a special tendency towards such graceful imagination, he
could hardly have refrained from showing this elsewhere in this long

[Sidenote: Running survey of the whole.]

But however this may be, it is certain that a critical reader,
especially when he has reason to be startled by the external, if not
actually extrinsic, oddities of and excesses of the book, will be
justified in allowing--it may almost be said that he is likely to
allow--the extraordinary volume of concatenated fictitious interest in
the whole book or books. The usual and obvious "catenations" are indeed
almost ostentatiously wanting. The absence of any real plot has been
sufficiently commented on, with the temptations conferred by it to
substitute a fancied unity of purpose. The birth, and what we may call
the two educations, of Gargantua; the repetition, with sufficient
differences, of the same plan in the opening of _Pantagruel_; the
appearance of Panurge and the campaign against the Dipsodes; the great
marriage debate; and the voyage to the Oracle of the Bottle, are
connected merely in "chronicle" fashion. The character-links are hardly
stronger, for though Friar John does play a more or less important part
from almost the beginning to quite the end, Panurge, the most important
and remarkable single figure, does not appear for a considerable time,
and the rest are shadows. The scene is only in one or two chapters
nominally placed in Nowhere; but as a whole it is Nowhere Else, or
rather a bewildering mixture of topical assignments in a very small part
of France, and allegorical or fantastic descriptions of a multitude of
Utopias. And yet, once more, it _is_ a whole story. As you read it you
almost forget what lies behind, you quite forget the breaches of
continuity, and press on to what is before, almost as eagerly, if not
quite in the same fashion, as if the incidents and the figures were not
less exciting than those of _Vingt Ans Après_. Let us hope it may not be
excessive to expend a few pages on a sketch of this strange story that
is no story, with, it may be, some fragments of translation or
paraphrase (for, as even his greatest translator, Urquhart, found, a
certain amount of his own _Fay ce que voudras_ is necessary with
Rabelais) here and there.

[Sidenote: _Gargantua._]

Master Francis does not exactly plunge into the middle of things; but he
spends comparatively little time on the preliminaries of the ironical
Prologue to the "very illustrious drinkers," on the traditionally
necessary but equally ironical genealogy of the hero, on the elaborate
verse _amphigouri_ of the _Fanfreluches Antidotées_, and on the mock
scientific discussion of extraordinarily prolonged periods of pregnancy.
Without these, however, he will not come to the stupendous banquet of
tripe (properly washed down, and followed by pleasant revel on the
"echoing green") which determined the advent of Gargantua into the
world, which enabled Grandgousier, more fortunate than his son on a
future occasion, to display his amiability as a husband and a father
unchecked by any great sorrow, and which was, as it were, crowned and
sealed by that son's first utterance--no miserable and ordinary infant's
wail, but the stentorian barytone "_A boire!_" which rings through the
book till it passes in the sharper, but not less delectable treble of
"_Trinq!_" And then comes a brief piece, not narrative, but as
characteristic perhaps of what we may call the ironical _moral_ of the
narrative as any--a grave remonstrance with those who will not believe
in _ceste estrange nativité_.

[Sidenote: The birth and education.]

     I doubt me ye believe not this strange birth assuredly. If
     ye disbelieve, I care not; but a respectable man--a man of
     good sense--_always_ believes what people tell him and what
     he finds written. Does not Solomon say (Prov. xiv.), "The
     innocent [simple] believeth every word" etc.? And St. Paul
     (1 Cor. xiii.), "Charity believeth all things"? Why should
     you _not_ believe it? "Because," says you, "there is no
     probability[91] in it." I tell you that for this very and
     only reason you ought to believe with a perfect faith. For
     the Sorbonists say that faith is the evidence of things of
     no probability.[92] Is it against our law or our faith?
     against reason? against the Sacred Scriptures?[93] For my
     part I can find nothing written in the Holy Bible which is
     contrary thereto. But if the Will of God had been so, would
     you say that He could not have done it? Oh for grace' sake
     do not make a mess of your wits in such vain thoughts. For I
     tell you that nothing is impossible with God.

And Divinity being done with, the Classics and pure fantasy are drawn
upon; the incredulous being finally knocked down by a citation from
Pliny, and a polite request not to bother any more.

This is, of course, the kind of passage which has been brought against
Rabelais, as similar ones have been brought against Swift, to justify
charges of impiety. But, again, it is not necessary to bother
(_tabuster_) about that. Any one who cannot see that it is the foolish
use of reverend things and not the things themselves that the satire
hits, is hardly worth argument. But there is no doubt that this sort of
mortar, framework, menstruum, canvas, or whatever way it may be best
metaphored, helps the apparent continuity of the work marvellously,
leaving, as it were, no rough edges or ill-mended joints. It is, to use
an admirable phrase of Mr. Balfour's about a greater matter, "the
logical glue which holds together and makes intelligible the
multiplicity" of the narrative units, or perhaps instead of
"intelligible" one should here say "appreciable."

Sometimes the "glue" of ironic comment rather saturates these units of
narrative than surrounds or interjoins them, and this is the case with
what follows. The infantine peculiarities of Gargantua; his dress and
the mystery of its blue and white colours (the blue of heaven and the
white of the joy of earth); how his governesses and he played together;
what smart answers he made; how he became early both a poet and an
experimental philosopher--all this is recounted with a marvellous
mixture of wisdom and burlesque, though sometimes, no doubt, with rather
too much of _haut goût_ seasoning. Then comes the, in Renaissance books,
inevitable "Education" section, and it has been already noted briefly
how different this is from most of its group (the corresponding part of
_Euphues_ may be suggested for comparison). Even Rabelais does not
escape the main danger--he neglects a little to listen to the wisest
voice, "Can't you let him alone?" But the contrasts in the case of
Gargantua, the general tenor (that good prince profiting by his own
experience for his son's benefit) in that of Pantagruel, are not too
"improving," and are made by their historian's "own sauce" exceedingly
piquant. Much as has been written on the subject, it is not easy to be
quite certain how far the "Old" Learning was fairly treated by the
"New." Rabelais and Erasmus and the authors of the _Epistolae Obscurorum
Virorum_ are such a tremendous overmatch for any one on the other side,
that the most judicial as well as judicious of critics must be rather
puzzled as to the real merits of the case. But luckily there is no need
to decide. Enjoyment, not decision, is the point, and there is no
difficulty in _that_. How Gargantua was transferred from the learned but
somewhat, as the vulgar would say, "stick-in-the-mud" tutorship of
Master Thubal Holofernes, who spent eighteen years in reading _De Modis
Significandi_ with his pupil, and Master Jobelin Bridé, who has "become
a name"--not exactly of honour; how he was transferred to the less
antiquated guidance of Ponocrates, and set out for Paris on the famous
dappled mare, whose exploits in field and town were so alarming, and
who had the bells of Notre Dame hung round her neck, till they were
replaced rather after than because of the remonstrance of Master Janotus
de Bragmardo; how for a time, and under Sorbonic direction, he wasted
that time in short and useless study, with long intervals of
card-playing, sleeping, etc. etc., and of course a great deal of eating
and drinking, "not as he ought and as he ought not"--all this leads up
to the moment when the sage Ponocrates takes him again in hand, and
institutes a strenuous drill in manners, studies, manly exercises, and
the like, ending with one of those extraordinary flashes of perfect
style and noble meaning which it pleases Rabelais to emit from what some
call his "dunghill" and others his "marine-store."

     Also they prayed to God the Creator, adoring Him, and
     solemnly repledging to Him their faith, and glorifying Him
     for His boundless goodness; while, giving Him thanks for all
     time past, they commended themselves to His divine mercy for
     all the future. This done, they turned to their rest.

[Sidenote: The war.]

It is only after this serious training that the first important division
of what may be called the action begins--the "War of the Cakes," in
which certain outrageous bakers, subjects of King Picrochole of Lerné,
first refuse the custom of the good Grandgousier's shepherds, and then
violently assault them, the incident being turned by the choleric
monarch into a _casus belli_ against the peaceful one. Invasion, the
early triumph of the aggressor, the triumphant appearance of the
invincible Friar John, and the complete turning of the tables by the
advent of Gargantua and his terrible mare, follow each other in rapid
and brilliant telling, and perhaps no parts of the book are better
known. The extraordinary felicity with which Rabelaisian irony--here
kept in quieter but intenser activity than almost anywhere else--seizes
and renders the common causes, excuses, manners, etc., of war can never
have escaped competent readers; but it must have struck more persons of
late than perhaps at any former time. It would be impertinent to
particularise largely; but if the famous adaptation and amplification of
the old Pyrrhus story in the counsel of Spadassin and Merdaille to
Picrochole were printed in small type as the centre of a fathom-square
sheet, the whole margin could be more than filled with extracts, from
German books and newspapers, of advice to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Nor is
there anything, in literature touching history, where irony has bitten
more deeply and lastingly into Life and Time than the brief record of
Picrochole's latter days after his downfall.

     He was informed by an old hag that his kingdom would be
     restored to him at the coming of the Cocqsigrues: since then
     it is not certainly known what has become of him. However, I
     have been told that he now works for his poor living at
     Lyons, and is as choleric as ever. And always he bemoans
     himself to strangers about the Cocqsigrues--yet with a
     certain hope, according to the old woman's prophecy, that at
     their coming he will be reinstated in his kingdom.

Edward FitzGerald would have called this "terrible"; and perhaps it is.

But there is much more humour than terror in the rest, and sometimes
there are qualities different from either. The rescue of the sacred
precincts of the Abbey of Seuillé from the invaders by that glorious
monk (a personage at no great remove from our own Friar Tuck, to the
later portraits of whom he has lent some of his own traits) pleases the
soul well, as do the feats of Gymnast against Tripet, and the fate of
the unlucky Touquedillon, and the escalade of La Roche Clermande, and (a
little less perhaps) the pure burlesque of the eating of the pilgrims,
and the combing out of the cannon balls, and the contrasted sweet
reasonableness of the amiable though not at all cowardly Grandgousier.
But the advice of the Evil Counsellors to Picrochole is still perhaps
the pearl:

[Sidenote: The Counsel to Picrochole.]

     Then there appeared before Picrochole the Duke of Mennail,
     Count Spadassin, and Captain Merdaille, and said to him,
     "Sire, this day we make you the most happy and chivalrous
     prince that ever has been since the death of Alexander of
     Macedon." "Be covered, be covered," said Picrochole.
     "Gramercy, sire", said they, "but we know our duty. The
     means are as follows. You will leave here in garrison some
     captain with a small band of men to hold the place, which
     seems to us pretty strong, both by nature and by the
     fortifications you have contrived. You will, as you know
     well, divide your army in half. One half will fall upon this
     fellow Grandgousier and his people, and easily discomfit him
     at the first assault. There we shall gain money in heaps,
     for the rascal has plenty. (Rascal we call him, because a
     really noble prince never has a penny. To hoard is the mark
     of a rascal.)

     "The other part will meanwhile draw towards Aunis,
     Saintonge, Angoumois, and Gascony, as well as Perigord,
     Medoc, and Elanes. Without any resistance they will take
     towns, castles, and fortresses. At Bayonne, at St. Jean de
     Luz, and at Fontarabia you will seize all the ships, and
     coasting towards Galicia and Portugal, will plunder all the
     seaside places as far as Lisbon, where you will be
     reinforced with all the supplies necessary to a conqueror:
     _Corbleu!_ Spain will surrender, for they are all poltroons.
     You will pass the Straits of Seville,[94] and will there
     erect two columns more magnificent than those of Hercules
     for the perpetual memory of your name. And that Strait shall
     thenceforward be named the Sea of Picrochole.

     "When that sea has been passed, lo! comes Barbarossa[95] to
     surrender as your slave." "I," said Picrochole, "will extend
     mercy to him." "Very well," said they, "on condition that he
     is baptized. And then you will assault the kingdoms of
     Tunis, of Hippo,[96] of Argier, of Bona, of Corona--to cut
     it short, all Barbary. Going further,[97] you will keep in
     your hands Majorca, Minorca, Sardinia, Corsica, and the
     other islands of the Ligurian and Balearic sea. Coasting to
     the left[98] you will dominate all Narbonese Gaul, Provence,
     the Allobroges, Genoa, Florence, Lucca, and, begad! Rome.
     Poor master Pope is already dying for fear of you." "I will
     never kiss his slipper," said Picrochole.

     "Italy being taken, behold Naples, Calabria, Apulia, and
     Sicily all at your mercy, and Malta into the bargain. I
     should like to see those funny knights, formerly of Rhodes,
     resist you! if it were only to examine their water." "I
     should like," said Picrochole, "to go to Loretto." "No, no,"
     said they, "that will be on the way back. Thence we shall
     take Candia, Cyprus, Rhodes, and the Cyclades, and make a
     set at Morea. We shall get it at once. By St. Treignan, God
     keep Jerusalem! for the soldan is nothing in power to you."
     "Shall I," said he, "then rebuild the Temple of Solomon?"
     "Not yet," said they, "wait a little. Be not so hasty in
     your enterprises."

And so with the most meticulous exactness (Rabelais' geography is
irreproachable, and he carefully avoids the cheap expedient of making
Spadassin and Merdaille blunder) and the sagest citations of _Festina
lente_, they take him through Asia Minor to the Euphrates and Arabia,
while the other army (that which has annihilated Grandgousier) comes
round by the northern route, sweeping all Europe from Brittany and the
British Isles to Constantinople, where the great rendezvous is made and
the universal empire established, Picrochole graciously giving his
advisers Syria and Palestine as their fiefs.

"Pretty much like our own days," said Mr. Rigmarole. Have we not heard
something very like this lately, as "Berlin to Baghdad," if not "Calais
to Calcutta"? And even if we had not, would not the sense and the satire
of it be delectable? A great deal has been left out: the chapter is, for
Rabelais, rather a long one. The momentary doubt of the usually
undoubting Picrochole as to what they shall drink in the desert, allayed
at once by a beautiful scheme of commissariat camels and elephants,[99]
which would have done credit to the most modern A.S.C., is very capital.
There is, indeed, an unpleasant Echephron[100] who points the old moral
of Cineas to Pyrrhus himself. But Picrochole rebuffs him with the
invaluable _Passons oultre_, and closes the discussion by anticipating
Henri Quatre (who, no doubt, learnt the phrase from him), crying, "_Qui
m'aime, si me suive!_" and ordering all haste in the war.

It is possible that, here or earlier, the
not-quite-so-gentle-as-he-is-traditionally-called reader may ejaculate,
"This is all true enough; but it is all very well known, and does not
need recapitulation." Is this quite so certain? No doubt at one time
Englishmen did know their Rabelais well. Southey did, for instance, and
so, according to the historian of Barsetshire, did, in the next
generation, Archdeacon Grantly. More recently my late friend Sir Walter
Besant spent a great deal of pains on Master Francis, and mainly owing
to his efforts there existed for some years a Rabelais Club (already
referred to), which left some pleasant memories. But _is_ it quite so
certain that the average educated Englishman can at once distinguish
Eudemon from Epistemon, give a correct list of the various answers to
Panurge's enquiries as to the probable results of his marriage, relate
what happened when (as glanced at above and returned to later) _nous
passasmes oultre_, and say what the adorable Quintessence admitted to
her dainty lips besides second intentions? I doubt it very much. Even
special students of the Great Book, as in other cases, have too often
allowed themselves to be distracted from the pure enjoyment of it by
idle questions of the kinds above mentioned and others--questions of
dates and names and places, of origins and borrowings and
imitations--questions the sole justification of which, from the genuine
Pantagruelian point of view, is that their utter dryness inevitably
suggests the cries--the Morning Hymn and the Evening Voluntary of the
book itself--_À boire!_ and _Trinq_.

But, even were this not so, a person who has undertaken, wisely or
unwisely, to write the history of the French Novel is surely entitled to
lay some stress on what seems to him the importance of this its first
eminent example. At any rate he proposes _not_ to _passer oultre_, but
to stick to the line struck out, and exhibit, in reasonable detail, the
varieties of novel-matter and manner contained in the book.

[Sidenote: The peace and the Abbey of Thelema.]

The conclusion of _Gargantua_--after the victor has addressed a _concio_
to the vanquished, has mildly punished the originators of the trouble or
those he could catch (Spadassin and Merdaille having run away "six hours
before the battle") by setting them to work at his newly established
printing-press, and has distributed gifts and estates to his
followers--may be one of the best known parts of the whole book, but is
not of the most strictly novel character, though it has suggested at
least one whole novel and parts or passages of others. The "Abbey of
Thelema"--the home of the order of _Fay ce que vouldras_--is, if not a
devout, a grandiose imagination, and it gives occasion for some
admirable writing. But it is one of the purest exercises of "purpose,"
and one of the least furnished with incident or character, to be found
in Rabelais. In order to introduce it, he may even be thought guilty of
what is extremely rare with him, a fault of "keeping." He avoids this
fault surprisingly in the contrasted burlesque and serious chronicles of
Grandgousier and Gargantua himself, as well as in the expanded contrast
of Pantagruel and Panurge. Yet the heartiest admirer of "Friar John of
the Funnels" (or "Collops," for there is a schism on this point) may
fail to see in him a suitable or even a possible Head for an assemblage
of gallant gentlemen and stately ladies (both groups being also
accomplished scholars) like the Thelemites. But Rabelais, like
Shakespeare, had small care for small objections. He wanted to sketch a
Paradise of Anti-Monkery, and for this he wanted an Anti-Abbot. Friar
John was the handiest person, and he took him. But it is worth noting
that the Abbot of Thelema never afterwards appears as such, or in the
slightest relation to this miniature but most curious and interesting
example of the Renaissance fancy for imaginary countries, cities,
institutions, with its splendours of architecture and decoration, its
luxurious but not loose living, its gallantry and its learning, its
gorgeous dress, its polished manners (the Abbot must have had some
trouble to learn them), and its "inscriptions and enigmas" in verse
which is not quite so happy as the prose. One would not cut it out of
the book for anything, and parallels to it (not merely of the kind above
referred to) have found and may find place in other books of fiction.
But it is only a sort of chantry, in the Court of the Gentiles too, of
the mighty Temple of the Novel.

[Sidenote: _Pantagruel_ I. The contrasted youth.]

What it was exactly that made Rabelais "double," as it were, on
_Gargantua_ in the early books of _Pantagruel_[101] it would probably be
idle to enquire. His deliberate mention in the Prologue of some of the
most famous romances (with certain others vainly to be sought now or at
any time) might of course most easily be a mere red herring. It may be,
that as _Gargantua_ was not entirely of his own creation, he determined
to "begin at the beginning" in his original composition. But it matters
little or nothing. We have, once more, a burlesque genealogy with known
persons--Nimrod, Goliath, Polyphemus, etc. etc.--entangled in a chain of
imaginaries, one of the latter, Hurtaly, forming the subject of a solemn
discussion of the question why he is not received among the crew of the
Ark. The unfortunate concomitants of the birth of Pantagruel--which is
fatal to his mother Badebec--contrast with the less chequered history of
Gargantua and Gargamelle, while the mixed sorrow and joy of Gargantua at
his wife's death and his son's birth completes this contrast.
Pantagruel, though quite as amiable as his father, if not more so, has
in infancy the natural awkwardnesses of a giant, and a hairy giant
too--devouring cows whole instead of merely milking them, and tearing to
pieces an unfortunate bear who only licked his infant chops. As was said
above, he has no wild-oats period of education like his father's, but
his company is less carefully chosen than that of Gargantua in the days
of his reformation, and gives his biographer opportunities for his
sharpest satire.

First we have (taken, as everybody is supposed now to know, from
Geoffrey Tory, but improved) the episode of the Limousin scholar with
his "pedantesque"[102] deformation of French and Latin at once, till the
giant takes him by the throat and he cries for mercy in the strongest
meridional brogue.[103] Then comes the famous catalogue of the Library
of Saint Victor, a fresh attack on scholastic and monastic degeneracy,
and a kind of joining hands (Ortuinus figures) with the German guerrilla
against the _Obscuri_, and then a long and admirable letter from
Gargantua, whence we learn that Grandgousier is dead, and that his son
is now the sagest of monarchs, who has taken to read Greek, and shows no
memory of his governesses or his earlier student days. And then again
comes Panurge.

[Sidenote: Panurge.]

Many doubtful things have been said about this most remarkable
personage. He has been fathered upon the Cingar of Folengo, which is too
much of a compliment to that creation of the great Macaronic, and
Falstaff has been fathered upon him, which is distinctly unfair to
Falstaff. Sir John has absolutely nothing of the ill-nature which
characterises both Cingar and Panurge; and Panurge is an actual and
contemptible coward, while many good wits have doubted whether Falstaff
is, in the true sense, a coward at all. But Panurge is certainly one
thing--the first distinct and striking _character_ in prose fiction.
Morally, of course, there is little to be said for him, except that,
when he has no temptations to the contrary, he is a "good fellow"
enough. As a human example of _mimesis_ in the true Greek sense, not of
"imitation" but of "fictitious creation," he is, once more, the first
real character in prose fiction--the ancestor, in the literary sense, of
the mighty company in which he has been followed by the similar
creations of the masters from Cervantes to Thackeray. The fantastic
colouring, and more than colouring, of the whole book affects him, of
course, more than superficially. One could probably give some not quite
absurd guesses why Rabelais shaped him as he did--presented him as a
very naughty but intensely clever child, with the monkey element in
humanity thrown into utmost prominence. But it is better not to do so.
Panurge has some Yahooish characteristics, but he is not a Yahoo--in
fact, there is no misanthropy in Rabelais.[104] He is not merely impish
(as in his vengeance on the lady of Paris), but something worse than
impish (as in that on Dindenault); and yet one cannot call him diabolic,
because he is so intensely human. It is customary, and fairly correct,
to describe his ethos as that of understanding and wit wholly divorced
from morality, chivalry, or religion; yet he is never Mephistophelian.
If one of the hundred touches which make him a masterpiece is to be
singled out, it might perhaps be the series of rapturous invitations to
his wedding which he gives to his advisers while he thinks their advice
favourable, and the limitations of enforced politeness which he appends
when the unpleasant side of their opinions turns up. And it may perhaps
be added that one of the chief reasons for believing heartily in the
last Book is the delectable and unimprovable contrast which La Quinte
and her court of intellectual fantastry present to this picture of
intellectual materialism.

[Sidenote: Short view of the sequels in Book II.]

It was impossible that such a figure should not to a certain extent
dwarf others; but Rabelais, unlike some modern character-mongers, never
lets his psychology interfere with his story. After a few episodes, the
chief of which is the great sign-duel of Thaumast and Panurge himself,
the campaign against the Dipsodes at once enables Pantagruel to display
himself as a war-like hero of romance, permits him fantastic exploits
parallel to his father's, and, by installing Panurge in a lordship of
the conquered country and determining him, after "eating his corn in
the blade," to "marry and settle," introduces the larger and most
original part of the whole work--the debates and counsellings on the
marriage in the Third Book, and, after the failure of this, the voyage
to settle the matter at the Oracle of the Bottle in the Fourth and
Fifth. This "plot," if it may be called so, is fairly central and
continuous throughout, but it gives occasion for the most surprising
"alarums and excursions," variations and divagations, of the author's
inexhaustible humour, learning, inventive fertility, and never-failing
faculty of telling a tale. If the book does sometimes in a fashion "hop
forty paces in the public street," and at others gambade in a less
decorous fashion even than hopping, it is also Cleopatresque in its
absolute freedom from staleness and from tedium.

[Sidenote: _Pantagruel_ II. (Book III.)

The marriage of Panurge and the consultations on it.]

The Third Book has less of apparent variety in it, and less of what
might be called striking incident, than any of the others, being all but
wholly occupied by the enquiries respecting the marriage of Panurge. But
this gives it a "unity" which is of itself attractive to some tastes,
while the delightful sonnet to the spirit Of Marguerite,

    Esprit abstraict, ravy et ecstatique,

(perhaps the best example of _rhétoriqueur_ poetry), at the beginning,
and the last sight (except in letters) of Gargantua at the end, with the
curious _coda_ on the "herb Pantagruelion" (the ancestor of Joseph de
Maistre's famous eulogy of the Executioner), give, as it were, handle
and top to it in unique fashion. But the body of it is the thing. The
preliminary outrunning of the constable--had there been constables in
Salmigondin, but they probably knew the story of the Seigneur of Basché
too well--and the remarkable difference between the feudatory and his
superior on the subject of debt, serve but as a whet to the project of
matrimony which the debtor conceives. Of course, Panurge is the very
last man whom a superficial observer of humanity--the very first whom a
somewhat profounder student thereof--would take as a marrying one. He is
"a little failed"; he thinks to rest himself while not foregoing his
former delights, and he shuts eyes and ears to the proverb, as old as
Greek in words and as old as the world in fact, that "the doer shall
suffer." That he should consult Pantagruel is in the circumstances
almost a necessity, and Pantagruel's conduct is exactly what one would
expect from that good-natured, learned, admirable, but rather enigmatic
personage. Merely "aleatory" decision--by actual use of dice--he rejects
as illicit, though towards the close of the book one of its most
delectable episodes ends in his excusing Mr. Justice Bridoye for
settling law cases in that way. But he recommends the _sortes
Virgilianae_, and he, others, and Panurge himself add the experiment of
dreams, and the successive consultation of the Sibyl of Panzoust, the
dumb Nazdecabre, the poet Raminagrobis, Epistemon, "Her Trippa," Friar
John himself, the theologian Hippothadée, the doctor Rondibilis, the
philosopher Trouillogan, and the professional fool Triboulet. No reader
of the most moderate intelligence can need to be told that the
counsellors opine all in the same sense (unfavourable), though with more
or less ambiguity, and that Panurge, with equal obstinacy and ingenuity,
invariably twists the oracles according to his own wishes. But what no
reader, who came fresh to Rabelais and fasting from criticism on him,
could anticipate, is the astonishing spontaneity of the various dealings
with the same problem, the zest and vividness of the whole thing, and
the unceasing shower of satire on everything human--general,
professional, and individual--which is kept up throughout. There is less
pure extravagance, less mere farce, and (despite the subject) even less
"sculduddery" than in any other Book; but also in no other does Rabelais
"keep up with humanity" (somewhat, indeed, in the fashion in which a
carter keeps up with his animal, running and lashing at the same time)
so triumphantly.

In no book, moreover, are the curious intervals--or, as it were, prose
choric odes--of interruption more remarkable. Pantagruel's own serious
wisdom supplies not a few of them, and the long and very characteristic
episode of Judge Bridoye and his decision by throw of dice is very
loosely connected with the main subject. But the most noteworthy of
these excursions comes, as has been said, at the end--the last personal
appearance of the good Gargantua, and the famous discourse, several
chapters long, on the Herb Pantagruelion, otherwise Hemp.

[Sidenote: _Pantagruel_ III. (IV.) The first part of the voyage.]

The Fourth Book (Third of _Pantagruel_) starts the voyage, and begins to
lead the commentator who insists on fixing and interpreting the
innumerable real or apparent double, treble, and almost centuple
meanings, into a series of dances almost illimitable. As has been
suggested more than once, the most reasonable way is probably to regard
the whole as an intentional mixture of covert satire, pure fooling, not
a little deliberate leading astray, and (serving as vehicle and
impelling force at once) the irresistible narrative impulse animating
the writer and carrying the reader on to the end--any end, if it be only
the Other End of Nowhere. The "curios," living and other, of Medamothi
(Nowhere to begin with!), and the mysterious appearance of a shipful of
travellers coming back from the Land of Lanterns, whither the
Pantagruelian party is itself bound; the rather too severely punished
ill-manners of the sheep-dealer Dindenault; the strange isles of various
nature--such, especially, as the abode of the bailiffs and
process-servers, which gives occasion to the admirably told story of
François Villon and the Seigneur of Basché; the great storm--another of
the most famous passages of the book--with the cowardice of Panurge and
the safe landing in the curious country of the Macréons (long-livers);
the evil island where reigns Quaresmeprenant, and the elaborate analysis
of that personage by the learned Xenomanes; the alarming Physeter
(blowing whale) and his defeat by Pantagruel; the land of the
Chitterlings, the battle with them, and the interview and peace-making
with their Queen Niphleseth (a passage at which the sculduddery-hunters
have worked their hardest), and then the islands of the Papefigues and
the Papimanes, where Rabelais begins his most obvious and boldest
meddling with the great ecclesiastical-political questions of the
day--all these things and others flit past the reader as if in an actual
voyage. Even here, however, he rather skirts than actually invades the
most dangerous ground. It is the Decretals, not the doctrines, that are
satirised, and Homenas, bishop of Papimania, despite his adoration of
these forgeries, and the slightly suspicious number and prettiness of
the damsels who wait upon him, is a very good fellow and an excellent
host. There is something very soothing in his metaphorical way of
demanding wine from his Hebes, "_Clerice_, esclaire icy," the necessary
illumination being provided by a charming girl with a hanap of
"extravagant" wine. These agreeable if satiric experiences--for the
Decretals do no harm beyond exciting the bile of Master Epistemon (who,
it is to be feared, was a little of a pedant)--are followed by the once
more almost universally known passage of the "Frozen Words" and the
visit to "Messer Gaster, the world's first Master of Arts"; by the
islands (once more mysterious) of Chaneph (hypocrisy) and Ganabin
(thieves); the book concluding abruptly with an ultra-farcical
_cochonnerie_ of the lower kind, relieved partially by a libellous but
impossible story about our Edward the _Fifth_ and the poet Villon again,
as well as by the appearance of an interesting but not previously
mentioned member of the crew of the _Thalamége_ (Pantagruel's flagship),
the great cat Rodilardus.

[Sidenote: _Pantagruel_ IV. (Book V.) The second part of the voyage. The
"Isle Sonnante."]

[Sidenote: The "Chats Fourrés."]

One of the peculiarities of the Fifth Book, and perhaps one of those
which have aroused that suspicion about it which, after what has been
said above, it is not necessary further to discuss, is that it is more
"in blocks" than the others.[105] The eight chapters of the _Isle
Sonnante_ take up the satire of the Fourth Book on Papimania and on the
"Papegaut," who is here introduced in a much fiercer tone--a tone which,
if one cared for hypothetical criticism, might be attributed with about
equal probability to a genuine deepening of hostile feeling, to absence
of revision, and to possible sophistication by some one into whose hands
it fell between the author's death and its publication. But a perfectly
impartial critic, who, on the one hand, does not, in Carlyle's admirable
phrase, "regard the Universe as a hunting-field from which it were good
and pleasant to drive the Pope," and, on the other, is content to regard
the extremer Protestants as singularly unpleasant persons without
pronouncing Ernulphus-curses on them, may perhaps fail to find in it
either the cleverest or the most amusing part of the voyage. The episode
of the next Isle--that _des Ferrements_--is obscure, whether it is or is
not (as the commentators were sure to suggest) something else beginning
with "obsc-," and the succeeding one, with its rocks fashioned like
gigantic dice, is not very amusing. But the terrible country of the
_Chats Fourrés_ and their chief Grippeminaud--an attack on the Law as
unsparing as, and much more vivid than that on the Church in the
overture--may rank with the best things in Rabelais. The tyrant's
ferocious and double-meaning catchword of _Or çà!_ and the power at his
back, which even Pantagruel thinks it better rather to run away from
than to fight openly, which Panurge frankly bribes, and over which even
the reckless and invincible Friar John obtains not much triumph, except
that of cutting up, after buying it, an old woman's bed--these and the
rest have a grim humour not quite like anything else.

[Sidenote: "La Quinte."]

The next section--that of the Apedeftes or Uneducated Ones[106]--has
been a special object of suspicion; it is certainly a little difficult,
and perhaps a little dull. One is not sorry when the explorers, in the
ambiguous way already noted, "_passent_ _Oultre_," and, after
difficulties with the wind, come to "the kingdom of Quintessence, named
Entelechy." Something has been said more than once of this already, and
it is perhaps unnecessary to say more, or indeed anything, except to
those who themselves "hold of La Quinte," and who for that very reason
require no talking about her. "We" (if one may enrol oneself in their
company) would almost rather give up Rabelais altogether than sacrifice
this delightful episode, and abandon the idea of having the ladies of
the Queen for our partners in Emmelie, and Calabrisme, and the thousand
other dances, of watching the wonderful cures by music, and the
interesting process of throwing, not the house out of the window, but
the window out of the house, and the miraculous and satisfactory
transformation of old ladies into young girls, with very slight
alteration of their former youthful selves, and all the charming
topsyturvifications of Entelechy. Not to mention the gracious if
slightly unintelligible speeches of the exquisite princess, when clear
Hesperus shone once more, and her supper of pure nectar and ambrosia
(not grudging more solid viands to her visitors), and the great
after-supper chess-tournament with living pieces, and the "invisible
disparition" of the lady, and the departure of the fortunate visitors
themselves, duly inscribed and registered as Abstractors of
Quintessence. The whole is like a good dream, and is told so as almost
to be one.

Between this and the final goal of the Country of Lanterns the interest
falls a little. The island of "Odes" (not "poems" but "ways"), where the
"walks walk" (_les chemins cheminent_); that of "Esclots" ("clogs"),
where dwell the Frères Fredonnants, and where the attack on monkery is
renewed in a rather unsavoury and rather puerile fashion; and that of
Satin, which is a sort of Medamothi rehandled, are not first-rate--they
would have been done better, or cut out, had the book ever been issued
by Master Francis. But the arrival at and the sojourn in Lanternia
itself recovers the full powers of Rabelais at his best, though one may
once more think that some of the treatment might have been altered in
the case just mentioned.

[Sidenote: The conclusion and The Bottle.]

Apart from the usual mixture of serious and purely jocular satire, of
learning and licence, of jargonic catalogues, of local references to
Western France and the general topography of Utopia, this conclusion
consists of two main parts--first, a most elaborate description of the
Temple, containing underground the Oracle of the Bottle, to which the
pilgrims are conducted by a select "Lantern," and of its priestess
Bacbuc, its _adytum_ with a fountain, and, in the depth and centre of
all, the sacred Bottle itself; and secondly, the ceremonies of the
delivery of the Oracle; the divine utterance, _Trinq!_ its
interpretation by Bacbuc; the very much _ad libitum_ reinterpretations
of the interpretation by Panurge and Friar John, and the dismissal of
the pilgrims by the priestess, _Or allez de par Dieu, qui vous

       *       *       *       *       *

What, it may be asked, is the object of this cumbrous analysis of
certainly one of the most famous and (as it at least should be) one of
the best known books of the world? That object has been partly indicated
already; but it may be permissible to set it forth more particularly
before ending this chapter. Of the importance, on the one hand, of the
acquisition by the novel of the greatest known and individual writer of
French up to his date, and of the enormous popularity of this example of
it, enough may have been said. But the abstract has been given, and the
further comment is now added, with the purpose of showing, in a little
detail, how immensely the resources and inspirations of future
practitioners were enriched and strengthened, varied and multiplied, by
_Gargantua_ and _Pantagruel_. The book as a whole is to be classed, no
doubt, as "Eccentric" fiction. But if you compare with Rabelais that one
of his followers[108] who possessed most genius and who worked at his
following with most deliberation, you will find an immense falling off
in richness and variety as well as in strength. The inferiority of
Sterne to Master Francis in his serious pieces, whether he is whimpering
over dead donkeys and dying lieutenants, or simulating honest
indignation against critics, is too obvious to need insistence. Nor can
one imagine any one--unless, like Mackenzie and other misguided
contemporaries or juniors, he himself wanted to whimper, or unless he
also aimed at the _fatrasie_--going to Sterne for pattern or
inspiration. Now Rabelais is a perpetual fount of inspiration, an
inexhaustible magazine of patterns to the most "serious" novelist whose
seriousness is not of the kind designated by that term in dissenting
slang. That abounding narrative faculty which has been so much dwelt on
touches so many subjects, and manages to carry along with it so many
moods, thoughts, and even feelings, that it could not but suggest to any
subsequent writer who had in him the germ of the novelist's art, how to
develop and work out such schemes as might occur to him. While, for his
own countrymen at least, the vast improvement which he made in French
prose, and which, with the accomplishment of his younger contemporaries
Amyot and Montaigne, established the greatness of that prose itself, was
a gain, the extent of which cannot be exaggerated. Therefore it has
seemed not improper to give him a chapter to himself, and to treat his
book with a minuteness not often to be paralleled in this


[90] A complete argument on this much vexed subject can hardly be wished
for here: but it may be permitted to say that nearly fifty years'
consideration of the matter has left less and less doubt in my mind as
to the genuineness of the "_Quart_" or "_Quint_" _Livre_ as it is
variously called--according as _Gargantua_ is numbered separately or
not. One of the apparently strongest arguments against its
genuineness--the constant presence of "_Je_" in the narrative--really
falls, with the others--the fiercer and more outspoken character of the
satire, the somewhat lessened prominence of Pantagruel, etc.
etc.--before one simple consideration. We know from the dates of
publication of the other books that Rabelais was by no means a rapid
writer, or at any rate that, if he wrote rapidly, he "held up" what he
did write long, and pretty certainly rewrote a good deal. Now the
previous Book had appeared only a short time before what must have been
the date of his death; and this could not, according to analogy and
precedent, have been ready, or anything like ready, when he died. On the
other hand, time enough passed between his death and the publication
(even of the _Ile Sonnante_ fragment) for the MS. to have passed through
other hands and to have been adulterated, even if it was not, when the
Master's hands left it, in various, as well as not finally finished
form. I can see nothing in it really inconsistent with the earlier
Books; nothing unworthy of them (especially if on the one hand possible
meddling, and on the other imperfect revision be allowed for); and much,
especially the _Chats Fourrés_, the Quintessence part, and the
Conclusion, without which the whole book would be not only incomplete
but terribly impoverished. I may add that, having a tolerably full
knowledge of sixteenth-century French literature, and a great admiration
of it, I know no single other writer or group of other writers who
could, in my critical judgment, by any reasonable possibility have
written this Book. François Rabelais could have done it, and I have no
doubt that he did it; though whether we have it as he left it no man can

[91] It is perhaps hardly necessary, but may not be quite idle, to
observe that our Abstractor of Quintessence takes good care not to quote
the other half of the parallelism, "but the prudent looketh well to his

[92] It is possible, but not certain, that he is playing on the two
senses of the word _apparence_, the ambiguity of which is not so great
in English. The A. V., "evidence of things _not seen_," would not have
suited his turn.

[93] In which, it will be remembered, the "liquor called punch," which
one notes with sorrow that Rabelais knew not, but which he certainly
would have approved, is also "nowhere spoken against."

[94] Original "Sibyle." I owe to Prof. Ker an important reminder (which
I ought not to have needed) of Dante's "Sibilia" in the famous "Ulysses"
passage, _Inf._ xxvi. 110.

[95] The Turkish corsair, not the German Emperor.

[96] Probably erected into a kingdom in honour of St. Augustine.

[97] _Passant oultre_--one of Rabelais' favourite and most _polymorphic_
expressions. It has nearly always an ironical touch in it; and it enjoys
a chapter all to itself in that mood--V. xvii.

[98] Perhaps this _à gauche_ might make as good a short test as any of a
reader's sense of humour. But here also a possible Dantean reminiscence
(not suggested to me this time) comes in; for in the lines already
quoted "dalla man _destra_" occurs.

[99] The King is, however, more difficult to satisfy on this point than
on others; and objects with a delightful _preterite_, "Yes: but we _did
not get_ our wine fresh and cool"; whereat they rebuke him with a
respectful reminder that great conquerors cannot be always entirely

[100] "Suspender of judgment."

[101] Of course the first book of the son _preceded_ the reconstructed
history of the father; but this is immaterial.

[102] The correct opposition of this term (Latin or Greek words
vernacularised) to "Macaronic" (vernacular words turned into Latin or
Greek form) is not always observed.

[103] It is very seldom, after his infantine and innocent excesses, that
Pantagruel behaves thus. He is for the most part a quiet and somewhat
reserved prince, very generous, very wise, very devout, and, though
tolerating the eccentricities of Panurge and Friar John, never taking
part in them.

[104] If Swift had drunk more wine and had not put water in what he did
drink, possibly this quality might have been lessened in _him_.

[105] The first of these, the _Isle Sonnante_, as is well enough known
to all students, appeared separately and before the rest.

[106] A sort of dependency or province of the _Chats Fourrés_.

[107] A MS. "addition" unknown to the old printed forms, appears in some
modern ones. It is a mere disfigurement: and is hardly likely even to
have been a rejected draft.

[108] Not Swift here, but Sterne. There is far higher genius in
_Gulliver_ than in _Shandy_; but the former is not _fatrasie_, the
latter is.

[109] That the not quite unknown device of setting up a man of straw in
order to knock him down has not been followed in this chapter, a single
piece of evidence out of many may be cited. H. Körting in his justly
well reputed _Geschichte des Franz. Romans im XVII. Jahrh._ (Oppeln u.
Leipzig, 1891, i. 133 _note_) would rule Rabelais out of the history of
the novel altogether. This book, which will be quoted again with
gratitude later, displays a painstaking erudition not necessitating any
make-weight of sympathy for its author's early death after great
suffering. It is extremely useful; but it does not escape, in this and
other places, the censure which, ten years before the war of 1914, the
present writer felt it his duty to express on modern German critics and
literary historians generally (_History of Criticism_, London, 1904,
vol. iii. Bks. viii. and ix.), that on points of literary appreciation,
as distinguished from mere philology, "enumeration," bibliographical
research, and the like, they are "sadly to seek." It may not be
impertinent to add that Herr Körting's history happened never to have
been read by me till after the above chapter of the present book was



In the present chapter we shall endeavour to treat two divisions of
actual novel- or at least fiction-writing--strikingly opposed to each
other in character; and a third subject, to include which in the title
would have made that title too long, and which is not strictly a branch
of novel-_writing_, but which had perhaps as important an influence on
the progress of the novel itself as anything mentioned or to be
mentioned in all this _History_. The first division is composed of the
followers--sometimes in the full, always in the chronological sense--of
Rabelais, a not very strong folk as a rule, but including one brilliant
example of co-operative work, and two interesting, if in some degree
problematical, persons. The second, strikingly contrasting with the
general if not the universal tendency of the first, is the great
translated group of _Amadis_ romances, which at once revived romance of
the older kind itself, and exercised a most powerful, if not an actually
generative, influence on newer forms which were themselves to pass into
the novel proper. The third is the increasing body of memoir- and
anecdote-writers who, with Brantôme at their head, make actual
personages and actual events the subjects of a kind of story-telling,
not perhaps invariably of unexceptionable historic accuracy, but
furnishing remarkable situations of plot and suggestions of character,
together with abundant new examples of the "telling" faculty itself.

[Sidenote: Subsidiary importance of Brantôme and other

The last point, as an apparent digression but really a most important
contribution to the History, may perhaps be discussed and dismissed
first. All persons who have even a slight knowledge of French literature
must be aware how early and how remarkable are its possessions in what
is vaguely called the "Memoir" department. There is nothing at the time,
in any modern literature known to the present writer, similar to
Villehardouin, or a little later to Joinville,--one might almost say
that there is nothing in any literature at any time superior, if there
be anything equal, in its kind to Froissart. In the first two cases
there is pure personal experience; in the third there is, of course, a
certain amount of precedent writing on the subject for guidance, and a
large gathering of information by word of mouth. But in all these, and
to a less extent in others up to the close of the fifteenth century,
there is the indefinable gift of treatment--of "telling a story." In
Villehardouin this gift may be almost wholly, and in principle very
mainly, limited to the two great subjects which made the mediaeval end
as far as profane matters were concerned--fighting and counselling; but
this is by no means the case in Froissart, whom one is sometimes tempted
to regard as a Sir Walter Scott thrown away upon base reality.

With the sixteenth century this gift once more burgeoned and spread
itself out--dealing, indeed, very mainly with the somewhat ungrateful
subject of the religious disputes and wars, but flowering or fruiting
into the unsurpassable gossip--though gossip is too undignified a
word--of Pierre de Bourdeilles, Abbé de Brantôme, that Froissart and
Pepys in one, with the noble delight in noble things of the first,
inextricably united to the almost innocent shamelessness of the second,
and a narrative gift equal to that of either in idiosyncrasy, and
ranging beyond the subjects of both. Himself a soldier and a courtier
(his abbacy, like many others, was purely titular and profitable--not
professional in the least), his favourite subjects in literature, and
obviously his idols in life, were great soldiers and fair ladies,
"Bayard and the two Marguerites," as some one has put it. And his vivid
irregular fashion of writing adapts itself with equal ease to a gallant
feat of arms and a ferocious, half-cut-throat duel, to an exquisite
piece of sentimental passion like that which tells us the story how the
elder Queen of Navarre rebuked the lover carelessly stepping over the
grave of his dead mistress, and to an unquotable anecdote to parallel
the details of which, in literature of high rank, one must go to
Rabelais himself, to Martial, or to Aristophanes. But, whatever the
subject, the faculty of lively communication remains unaltered, and the
suggestion of its transference from fact (possibly a little coloured) to
pure fiction becomes more and more possible and powerful.[110]

[Sidenote: The _Heptameron_.]

No book has been more subject to the "insupportable advances" of the
"key"-monger than the _Heptameron_, and the rage for identifying has
gone so far that the pretty old name of "Emarsuite" for one of the
characters has been discarded for an alleged and much uglier
"Ennasuite," which is indeed said to have MS. authority, but which is
avowedly preferred because it can be twisted into "_Anne_ à Suite"
("Anne in Waiting"), and so can be fastened to an actual Maid of Honour
of Marguerite's. It is only fair, however, to admit that something of
the kind is at least suggested by the book itself. Even by those who do
not trouble themselves in the least about the personages who may or may
not have been disguised under the names of Nomerfide (the Neifile of
this group) and Longarine, Saffredent and Dagoucin and Gebron (Geb_u_ron
they call him now), admit the extreme probability of the Queen having
invited identification of herself with Parlamente, the younger matron of
the party, and of Hircan her husband with the King of Navarre.[111] But
some (among whom is the present writer) think that this delightful and
not too well-fated type of Renaissance amorousness, letteredness, and
piety combined made a sort of dichotomy of herself here, and intended
the personage of Oisille, the elder duenna (though by no means a very
stern one) of the party, to stand for her as well as Parlamente--to whom
one really must give the Italian pronunciation to get her out of the
abominable suggestion of our "talking-machine."

[Sidenote: Character and "problems."]

A much more genuinely literary question has been raised and discussed as
to the exact authorship of the book. That it is entirely Marguerite's,
not the most jealous admirers of the Queen need for a moment contend.
She is known to have had a sort of literary court from Marot and
Rabelais downwards, some of the members of which were actually resident
with her, and not a few of whom--such as Boaistuau and Le Maçon, the
translators of Bandello and Boccaccio, and Bonaventure Despériers (_v.
inf._)--were positive experts in the short story. Moreover, the custom
of distributing these collections among different speakers positively
invited collaboration in writing. The present critic and his friend, Mr.
Arthur Tilley of King's College, Cambridge, who has long been our chief
specialist in the literature of the French Renaissance, are in an
amicable difference as to the part which Despériers in particular may
have played in the _Heptameron_; but this is of no great importance
here, and though Marguerite's other literary work is distinctly inferior
in style, it is not impossible that the peculiar tone of the best parts
of it, especially as regards the religious-amorous flavour, was infused
by her or under her direct influence. The enthusiasm of Rabelais and
Marot; the striking anecdote already mentioned which Brantôme, whose
mother had been one of Marguerite's maids of honour, tells us, and one
or two other things, suggest this; for Despériers was more of a satirist
than of an amorist, and though the charges of atheism brought against
him are (_v. inf._ again) scarcely supported by his work, he was
certainly no pietist. I should imagine that he revised a good deal and
sometimes imparted his nervous and manly, but, in his own _Contes_,
sometimes too much summarised style. But some striking phrases, such as
"_l'impossibilité_ de nostre chair,"[112] may be hers, and the following
remarkable speech of Parlamente probably expresses her own sentiments
pretty exactly. It is very noteworthy that Hircan, who is generally
represented as "taking up" his wife's utterances with a certain sarcasm,
is quite silent here.

     [Sidenote: Parlamente on human and divine love.]

     "Also," said Parlamente, "I have an opinion that never will
     a man love God perfectly if he has not perfectly loved some
     of God's creatures in this world." "But what do you call
     'perfect loving'?" said Saffredent. "Do you reckon as
     perfect lovers those who are _transis_,[113] and who adore
     ladies at a distance, without daring to make their wishes
     known?" "I call perfect lovers," answered Parlamente, "those
     who seek in what they love some perfection--be it beauty,
     kindness, or good grace,--always striving towards virtue;
     and such as have so high and honourable a heart, that they
     would not, were they to die for it, take for their object
     the base things which honour and conscience disapprove: for
     the soul, which is only created that it may return to its
     Sovereign Good, does naught while it is in the body but long
     for the attainment of this. But because the senses by which
     alone it can acquire information are darkened and made
     carnal by the sin of our first father, they can only show
     her the visible things which approach closest to
     perfection--and after these the soul runs, thinking to find
     in outward beauty, in visible grace, and in moral virtue,
     grace, beauty, and virtue in sovereign degree. But when she
     has sought them and tried them, and finds not in them Him
     whom she loves, she leaves them alone,[114] just as a child,
     according to his age, likes dolls and other trivialities,
     the prettiest he sees, and thinks a collection of pebbles
     actual riches, but as he grows up prefers his dolls alive,
     and gets together the goods necessary for human life. Yet
     when he knows, by still wider experience, that in earthly
     things there is neither perfection nor felicity, he desires
     to seek the Creator and the Source of these. Nevertheless,
     if God open not the eye of faith in him he would be in
     danger of becoming, instead of a merely ignorant man, an
     infidel philosopher.[115] For Faith alone can demonstrate
     and make receivable the good that the carnal and animal man
     cannot understand."

This gives the better Renaissance temper perhaps as well as anything to
be found, and may, or should in fairness, be set against the worser tone
of mere libertinage in which some even of the ladies indulge here, and
still more against that savagery which has been noticed above. This
undoubtedly was in Milton's mind when he talked of "Lust hard by Hate,"
and it makes Hircan coolly observe, after a story has been told in which
an old woman successfully interferes to save a girl's chastity, that in
the place of the hero he should certainly have killed the hag and
enjoyed the girl. This is obviously said in no bravado, and not in the
least humorously: and the spirit of it is exemplified in divers not in
the least incredible anecdotes of Brantôme's in the generation
immediately following, and of Tallemant des Réaux in the next. The
religiosity displayed is of a high temper of Christian Platonism, and we
cannot, as we can elsewhere, say what the song says of something else,
that "it certainly looks very queer." The knights and ladies do go to
mass and vespers; but to say that they go punctually would be altogether
erroneous, for Hircan makes wicked jokes on his and Parlamente's being
late for the morning office, and, on one occasion at least, they keep
the unhappy monks of the convent where they are staying (who do not seem
to dare to begin vespers without them) waiting a whole hour while they
are finishing not particularly edifying stories. The less complaisant
casuists, even of the Roman Church, would certainly look askance at the
piety of the distinguished person (said by tradition to have been King
Francis himself) who always paid his respects to Our Lady on his way to
illegitimate assignations, and found himself the better therefor on one
occasion of danger. But the tone of our extract is invariably that of
Oisille and Parlamente. The purer love part of the matter is a little,
as the French themselves say, "alembicated." But still the whole is
graceful and fascinating, except for a few pieces of mere passionless
coarseness, which Oisille generally reproves. And it is scarcely
necessary to say what large opportunities these tones and colours of
fashion and "quality," of passion and manners, give to the future
novelist, whose treatment shall stand to them very much as they stand to
the shorter and sometimes almost shorthand written tales of Despériers

[Sidenote: Despériers.]

With the _Cymbalum Mundi_ of this rather mysterious person we need have
little to do. It is, down to the dialogue-form, an obvious imitation of
Lucian--a story about the ancient divinities (especially Mercury) and a
certain "Book of Destiny" and talking animals, and a good deal of often
rather too transparent allegory. It has had, both in its own day and
since, a very bad reputation as being atheistical or at least
anti-Christian, and seems really to have had something to do with the
author's death, by suicide or otherwise. There need, however, be very
little harm in it; and there is not very much good as a story, nor,
therefore, much for us. It does not carry the art of its particular kind
of fiction any further than Lucian himself, who is, being much more of a
genius, on the whole a much better model, even taking him at that rather
inferior rate. The _Contes et Joyeux Devis_, on the other hand, though
the extreme brevity of some has perhaps sometimes prejudiced readers
against them, have always seemed to the present writer to form the most
remarkable book, as literature, of all the department at the time except
_Gargantua_ and _Pantagruel_ and the _Heptameron_, and to supply a
strong presumption that their author had more than a minor hand in the
_Heptameron_ itself. It must, of course, be admitted that the fashion in
which they are delivered may not only offend in one direction, but may
possibly mislead in another. One may read too much into the brevity, and
so fall into the error of that other Englishman who was beguiled by the
mysterious signs of Despériers' greatest contemporary's most original
creation. But a very large and long experience of literary weighing and
measuring ought to be some safeguard against the mistake of Thaumast.

[Sidenote: _Contes et Joyeux Devis._]

One remarkable difference which may seem, at first sight, to be against
the theory of Despériers having had a large share in the _Heptameron_ is
the contrasted and, as it may seem again at first sight, antagonistic
tone of the two. There are purely comic and even farcical passages in
Marguerite's book, but the general colour, as has been said, is
religious-sentimental or courtly-amatory, with by no means infrequent
excursions into the purely tragical. The _Contes et Joyeux Devis_, on
the other hand, in the main continue the wholly jocular tone of the old
_fabliaux_. But Despériers must have been, not only _not_ the great man
of letters which the somewhat exaggerated zeal of his editor, M. Louis
Lacour, ranked him as being, but a very weak and feeble writer, if he
could not in this way write comedy in one book and tragedy in another.
In fact Rabelais gives us (as the greatest writers so often do) what is
in more senses than one a master-key to the contrast. Despériers has in
the _Contes_ constant ironic qualifications and asides which may even
have been directly imitated from his elder and greater contemporary;
Marguerite has others which pair off in the same way with the most
serious Rabelaisian "intervals," to which attention has been drawn in
the last chapter. One point, however, does seem, at least to me, to
emerge from the critical consideration of these two books with the other
works of the Queen on the one hand and the other works of
Despériers[116] on the other. It is that the latter had a much crisper
and stronger style than Marguerite's own, and that he had a faculty of
grave ironic satire, going deeper and ranging wider than her
"sensibility" would allow. There is one on the fatal and irremediable
effects of disappointing ladies in their expectations, wherein there is
something more than the mere _grivoiserie_, which in other hands it
might easily have remained. The very curious Novel XIII.--on King
Solomon and the philosopher's stone and the reason of the failure of
alchemy--is of quite a different type from most things in these
story-collections, and makes one regret that there is not more of it,
and others of the same kind. For sheer amusement, which need not be
shocking to any but the straitest-laced of persons, the story (XXXIV.)
of a curate completely "scoring off" his bishop (who did not observe the
caution given by Ophelia to Laertes) has not many superiors in its
particular kind.

[Sidenote: Other tale-collections.]

The fancy for these collections of tales spread widely in the sixteenth
century, and a respectable number of them have found a home in histories
of literature. Sometimes they present themselves honestly as what they
are, and sometimes under a variety of disguises, the most extravagant of
which is the title of the rather famous work of Henri Estienne,
_Apologie pour Hérodote_. Others, more or less fantastic, are the
_Propos Rustiques_ and _Baliverneries_ of Noël Du Fail, a Breton squire
(as we should say), and his later _Contes d'Eutrapel_; the _Escraignes
Dijonnaises_ and other books of Tabourot des Accords; the _Matinées_ and
_Après Dinées_ of Cholières, and, the largest collection of all, the
_Sérees_ [Soirées] of the Angevin Guillaume Bouchet,[117] while after
the close of the actual century, but probably representing earlier work,
appeared the above-mentioned _Moyen de Parvenir_, by turns attributed
and denied to Béroalde de Verville. In all these, without exception, the
imitation of Rabelais, in different but unmistakable ways, is to be
found; and in not a few, that of the _Heptameron_ and of Despériers;
while not unfrequently the same tales are found in more than one
collection. The _fatrasie_ character--that is to say, the stuffing
together of all sorts of incongruous matter in more or less burlesque
style--is common to all of them; the licence of subject and language to
most; and there are hardly any, except a few mere modernisings of old
_fabliaux_, in which you will not find the famous farrago of the
Renaissance--learning, religious partisanship, war, law, love, almost
everything. All the writers are far below their great master,[118] and
none of them has the appeal of the _Heptameron_. But the spirit of
tale-telling pervades the whole shelf-ful, and there is one more special
point of importance "for us."

[Sidenote: The "provincial" character of these.]

It will be observed that some of them actually display in their titles
(such as that of Tabouret's book as quoted) the fact that they have a
definite provinciality in no bad sense: while Bouchet is as clearly
Angevin and Du Fail as distinctly Breton as Des Accords is Burgundian
and as the greatest of all had been Tourangeau. It can scarcely be
necessary to point out at great length what a reinforcement of vigour
and variety must have been brought by this plantation in the different
soils of those provinces which have counted for so much--and nearly
always for so much good[119]--in French literature and French things
generally. The great danger and defect of mediaeval writing had been its
tendency to fall into schools and ruts, and the "printed book"
(especially such a printed book as Rabelais) was, at least in one way,
by no means unlikely to exercise this bad influence afresh. To this the
provincial differences opposed a salutary variety of manners, speech,
local colour, almost everything. Moreover, manners themselves
generally--one of the fairest and most fertile fields of the
novel-kingdom--became thus more fully and freely the object and subject
of the tale-teller. Character, in the best and most extensive and
intensive sense of the word, still lagged behind; and as the drama
necessarily took that up, it was for more reasons than one encouraged,
as we may say, in its lagging. But meanwhile Amyot and Calvin[120] and
Montaigne were getting the language more fully ready for the
prose-writer's use, and the constant "sophistication" of literature with
religion, politics, knowledge of the physical world in all ways,
commerce, familiarity with foreign nations--everything almost that
touched on life--helped to bring on the slow but inevitable appearance
of the novel itself. But it had more influences to assimilate and more
steps to go through before it could take full form.

[Sidenote: The _Amadis_ romances.]

No more curious contrast (except, perhaps, the not very dissimilar one
which will meet us in the next chapter) is to be found in the present
_History_, or perhaps in any other, than that of the matter just
discussed with the great body of _Amadis_ romance which, at this same
time, was introduced into French literature by the translation or
adaptation of Nicolas Herberay des Essarts and his continuators. That
Herberay[121] deserves, according to the best and most catholic students
of French, a place with the just-mentioned writers among the formers or
reformers of the French tongue, is a point of some importance, but, for
us, minor. Of the controversial part of the _Amadis_ subject it must, as
in other cases, be once more unnecessary for us to say much. It may be
laid down as certain, on every principle of critical logic and research,
that the old idea of the Peninsular cycle being borrowed direct from any
French original is hopelessly absurd. There is, notoriously, no external
evidence of any such original ever having existed, and there is an
immense improbability against any such original ever having existed.
Further, the internal characteristics of the Spanish romances, though,
undoubtedly, they might never have come into existence at all but for
the French, and though there is a very slight "catch-on" of _Amadis_
itself to the universally popular Arthurian legend, are not in the least
like those of French or English. How the actual texts came into that
existence; whether, as used to be thought at first, after some expert
criticism was turned on them, the actual original was Portuguese, and
the refashioned and prolific form Spanish, is again a question utterly
beyond bounds for us. The quality of the romances themselves--their huge
vogue being a matter of fact--and the influence which they exercised on
the future development of the novel,--these are the things that concern
us, and they are quite interesting and important enough to deserve a
little attention.

[Sidenote: Their characteristics.]

What is certain is that these Spanish romances themselves--which, as
some readers at any rate may be presumed to know, branch out into
endless genealogies in the _Amadis_ and _Palmerin_ lines, besides the
more or less outside developments which fared so hardly with the censors
of Don Quixote's library--as well as the later French examples of a not
dissimilar type, the capital instance of which, for literature, is Lord
Berners's translation of _Arthur of Little Britain_--do show the most
striking differences, not merely from the original twelfth- and
thirteenth-century Charlemagne and Arthur productions, but also from
intermediate variants and expansions of these. The most obvious of these
discrepancies is the singular amplification of the supernatural
elements. Of course these were not absent in the older romance
literature, especially in the Arthurian cycle. But there they had
certain characteristics which might almost deserve the adjective
"critical"--little criticism proper as there was in the Middle Ages.
They were very generally religious, and they almost always had what may
be called a poetic restraint about them. The whole Graal-story is
deliberately modelled on Scriptural suggestions; the miracle of
reconciliation and restoration which concludes _Amis and Amiles_ is the
work of a duly commissioned angel. There are giants, but they are
introduced moderately and equipped in consonance. The Saint's Life,
which, as it has been contended, exercised so large an influence on the
earlier romance, carried the nature, the poetry, the charm of its
supernatural elements into the romance itself.

[Sidenote: Extravagance in incident, nomenclature, etc.]

In the _Amadis_ cycle and in romances like _Arthur of Little Britain_
all this undergoes a change--not by any means for the better. What has
been unkindly, but not perhaps unjustly, called the "conjuror's
supernatural" takes the place of the poet's variety. One of the
personages of the _Knight of the Sun_ is a "Bedevilled Faun," and it is
really too much not to say that most of such personages are bedevilled.
In _Arthur of_ (so much the Lesser) _Britain_ there is, if I remember
rightly, a giant whose formidability partly consists in his spinning
round on a sort of bedevilled music-stool: and his class can seldom be
met with without three or seven heads, a similarly large number of legs
and hands, and the like. This sort of thing has been put down, not
without probability, to the Oriental suggestion which would come so
readily into Spain. It may be so or it may not. But it certainly imports
an element of puerility into romance, which is regrettable, and it
diminishes the dignity and the poetry of the things rather lamentably.
Whether it diminishes, and still more whether it originally diminished
the _readability_ of these same things, is quite another question.

Closely connected with it is the fancy for barbaric names of great
length and formidable sound, such as Famongomadan, Pintiquinestra, and
the like--a trait which, if anybody pleases, may be put down to the
distorted echo of more musical[122] appellations in Arabic and other
Eastern tongues, or to a certain childishness, for there is no doubt
that the youthful mind delights, and always has delighted, in such
things. The immense length of these romances even in themselves, and
still more with continuations from father to son and grandson, and
trains of descendants sometimes alternately named, can be less charged
as an innovation, though there is no doubt that it established a rule
which had only been an exception before. But, as will have been seen
earlier, the continuation of romance genealogically had been not
uncommon, and there had been a constant tendency to lengthen from the
positively terse _Roland_ to the prolix fifteenth-century forms. In fact
this went on till the extravagant length of the Scudéry group made
itself impossible, and even afterwards, as all readers of Richardson
know, there was reluctance to shorten.

[Sidenote: The "cruel" heroine.]

We have, however, still to notice another peculiarity, and the most
important by far as concerns the history of the novel: this is the
ever-increasing tendency to exaggerate the "cruelty" of the heroine and
the sufferings of the lovers. This peculiarity is not specially
noticeable in the earliest and best of the group itself. Amadis suffers
plentifully; yet Oriana can hardly be called "cruel." But of the two
heroines of _Palmerin_, Polisarda does play the part to some extent, and
Miraguarda (whose name it is not perhaps fantastic to interpret as
"Admire her but beware of her") is positively ill-natured. Of course the
thing was no more a novelty in literature than it was in life. The

    And cruel in the New
    As in the Old one,

may certainly be transferred from the geographical world to the
historical. But in classical literature "cruelty" is attributed rather
indiscriminately to both sexes. The cliff of Leucas knew no distinction
of sex, and Sappho can be set against Anaxarete. Indeed, it was safer
for men to be cruel than for women, inasmuch as Aphrodite, among her
innumerable good qualities, was very severe upon unkind girls, while one
regrets to have to admit that no particular male deity was regularly
"affected" to the business of punishing light o' love men, though
Eros-Cupid may sometimes have done so. The Eastern mistress, for obvious
reasons, had not much chance of playing the Miraguarda part as a rule,
though there seems to me more chance of the convention coming from Arab
and Hebrew poetry than from any other source. But in the _Arabian
Nights_ at least, though there are lustful murderesses--eastern
Margarets of Burgundy, like Queen Labé of the Magicians,--there is
seldom any "cruelty," or even any tantalising, on the part of the

A hasty rememberer of the sufferings of Lancelot and one or two other
heroes of the early and genuine romance might say, "Why go further than
this?" But on a little examination the cases will be found very
different. Neither Iseult nor Guinevere is cruel to her lover;
Orgueilleuse has a fair excuse in difference of rank and slight
acquaintance; persons like Tennyson's Ettarre, still more his Vivien,
are "sophisticated"--as we have pointed out already. Besides, Vivien and
Ettarre are frankly bad women, which is by no means the case with the
Polisardas and Miraguardas. They, if they did not introduce the
thing--which is, after all, as the old waterman in _Jacob Faithful_
says, "Human natur',"--established and conventionalised the Silvius and
Phoebe relation of lover and mistress. If Lancelot is banished more than
once or twice, it is because of Guinevere's real though unfounded
jealousy, not of any coquettish "cruelty" on her part; if Partenopeus
nearly perishes in his one similar banishment, it is because of his own
fault--his fault great and inexcusable. But the Amadisian heroes, as a
rule--unless they belong to the light o' love Galaor type, which would
not mind cruelty if it were exercised, but would simply laugh and ride
away--are almost painfully faithful and deserving; and their sojourns in
Tenebrous Isles, their encounters with Bedevilled Fauns, and the like,
are either pure misfortunes or the deliberate results of capricious
tyranny on the part of their mistresses.

Now of course this is the sort of thing which may be (and as a matter of
fact it no doubt was) tediously abused; but it is equally evident that
in the hands of a novelist of genius, or even of fair talent and
craftsmanship, it gives opportunity for extensive and ingenious
character-drawing, and for not a little "polite conversation." If _la
donna è mobile_ generally, she has very special opportunities of
exhibiting her mobility in the exercise of her caprice: and if it is the
business of the lover (as it is of minorities, according to a Right
Honourable politician) to suffer, the _amoureux transi_ who has some
wits and some power of expression can suffer to the genteelest of tunes
with the most ingenious fugues and variations. A great deal of the
actual charm of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetry in all
languages comes from the rendering in verse of this very relation of
woman and man. We owe to the "dear Lady Disdain" idea not merely
Beatrice, but Beatrix long after her, and many another good thing both
in verse and in prose between Shakespeare and Thackeray.

In the _Amadis_ group (as in its slightly modernised successor, that of
the _Grand Cyrus_), the handling is so preposterously long and the
reliefs of dialogue and other things frequently managed with so little
skill, that, except for sheer passing of time, the books have been found
difficult to read. The present writer's knowledge of Spanish is too
sketchy to enable him to read them in the original with full comfort.
_Amadis_ and _Palmerin_ are legible enough in Southey's translations,
made, as one would expect from him, with all due effort to preserve the
language of the old English versions where possible. But Herberay's
sixteenth-century French is a very attractive and perfectly easy
language, thoroughly well suited to the matter. And if anything that has
been said is read as despite to these romances, the reading is wrong.
They have grave faults, but also real delights, and they have no small
"place i' the story."[123]



[Sidenote: Note on Montaigne.]

This suggestive influence may be found almost as strongly, though shown
with less literary craftsmanship, in Brantôme's successor and to some
extent overlapper, Tallemant des Réaux. And it is almost needless to say
that in both _subjects_ for novel treatment "foison," as both French and
English would have said in their time. Nor may it be improper to add
that Montaigne himself, though more indirectly, assisted in speeding the
novel. The actual telling of a story is indeed not his strongest point:
the dulness of the _Travels_, if they were really his (on which point
the present writer cannot help entertaining a possibly unorthodox
doubt), would sufficiently show this. But the great effect which he
produced on French prose could not, as in the somewhat similar case of
Dryden in English a century later, but prove of immense aid to the
novelist. Except in the deliberately eccentric style, as in Rabelais'
own case, or in periods such as the Elizabethan and our own, where there
is a coterie ready to admire jargon, you cannot write novels, to
interest and satisfy readers, without a style, or a group of styles,
providing easy and clear narrative media. We shall see how, in the next
century, writers in forms apparently still more alien from the novel
helped it in the same way.

[111] The character of this Bourbon prince seems to have been very
faithfully though not maliciously drawn by Margaret (for the name,
_Gallicé pulchrum_, is _Anglicé pulchrius_, and our form may be
permitted in a note) as not ungenial, not exactly ungentlemanly, and by
no means hating his wife or being at all unkind to her, but constantly
"hard" on her in speech, openly regarding infidelity to her as a matter
of course, and not a little tinged by the savagery which (one is afraid)
the English wars had helped to introduce among the French nobility;
which the religious wars were deepening, and which, in the times of the
Fronde, came almost to its very worst, and, though somewhat tamed later,
lasted, and was no mean cause, if not so great a one as some think, of
the French Revolution. Margaret's love for her brother was ill rewarded
in many ways--among others by brutal scandal--and her later days were
embittered by failure to protect the new learning and the new faith she
had patronised earlier. But one never forgets Rabelais' address to her,
or the different but still delightful piece in which Marot is supposed
to have commemorated her Platonic graciousness; while her portrait,
though drawn in the hard, dry manner of the time, and with the tendency
of that time to "make a girl's nose a proboscis," is by no means
unsuggestive of actual physical charm.

[112] This phrase, though Biblical, of course, in spirit, is not, so far
as I remember, anywhere found textually in Holy Writ. It may be
patristic; in which case I shall be glad of learned information. It
sounds rather like St. Augustine. But I do not think it occurs earlier
in French, and the word _impossibilité_ is not banal in the connection.

[113] The famous phrase "amoureux _transi_" is simply untranslatable by
any single word in English for the adjective, or rather participle. Its
unmetaphorical use is, of course, commonest in the combination _transi
de froid_, "frozen," and so suggests in the other a lover shivering
actually under his mistress's shut window, or, metaphorically, under her

[114] The expression (_passe oultre_) commented on in speaking of
Rabelais, and again one which has no English equivalent.

[115] A very early example of the special sense given to this word in
French increasingly during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth
centuries, of "freethinker" deepening to "atheist." Johnson's friend, it
will be remembered, regarded Philosophy as something to which the
irruption of Cheerfulness was fatal; Butler, as something acquirable by
reading Alexander Ross; a famous ancient saying, as the remembrancer of
death; and a modern usage, as something which has brass and glass
"instruments." But it was Hegel, was it not? or Carlyle? who summarised
the French view and its time of prevalence in the phrase, "When every
one was a philosopher who did not believe in the Devil."

[116] His translations of the _Andria_ and of Plato's _Lysis_; and his
verses, the chief charm of which is to be found in his adoption of the
"cut and broken" stanzas which the French Renaissance loved.

[117] Not to be confused with _Jehan_ Bouchet the poet, a much older
man, indeed some twenty years older than Rabelais, and as dull as
Raminagrobis Crétin himself, but the inventor or discoverer of that
agreeable _agnomen_ "Traverseur des Voies Périlleuses" which has been
noted above.

[118] Cholières, I think, deserves the prize for sinking lowest.

[119] From all the endless welter of abuse of God's great gift of speech
[and writing] about the French Revolution, perhaps nothing has emerged
more clearly than that its evils were mainly due to the sterilisation of
the regular Provincial assemblies under the later monarchy.

[120] A person not bad of blood will always be glad to mention one of
the few good sides of a generally detestable character; and a person of
humour must always chuckle at some of the ways in which Calvin's
services to French prose were utilised.

[121] He did not confine his good offices to romances of _caballería_.
In 1539 he turned into French the _Arnalte and Lucenda_ of Diego de San
Pedro (author of the more widely known _Carcel de Amor_), a very curious
if also rather tedious-brief love-story which had great influence in
France (see Reynier, _op. cit. inf._ pp. 66-73). This (though M. Reynier
did not know it) was afterwards versified in English by one of our minor
Carolines, and will appear in the third volume of the collected edition
of them now in course of publication by the Clarendon Press.

[122] Not always. Nouzhatoul-aouadat is certainly not as musical as
Pintiquinestra, though Nouronnihar as certainly is.


[Sidenote: Note on Hélisenne de Crenne.]

There should be added here a very curious, and now, if not in its own
time, very rare book, my first knowledge of which I owed to a work
already mentioned, M. Gustave Reynier's _Le Roman Sentimental avant
l'Astrée_ (Paris, 1908), though I was able, after this chapter was
composed, to find and read the original in the British Museum. It was
first printed in 1538, and bears, like other books of its time, a
disproportionately long title, which may, however, be easily shortened,
"_Les Angoisses douloureuses qui procèdent d'Amour_ ... composées par
dame Hélisenne de Crenne." This Hélisenne or Hélisaine seems to have
been a real person: and not the least of the remarkable group of women
authors who illustrate her time in France, though M. Reynier himself
admits that "it is difficult to know exactly _who_ she was." She appears
to have been of Picardy, and other extant and non-extant works are
attributed to her. Like almost everybody of her time she wrote in the
extreme _rhétoriqueur_ style--so much so indeed as to lead even Pasquier
into the blunder of supposing that Rabelais hit at her in the dialect of
the "Limousin scholar." The _Angoisses_, which M. Reynier's acute
examination shows to have been written by some one who must have known
Boccaccio's _Fiammetta_ (more than once Frenched about this time), is,
or gives itself out to be, the autobiography of a girl of noble birth
who, married at eleven years old and at first very fond of her husband,
becomes at thirteen the object of much courtship from many gallants. Of
these she selects, entirely on the love-at-first-sight principle, a very
handsome young man who passes in the street. She is well read and tries
to keep herself in order by stock examples, classical and romantic, of
ill-placed and ill-fated affection. Her husband (who seems to have been
a very good fellow for his time) gives her unconsciously what should
have been the best help of all, by praising her self-selected lover's
good looks and laughing at the young man's habit of staring at her. But
she has already spoken frankly of her own _appétit sensuel_, and she
proceeds to show this in the fashion which makes the fifteenth century
and the early sixteenth a sort of trough of animalism between the
altitudes of Mediaeval and Renaissance passion. Her lover turns out to
be an utter cad, boastful, blabbing, and almost cowardly (he tells her
in the usual stolen church interview, _Je crains merveilleusement
monsieur votre mari_). But it makes not the slightest difference; nor
does the at last awakened wrath of an at last not merely threatened but
wideawake husband. Apparently she never has the chance of being actually
guilty, for her husband finally, and very properly, shuts her up in a
country house under strong duennaship. This finishes the first part, but
there are two more, which return to more ancient ways. The lover
Guenélic goes off to seek adventures, which he himself recounts, and
acquires considerable improvement in them. He comes back, endeavours to
free his mistress from her captivity, and does actually fly with her;
but they are pursued; and though the lover and a friend of his with the
rather Amadisian name of "Quezinstra" do their best, the heroine dies of
weariness and shock, to be followed by her lover.

This latter part is comparatively commonplace. M. Reynier thinks very
highly of the first. It is possible to go with him a certain part of the
way, but not, I think, the whole, except from a purely "naturalist" and
not at all "sentimental" point of view. Some bold bad men have, of
course, maintained that when the other sex is possessed by an _appétit
sensuel_ this overcomes everything else, and seems, if not actually to
exclude, at any rate by no means always or often to excite, that
accompanying transcendentalism which is not uncommon with men, and
which, comprised with the appetite, makes the love of the great lovers,
whether they are represented by Dante or by Donne, by Shakespeare or by
Shelley. Whether this be truth or libel _non nostrum est_. But it is
certain that Hélisenne, as she represents herself, does not make the
smallest attempt to spiritualise (even in the lowest sense) or inspirit
the animality of her affection. She wants her lover as she might want a
pork chop instead of a mutton one; and if she is sometimes satisfied
with seeing him, it is as if she were looking at that pork chop through
a restaurateur's window and finding it better than not seeing it at all
and contenting herself with the mutton. Still this result is probably
the result at least as much of want of art as of original _mis_feeling;
and the book certainly does deserve notice here.

The original _Oeuvres_ of Hélisenne form a rather appetising little
volume, fat, and close and small printed, as indeed is the case with
most, but not quite all, of the books now under notice. The
complementary pieces are mainly moralities, as indeed are, in intention,
the _Angoisses_ themselves. These latter seem to me better worth
reprinting than most other things as yet not reprinted, from the
_Heptameron_ (Hélisenne, be it remembered, preceded Marguerite) for
nearly a hundred years. The later parts, though (or perhaps even
because) they contrast curiously with the first, are by no means
destitute of interest; and M. Reynier, I think, is a little hard on them
if he has perhaps been a little kind to their predecessor. The lingo is
indeed almost always stupendous and occasionally terrible. The printer
aids sometimes; for it was not at once that I could emend the
description of the B. V. M. as "Mère et Fille de _l'aliltonât_ [ant]
plasmateur" into "_altitonant_" ("loud-thundering"), while _plasmateur_
itself, though perfectly intelligible and legitimate, a favourite with
the _rhétoriqueurs_, and borrowed from them even in Middle Scots, is not
exactly everybody's word. But from her very exordium she may be fairly
judged. "Au temps que la Déesse Cibélé despouilla son glacial et gélide
habit, et vestit sa verdoyante robe, tapissée de diverses couleurs, je
fus procréé, de noblesse." And, after all, there _is_ a certain nobility
in this fashion of speech and of literary presentation.



_The Pastoral and Heroic Romance, and the Fairy Story_

[Sidenote: Immense importance of the seventeenth century in our

The seventeenth century, almost if not quite from its beginning, ranks
in French literature as the eighteenth does with us, that is to say, as
the time of origin of novels or romances which can be called, in any
sense, modern. In its first decade appeared the epoch-making
pastoral-heroic _Astrée_ of Honoré d'Urfé;[124] its middle period, from
1620 to 1670, was the principal birth-time of the famous "Heroic"
variety, pure and simple; while, from that division into the last third,
the curiously contrasted kind of the fairy tale came to add its quota of
influence. At various periods, too, individuals of more or less note
(and sometimes of much more than almost any of the "school-writers" just
mentioned) helped mightily in strengthening and diversifying the
subjects and manners of tales. To this period also belongs the
continuance and prominence of that element of actual "lived" anecdote
and personal history which has been mentioned more than once before. The
_Historiettes_ of Tallemant contain short suggestions for a hundred
novels and romances; the memoirs, genuine or forged, of public and
private persons have not seldom, in more modern times, formed the actual
basis of some of the greatest fiction. Everybody ought long to have
known Thackeray's perhaps rather whimsical declaration that he
positively preferred the forged D'Artagnan memoirs of Courtils de
Sandras (as far at least as the Gascon himself was concerned) to the
work of that Alexander, the truly Great, of which he was nevertheless
such a generous admirer: and recently mere English readers have had the
opportunity of seeing whether they agree with him. In fact, as the
century went on, almost all kinds of literature began to be more or less
pervaded with the novel appeal and quality.

[Sidenote: The divisions of its contribution.]

The letters of "Notre Dame des Rochers" constantly read like parts or
scenes of a novel, and so do various compositions of her ill-conditioned
but not unintelligent cousin Bussy-Rabutin. Camus de Pontcarré in the
earlier and Fénelon in the later century determined that the Devil
should not have this good prose to himself, and our own Anthony Hamilton
showed the way to Voltaire in a kind, of which, though the Devil had
nothing immediately to do with it, he might perhaps make use later. In
fact, the whole century teems with the spirit of tale-telling, _plus_
character-analysis; and in the eighteenth itself, with a few notable
exceptions, there was rather a falling-off from, than a further advance
towards, the full blossoming of the aloe in the nineteenth.

It will probably, therefore, not be excessive to give two chapters (and
two not short ones) to this period. In the first of them we may take the
two apparently opposite, but by no means irreconcilable schools of
Pastoral and Heroic Romance[125] and of Fairy Tale, including perhaps
only four persons, if so many, of first-rate literary rank--Urfé,[126]
Madeleine de Scudéry, Madame d'Aulnoy, and Perrault; in the second, the
more isolated but in some cases not unimportant names and works of
Sorel, Scarron, Furetière, and the capital ones of Madame de la Fayette
and Hamilton. According to the plan previously pursued, less attempt
will be made to give exhaustive or even full lists of practitioners than
to illustrate their practice thoroughly by example, translated or
abstracted, and by criticism; and it is necessary that this latter
course should be used without mercy to readers or to the historian
himself in this first chapter. For there is hardly any department of
literature which has been more left to the rather treacherous care of
traditional and second- or seventh-hand judgment than the Heroic

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The Pastoral in general.]

The Pastoral, as being of the most ancient and in a literary sense of
the highest formal rank, may occupy us first, but by no means longest. A
great deal of attention (perhaps a great deal more than was at all
necessary) has been paid to the pastoral element in various kinds of
literature. The thing is certainly curious, and inevitably invited
comment; but unfortunately it has peculiar temptations to a kind of
comment which, though very fashionable for some time past, is rarely
profitable. Pastorals of the most interesting kind actually exist in
literature: "pastoralism" in the abstract, unless treated in the pure
historical manner, is apt, like all similar criticism and discussion of
"kinds" in general, to tend to [Greek: phlyaria].[128] For a history in
a nutshell there is perhaps room even here, because the relations of the
thing to fiction cannot be well understood without it. That the
association of shepherds,[129] with songs, and with the telling of
"tales" in both senses, is immensely old, is a fact which the Hebrew
Scriptures establish, and almost the earliest Greek mythology and poetry
confirm; but the wiser mind, here as elsewhere, will probably be content
with the fact, and not enquire too busybodily into the reason. The
connection between Sicily--apparently a land of actual pastoral
life--and Alexandria--the home of the first professional man-of-letters
school, as it may be called--perhaps supplies something more; the actual
beauty of the Sicilian-Alexandrian poems, more still; the adoption of
the form by Virgil, who was revered at Rome, renowned somewhat
heterodoxically in the Middle Ages, and simply adored by the
Renaissance, most of all. So, in English, Spenser and Milton, in French,
Marot and others niched it solidly in the nation's poetry; and the
certainly charming _Daphnis and Chloe_, when vernacularised, transferred
its influence from verse to prose in almost all the countries of Europe.

To what may be called "common-sense" criticism, there is, of course, no
form of literature, in either prose or verse, which is more utterly
abhorrent and more helplessly exposed. Unsympathetic, and in some points
unfair and even unintelligent, as Johnson's criticism of _Lycidas_ may
seem, to the censure of its actual "pastorality" there is no answer,
except that "these things are an allegory" as well as a convention. To
go further out of mere common-sense objections, and yet stick to the
Devil's-Advocate line, there is no form which lends itself to--which,
indeed, insists upon--conventions of the most glaring unreality more
than the pastoral, and none in which the decorations, unless managed
with extraordinary genius, have such a tendency to be tawdry at best,
draggled and withered at worst. Nevertheless, the fact remains that at
almost all times, both in ancient literature and since the revival of
letters, as well as in some probably more spontaneous forms during the
Middle Ages themselves,[130] pastorals have been popular with the
vulgar, and practised by the elect; while within the very last hundred
years such a towering genius as Shelley's, and such a manifold and
effectual talent as Mr. Arnold's, have selected it for some of their
very best work.

Such adoption, moreover, had, for the writer of prose fiction, some
peculiar and pretty obvious inducements. It has been noticed by all
careful students of fiction that one of the initial difficulties in its
way, and one of those which do not seem to get out of that way very
quickly, is diffidence on the writer's part "how to begin." It may be
said that this is not peculiar to fiction; but extends from the poet who
never can get beyond the first lines of his epic to the journalist who
sits for an hour gazing at the blank paper for his article, and returns
home at midnight, if not like Miss Bolo "in a flood of tears and a sedan
chair," at any rate in a tornado of swearing at himself and (while there
were such things) a hansom cab. Pastoral gives both easy beginning and
supporting framework.

[Sidenote: Its beginnings in France.]

[Sidenote: Minor romances preceding the _Astrée_.]

The transformation of the older pastoral form into the newer began,
doubtless, with the rendering into French of _Daphnis and Chloe_,[131]
which appeared in the same year with the complete _Heptameron_ (1559).
Twelve years later, in 1571, Belleforest's _La Pyrénee et Pastorale
Amoureuse_ rather took the title than exemplified the kind; but in 1578
the translation of Montemayor's _Diana_ definitely turned the current
into the new-old channel. It was not, however, till seven years later
still that "_Les Bergeries de Juliette_, de l'invention d'Ollenix du
Mont Sacré" (a rather exceptionally foolish anagram of Nicolas de
Montreux) essayed something original in the style. Montreux issued his
work, of which more presently, again and again in five instalments, the
last of which appeared thirteen years later than the first. And it has
been proved with immense bibliographical labour by M. Reynier,[132] that
though the last decade of the sixteenth century in France was almost as
fertile in short love-romances[133] as ours was in sonnet-cycles, the
pastoral form was, whether deliberately or not, for the most part
eschewed, though there were one or two exceptions of little if any
consequence. It is indeed noteworthy that (only four years before the
first part of the _Astrée_) a second translation or the _Diana_ came
out. But it was not till 1607 that this first part actually appeared,
and in the opinion of its own time generally, and our own time for the
most part, though not in that of the interval, made a new epoch in the
history of French fiction.

[Sidenote: Their general character.]

The general characteristics of this curious and numerous, but almost
forgotten, body of work--which must, be it remembered, have exercised
influence, more or less, on the progress of the novel by the ways of
supply, demand, and reaction alike--have been carefully analysed by M.
Reynier, with whom, in regard to one or two points of opinion, one may
differ, but whose statements of fact are certainly trustworthy. Short as
they usually are, and small as is the literary power displayed in most
of them, it is clear that they, long before Rambouillet and the
_précieuses_, indicate a distinct reaction against merely brutal and
ferocious manners, with a standard of "courtiership" in both senses. Our
dear Reine Margot herself in one case prescribes, what one hopes she
found not merely in La Mole, but in others of those transitorily happy
ones whose desiccated hearts did or did not distend the pockets of her
farthingale as live Persian kittens do those of their merchants. To be a
lover you must have "a stocking void of holes, a ruff, a sword, a plume,
_and a knowledge how to talk_." This last point is illustrated in these
miniature romances after a fashion on which one of the differences of
opinion above hinted at may arise. It is not, as in the later "Heroics,"
shown merely in lengthy harangues, but in short and almost dramatised
dialogue. No doubt this is often clumsy, but it may seem to have been
not a whole mistake in itself--only an abortive attempt at something
which, much later again, had to come before real novel-writing could be
achieved, and which the harangues of the Scudéry type could never have
provided. There is a little actual history in them--not the
key-cryptograms of the "Heroics" or their adoption of ancient and
distant historic frames. In a very large proportion, forced marriages,
proposed and escaped from, supply the plot; in not a few, forced
"vocations" to the conventual life. Elopements are as common as
abductions in the next stage, and are generally conducted with as much
propriety. Courtships of married women, and lapses by them, are very

[Sidenote: Examples of their style.]

No one will be surprised to hear that the "Phébus" or systematised
conceit, for which the period is famous, and which the beloved
Marguerite herself did not a little favour, is abundant in them. From a
large selection of M. Reynier's, I cull, as perhaps the most delightful
of all these, if not also of all known to me in any language, the

     During this task, Love, who had ambushed himself, plunged
     his wings in the tears of the lover, and dried them in the
     burning breast of the maiden.

"A squadron of sighs" is unambitious, but neat, terse, and very tempting
to the imagination. More complicated is a lady "floating on the sea of
the persecution of her Prince, who would fain give her up to the
shipwreck of his own concupiscence."

And I like this:

     The grafts of our desires being inarched long since in the
     tree of our loves, the branches thereof bore the lovely
     bouquets of our hopes.

And this is fine:

     Paper! that the rest of your white surface may not blush at
     my shame, suffer me to blacken it with my sorrow!

It has always been a sad mystery to me why rude and dull intelligences
should sneer at, or denounce, these delightful fantastries, the very
stuff of which dreams and love and poetry--the three best things of
life--are made.[134]

[Sidenote: Montreux and the _Bergeries de Juliette_.]

The British Museum possesses not very many of the, I believe, numerous
works of Nicolas de Montreux, _alias_, as has been said, Ollenix du Mont
Sacré, a "gentleman of Maine," as he scrupulously designates himself.
But it does possess two parts (the first two) of the _Bergeries de
Juliette_, and I am not in the least surprised that no reader of them
should have worried any librarian into completing the set. Each of these
parts is a stout volume of some five hundred pages,[135] not very small,
of close small print, filled with stuff of the most deadly dulness. For
instance, Ollenix is desirous to illustrate the magnificence and the
danger of those professional persons of the other sex at Venice who have
filled no small place in literature from Coryat to Rousseau. So he tells
us, without a gleam or suspicion of humour, that one customer was so
astonied at the decorations of the bedroom, the bed, etc., that he
remained for two whole hours considering them, and forgetting to pay any
attention to the lady. It is satisfactory to know that she revenged
herself by raising the fee to an inordinate amount, and insisting on her
absurd client's lackey being sent to fetch it before the actual
conference took place. But the silliness of the story itself is a fair
sample of Montreux' wits, and these wits manage to make anything they
deal with duller by their way of telling it.

[Sidenote: Des Escuteaux and his _Amours Diverses_.]

It is still more unfortunate that our national collection has none of
the numerous fictions[136] of A(ntoine?) de Nervèze. His _Amours
Diverses_ (1606), in which he collected no less than seven love-stories,
published separately earlier, would be useful. But it luckily does
provide the similarly titled book of Des Escuteaux, who is perhaps the
most representative and prolific writer, next to Montreux and Nervèze,
of the whole, and who seems to me, from what I have read of the first
and what others say of the second, to be their superior. The collections
consist of (_Amours de_ in every case) _Filiris et Isolia_, dedicated to
Isabel (not "-bel_le_") de Rochechouart; _Clarimond et Antoinette_ (to
Lucresse [_sic_] de Bouillé); _Clidamant et Marilinde_ (to _Jane_ de la
Brunetière), and _Ipsilis et Alixée_ (to Renée de Cossé, Amirale de

Some readers may be a little "put off" by a habit which Des Escuteaux
has, especially in the first story of the volume, of prefixing, as in
drama, the names of the speakers--_Le Prince_, _La Princesse_, etc.--to
the first paragraphs of the harangues and _histoires_ of which these
books so largely consist.[138] But it is not universal. The most
interesting of the four is, I think, _Clidamant et Marilinde_, for it
introduces the religious wars, a sojourn of the lovers on a desert
island, which M. Reynier[139] not unjustly calls Crusoe-like, and other

[Sidenote: François de Molière--_Polyxène._]

I have not seen the other--quite other, and François--Molière's _Semaine
Amoureuse_, which belongs to this class, though later than most; but his
still later _Polyxène_, a sort of half-way house between these shorter
novels and the ever-enlarged "Heroics," is a very fat duodecimo of 1100
pages. The heroine has two lovers--one with the singular name of
Cloryman,--but love does not run smooth with either, and she ends by
taking the (pagan) veil. The bathos of the thought and style may be
judged from the heroine's affecting mention of an entertainment as "the
last _ballet_ my unhappy father ever saw."

[Sidenote: Du Périer--_Arnoult et Clarimonde._]

Not one of the worst of these four or five score minors, though scarcely
in itself a positively good thing, is the Sieur du Périer's _La Haine et
l'Amour d'Arnoult et de Clarimonde_. It begins with a singularly banal
exordium, gravely announcing that Hate and Love _are_ among the most
important passions, with other statements of a similar kind couched in
commonplace language. But it does something to bring the novel from an
uninteresting cloudland to earth by dealing with the recent and still
vividly felt League wars: and there is some ingenuity shown in plotting
the conversion of the pair from more than "a little aversion" at the
beginning to nuptial union--_not_ at the end. For it is one of the
points about the book which are not commonplace, though it may be a
survival or atavism from mediaeval practice--that the latter part of it
is occupied mainly, not with Arnoult and Clarimonde, but with the loves,
fortunes, and misfortunes of their daughter Claride.

[Sidenote: Du Croset--_Philocalie._ Corbin--_Philocaste._]

The _Philocalie_ of Du Croset (1593) derives its principal interest from
its being not merely a _Bergerie_ before the _Astrée_, but, like it, the
work of a Forézian gentleman who proudly asserts his territoriality, and
dedicates his book to the "Chevalier D'Urfé." And its part name-fellow,
the _Philocaste_ of Jean Corbin--a very tiny book, the heroine of which
is (one would hardly have thought it from her name) a Princess of
England--is almost entirely composed of letters, discourse on them, and
a few interspersed verses. It belongs to the division of
backward-looking novels, semi-chivalrous in type, and its hero is as
often called "The Black Knight" as by his name.

[Sidenote: Jean de Lannoi and his _Roman Satirique_.]

The _Roman Satirique_ (1624) of Jean de Lannoi is another example of the
curious inability to "hit it off" which has been mentioned so often as
characterising the period. Its 1100 pages are far too many, though it is
fair to say that the print is exceptionally large and loose. Much of it
is not in any sense "satiric," and it seems to have derived what
popularity it had almost wholly from the "key" interest.

[Sidenote: Béroalde de Verville outside the _Moyen de Parvenir_.]

The minor works--if the term may be used when the attribution of the
major is by no means certain--of Béroalde de Verville have, as is usual,
been used both ways as arguments for and against his authorship of the
_Moyen de Parvenir_. _Les Aventures de Floride_ is simply an attempt,
and a big one in size, to _amadigauliser_, as the literary slang of the
time went. The _Histoire Véritable_, owing nothing but its title and
part of its idea to Lucian, and sub-titled _Les Princes Fortunés_, is
less conventional. It has a large fancy map for a frontispiece; there
are fairies in it, and a sort of _pot-pourri_ of queernesses which might
not impossibly have come from the author or editor of the _Moyen_ in his
less inconveniently ultra-Pantagruelist moments. _Le Cabinet de Minerve_
is actually a glorification of "honest" love. In fact, Béroalde is one
of the oddest of "polygraphers," and there is nobody quite like him in
English, though some of his fellows may be matched, after a fashion,
with our Elizabethan pamphleteers. I have long wished to read the whole
of him, but I suppose I never shall.

And it is time to leave these very minor stars and come to the full and
gracious moon of the _Astrée_ itself.

[Sidenote: The _Astrée_--its author.]

Honoré D'Urfé, who was three years younger than Shakespeare, and died in
the year in which Charles I. came to the throne, was a cadet of a very
ancient family in the district or minor province of Forez, where his own
famous Lignon runs into the Loire. He was a pupil of the Jesuits and
early _fort en thème_, was a strenuous _ligueur_, and, though (or
perhaps also because) he was very good friends with Henri's estranged
wife, Margot, for some time decidedly suspect to Henri IV. For this
reason, and others of property, etc., he became almost a naturalised
Savoyard, but died in the service of his own country at the beginning of
Richelieu's Valtelline war. The most noteworthy thing in his rather
eventful life was, however, his marriage. This also has a direct
literary interest, at least in tradition, which will have his wife,
Diane de Châteaumorand, to be Astrée herself, and so the heroine of "the
first [great] sentimental romance." The circumstances of the union,
however, were scarcely sentimental, much less romantic. They were even,
as people used to say yesterday, "not quite nice," and the Abbé Reure, a
devotee of both parties to it, admits that they "_heurte[nt] violemment
nos idées_." In fact Diane was not only eight years older than Honoré
and thirty-eight years of age, but she had been for a quarter of a
century the wife of his elder brother, Anne, while he himself was a
knight of Malta, and vowed to celibacy. Of course (as the Canon points
out with irrefragably literal accuracy in logic and law) the marriage
being declared null _ab initio_ (for the cause most likely to suggest
itself, though alleged after extraordinary delay), Diane and Honoré were
not sister- and brother-in-law at all, and no "divorce" or even
"dispensation" was needed. In the same way, Honoré, having been
introduced into the Order of St. John irregularly in various ways, never
was a knight of it at all, and could not be bound by its rules. Q.E.D.
Wicked people, of course, on the other hand, said that it was a device
to retain Diane's great wealth (for Honoré was quite poor in comparison)
in the family; sentimental ones that it was a fortunate and blameless
crowning of a long and pure attachment. As a matter of fact, no
"permanent children" (to adopt an excellent phrase of the late Mr.
Traill's) resulted; Diane outlived her husband, though but for a short
time, and left all her property to her relations of the Lévis family.
The pair are also said not to have been the most united of couples. In
connection with the _Astrée_ their portraits are interesting. Honoré
d'Urfé, though he had the benefit of Van Dyck's marvellous art of
cavalier creation, must have been a very handsome man. Diane's portrait,
by a much harder and dryer hand, purports to have been taken at the age
of sixty-four. At first sight there is no beauty in it; but on
reinspection one admits possibilities--a high forehead, rather
"enigmatic" eyes, not at all "extinguished," a nose prominent and rather
large, but straight and with well, but not too much, developed "wings,"
and, above all, a full and rather voluptuous mouth. Such may have been
the first identified novel-heroine. It is a popular error to think that
sixty-four and beauty are incompatibles, but one certainly would have
liked to see her at sixteen, or better still and perhaps best of all, at
six and twenty.

[Sidenote: The book.]

The _Astrée_ itself is not the easiest of subjects to deal with. It is
indeed not so huge as the _Grand Cyrus_, but it is much more difficult
to get at--a very rare flower except in the "grey old gardens" of
secular libraries. It and its author have indeed for a few years past
had the benefit (as a result partly of another doubtful thing, an
_x_-centenary) of one[140] of the rather-to-seek good specimens among
the endless number of modern literary monographs. But it has never been
reprinted--even extracts of it, with the exception of a few stock
passages, are not common or extensive; and though a not small library
has been written about it in successive waves of eulogy, reaction,
mostly ignorant contempt, rehabilitation, and mere bookmaking; though
there have been (as noted) recent anniversaries and celebrations, and so
forth; though it is one of the not numerous books which have given a
name-type--Celadon,--and a place--"les bords du Lignon,"--to their own,
if not to universal literature, it seems to be "as a book" very little
known. The faithful monographer above cited admits merit in Dunlop; but
Dunlop does not say very much about it. Herr Körting (_v. sup._)
analyses it. Possibly there may be, also in German, a comparison,
tempting to those who like such things, between it and its twenty years'
predecessor, Sidney's _Arcadia_, the first French translation of which,
in 1625, just after Urfé's death, was actually dedicated to his widow.
But I suspect that few English writers about Sidney have known much of
the _Astrée_, and I feel sure that still fewer French writers[141] on
this have known anything of Sidney save perhaps his name. Of course the
indebtedness of both books to Montemayor's _Diana_ is a commonplace.

[Sidenote: Its likeness to the _Arcadia_.]

[Sidenote: Its philosophy and its general temper.]

One of the numerous resemblances between the two, and one which,
considering their respective positions in the history of the French and
English novel, is most interesting, is the strong philosophical and
specially Platonic influence which the Renaissance exercised on
both.[142] Sidney, however full of it elsewhere, put less of it in his
actual novel; while, on the other hand, nothing did so much to create
and spread the rather rococo notion of pseudo-platonic love in France,
and from France throughout Europe, as the _Astrée_ itself. The further
union of the philosophic mind with an eminently cavalier
temperament--the united _ethos_ of scholar, soldier, lover, and
courtier--fills out the comparison: and dwarfs such merely mechanical
things as the mixed use of prose and verse (which both may have taken,
nay pretty certainly did take, from Montemayor) and the pastoralities,
for which they in the same way owed royalty to the Spaniard, to Tasso,
to Sannazar, and to the Greek romances, let alone Theocritus and Virgil.
And, to confine ourselves henceforward to our own special subject, it is
this double infusion of idealism--of spiritual and intellectual
enthusiasm on the one hand and practical fire of life and act on the
other--which makes the great difference, not merely between the _Astrée_
and its predecessors of the _Amadis_ class, but between it and its
successors the strictly "Heroic" romances, though these owe it so much.
The first--except in some points of passion--hardly touch reality at
all; the last are perpetually endeavouring to simulate and insinuate a
sort of reality under cover of adventures and conventions which, though
fictitious, are hardly at all fantastic. But the _Astrée_ might almost
be called a French prose _Faerie Queene_, allowing for the difference of
the two nations, languages, vehicles, and _milieux_ generally, in its
representation of the above-mentioned cavalier-philosophic _ethos_--a
thing never so well realised in France as in England or in Spain, but of
which Honoré d'Urfé, from many traits in life and book, seems to have
been a real example, and which certainly vindicates its place in history
and literature.

[Sidenote: Its appearance and its author's other work.]

The _Astrée_ appeared in five instalments, 1607-10-12-19 and
posthumously, the several parts being frequently printed: and it is said
to be almost impossible to find a copy, all the parts of which are of
the first issue in each case. The two later parts probably, the last
certainly, were collaborated in, if not wholly written by, the author's
secretary Baro. But it was by no means Honoré's only work; indeed the
Urfés up to his time were an unusually literary family; and, while his
grandfather Claude collected a remarkable library (whence, at its
dispersion in the evil days of the house[143] during the eighteenth
century, came some of not the least precious possessions of French
public and private collections), his unfortunate brother Anne was a
poet. Honoré himself, besides school exercises, wrote _Epistres Morales_
which were rather popular, and display qualities useful in appreciating
the novel itself; a poem in octosyllables, usually and perhaps naturally
called "_La_ Sireine," but really entitled in the masculine, and having
nothing to do with a mermaid; a curious thing, semi-dramatic in form and
in irregular blank verse, entitled _Silvanire ou La Morte Vive_, which
was rehandled soon after his death by Corneille's most dangerous rival
Mairet; and an epic called _La Savoisiade_, which seems to have no
merit, and all but a very small portion of which is still unprinted.

[Sidenote: Its character and appeals.]

He remains, therefore, the author of the _Astrée_, and, taking things on
the whole (a mighty whole, beyond contest, as far as bulk goes), there
are not so many authors of the second rank (for one of the first he can
hardly be called) who would lose very much by an exchange with him.
One's estimates of the book are apt to vary in different places, even
as, though not in the same degree as, the estimates of others have
varied at different times; but I myself have found that the more I read
of it the more I liked and esteemed it; and I believe that, if I had a
copy of my own and could turn it over in the proper diurnal and
nocturnal fashion, not as duty- but as pleasure-reading, I should like
it better still. Certain points that have appealed to me have been
noticed already--its combination of sensuous and ideal passion is
perhaps the most important of them; but there are not a few others,
themselves by no means void of importance. One is the union, not common
in French books between the sixteenth and the nineteenth century, of
sentiment and seriousness with something very like humour. Hylas, the
not exactly "comic man," but light-o'-love and inconstant shepherd, was
rather a bone of contention among critics of the book's own century. But
he certainly seasons it well; and there is one almost Shakespearean
scene in which he is concerned--a scene which Benedick and Beatrice, who
may have read it not so very many years after their own marriage, must
have enjoyed considerably. Hylas and the shepherdess Stella (who is
something of a girl-counterpart of his, as in the case just cited) draw
up a convention of love[144] between them. The tables, though they are
not actually numbered in the original, are twelve, and, shortened a
little, run as follows:

[Sidenote: Hylas and Stella and their Convention.]

     1. Neither is to be sovereign over the other.

     2. Both are to be at once Lover and Beloved. [They knew
     something about the matter, these two, for all their

     3. There is to be no constraint of any kind.

     4. They are to love for as long or as short a time as they

     5. No charge of infidelity is ever to be brought on either

     6. It is quite permitted to either or both to love somebody
     else, and yet to continue loving each other.

     7. There is to be no jealousy, no complaints, no sulks.

     8. They are to do and say exactly what they please.

     9. Words like "faithfulness," etc., are taboo.

     10. They may leave off playing whenever they like.

     11. And begin again ditto.

     12. They are to forget both the favours they receive from
     each other and the offences they may commit against each

Now, of course, any one may say of the Land where such a code might be
realised, in the very words of one of the most charming of songs, set to
one of the happiest of tunes:

    Cette rive, ma chère,
    On ne la connaît guère
        Au pays des amours!

But that is not the question, and if it _were_ possible it undoubtedly
would be a very agreeable Utopia, combining the transcendental charms of
the country of Quintessence with the material ones of the Pays de
Cocagne. From its own point of view there seems to be no fault to find
with it, except, perhaps, with the first part of the Twelfth
Commandment; for the remembrance of former favours heightens the
enjoyment of later ones, and the danger of _nessun maggior dolore_ is
excluded by the hypothesis of indifference after breach. But a sort of
umpire, or at any rate thirdsman, the shepherd Silvandre,[145] when
asked his opinion, makes an ingenious objection. To carry out Article
Three, he says, there ought to be a Thirteenth:

     13. That they may break any of these rules just as they

For what comes of this further the reader may go to the book, but enough
of it should have been given to show that there is no want of salt,
though there is no (or very little) _gros sel_[146] in the _Astrée_.

[Sidenote: Narrative skill frequent.]

Yet again there is very considerable narrative power. Abstracts may be
found, not merely in older books mentioned or to be mentioned, but in
the recent publications of Körting and the Abbé Reure, and there is
neither room nor need for a fresh one here. As some one (or more than
one) has said, the book is really a sort of half-allegorical tableau of
honourable Love worked out in a crowd of couples (some I believe, have
counted as many as sixty), from Celadon and Astrée themselves downwards.
The course of these loves is necessarily "accidented," and the accidents
are well enough managed from the first, and naturally enough best known,
where Celadon flings himself into the river and is rescued, insensible
but alive, by nymphs, who all admire him very much, though none of them
can affect his passion for Astrée. But one cares--at least I have found
myself caring--less for the story than for the way in which it is
told--a state of things exactly contrary, as will be seen, to that
produced with or in me by the _Grand Cyrus_. There we have a really
well, if too intricately, engineered plot, in the telling of which it is
difficult to take much interest. Here it is just the reverse. And one of
the consequences is that you can dip in the _Astrée_ much more
refreshingly than in its famous follower, where, if you do so, you
constantly "don't know where you are."

[Sidenote: The Fountain of the Truth of Love.]

One of the most famous things in the book, and one of the most important
to its conduct, is the "Fountain of the Truth of Love," a few words on
which will illustrate the general handling very fairly. This Fountain
(presided over by a Druid, a very important personage otherwise, who is
a sort of high priest thereof) has nothing in common with the more usual
waters which are philtres or anti-philtres, etc. Its function is to be
gazed in rather than to be drunk, and if you look into it, loving
somebody, you see your mistress. If she loves you, you see yourself as
well, beside her, and (which is not so nice) if she loves some one else
you see _him_; while if she is fancy-free you see her only. Clidaman,
one of the numerous lovers above mentioned, tries the water; and his
love, Silvie, presents herself again and again as he looks, "almost
setting on fire with her lovely eyes the wave which seemed to laugh
around her." But she is quite alone.

The presiding Druid interprets, not merely in the sense already given,
but with one of the philosophic commentaries, which, as has been said,
are distinctive of the book. The nature of the fountain is to reflect
not body but spirit. Spirit includes Will, Memory, and Judgment, and
when a man loves, his spirit transforms itself through all these ways
into the thing loved. Therefore when he looks into the fountain he sees
Her. In the same way She is changed into Him or some one else whom she
loves, and He sees that image also; but if she loves no one He sees her
image alone.

"This is very satisfactory" (as Lady Kew would say) to the inquiring
mind, but not so much so to the lover. He wants to have the fountain
shut up, I suppose (for my notes and memory do not cover this point
exactly), that no rival may have the chance denied to himself. He would
even destroy it, but that--the Druid tells and shows him--is quite
impossible. What can be done shall be. And here comes in another of the
agreeable things (to me) in the book--its curious fairy-tale character,
which is shown by numerous supernaturalities, much more _humanised_ than
those of the _Amadis_ group, and probably by no means without effect on
the fairy-tale proper which was to follow. Clidaman himself happens, in
the most natural way in the world, to "keep"--as an ordinary man keeps
cats and dogs--a couple of extraordinary big and savage lions and
another couple of unicorns to fight, not with each other, but with
miscellaneous animals. The lions and the unicorns are forthwith
extra-enchanted, so as to guard the fountain--an excellent arrangement,
but subject to some awkwardnesses in the sequel. For the lions take
turns to seek their meat in the ordinary way, and though they can hurt
nobody who does not meddle with the fountain, and have no wish to be
man-eaters, complications naturally supervene. And sometimes, besides
fighting,[147] and love-making, and love casuistry, and fairy-tales, and
oracles, and the finer comedy above mentioned, "Messire d'Urfé" (for he
did not live too late to have that most gracious of all designations of
a gentleman used in regard to him) did not disdain, and could not ill
manage, sheer farce. The scene with Cryseide and Arimant and Clorine and
the nurse and the ointment in Part III. Book VII., though it contains
little or nothing to _effaroucher la pudeur_, is like one of the broader
but not broadest tales of the Fabliaux and their descendants.

[Sidenote: Some drawbacks--awkward history.]

The book, therefore, has not merely a variety, but a certain liveliness,
neither of which is commonplace; but it would of course be uncritical to
suppress its drawbacks. It is far too long: and while bowing to those to
the manner born who say that Baro carried out his master's plan well in
point of style, and acknowledging that I have paid less attention to
Parts IV. and V. than to the others, it seems to me that we could spare
a good deal of them. One error, common to almost the whole century in
fiction, is sometimes flagrant. Nobody except a pedant need object to
the establishment, in the time of the early fifth century and the place
of Gaul, of a non-historical kinglet- or queenletdom of Forez or
"Séguse" under Amasis (here a feminine name[148]), etc.; nor, though (as
may perhaps be remarked again later) things Merovingian bring little
luck in literature, need we absolutely bar Chilperics and Alarics, or a
reference to "all the beauties of Neustria." But why, in the midst of
the generally gracious _macédoine_ of serious and comic loves, and
jokes, and adventures, should we have thrust in the entirely
unnecessary, however historical, crime whereby Valentinian the Third
lost his worthless life and his decaying Empire? It has, however, been
remarked, perhaps often enough, by those who have busied themselves with
the history of the novel, how curious it is that the historical variety,
though it never succeeded in being born for two thousand years after
the _Cyropaedia_ and more, constantly strove to be so. At no time were
the throes more frequent than during the seventeenth century in France;
at no time, there or anywhere else, were they more abortive.[149]

[Sidenote: But attractive on the whole.]

But it remains on the whole an attractive book, and the secret of at
least part of this attractiveness is no doubt to be found stated in a
sentence of Madame de Sévigné's, which has startled some people, that
"everything in it is natural and true." To the startled persons this may
seem either a deliberate paradox, or a mere extravagance of affection,
or even downright bad taste and folly. But the Lady of all Beautiful
Letter-writers was almost of the family of Neverout in literary
criticism. If she had been a professional critic (which is perhaps
impossible), she might have safeguarded her dictum by the addition,
"according to its own scheme and division." It is the neglect of this
implication which has caused the demurs. "'Natural!'" and "'true!'" they
say, "why, the Pastoral is the most frankly and in fact outrageously
unnatural and false of all literary kinds. Does not Urfé himself warn us
that we are not to expect ordinary shepherds and shepherdesses at all?"
Or perhaps they go more to detail. "The whole book is unabashedly
occupied with love-making; and love is not the whole, it is even a very
small part, of life, that is to say, of truth and nature." Or, to come
still closer to particulars, "Where, for instance, did Celadon, who is
represented as having been reduced to utter destitution when, _more
heroum_, he started a quasi-hermit life in the wood, get the
decorations, etc., of the Temple he erected to Love and Astrée?" One
almost blushes at having to explain, in a popular style, the
mistakenness, to use the mildest word, of these objections. The present
writer, in a book less ambitious than the present on the sister subject
of the English novel, once ventured to point out that if you ask "where
Sir Guyon got that particularly convenient padlock with which he
fastened Occasion's tongue, and still more the hundred iron chains with
which he bound Furor?" that is to say, if you ask such a question
seriously, you have no business to read romance at all. As to the Love
matter, of that it is still less use to talk. There are some who would
go so far as to deny the major; even short of that hardiness it may be
safely urged that in poetry and romance Love _is_ the chief and
principal thing, and that the poet and the romancer are only acting up
to their commission in representing it as such. But the source of all
these errors is best reached, and if it may be, stopped, by dealing with
the first article of the indictment in the same way. What if Pastoral
_is_ artificial? That may be an argument against the kind as a whole,
but it cannot lie against a particular example of it, because that
example is bound to act up to its kind's law. And I think it not
extravagant to contend that the _Astrée_ acts up to its law in the most
inoffensive fashion possible--in such a fashion, in fact, as is hardly
ever elsewhere found in the larger specimens, and by no means very often
in the smaller. Hardly even in _As You Like It_, certainly not in the
_Arcadia_, do the crook and the pipe get less in the way than they do
here. A minor cavil has been urged--that the "shepherds" and the
"knights," the "shepherdesses" and the "nymphs" are very little
distinguishable from each other; but why should they be? Urfé had
sufficient art to throw over all these things an air of glamour which,
to those who can themselves take the benefit of the spell, banishes all
inconsistencies, all improbabilities, all specks and knots and the like.
It has been said that the _Astrée_ has in it something of the genuine
fairy-tale element. And the objections taken to it are really not much
more reasonable than would be the poser whether even the cleverest of
wolves, with or without a whole human grandmother inside it, would find
it easy to wrap itself up in bedclothes, or whether, seeing that even
walnut shells subject cats to such extreme discomfort, top-boots would
not be even more intolerable to the most faithful of feline retainers.

[Sidenote: The general importance and influence.]

The literary influence and importance of the book have never been denied
by any competent criticism which had taken the trouble to inform itself
of the facts. It can be pointed out that while the "Heroics," great as
was their popularity for a time, did not keep it very long, and lost it
by sharp and long continued--indeed never reversed--reaction, the
influence of the _Astrée_ on this later school itself was great, was not
effaced by that of its pupils, and worked in directions different, as
well as conjoint. It begat or helped to beget the _Précieuses_; it did a
great deal, if not exactly to set, to continue that historical character
which, though we have not been able to speak very favourably of its
immediate exercise, was at last to be so important. Above all, it
reformed and reinforced the "sentimental" novel, as it is called. We
have tried to show that there was much more of this in the mediaeval
romance proper than it has been the fashion in recent times to allow.
There was a great deal in the _Amadis_ class, but extravaganzaed out of
reason as well as out of rhyme. To us, or some of us, the _Astrée_ type
may still seem extravagant, but in comparison it brings things back to
that truth and nature which were granted it by Madame de Sévigné. Its
charms actually soothed the savage breast of Boileau, and it is not
surprising that La Fontaine loved it. Few things of the kind are more
creditable to the better side of Jean Jacques a full century later, than
that he was not indifferent to its beauty; and there were few greater
omissions on the part of _mil-huit-cent-trente_ (which, however, had so
much to do!) than its comparative neglect to stray on to the gracious
banks of the Lignon. All honour to Saint-Marc Girardin (not exactly the
man from whom one would have expected it) for having been, as it seems,
though in a kind of _palinodic_ fashion, the first to render serious
attention, and to do fair justice, to this vast and curious wilderness
of delights.[150]

[Sidenote: The _Grand Cyrus_.]

[Sidenote: Its preface to Madame de Longueville.]

To turn from the Pastoral to the Heroic, the actual readers, English or
other, of _Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus_[151] in late years, have probably
been reckonable rather as single spies (a phrase in this connection of
some rather special appropriateness) than in battalions. And it is to be
feared that many or most, if not nearly all of them, have opened it with
little expectation of pleasure. The traditional estimates are dead
against it as a rule; it has constantly served as an example--produced
by wiseacres for wiseacres--of the _un_wisdom of our ancestors; and,
generous as were Sir Walter's estimates of all literature, and
especially of his fellow-craftsmen's and craftswomen's work, the lively
passage in _Old Mortality_ where Edith Bellenden's reference to the book
excites the (in the circumstances justifiable) wrath of the
Major--perhaps the only _locus_ of ordinary reading that touches
_Artamène_ with anything but vagueness--is not entirely calculated to
make readers read eagerly. But on turning honestly to the book itself,
it is possible that considerable relief and even a little astonishment
may result. Whether this satisfaction will arise at the very dedication
by that vainglorious and yet redoubtable cavalier, Georges de Scudéry,
in which he characteristically takes to himself the credit due mainly,
if not wholly, to his plain little sister Madeleine, will depend upon
taste. It is addressed to Anne Geneviève de Bourbon, Duchess of
Longueville, sister of Condé, and adored mistress of many noteworthy
persons--the most noteworthy perhaps being the Prince de Marcillac,
better known, as from his later title, as Duc de la Rochefoucauld, and
a certain Aramis--not so good a man as three friends of his, but a very
accomplished, valiant, and ingenious gentleman. The blue eyes of Madame
de Longueville (M. de Scudéry takes the liberty to mention specially
their charm, if not their colour) were among the most victorious in that
time of the "raining" and reigning influence of such things: and somehow
one succumbs a little even now to her as the Queen of that bevy of fair,
frail, and occasionally rather ferocious ladies of the Fronde feminine.
(The femininity was perhaps most evident in Madame de Chevreuse, and the
ferocity in Madame de Montbazon.) Did not Madame de Longueville--did not
they all--figuratively speaking, draw that great philosopher Victor
Cousin[152] up in a basket two centuries after her death, even as had
been done, literally if mythically, to that greater philosopher,
Aristotle, ages before? But the governor of Our Lady of the Guard[153]
says to her many of these things which that very Aramis delighted to
hear (though not perhaps from the lips of rivals) and described,
rebuking the callousness of Porthos to them, as fine and worthy of being
said by gentlemen. The Great Cyrus himself "comes to lay at her
Highness's feet his palms and his trophies." His historian, achieving at
once advertisement and epigram, is sure that as she listened kindly to
the _Death of Caesar_ (his own play), she will do the same to the Life
of Cyrus. Anne Geneviève herself will become the example of all
Princesses (the Reverend Abraham Adams might have groaned a little
here), just as Cyrus was the pattern of all Princes. She is not the
moon, but the sun[154] of the Court. The mingled blood of Bourbon and
Montmorency gives her such an _éclat_ that it is almost unapproachable.
He then digresses a little to glorify her brother, her husband, and
Chapelain, the famous author of _La Pucelle_, who had the good fortune
to be a friend of the Scudérys, as well as, like them, a strong "Heroic"
theorist. After which he comes to that personal inventory which has been
referred to, decides that her beauty is of a celestial splendour, and,
in fact, a ray of Divinity itself; goes into raptures, not merely over
her eyes, but over her hair (which simply effaces sunbeams); the
brightness and whiteness of her complexion; the just proportion of her
features; and, above all, her singularly blended air of modesty and
gallantry; her intellectual and spiritual match; her bodily graces; and
he is finally sure that though somebody's misplaced acuteness may
discover faults which nobody else will perceive (Georges would like to
see them, no doubt), her extreme kindness will pardon them. A
commonplace example of flattery this? Well, perhaps not. One somehow
sees, across the rhetoric, the blue eyes of Anne Geneviève and the
bristling mustachios and "swashing outside" and mighty rapier of
Georges; and the thing becomes alive with the life of a not ungracious
past, the ills of which were, after all, more or less common to all
times, and its charms (like the charms of all things and persons
charming) its own.

[Sidenote: The "Address to the Reader."]

But the Address to the Reader, though it discards those "temptations of
young ladies" (Madame de Longueville can never have been old) which Dr.
Johnson recognised, and also the companion attractions of Cape and
Sword, is of perhaps directly greater importance for our special and
legitimate purpose. Here the brother and sister (probably the sister
chiefly) develop some of the principles of their bold adventure, and
they are of no small interest. It is allowed that the varying accounts
of Cyrus (in which, as almost every one with the slightest tincture of
education[155] must be aware, doctors differ remarkably), at least those
of Herodotus and Xenophon (they do not, or she does not, seem to have
known Ctesias), are confounded, and selected _ad libitum_ and _secundum
artem_ only. Further "lights" are given by the selection of the
"Immortal Heliodorus" and "the great Urfé" as patterns and patrons of
the work. In fact, to any expert in the reading and criticism of novels
it is clear that a great principle has been--imperfectly but
somehow--laid hold of.

[Sidenote: The opening of the "business."]

Perhaps, however, "laid hold of" is too strong; we should do better by
borrowing from Dante and saying that the author or authors have
"glimpsed the Panther,"--have seen that a novel ought not to be a mere
chronicle, unselected and miscellaneous, but a work which, whether it
has actual unity of plot or not, has unity of interest, and will deal
with its facts so as to secure that interest. At first, indeed, they
plunge us into the middle of matters quite excitingly, though perhaps
not without more definite suggestion, both to them and to us, of the
"immortal" Heliodorus. The hero, who still bears his false name of
Artamène,[156] appears at the head of a small army, the troops of
Cyaxares of Media; and, at the mouth of a twisting valley, suddenly sees
before him the town of Sinope in flames, the shipping in the harbour
blazing likewise, all but one bark, which seems to be flying from more
than the conflagration. A fine comic-opera situation follows; for while
Artamène is trying to subdue the fire he is attacked by the traitor
Aribée, general under the King of Assyria, who is himself shut up in a
tower and seems to be hopelessly cut off from rescue by the fire. The
invincible hero, however, subdues at once the rebel and the destroying
element; captures the Assyrian, who is not only his enemy and that of
his master Cyaxares, but his Rival (the word has immense importance in
these romances, and is always honoured with a capital there), and learns
that the escaping galley carried with it his beloved Mandane, daughter
of Cyaxares, of whom he is in quest, and who has been abducted from her
abductor and lover by another, Prince Mazare of Sacia.

[Sidenote: The ups and downs of the general conduct of the story.]

All this is lively and business-like enough, and one feels rather a
brute in making the observation (necessary, however) that Artamène talks
too much and not in the right way. When things in general are "on the
edge of a razor" and one is a tried and skilful soldier, one does not,
except on the stage, pause to address the unjust Gods, and inquire
whether they have consented to the destruction of the most beautiful
princess in the world; discuss with one's friends the reduction into
cinders[157] of the adorable Mandane, and further enquire, without the
slightest chance of answer, "Alas! unjust Rival! hast thou not thought
rather of thine own preservation than of hers?" However, for a time, the
incidents do carry off the verbiage, and for nearly a hundred small
pages there is no great cause for complaint. It is the style of the
book; and if you do not like it you must "seek another inn." But what
succeeds, for the major part of the first of the twenty volumes,[158] is
open to severer criticisms. We fall into interminable discussions,
_récits_, and the like, on the subject of the identity of Artamène and
Cyrus, and we see at once the imperfect fashion in which the nature of
the novel is conceived. That elaborate explanation--necessary in
history, philosophy, and other "serious" works--cannot be cut down too
much in fiction, is one truth that has not been learnt.[159] That the
stuffing of the story with large patches of solid history or
pseudo-history is wrong and disenchanting has not been learnt either;
and this is the less surprising and the more pardonable in that very
few, if indeed any, of the masters and mistresses of the novel, later
and greater than Georges and Madeleine de Scudéry, have not refused to
learn it or have not carelessly forgotten the learning. Even Scott
committed the fault sometimes, though never in his very best work.
Dumas--when he went out and left the "young men" to fill in, and stayed
too long, and made them fill in too much--did it constantly. Yet again,
that mixture of excess and defect in talking, which has been noted
already, becomes more and more trying in connection with the previously
mentioned faults and others. Of _mere_ talk there is enough and
immensely to spare; but it is practically never real dialogue, still
less real conversation. It is harangue, narrative, soliloquy, what you
will, in the less lively theatrical forms of speech watered out in
prose, with "passing of compliments" in the most gentlefolkly manner,
and a spice of "Phébus" or Euphuism now and then. But it is never real
personal talk,[160] while as for conveying the action _by_ the talk as
the two great masters above mentioned and nearly all others of their
kind do, there is no vestige of even an attempt at the feat, or a
glimpse of its desirableness.

Again, one sees before long that of one priceless quality--a sense of
humour--we shall find, though there is a little mild wit, especially in
the words of the ladies named in the note, no trace in the book, but a
"terrible _minus_ quantity." I do not know that the late Sir William
Gilbert was a great student of literature--of classical literature, to
judge from the nomenclature of _Pygmalion and Galatea_ mentioned above,
he certainly was not. But his eyes would surely have glistened at the
unconscious and serious anticipation of his own methods at their most
Gilbertian, had he ever read pp. 308 _sqq._ of this first volume. Here
not only do Cyrus and a famous pirate, by boarding with irresistible
valour on each side, "exchange ships," and so find themselves at once to
have gained the enemy's and lost their own, but this remarkable
manoeuvre is repeated more than twenty times without advantage on
either side--or without apparently any sensible losses on either side.
From which it would appear that both contented themselves with displays
of agility in climbing from vessel to vessel, and did nothing so
impolite as to use their "javelins, arrows, and cutlasses" (of which,
nevertheless, we hear) against the persons of their competitors in such
agility on the other side. It did come to an end somehow after some
time; but one is quite certain that if Mr. Crummles had had the means of
presenting such an admirable spectacle on any boards, he never would
have contented himself without several encores of the whole twenty

An experienced reader, therefore, will not need to spend many hours
before he appreciates pretty thoroughly what he has to expect--of good,
of bad, and of indifferent--from this famous book. It is, though in a
different sense from Montaigne's, a _livre de bonne foi_. And we must
remember that the readers whom it directly addressed expected from books
of this kind "pastime" in the most literal and generous, if also
humdrum, sense of the word; noble sentiments, perhaps a little learning,
possibly a few hidden glances at great people not of antiquity only. All
these they got here, most faithfully supplied according to their demand.

[Sidenote: Extracts--the introduction of Cyrus to Mandane.]

Probably nothing will give the reader, who does not thus read for
himself, a better idea of the book than some extract translations,
beginning with Artamène's first interview with Mandane,[161] going on to
his reflections thereon, and adding a perhaps slightly shortened version
of the great fight recounted later, in which again some evidence of the
damaging absence of humour, and some suggestions as to the originals of
divers well-known parodies, will be found. (It must be remembered that
these are all parts of an enormous _récit_ by Chrisante, one of
Artamène's confidants and captains, to the King of Hircania, a monarch
doubtless inured to hardships in the chase of his native tigers, or
requiring some sedative as a change from it.)

     No sooner had the Princess seen my Master than she rose, and
     prepared to receive him with much kindness and much joy,
     having already heard, by Arbaces, the service he had done to
     the King, her father. Artamène then made her two deep bows,
     and coming closer to her, but with all the respect due to a
     person of her condition, he kissed [_no doubt the hem of_]
     her robe, and presented to her the King's letter, which she
     read that very instant. When she had done, he was going to
     begin the conversation with a compliment, after telling her
     what had brought him; but the Princess anticipated him in
     the most obliging manner. "What Divinity, generous
     stranger," said she, "has brought you among us to save all
     Cappadocia by saving its King? and to render him a service
     which the whole of his servants could not have rendered?"
     "Madam," answered Artamène, "you are right in thinking that
     some Divinity has led me hither; and it must have been some
     one of those beneficent Divinities who do only good to men,
     since it has procured me the honour of being known to you,
     and the happiness of being chosen by Fortune to render to
     the King a slight service, which might, no doubt, have been
     better done him by any other man." "Modesty," said the
     Princess (smiling and turning towards the ladies who were
     nearest her), "is a virtue which belongs so essentially to
     our own sex, that I do not know whether I ought to allow
     this generous stranger so unjustly to rob us of it, or--not
     content with possessing eminently that valour to which we
     must make no pretension--to try to be as modest when he is
     spoken to of the fineness of his actions as reasonable women
     ought to be when they are praised for their beauty. For my
     part," she added, looking at Artamène, "I confess I find
     your proceeding a little unfair. And I do not think that I
     ought to allow it, or to deprive myself of the power of
     praising you infinitely, although you cannot endure it."
     "Persons like you," retorted Artamène, but with profound
     respect, "ought to receive praise from all the earth, and
     not to give it lightly. 'Tis a thing, Madam, of which it is
     not pleasant to have to repeat; for which reason I beg you
     not to expose yourself to such a danger. Wait, Madam, till I
     have the honour of being a little better known to you."

There are several pages more of this _carte_ and _tierce_ of compliment;
but perhaps a degenerate and impatient age may desire that we should
pass to the next subject. Whether it is right or not in so desiring may
perhaps be discussed when the three samples have been given.

Artamène has been dismissed with every mark of favour, and lodged in a
pavilion overlooking the garden. When he is alone--

     [Sidenote: His soliloquy in the pavilion.]

     After having passed and re-passed all these things over
     again in his imagination, "Ye gods!" said he, "if, when she
     is so lovable, it should chance that I cannot make her love
     me, what would become of the wretched Artamène? But," and he
     caught himself up suddenly, "since she seems capable of
     appreciating glory and services, let us continue to act as
     we have begun! and let us do such great deeds that, even if
     her inclination resisted, esteem may introduce us, against
     her will, into her heart! For, after all, whatever men may
     say, and whatever I may myself have said, one may give a
     little esteem to what one will never in the least love; but
     I do not think one can give much esteem to what will never
     earn a little love. Let us hope, then; let us hope! let us
     make ourselves worthy to be pitied if we are not worthy to
     be loved."

After which somewhat philosophical meditation it is not surprising that
he should be informed by one of his aides-de-camp that the Princess was
in the garden. For what were Princesses made? and for what gardens?

The third is a longer passage, but it shall be subjected to that kind of
_cento_ing which has been found convenient earlier in this volume.

     [Sidenote: The Fight of the Four Hundred.]

     [_The dispute between the kings of Cappadocia on the one
     hand and of Pontus on the other has been referred to a
     select combat of two hundred men a side. Artamène, of
     course, obtains the command of the Cappadocians, to the
     despair of his explosive but not ungenerous rival, "Philip
     Dastus." After a very beautiful interview with Mandane
     (where, once more, the most elegant compliments pass between
     these gentlefolkliest of all heroes and heroines) and divers
     preliminaries, the fight comes off._][162] They began to
     advance with heads lowered, without cries or noise of any
     kind, but in a silence which struck terror. As soon as they
     were near enough to use their javelins, they launched them
     with such violence that [_a slight bathos_] these flying
     weapons had a pretty great effect on both sides, but much
     greater on that of the Cappadocians than on the other. Then,
     sword in hand and covered by their shields, they came to
     blows, and Artamène, as we were informed, immolated the
     first victim [_but how about the javelin "effect"?_] in this
     bloody sacrifice. For, having got in front of all his
     companions by some paces, he killed, with a mighty
     sword-stroke, the first who offered resistance. [_Despite
     this, the general struggle continues to go against the
     Cappadocians, though Artamène's exploits alarm one of the
     enemy, named Artane, so much that he skulks away to a
     neighbouring knoll. At last_] things came to such a point
     that Artamène found himself with fourteen others against
     forty; so I leave you to judge, Sir [_Chrisante parle
     toujours_], whether the party of the King of Pontus did not
     believe they had conquered, and whether the Cappadocians had
     not reason to think themselves beaten. But as, in this
     fight, it was not allowed either to ask or to give quarter,
     and was necessary either to win or to die, the most
     despairing became the most valiant. [_The next stage is,
     that in consequence of enormous efforts on his part, the
     hero finds himself and his party ten to ten, which
     "equality" naturally cheers them up. But the wounds of the
     Cappadocians are the severer; the ten on their side become
     seven, with no further loss to the enemy, and at last
     Artamène finds himself, after three hours' fighting, alone
     against three, though only slightly wounded. He wisely uses
     his great agility in retiring and dodging; separates one
     enemy from the other two, and kills him; attacks the two
     survivors, and, one luckily stumbling over a buckler, kills
     a second, so that at last the combat is single. During this
     time the coward Artane abstains from intervening, all the
     more because the one surviving champion of Pontus is a
     personal rival of his, and because, by a very ingenious
     piece of casuistry, he persuades himself that the two
     combatants are sure to kill each other, and he, Artane,
     surviving, will obtain the victory for self and country!_]

He is nearly right; but not quite. For after Artamène has wounded the
Pontic Pharnaces in six places, and Pharnaces Artamène in four (for we
wound "by the card" here), the hero runs Pharnaces through the heart,
receiving only a thigh-wound in return. He flourishes both swords, cries
"I have conquered!" and falls in a faint from loss of blood. Artane
thinks him dead, and without caring to come close and "mak sicker," goes
off to claim the victory. But Artamène revives, finds himself alone,
and, with what strength he has left, piles the arms of the dead
together, writes with his own blood on a silver shield--


and lies beside it as well as he can. The false news deceives for a
short time, but when the stipulated advance to the field takes place on
both sides, the discovery of the surviving victor introduces a new
complication, from which we may for the moment abstain.

The singlestick rattle of compliment in the interview first given, and
the rather obvious and superfluous meditations of the second, may seem,
if not exactly disgusting, tedious and jejune. But the "Fight of the
Four Hundred" is not frigid; and it is only fair to say that, after the
rather absurd passage of _chassé croisé_ on ship-board quoted or at
least summarised earlier, the capture of Artamène by numbers and his
surrender to the generous corsair Thrasybulus are not ill told, while
there are several other good fights before you come to the end of this
very first volume. There is, moreover, an elaborate portrait of the
Princess, evidently intended to "pick up" that vaguer one of Madame de
Longueville in the Preface, but with the blue of the eyes here
fearlessly specified. Here also does the celebrated Philidaspes (most
improperly, if it had not been for the justification to be given later,
transmogrified in the above-mentioned passage by Major Bellenden into
"Philip Dastus? Philip Devil") make his appearance. The worst of it is
that most, if not the whole, is done by the _récit_ delivered, as noted
above, by Chrisante, one of those representatives of the no less
faithful than strong Gyas and Cloanthus, whom imitation of the ancients
has imposed on Scudéry and his sister, and inflicted on their readers.

[Sidenote: The abstract resumed.]

The story of the Cappadocian-Pontic fight[163] is continued in the
second volume of the First Part by the expected delivery of harangues
from the two claimants, and the obligatory, but to Artane very
unwelcome, single combat. He is, of course, vanquished and pardoned by
his foe,[164] making, if not full, sufficient confession; and it is not
surprising to hear that the King of Pontus requests to see no more of
him. The rest--for it must never be forgotten that all this is "throwing
back"--then turns to the rivalry of Artamène and Philidaspes for the
love of Mandane, while she (again, of course) has not the faintest idea
that either is in love with her. Philidaspes, who (still, of course) is
not Philidaspes at all, is a rough customer--(in fact the Major hardly
did him injustice in calling him "Philip Devil"--betraying also perhaps
some knowledge of the text), and it comes to a tussle. This rather
resembles what the contemptuous French early Romantics called _une
boxade_ than a formal duel, and Artamène stuns his man with a blow of
the flat. Cyaxares[165] is very angry, and imprisons them both, not yet
realising their actual fault. It does not matter much to Artamène, who
in prison can think, aloud and in the most beautiful "Phébus," of
Mandane. It matters perhaps a little more to the reader; for a courteous
jailer, Aglatidas, takes the occasion to relate his own woes in a
"History of Aglatidas and Amestris," which completes the second volume
of the First Part in three hundred and fifty mortal pages to itself.

The first volume of the Second Part returns to the main story, or rather
the main series of _récits_; for, Chrisante being not unnaturally
exhausted after talking for a thousand pages or so, Feraulas, another of
Artamène's men, takes up the running. The prisoners are let out, and
Mandane reconciles them, after which--as another but later contemporary
remarks (again of other things, but probably with some reminiscence of
this)--they become much more mortal enemies than before. The
reflections and soliloquies of Artamène recur; but a not unimportant,
although subordinate, new character appears--not as the first example,
but as the foremost representative, in the novel, of the great figure of
the "confidante"--in Martésie, Mandane's chief maid of honour. Nobody,
it is to be hoped, wants an elaborate account of the part she plays, but
it should be said that she plays it with much more spirit and
individuality than her mistress is allowed to show. Then, according to
the general plan of all these books, in which fierce wars and faithful
loves alternate, there is more fighting, and though Artamène is
victorious (as how should he not be, save now and then to prevent
monotony?) he disappears and is thought dead. Of course Mandane cries,
and confesses to the confidante, being entirely "finished" by a very
exquisite letter which Artamène has written before going into the
doubtful battle. However, he is (yet once more, of course) not dead at
all. What (as that most sagacious of men, the elder Mr. Weller, would
have said)'d have become of the other seventeen volumes if he had been?
There is one of the _quiproquos_ or misunderstandings which are as
necessary to this kind of novel as the flirtations and the fisticuffs,
brought about by the persistence of an enemy princess in taking Artamène
for her son Spithridates;[166] but all comes right for the time, and the
hero returns to his friends. The plot, however, thickens. An accident
informs Artamène that Philidaspes is really Prince of Assyria, sure to
become King when his mother, Nitocris, dies or abdicates, and that,
being as he is, and as Artamène knows already, desperately in love with
Mandane, he has formed a plot for carrying her off. The difficulties in
the way of preventing this are great, because, though the hero is
already aware that he is Cyrus, it is for many reasons undesirable to
inform Cyaxares of the fact; and at last Philidaspes, helped by the
traitor Aribée (_v. sup._), succeeds in the abduction, after an
interlude in which a fresh Rival, with a still larger R, the King of
Pontus himself, turns up; and an immense episode, in which Thomyris,
Queen of Scythia, appears, not yet in her more or less historical part
of victress of Cyrus. She is here only a young sovereign, widowed in her
earliest youth, extremely beautiful (see a portrait of her _inf._), who
has never yet loved, but who falls instantly in love with Cyrus himself
(when he is sent to her court), and is rather a formidable person to
deal with, inasmuch as, besides having great wealth and power, she has
established a diplomatic system of intrigue in other countries, which
the newest German or other empire might envy. By the end of this volume,
however, the Artamène-Cyrus confusion is partly cleared up (though
Cyaxares is not yet made aware of the facts), and the hero is sent after
Mandane, to be disappointed at Sinope, in the fashion recounted some
thousand or two pages before.

[Sidenote: The oracle to Philidaspes.]

With the beginning of vol. iv. (that is to say, part ii. vol. ii.) we
return, though still in retrospect, to the direct fate of Mandane.
Nitocris is dead, Philidaspes has succeeded to the crown of Assyria, and
has carried Mandane off to his own dominions. The situation with so
robustious a person as this prince may seem awkward, and indeed, as is
observed in a later part of the book, the heroine's repeated sojourns
(there are three if not four of them in all[167]) in the complete power
of one of the Rivals, with a large R, are very trying to Cyrus. However,
such a shocking thing as violence is hardly hinted at, and the Princess
always succeeds, as the Creole lady in _Newton Forster_ said she did
with the pirates, in "temporising," while her abductors confine
themselves for the most part to the finest "Phébus." Even the fiery
Philidaspes, though he breaks out sometimes, conveys his wish that
Mandane should accompany him to Babylon by pointing out that "the
Euphrates is jealous of the Tigris for having first had the honour of
her presence," and that "the First City of the World ought clearly to
possess the most illustrious princess of the Earth." Of course, if there
is any base person who cannot derive an Aramisian satisfaction (_v.
sup._) from such things as this, he had better abstain from the _Cyrus_.
But happier souls they please--not exquisitely, perhaps, or
tumultuously, but still well--with a mild tickle which is not
unvoluptuous. One is even a very little sorry for Philip Dastus when he
begs his cruel idol to write to him the single word ESPEREZ, and
meanwhile kindly puts it in capitals and a line to itself. Almost
immediately afterwards an oracle juggles with him in fashion delightful
to himself, and puzzling to everybody except the intelligent reader,
who, it is hoped, will see the double meaning at once.

      Il t'est permis d'espérer
      De la faire soupirer,
        Malgré sa haine:
    Car un jour entre ses bras,
        Tu rencontreras
        La fin de ta peine.

Alas! without going further (upon honour and according to fact), one
sees the _other_ explanation--that Mandane will have to perform the
uncomfortable duty--often assigned to heroines--of having Philidaspes
die in her lap.

For the present, however, only discomfiture, not death, awaits him. The
Medes blockade Babylon to recover their princess; it suffers from
hunger, and Philidaspes, with Mandane and the chivalrous Sacian Prince
Mazare, whom we have heard of before, escapes to Sinope. Then the events
recorded in the very beginning happen, and Mandane, after escaping the
flames of Sinope through Mazare's abduction of her by sea, and suffering
shipwreck, falls into the power of the King of Pontus. This calls a halt
in the main story; and, as before, a "Troisième Livre" consists of
another huge inset--the hugest yet--of seven hundred pages this time,
describing an unusually, if not entirely, independent subject--the
loves and fates of a certain Philosipe and a certain Polisante. This
volume contains a rather forcible boating-scene, which supplies the
theme for the old frontispiece.

Refreshed as usual by this excursion,[168] the author returns (in vol.
v., bk. i., chap. iii.) to Cyrus, who is once more in peril, and in a
worse one than ever. Cyaxares, arriving at Sinope, does not find his
daughter, but does discover that Artamène, whom he does not yet know to
be Cyrus and heir to Persia, is in love with her. Owing chiefly to the
wiles of a villain, Métrobate, he arrests the Prince, and is on the
point of having him executed, despite the protests of the allied kings.
But the whole army, with the Persian contingent at its head, assaults
the castle, and rescues Cyrus, after the traitor Métrobate has tried to
double his treachery and get Cyaxares assassinated. Nobody who remembers
the _Letter of Advice_ already quoted will doubt what the conduct of
Cyrus is. He only accepts the rescue in order that he may post himself
at the castle gate, and threaten to kill anybody who attacks Cyaxares.

After this burst, which is really exciting in a way, we must expect
something more soporific. Martésie takes the place of her absent
mistress to some extent, and a good deal of what might be mistaken for
"Passerelle"[169] flirtation takes place, or would do so, if it were not
that Cyrus would, of course, die rather than pay attention to anybody
but Mandane herself, and that Feraulas, already mentioned as one of the
Faithful Companions, is detailed as Martésie's lover. She is, however,
installed as a sort of Vice-Queen of a wordy tourney between four
unhappy lovers, who fill up the rest of the volume with their stories of
"Amants _In_fortunés" (cf. the original title of the _Heptameron_),
dealing respectively with and told by--

(1) A lover who is loved, but separated from his mistress.

(2) One who is unloved.

(3) A jealous one.

(4) One whose love is dead.[170]

They do it moderately, in rather less than five hundred pages, and
Martésie sums up in a manner worthy of any Mistress of the Rolls,
contrasting their fates, and deciding very cleverly against the jealous

The first twenty pages or so of the sixth volume (nominally iii. 2)
afford a good example of the fashion in which, as may be observed more
fully below, even an analysis of the _Grand Cyrus_, though a great
advance on mere general description of it, must be still (unless it be
itself intolerably voluminous) insufficient. Not very much actually
"happens"; but if you simply skip, you miss a fresh illustration of
magnanimity not only in Cyrus, but in a formerly mentioned character,
Aglatidas, with reference to the heroine Amestris earlier inset in the
tale (_v. sup._). And this is an example of the new and sometimes very
ingenious fashion in which these apparent excursions are turned into
something like real episodes, or at any rate supply connecting threads
of the whole, in a manner not entirely unlike that which some critics
have so hastily and unjustly overlooked in Spenser. Then we have an
imbroglio about forged letters, and a clearing-up of a former charge
against the hero, and (still within the twenty pages) a very curious
scene--the last for the time--of that flirtation-without-flirtation
between Cyrus and Martésie. She wants to have back a picture of Mandane,
which she has lent him to worship; and he replies, looking at her
"attentively" (one wonders whether Mandane, if present, would have been
entirely satisfied with his "attention"), addresses her as "Cruel
Person," and asks her (he is just setting out for the Armenian war) how
she thinks he can conquer when she takes away what should make him
invincible. To which replies Miss Martésie, "You have gained so many
victories [_ahem!_] without this help, that it would seem you have no
need of it." This is very nice, and Martésie, who is herself, as
previously observed, quite nice throughout, lets him have the picture
after all. But Cyrus, for once rather ungraciously, will not allow her
lover, and his henchman, Feraulas to escort her home; first, because he
wants Feraulas's services himself, and secondly, because it is unjust
that Feraulas should be happy with Martésie when Cyrus is miserable
without Mandane--an argument which, whether slightly selfish or not, is
at any rate in complete keeping with the whole atmosphere of the book.

[Sidenote: The advent of Araminta.]

Now, as this is by no means a very exceptional, certainly not a unique,
score of pages, and as it has taken almost a whole one of ours to give a
rather imperfect notion of its contents, it follows that it would take
about six hundred, if not more, to do justice to the ten or twelve
thousand of the original. Which (in one of the most immortal of
formulas) "is impossible." We must fall back, therefore, on the system
already pursued for the rest of this volume, and perhaps even contract
its application in some cases. A rash promise of the now entirely, if
not also rather insanely,[171] generous Prince not to marry Mandane
without fighting Philidaspes, or rather the King of Assyria, beforehand,
is important; and an at last minute description of Cyrus's person and
equipment as he sets out (on one of the proudest and finest horses that
ever was, with a war-dress the superbest that can be imagined, and with
Mandane's magnificent scarf put on for the first time) is not quite
omissible. But then things become intricate. Our old friend Spithridates
comes back, and has first love affairs and afterwards an enormous
_récit_-episode with a certain Princess of Pontus, whom Cyrus,
reminding one slightly of Bentley on Mr. Pope's _Homer_ and Tommy Merton
on Cider, pronounces to be _belle, blonde, blanche et bien faite_, but
not Mandane; and who has the further charm of possessing, for the first
time in literature if one mistakes not, the renowned name of Araminta. A
pair of letters between these two will be useful as specimens, and to
some, it may be hoped, agreeable in themselves.


     [Sidenote: Her correspondence with Spithridates.]

     I depart, Madam, because you wish it: but, in departing, I
     am the most unhappy of all men. I know not whither I go; nor
     when I shall return; nor even if you wish that I _should_
     return; and yet they tell me I must live and hope. But I
     should not know how to do either the one or the other,
     unless you order me to do both by two lines in your own
     hand. Therefore I beg them of you, divine Princess--in the
     name of an illustrious person, now no more, [_her brother
     Sinnesis, who had been a great friend of his_], but who will
     live for ever in the memory of


     [_He can hardly have hoped for anything better than the
     following answer, which is much more "downright Dunstable"
     than is usual here._]


     Live as long as it shall please the Gods to allow you. Hope
     as long as Araminta lives--she begs you: and even if you
     yourself wish to live, she orders you to do so.

     [_In other words he says, "My own Araminta, say 'Yes'!" and
     she does. This attitude necessarily involves the despair of
     a Rival, who writes thus:_]


     If Fortune seconds my designs, I go to a place where I shall
     conquer _and_ die--where I shall make known, by my generous
     despair, that if I could not deserve your affection by my
     services, I shall have at least not made myself unworthy of
     your compassion by my death.

     [_And, to do him justice, he "goes and does it."_]

This episode, however, did not induce Mademoiselle Madeleine to break
her queer custom of having something of the same kind in the Third Book
of every Part. For though there is some "business," it slips into
another regular "History," this time of Prince Thrasybulus, a naval
hero, of whom we have often heard, and his Alcionide, not a bad name for
a sailor's mistress.[172] Finally, we come back to more events of a
rather troublesome kind: for the _ci-devant_ Philidaspes most
inconveniently insists in taking part in the rescuing expedition,
which--saving scandal of great ones--is very much as if Mr. William
Sikes should insist in helping to extract booty from Mr. Tobias Crackit.
And we finally leave Cyrus in a decidedly awkward situation morally, and
the middle of a dark wood physically.

[Sidenote: Some interposed comments.]

Here, according to that paulo-post-future precedent which she did so
much to create, the authoress was quite justified in leaving him at the
end of a volume; and perhaps the present historian is, to compare small
things with great, equally justified in heaving-to (to borrow from Mr.
Kipling) and addressing a small critical sermon to such crew as he may
have attracted. We have surveyed not quite a third of the book; but this
ought in any case--_teste_ the loved and lost "three-decker" which the
allusion just made concerns--to give us a notion of the author's quality
and of his or her _faire_. It should not be very difficult for anybody,
unless the foregoing analysis has been very clumsily done, to discern
considerable method in Madeleine's mild madness, and, what is more, not
a little originality. The method has, no doubt, as it was certain to
have in the circumstances, a regular irregularity, which is, or would be
in anybody but a novice, a little clumsy: and the originality may want
some precedent study to discover it. But both are there. The skeleton of
this vast work may perhaps be fairly constructed from what has already
been dissected of the body; and the method of clothing the skeleton
reveals itself without much difficulty. You have the central idea in the
loves of Cyrus and Mandane, which are to be made as true as possible,
but also running as roughly as may be. Moreover, whether they run rough
or smooth, you are to keep them in suspense as long as you possibly can.
The means of doing this are laboriously varied and multiplied. The
clumsiest of them--the perpetual intercalation or interpolation of
"side-shows" in the way of _Histoires_--annoys modern readers
particularly, and has, as a rule, since been itself beautifully and
beneficently lessened, in some cases altogether discarded, or
changed--in emancipation from the influence of the "Unities"--to the
form of second plots, not ostentatiously severed from the main one. But,
as has been pointed out, a great deal of trouble is at any rate taken to
knit them to the main plot itself, if not actually and invariably to
incorporate them therewith; and the means of this are again not
altogether uncraftsmanlike. Sometimes, as in the case of Spithridates,
the person, or one of the persons, is introduced first in the main
history; his own particular concerns are dealt with later, and, for good
or for evil, he returns to the central scheme. Sometimes, as in that of
Amestris, you have the _Histoire_ before the personage enters the main
story. Then there is the other device of varying direct narrative, as to
this main story itself, with _Récit_; and always you have a careful
peppering in of new characters, by _histoire_, by _récit_, or by the
main story, to create fresh interests. Again, there is the contrast of
"business," as we have called it--fighting and politics--with
love-making and miscellaneous fine talk. And, lastly, there are--what,
if they were not whelmed in such an ocean of other things, would attract
more notice--the not unfrequent individual phrases and situations which
have interest in themselves. It must surely be obvious that in these
things are great possibilities for future use, even if the actual
inventor has not made the most of them.

Their originality may perhaps deserve a little more comment.[173] The
mixture of secondary plots might, by a person more given to theorise
than the present historian--who pays his readers the compliment of
supposing that that excessively easy and therefore somewhat negligible
business can be done by themselves if they wish--be traced to an
accidental feature of the later mediaeval romances. In these the
congeries of earlier texts, which the compiler had not the wits, or at
least the desire, to systematise, provided something like it; but
required the genius of a Spenser, or the considerable craft of a
Scudéry, to throw it into shape and add the connecting links. Many of
the other things are to be found in the Scudéry romance practically for
the first time. And the suffusion of the whole with a new tone and
colour of at least courtly manners is something more to be counted, as
well as the constant exclusion of the clumsy "conjuror's supernatural"
of the _Amadis_ group. That the fairy story sprung up, to supply the
always graceful supernatural element in a better form, is a matter which
will be dealt with later in this chapter. The oracles, etc., of the
_Cyrus_ belong, of course, to the historical, not the imaginative side
of the presentation; but may be partly due to the _Astrée_, the
influence of which was, we saw, admitted.

[Sidenote: Analysis resumed.]

It may seem unjust that the more this complication of interests
increases, the less complete should be the survey of them; and yet a
moment's thought will show that this is almost a necessity. Moreover,
the methods do not vary much; it is only that they are applied to a
larger and larger mass of accumulating material. The first volume of the
Fourth Part, the seventh of the twenty, follows--though with that
absence of slavish repetition which has been allowed as one of the
graces of the book--the general scheme. Cyrus gets out of the wood
literally, but not figuratively; for when he and the King of Assyria
have joined forces, to pursue that rather paradoxical alliance which is
to run in couple with rivalry for love and to end in a personal combat,
they see on the other side of a river a chariot, in which Mandane
probably or certainly is. But the river is unbridged and unfordable, and
no boats can be had; so that, after trying to swim it and nearly getting
drowned, they have to relinquish the game that had been actually in
sight. Next, two things happen. First, Martésie appears (as usually to
our satisfaction), and in consequence of a series of accidents, shares
and solaces Mandane's captivity. Then, on the other side, Panthea, Queen
of Susiana, and wife of one of the enemy princes, falls into Cyrus's
hands, and with Araminta (who is, it should have, if it has not been,
said earlier, sister of the King of Pontus) furnishes valuable hostage
for good treatment of Mandane and other Medo-Persian-Phrygian-Hircanian

Things having thus been fairly bustled up for a time, a _Histoire_ is,
of course, imminent, and we have it, of about usual length, concerning
the Lydian Princess Palmis and a certain Cléandre; while, even when this
is done, we fall back, not on the main story, but once more on that of
Aglatidas and Amestris, which is in a sad plight, for Amestris (who has
been married against her will and is _maumariée_ too) thinks she is a
widow, and finds she is not.

It has just been mentioned that Palmis is a Lydian Princess; and before
the end of this Part Croesus comes personally into the story, being the
head of a formidable combination to supplant the King of Pontus, detain
Mandane, and, if possible (as the well-known oracle, in the usual
ambiguity (_v. inf._), encourages him to hope), conquer the Medo-Persian
empire and make it his own. But the _Histoire_ mania--now further
excited by consistence in working the personages so obtained in
generally--is in great evidence, and "Lygdamis and Cléonice" supply a
large proportion of the early and all the middle of the eighth volume,
the second of the Fourth Part. There is, however, much more business
than usual at the end to make up for any slackness at the beginning. In
a side-action with the Lydians both Cyrus and the King of Assyria are
captured by force of numbers, though the former is at once released by
the Princess Palmis, as well as Artames, son of Cyrus's Phrygian ally,
whom Croesus chooses to consider as a rebel, and intends to put to
death. Here, however, the captive Queen and Princess, Panthea and
Araminta, come into good play, and exercise strong and successful
influence through the husband of the one and the brother of the other.
But at the end of book, volume, and part we leave Cyrus once more in the
dismals. For though he has actually seen Mandane he cannot get at her,
and he has heard three apparently most unfavourable oracles; the
Babylonian one, which was quoted above, and which he, like everybody
else, takes as a promise of success to Philidaspes; the ambiguous
Delphic forecast of "the fall of _an_ Empire" to Croesus; and that of
his own death at the hands of a hostile queen, the only one which,
historically, was to be fulfilled in its apparent sense, while the
others were not. He cares, indeed, not much about the two last, but
infinitely about the first.

At the opening of the Fifth Part (ninth volume) there is a short but
curious "Address to the Reader," announcing the fulfilment of the first
half of the promised production, and bidding him not be downhearted, for
the first of the second half (the Sixth Part or eleventh volume of the
whole) is actually at Press. It may be noticed that there is a swagger
about these _avis_ and such like things, which probably _is_
attributable to Georges, and not to Madeleine.[174]

The inevitable _Histoire_ comes earlier than usual in this division, and
is of unusual importance; for it deals with two persons of great
distinction, and already introduced in the story, Queen Panthea and her
husband Abradates. It is also one of the longer batch, running to some
four hundred pages; and a notable part in it and in the future main
story is played by one Doralise--a pretty name, which Dryden, making it
prettier still by substituting a _c_ for the _s_, borrowed for his most
original and (with that earlier Florimel of _The Maiden Queen_, who is
said to have been studied directly off Nell Gwyn) perhaps his most
attractive heroine, the Doralice of _Marriage à la Mode_. Another
important character, the villain of the sub-plot, is one Mexaris.[175]
At the end of the first instalment we leave Cyrus preparing elaborate
machines of war to crush the Lydians.

Early in Book II. we hear of a mysterious warrior on the enemy side whom
nobody knows, who calls himself Telephanes, and whom Cyrus is very
anxious to meet in battle, but for the time cannot. He is also
frustrated in his challenge of the King of Pontus to fight for
Mandane--a challenge of which Croesus will not hear. At last Telephanes
turns out to be no less a person than Mazare, Prince of Sacia, whom we
know already as one of the ever-multiplying lovers and abductors of the
heroine; while, after a good deal of confused fighting, another inset
_Histoire_ of him closes the tenth volume (V. ii.). It is, however, only
two hundred pages long--a mere parenthesis compared to others, and it
leads up to his giving Cyrus a letter from Mandane--an act of generosity
which Philidaspes, otherwise King of Assyria, frankly confesses that he,
as another Rival, could never have done. After yet another _Histoire_
(now a "four-some") of Belesis, Hermogenes, Cléodare, and Léonice,
Abradates changes sides, carrying us on to an "intricate impeach" of
old and new characters, especially Araminta and Spithridates, and to the
death in battle of the generous King of Susiana himself, and the grief
of Panthea. There is, at the close of this volume, a rather interesting
_Privilège du Roi_, signed by Conrart ("_le silencieux Conrart_"),
sealed with "the great seal of yellow wax in a simple tail" (one ribbon
or piece of ferret only?), and bestowing its rights "nonobstant Clameur
de Haro, Charte Normande, et autres lettres contraires."

The first volume of the Sixth Part (the eleventh of the whole and the
first of what, as so many words of the kind are required, we may call
the Second Division) has plenty of business--showing that the author or
her adviser was also a business-like person--to commence the new
venture. Cyrus, after being victorious in the field and just about to
besiege Sardis in form, receives a "bolt from the blue" in the shape of
a letter "From the unhappy Mandane to the faithless"--himself! She has
learnt, she tells him, that his feelings towards her are changed,
requests that she may no longer serve as a pretext for his ambition,
and--rather straining the prerogatives assumed even by her nearest
ancestresses in literature, the Polisardas and Miraguardas of the
_Amadis_ group, but scarcely dreamt of by the heroines of ancient Greek
Romance--desires that he will send back to her father Cyaxares all the
troops that he is, as she implies, commanding on false pretences.

Now one half expects that Cyrus, in a transport of
Amadisian-Euphuist-heroism, will comply with this very modest request.
In fact it is open to any one to contend that, according to the
strictest rules of the game, he ought to have done so and gone mad, or
at least marooned himself in some desert island, in consequence. The
sophistication, however, of the stage appears here. After a very natural
sort of "Well, I never!" translated into proper heroic language, he sets
to work to identify the person whom Mandane suspects to be her
rival--for she has carefully abstained from naming anybody. And he
asks--with an ingenious touch of self-confession which does the author
great credit, if it was consciously laid on--whether it can be Panthea
or Araminta, with both of whom he has, in fact, been, if not exactly
flirting, carrying on (as the time itself would have said) a "commerce
of respectful and obliging admiration." He has a long talk with his
confidant Feraulas (whose beloved and really lovable Martésie is,
unluckily, not at hand to illuminate the mystery), and then he writes as
"The Unfortunate Cyrus to the Unjust Mandane," tells her pretty roundly,
though, of course, still respectfully, that if she knew how things
really were "she would think herself the cruellest and most unjust
person in the world." [I should have added, "just as she is, in fact,
the most beautiful."] She is, he says, his first and last passion, and
he has never been more than polite to any one else. But she will kindly
excuse his not complying with her request to send back his army until he
has vanquished all his Rivals--where, no doubt, in the original, the
capital was bigger and more menacing than ever, and was written with an
appropriate gnashing of teeth.

The traditional balance of luck and love, however, holds; and the armies
of Croesus and the King of Pontus begin to melt away; so that, after a
short but curious pastoral episode, they have to shut themselves up in
the capital. The dead body of Abradates is now found, and his widow
Panthea stabs herself upon it. This removes one of Mandane's possible
causes of jealousy, but Araminta remains; and, as a matter of fact, it
_is_ this Princess on whom her suspicion has been cast, arising partly,
though helped by makebates, from the often utilised personal resemblance
between her actual lover, Prince Spithridates, and Cyrus. The
treacherous King of Pontus has, in fact, shown her a letter from
Araminta (his sister, be it remembered) which seems to encourage the

All this, however, and more fills but a hundred pages or so, and then we
are as usual whelmed in a _Histoire de Timarète et de Parthénie_, which
takes up four times the space, and finishes the First Book. The Second
opens smartly enough with the actual siege of Sardis; but we cannot get
rid of Araminta (it is sad to have to wish that she was not "our own
Araminta" quite so often) and Spithridates. Conversations between the
still prejudiced Mandane and the Lydian Princess Palmis--a sensible and
agreeable girl--are better; but from them we are hurled into a _Histoire
de Sésostre_ (the Egyptian prince, son of Amasis, who is now an ally of
Cyrus) _et de Timarète_, which not only fills the whole of the rest of
the volume, but swells over into the next, being much occupied with the
villainies of a certain Heracleon, who is at the time a wounded prisoner
in Cyrus's Camp. The siege is kept up briskly, but Cyrus's courteous
release of certain captives adds fuel to Mandane's wrath as having been
procured by Araminta. He will do anything for Araminta! The releases
themselves give rise to fresh "alarums and excursions," among which we
again meet a pretty name (Candiope), borrowed by Dryden. Doralise is
also much to the fore; and we have a regular _Histoire_, though a
shorter one than usual, of _Arpalice and Thrasimède_, which will, as
some say, "bulk largely" later. The length of this part is, indeed,
enormous, the double volume running to over fourteen hundred pages,
instead of the usual ten or twelve. But its close is spirited and
sufficiently interim-catastrophic. Cyrus discovers in the _enceinte_ of
Sardis the usual weak point--an apparently impregnable scarped rock,
which has been weakly fortified and garrisoned--takes it by escalade in
person with his best paladins, and after it the city.

But of course he cannot expect to have it all his own way when not quite
twelve-twentieths of the book are gone, and he finds that Mandane is
gone likewise; the King of Pontus, who has practically usurped the
authority of Croesus, having once more carried her off--perhaps not so
entirely unwilling as before. Cyrus pursues, and while he is absent the
King of Assyria (Philidaspes) shows himself even more of a "Philip
Devil" than usual by putting the captive Lydian prince on a pyre,
threatening to burn him if he will not reveal the place of the
Princess's flight, and actually having the torch applied. Of course
Cyrus turns up at the nick of time, has the fire put out, rates the King
of Assyria soundly for his violence, and apologises handsomely to
Croesus. The notion of an apology for nearly roasting a man may appear
to have its ludicrous side, but the way in which the historic pyre and
the mention of Solon are brought in without discrediting the hero is
certainly ingenious. The Mandane-hunt is renewed, but fruitlessly.

At the beginning of Part VII. there are--according to the habit noticed,
and in rather extra measure as regards "us" if not "them"--some
interesting things. The first is an example--perhaps the best in the
book--of the elaborate description (called in Greek rhetorical technique
_ecphrasis_) which is so common in the Greek Romances. The subject is an
extraordinarily beautiful statue of a woman which Cyrus sees in
Croesus's gallery, and which will have sequels later. It, or part of it,
may be given:

     [Sidenote: The statue in the gallery at Sardis.]

     But, among all these figures of gold, there was to be seen
     one of marble, so wonderful, that it obliged Cyrus to stay
     longer in admiring it than in contemplating any of the
     others, though it was not of such precious material. It is
     true that it was executed with such art, and represented
     such a beautiful person, as to prevent any strangeness in
     its charming a Prince whose eyes were so delicate and so
     capable of judging all beautiful objects. This statue was of
     life-size, placed upon a pedestal of gold, on the four sides
     of which were bas-reliefs of an admirable beauty. On each
     were seen captives, chained in all sorts of fashions, but
     chained only by little Loves, unsurpassably executed. As for
     the figure itself, it represented a girl about eighteen
     years old, but one of surprising and perfect beauty. Every
     feature of the face was marvellously fine;[176] her figure
     was at once so noble and so graceful that nothing more
     elegant[177] could be seen; and her dress was at once so
     handsome and so unusual, that it had something of each of
     the usual garbs of Tyrian ladies, of nymphs, and of
     goddesses; but more particularly that of the Wingless
     Victory, as represented by the Athenians, with a simple
     laurel crown on her head. This statue was so well set on its
     base, and had such lively action, that it seemed actually
     animated; the face, the throat, the arms, and the hands were
     of white marble, as were the legs and feet, which were
     partly visible between the laces of the buskins she wore,
     and which were to be seen because, with her left hand, she
     lifted her gown a little, as if to walk more easily. With
     her right she held back a veil, fastened behind her head
     under the crown of laurel, as though to prevent its being
     carried away by the breeze, which seemed to agitate it. The
     whole of the drapery of the figure was made of
     divers-coloured marbles and jaspers; and, in particular, the
     gown of this fair Phoenician, falling in a thousand graceful
     folds, which still did not hide the exact proportion of her
     body, was of jasper, of a colour so deep that it almost
     rivalled Tyrian purple itself. A scarf, which passed
     negligently round her neck, and was fastened on the
     shoulder, was of a kind of marble, streaked with blue and
     white, which was very agreeable to the eye. The veil was of
     the same substance; but sculptured so artfully that it
     seemed as soft as mere gauze. The laurel crown was of green
     jasper, and the buskins, as well as the sash she wore, were,
     again of different hues. This sash brought together all the
     folds of the gown over the hips; below, they fell again more
     carelessly, and still showed the beauty of her figure. But
     what was most worthy of admiration in the whole piece was
     the spirit which animated it, and almost persuaded the
     spectators that she was just about to walk and talk. There
     was even a touch of art in her face, and a certain
     haughtiness in her attitude which made her seem to scorn the
     captives chained beneath her feet: while the sculptor had so
     perfectly realised the indefinable freshness, tenderness,
     and _embonpoint_ of beautiful girls, that one almost knew
     her age.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     [Sidenote: Thomyris on the warpath.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The other Scudéry romances--_Ibrahim_.]

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

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

[Sidenote: _Almahide._]

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

[Sidenote: _Clélie._]

[Sidenote: Perhaps the liveliest of the set.]

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

[Sidenote: Rough outline of it.]

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

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

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

[Sidenote: La Calprenède: his comparative cheerfulness.]

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

[Sidenote: _Cléopatre_--the Cypassis and Arminius episode.]

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

    The laughing queen that caught the world's great hands

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

[Sidenote: The book generally.]

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

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

[Sidenote: _Cassandre._]

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

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

[Sidenote: _Faramond._]

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

[Sidenote: Gomberville--_La Caritée_.]

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

[Sidenote: _Polexandre._]

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

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

[Sidenote: Camus--_Palombe_, etc.]

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

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Hédelin d'Aubignac--_Macarise._]

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

[Sidenote: Gombauld--_Endimion._]

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

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

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

[Sidenote: Mme. de Villedieu.]

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

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

[Sidenote: _Le Grand Alcandre Frustré._]

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

[Sidenote: The collected love-stories.]

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

[Sidenote: Their historic liberties.]

[Sidenote: _Carmente_, etc.]

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

[Sidenote: Her value on the whole.]

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

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The fairy tale.]

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

[Sidenote: Its _general_ characteristics--the happy ending.]

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

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

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

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

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

[Sidenote: Commented examples--_Gracieuse et Percinet_.]

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

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

[Sidenote: _L'Adroite Princesse._]

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

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

[Sidenote: The danger of the "moral."]

Still, the lessons of correction, warning, and instruction to be drawn
from these gracious little things, for the benefit of their younger and
more elaborate successors, are not easily exhausted. They are, on the
whole, very moral, and it is well that morality, rightly understood,
should animate fiction. But they are occasionally much _too_ moral, and
then they warn off instead of cheering on. Take, for instance, two other
neighbours in the collection just quoted, _Le Prince Chéri_ and the
ever-delightful _La Belle et La Bête_. Both of these are moral; but the
latter is just moral enough, while _Chéri_, with one or two alleviations
(of which, perhaps, more presently), is hardly anything if _not_ moral,
and therefore disgusts, or at any rate bores. On the other hand,
"Beauty" is as _bonne_ as she is _belle_; her only fault, that of
overstaying her time, is the result of family affection, and her reward
and the punishment of the wicked sisters are quite copy-book. But it is
not for this part that we love what is perhaps the most engaging of all
the tales. It is for Beauty's own charm, which is subtly conveyed; for
the brisk and artistic "revolutions and discoveries"; above all, for the
far from merely sentimental pathos of the Beast's all but death _for_
love, and the not in the least mawkish bringing of him to life again
_by_ love.[225]

[Sidenote: Yet often redeemed.]

One may perhaps also make amends to Prince Chéri for the abuse just
bestowed on him. His story has at least one touch which is sovereign for
a fiction-fault common in the past, and only too probable in the future,
at whatever time one takes the "present" of the story. When he is not
unjustly turned into a monster of the most allegorical-composite order
of monster architecture--a monster to whom dragons and wyverns and
chimaeras dire are as ordinary as kittens--what do they do with him?
They put him "with the other monsters." _Ce n'est pas plus raide que
ça._ The present writer need hardly fear to be thought an
anti-mediaevalist, but he is very much afraid that an average mediaeval
romancer might have thought it necessary to catalogue these other
monsters with the aid of a Bestiary. On the other hand, there have been
times--no matter which--when this abrupt introduction and dismissal of
monsters as common objects (for which any respectable community will
have proper stables or cages) would have been disallowed, or explained
away, or apologised for, or, worst of all, charged with a sort of wink
or sneer to let the reader know that the author knew what he was about.
Here there is nothing of this superfluous or offensive sort. The
appropriate and undoubting logic of the style prevails over all too
reasonable difficulties. There are monsters, or how could Chéri be made
into one? If there are monsters there must, or in the highest
probability may, be other monsters. Put him with them, and make no fuss
about it. If all novelists had had this _aplomb_, we should have been
spared a great deal of tediousness, some positive failures, and the
spoiling, or at least the blotting and marring, of many excellent
situations. But to praise the good points of fairy stories, from the
brief consummateness of _Le Chat Botté_ to the longer drawn but still
perfectly golden matter of _La Biche au Bois_, would really be
superfluous. One loathes leaving them; but one has to do it, so far as
the more unsophisticated part of them is concerned. Yet the duty of the
historian will not let him be content with these, and, to vary "The
Brave Lord Willoughby" a little, "turning to the [_others_] a thousand
more," he must "slay," or at least criticise.

[Sidenote: The main _Cabinet des Fées_--more on Mme. d'Aulnoy.]

He who ventures on the complete _Cabinet des Fées_[226] in its more than
forty volumes, will provide himself with "cabin furniture" of nearly as
good pastime-quality, at least to my fancy (and yet I may claim to be
something of a Balzacian), as the slightly larger shelf-ful which
suggested itself to the fancy of Mr. Browning and provoked (_as_ "cabin
furniture") the indignation of Mr. Swinburne. But he had better look
over the contents before he takes it on board, or he will find himself,
if his travelling library is anything like as large as that of the
patriarch Photius, in danger of duplication. For the _Cabinet_ holds,
not merely the _Arabian Nights_ in the original translation of Galland,
but also Hamilton: as well, of course, as much of what we may call the
classical fairy matter proper on which we have already dwelt, and which
is known to all decent people. Still, he will find more of Mme. d'Aulnoy
than, unless he is already something of an expert, he already knows, and
perhaps he will not be entirely rejoiced at the amplification. She wrote
more or less regular heroic romances,[227] which are very inferior to
her fairy tales; and though these are not in the _Cabinet_, she
sometimes "mixes the kinds" rather disastrously in shorter pieces. The
framework of _Don Gabriel Ponce de Leon_, which enshrines the sad but
charming "Golden Sheep," and a variant of _Cendrillon_, is poor stuff;
and _Les Chevaliers Errans_ only shows what we knew before, that the
junction of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is not the time or
the place in which to find the loved one, if that loved one is
mediaeval. Still, this invaluable lady does generally reck and exemplify
her own immortal rede. "Il me semble," says Prince Marcassin to the
fairies, "à vous entendre, qu'il ne faut pas même croire ce qu'on voit."
And they reply, "La règle n'est pas toujours générale; _mais il est
indubitable que l'on doit suspendre son jugement sur bien des choses, et
penser qu'il peut entrer quelque chose de Féerie dans ce que nous paroît
de plus certain_."

[Sidenote: Warning against disappointment.]

Alas! it was precisely this _quelque chose de Féerie_ which is wanting
in the majority of the minor fairy-tale writers. That they should attain
the wonderful simplicity, freshness, and charm of Perrault at his best
was not to be expected; hardly that they should reach the more
sophisticated grace of Hamilton; but it might have been hoped that some
would come more or less near the lower, and much more unequal, but
occasionally very successful art or luck of Mme. d'Aulnoy herself.
Unfortunately very few of them do. It was easy enough to begin _Il
était autrefois un roi et une reine_, to put in a Prince Charming and a
Princess Graciosa, and good fairies and bad fairies, and magicians and
ogres and talking beasts, and the like. It was not so easy to make all
these things work together to produce the peculiar spell which belongs
to the true land of Faery, and to that land alone. Still more
unfortunately, wrong ways of attempting the object (or some other
object) were as easy as the right ways were difficult. They cannot avoid
muddling the fairy tale with the heroic romance: and with the
half-historical sub-variety of this latter which Mme. de La Fayette
introduced. The worst enchanter that ever fairies had to fight with is
not such an enemy of theirs as History and Geography--two most
respectable persons in their proper places, but fatal here. They will
make King Richard of England tell fairy tales to Blondel out of the
Austrian tower, and muddle up things about his wicked brother the Count
of Mortagne. They will talk of Lemnos and Memphis and other _patatis_
and _patatas_ of the classical dictionary and the _Grand Cyrus_. In a
fashion not perhaps so instantly suicidal, but in a sufficiently
annoying fashion, they will invent clumsy "speaking" names, or dog-Latin
and cat-Greek ones. And, perhaps worst of all, they prostitute the
delicate charms of the fairy tale to clumsy adulation of the reigning
monarch, and tedious half-veiled flattery or satire of less exalted
persons, or, if "prostitute" be too harsh a word here, attempt to force
a marriage between these charms and the dullest moralising. In fact, it
is scarcely extravagant to say that, in regard to too many of them--to
some of them at least--everything that ought not to be, such as the
things just mentioned and others, is there, and everything that ought to
be--lightness, brightness, the sense of the impossible in which it is
delightful to believe, the dream-feeling, the magic of gratified wish
and realised ideal--is not.

[Sidenote: Mlle. de la Force and others.]

Of course, in these other and minor writers that the _Cabinet_ has to
give, all these disappointments do not always occur, and the crop is
mixed. Mlle. de la Force[228] was one of those _dames_ or _demoiselles
de compagnie_ who figure so largely in the literary history of the
French eighteenth century, and whose group is illustrated by such names
as those of Mlle. Delaunay and Mlle. de Lespinasse. Her full name was
Charlotte Rose de Caumont de la Force, and she was, if not an
adventuress, a person of adventures, who also wrote many
quasi-historical romances in the _Princesse de Clèves_ manner. Her fairy
tales are thin, and marred by weak allegory of the "Carte de Tendre"
kind. A "Pays des Délices," very difficult to reach, and constantly
personated by a "Pays des Avances," promises little and performs less.

The eleven (it is an exact eleven) called _Les Illustres Fées_ is
scarcely so illustrious as the All England and the United were, in the
memory of some of us, in another and better played kind of cricket. The
stories are not very long; they run to a bare eighteen small pages
apiece; but few readers are likely to wish them longer. _Blanche-Belle_
introduces the _sylphes_--an adulteration[229] which generally produces
the effect that Thackeray deplored when his misguided friend would have
_purée_ mixed with _julienne_. _Le Roi Magicien_ is painfully destitute
of personality; we want names, and pretty names, for a fairy tale. _Le
Prince Roger_ is a descendant of Mélusine, and one does not think she
would be proud of him. _Fortunio_ is better, and _Quiribirini_, one of
the numerous stories which turn on remembering or failing to remember an
odd name,[230] perhaps better still; but the rest deserve little praise,
and the last, _L'Ile Inaccessible_, appears to be, if it is anything but
pure dulness, a flat political allegory about England and France.

The style picks up a little in the miscellany called (not without a
touch of piquancy) _La Tyrannie des Fées Détruite_, by a Mme.
d'_Auneuil_, whom persons of a sceptical turn might imagine to be a sort
of factitious rival to Mme. d'Aulnoy.[231] It returns to the Greek or
pseudo-Greek names of the heroic romance, and to its questionable device
of _histoires_ stuck like plums in a pudding. Nor are the _Sans
Parangon_ and the _Fée des Fées_ of the Sieur de Preschac utterly bad.
But _Les Aventures d'Abdalla_, besides rashly incurring the danger (to
be exemplified and commented on more fully a little later) of vying with
the _Arabian Nights_, substitutes for the genuine local colour
and speech the _fade_ jargon of French eighteenth-century
"sensibility"--_autels_ and _flammes_ and all the rest of the trumpery.
But it does worse still--it tries to be instructive, and informs us of
the difference between male and female _dives_ and _peris_, of the
custom of suttee, and of the fact that there are many professional
singers and dancers among Indian girls. This is simply intolerable.[232]

[Sidenote: The large proportion of Eastern Tales.]

[Sidenote: _Les Voyages de Zulma._]

The great prominence of the Eastern Tale, indeed, in this collection is
likely to be one of the most striking things in it to a new-comer. He
would know, of course, that such tales are not uncommon in contemporary
English; he would certainly be acquainted with Addison's, Johnson's,
Goldsmith's experiments in them, perhaps with those of Hawkesworth and
others.[233] He could see for himself that the "accaparation" by France
of the peerless _Arabian Nights_ themselves must have led to a still
greater fancy for them there; and he might possibly have heard the
tradition (which the present writer[234] never traced to its source, or
connected with any real evidence either way) that no less a person than
Lesage assisted Galland in his task. But though the _Nights_ themselves
form the most considerable single group in the _Cabinet_, the united
bulk of their congeners or imitations occupies a still larger space.
There are the rather pale and "moon-like" but sometimes not
uninteresting _Thousand and One Days_, and the obviously and rather
foolishly pastiched _Thousand and One Quarters of an Hour_. There are
Persian Tales--origin of a famous and characteristic jibe at "Namby
Pamby" Philips--and Turkish Tales which are a fragment of one of the
numerous versions of the _Seven Sages_ scheme. The just mentioned
_Adventures of Abdallah_ betray their source and their nature at once;
the hoary fables of Bidpai and Lokman are modernised to keep company
with these "fakings," and there are more definitely literary attempts to
follow. _Les Voyages de Zulma_, again an incomplete thing which actually
tails off towards its failure of an end, shows some ingenuity in its
conception, but suffers, even in the beginning, from that mixing of
kinds which has been pointed out and reprobated. An attempt is made to
systematise the fairy idea by representing these gracious creatures as
offspring of Destiny and the Earth, with a cruel brother Time, and an
offset of mischievous sisters who exactly correspond to the good
ones--Disgracieuse to Gracieuse, and so on--and have a queen
Laide-des-Laides, who answers to the good fairy princess,
Belle-des-Belles. A mortal--Zulma--is, for paternal rather than personal
merits, chosen by Destiny to enjoy the privilege of entering and
understanding the fairy world, and Gracieuse is the fairy assigned as
his guide. The idea is, as has been said, rather ingenious; but it is
too systematic, and like other things in other parts of the collection,
"loses the grace and liberty of the composition" in system. Moreover,
the morality, as is rather the wont of these imitators when they are not
(as a few of the partly non-cabinetted ones are) deliberately naughty,
is much too scrupulous.[235] It is clear that Zulma is in love with
Gracieuse, that she responds to some extent, and that Her Majesty Queen
Belle-des-Belles is a little jealous and inclined to cut Gracieuse out.
But nothing in the finished part of the story gives us any of the nice
love-making that we want.

[Sidenote: Fénelon.]

Madame le Marchand's _Boca_ is a story which begins in Peru but finishes
in an "Isle of Ebony," where the names of Zobeide and Abdelazis seem
rather more at home; it is not without merit. As for the fables and
stories which Fénelon composed for that imperfect Marcellus, the Duke of
Burgundy, they have all the merits of style, sense, and good feeling
which they might be expected to have, and it would be absurd to ask of
them qualities which, in the circumstances, they could not display.

The _Chinese Tales_ are about as little Chinese as may be, consisting of
accounts of his punitive metempsychoses by the Mandarin Fum Hoam (a name
afterwards borrowed in better known work), who seems to have been
excluded from the knowledge of anything particularly Celestial.[236] But
they are rather smartly told. On the other hand, _Florine ou la Belle
Italienne_, which is included in the same volume with the sham
_Chinoiseries_, is one of the worst instances of the confusion of kinds
noted above. It honestly prepares one for what is coming by a reference
in the Preface to Fénelon; but a list of _dramatis_ (or _fabulae_)
_personae_, which follows, would have tried the saintliness even of him
of Cambrai almost as much as a German occupation of his archiepiscopal
see. "Agatonphisie," for a personage who represents, we are told, "Le
Bon Sens," might break the heart of Clenardus, if not the head of

_The Thousand and One Quarter Hours_, or _Contes Tartares_, have as
little of the Tartar as those above mentioned of the Chinese, but if
somewhat verbose, they are not wholly devoid of literary quality. The
substance is, as in nearly all these cases, _Arabian Nights_ rehashed;
but the hashing is not seldom done _secundum artem_, and they have, with
the _Les Sultanes de Gujerate_ and _Nouveaux Contes Orientaux_, which
follow them, the faculty of letting themselves be read.

The best of these[237] (except the French translation of the so-called
Sir Charles Morell's (really James Ridley's) _Tales of the Genii_ (see
above)) is perhaps, on the whole, _Les Sultanes de Gujerate_, where not
only are some of the separate tales good, but the frame-story is far
more artistically worked in and round and out than is usually the case.
But taking them all together, there is one general and obvious, as well
as another local and particular objection to them. Although the
sub-title (_v. sup._ again) lets them in, the main one regards them
with, at best, an oblique countenance. The differences between the
Western fairy and the Eastern _peri_, _dive_, _djin_, or whatever one
chooses to call her, him, or it, though not at all easy to define, are
exceedingly easy to feel. The magicians and enchanters of the two kinds
are nearer to each other, but still not the same. On the other hand, it
is impossible for any one who has once felt the strange charm of the
_Arabian Nights_ not to feel the immense inferiority of these rehashes
and _croquettes_ and _rissoles_, and so forth, of the noble old haunch
or sirloin. Yet again, from the special point of view of this book,
though they cannot be simply passed over, they supply practically
nothing which marks, or causes, or even promises an advance in the
general development of fiction. They may be said to be simply a
continuation of, or a relapse upon, the pure romance of adventure, with
different dress, manners, and nomenclature. There is hardly a single
touch of character in any one; their very morals (and no shame to them)
are arch-known; and they do not possess style enough to confer
distinction of the kind open to such things. If you take _Les Quatre
Facardins_, before most of them, and _Vathek_[238] (itself, remember,
originally French in language), after them all, the want of any kind of
genius in their composers becomes almost disgustingly apparent. Yet even
these masterpieces are masterpieces outside the main run of the novel.

[Sidenote: Caylus.]

Although, therefore, it would be very ungrateful not to acknowledge that
they do sometimes comply with the demands of that sensible tyrant
already mentioned, Sultan Hudgiadge, and "either amuse us or send us to
sleep," it must be admitted to be with some relief that one turns once
more, at about the five and twentieth volume, to something like the
fairy tale proper, if to a somewhat artificial and sophisticated form of
it. The Comte de Caylus was a scholar and a man of unusual brains;
Moncrif showed his mixture of Scotch and French blood in a corresponding
blend of quaintness and _esprit_; others, such as Voisenon in one sex
and Voltaire's pet Mlle. de Lubert in the other, whatever they were,
were at any rate not stupid.

[Sidenote: _Prince Courtebotte et Princesse Zibeline._]

To Anne Claude Philippe de Tubières de Grimoard de Pestels de Lévi,
Comte de Caylus, one owes particular thanks, at least when one comes to
the history of _Le Prince Courtebotte_, after wrestling with the
_macédoine_ of orientalities just discussed. It is not, of course,
Perrault, and it is not the best Madame D'Aulnoy. But you are never "put
out" by it; the hero, if rather a hero of Scott in the uniform propriety
of his conduct, or of Virgil in his success, is not like Waverley,
partly a simpleton, nor like Aeneas, wholly a cad. One likes the
Princess Zibeline both before she had a heart and afterwards; it can be
very agreeable to know a nice girl in both states. Perhaps it was not
quite cricket of the good fairy to play that trick[239] on the
ambassador of King Brandatimor, but it was washed out in fair fight; and
King Biby and his people of poodles are delightful. One wonders whether
Dickens, who was better read in this kind of literature than in most,
consciously or unconsciously borrowed from Caylus one of his not least
known touches.[240]

[Sidenote: _Rosanie._]

In the next of the Caylus stories there is an Idea--the capital seems
due because the Count was a man of Science, as science (perhaps better)
went then, and because one or his other tales (not the best) is actually
called _Le Palais des Idées_. The idea of _Rosanie_ is questionable,
though the carrying of it out is all right. Two fairies are fighting for
the (fairy) crown, and the test is who shall produce the most perfect
specimen of the special fairy art of education of mortals. (I may, as a
_ci-devant_ member of this craft, be permitted to regret that the
business has been so largely taken over by persons who are neither
fairies in one sex, though there may be some exceptions here, nor
enchanters in the other, where exceptions are very rare indeed.) The
tutoress of the Princess Rosanie pursues her task, and pursues it
triumphantly, by dividing the child into twelve _interim_ personalities,
each of whom has a special characteristic--beauty, gentleness, vivacity,
discretion, and what not. At the close of the prescribed period they are
reunited, and their fortunate lover, who has hitherto been distracted
between the twelve _eidola_, is blessed with the compound Rosanie.
Although it is well known to be the rashest of things for a man to say
anything about women--although certainly sillier things have been said
by men about women than about any other subject, except, of course,
education itself--I venture to demur to the fairy method. Both _a
priori_ and from experience, I should say that unmixed Beauty would
become intolerably vain; that Discretion would grow into a hypocritical
and unpleasant prude; that Vivacity would develop into Vulgarity; and
that the reincarnation of the twelve would be one of the most
intolerable creatures ever known, if it were not that the impossibility
of the concentrated essences being united in one person, after
separation in several, would save the situation by annihilating her.

[Sidenote: _Prince Muguet et Princesse Zaza._]

Caylus, however, makes up in the third tale, _Le Prince Muguet et la
Princesse Zaza_, where, though the principal fairy, she of the _Hêtre_,
is rather silly for one of the kind, Muguet is a not quite intolerable
coxcomb, and Zaza is positively charming. Her sufferings with a wicked
old woman are common; but her distress when the fairy makes her seem
ugly to the Prince, who has actually fallen in love with her true
portrait, and the scenes where the two meet under this spell, are among
the best in the whole _Cabinet_--which is a bold word. The others,
though naturally unequal, never or very seldom lack charm, for the
reason that Caylus knew what one has ventured to call the secret of
Fairyland--that it is the land of the attained Wish--and that he has the
art of scattering rememberable and generative phrases and fancies.
_Tourlou et Rirette_, one of the lightest of all, may not
impossibly--indeed probably--have suggested Jean Ingelow's great
single-speech poem of _Divided_; the Princesses Pimprenelle and
Lumineuse are the right sort of Princesses; _Nonchalante et Papillon_,
_Bleuette et Coquelicot_ come and take their places unpretentiously but
certainly; Mignonette and Minutieuse are not "out." Caylus is not
Hamilton by a long way; but he has something that Hamilton has not. He
is still less Perrault or Madame d'Aulnoy, but he has a sufficient
difference from either. With these predecessors he makes the select
quartette of the fairy-tale tellers of France.

After him one expects--and meets--a drop. No reasonable person would
look for a really great fairy tale from Jean Jacques, because you must
forget yourself to write one; and _La Reine Fantasque_, though not bad,
is not good. Madame de Villeneuve may, for ought I know, have been an
excellent person in other ways, but she deserves one of the worst
bolgias in the Inferno of literature for lengthening, muddling, and
altogether spoiling the ever-beloved "Beauty and the Beast." Mlle. de
Lussan, they say,[241] was too fond of eating, and died of indigestion.
A more indigestible thing than her own _Les Veillées de Thessalie_,
which figure here (she wrote a great deal more), the present writer has
never come across. And as for _Prince Titi_, which fills a volume and a
half, it might have been passed without any remark at all if it had not
become famous in connection with the Battle of Croker and Macaulay over
the body of Boswell's _Johnson_.[242]

A break takes place at the thirtieth volume of the _Cabinet_, and a
fresh instalment, later than the first batch, follows, with more
particulars about authors. Here we find the attributions of the very
large series of imitative Eastern tales already noticed, and to be
followed in this new parcel by _Soirées Bretonnes_, to Thomas Simon
Gueulette. The thirty-first opens with the _Funestine_ of
Beauchamps[243]--an ingenious title and heroine-name, for it avoids the
unnatural sounds so common, is a quite possible feminine appellation,
and though a "speaking" one, is only so to those who understand the
learned languages, and so deserve to be spoken to. Moreover, the idea,
though not startlingly original or a mark of genius, is good--that of an
unlucky child who attracts the malignity of _all_ fairies, and is ugly,
stupid, ill-natured, and everything that is detestable. Her reformation
by the genie Clair-Obscur would not be bad if it were cut a great deal

It is followed by a series of short tales, beginning with _The Little
Green Frog_, and not of the first class, which in turn are succeeded by
two (or, as the latter is in two parts, three) longer stories, sometimes
attributed to Caylus--_Le Loup Galeux_ and _Bellinette et Belline_. The
_Soirées Bretonnes_ themselves, though apparently the earliest, are not
the happiest of Gueulette's _pastiches_; the speaking names[244]
especially are irritating. A certain Madame de Lintot, who does not seem
to have had anything to do with the hero of Pope's famous "Ride with a
Bookseller," is what may be called "neutral," with _Timandre et
Bleuette_ and others; nor does a fresh instalment of Moncrif's efforts
show the historian of cats at his best. But in vol. xxxiii. Mlle. de
Lubert, glanced at before, raises the standard. She should have cut her
tales down; it is the mischief of these later things that they extend
too much. But _Lionnette et Coquérico_ is good; _Le Prince Glacé et la
Princesse Etincelante_ is not bad; and _La Princesse Camion_ attracts,
by dint of extravagance in the literal sense. Fairy trials had gone far;
but the necessity of either marrying a beautiful sort of mermaid or else
of _flaying_ her, and the subsequent trial, not of flaying, but braying
her in a mortar as a shrimp, show at least a lively fancy. Nor is the
anonymous _Nourjahad_--an extremely moral but not dull tale, which
follows--at all contemptible.

The French Bar, inexhaustible in such things, gave another tale-teller
in one Pajon, who, besides the obligatory _polissonneries_, not included
in the _Cabinet_, composed not a few harmless things of some merit. The
first, _Eritzine et Paretin_, is perhaps the best. Nor is the complement
of vol. xxxiv., the _Bibliothèque des Fées et des Génies_ (the title of
which was that of a larger collection, containing much the same matter
as the _Cabinet_, and probably in Johnson's mind when he jotted down
_Prince Titi_), quite barren. _La Princesse Minon-Minette et le Prince
Souci_, _Apranor et Bellanire_, _Grisdelin et Charmante_, are none of
them unreadable. The next volume, too, is better as a whole than any we
have had for a long time. Mme. Fagnan's _Minet Bleu et Louvette_
contains, in its fifteen pages, a good situation by no means
ill-treated. The pair are under the same spell--that of being ugly and
witty for part of the week, handsome, stupid, and disagreeable for the
other part, and of having the times so arranged that each sees the other
at his or her most repulsive to her or his actual state. The way in
which "Love unconquered in battle" proves, though not without fairy
assistance, victorious here also, is very ingeniously managed.

One of the cleverest of all the later fairy tales is the _Acajou et
Zirphile_ of Duclos, who, indeed, had sufficient wits to do anything
well, and was a novelist, though not a very distinguished one, on a
larger scale. The tale itself (which is said to have been written "up
to" illustrations of Boucher designed for something else) has, indeed,
a smatch of vulgarity, but a purely superfluous and easily removable
one. It is almost as cleverly written as any thing of Voltaire's: and
the final situation, where the hero, who has gone through all the
mischiefs and triumphs of one of Crébillon's, recovers his only real
love, Zirphile, in a torment and tornado of heads separated from bodies
and hands separated from arms, is rather capital.

Not much less so, in the different way of a pretty sentimentality, is
the _Aglaé ou Naboline_ of the painter Coypel; while the batch of short
stories from Mme. Le Prince de Beaumont's _Magasin des Enfants_ have had
a curious fate. They are rather pooh-poohed by French editors and
critics, and they are certainly _very_ moral, too much so, in fact, as
has been already objected to one of them, _Le Prince Chéri_. But
allowances have been allowed even there, and, somehow or other, _Fatal
et Fortuné_, _Le Prince Charmant_, _Joliette_, and the rest have
recovered more of the root of the matter than most others, and have
established a just popularity in translation.

And then comes the shortest, I think, of all the stories in the one and
forty volumes; the silliest as a composition; the most contemptibly
_thought_--but by the accidents of fate endowed later with a
tragic-satiric _moralitas_ almost if not quite unrivalled in literature.
Its author was a certain M. Selis, apparently a very respectable
schoolmaster, professor, and bookmaker of not the lowest
class--employments and occupations in respect of all of which not a few
of us have earned our bread and paid our income-tax. Unluckily for him,
there was born in his time a Dauphin, and he wrote a little adulatory
tale of the birth, and the editors of the _Cabinet_ Appendix thanked him
much for giving it them. It is not four pages long; it tells how an
ancestral genie--a great king named Louis--blessed the child, and said
that he would be called "the father of his people," and another followed
suit with "the father of letters," and a third swore _Ventre Saint
Gris!_ and named the baby's uncle as "Joseph," and a still greater Louis
said other things, and a fairy named Maria Theresa crowned the
blessings. Then came an ogre mounted on a leopard and eating raw meat,
who was of Albion, and said he was king of the country, and observed
"_God ham_" [_sic_], and was told that he would be beaten and made to
lay down his arms by the child.

And the Dauphin, unless this _signalement_ is strangely delusive, lived
to know the worst ogres in the world (their chief was named Simon), who
were of his own people, and to die the most unhappy prince or king in
that world. And he of the Leopard who said _God ham_, would have saved
that Dauphin if he could, and did slay many of his less guiltless
relations and subjects, and beat the rest "thorough and thorough," and
restored (could they have had the will and wit to profit by it) the race
of Louis and Francis, and of the genie who said "Ventre Saint Gris!" to
their throne. And this was the end of the vaticinations of M. Selis, and
such are the tears of things.

The rest of this volume is occupied by a baker's dozen of _Contes
Choisis_, the first of which, _Les Trois Epreuves_, seems to imitate
Voltaire, and is smartly written, while some of the others are not bad.

Volume xxxvi. is occupied (not too appositely, though inoffensively in
itself) by a translation of Wieland's _Don Silvia de Rosalva_, which is
a German _Sir Launcelot Greaves_ or _Spiritual Quixote_, with fairy
tales substituted for romances of chivalry. The author of _Oberon_ was
seldom, if ever, unreadable, and he is not so here; but the thing is
neither a tale proper (seeing that it fills a whole volume), nor a real
fairy tale, nor French, so we may let it alone.

Then this curious collection once more comes to an end, which is not an
end, with a very useful though not too absolutely trustworthy volume of
_Notices des Auteurs_, containing not only "bio-bibliographical"
articles on the actual writers collected, but references to others,
great and small, from Marivaux, Lesage, Prévost, and Voltaire downwards,
and glances, sometimes with actual _comptes rendus_, at pieces of the
class not included. That it is conducted on the somewhat irresponsible
and indolent principles of its time might be anticipated from previous
things, such as the clause in the Preface to Wieland's just noticed
book, that the author had "gone to Weimar, where perhaps he is still,"
an observation which, from the context, seems not to be so much an
attempt at _persiflage_ as a pure piece of lazy _naïveté_. The volume,
however, contains a great deal of information such as it is; some
sketches, ingeniously draped or Bowdlerised, of the "naughty" tales
excluded from the collection itself, and a few amusing stories.[245]

As, however, has been said, there was to be still another joint to this
crocodile, and the four last volumes, xxxviii. to xli. (_not_, as is
wrongly said by some, xxxvii. to xl.), contain a somewhat rash
continuation of the _Arabian Nights_ themselves, with which Cazotte[246]
appears to have had a good deal to do, though an actual Arab monk of
the name of Chavis is said to have been mainly concerned. They are not
bad reading; but even less of fairy tales than Gueulette's

       *       *       *       *       *

Not much apology is needed, it may be hoped, for the space given to this
curious kind; the bulk of its production, the length of its popularity,
and the intrinsic merit of some few of its better examples vindicate its
position here. But a confession should take the place of the unnecessary
excuse already partly made. The artificial fairy tale of the more
regular kind was not, by the law of its being, prevented almost
unavoidably from doing service to the novel at large, as the Eastern
story was; but, as a matter of fact, it did little except what will be
mentioned in the next paragraph. That it helped to exemplify afresh what
had been shown over and over again for centuries, the singular
recreative faculty of the nation and the language, was about all. But
another national characteristic, the as yet incurable set of the French
mind towards types--which, if the second volume of this work ever
appears, will, it is hoped, be shown to have spared the later
novel--seized on these tales. They are "as like as my fingers to my
fingers," and they are not very pretty fingers as a rule. Incidentally
they served as frameworks to some of the worst verse in the world, nor,
for the most part, did they even encourage very good prose. You may get
some good out of them; but unless you like hunting, and are not vexed by
frequent failures to "draw," the _Cabinet des Fées_ is best left to
exploration at second-hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

To collect the results of this long chapter, we may observe that in
these three departments--Pastoral, Heroic, and Fairy--various important
elements of _general_ novel material and construction are provided in a
manner not yet noticed. The Pastoral may seem to be the most obsolete,
the most of a mere curiosity. But the singular persistence and, in a
way, universality of this apparently fossil convention has been already
pointed out; and it is perhaps only necessary to shift the pointer to
the fact that the novels with which one of the most modern, in perhaps
the truest sense of that word, of modern novelists, though one of the
eldest, Mr. Thomas Hardy, began to make his mark--_Under the Greenwood
Tree_ and _Far from the Madding Crowd_--may be claimed by the pastoral
with some reason. And it has another and a wider claim--that it keeps
up, in its own way, the element of the imaginative, of the fanciful--let
us say even of the unreal--without which romance cannot live, without
which novel is almost repulsive, and which the increasing advances of
realism itself were to render more than ever indispensable. As for the
Heroic, we have already shown how much, with all its faults, it did for
the novel generally in construction and in other ways. It has been shown
likewise, it is hoped, how the Fairy story, besides that additional
provision of imagination, fancy, and dream which has just been said to
be so important--mingled with this a kind of realism which was totally
lacking in the others, and which showed itself especially in one
immensely important department wherein they had been so much to seek.
Fairies may be (they are not to my mind) things that "do not happen";
but the best of these fairies are fifty times more natural, not merely
than the characters of Scudéry and Gomberville, but than those (I hold
to my old blasphemy) of Racine. Animals may not talk; but the animals
of Perrault and even of Madame d'Aulnoy talk divinely well, and, what is
more, in a way most humanly probable and interesting. Never was there
such a triumph of the famous impossible-probable as a good fairy story.
Except to the mere scientist and to (of course, quite a different
person) the unmitigated fool, these stories, at least the best of them,
fully deserve the delightful phrase which Southey attributes to a friend
of his. They are "necessary and voluptuous and right." They were, to the
French eighteenth century and to French prose, almost what the ballad
was to the English eighteenth century and to English verse; almost what
the _Märchen_ was to the prose and verse alike of yet un-Prussianised
Germany. They were more than twice blessed: for they were charming in
themselves; they exercised good influence on other literary productions;
and they served as precious antidotes to bad things that they could not
improve, and almost as precious alternatives to things good in
themselves but of a different kind from theirs.

What, however, none of the kinds discussed in this chapter gave
entirely, while only the fairy story gave in part, and that in strong
contrast to another part of itself, was a history of ordinary
life--high, low, or middle--dealing with characters more or less
representing live and individual personages; furnished with incidents of
a possible and probable character more or less regularly constructed;
furnished further with effective description of the usual scenery,
manners, and general accessories of living; and, finally, giving such
conversation as might be thought necessary in forms suitable to "men of
this world," in the Shakespearian phrase. In other words, none of them
attained, or even attempted to fulfil, the full definition of the novel.
The scattered books to be mentioned in the next chapter did not,
perhaps, in any one case--even Madame de la Fayette's--quite achieve
this; but in all of them, even in Sorel's, we see more or less conscious
or unconscious attempt at it.


[124] Herr Körting (_v. sup._ p. 133) gave considerable space to
Barclay's famous _Argenis_, which also appeared fairly early in the
century. To treat, however, a Latin book, written by a Scotsman, with
admittedly large if not main reference to European politics, as a
"French novel," seems a literary solecism. I do not know whether it is
rash to add that the _Argenis_ itself seems to me to have been wildly
overpraised. It is at any rate one of the few books--one of the still
fewer romances--which have defied my own powers of reading at more than
one attempt.


[Sidenote: Note on marked influence of Greek Romance.]

The repetition, in the seventeenth century, of something very like a
phenomenon which we noticed in the twelfth, is certainly striking, and
may seem at first sight rather uncanny. But those who have made some
attempt to "find the whole" in literature, and in that attempt have at
least found out something about the curious laws of revolution and
recurrence which take the place of any progress in a straight line, will
deem the thing natural enough. We declined, in the earlier case, to
admit much, if any, direct influence of the accomplished Greek Romance
on the Romance of the West; but we showed how classical subjects,
whether pure or tinctured with Oriental influence, induced an immensely
important development of this same Western Romance in two
directions--that of manners, character, and passion, and that of marvel.
In the later period classical influences of all sorts are again at work;
but infinitely the larger part of that work is done by the Greek
Romances themselves--pastoral, adventurous, and sentimental,--the dates
of the translations of which will be given presently. And the newer
Oriental kind--coming considerably later still and sharing its nature
certainly, and perhaps its origin, not now with classical mythology, but
again, in the most curious way, with Western folk stories--supplements
and diversifies the reinforcement.

[126] Scudéry writes "Urfé," and this confirms the _obiter dictum_ of
Sainte-Beuve, that with the Christian name, the "Monsieur," or some
other title you must use the "_de_," otherwise not. But in this
particular instance I think most French writers give the particle.

[127] I myself, in writing a _Short History of French Literature_ many
years ago, had to apologise for incomplete knowledge; and I will not
undertake even now to have read every romance cursorily mentioned in
this chapter--indeed, some are not very easy to get at. But I have done
my best to extend my knowledge, assisted by a rather minute study of the
contemporary English heroic romance in prose and verse; and I believe I
may say that I do now really know the _Grand Cyrus_, though even now I
will again not say that I have read every one of its perhaps two million
words, or even the whole of every one of its more than 12,000 pages. In
regard to the _Astrée_ I have been less fortunately situated; but "I
have been there and still would go."

[128] The above remarks are most emphatically _not_ intended to refer to
the work of Mr. Greg.

[129] The sheep, whether as a beast of most multitude or for more
recondite reasons, has, of course, the preference; but it may be
permissible to say that no guardian of animals is excluded. Goat-herds
in the Greek ran the shepherd hard; neat-herds and swine-herds abound
everywhere except, as concerns the last, in Jewry; even the goose-girl
figures, and has in Provençal at least a very pretty name--_auquiera_.

[130] The mediaeval _pastourelle_ is no doubt to some extent
conventional and "made in moulds." But it is by no means so unreal as
(whether Greek was so or not) Roman pastoral pretty certainly was, and
as modern has been beyond possibility of doubt. How good it could be,
without any convention at all, Henryson showed once for all in our own
language by _Robene and Makyne_.

[131] _Theagenes and Chariclea_ had preceded it by thirteen years,
though a fresh translation appeared in the same year, as did the first
of _Hysminias and Hysmine_. Achilles Tatius (_Cleitophon and Leucippe_)
had been partly done in 1545, but waited till 1568 for completion.

[132] _Op. cit. sup._

[133] They are almost always _Amours_ after their Greek prototypes,
sometimes simple, often qualified, and these most frequently by such
adjectives as "Infortunées et chastes," "Constantes et infortunées,"
"Chastes et heureuses," "Pudiques," etc. etc. Not a few are taken direct
from episodes of Ariosto or other elders; otherwise they are "loves" of
Laoniphile, Lozie, Poliphile and Mellonimphe, Pégase (who has somehow or
other become a nymph) and Léandre, Dachmion and Deflore (a rather
unlucky heroine-name), etc. etc. Their authors are nearly as numerous as
their titles; but the chief were a certain Sieur de Nervèze, whose
numerous individual efforts were collected more than once to the number
at least of a good baker's dozen, and a Sieur des Escuteaux, who had the
same fortune. Sometimes the Hellenism went rather to seed in such titles
as _Erocaligenèse_, which supposed itself to be Greek for "Naissance
d'un bel amour." It is only (at least in England) in the very largest
libraries, perhaps in the British Museum alone, that there is any chance
of examining these things directly; some of them escaped even the mighty
hunt of M. Reynier himself. What the present writer has found is treated
shortly in the text.

[134] M. Reynier (most justly, but of course after many predecessors)
points out that the common filiation of these things on Marini and
Gongora is chronologically impossible. We could, equally of course,
supply older examples still in English; and persons of any reading can
carry the thing back through sixteenth- and fifteenth-century examples
to the Dark Ages and the late Greek classics--if no further.

[135] It is fair to say that the first is "make-weighted" with a
pastoral play entitled _Athlette_, from the heroine's rather curious

[136] It _has_ two poems and some miscellanea. Something like this is
the case with another bookmaker of the class, Du Souhait.

[137] It may be childish, but the association in this group of
ladies--three of them bearing some of the greatest historic names of
France, and the fourth that of the admirable critic with no other
namesake of whom I ever met--seemed to me interesting. It is perhaps
worth adding that Isabel de Rochechouart seems to have been not merely
dedicatee but part author of the first tale.

[138] The habit is common with these authors.

[139] He gives more analysis than usual, but complains of the author's
"affectation and bad taste." I venture to think this relatively rather
harsh, though it is positively too true of the whole group.

[140] _La Vie et les Oeuvres de Honoré d'Urfé._ Par le Chanoine O. C.
Reure, Paris, 1910.

[141] The Abbé Reure, to whom I owe my own knowledge of the translation
and dedication, says nothing more.

[142] M. Reynier, in the useful book so often quoted, has shown that, as
one would expect, this influence is not absent from the smaller French
love-novels which preceded the _Astrée_; indeed, as we saw, it is
obvious, though in a form of more religiosity, as early as the
_Heptameron_. But it was not till the seventeenth century in France, or
till a little before it in some cases with us, that "Love in fantastic
triumph sat" between the shadowing wings of sensual and intellectual

[143] They had, indeed, neither luck nor distinction after Honoré's
death: and the last of the family died, like others of the renegade
nobles of France, by his own hand, to escape the guillotine which he
himself had helped to establish.

[144] The more orthodox "laws of love" which Celadon puts up in his
"Temple of Astraea" are less amusing.

[145] He constantly plays this part of referee and moraliser. But he is
by no means exempt from the pleasing fever of the place, and some have
been profane enough to think his mistress, Diane, more attractive than
the divine Astrée herself.

[146] Very delicate persons have been shocked by the advantages afforded
to Celadon in his disguise as the Druid's daughter, and the consequent
familiarity with the innocent unrecognising heroine. But _honi soit_
will cover them.

[147] There is plenty of this, including a regular siege of the capital,

[148] The constant confusion, in these quasi-classical romances, of
masculine and feminine names is a rather curious feature. But the late
Sir W. Gilbert played some tricks of the kind in _Pygmalion and
Galatea_, and I remember an English novelist, with more pretensions to
scholarship than Gilbert, making the particularly unfortunate blunder of
attributing to Longus a book called "_Doris_ and Chloe."

[149] It is fair to say that Urfé has been praised for these historical
excursions or incursions of his.

[150] Its difficulty of access in the French has been noted. The English
translation may be less rare, but it is not a good one even of its kind.
And, in face of the most false and misleading statements, never more
frequent than at the present moment, about the efficacy of translations,
it may be well to insist on the truth. For science, history philosophy
(though in a descending ratio through these three) translations may
serve. The man who knows Greek or Latin or any other _literature_ only
through them knows next to nothing of that literature as such, and in
its literary quality. The version may be, as in the leading case of
FitzGerald's Omar Khayyam, literature itself of the highest class; but
it is quite other literature than the original, and is, in fact, a new
original itself. It may, while keeping closer, be as good as Catullus on
Sappho or as bad as Mr. Gladstone on Toplady in form; but the form, even
if copied, is always again other.

[151] Some reasons will be given later for taking this first--not the
least being the juxtaposition with the _Astrée_. The actual order of the
chief "Heroic" authors and books is as follows: Gomberville, _La
Caritée_, 1622; _Polexandre_, 1632; _Citherée_, 1640-42. _La
Calprenède_, _Cassandre_, 1642; _Cléopâtre_, 1648; _Faramond_, 1662.
Mlle. de Scudéry, _Ibrahim_, 1641; _Artamène_, 1649; _Clélie_, 1656;
_Almahide_, 1660.

[152] Cousin relieved his work on "The True, the Good, and the
Beautiful" not only with elaborate disquisitions on the ladies of the
Fronde who, though certainly beautiful were not very very good, but with
a long exposition of French society as revealed in the _Grand Cyrus_

[153] Scudéry bore, and evidently rejoiced in, this sounding title,
which can never have had a titular to whom it was more appropriate. The
place seems to have been an actual fortress, though a small one, near

[154] I blushed for my namesake when I found, some time afterwards, that
he had copied this unusual (save in German) feminisation of the sun from
Gomberville (_v. inf._ p. 240).

[155] That is classical education: in comparison with which "all others
is cagmaggers."

[156] I have wavered a little between adopting French or Greek forms of
names. But as the authors are not consistent, and as some of their more
fanciful compounds classicalise badly, I have finally decided to stick
to the text in every case, except in those of historical persons where
French forms such as "Pisistrate" would jar.

[157] Like Robina in _Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy_.

[158] There are ten parts, each divisible into two _volumes_ and three
books. There is also a division at the end of the fifth "part" and the
tenth volume, the first five (ten) having apparently been issued
together. The "parts" are continuously paged--running never, I think, to
less than 1000 pages and more than once to a little over 1400.

[159] Drama may have done harm here, if those dramatic critics who say
that you must never "puzzle the audience" are right. The happy
novel-reader is of less captious mood and mould: he trusts his author
and hopes his author will pull him through.

[160] Some exception in the way of occasional flashes may be made for
two lively maids of honour to be mentioned later, Martésie and Doralise.

[161] There is an immense "throw-back" after the Sinope affair, in which
the previous history of Artamène and the circumstances of Mandane's
abduction are recounted up to date--I hope that some readers at least
will not have forgotten the introduction of Lancelot to Guinevere. We
have here the Middle Age and the _Grand Siècle_ like philippines in a

[162] To understand the account, it must be remembered that the combat
takes place in a position secluded from the two armies and strictly
forbidden to lookers-on; also that it is to be absolutely _à outrance_.

[163] It is not perhaps extravagant to suggest that Sir Walter had
something of this fight, as well as of the _Combat des Trente_, in his
mind when he composed the famous record of the Clan Chattan and Clan
Quhele battle.

[164] Praed's delightful Medora might have found the practice of the
_Grand Cyrus_ rather oppressive; but she would have thoroughly approved
its principles.

[165] He is King of Cappadocia now, Astyages being alive; and only
succeeds to Media later. It must never be forgotten that the
_Cyropaedia_, not Herodotus, is the chief authority relied upon by the
authors, though they sometimes mix the two.

[166] There is a very great physical resemblance between the two, and
this plays an important and repeated part in the book.

[167] The King of Assyria, the King of Pontus, and the later Aryante
(_v. inf._). The fourth is the "good Rival" Mazare, who, though he also
is at one time in possession of the prize, and though he never is weary
of "loving unloved," is too honourable a gentleman to force his
attentions on an unwilling mistress.

[168] It is probably, however, not quite fair to leave the reader, even
for a time, under the impression that it is _merely_ an excursion. Of
all the huge and numerous loop-lines, backwaters, ramifications,
reticulations, episodes, or whatever they may be called, there is hardly
one which has not a real connection with the general plot; and the
appearance of Thomyris here has such connection (as will be duly seen)
in a capital and vital degree.

[169] Some readers no doubt will not need to be reminded that this is
the original title of _The Marriage of Kitty_,--literally "gangway," but
in the sense of "makeshift" or "_locum tenens_."

[170] Cf. John Heywood's Interlude of _Love_. These stories also remind
one of the short romances noticed above.

[171] No gentleman, of course, could refuse a challenge pure and simple,
unless in very peculiar circumstances; but hardly Sir Lucius O'Trigger
or Captain M'Turk would oblige a friend to enter into this curious kind
of bargain.

[172] Another instance of the astonishing interweaving of the book
occurs here; for here is the first mention of Sappho and other persons
and things to be caught up sooner or later.

[173] Such knowledge as I have of the other romances of the "heroic"
group shows them to be, with the possible exception of those of La
Calprenède, inferior in this respect, even allowing for the influence of
the _Cyropaedia_.

[174] An extract may be worth giving in a note: "For the rest, if there
is anybody who is not acquainted enough with all my authors [_this is a
very delightful sweep over literature_] to know what was the Ring of
Gyges which is spoken of in this volume, let him not imagine that it is
Angelica's, with which I chose to adorn Artamène; and let him, on the
contrary, know that it was Ariosto who stole this famous ring which gave
his Paladins so much trouble; that _he_ took it from those great men
whom I am obliged to follow" [_a sweep of George's plumed hat in the
best Molièresque marquis style to Herodotus, Xenophon, and Cicero (who
comes in shortly) and the others_].

[175] The opening sentences of this _Histoire_ give a curious picture of
the etiquette of these spoken narrative episodes, which, from the
letters and memoirs of the time, we can see to have been actually
practised in the days of _Précieuse_ society. [_The story is not of
course delivered in the presence of Panthea herself; but she sends a
confidante, Pherenice, to tell it._] "They were no sooner in Araminta's
apartment than, after having made Cyrus sit down, and placed Pherenice
on a seat opposite to them, she begged her to begin her narrative and
not to hide from them, if it were possible, the smallest thought of
Abradates and Panthea. Accordingly this agreeable person, having made
them a compliment so as to ask their pardon for the scanty art she
brought to the story she was going to tell, actually began as follows:"

[176] Observe how _vague_ what follows is. A scholar and a _modiste_,
working in happiest conjunction, might possibly "create" the dress; but
as for the face it might be any one out of those on one hundred

[177] This passage gives a key to the degradation of the word "elegant."
It has kept the connotation of "grace," but lost that of "nobility."

[178] _Abstracts_ of all the principal members of this group and others
occurred in the _Bibliothèque Universelle des Romans_, which appeared as
a periodical at Paris in 1778. But what I do not know is whether any one
ever arranged an elaborate tabular syllabus of the book like that of
Burton's _Anatomy_. It would lend itself admirably to the process if any
one had time and inclination to do the thing.

[179] With the exception, already noted, of Urfé; and even he is far
below Donne.

[180] There were, though not many, actual instances of capital
punishment for disregard of the edicts against duelling, and
imprisonment was common. But the deterrent effect was very small.
Montmorency-Bouteville was the best-known victim.

[181] It is amusing, as one reads this, to remember Hume's essay in
which he lays stress on the _contrast_ between Greek and French ideas in
this very matter of the duel.

[182] A curious and rather doubtful position; well worth the
consideration of anybody who wishes to write the much-wanted _History
and Philosophy of Duelling_.

[183] The author uses "Prince," as indeed one might expect, rather in
the Continental than in the English way, and the persons who bear it are
not always sons of kings or members of reigning families. The two most
agreeable _quiproquos_ arising from this difference are probably the
fictitious unwillingness of the excellent Miss Higgs to descend from
"Princesse de Montcontour" to "Duchesse d'Ivry," and the, it is said,
historical contempt of a comparatively recent Papal dignitary for an
English Roman Catholic document which had no Princes among the

[184] Nobody, unless I forget, has the wisdom to put the
counter-question, "Can you ever cease loving if you have once really
loved?" which is to be carefully distinguished from a third, "Can you
love more than once?" But there are more approaches to these _arcana_ in
the _Astrée_ than in Mlle. de Scudéry.

[185] A very nice phrase.

[186] He had refused to cross swords with her, and had lowered his own
in salute.

[187] Compare the not quite so ingenious adjustment of the intended
burning of Croesus.

[188] _Clélie_ is about as bad in this respect, _v. inf._: the others
less so.

[189] I have said that you _can_ do this with the _Astrée_, and that
this makes for superiority in it: but there also I think absolutely
continuous reading of the whole would become "collar-work."

[190] That is to say, several weeks occupied in the manner above
indicated. You may sometimes read two of the volumes in a day, but much
oftener you will find one enough; in the actual process for the present
history some intervals must be allowed for digestion and _précis_; and,
as above remarked, if other forms of "cheerfulness," in Dr. Johnson's
friend Mr. Edwards's phrase, do not "break in" of themselves, you must
make them, to keep any freshness in the task. I fancy the twenty volumes
were, if not "my _sole_ occupation" (like that more cheerful and
charitable one of the head-waiter at Limmer's), my main one for nearly
twice twenty days.

[191] In this respect the remarks above extend backwards to the
_Astrée_, and even to some of the smaller and earlier novels mentioned
in connection with it. But the "Heroics," especially Mlle. de Scudéry,
_modernise_ the treatment not inconsiderably.

[192] Achilles Tatius and the author of _Hysminias and Hysmine_ come
nearest. But the first is too ancient and the last too modern.

[193] We have indeed endeavoured to discover a "form" of the greatest
and best kind in the Arthurian, but it has been acknowledged that it may
not have been deliberately reached--or approached--by even a single
artist, and that, if it was, the identity of that artist is not quite

[194] The intolerance of anything but scraps is one of the numerous arms
and legs of the twentieth century Baal. There are some who have not
bowed down to it.

[195] For Soliman is not indisposed to fall in love with his illustrious
Bassa's beloved.

[196] At the close of _Old Mortality_.

[197] One is lost if one begins quoting from these books. But there is
another passage at the end of the same volume worth glancing at for its
oddity. It is an elaborate chronological "checking" of the age of the
different characters; and, odd as it is, one cannot help remembering
that not a few authors from Walter Map (or whoever it was) to Thackeray
might have been none the worse for similar calculations.

[198] It is not, I hope, frivolous or pusillanimous, but merely honest,
to add that, as I have spent much less time on _Clélie_ than on the
other book, it has had less opportunity of boring me.

[199] Cf. the _Astrée_ as noted above.

[200] He also wrote several plays.

[201] This would supply the ghost of Varus with a crushing answer to
"Give me back my legions!" in such form as "Why did you send me with

[202] At another time there might have been a little gentle satire in
this, but hardly then.

[203] It would seem, however, that the Scudérys were not originally

[204] Chateaubriand hardly counts in strictness.

[205] Although some say that almost every one of the numerous _personae_
of the _Astrée_ had a live original.

[206] These books, having been constantly referred to in this fashion,
offer a good many traps, into some of which I have fallen in the past,
and may have done so even now. For instance, Körting rightly points out
that almost every one calls this "_La_ Jeune Alcidiane," whereas A. is
the hero, who bears his mother's name.

[207] I had made this remark before I knew that Körting had anticipated

[208] The more recent books which refer to him, and (I think) the
British Museum Catalogue, drop this addition. But he was admittedly of
the Pontcarré family.

[209] Neither the original, however, nor this revision seems to have
enjoyed the further honour of a place in the British Museum. Other books
of his which at least sound novelish were _Darie_, _Aristandre_,
_Diotrèphe_, _Cléoreste_ (of which as well as of _Palombe_ analyses may
be found in Körting). The last would seem to be the most interesting.
But in the bibliography of the Bishop's writings there are at least a
dozen more titles of the same kind.

[210] Cf. the "self-precipitation" of Céladon. Perhaps no class of
writers has ever practised "imitation," in the wrong sense, more than
these "heroic" romancers.

[211] I am glad to find the high authority of my friend Sir Sidney
Colvin on my side here as to the wider position--though he tells me that
he was not, when he read _Endimion_, conscious of any positive
indebtedness on Keats' part.

[212] _V. sup._ p. 177, note 3.

[213] Gombauld seems to have been a devotee of both Queens: and
commentators will have it that this whole book is courtship as well as
courtiership in disguise.

[214] A kind of intermediary nymph--an enchantress indeed--who has
assisted and advised him in his quests for the goddess.

[215] Émile Magne, _Mme. de V._, Paris, 1907.

[216] This sometimes causes positive obscurity as to fact. Thus it is
impossible to make out from M. Magne whether Hortense, in her last days,
actually married the cousin with whom she had been intimate in youth, or
merely lived with him.

[217] By M. H. E. Chatenet, Paris, 1911.

[218] There is a little in the verse, most of which belongs to the
"flying" kind so common in the century.

[219] _V. inf._ upon it.

[220] His own admirable introduction to Perrault in the Clarendon Press
series will, as far as our subject is directly concerned, supply
whatever a reader, within reason further curious, can want: and his
well-known rainbow series of Fairy Books will give infinite

[221] The longest of all, in the useful collection referred to in the
text, are the _Oiseau Bleu_ and the charming _Biche au Bois_, each of
which runs to nearly sixty pages. But both, though very agreeable, are
distinctly "sophisticated," and for that very reason useful as gangways,
as it were, from the simpler fairy tale to the complete novel.

[222] Enchanters, ogres, etc. "count" as fairies.

[223] Apuleius, who has a good deal of the "fairy" element in him, was
naturally drawn upon in this group. The _Psyche_ indebtedness reappears,
with frank acknowledgment, in _Serpentin Vert_.

[224] If Perrault really wrote this, the Muses, rewarding him elsewhere
for the good things he said in "The Quarrel," must have punished him
here for the silly ones. It has, in fact, most of the faults which
_neo_-classicism attributed to its opposite.

[225] For a spoiling of this delightful story _v. inf._ on the

[226] Its full title, "ou Collection Choisie des C. des F. _et autres
Contes Merveilleux_," should in justice be remembered, when one feels
inclined to grumble at some of the contents.

[227] This indeed was the case, in one or other kind of longer fiction
writing, with most of the authors to be mentioned. The total of this in
the French eighteenth century was enormous.

[228] She is even preceded by a Mme. de Murat, a friend of Mme. de
Parabère, but a respectable fairy-tale writer. It does not seem
necessary, according to the plan of this book, to give many particulars
about these writers; for it is their writings, not themselves, that our
subject regards. The curious may be referred to Walckenaer on the Fairy
Tale in general, and Honoré Bonhomme on the _Cabinet_ in particular, as
well as (_v. inf._) to the thirty-seventh volume of the collection

[229] There is sometimes alliance and sometimes jealousy on this
subject. In one tale the "Comte de Gabalis" is solemnly "had up," tried,
and condemned as an impostor.

[230] _Ricdin-Ricdon_, one of those which pass between Coeur de Lion and
Blondel, is of the same kind, is also good, and is longer.

[231] She seems, however (see vol. 37 as above), to have been a real

[232] The would-be anonymous compiler (he was really Gueulette, on whom
_v. inf._) of this and the other collections now to be noticed, when
acknowledging his sufficiently evident _supercherie_ and some of his
indebtednesses (_e.g._ to Straparola), defends this on Edgeworthian
principles. But though it is quite true that a healthy curiosity as to
such things may be aroused by tales, it should be left to satisfy
itself, not forestalled and spoilt and stunted by immediate information.

[233] The once very popular _Tales of the Genii_ (_v. inf._) which are
often referred to by Scott and other men of his generation, seem to have
dropped out of notice comparatively. We shall meet them here in French.

[234] The late Mr. Henley was at one time much interested in this point,
and consulted me about it. But I could tell him nothing; and I do not
know whether he ever satisfied himself on the subject. Lesage _is_ said
(though I am not sure that the evidence goes beyond _on dit_) to have
revised the work of Pétis de La Croix in the _Days_; and some of his own
certainly corresponds to it.

[235] Or, as it was once put, with easy epigram, when the artificial
fairy tale is not dreadfully improper it is apt to be dreadfully proper.

[236] Nothing suits the entire group better than the reply of the
ferocious and sleepless but not unintelligent Sultan Hudgiadge, in the
_Nouveaux Contes Orientaux_, when his little benefactress Moradbak says
that she will have the honour to-morrow of telling him a _histoire
Mongole_. "Le pays n'y fait rien," says he. And it doesn't.

[237] All of them, be it remembered, the work of Gueulette (_v. inf._).

[238] The recently recovered "episodes" of this are rather more like the
_Cabinet_ stories than _Vathek_ itself; and perhaps a sense of this may
have been part of the reason why Beckford never published them.

[239] He came to ask, or rather demand, Zibeline's hand for his master:
and the fairy made his magnificence appear rags and rubbish.

[240] Mr. Toots's "I'm a-a-fraid you must have got very wet." When
Courtebotte returns from his expedition, across six months of snow, to
the Ice Mountain on the top of which rests Zibeline's heart, "many
thousand persons" ask him, "_Vous avez donc eu bien froid?_"

[241] She is also said to have been a "love-child" of no less a father
than Prince Eugene.

[242] Anybody who is curious as to this should look up the matter, as
may be done most conveniently in an _excursus_ of Napier's edition,
where my "friend of" [more than] "forty years," the late Mr. Mowbray
Morris, in a note to his own admirable one-volume "Globe" issue, thought
that Macaulay was "proved to be absolutely right." Morris, though his
published and signed writings were few, and though he pushed to its very
furthest the hatred of personal advertisement natural to most English
"_gentlemen_ of the press," was a man of the world and of letters in
most unusual combination; of a true Augustan taste both in criticism and
in composition; of wit and of _savoir vivre_ such as few possess. But,
like all men who are good for anything, he had some crazes: and one of
them was Macaulay. I own that I do not think all the honours were on T.
B. M.'s side in this mellay: but this is not the place to reason out the
matter. What is quite certain is that in this long-winded and mostly
trivial performance there is a great deal of intended, or at least
suggested, political satire. But Johnson, though he might well think
little of _Titi_, need not have despised the whole _Cabinet_ (or as he
calls it, perhaps using the real title of another issue,
_Bibliothèque_), and would not on another occasion. Indeed the
diary-notes in which the thing occurs are too much in shorthand to be
trustworthy texts.

[243] Pierre François Godard de Beauchamps seems to have been another
fair example of the half-scholarly bookmakers of the eighteenth century.
He wrote a few light plays and some serious _Recherches sur les Théâtres
de France_ which are said to have merit. He translated the late and
coxcombical but not uninteresting Greek prose romance of _Hysminias and
Hysmine_, as well as that painful verse-novel, the _Rhodanthe and
Dosicles_ of Theodoras Prodromus: and he composed, under a pseudonym, of
course, a naughty _Histoire du Prince Apprius_ to match his good
_Funestine_. The contrasted ways and works of such bookmakers at various
times would make a not uninteresting essay of the Hayward type.

[244] "Engageant," "Adresse," "Parlepeu," etc. The _Avertissement de
l'Auteur_ is possibly a joke, but more probably an awkward and miss-fire
_supercherie_ revealing the usual ignorance of the time as to matters
mediaeval. "Alienore" (though it would be better without the final _e_)
is a pretty as well as historic form of one of the most beautiful and
protean of girl's names: but how did her father, a "seigneur _anglais_,"
come to be called "Rivalon Murmasson"? And did they know much about
Arabia Felix in Brittany when "Daniel Dremruz" reigned there between
A.D. 680 and 720? Gueulette himself was a barrister and
Procureur-Substitut at the Châtelet. He seems to have imitated Hamilton,
to whom the editors of the Cabinet rather idly think him "equal,"
though, inconsistently, they admit that Hamilton "stands alone" and
Gueulette does not. On the other hand, they charge Voltaire with
actually "tracing" over Gueulette. ("_Zadig_ est calqué sur les _Soirées
Bretonnes_.") This is again an exaggeration; but Gueulette had,
undoubtedly, a pleasant and exceedingly fertile fancy, and a good knack
of narrative.

[245] The best perhaps is of a certain peppery Breton, Saint-Foix, who
was successively a mousquetaire, a lieutenant of cavalry, aide-de-camp
to "Broglie the War-god," and a long-lived _littérateur_ in Paris. M. de
Saint-Foix picked a quarrel in the _foyer_ of the opera with an unknown
country gentleman, as it seemed, and "gave him a rendezvous." But the
other party replied coolly that it "was his custom" to be called on if
people had business with him, and gave his address. Saint-Foix goes next
morning, and is received with the utmost politeness and asked to
breakfast. "That's not the question," says the indignant Breton. "Let us
go out." "I never go out without breakfasting; _it is my custom_," says
the provincial, and does as he says, politely repeating invitations from
time to time to his fretting adversary. At last they do go out, to
Saint-Foix's great relief; but they pass a _café_, and it is once more
the stranger's sacred custom to play a game of chess or draughts after
breakfast. The same thing happens with a "turn" in the Tuileries, at
which Saint-Foix does not fume quite so much, because it is on the way
to the Champs Élysées, where fighting is possible. The "turn" achieved,
he himself proposes to adjourn there. "What for?" says the stranger
innocently. "What _for_? A pretty question _pardieu_! To fight, of
course! Have you forgotten it?" "_Fight!_ Why, sir, what are you
thinking of? What would people say of me? A magistrate, a treasurer of
France, put sword in hand? They would take us for a couple of fools."
Which argument being unanswerable, according to the etiquette of the
time, Saint-Foix leaves the dignitary--who himself takes good care to
tell the story. It must be remembered--first that no actual _challenge_
had passed, merely an ambiguous demand for addresses; secondly, that the
treasurer, as the superior by far in rank, had a right to suppose
himself known to his inferiors; and thirdly, that to challenge a
"magistrate" was in France equivalent to being, in the words of a
lampoon quoted by Macaulay, "'Gainst ladies and bishops excessively
valiant" in England.

[246] Although there is a good deal of merit in some of these tales,
none of them approaches the charming _Diable Amoureux_ which Cazotte
produced in 1772, twenty years before his famous and tragical death
after once escaping the Revolutionary fangs. This little story, which is
at least as much of a fairy tale as many things "cabinetted," would be
nearly perfect if Cazotte had not unluckily botched it with a double
ending, neither of the actual closes being quite satisfactory. If, in
one of them, he had had the pluck to stop at the outcry of the succubus
Biondetta when she has at last attained her object,

    "Je suis le diable! mon cher Alvare, je suis le diable!"

and let the rest be "wrop in mystery," it would probably have been the
best way. But the bulk of the book is beyond improvement: and there is a
fluid grace about the autobiographical _récit_ which is very rare
indeed, at least in French, except in the unfortunate Gérard de Nerval,
who was akin to Cazotte in many ways, and actually edited him. A very
carping critic may object to the not obvious nor afterwards explained
interposition of a pretty little spaniel between the original diabolic
avatar of the hideous camel's head and the subsequent incarnation of the
beautiful Biondetto-Biondetta; especially as the later employment of
another dog, to prevent Alvare's succumbing to temptation earlier than
he did, is confusing. But this would be "seeking a knot in a reed."
Perhaps the greatest merit of the story, next to the pure tale-telling
charm above noted, is the singular taste and skill with which Biondetta,
except for her repugnance to the marriage ceremony, is prevented from
showing the slightest diabolic character during her long cohabitation
with Alvare, and her very "comingnesses" are arranged so as to give the
idea, not in the least of a temptress, but of an extra-innocent but
quite natural _ingénue_. Monk Lewis, of course, knew Cazotte, but he has
coarsened his original woefully. It may perhaps be added that the first
illustrations, reproduced in Gérard's edition as curiosities, are such
in the highest degree. They are ushered with an ironic Preface: and they
sometimes make one rub one's eyes and wonder whether Futurism and Cubism
are not, like so many other things, merely recooked cabbage.



_From "Francion" to "La Princesse de Clèves"_--_Anthony Hamilton_[247]

[Sidenote: The material of the chapter.]

Justice has, it is hoped, been done to the great classes of fictitious
work which, during the seventeenth century, made fiction, as such,
popular with high and of low in France. But it is one of the not very
numerous safe generalisations or inductions which may be fished out from
the wide and treacherous Syrtes of the history of literature, that it is
not as a rule from "classes" that the best work comes; and that, when it
does so come, it generally represents a sort of outside and uncovenanted
element or constituent of the class. We have, unfortunately, lost the
Greek epic, as a class; but we know enough about it, with its few
specimens, such as Apollonius Rhodius earlier and Nonnus later, to warn
us that, if we had more, we should find Homer not merely better, but
different, and this though probably every practitioner was at least
trying to imitate or surpass Homer. Dante stands in no class at all, nor
does Milton, nor does Shelley; and though Shakespeare indulgently
permits himself to be classed as an "Elizabethan dramatist," what
strikes true critics most is again hardly more his "betterness" than
his difference. The very astonishment with which we sometimes say of
Webster, Dekker, Middleton, that they come near Shakespeare, is not due,
as foolish people say, to any only less foolish idolatry, but to a true
critical surprise at the approximation of things usually so very

The examples in higher forms of literature just chosen for comparison do
not, of course, show any wish in the chooser to even any French
seventeenth-century novelist with Homer or Shakespeare, with Dante or
Milton or Shelley. But the work noticed in the last chapter certainly
includes nothing of strong idiosyncrasy. In other books scattered, in
point of time of production, over great part of the period, such
idiosyncrasy is to be found, though in very various measure. Now,
idiosyncrasy is, if not the only difference or property, the inseparable
accident of all great literature, and it may exist where literature is
not exactly great. Moreover, like other abysses, it calls to, and calls
into existence, yet more abysses of its own kind or not-kind; while
school- and class-work, however good, can never produce anything but
more class- and school-work, except by exciting the always dubious and
sometimes very dangerous desire "to be different." The instances of this
idiosyncrasy with which we shall now deal are the _Francion_ of Charles
Sorel; the _Roman Comique_ of Paul Scarron; the _Roman Bourgeois_ of
Antoine Furetière; the _Voyages_, as they are commonly called (though
the proper title is different[248]), _à la Lune et au Soleil_, of Cyrano
de Bergerac, and the _Princesse de Clèves_ of Mme. de La Fayette; while
last of all will come the remarkable figure of Anthony Hamilton, less
"single-speech"[249] than the others and than his namesake later, but
possessor of greater genius than any.

[Sidenote: Sorel and _Francion_.]

The present writer has long ago been found fault with for paying too
much attention to _Francion_, and he may possibly (if any one thinks it
worth while) be found fault with again for placing it here. But he does
so from no mere childish desire to persist in some rebuked naughtiness,
but from a sincere belief in the possession by the book of some
historical importance. Any one who, on Arnoldian principles, declines to
take the historic estimate into account at all, is, on those principles,
justified in neglecting it altogether; whether, on the other hand, such
neglect does not justify a suspicion of the soundness of the principles
themselves, is another question. Charles Sorel, historiographer of
France, was a very voluminous and usually a very dull writer. His
voluminousness, though beside the enormous compositions of the last
chapter it is but a small thing, is not absent from _Francion_, nor is
his dulness. Probably few people have read the book through, and I am
not going to recommend anybody to do so. But the author does to some
extent deserve the cruel praise of being "dull in a new way" (or at
least of being evidently in quest of a new way to be dull in), as
Johnson wrongfully said of Gray. His book is not a direct imitation of
any one thing, though an attempt to adapt the Spanish picaresque style
to French realities and fantasies is obvious enough, as it is likewise
in Scarron and others. But this is mixed with all sorts of other
adumbrations, if not wholly original, yet showing that quest of
originality which has been commended. It is an almost impossible book to
analyse, either in short or long measure. The hero wanders about France,
and has all sorts of adventures, the recounting of which is not without
touches of Rabelais, of the _Moyen de Parvenir_, perhaps of the rising
fancies about the occult, which generated Rosicrucianism and "astral
spirits" and the rest of it--a whole farrago, in short, of matters
decent and indecent, congruous seldom and incongruous often. It is not
like Sterne, because it is dull, and at the same time quasi-romantic;
while "sensibility" had not come in, though we shall see it do so within
the limits of this chapter. It has a resemblance, though not very much
of one, to the rather later work of Cyrano. But it is most like two
English novels of far higher merit which were not to appear for a
century or a century and a half--Amory's _John Buncle_ and Graves's
_Spiritual Quixote_. As it is well to mention things together without
the danger of misleading those who run as they read, and mind the
running rather than the reading, let me observe that the liveliest part
of _Francion_ is duller than the dullest of _Buncle_, and duller still
than the least lively thing in Graves. The points of resemblance are in
pillar-to-postness, in the endeavour (here almost entirely a failure,
but still an endeavour) to combine fancy with realism, and above all in
freedom from following the rules of any "school." Realism in the good
sense and originality were the two things that the novel had to achieve.
Sorel missed the first and only achieved a sort of "distanced" position
in the second. But he tried--or groped--for both.

[Sidenote: The _Berger Extravagant_ and _Polyandre_.]

I am bound to say that in Sorel's other chief works of fiction, the
_Berger Extravagant_ and _Polyandre_, I find the same curious mixture of
qualities which have made me more lenient than most critics to
_Francion_. And I do not think it unfair to add that they also incline
me still more to think that there was perhaps a little of the _Pereant
qui ante nos_ feeling in Furetière's attack (_v. inf._ p. 288). Neither
could possibly be called by any sane judge a good book, and both display
the uncritical character,[250] the "pillar-to-postness," the
marine-store and almost rubbish-heap promiscuity, of the more famous
book. Like it, they are much too big.[251] But the _Berger Extravagant_,
in applying (very early) the _Don Quixote_ method, as far as Sorel could
manage it, to the _Astrée_, is sometimes amusing and by no means always
unjust. _Polyandre_ is, in part, by no means unlike an awkward first
draft of a _Roman Bourgeois_. The scene in the former, where Lysis--the
Extravagant Shepherd and the Don Quixote of the piece,--making an
all-night sitting over a poem in honour of his mistress Charité (the
Dulcinea), disturbs the unfortunate Clarimond--a sort of "bachelor," the
sensible man of the book, and a would-be reformer of Lysis--by constant
demands for a rhyme[252] or an epithet, is not bad. The victim revenges
himself by giving the most ludicrous words he can think of, which Lysis
duly works in, and at last allows Clarimond to go to sleep. But he is
quickly waked by the poet running about and shouting, "I've got it! I've
found it. The finest _reprise_ [= refrain] ever made!" And in
_Polyandre_ there is a sentence (not the only one by many) which not
only gives a _point de repère_ of an interesting kind in itself, but
marks the beginning of the "_farrago libelli_ moderni": "Ils ont des
mets qu'ils nomment des _bisques_; je doute si c'est potage ou

Here we have (1) Evidence that Sorel was a man of observation, and took
an interest in really interesting things.

(2) A date for the appearance, or the coming into fashion, of an
important dish.

(3) An instance of the furnishing of fiction with something more than
conventional adventure on the one hand, and conventional harangues or
descriptions on the other.

(4) An interesting literary parallel; for here is the libelled
"Charroselles" (_v. inf._ p. 288) two centuries beforehand, feeling a
doubt, exactly similar to Thackeray's, as to whether a _bouillabaisse_
should be called soup or broth, brew or stew. Those who understand the
art and pastime of "book-fishing" will not go away with empty baskets
from either of these neglected ponds.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Scarron and the _Roman Comique_.]

Almost as different a person as can possibly be conceived from Sorel was
Paul Scarron, Abbé, "Invalid to the Queen," husband of the future Mme.
de Maintenon, author of burlesques which did him no particular honour,
of plays which, if not bad, were never first rate, of witticisms
innumerable, most of which have perished, and of other things, besides
being a hero of some facts and more legends; but author also of one book
in our own subject of much intrinsic and more historical interest, and
original also of passages in later books more interesting still to all
good wits. Not a lucky man in life (except for the possession of a
lively wit and an imperturbable temper), he was never rich, and he
suffered long and terribly from disease--one of the main subjects of his
legend, but, after all discussions and carpings, looking most like
rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most painful and incurable of ailments.
But Scarron was, and has been since, by no means unlucky in literature.
He had, though of course not an unvaried, a great popularity in a
troubled and unscrupulous time: and long after his death two of the
foremost novelists of his country selected him for honourable treatment
of curiously different kinds. Somehow or other the introduction of men
of letters of old time into modern books has not been usually very
fortunate, except in the hands of Thackeray and a very few more. Among
these latter instances may certainly be ranked the pleasant picture of
Scarron's house, and of the attention paid to him by the as yet
unmarried Françoise d'Aubigné, in Dumas's _Vingt Ans Après_. Nor is it
easy to think of any literary following that, while no doubt bettering,
abstains so completely from robbing, insulting, or obscuring its model
as does Gautier's _Capitaine Fracasse_.

It is, however, with this pleasant book itself that we are concerned.
Here again, of course, the picaresque model comes in, and there is a
good deal of directly borrowed matter. But a much greater talent, and
especially a much more acute and critical wit than Sorel's, brings to
that scheme the practical-artistic French gift, the application of which
to the novel is, in fact, the subject of this whole chapter. Not
unkindly judges have, it is true, pronounced it not very amusing; and an
uncritical comparer may find it injured by Gautier's book. The older
novel has, indeed, nothing of the magnificent style of the overture of
this latter. _Le Château de la Misère_ is one of the finest things of
the kind in French; for exciting incident there is no better duel in
literature than that of Sigognac and Lampourde; and the delicate
pastel-like costumes and manners and love-making of Gautier's longest
and most ambitious romance are not to be expected in the rough
"rhyparography"[253] of the seventeenth century. But in itself the
_Roman Comique_ is no small performance, and historically it is almost
great. We have in it, indeed, got entirely out of the pure romance; but
we have also got out of the _fatrasie_--the mingle-mangle of story,
jargon, nonsense, and what not,--out of the mere tale of adventure, out
of the mere tale of _grivoiserie_. We have borrowed the comic
dramatist's mirror--the "Muses' Looking-glass"--and are holding it up to
nature without the intervention of the conventionalities of the stage.
The company to which we are introduced is, no doubt, pursuing a somewhat
artificial vocation; but it is pursuing it in the way of real life, as
many live men and women have pursued it. The mask itself may be of their
trade and class; but it is taken off them, and they are not merely
_personae_, they are persons.

To re-read the _Roman Comique_ just after reading the _Grand Cyrus_ came
into the present plan partly by design and partly by accident; but I had
not fully anticipated the advantage of doing so. The contrast of the
two, and the general relation between them could, indeed, escape no one;
but an interval of a great many years since the last reading of
Scarron's work had not unnaturally caused forgetfulness of the
deliberate and minute manner in which he himself points that contrast,
and even now and then satirises the _Cyrus_ by name. The system of inset
_Histoires_,[254] beginning with the well-told if borrowed story of Don
Carlos of Aragon and his "Invisible Mistress," is, indeed, hardly a
contrast except in point of the respective lengths of the digressions,
nor does it seem to be meant as a parody. It has been said that this
"inset" system, whether borrowed from the episodes of the ancients or
descended from the constant divagations of the mediaeval romances, is
very old, and proved itself uncommonly tenacious of life. But the
difference between the opening of the two books can hardly have been
other than intentional on the part of the later writer; and it is a very
memorable one, showing nothing less than the difference between romance
and novel, between academic generalities and "realist" particularism,
and between not a few other pairs of opposites. It has been fully
allowed that the overture of the _Grand Cyrus_ is by no means devoid of
action, even of bustle, and that it is well done of its kind. But that
kind is strongly marked in the very fact that there is a sort of
faintness in it. The burning of Sinope, the distant vessel, the
street-fighting that follows, are what may be called "cartoonish"--large
washes of pale colour. The talk, such as there is, is stage-talk of the
pseudo-grand style. It is curious that Scarron himself speaks of the
_Cyrus_ as being the most "furnitured" romance, _le roman le plus
meublé_, that he knows. To a modern eye the interiors are anything but
distinct, despite the elaborate _ecphrases_, some of which have been

Now turn to the opening passage of the _Roman Comique_, which strikes
the new note most sharply. It is rather well known, probably even to
some who have not read the original or Tom Brown's congenial translation
of it; for it has been largely laid under contribution by the
innumerable writers about a much greater person than Scarron, Molière.
The experiences of the _Illustre Théâtre_ were a little later, and
apparently not so sordid as those of the company of which Scarron
constituted himself historiographer; but they cannot have been very
dissimilar in general kind, and many of the characteristics, such as the
assumption now of fantastic names, "Le Destin," "La Rancune," etc., now
of rococo-romantic ones, such as "Mademoiselle de l'Étoile," remained
long unaltered. But perhaps a fresh translation may be attempted, and
the attempt permitted. For though the piece, of course, has recent
Spanish and even older Italian examples of a kind, still the change in
what may be called "particular universality" is remarkable.

     [Sidenote: The opening scene of this.]

     The sun had finished more than half his course, and his
     chariot, having reached the slope of the world, was running
     quicker than he wished. If his horses had chosen to avail
     themselves of the drop of the road, they would have got
     through what remained of the day in less than half or
     quarter of an hour; but instead of pulling at full strength,
     they merely amused themselves by curvetting, as they drew in
     a salt air, which told them the sea, wherein men say their
     master goes to bed every night, was close at hand. To speak
     more like a man of this world, and more intelligibly, it was
     between five and six o'clock, when a cart came into the
     market-place of Le Mans. This cart was drawn by four very
     lean oxen, with, for leader, a brood-mare, whose foal
     scampered about round the cart, like a silly little thing as
     it was. The cart was full of boxes and trunks, and of great
     bundles of painted canvas, which made a sort of pyramid, on
     the top of which appeared a damsel, dressed partly as for
     town, partly for country. By the side of the cart walked a
     young man, as ill-dressed as he was good-looking. He had on
     his face a great patch, which covered one eye and half his
     cheek, and he carried a large fowling-piece on his shoulder.
     With this he had slain divers magpies, jays, and crows; and
     they made a sort of bandoleer round him, from the bottom
     whereof hung a pullet and a gosling, looking very like the
     result of a plundering expedition. Instead of a hat he had
     only a night-cap, with garters of divers colours twisted
     round it, which headgear looked like a very unfinished
     sketch of a turban. His coat was a jacket of grey stuff,
     girt with a strap, which served also as a sword-belt, the
     sword being so long that it wanted a fork to draw it neatly
     for use. He wore breeches trussed, with stockings attached
     to them, as actors do when they play an ancient hero; and
     he had, instead of shoes, buskins of a classical pattern,
     muddied up to the ankle. An old man, more ordinarily but
     still very ill-dressed, walked beside him. He carried on his
     shoulders a bass-viol, and as he stooped a little in
     walking, one might, at a distance, have taken him for a
     large tortoise walking on its hind legs. Some critic may
     perhaps murmur at this comparison; but I am speaking of the
     big tortoises they have in the Indies, and besides I use it
     at my own risk. Let us return to our caravan.

     It passed in front of the tennis-court called the Doe, at
     the door of which were gathered a number of the topping
     citizens of the town. The novel appearance of the conveyance
     and team, and the noise of the mob who had gathered round
     the cart, induced these honourable burgomasters to cast an
     eye upon the strangers; and among others a Deputy-Provost
     named La Rappinière came up, accosted them, and, with the
     authority of a magistrate, asked who they were. The young
     man of whom I have just spoken replied, and without touching
     his turban (inasmuch as with one of his hands he held his
     gun and with the other the hilt of his sword, lest it should
     get between his legs) told the Provost that they were French
     by birth, actors by profession, that his stage-name was Le
     Destin, that of his old comrade La Rancune, and that of the
     lady who was perched like a hen on the top of their baggage,
     La Caverne. This odd name made some of the company laugh;
     whereat the young actor added that it ought not to seem
     stranger to men with their wits about them than "La
     Montagne," "La Vallée," "La Rose," or "L'Épine." The talk
     was interrupted by certain sounds of blows and oaths which
     were heard from the front of the cart. It was the
     tennis-court attendant, who had struck the carter without
     warning, because the oxen and the mare were making too free
     with a heap of hay which lay before the door. The row was
     stopped, and the mistress of the court, who was fonder of
     plays than of sermons or vespers, gave leave, with a
     generosity unheard of in her kind, to the carter to bait his
     beasts to their fill. He accepted her offer, and, while the
     beasts ate, the author rested for a time, and set to work to
     think what he should say in the next chapter.

The sally in the last sentence, with the other about the tortoise, and
the mock solemnity of the opening, illustrate two special
characteristics, which will be noticed below, and which may be taken in
each case as a sort of revulsion from, or parody of, the solemn ways of
the regular romance. There may be even a special reference to the
"_Phébus_" the technical name or nickname of the "high language" in
these repeated burlesque introductions of the sun. And the almost pert
flings and cabrioles of the narrator form a still more obvious and
direct Declaration of Independence. But these are mere details, almost
trivial compared with the striking contrast of the whole presentation
and _faire_ of the piece, when taken together with most of the subjects
of the last chapter.

It may require a little, but it should not require much, knowledge of
literary history to see how modern this is; it should surely require
none to see how vivid it is--how the sharpness of an etching and the
colour of a bold picture take the place of the shadowy "academies" of
previous French writers.[256] There may be a very little exaggeration
even here--in other parts of the book there is certainly some--and
Scarron never could forget his tendency to that form of exaggeration
which is called burlesque. But the stuff and substance of the piece is

An important item of the same change is to be found in the management of
the insets, or some of them. One of the longest and most important is
the autobiographical history of Le Destin or Destin (the article is
often dropped), the tall young man with the patch on his face. But this
is not thrust bodily into the other body of the story, _Cyrus_-fashion;
it is alternated with the passages of that story itself, and that in a
comparatively natural manner--night or some startling accident
interrupting it; while how even courtiers could find breath to tell, or
patience and time to hear, some of the interludes of the _Cyrus_ and its
fellows is altogether past comprehension. There is some coarseness in
Scarron--he would not be a comic writer of the seventeenth century if
there were none. Not very long after the beginning the tale is
interrupted by a long account of an unseemly practical joke which surely
could amuse no mortal after a certain stage of schoolboyhood. But there
is little or no positive indecency: the book contrasts not more
remarkably with the Aristophanic indulgence of the sixteenth century
than with the sniggering suggestiveness of the eighteenth. Some remnants
of the Heroic convention (which, after all, did to a great extent
reflect the actual manners of the time) remain, such as the obligatory
"compliment." Le Destin is ready to hang himself because, at his first
meeting with the beautiful Léonore, his shyness prevents his getting a
proper "compliment" out. On the other hand, the demand for _esprit_,
which was confined in the Heroics to a few privileged characters, now
becomes almost universal. There are tricks, but fairly novel
tricks--affectations like "I don't know what they did next" and the
others noted above: while the famous rhetorical beginnings of chapters
appear not only at the very outset, but at the opening of the second
volume, "Le Soleil donnant aplomb sur les antipodes,"--things which a
century later Fielding, and two centuries later Dickens, did not disdain
to imitate.

Scarron did not live to finish the book, and the third part or volume,
which was tinkered--still more the _Suite_, which was added--by somebody
else, are very inferior. The somewhat unfavourable opinions referred to
above may be partly based on the undoubted fact that the story is rather
formless; that its most important machinery is dependent, after all, on
the old _rapt_ or abduction, the heroines of which are Mademoiselle de
l'Étoile (nominally Le Destin's sister, really his love, and at the end
his wife) and Angélique, daughter of La Caverne, who is provided with a
lover and husband of 12,000 (_livres_) a year in the person of Léandre,
one of the stock theatrical names, professedly "valet" to Le Destin, but
really a country gentleman's son. Thus everybody is somebody else, again
in the old way. Another, and to some tastes a more serious, blot may be
found in the everlasting practical jokes of the knock-about kind,
inflicted on the unfortunate Ragotin, a sort of amateur member of the
troupe. But again these "_low_ jinks" were an obvious reaction from
(just as the ceremonies were followings of) the solemnity of the
Heroics; and they continued to be popular for nearly two hundred years,
as English readers full well do know. Nevertheless these defects merely
accompany--they do not mar or still less destroy--the striking
characteristics of progress which appear with them, and which, without
any elaborate abstract of the book, have been set forth somewhat
carefully in the preceding pages. Above all, there is a real and
considerable attempt at character, a trifle _typy_ and stagy perhaps,
but still aiming at something better; and the older _nouvelle_-fashion
is not merely drawn upon, but improved upon, for curious anecdotes,
striking situations, effective names. Under the latter heads it is
noteworthy that Gautier simply "lifted" the name Sigognac from Scarron,
though he attached it to a very different personage; and that Dumas got,
from the same source, the startling incident of Aramis suddenly
descending on the crupper of D'Artagnan's horse. The jokes may, of
course, amuse or not different persons, and even different moods of the
same person; the practical ones, as has been hinted, may pall, even when
they are not merely vulgar. Practical joking had a long hold of
literature, as of life; and it would be sanguine to think that it is
dead. Izaak Walton, a curious contemporary--"disparate," as the French
say, of Scarron, would not quite have liked the quarrel between the
dying inn-keeper, who insists on being buried in his oldest sheet, full
of holes and stains, and his wife, who asks him, from a sense rather of
decency than of affection, how he can possibly think of appearing thus
clad in the Valley of Jehoshaphat? But there is something in the book
for many tastes, and a good deal more for the student of the history of
the novel.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Furetière and the _Roman Bourgeois_.]

The couplet-contrast of the Comic Romance of Scarron and the "Bourgeois"
Romance of Furetière[257] is one of the most curious among the minor
phenomena of literary history; but it repeats itself in that history so
often that it becomes, by accumulation, hardly minor. There is a vast
difference between Furetière and Miss Austen, and a still vaster one
between Scarron and Scott; but the two French books stand to each other,
on however much lower a step of the stair, very much as _Waverley_
stands to _Pride and Prejudice_, and they carry on a common revulsion
against their forerunners and a common quest for newer and better
developments. The _Roman Bourgeois_, indeed, is more definitely, more
explicitly, and in further ways of exodus, a departure from the subjects
and treatment of most of the books noticed in the last chapter. It is
true that its author attributes to the reading of the regular romances
the conversion of his pretty idiot Javotte from a mere idiot to
something that can, at any rate, hold her own in conversation, and take
an interest in life.[258] But he also adds the consequence of her
elopement, without apparently any prospect of marriage, but with an
accomplished gentleman who has helped her to _esprit_ by introducing her
to those very same romances; and he has numerous distinct girds at his
predecessors, including one at the multiplied abductions of Mandane
herself. Moreover his inset tale _L'Amour Égaré_ (itself something of a
parody), which contains most of the "key"-matter, includes a satirical
account (not uncomplimentary to her intellectual, but exceedingly so to
her physical characteristics) of "Sapho" herself. For after declining to
give a full description of poor Madeleine, for fear of disgusting his
readers, he tells us, in mentioning the extravagant compliments
addressed to her in verse, that she only resembled the Sun in having a
complexion yellowed by jaundice; the Moon in being freckled; and the
Dawn in having a red tip to her nose!

But this last ill-mannered particularity illustrates the character, and
in its way the value, of the whole book. A romance, or indeed in the
proper sense a story--that is to say, _one_ story,--it certainly is
not: the author admits the fact frankly, not to say boisterously, and
his title seems to have been definitely suggested by Scarron's. The two
parts have absolutely no connection with one another, except that a
single personage, who has played a very subordinate part in the first,
plays a prominent but entirely different one in the second. This second
is wholly occupied by legal matters (Furetière had been "bred to the
law"), and the humours and amours of a certain female litigant,
Collantine, to whom Racine and Wycherley owe something, with the unlucky
author "Charroselles"[259] and a subordinate judge, Belastre, who has
been pitch-forked by interest into a place which he finally loses by his
utter incapacity and misconduct. To understand it requires even more
knowledge of old French law terms generally than parts of Balzac do of
specially commercial and financial lingo.

This "specialising" of the novel is perhaps of more importance than
interest; but interest itself may be found in the First Part, where
there is, if not much, rather more of a story, some positive
character-drawing, a fair amount of smart phrase, and a great deal of
lively painting of manners. There is still a good deal of law, to which
profession most of the male characters belong, but there are plentiful

As far as there is any real story or history, it is that of two girls,
both of the legal _bourgeoisie_ by rank. The prettier, Javotte, has been
briefly described above. She is the daughter of a rich attorney, and
has, before her emancipation and elopement, two suitors, both
advocates; the one, Nicodème, young, handsome, well dressed, and a great
flirt, but feather-headed; the other, Bedout, a middle-aged sloven,
collector, and at the same time miser, but very well off. The second
heroine, Lucrèce, is also handsome, though rather less so than Javotte:
but she has plenty of wits. She is, however, in an unfortunate position,
being an orphan with no fortune, and living with an uncle and aunt, the
latter of whom has a passion for gaming, and keeps open house for it, so
that Lucrèce sees rather undesirable society. Despite her wits, she
falls a victim to a rascally marquis, who first gives her a written
promise of marriage, and afterwards, by one of the dirtiest tricks ever
imagined by a novelist--a trick which, strange to say, the present
writer does not remember to have seen in any other book, obvious though
it is--steals it.[260] Fortunately for her, Nicodème, who is of her
acquaintance, and a general lover, has also given her, though not in
earnest and for no serious "consideration," a similar promise: and by
the help of a busybody legal friend she gets 2000 crowns out of him to
prevent an action for breach. And, finally, Bedout, after displacing the
unlucky Nicodème (thus left doubly in the cold), and being himself
thrown over by Javotte's elopement, takes to wife, being induced to do
so by a cousin, Lucrèce herself, in blissful ignorance (which is never
removed) of her past. The cousin, Laurence, has also been the link of
these parts of the tale with an episode of _précieuse_ society in which
the above-mentioned inset is told; a fourth feminine character,
Hyppolyte (_vice_ Philipote), of some individuality, is introduced;
Javotte makes a greater fool of herself than ever; and her future
seducer, Pancrace, makes his appearance.

Thus reduced to "argument" form, the story may seem even more modern
than it really is, and the censures, apologies, etc., put forward above
may appear rather unjust. But few people will continue to think so
after reading the book. The materials, especially with the "trimmings"
to be mentioned presently, would have made a very good novel of the
completest kind. But, once more, the time had not come, though Furetière
was, however unconsciously, doing his best to bring it on. One fault,
not quite so easy to define as to feel, is prominent, and continued to
be so in all the best novels, or parts of novels, till nearly the middle
of the nineteenth century. There is far too much mere _narration_--the
things being not smartly brought before the mind's eye as _being_ done,
and to the mind's ear as _being_ said, but recounted, sometimes not even
as present things, but as things that _have been_ said or done already.
This gives a flatness, which is further increased by the habit of not
breaking up even the conversation into fresh paragraphs and lines, but
running the whole on in solid page-blocks for several pages together.
Yet even if this mechanical mistake were as mechanically redressed,[261]
the original fault would remain and others would still appear. A scene
between Javotte and Lucrèce, to give one instance only, would enliven
the book enormously; while, on the other hand, we could very well spare
one of the few passages in which Nicodème is allowed to be more than the
subject of a _récit_, and which partakes of the knock-about character so
long popular, the young man and Javotte bumping each other's foreheads
by an awkward slip in saluting, after which he first upsets a piece of
porcelain and then drags a mirror down upon himself. There is "action"
enough here; while, on the other hand, the important and promising
situations of the two promises to Lucrèce, and the stealing by the
Marquis of his, are left in the flattest fashion of "recount." But it
was very long indeed before novelists understood this matter, and as
late as Hope's famous _Anastasius_ the fault is present, apparently to
the author's knowledge, though he has not removed it.

To a reader of the book who does not know, or care to pay attention to,
the history of the matter, the opening of the _Roman Bourgeois_ may seem
to promise something quite free, or at any rate much more free than is
actually the case, from this fault. But, as we have seen, they generally
took some care of their openings, and Furetière availed himself of a
custom possibly, to present readers, especially those not of the Roman
Church, possessing an air of oddity, and therefore of freshness, which
it certainly had not to those of his own day. This was the curious
fashion of _quête_ or collection at church--not by a commonplace verger,
or by respectable churchwardens and sidesmen, but by the prettiest girl
whom the _curé_ could pitch upon, dressed in her best, and lavishing
smiles upon the congregation to induce them to give as lavishly, and to
enable her to make a "record" amount.

The original meeting of Nicodème and the fair Javotte takes place in
this wise, and enables the author to enlighten us further as to matters
quite proper for novel treatment.[262] The device of keeping gold and
large silver pieces uppermost in the open "plate"; the counter-balancing
mischief of covering them with a handful of copper; the licensed habit,
a rather dangerous one surely, of taking "change" out of that plate,
which enables the aspirant for the girl's favour to clear away the
obnoxious _sous_ as change for a whole pistole--all this has a kind of
attraction for which you may search the more than myriad pages of
_Artamène_ without finding it. The daughter of a citizen's family, in
the French seventeenth century, was kept with a strictness which perhaps
explains a good deal in the conduct of an Agnes or an Isabelle in
comedy. She was almost always tied to her mother's apron-strings, and
even an accepted lover had to carry on his courtship under the very
superfluous number of _six_ eyes at least. But the Church was
misericordious. The custom of giving and receiving holy water could be
improved by the resources of amatory science; but this of the _quête_
was, it would seem, still more full of opportunity. Apparently (perhaps
because in these city parishes the church was always close by, and the
whole proceedings public) the fair _quêteuse_ was allowed to walk home
alone; and in this instance Nicodème, having ground-baited with his
pistole, is permitted to accompany Javotte Vollichon to her father's
door--her extreme beauty making up for the equally extreme silliness of
her replies to his observations.

The possible objection that these things, fresh and interesting to us,
were ordinary and banal to them, would be a rather shallow one. The
point is that, in previous fiction, circumstantial verisimilitude of
this kind had hardly been tried at all. So it is with the incident of
Nicodème sending a rabbit (supposed to be from his own estate, but
really from the market--a joke not peculiar to Paris, but specially
favoured there), or losing at bowls a capon, to old Vollichon, and on
the strength of each inviting himself to dinner; the fresh girds at the
extraordinary and still not quite accountable plenty of marquises
(Scarron, if I remember rightly, has the verb _se marquiser_); and the
contributory (or, as the ancients would have said, symbolic) dinners--as
it were, picnics at home--of _bourgeois_ society at each other's houses,
with not a few other things. A curious plan of a fashion-review, with
patterns for the benefit of ladies, is specially noticeable at a period
so early in the history of periodicals generally, and is one of the not
few points in which there is a certain resemblance between Furetière and

It is in this daring to be quotidian and contemporary that his claim to
a position in the history of the novel mainly consists. Some might add a
third audacity, that of being "middle-class." Scarron had dealt with
barn-mummers and innkeepers and some mere riff-raff; but he had included
not a few nobles, and had indulged in fighting and other "noble"
subjects. There is no fighting in Furetière, and his chief "noble"
figure--the rascal who robbed Lucrèce of her virtue and her keys--is
the sole figure of his class, except Pancrace and the _précieuse_
Angélique. This is at once a practical protest against the common
interpretation and extension of Aristotle's prescription of
"distinguished" subjects, and an unmistakable relinquishment of mere
picaresque squalor. Above all, it points the way in practice, indirectly
perhaps but inevitably, to the selection of subjects that the author
really _knows_, and that he can treat with the small vivifying details
given by such knowledge, and by such knowledge alone. There is an
advance in character, an advance in "interior" description--the
Vollichon family circle, the banter and the gambling at Lucrèce's home,
the humour of a _précieuse_ meeting, etc. In fact, whatever be the
defects[263] in the book, it may almost be called an advance all round.
A specimen of this, as of other pioneer novels, may not be superfluous;
it is the first conversation, after the collection, between Nicodème and

     [Sidenote: Nicodème takes Javotte home from church.]

     This new kind of gallantry [_his removing the offensive
     copper coins as pretended "change" for his pistole_] was
     noticed by Javotte, who was privately pleased with it, and
     really thought herself under an obligation to him.
     Wherefore, on their leaving the church, she allowed him to
     accost her with a compliment which he had been meditating
     all the time he was waiting for her. This chance favoured
     him much, for Javotte never went out without her mother, who
     kept her in such a strait fashion of living that she never
     allowed her to speak to a man either abroad or at home. Had
     it not been so, he would have had easy access to her; for as
     she was a solicitor's daughter and he was an advocate, they
     were in relations of close affinity and sympathy--such as
     allow as prompt acquaintance as that of a servant-maid with
     a _valet-de-chambre_.[264]

     As soon as the service was over and he could join her, he
     said, as though with the most delicate attention,
     "Mademoiselle, as far as I can judge, you cannot have failed
     to be lucky in your collection, being so deserving and so
     beautiful." "Alas! Sir," replied Javotte in the most
     ingenuous fashion, "you must excuse me. I have just been
     counting it up with the Father Sacristan, and I have only
     made 65 livres 5 sous. Now, Mademoiselle Henriette made 90
     livres a little time since; 'tis true she collected all
     through the forty hours'[265] service, and in a place where
     there was the finest Paradise ever seen." "When I spoke,"
     said Nicodème, "of the luck of your collection, I was not
     only speaking of the charity you got for the poor and the
     church; I meant as well what you gained for yourself." "Oh,
     Sir!" replied Javotte, "I assure you I gained nothing. There
     was not a farthing more than I told you; and besides, can
     you think I would butter my own bread[266] on such an
     occasion? 'Twould be a great sin even to think of it." "I
     was not speaking," said Nicodème, "of gold or silver. I only
     meant that nobody can have given you his alms without at the
     same time giving you his heart." "I don't know," quoth
     Javotte, "what you mean by hearts; I didn't see one in the
     plate." "I meant," added Nicodème, "that everybody before
     whom you stopped must, when he saw such beauty, have vowed
     to love and serve you, and have given you his heart. For my
     own part I could not possibly refuse you mine." Javotte
     answered him naïvely, "Well! Sir, if you gave it me I must
     have replied at once, 'God give it back to you.'"[267]
     "What!" cried Nicodème rather angrily, "can you jest with me
     when I am so much in earnest, and treat in such a way the
     most passionate of all your lovers?" Whereat Javotte blushed
     as she answered, "Sir, pray be careful how you speak. I am
     an honest girl. I have no lovers. Mamma has expressly
     forbidden me to have any." "I have said nothing to shock
     you," replied Nicodème. "My passion for you is perfectly
     honest and pure, and its end is only a lawful suit." "Then,
     Sir," answered Javotte, "you want to marry me? You must ask
     my papa and mamma for that; for indeed I do not know what
     they are going to give me when I marry." "We have not got
     quite so far yet," said Nicodème. "I must be assured
     beforehand of your esteem, and know that you have admitted
     me to the honour of being your servant." "Sir," said
     Javotte, "I am quite satisfied with being my own servant,
     and I know how to do everything I want."

Now this, of course, is not extraordinarily brilliant; but it
is an early--a _very_ early--beginning of the right sort of
thing--conversation of a natural kind transferred from the boards to the
book, sketches of character, touches of manners and of life generally,
individual, national, local. The cross-purposes of the almost idiotic
_ingénue_ and the philandering gallant are already very well done; and
if Javotte had been as clever as she was stupid she could hardly have
set forth the inwardness of French marriages more neatly than by the
blunt reference to her _dot_, or have at the same moment more thoroughly
disconcerted Nicodème's regularly laid-out approaches for a flirtation
in form, with only a possible, but in any case distant, termination in
anything so prosaic as marriage.[268] The thing as a whole is, in
familiar phrase, "all right" in kind and in scheme. It requires some
perfecting in detail; but it is in every reasonable sense perfectible.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Cyrano de Bergerac and his _Voyages_.]

It has been possible to speak of one of the pioneer books mentioned in
this chapter with more allowance than most of the few critics and
historians who have discussed or mentioned it have given it, and to
recommend the others, not uncritically but quite cheerfully. This
satisfactory state of things hardly persists when we reach what seems
perhaps, to those who have never read it, not the least considerable of
the batch--the _Voyage à la Lune_ of Cyrano de Bergerac, as his name is
in literary history, though he never called himself so.[269] Cyrano,
though he does not seem to have had a very fortunate life, and died
young, yet was not all unblest, and has since been rather blessed than
banned. Even in his own day Boileau spoke of him with what, in the
"Bollevian" fashion, was comparative compliment--that is to say, he said
that he did not think Cyrano so bad as somebody else. But long
afterwards, in the middle of the nineteenth century, Gautier took him up
among his _Grotesques_ and embalmed him in the caressing and
immortalising amber of his marvellous style and treatment; while at the
end of the same century one of the chief living poets and playwrights of
France made him the subject of a popular and really pathetic drama. His
_Pedant Joué_ is not a stupid comedy, and had the honour of furnishing
Molière with some of that "property" which he was, quite rightly, in the
habit of commandeering wherever he found it. _La Mort d'Agrippine_ is by
no means the worst of that curious school of tragedy, so like and so
unlike to that of our own "University wits," which was partly
exemplified and then transcended by Corneille, and which some of us are
abandoned enough to enjoy more as readers, though as critics we may find
more faults with it, than we find it possible to do with Racine. But the
_Voyage à la Lune_, as well as, though rather less than, its
complementary dealing with the Sun, has been praised with none of these
allowances. On the contrary, it has had ascribed to it the credit of
having furnished, not scraps of dialogue or incident, but a solid
suggestion to an even greater than Molière--to Swift; remarkable
intellectual and scientific anticipations have been discovered in it,
and in comparatively recent times versions of it have been published to
serve as proofs that Cyrano was actually a father[270] of French
eighteenth-century _philosophie_--a different thing, once more, from

Let us, however, use the utmost possible combination of critical
magnanimity with critical justice: and allow these precious additions,
which did not form part of the "classical" or "received" text of the
author, not to count against him. _For_ him they can only count with
those who still think the puerile and now hopelessly stale jests about
Enoch and Elijah and that sort of thing clever. But they can be either
disregarded or at least left out of the judgment, and it will yet remain
true that the so-called _Voyage_ is a very disappointing book indeed. As
this is one of the cases where the record of personal experience is not
impertinent, I may say that I first read it some forty years ago, when
fresh from reading about it and its author in "Théo's" prose; that I
therefore came to it with every prepossession in its favour, and strove
to like it, or to think I did. I read it again, if I remember rightly,
about the time of the excitement about M. Rostand's _Cyrano_, and liked
it less still; while when I re-read it carefully for this chapter, I
liked it least of all. There is, of course, a certain fancifulness about
the main idea of a man fastening bottles of dew round him in the
expectation (which is justified) that the sun's heat will convert the
dew into steam and raise him from the ground. But the reader (it is not
necessary to pay him the bad compliment of explaining the reasons) will
soon see that the scheme is aesthetically awkward, if not positively
ludicrous, and scientifically absurd. Throwing off bottles to lower your
level has a superficial resemblance to the actual principles and
practice of ballooning; but in the same way it will not here "work" at

This, however, would be a matter of no consequence whatever if the
actual results of the experiment were amusing. Unfortunately they are
not. That the aeronaut's first miss of the Moon drops him into the new
French colony of Canada may have given Cyrano some means of interesting
people then; but, reversing the process noticed in the cases of Scarron
and Furetière, it does not in the least do so now. We get nothing out of
it except some very uninteresting gibes at the Jesuits, and, connected
with these, some equally uninteresting discussions whether the flight to
the Moon is possible or not.

Still one hopes, like the child or fool of popular saying, for the Moon
itself to atone for Canada, and tolerates disappointment till one
actually gets there. Alas! of all Utopias that have ever been Utopiated,
Cyrano's is the most uninteresting, even when its negative want of
interest does not change into something positively disagreeable. The
Lunarians, though probably intended to be, are hardly at all a satire on
us Earth-dwellers. They are bigger, and, as far as the male sex is
concerned, apparently more awkward and uglier; and their ideas in
religion, morals, taste, etc., are a monotonously direct reversal of our
orthodoxies. There is at least one passage which the absence of all
"naughty niceness" and the presence of the indescribably nasty make a
good "try" for the acme of the disgusting. More of it is less but still
nasty; much of it is silly; all of it is dull.[271]

Nevertheless it is not quite omissible in such a history as this, or in
any history of French literature. For it is a notable instance of the
coming and, indeed, actual invasion, by fiction, of regions which had
hitherto been the province of more serious kinds; and it is a link, not
unimportant if not particularly meritorious, in the chain of the
eccentric novel. Lucian of course had started it long ago, and Rabelais
had in a fashion taken it up but a century before. But the fashioners of
new commonwealths and societies, More, Campanella, Bacon, had been as a
rule very serious. Cyrano, in his way, was serious too; but the way
itself was not one of those for which the ticket has been usually

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Mme. de la Fayette and _La Princesse de Clèves_.]

But the last of this batch is the most important and the best of the
whole. This is _La Princesse de Clèves_, by Marie Madeleine Pioche de
Lavergne, Comtesse de la Fayette, friend of Madame de Sévigné and of
Huet; more or less Platonic, and at any rate last, love of La
Rochefoucauld; a woman evidently of great charm as well as of great
ability, and apparently of what was then irreproachable character. She
wrote, besides other matter of no small literary value and historical
interest, four novels, the minor ones, which require no special notice
here, being _Zaïde_, _La Comtesse de Tende_, and (her opening piece)
_Madame de Montpensier_. Their motives and methods are much the same as
those of the _Princesse de Clèves_, but this is much more effectively
treated. In fact, it is one of the very few highly praised books, at the
beginnings of departments of literature, which ought not to disappoint
candid and not merely studious readers.

It begins with a sketch, very cleverly done, of the Court of Henri II.,
with the various prominent personages there--the King and the Queen,
Diane de Poitiers, Queen Mary of Scotland ("La Reine Dauphine"),
"Madame, soeur du Roi" (the second Margaret of Valois--not so clever
as her aunt and niece namesakes, and not so beautiful as the latter,
but, like both of them, a patroness of men of letters, especially
Ronsard, and apparently a very amiable person, though rude things were
said of her marriage, rather late in life, to the Duke of Savoy), with
many others of, or just below, royal blood. Of these latter there are
Mademoiselle de Chartres, the Prince de Clèves, whom she marries, and
the Duc de Nemours, who completes the usual "triangle."[272] As is also
usual--in a way not unconnected in its usuality with that of triangular
sequences--the Princess has more _amitié_ and _estime_ than _amour_ for
her husband, though he, less usually, is desperately in love with her.
So, very shortly, is Nemours, who is represented as an almost
irresistible lady-killer, though no libertine, and of the "respectful"
order. His conduct is not quite that of the Elizabethan or Victorian
ideal gentleman; for he steals his mistress's portrait while it is being
shown to a mixed company; eavesdrops (as will be seen presently) in the
most atrocious manner; chatters about his love affairs in a way almost
worse; and skulks round the Princess's country garden at night in a
manner exceedingly unlikely to do his passion any good, and nearly
certain to do (as it does) her reputation much harm. Still, if not an
Amadis, he is not in the least a Lovelace, and that is saying a good
deal for a French noble of his time. The Princess slowly falls in love
with him (she has seen him steal the portrait, though he does not know
this and she dares say nothing for fear of scandal); and divers Court
and other affairs conduct this concealed _amourette_ (for she prevents
all "declaration") in a manner very cleverly and not too tediously told,
to a point when, though perfectly virtuous in intention, she feels that
she is in danger of losing self-control.

[Sidenote: Its central scene.]

Probably, though it is the best known part of the book, it may be well
to give the central scene, where M. de Nemours plays the eavesdropper to
M. and Mme. de Clèves, and overhears the conversation which, with equal
want of manners and of sense, he afterwards (it is true, without names)
retails to the Vidame de Chartres, a relation of Mme. de Clèves herself,
and a well-known gossip, with a strong additional effect on the fatal
consequences above described. It is pretty long, and some "cutting" will
be necessary.

     He[273] heard M. de Clèves say to his wife, "But why do you
     wish not to return to Paris? What can keep you in the
     country? For some time past you have shown a taste for
     solitude which surprises me and pains me, because it keeps
     us apart. In fact, I find you sadder than usual, and I am
     afraid that something is annoying you." "I have no
     mind-trouble," she answered with an embarrassed air; "but
     the tumult of the Court is so great, and there is always so
     much company at home, that both body and mind must needs
     grow weary, and one wants only rest." "Rest," replied he,
     "is not the proper thing for a person of your age. Your
     position is not, either at home or at Court, a fatiguing
     one, and I am rather afraid that you do not like to be with
     me." "You would do me a great injustice if you thought so,"
     said she with ever-increasing embarrassment, "but I entreat
     you to leave me here. If you would stay too, I should be
     delighted--if you would stay here alone and be good enough
     to do without the endless number of people who never leave
     you." "Oh! Madam," cried M. de Clèves, "your looks and your
     words show me that you have reasons for wishing to be alone
     which I do not know, and which I beg you to tell me." He
     pressed her a long time to do so without being able to
     induce her, and after excusing herself in a manner which
     increased the curiosity of her husband, she remained in deep
     silence with downcast eyes. Then suddenly recovering her
     speech, and looking at him, "Do not force me," said she, "to
     a confession which I am not strong enough to make, though I
     have several times intended to do so. Think only that
     prudence forbids a woman of my age, who is her own
     mistress,[274] to remain exposed to the trials[275] of a
     Court." "What do you suggest, Madame?" cried M. de Clèves.
     "I dare not put it in words for fear of offence." She made
     no answer, and her silence confirming her husband in his
     thought, he went on: "You tell me nothing, and that tells me
     that I do not deceive myself." "Well then, Sir!" she
     answered, throwing herself at his feet, "I will confess to
     you what never wife has confessed to her husband; but the
     innocence of my conduct and my intentions gives me strength
     to do it. It is the truth that I have reasons for quitting
     the Court, and that I would fain shun the perils in which
     people of my age sometimes find themselves. I have never
     shown any sign of weakness, and I am not afraid of allowing
     any to appear if you will allow me to retire from the Court,
     or if I still had Mme. de Chartres to aid in guarding me.
     However risky may be the step I am taking, I take it
     joyfully, as a way to keep myself worthy of being yours. I
     ask your pardon a thousand times if my sentiments are
     disagreeable to you; at least my actions shall never
     displease you. Think how--to do as I am doing--I must have
     more friendship and more esteem for you than any wife has
     ever had for any husband. Guide me, pity me, and, if you
     can, love me still." M. de Clèves had remained, all the time
     she was speaking, with his head buried in his hands, almost
     beside himself; and it had not occurred to him to raise his
     wife from her position. When she finished, he cast his eyes
     upon her and saw her at his knees, her face bathed in tears,
     and so admirably lovely that he was ready to die of grief.
     But he kissed her as he raised her up, and said:

[_The speech which follows is itself admirable as an expression of
despairing love, without either anger or mawkishness; but it is rather
long, and the rest of the conversation is longer. The husband naturally,
though, as no doubt he expects, vainly, tries to know who it is that
thus threatens his wife's peace and his own, and for a time the
eavesdropper (one wishes for some one behind him with a jack-boot on) is
hardly less on thorns than M. de Clèves himself. At last a reference to
the portrait-episode (see above) enlightens Nemours, and gives, if not
an immediate, a future clue to the unfortunate husband._]

It will be seen at once that this is far different from anything we have
had before--a much further importation of the methods and subjects of
poetry and drama into the scheme of prose fiction.

We need only return briefly to the main story, the course of which, as
one looks back to it through some 250 years of novels, cannot be very
difficult to "_pro_ticipate." A continuance of Court interviews and
gossip, with the garrulity of Nemours himself and the Vidame, as well as
the dropping of a letter by the latter, brings a complete
_éclaircissement_ nearer and nearer. The Countess, though more and more
in love, remains virtuous, and indeed hardly exposes herself to direct
temptation. But her husband, becoming aware that Nemours is the lover,
and also that he is haunting the grounds at Coulommiers by night when
the Princess is alone, falls, though his suspicion of actual infidelity
is removed too late, into hopeless melancholy and positive illness, till
the "broken heart" of fact or fiction releases him. Nemours is only too
anxious to marry the widow, but she refuses him, and after a few years
of "pious works" in complete retirement, herself dies early.

It is possible that, even in this brief sketch, some faults of the book
may appear; it is certain that actual reading of it will not utterly
deprive the fault-finder of his prey. The positive history--of which
there is a good deal, very well told in itself,[276] and the appearance
of which at all is interesting--is introduced in too great proportions,
so as to be largely irrelevant. Although we know that this extremely
artificial world of love-making with your neighbours' wives was also
real, in a way and at a time, the reality fails to make up for the
artifice, at least as a novel-subject. It is like golf, or acting, or
bridge--amusing enough to the participants, no doubt, but very tedious
to hear or read about.[277] Another point, again true to the facts of
the time, no doubt, but somewhat repulsive in reading, is the almost
entire absence of Christian names. The characters always speak to each
other as "Monsieur" and "Madame," and are spoken of accordingly. I do
not think we are ever told either of M. or of Mme. de Clèves's name. Now
there is one person at least who cannot "see" a heroine without knowing
her Christian name. More serious, in different senses of that word, is
the fact that there is still ground for the complaint made above as to
the too _solid_ character of the narrative. There is, indeed, more
positive dialogue, and this is one of the "advances" of the book. But
even there the writer has not had the courage to break it up into
actual, not "reported," talk, and the "said he's" and "said she's,"
"replied so and so's" and "observed somebody's" perpetually get in the
way of smooth reading.

So much in the way of alms for Momus. Fortunately a much fuller
collection of points for admiration offers itself. It has been admitted
that the historical element[278] is perhaps, in the circumstances and
for the story, a trifle irrelevant and even "in the way." But its
presence at all is the important point. Some, at any rate, of the
details--the relations of that Henri II., with whom, it seems, we may
_not_ connect the very queer, very rare, but not very beautiful
_faïence_ once called "Henri Deux" ware,[279] with his wife and his
mistress; his accidental death at the hands of Montgomery; the history
of Henry VIII.'s matrimonial career, and the courtship of his daughter
by a French prince (if not _this_ French prince)--are historical enough
to present a sharp contrast with the cloudy pseudo-classical canvas of
the Scudéry romances, or the mere fable-land of others. Any critical
Brown ought to have discovered "great capabilities" in it; and though it
was not for more than another century that the true historical novel got
itself born, this was almost the nearest experiment to it. But the other
side--the purely sentimental--let us not say psychological--side, is of
far more consequence; for here we have not merely aspiration or
chance-medley, we have attainment.

There is a not wholly discreditable prejudice against abridgments,
especially of novels, and more especially against what are called
condensations. But one may think that the simple knife, without any
artful or artless aid of interpolated summaries, could carve out of _La
Princesse de Clèves_, as it stands, a much shorter but fully
intelligible presentation of its passionate, pitiful subject. A slight
want of _individual_ character may still be desiderated; it is hardly
till _Manon Lescaut_ that we get that, but it was not to be expected.
Scarcely more to be expected, but present and in no small force, is that
truth to life; that "knowledge of the human heart" which had been
hitherto attempted by--we may almost say permitted to--the poet, the
dramatist, the philosopher, the divine; but which few, if any, romancers
had aimed at. This knowledge is not elaborately but sufficiently "set"
with the halls and _ruelles_ of the Court, the gardens and woods of
Coulommiers; it is displayed with the aid of conversation, which, if it
seems stilted to us, was not so then; and the machinery employed for
working out the simple plot--as, for instance, in the case of the
dropped letter, which, having originally nothing whatever to do with any
of the chief characters, becomes an important instrument--is sometimes
far from rudimentary in conception, and very effectively used.

It is therefore no wonder that the book did two things--things of
unequal value indeed, but very important for us. In the first place, it
started the School of "Sensibility"[280] in the novel, and so provided a
large and influential portion of eighteenth-century fiction. In the
second--small as it is--it almost started the novel proper, the class of
prose fiction which, though it may take on a great variety of forms and
colours, though it may specialise here and "extravagate" there, yet in
the main distinguishes itself from the romance by being first of all
subjective--by putting behaviour, passion, temperament, character,
motive before incident and action in the commoner sense--which had had
few if any representatives in ancient times, had not been disentangled
from the romantic envelope in mediaeval, but was to be the chief new
development of modern literature.

       *       *       *       *       *

There seemed to be several reasons for separating Hamilton from the
other fairy-tale writers. The best of all is that he has the same
qualification for the present chapter as that which has installed in it
the novelists already noticed--that of idiosyncrasy. This leads to, or
rather is founded on, the consideration that his tales are fairy-tales
only "after a sort," and testify rather to a prevalent fashion than to a
natural affection for the kind.[281] Thirdly, he exhibits, in his
supernatural matter, a new and powerful influence on fiction
generally--that of the first translated _Arabian Nights_. Lastly, he is
in turn himself the head of two considerable though widely different
sub-departments of fiction--the decadent and often worthless but largely
cultivated department of what we may call the fairy-tale
_improper_,[282] and the very important and sometimes consummately
excellent "ironic tale," to be often referred to, and sometimes fully
discussed, hereafter.

The singularity of Hamilton's position has always been recognised; but
until comparatively recently, his history and family relations were very
little understood. Since the present writer discussed him in a
paper[283] now a quarter of a century old in print, and older in
composition, further light has been thrown on his life and surroundings
in the _Dictionary of National Biography_, and more still in a monograph
by a lady[284] whose researches will, it is hoped, sooner or later be
published. A very little, too, of the unprinted work which was held back
at his death has been recovered. But this, it seems, includes nothing of
importance; and his fame will probably always rest, as it has so long
and so securely rested, on the _Mémoires de Grammont_, the few but
sometimes charming independent verses, some miscellanies not generally
enough appreciated, and the admirable group of ironic tales which set a
fashion hardly more admirably illustrated since by Voltaire and
Beckford[285] and Lord Beaconsfield, to name no others. Of these things
the verses,[286] unfortunately, do not concern us at all; and the
_Mémoires_ and miscellanies[286] only in so far as they add another, and
one of the very best, to the brilliant examples of personal narrative of
which the century is so full, and which have so close a connection with
the novel itself. But the _Tales_ are, of course, ours of most obvious
right; and they form one of the most important _points de repère_ in our

To discuss, on the one hand, how Hamilton's singularly mixed conditions
and circumstances of birth[287] and life[288] influenced his literary
production would be interesting, but in strictness rather irrelevant. To
attempt, on the other, at any great length to consider the influences
which produced the kind of tale he wrote would have more relevance, but
would, if pursued in similar cases elsewhere, lengthen the book
enormously. Two main ancestor or progenitor forces, as they may be
called, though both were of very recent date and one actually
contemporary, may be specified. The one was the newborn fancy for
fairy-tales, and Eastern tales in particular. The other was the now
ingrained disposition towards ironic writing which, begun by Rabelais,
as a most notable origin, varied and increased by Montaigne and others,
had, just before Hamilton, received fresh shaping and tempering from not
a few writers, especially Saint-Évremond. There is indeed no doubt that
this last remarkable and now far too little read writer,[289] who, let
it be remembered, was, like Hamilton, and even more so, an intimate
friend of Grammont and also an inmate of Charles's court, was Hamilton's
direct and immediate model so far as he had any such--his "master" in
the general tone of _persiflage_. But master and pupil chose, as a rule,
different subjects, and the idiosyncrasy of each was intense; it must be
remembered, too, that both were of Norman blood, though that of the
Hamiltons had long been transfused into the veins of a new nationality,
while Saint-Évremond was actually born in Normandy. The Norman (that is
to say, the English, with a special intention of difference[290]) in
each could be very easily pointed out if such things were our business.
But it is the application of this, and of other things in relation to
the development of the novel, that we have to deal with.

It is said, and there is good reason for believing it to be true, that
all the stories have a more or less pervading vein of "key" application
in them. But this, except for persons particularly interested in such
things, has now very little attraction. It has been admitted that it
probably exists, as indeed it does in almost everything of the day, from
the big as well as "great" _Cyrus_ to the little, but certainly not much
less great, _Princesse de Clèves_. But our subject is what Hamilton
writes about these people, not the people about whom he may or may not
be writing.

What we have left of Hamilton's tales, as far as they have been printed
(and, as was said above, not much more seems to exist), consists of five
stories of very unequal length, and in two cases out of the five
unfinished. One of the finished pieces, _Fleur d'Épine_, and one of the
unfinished--although unfinished it is not only one of the longest, but,
unluckily in a way, by far the best of all--_Les Quatre Facardins_, are
"framework" stories, and avowedly attach themselves, in an irreverent
sort of attachment, to the _Arabian Nights_; the others, _Le Bélier_,
_Zénéyde_ (unfinished), and _L'Enchanteur Faustus_, are independent, and
written in the mixed verse-and-prose style which had been made popular
by various writers, especially Chapelle, but which cannot be said to be
very acceptable in itself. Taken together, they fill a volume of just
over 500 average octavo pages in the standard edition of 1812; but their
individual length is very unequal. The two longest, the fragmentary
_Quatre Facardins_ and the finished _Le Bélier_, run each of them to 142
pages; the shortest, _L'Enchanteur Faustus_, has just five-and-twenty;
while _Fleur d'Épine_, in its completeness, has 114, and _Zénéyde_, in
its incompleteness, runs to 78, and might have run, for aught one can
tell--in the mixed tangle of Roman and Merovingian history in which the
author (possibly in ridicule of Madeleine de Scudéry's classical
chronicling) has chosen to plunge it--to 780 or 7800, which latter
figure would, after all, have been little more than half the length of
the _Grand Cyrus_ itself.

We may take _L'Enchanteur Faustus_ first, as it requires the shortest
notice. In fact, if it had not been Hamilton's, it would hardly require
any. Written to a "charmante Daphné" (evidently one of the English
Jacobite exiles, from a reference to a great-great-grandfather of hers
who was "admiral in Ireland" during Queen Elizabeth's time), it is
occupied by a story of the great Queen herself, who is treated with the
mixture of admiration (for her intelligence and spirit) with "scandal"
(about her person and morals) that might be expected at St. Germains.
The subject is the usual exhibition of dead beauties (here by, not to,
Faustus), with Elizabeth's affected depreciation of Helen, Cleopatra,
and Mariamne, and her equally affected admiration of Fair Rosamond,[291]
whom she insists on summoning _twice_, despite Faustus's warning, and
with disastrous consequences. Hamilton's irony is so pervading that one
does not know whether ignorance, carelessness, or intention made him not
only introduce Sidney and Essex as contemporary favourites of Elizabeth,
but actually attribute Rosamond's end to poor Jane Shore instead of to
Queen Eleanor! This would matter little if the tale had been stronger;
but though it is told with Hamilton's usual easy fluency, the Queen's
depreciations, the flattery of the courtiers, and the rest of it, are
rather slightly and obviously handled. One would give half a dozen like
it for that _Second_ (but not necessarily _Last_) _Part_ of the
_Facardins_, which Crébillon the younger is said to have actually seen
and had the opportunity of saving, a chance which he neglected till too

As _L'Enchanteur Faustus_ is the shortest of the completed tales, so _Le
Bélier_ is the longest; indeed, as indicated above, it is the same
length as what we have of _Les Quatre Facardins_. It is also--in that
unsatisfactory and fragmentary way of knowledge with which literature
often has to content itself--much the best known, because of the
celebrated address of the giant Moulineau to the hero-beast "Bélier, mon
ami,... si tu voulais bien commencer par le commencement, tu me ferais
plaisir." There are many other agreeable things in it; but it has on the
whole a double or more than double portion of the drawback which attends
these "key" stories. It was written to please his sister, Madame de
Grammont, who had established herself in a country-house, near
Versailles. This she transformed from a mere cottage, called Moulineau,
into an elegant villa to which she gave the name of Pontalie. There were
apparently some difficulties with rustic neighbours, and Anthony wove
the whole matter into this story, with the giant and the (of course
enchanted) ram just mentioned; and the beautiful Alie who hates all men
(or nearly all); and her father, a powerful druid, who is the giant's
enemy; and the Prince de Noisy and the Vicomte de Gonesse, and other
personages of the environs of Paris, who were no doubt recognisable and
interesting once, but who, whether recognisable or not, are not
specially interesting now. To repeat that there are good scenes and
piquant remarks is merely to say once more that the thing is Hamilton's.
But, on the whole, the present writer at any rate has always found it
the least interesting (next to _L'Enchanteur Faustus_) of all.

On the other hand, _Zénéyde_--though unfinished, and though containing,
in its ostensibly main story, things compared to which the Prince de
Noisy and the Vicomte de Gonesse excite to palpitation--has points of
remarkable interest about it. One of these--a prefatory sketch of the
melancholy court of exiles at St. Germains--is like nothing else in
Hamilton and like very few things anywhere else. This is in no sense
fiction--it is, in fact, a historical document of the most striking
kind; but it makes background and canvas for fiction itself,[292] and it
gives us, besides, a most vivid picture of the priest-ridden, caballing
little crowd of folk who had made great renunciations but could not make
small. It also shows us in Hamilton a somewhat darker but also a
stronger side of satiric powers, differently nuanced from the quiet
_persiflage_ of the _Contes_ themselves. This, however, though easily
"cobbled on" to the special tale, and possibly not unconnected with it
key-fashion, is entirely separable, and might just as well have formed
part of an actual letter to the "Madame de P.," to whom it is addressed.

The tale itself, like some if not all the others, but in a much more
strikingly contrasted fashion, again consists of two strands, interwoven
so intimately, however, that it is almost impossible to separate them,
though it is equally impossible to conceive two things more different
from each other. The ostensible theme is a history of herself, given by
the Nymph of the Seine to the author--a history of which more presently.
But this is introduced at considerable length, and interrupted more than
once, by scenes and dialogues, between the nymph and her distinctly
unwilling auditor, which are of the most whimsically humorous character
to be found even in Hamilton himself.

The whole account of the self-introduction of the nymph to the narrator
is extremely quaint, but rather long to give here as a whole. It is
enough to say that Hamilton represents himself as by no means an ardent
nympholept, or even as flattered by demi-goddess-like advances, which
are of the most obliging description; and that the lady has not only to
make fuller and fuller revelations of her beauty, but at last to exert
her supernatural power to some extent in order to carry the recreant
into her "cool grot," not, indeed, under water, but invisibly situated
on land. What there takes place is, unfortunately, as has been said,
mainly the telling of a very dull story with one not so dull episode.
But the conclusion of the preface exemplifies the whimsicality even of
the writer, and points to the existence of a commodity in the fashion of
wig-wearing which few who glory in "their own hair," and despise their
periwigged forefathers, are likely to have thought of:

     [Sidenote: Hamilton and the Nymph.]

     At these words [_her own_] raising her eyes to heaven, she
     sighed several times; and though she tried to keep them
     back, I saw, coursing the length of her cheeks and falling
     on her beautiful neck, tears so natural, in the midst of a
     silence so touching, that I was just about to follow her
     example.[293] But she soon recovered herself; and having
     shown me by a languishing look that she was not insensible
     to my sympathetic emotion ... [_she enjoins discretion, and
     then_:--] After having looked at me attentively for some
     time she came closer to me, and as she gently pulled one
     side of my wig in order to whisper in my ear, I had to lean
     over her in a rather familiar manner.[294] Her face touched
     mine, and it seemed to me animated by a lively warmth, very
     different from the insensibility which I had accused[295]
     her of shedding upon me when she came out of the water. Her
     breath was pure and fresh, and her goddess-ship, which I had
     suspected of being something marshy, had no taint of mud
     about it. If only I might reveal all that she said to me in
     a confidence which I could have wished longer![295] But
     apparently she got tired of it[295] and let go my wig.
     "'Twould be too tiresome," she said, "to go on talking like
     this. Go out there, and leave us alone!" I turned round, and
     seeing no one in the room, I thought this order was
     addressed to me, so I was just rising....

This quaint presentation of a craven swain is perhaps as good an example
as could be found of the curious mixture of French and English in
Hamilton. Hardly any Frenchman could have borne to put even a fictitious
eidolon of himself in such a contemptible light; very few Englishmen,
though they might easily have done this, would have done it so neatly,
and with so quaint a travesty of romantic situation. But the main story,
as admitted above, is _assommant_, though, just before the breach, a
substitution of three agreeable damsels for the nymph herself promises
something better.

This combination of the dullest with some of the finest and most
characteristic work of the author, would be rather a puzzle in a more
"serious" writer than Hamilton; but in his case there is no need to
distress, or in any way to cumber, oneself about the matter. The whole
thing was a "compliment," as the age would have said, to Fantasy; and
the rules of the Court of Quintessence, though not non-existent as dull
fools suppose, are singularly elastic to skilled players.

We are left with what, even as it exists, is by far his most ambitious
attempt, and with one in which, considering all its actual features, one
need not be taking things too seriously if one decides that he had an
aim at something like a whole--even if the legends[296] about further
parts, actually seen and destroyed by a more than Byzantine pudibundity,
are not taken as wholly gospel.

The completed _Fleur d'Épine_ and the uncompleted _Quatre
Facardins_[297] are in effect continuous parts (and to all appearance
incomplete in more than the finishing of the second story) of an
untitled but intelligibly sketched continuation of the _Arabian Nights_
themselves. Hamilton, like others since, had evidently conceived an
affection for Dinarzade: and a considerable contempt for Schahriar's
notion of the advantages of matrimony. It is less certain, but I think
possible, that he had anticipated the ideas of those who think that the
unmarried sister went at least halves in the composition or remembrance
of the stories themselves, or she could not have varied her timing at
dawn so adroitly. He had, at any rate, an Irish-Englishman's sense of
honest if humorous indignation at the part which she has to play (or
rather endure) in these "two years" (much nearer three!), and the sequel
in a way revenges her.

I should imagine that Thackeray must have been reminiscent of Hamilton
when he devised the part of "Sister Anne" in _Bluebeard's Ghost_. Like
her, Hamilton's Dinarzade is slightly flippant; she would most certainly
have observed "Dolly Codlins is the matter" in Anne's place. Like her,
she is not unprovided with lovers; she actually, at the beginning,
"takes a night off" that she may entertain the Prince of Trebizond; and
it is the Prince himself who relates the great, but, alas! torsoed epic
of the Facardins,[298] of whom he is himself one. But as there are only
two stories, there is no room for much framework, and we see much less
of the "resurrected" Dinarzade[299] than we could wish from what we do
see and hear.

_Fleur d'Épine_, which she herself tells, is a capital story, somewhat
closer to the usual norm of the _Nights_ than is usual with Hamilton. It
bases itself on the well-known legends of the Princess with the
literally murderous eyes; but this Princess Luisante is not really the
heroine, and is absent from the greater part of the tale, though she is
finally provided with the hero's brother, who is a reigning prince, and
has everything handsome about him. The actual hero Tarare (French for
"Fiddlestick!" or something of that sort, and of course an assumed
name), in order to cure Luisante's eyes of their lethal quality, has to
liberate a still more attractive damsel--the title-heroine--putative
daughter of a good fairy and actual victim of a bad one, quite in the
orthodox style. He does this chiefly by the aid of a very amiable mare,
who makes music wherever she goes, and can do wonderful things when her
ears are duly manipulated. It is a good and pleasant story, with plenty
of the direct relish of the fairy-tale, Eastern and Western, and plenty
also of satirical parody of the serious romance. But it is not quite
consummate. The opening, however, as a fair specimen of Hamilton's
style, may be given.

     [Sidenote: The opening of _Fleur d'Épine_.]

     Two thousand four hundred and fifty-three leagues from here
     there is an extraordinarily fine country called Cashmere. In
     this country reigned a Caliph; that Caliph had a daughter,
     and that daughter had a face; but people wished more than
     once that she had never had any. Her beauty was not
     insupportable till she was fifteen; but at that age it
     became impossible to endure it. She had the most beautiful
     mouth in the world; her nose was a masterpiece; the lilies
     of Cashmere--a thousand times whiter than ours--were
     discoloured beside her complexion; and it seemed impertinent
     of the fresh-blown rose to show itself beside the carnation
     of her cheek. Her forehead was unmatchable for shape and
     brilliancy; its whiteness was contrasted with a Vandyke
     point of hair blacker and more shining than jet--whence she
     took her name of "Luisante"; the shape of her face seemed
     made to frame so many wonders. But her eyes spoilt

     No one had ever been able to look at them long enough to
     distinguish their exact colour; for as soon as one met her
     glance it was like a stroke of lightning. When she was eight
     years old her father, the Caliph, was in the habit of
     sending for her, to admire his offspring and give the
     courtiers the opportunity of paying a thousand feeble
     compliments to her youthful beauty; for even then they used
     to put out the candles at midnight, no other light being
     necessary except that of the little one's eyes. Yet all this
     was nothing but--in the literal sense, and the
     other--child's play; it was when her eyes had acquired full
     strength that they became no joking matter.

[_The fatal effects--killing men in twenty-four hours, and blinding
women--are then told, with the complaints of the nobility whose sons
have fallen victims, and the various suggestions for remedying the evil
made at a committee, which is presided over by the Seneschal of the
kingdom ... "the silliest man who had ever held such an office--so much
so that the caliph could not possibly think of choosing any one less
silly." Tarare happens to be in this pundit-potentate's service; and so
the story starts._]

[Sidenote: _Les Quatre Facardins._]

But--and indeed the writer's opinion on this point has already been
indicated--Hamilton's masterpiece, unfinished as it is, is _Les Quatre
Facardins_. Indeed, though unfinished in one sense, it is, in another,
the most finished of all. Beside it the completed _Faustus_ is a mere
trifle, and not a very interesting trifle. It has no dull parts like
_Zénéyde_ and even _Le Bélier_. It has much greater complication of
interest and variety of treatment than _Fleur d'Épine_, in which, after
the opening, Hamilton's peculiar _persiflage_, though not absent, is
much less noticeable. It at least suggests, tantalising as the
suggestion is, that the author for once really intended to wind up all
his threads into a compact ball, or (which is the better image) to weave
them into a new and definite pattern. Moreover--this may not be a
recommendation to everybody, but it is a very strong one to the present
historian,--it has no obvious or insistent "key"-element whatsoever. It
is, indeed, not at all unlikely that there _is_ one, for the trick was
ingrained in the literature and the society of the time. But if so, it
is a sleeping dog that neither bites nor barks; and if you let it alone
it will stay in its kennel, and not even obtrude itself upon your view.

To these partly, if not wholly, negative merits it adds positive ones of
a very considerable and delectable kind. The connection with the
_Arabian Nights_ is brought closer still in the fact that it is not only
told (as of himself) by the Prince of Trebizond, Dinarzade's
servant-cavalier, but is linked--to an important extent, and not at all
to Schahriar's unmixed satisfaction--with one of the earliest incidents
of the _Nights_ themselves, the remarkable story how the Lady from the
Sea increases her store of rings at the cost of some exertion and
alarm--not to mention the value of the rings themselves--to the Sultan
and his brother, the King of Tartary. This lady, with her genie and her
glass box, reappears as "Cristalline la Curieuse"--one of the two
heroines. The other, of whose actual adventures we hear only the
beginning, and that at the very close of the story, is Mousseline la
Sérieuse, who never laughs, and who, later, escaping literally by the
loss of her last garment, twitched off by the jaws of an enormous
crocodile, afterwards the pest of the country, finds herself under a
mysterious weird. She is never able to get a similar vestment made for
her, either of day- or night-fashion. Three hundred and seventy-four
dozen of such things, which formed her wardrobe, had disappeared[300]
after the death (actually crocodile-devoured) of her Mistress of the
Robes; and although she used up all the linen-drapers' stocks of the
capital in trying to get new ones, they were all somewhat milder
varieties of the shirt of Nessus. For the day-shifts deprived her of all
appetite for food or drink, and the night ones made it impossible for
her to sleep.

This particular incident comes, as has been said, just at the end of
what we have of the book; indeed there is nothing more, save a burlesque
embassy, amply provided with painted cloth[301] and monkeys, to the
great enchanter Caramoussal (who has already figured in the book), and
the announcement, by one of the other Facardins, of its result--a new
adventure for champions, who must either make the Princess laugh or kill
the crocodile. "It is indifferent," we learn from a most Hamiltonian
sentence, "whether you begin with the crocodile or with the Princess."
Indeed there is yet another means of restoring peace in the Kingdom of
Astrachan, according to the enchanter himself, who modestly disclaims
being an enchanter, observing (again in a thoroughly Hamiltonian manner)
that as he lives on the top of a mountain close to the stars, they
probably tell him more than they tell other people. It is to collect
three spinning-wheels[302] which are scattered over the universe, but
of some of which we have heard earlier in the story.

One takes perhaps a certain pleasure in outraging the feelings of the
giant Moulineau, so hateful to Madame de Grammont, by beginning not
merely in the middle but at the end--an end, alas! due, if we believe
all the legends, to her own mistaken zeal when she became a _dévote_--a
variety of person for whom her brother[303] certainly had small
affection, though he did not avenge himself on it in novel-form quite so
cruelly as did Marivaux later. It is, however, quite good to begin at
the beginning, though the verse-preface needs perhaps to be read with
eyes of understanding. Ostensibly, it is a sort of historical
condemnation of all the species of fiction which had been popular for
half a century or so, and is thus very much to our purpose, though, like
almost all the verses included in these tales, it does not show the
poetic power which the author of _Celle que j'adore_[304] undoubtedly
possessed. Mere tales, he says, have quite banished from court favour
romances, celebrated for their sentiments, from _Cyrus_ to _Zaïde_,
_i.e._ from Mlle. de Scudéry to Mme. de la Fayette. _Télémaque_ had no
better fate

    On courut au Palais[305] le rendre,
    Et l'on s'empressa d'y reprendre
    Le Rameau d'Or et l'Oiseau Bleu.[306]

Then came the "Arabian tales," of which he speaks with a harshness, the
sincerity or design of which may be left to the reader; and then he
himself took up the running, of course obliged by request of
irresistible friends of the other sex. All which may or may not be read
with grains of salt--the salt-merchant of which everybody is at liberty
to choose for himself. Something may be said on the subject when we, in
all modesty, try to sum up Hamilton and the period.

But we must now give some more account of the "Four Facardins"
themselves. He of Trebizond is a tributary Prince of Schahriar's, much
after the fashion (it is to be feared here burlesqued) of the
innumerable second- and third-class heroes whom one meets in the
_Cyrus_. He begins, like Dinarzade,[307] by "cheeking" the Sultan on his
views of matrimony; and then he tells how he set out from his dominions
in quest of adventures, and met another bearer of the remarkable name
which his mother had insisted on giving him. This second adventurer
happened to be bearer also of a helmet with a strange bird, apparently
all made of gems, as its crest. They exchange confidences, which are to
the effect that the Trebizondian Facardin is a lady-killer of the most
extravagant success, while the other (who is afterwards called Facardin
of the Mountain) is always unfortunate in love; notwithstanding which he
proposes to undertake the adventure (to be long afterwards defined) of
Mousseline la Sérieuse. For the present he contents himself with two or
three more stories (or, rather, one in several "fyttes"), which reduce
the wildest of the _Nights_ to simple village tales--of an island where
lions are hunted with a provision of virgins, chanticleers, and small
deer on an elaborately ruled system; of a mountain full of wild beasts,
witches, lovely nymphs, savages, and an enchanter at the top. After an
interruption very much in the style of Chaucer's Host and _Sir Thopas_,
from Dinarzade, who is properly rebuked by the Sultan, Facardin of the
Mountain (he has quite early in the story received the celebrated
scratch from a lion's claw, "from his right shoulder to his left heel")
recounts a shorter adventure with Princess Sapinelle of Denmark, and at
last, after a fresh outburst from Dinarzade, the Prince of Trebizond
comes to his own affairs.

Then it is that (after some details about the Prince of Ophir, who has a
minim mouth and an enormous nose, and the Princess of Bactria, whose
features were just the reverse) we recover Cristalline. It is perhaps
only here that even Mrs. Grundy, though she may have been uncomfortable
elsewhere, can feel really shocked at Hamilton; others than Mrs. Grundy
need not be so even here. The genie has discovered his Lady's little
ways, and has resolved to avenge himself on her by strict custody, and
by a means of delivery which, if possible, might not have entirely
displeased her. The hundred rings are bewitched to their chain, and are
only to be recovered by the same process which strung them on it. But
this process must be applied by one person in the space of twelve hours,
and the conditions are only revealed to him after he has been kidnapped
or cajoled within the genie's power. If he refuses to try, he is clad as
Omphale clad Hercules, and set to work. If he tries and fails, he is to
be flayed alive and burnt. Facardin, to the despair of his secretary,
enters--beguiled by a black ambassadress, who merely informs him that a
lady wants help--the enchanted boat which takes him to the fatal scene.
But when he is to be introduced to the lady he entirely declines to part
with his sword; and when the whole secret is revealed he, with the help
of Cristalline, who is really a good-natured creature in more senses
than one, slays the three chief minions of the tyrant--a watchmaker who
sets the clock, a locksmith who is to count the detached rings, and a
kind of Executioner High-priest who is to do the flaying and
burning,--cuts his way with Cristalline herself to the enchanted boat,
regaining _terra firma_ and (relatively speaking) _terra_ not too much
enchanted. But at his very landing at the mouth of the crocodile river
he again meets Facardin of the Mountain (who has figured in
Cristalline's history earlier) with the two others, whose stories we
shall never hear; and is told about Mousseline; whereat we and the tale
"join our ends" as far as is permitted.

It would be easy to pick from this story alone a sort of nosegay of
Hamiltonisms like that from Fuller, which Charles Lamb selected so
convincingly that some have thought them simply invented. But it would
be unjust to Anthony, because, unless each was given in a _matrix_ of
context, nobody could, in most cases at any rate, do justice to this
curious glancing genius of his. It exists in Sydney Smith to some
extent--in Thackeray to more--among Englishmen. There is, in French,
something of it in Lesage, who possibly learnt it directly from him; and
of course a good deal, though of a lower kind, in Voltaire, who
certainly did learn it from him. But it is, with that slight
indebtedness to Saint-Évremond noticed above, essentially new and
original. It is a mixture of English-Irish (that is to say,
Anglo-Norman) humour with French wit, almost unattainable at that day
except by a man who, in addition to his natural gifts, had the mixed
advantages and disadvantages of his exile position.

Frenchmen at the time--there is abundance, not of mere anecdote, but of
solid evidence to prove it--knew practically nothing of English
literature. Englishmen knew a good deal more of French, and imitated and
translated it, sometimes more eagerly than wisely. But they had not as
yet assimilated or appreciated it: that was left for the eighteenth
century to do. Meanwhile Hamilton brought the double influence to bear,
not merely on the French novel, but on the novel in general and on the
eccentric novel in particular. To appreciate him properly, he ought to
be compared with Rabelais before him and with Voltaire or Sterne--with
both, perhaps, as a counsel of perfection--after him. He is a smaller
man, both in literature and in humanity, than Master Francis; but the
phrase which Voltaire himself rather absurdly used of Swift might be
used without any absurdity in reference to him. He _is_ a "Rabelais de
bonne compagnie," and from the exactly opposite point of view he might
be called a Voltaire or a Sterne _de bonne compagnie_ likewise. That is
to say, he is a gentleman pretty certainly as well as a genius, which
Rabelais might have been, at any rate in other circumstances, but did
not choose to be, and which neither François Arouet nor Laurence Sterne
could have been, however much either had tried, though the metamorphosis
is not quite so utterly inconceivable in Sterne's case as in the
other's. Hamilton, it has been confessed, is sometimes "naughty"; but
his naughtiness is neither coarse nor sniggering,[308] and he depends
upon it so little--a very important point--that he is sometimes most
amusing when he is not naughty at all. In other words, he has no need of
it, but simply takes it as one of the infinite functions of human
comedy. Against which let Mrs. Grundy say what she likes.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is conceivable that objection may be taken, or at any rate surprise
felt, at the fulness with which a group of mostly little books--no one
of them produced by an author of the first magnitude as usual estimates
run--has been here handled. But the truth is that the actual birth of
the French novel took a much longer time than that of the English--a
phenomenon explicable, without any national vainglory, by the fact that
it came first and gave us patterns and stimulants. The writers surveyed
in this chapter, and those who will take their places in the next--at
least Scarron, Furetière, Madame de La Fayette and Hamilton, Lesage,
Marivaux, and Prévost--whatever objections or limitations may be brought
against them, form the central group of the originators of the modern
novel. They open the book of life, as distinguished from that of
factitious and rather stale literature; they point out the varieties of
incident and character; the manners and interiors and fantastic
adjustments; the sentiment rising to passion--which are to determine the
developments and departments of the fiction of the future. They leave,
as far as we have seen them, great opportunities for improvement to
those immediate followers to whom we shall now turn. Hamilton is,
indeed, not yet much followed, but Lesage far outgoes Scarron in the
raising of the picaresque; Marivaux distances Furetière in painting of
manners and in what some people call psychology; _Manon Lescaut_ throws
_La Princesse de Clèves_ into the shade as regards the greatest and
most novel-breeding of the passions. But the whole are really a _bloc_,
the continental sense of which is rather different from our "block." And
perhaps we shall find that, though none of them was equal in genius to
some who succeeded them in novel-writing, the novel itself made little
progress, and some backsliding, during nearly a hundred years after they
ceased to write.


     It may not perhaps be superfluous to give the rest of that
     criticism of Hamilton's on _Télémaque_, the conclusion of
     which has been quoted above. "In vain, from the famous
     coasts of Ithaca, the wise and renowned Mentor came to
     enrich us with those treasures of his which his _Télémaque_
     contains. In vain the art of the teacher delicately
     displays, in this romance of a rare kind, the usefulness and
     the deceitfulness of politics and of love, as well as that
     fatal sweetness--frail daughter of luxury--which intoxicates
     a conquering hero at the feet of a young mistress or of a
     skilful enchantress, such as in each case this Mentor
     depicts them. But, well-versed as he was in human weakness,
     and elaborately as he imitated the style and the stories of
     Greece, the vogue that he had was of short duration. Weary
     of inability to understand the mysteries which he unfolded,
     men ran to the Palais to give back the volume," etc., etc.

     Hamilton, no doubt intentionally, has himself made this
     criticism rather "mysterious." It is well known that, if not
     quite at first, very soon after its appearance, the fact
     that the politics, if not also the morals, of Fénelon's book
     were directly at variance with Court standards was
     recognised. At a time when Court favour and fashion were the
     very breath of the upper circles, and directly or indirectly
     ruled the middle, the popularity of this curious
     romance-exhortation was, at any rate for a time, nipped in
     the bud, to revive only in the permanent but not altogether
     satisfactory conditions of a school-book. Whether Hamilton
     dealt discreetly with the matter by purposely confining
     himself to the record of a fact, or at least mixing praise
     to which no exception could be taken, with what might be
     taken for blame, one cannot say. By dotting a few i's,
     crossing the t's, and perhaps touching up some hidden
     letters with the requisite reagent, one can, however, get a
     not unfair or unshrewd criticism of the book out of this
     envelope. _Télémaque_, if it is not, as one of Thackeray's
     "thorn" correspondents suggested, superior to "_Lovel
     Parsonage_ and _Framley the Widower_," has, or with some
     easy suppressions and a very few additions and developments
     might have, much more pure romance interest than its
     centuries of scholastic use allow it to have for most
     people. Eucharis is capable of being much more than she is
     allowed to show herself; and some Mrs. Grundys, with more
     intelligence than the average member of the clan, have
     hinted that Calypso might be dangerous if the persons who
     read about her were not likely to consider her as too old to
     be interesting. The style is, of course, admirable--there
     has hardly ever been a better writer of French than Fénelon,
     who was also a first-rate narrator and no mean critic.
     Whether by the "mysteries" Hamilton himself meant politics,
     morals, religion, or all three and other "serious" things,
     is a point which, once more, is impossible to settle. But it
     is quite certain that, whether there is any difficulty in
     comprehending them or not, a great many--probably the huge
     majority--of novel readers would not care to take the
     trouble to comprehend them, and might, even if they found
     little difficulty, resent being asked to do so. And so we
     have here not the first--for, as has been said, the Heroic
     romance itself had much earlier been "conscripted" into the
     service of didactics--but the first brilliant, or almost
     brilliant, example of that novel of purpose which will meet
     us so often hereafter. It may be said to have at once
     revealed (for the earlier examples were, as a rule, too dull
     to be fair tests) the ineradicable defects of the species.
     Even when the purpose does not entirely preclude the
     possibility of enjoyment, it always gets in the way thereof;
     and when the enjoyable matter does not absorb attention to
     the disregard of the purpose altogether, it seldom--perhaps
     never--really helps that purpose to get itself fulfilled.


[247] It is perhaps not quite superfluous to point out that the
principle of separation in these chapters is quite different from that
(between "idealist" and "realist") pursued by Körting and others, and
reprobated, partially or wholly, by MM. Le Breton and Brunetière.

[248] _L'Autre Monde: ou Histoire Comique des États et Empires de la
Lune_, etc.

[249] It must be remembered that even Gerard Hamilton made many more
speeches, but only one good one, while the novelists discussed here
wrote in most cases many other books. But their goodness shows itself in
hardly more than a single work in each case. Anthony Hamilton's is in
all his.

[250] It has been noted, I think, by all who have written about the
_Berger_, that Sorel is a sort of Balak and Balaam in one. He calls on
himself to curse the _Astrée_, but he, sometimes at least, blesses it.

[251] The _Berger_ fills two volumes of some nine hundred pages;
_Polyandre_, two of six hundred each! But it must be admitted that the
print is very large and widely spaced.

[252] One remembers the story of the greater Corneille calling to the
lesser down a trap between their two houses, "Sans-Souci!--une rime!"

[253] I have known this word more than once objected to as pedantic. But
pedantry in this kind consists in using out-of-the-way terms when common
ones are ready to hand. There is no single word in English to express
the lower kind of "Dutch-painting" as this Greek word does. And Greek is
a recognised and standing source of words for English. If geography, why
not rhyparography?--or, if any one prefers it, "rhypography," which,
however, is not, I think, so good a form.

[254] There is, no doubt, significance in the fact that they are
definitely called _nouvelles_.

[255] _V. sup._ p. 204. The habit of these continues in all the books.
_L'Illustre Bassa_ opens with a most elaborate, but still not very much
"alive," procession and sham fight.

[256] Of course Cervantes is not shadowy.

[257] As far as mere chronology goes, Cyrano, _v. inf._, should come
between; but it would split the parallel.

[258] Scarron had, in Le Destin's account of himself, made a distinction
between the pastoral and heroic groups and the "old" romances, meaning
thereby not the true mediaeval specimens but the _Amadis_ cycle.
Furetière definitely classes all of them together.

[259] The time is well known to have been fond of anagrams, and
"Charroselles" is such an obvious one for "Charles Sorel" that for once
there is no need to gainsay or neglect the interpreters. The thing, if
really meant for a real person, is a distinct lampoon, and may perhaps
explain the expulsion and persecution of Furetière, by his colleagues of
the Academy, almost as well as the ostensible cause thereof--his
compiling, in competition with the Academy itself, of a French
Dictionary, and a very good one, which was not printed till after his
death, and ultimately became the famous _Dictionnaire de Trévoux_. Not
that Sorel himself was of much importance, but that the thing shows the
irritable and irritating literary failing in the highest degree.
Furetière had friends of position, from Boileau, Racine, and Bossuet
downwards; and the king himself, though he did not interfere, seems to
have disapproved the Academy's action. But the _Roman_ was heavily
"slated" for many years, though it had a curious revival in the earlier
part of the next century; and for the rest of that century and the first
part of the nineteenth it was almost wholly forgotten.

[260] She falls in love with an ebony cabinet at a fair which they visit
together, and he gives it her. But, anticipating that she will use it
for her most precious things, he privately gets a second set of keys
from the seller, and in her absence achieves the theft of the promise.

[261] Any one who has, as the present writer has had, opportunities of
actually doing this, will find it a not uninteresting operation, and one
which "amply repays the expense" of time and trouble.

[262] This is a point of importance. Details of a life-like character
are most valuable in the novel; but if they are not "material" in the
transferred sense they are simply a bore. Scott undoubtedly learnt this
lesson from his prentice work in finishing Strutt's _Queenhoo Hall_,
where the story is simply a clumsy vehicle for conveying information
about sports and pastimes and costumes and such-like "antiqu_ar_ities."

[263] To us small, as are not those of its predecessors.

[264] Not a bad instance of the subacid touches which make the book
lively, and which probably supply some explanation of its author's
unpopularity. The "furred law-cats" of all kinds were always a
prevailing party in Old France, and required stout gloves to touch them

[265] This (often called by its Italian name of Quarant' ore) is a
"Devotion" during an exposure of the Sacrament for that time, in memory
of the interval between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Our
Lord. It is a public service, and, I suppose, collections were made _at
intervals_. No one, especially no girl, could stand the time straight
through. The "Paradise" was, of course, a "decoration."

[266] Javotte says "shoe the mule"--"ferrer la mule"--one of the phrases
like "faire danser l'anse du panier" and others, for taking
"self-presented testimonials," as Wilkie Collins's Captain Wragge more
elegantly and less cryptically calls it.

[267] Of course the regular "thanks" of a collector for pious purposes.

[268] He does later seek this, and only loses her (if she can be called
a loss) by his own folly. But his main objective is to _conter_ (or as
Furetière himself has it, _débiter_) _la fleurette_. It ought, perhaps,
to be mentioned, as a possible counterweight or drawback, that the
novelist breaks off to discuss the too great matter-of-factness of
bourgeois girls and women. But he was to have great followers in this

[269] He was born and baptised Savinien de Cyrano, and called himself de
Cyrano-Bergerac. The sound of the additional designation and some of his
legendary peculiarities probably led to his being taken for a Gascon;
but there is no evidence of meridional extraction or seat, and there
appears to be some of Breton or other Western connection.

[270] There is nothing in the least astonishing in his having been
this--if he was. The tendency of the Renaissance towards what is called
"free thought" is quite well known; and the existence, in the
seventeenth century, of a sort of school of boisterous and rather vulgar
infidelity is familiar--with the names of Bardouville, and Saint-Ibal or
Saint-Ibar, as members of it--to all readers of Saint-Évremond,
Tallemant, the _Ana_, etc.

[271] Perhaps the dullest part is where (save the mark!) the Demon of
Socrates is brought in to talk sometimes mere platitudes, sometimes tame
paradoxes which might as well be put in the mouth of any pupil-teacher,
or any popular journalist or dramatist, of the present day.--Of the
attempt to make Swift Cyrano's debtor one need say little: but among
predecessors, if not creditors, Ben Jonson, for his _News from the New
World discovered in the Moon_, may at least be mentioned.

[272] The key-mongers, of course, identify the three with the author,
her own husband, and La Rochefoucauld.

[273] He has ensconced himself in one of the smaller rooms of a garden
pavilion outside of which they are sitting, having left their suite at
some distance.

[274] _Maîtresse de sa conduite_, a curious but not difficult text as to
French ideas of marriage.

[275] I have been obliged to insert "trials" to bring out the meaning of
"_exposée au milieu_." "_Exposée_" has a fuller sense than the simple
English verb, and almost equals the legal "exposed for sale."

[276] Mme. de la Fayette was a very accomplished woman, and, possibly
from her familiarity with Queen Henrietta Maria, well acquainted with
English as well as French history. But our proper names, as usual,
vanquish her, and she makes Henry VIII. marry Jane _Seimer_ and
Catherine _Havart_.

[277] This does not apply to the _main_ love story but to the atmosphere
generally. The Vidame de Chartres, for instance, is represented as in
love with (1) Queen Catherine; (2) a Mme. de Themines, with whom he is
not quite satisfied; (3) a Mme. de Martignes, with whom he is; (4) a
lady unnamed, with whom he has _trompé_ them all. This may be true
enough to life; but it is difficult to make it into good matter of
fiction, especially with a crowd of other people doing much the same.

[278] It ought, perhaps, to be added that though manners, etc., altered
not a little between Henri II. and Louis XIV., the alteration was much
less than in most other histories at most other periods. It would be
easy to find two persons in Tallemant whose actual experience covered
the whole time.

[279] You _had_ to call it so when I first saw it; when I last did so it
was "Oiron." No doubt it is something else now.

[280] For that, see Chapter XII.

[281] See below on the version Introduction to the _Quatre Facardins_.

[282] Including miscellaneous imbecility and unsuitableness as well as
moral indecorum.

[283] Written for the _Fortnightly Review_ in 1882, but by a chapter of
accidents not printed till 1890. Reprinted next year in _Essays on
French Novelists_ (London, 1891).

[284] Miss Ruth Clark.

[285] The conclusion of _Vathek_ is of course undoubtedly more
"admirable" than anything of Hamilton's; but it is in a quite different

[286] The piece _Celle que j'adore_ is the best of the casual verses,
though there are other good songs, etc. Those which alternate with the
prose of some of the tales are too often (as in the case of the
_Cabinet_ insets, _v. sup._) rather prosaic. Of the prose miscellanies
the so-called _Relations_ "of different places in Europe," and "of a
voyage to Mauritania," contain some of the cream of Hamilton's almost
uniquely ironic narrative and commentary. When that great book, "The
Nature and History of Irony," which has to be written is written--the
last man died with the last century and the next hour seems far off--a
contrast of Hamilton and Kinglake will probably form part of it.

[287] As a member, though a cadet, of a cadet branch of one of the
noblest families of Great Britain and Ireland.

[288] As a soldier, a courtier of Charles II., and a Jacobite exile in

[289] I may perhaps be allowed to refer to another essay of mine on him
in _Miscellaneous Essays_ (London, 1892). It contains a full account,
and some translation, of the _Conversation du maréchal d'Hocquincourt
avec le Père Canaye_, which is at once the author's masterpiece of quiet
irony, his greatest pattern for the novelist, and his clearest evidence
of influence on Hamilton.

[290] There are some who hold that _the_ "English" differentia, whether
shown in letters or in life, whether south or north of Tweed, east or
west of St. George's Channel is always Anglo-Norman.

[291] The "Marian" and Roman comparison of Anne Boleyn's position to
Rosamond's is interesting.

[292] It is a sort of brief lift and drop of the curtain which still
concealed the true historical novel; it has even got a further literary
interest as giving the seamy side of the texture of Macaulay's admirable
_Jacobite's Epitaph_. The account would be rather out of place here, but
may be found translated at length (pp. 44-46) in the volume of _Essays
on French Novelists_ more than once referred to.

[293] The most unexpected bathos of these last three words is of course
intentional, and is Hamilton all over.

[294] The nymph is lying on a couch, and her companion (who has been
recalcitrant even to this politeness) is sitting beside her.

[295] This is as impudent as the other passages below are imbecile--of
course in each case (as before) with a calculated impudence and
imbecility. The miserable creature had himself obliged her to "come out
of the water" by declining to join her there on the plea that he was
never good for an assignation when he was wet!

[296] If they are true, and if Madame de Grammont was the culprit, it is
a sad confirmation of the old gibe, "Skittish in youth, prudish in age."
It can only be pleaded in extenuation that some youth which was not
skittish, such as Sarah Marlborough's, matured or turned into something
worse than "devotion." And Elizabeth Hamilton was so very pretty!

[297] "Completions" of both _Zénéyde_ and _Les Quatre Facardins_, by the
Duke de Lévis, are included in some editions, but they are, after the
fashions of such things, very little good.

[298] The name is not, like "Tarare," a direct burlesque; but it
suggests a burlesque intention when taken with "facond" and others
including, perhaps, even _faquin_.

[299] The Sultaness is almost _persona muta_--and indeed her tongue must
have required a rest.

[300] As Hamilton's satiric intention is as sleepless as poor Princess
Mousseline herself, it is not impossible that he remembered the incident
recorded by Pepys, or somebody, how King Charles the Second could not
get a sheet of letter paper to write on for all the Royal Households and
Stationery Offices and such-like things in the English world.

[301] _I.e._ colour-printed cotton from India--a novelty "fashionable"
and, therefore, satirisable in France.

[302] Or "distaffs and spindles"?

[303] She is indeed said to have "converted" both him and Grammont, the
latter perhaps the most remarkable achievement of its kind.

[304] Mr. Austin Dobson's charming translation of this was originally
intended to appear in the present writer's essay above mentioned.

[305] The chief region of bookselling. Cf. Corneille's early comedy, _La
Galerie du Palais_.

[306] For note on _Télémaque_ see end of chapter.

[307] Who is here herself an improved Doralise.

[308] To put it otherwise in technical French, there is a little
_grivoiserie_ in him, but absolutely no _polissonnerie_, still less any
_cochonnerie_. Or it may be put, best of all, in his own words when, in
a short French-Greek dialogue, called _La Volupté_, he makes Aspasia say
to Agathon, "Je vous crois fort voluptueux, sans vous croire débauché."



The words which closed the last chapter should make it unnecessary to
prefix much of the same kind to this, though at the end we may have
again to summarise rather more fully.

[Sidenote: The subjects of the chapter.]

As was there observed, our figures here are, with the possible exception
of Crébillon _Fils_, "larger" persons than those dealt with before them;
and they also mark a further transition towards the condition--the
"employment or vocation"--of the novelist proper, though the polygraphic
habit which has grown upon all modern literature, and which began in
France almost earlier than anywhere else, affects them. Scarron was even
more of a dramatist than of a novelist; and though this was also the
case with Lesage and Marivaux--while Prévost was, save for his
masterpiece, a polygraph of the polygraphs--their work in fiction was
far larger, both positively and comparatively, than his. _Gil Blas_ for
general popularity, and _Manon Lescaut_ for enthusiastic admiration of
the elect, rank almost, if not quite, among the greatest novels of the
world. Marivaux, for all his irritating habit of leaving things
unfinished, and the almost equally irritating affectation of phrase, in
which he anticipated some English novelists of the late nineteenth and
earliest twentieth century, is almost the first "psychologist" of prose
fiction; that is to say, where Madame de la Fayette had taken the
soul-analysis of hardly more than two persons (Nemours scarcely counts)
in a single situation, Marivaux gives us an almost complete dissection
of the temperament and character of a girl and of a man under many
ordinary life-circumstances for a considerable time.

[Sidenote: Lesage--his Spanish connections.]

But we must begin, not with him but with Lesage, not merely as the older
man by twenty years, but in virtue of that comparative "greatness" of
his greatest work which has been glanced at. There is perhaps a doubt
whether _Gil Blas_ is as much read now as it used to be; it is pretty
certain that _Le Diable Boiteux_ is not. The certainty is a pity; and if
the doubt be true, it is a greater pity still. For more than a century
_Gil Blas_ was almost as much[309] a classic, either in the original or
in translation, in England as it was in France; and the delight which it
gave to thousands of readers was scarcely more important to the history
of fiction generally than the influence it exerted upon generation after
generation of novelists, not merely in its own country, but on the far
greater artists in fiction of the eighteenth and early nineteenth
century in England from Fielding to Scott, if not to Dickens. Now, I
suppose, that we are told to start with the axiom that even Fielding's
structure of humanity is a simple toy-like thing, how much more is
Lesage's? But for those of us who have not bowed the knee to foolish
modern Baals, "They reconciled us; we embraced, and we have since been
mortal enemies"; and the trout; and the soul of the licentiate; and Dr.
Sangrado; and the Archbishop of Granada--to mention only the most famous
and hackneyed matters--are still things a little larger, a little more
complex, a little more eternal and true, than webs of uninteresting
analysis told in phrase to which Marivaudage itself is golden and
honeyed Atticism.

Yet once more we can banish, with a joyful and quiet mind, a crowd of
idle fancies and disputes, apparently but not really affecting our
subjects. The myth of a direct Spanish origin for _Gil Blas_ is almost
as easily dispersible by the clear sun of criticism as the exaggeration
of the debt of the smaller book to Guevara. On the other hand, the
_general_ filiation of Lesage on his Spanish predecessors is undeniable,
and not worth even shading off and toning down. A man is not ashamed of
having good fathers and grandfathers, whose property he now enjoys,
before him in life; and why should he be in literature?

[Sidenote: Peculiarity of his work generally.]

Lesage's work, in fiction and out of it, is considerable in bulk, but it
is affected (to what extent disadvantageously different judges may judge
differently) by some of the peculiarities of the time which have been
already mentioned, and by some which have not. It is partly original,
partly mere translation, and partly also a mixture of the strangest
kind. Further, its composition took place in a way difficult to adjust
to later ideas. Lesage was not, like Marivaux, a professed and shameless
"_un_finisher," but he took a great deal of time to finish his
work.[310] He was not an early-writing author; and when he did begin, he
showed something of that same strange need of a suggestion, a
"send-off," or whatever anybody likes to call it, which appears even in
his greatest work. He began with the _Letters_ of Aristaenetus, which,
though perhaps they have been abused more than they deserve by people
who have never read them, and would never have heard of them if it had
not been for Alain René, are certainly not the things that most
scholars, with the whole range of Greek literature before them to choose
from, would have selected. His second venture was almost worse than his
first; for there _are_ some prettinesses in Aristaenetus, and except for
the one famous passage enshrined by Pope in the _Essay on Criticism_,
there is, I believe,[311] nothing good in the continuation of _Don
Quixote_ by the so-called Avellaneda. But at any rate this job, which
is attributed to the suggestion of the Abbé de Lyonne, "put" Lesage on
Spanish, and never did fitter seed fall on more fertile soil.

[Sidenote: And its variety.]

Longinus would, I think, have liked _Gil Blas_, and indeed Lesage, very
much. You might kill ten asses, of the tallest Poitou standard in size
and the purest Zoilus or Momus sub-variety in breed, under you while
going through his "faults." He translates; he borrows; he "plagiarises"
about as much as is possible for anybody who is not a mere dullard to
do. Of set plot there is nothing in his work, whether you take the two
famous pieces, or the major adaptations like _Estévanille Gonzales_ and
_Guzman d'Alfarache_, or the lesser things, more Lucianic than anything
else, such as the _Cheminées de Madrid_[312] and the _Journée des
Parques_ and the _Valise Trouvée_. "He worked for his living" (as M.
Anatole France long ago began a paper about him which is not quite the
best of its very admirable author's work), and though the pot never
boiled quite so merrily as the cook deserved, the fact of the
pot-boiling makes itself constantly felt. _Les chaînes de l'esclavage_
must have cut deep into his soul, and the result of the cutting is
evident enough in his work. But the vital marks on that work are such as
many perfectly free men, who have wished to take literature as a
mistress only, have never been able to impress on theirs. He died full
of years, but scarcely of the honours due to him, failing in power, and
after a life[313] of very little luck, except as regards possession of a
wife who seems to have been beautiful in youth and amiable always, with
at least one son who observed the Fifth Commandment to the utmost. But
he lives among the immortals, and there are few names in our present
history which are of more importance to it than his.

Some of his best and least unequal work is indeed denied us. We have
nothing to do with his drama, though _Turcaret_ is something like a
masterpiece in comedy, and _Crispin Rival de son Maître_ a capital
farce. We cannot even discuss that remarkable _Théâtre de la Foire_,
which, though a mere collection of the lightest Harlequinades, has more
readable matter of literature in it than the whole English comic drama
since Sheridan, with the exception of the productions of the late Sir
William Gilbert.

Nor must much be said even of his minor novel work. The later
translations and adaptations from the Spanish need hardly any notice for
obvious reasons; whatever is good in them being either not his, or
better exemplified in the _Devil_ and in _Gil_. The extremely curious
and very Defoe-like book--almost if not quite his last--_Vie et
Aventures de M. de Beauchesne, Capitaine de Flibustiers_, is rather a
subject for a separate essay than for even a paragraph here. But Lesage,
from our point of view, is _Le Diable Boiteux_ and _Gil Blas_, and to
the _Diable Boiteux_ and _Gil Blas_ let us accordingly turn.

[Sidenote: _Le Diable Boiteux._]

The relations of the earlier and shorter book to the _Diablo Cojuelo_ of
Luis Velez de Guevara are among the most open secrets of literature. The
Frenchman, in a sort of prefatory address to his Spanish parent and
original, has put the matter fairly enough; anybody who will take the
trouble can "control" or check the statement, by comparing the two books
themselves. The idea--the rescuing of an obliging demon from the grasp
of an enchanter, and his unroofing the houses of Madrid to amuse his
liberator--is entirely Guevara's, and for a not inconsiderable space of
time the French follows the Spanish closely. But then it breaks off, and
the remainder of the book is, except for the carrying out of the general
idea, practically original. The unroofing and revealing of secrets, from
being merely casual and confined to a particular neighbourhood, becomes
systematised: a lunatic asylum and a prison are subjected to the
process; a set of dreamers are obliged to deliver up what Queen Mab is
doing with them; and, as an incident, the student Don Cleofas, who has
freed Asmodeus,[314] gains through the friendly spirit's means a rich
and pretty bride whom the demon--naturally immune from fire--has rescued
in Cleofas's likeness from a burning house.

[Sidenote: Lesage and Boileau.]

The thing therefore neither has, nor could possibly pretend to have, any
merit as a plotted and constructed whole in fiction. It is merely a
variety of the old "framed" tale-collection, except that the frame is of
the thinnest; and the individual stories, with a few exceptions, are
extremely short, in fact little more than anecdotes. The power and
attraction of the book lie simply in the crispness of the style, the
ease and flow of the narrative, and the unfailing satiric knowledge of
human nature which animates the whole. As it stands, it is double its
original length; for Lesage, finding it popular, and never being under
the trammels of a fixed design, very wisely, and for a wonder not
unsuccessfully, gave it a continuation. And, except the equally obvious
and arbitrary one of the recapture of the spirit by the magician, it has
and could have no end. The most famous of the anecdotes about it is that
Boileau--in 1707 a very old man--found his page reading it, and declared
that such a book and such a critic as he should never pass a night under
the same roof. Boileau, though he often said rude, unjust, and
uncritical things, did not often say merely silly ones; and it has been
questioned what was his reason for objecting to a book by no means
shocking to anybody but Mrs. Grundy Grundified to the very _n_th,
excellently written, and quite free from the bombast and the
whimsicality which he loathed. Jealousy for Molière,[315] to whom, in
virtue of _Turcaret_, Lesage had been set up as a sort of rival; mere
senile ill-temper, and other things have been suggested; but the matter
is of no real importance even if it is true. Boileau was one of the
least catholic and the most arbitrary critics who ever lived; he had
long made up and colophoned the catalogue of his approved library; he
did not see his son's coat on the new-comer, and so he cursed him. It is
not the only occasion on which we may bless what Boileau cursed.

[Sidenote: _Gil Blas_--its peculiar cosmopolitanism.]

_Gil Blas_, of course, is in every sense a "bigger" book of literature.
That it has, from the point of view of the straitest sect of the
Unitarians--and not of that sect only--much more unity than the
_Diable_, would require mere cheap paradox to contend. It has neither
the higher unity, say, of _Hamlet_, where every smallest scene and
almost personage is connected with the general theme; nor the lower
unity of such a thing as _Phèdre_, where everything is pared down, or,
as Landor put it in his own case, "boiled off" to a meagre residuum of
theme special. It has, at the very most, that species of unity which
Aristotle did not like even in epic, that of a succession of events
happening to an individual; and while most of these might be omitted, or
others substituted for them, without much or any loss, they exist
without prejudice to mere additions to themselves. As the excellent Mr.
Wall, sometime Professor of Logic at Oxford, and now with God, used to
say, "Gentlemen, I can conceive an elephant," so one may conceive a _Gil
Blas_, not merely in five instead of four, but in fifty or five hundred
volumes. But, on the other hand, it has that still different unity (of
which Aristotle does not seem to have thought highly, even if he thought
of it at all), that all these miscellaneous experiences do not merely
happen to a person with the same name--they happen to the same
person.[316] And they have themselves yet another unity, which I hardly
remember any critic duly insisting on and discussing, in the fact that
they all are possibly human accidents or incidents. Though he was a
native of one of the most idiosyncratic provinces of not the least
idiosyncratic country in Europe, Lesage is a citizen not of Brittany,
not of France, not of Europe even, but of the world itself, in far more
than the usual sense of cosmopolitanism. He has indeed coloured
background and costume, incident and even personage itself so deeply
with essence of "things of Spain," that, as has been said, the
Spaniards, the most jealous of all nationalities except the smaller
Celtic tribes, have claimed his work for themselves. Yet though Spain
has one of the noblest languages, one of the greatest literatures in
quality if not in bulk, one of the most striking histories, and one of
the most intensely national characters in the world, it is--perhaps for
the very reason last mentioned--as little cosmopolitan as any country,
and Lesage, as has been said, is inwardly and utterly cosmopolitan or

    At Paris, at Rome, at the Hague he's at home;

and though he seems to have known little of England, and, as most
Frenchmen of his time had reason to do, to have disliked us, he has
certainly never been anywhere more at home than in London. In fact--and
it bears out what has been said--there is perhaps no capital in Europe
where, in the two hundred years he has had to nationalise himself,
Lesage has been less at home than at Paris itself. The French are of
course proud of him in a way, but there is hardly one of their great
writers about whom they have been less enthusiastic. The technical, and
especially the neo-classically technical, shortcomings which have been
pointed out may have had something to do with this; but the
cosmopolitanism has perhaps more.

[Sidenote: And its adoption of the _homme sensuel moyen_ fashion.]

For us Lesage occupies a position of immense importance in the history
of the French novel; but if we were writing a history of the novel at
large it would scarcely be lessened, and might even be relatively
larger. He had come to it perhaps by rather strange ways; but it is no
novelty to find that conjunction of road and goal. The Spanish
picaresque romance was not in itself a very great literary kind; but it
had in it a great faculty of _emancipation_. Outside the drama[317] it
was about the first division of literature to proclaim boldly the
refusal to consider anything human as alien from human literary
interest. But, as nearly always happens, it had exaggerated its
protests, and become sordid, merely in revolt from the high-flown
non-sordidness of previous romance. Lesage took the principle and
rejected the application. He dared, practically for the first time, to
take the average man of unheroic stamp, the _homme sensuel moyen_ of a
later French phrase, for his subject. _Gil Blas_ is not a virtuous
person,[318] but he is not very often an actual scoundrel.[319] (Is
there any of us who has never been a scoundrel at all at all?) He is
clever after his fashion, but he is not a genius; he is a little bit of
a coward, but can face it out fairly at a pinch; he has some luck and
ill-luck; but he does not come in for _montes et maria_, either of gold
or of misery. I have no doubt that the comparison of _Gil Blas_ and _Don
Quixote_ has often been made, and it would be rather an _excursus_ here.
But inferior as Lesage's work is in not a few ways, it has, like other
non-quintessential things, much more virtue as model and pattern.
Imitations of _Don Quixote_ (except Graves's capital book, where the
following is of the freest character) have usually been failures. It is
hardly an extravagance to say that every novel of miscellaneous
adventure since its date owes something, directly or indirectly, to _Gil

One of the "faults"--it must be understood that between "faults" with
inverted commas and faults without them there is a wide and sometimes an
unbridgeable gulf--lies in the fact that the book is after all not much
more of a whole, in any sense but that noted above, than _Le Diable
Boiteux_ itself. The innumerable incidents are to a very large extent
episodes merely, and episodes in the loose, not the precise, sense of
the term. That is to say, they are not merely detachable; they might be
reattached to almost any number of other stories. But the redeeming
feature--which is very much more than a _mere_ redeeming feature--is the
personality of the hero which has been already referred to. Lesage's
scrip and staff, to apply the old images exactly enough, are his
inexhaustible fertility in well-told stories and his faculty of
delineating a possible and interesting human character.

[Sidenote: Its inequality--in the Second and Fourth Books especially.]

The characteristics of the successive parts of _Gil Blas_ are distinct
and interesting, the distinctions themselves being also rather curious.
The anecdote cited above as to the Fourth and last volume is certainly
confirmed by, and does not seem, as so many anecdotes of the kind do, to
have been even possibly drawn from, the volume itself. Although the old
power is by no means gone, the marks of its failing are pretty obvious.
A glance has been given already to the unnecessary and disgusting
repetition of the Pandar business--made, as it is, more disgusting by
the distinctly tragic touch infused into it. The actual _finale_ is, on
the other hand, a good comedy ending of a commonplace kind, except that
a comic author, such as Lesage once had been on and off the stage, would
certainly have made _Gil Blas_ suffer in his second marriage for his
misdeeds of various kinds earlier, instead of leaving him in the not too
clean cotton or clover of an old rip with a good young wife. If he had
wanted a happy ending of a still conventional but satisfactory kind, he
should have married Gil to Laure or Estelle (they were, in modern slang,
sufficiently "shop-worn goods" not to be ill-mated, and Laure is perhaps
the most attractive character in the whole book); have legitimated
Lucrèce, as by some odd crotchet he definitely refuses to do;[320] have
dropped the later Leporello business, in which his old love and her
daughter are concerned, altogether, and have left us in a mild sunset of
"reconciliation." If anybody scorns this suggestion as evidence of a
futile liking for "rose-pink," let him remember that Gil Blas,
_ci-devant picaro_ and other ugly things, is actually left lapped in an
Elysium not less improbable and much more undeserved than this. But it
is disagreeable to dwell on the shortcomings of age, and it has only
been done to show that this is a criticism and not a mere panegyric.

Oddly enough, the Second volume is also open to much exception of
something, though not quite, the same kind; it seems as if Lesage, after
making strong running, had a habit of nursing himself and even
going to sleep for a while. The more than questionable habit of
_histoire_-insertions revives; that of the rascal-hermit _picaro_, "Don
Raphael," is, as the author admits, rather long, and, as he might have
admitted, and as any one else may be allowed to say, very tiresome. Gil
Blas himself goes through a long period of occultation, and the whole
rather drags.

The First and the Third are the pillars of the house; and the Third,
though (with the exception of the episode of the Archbishop, and that
eternal sentence governing the relations of author and critic that "the
homily which has the misfortune not to be approved" by the one is the
very best ever produced by the other) not so well known, is perhaps even
better than anything in the First. But the later part has, of course,
not quite so much freshness; and nobody need want anything better than
the successive scenes, slightly glanced at already, in which Gil Blas is
taught, by no means finally,[321] the ways of the world; the pure
adventure interest of the robbers' cave, so admirably managed and so
little over-dwelt on; the experiences of travel and of the capital; the
vivid pictures of _petit maître_ and actress life; the double
deception--thoroughly Spanish this, but most freshly and universally
handled--by Laure and Gil; many other well-known things; all deserve the
knowledge and the admiration that they have won. But the Third, in which
the hero is hardly ever off the scene from first to last, is my own
favourite. He shows himself--not at his best, but humanly enough--in the
affair with the ill-fated Lorença, on which the Leyva family might have
looked less excusingly if the culprit had been anybody but Gil. The
Granada scenes, however, and not by any means merely those with the
Archbishop, are of the very first class; and the reappearance of Laure,
with the admirable coolness by which she hoodwinks her "keeper"
Marialva, yields to nothing in the book. For fifty pages it is all
novel-gold; and though Gil Blas, in decamping from the place, and
leaving Laure to bear the brunt of a possible discovery, commits one of
his least heroic deeds, it is so characteristic that one forgives, not
indeed him, but his creator. The whole of the Lerma part is excellent
and not in the least improbably impossible; there is infinitely more
"human natur'" in it, as Marryat's waterman would have said, than in the
_réchauffé_ of the situation with Olivares.

[Sidenote: Lesage's quality--not requiring many words, but

The effect indeed which is produced, in re-reading, by _Le Diable
Boiteux_ and _Gil Blas_, but especially by the latter, is of that
especial kind which is a sort of "_a posteriori_ intuition," if such a
phrase may be permitted, of "classical" quality.[322] This sensation,
which appears, unfortunately, to be unknown to a great many people, is
sometimes set down by the more critical or, let us say, the more
censorious of them, to a sort of childish prepossession--akin to that
which makes a not ill-conditioned child fail to discover any
uncomeliness in his mother's or a favourite nurse's face. There is no
retort to such a proposition as this so proper as the argument not _ad
hominem_, but _ab_ or _ex homine_. The present writer did not read the
_Devil_ till he had reached quite critical years; and though he read
_Gil Blas_ much earlier, he was not (for what reason he cannot say)
particularly fond of it until the same period was reached. And yet its
attractions cannot possibly be said to be of any recondite or artificial
kind, and its defects are likely to be more, not less, recognised as the
critical faculty acquires strength and practice. Nevertheless, recent
reperusal has made him more conscious than ever of the existence of this
quality of a classic in both, but especially in the larger and more
famous book. And this is a mere pailful added to an ocean of previous
and more important testimony. _Gil Blas_ has certainly "classed" itself
in the most various instances, of essentially critical, not specially
critical but generally acute and appreciative, and more or less
unsophisticated and ordinary judgments, as a thing that is past all
question, equally enjoyable for its incidents, its character-sketches,
and its phrasing--though the first are (for time and country) in no
sense out of the way, the second scarcely go beyond the individualised
type, and the third is neither gorgeous nor "alambicated," as the French
say, nor in any way peculiar, except for its saturation with a sharp,
shrewd, salt wit which may be described as the spirit of the popular
proverb, somehow bodied and clothed with more purely literary form. It
is true that, in the last few clauses, plenty of ground has been
indicated for ascription of classicality in the best sense; and perhaps
Lesage himself has summed the whole thing up when, in the "Declaration"
of the author at the beginning of _Gil Blas_, he claims "to have set
before himself only the representation of human life as it is." He has
said it; and in saying and doing it he has said and done everything for
his merits as a novelist and his place in the history of the novel.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Marivaux--_Les Effets de la Sympathie (?)_]

The Archbishop of Sens, who had the duty of "answering" Marivaux's
"discourse of reception" into the Academy in the usual _aigre-doux_
manner, informed him, with Academic frankness and Archiepiscopal
propriety, that "in the small part of your work which I have run
through, I soon recognised that the reading of these agreeable romances
did not suit the austere dignity with which I am invested, or the purity
of the ideas which religion prescribes me." This was all in the game,
both for an Academician and for an Archbishop, and it probably did not
discompose the novelist much. But if his Grace had read _Les Effets de
la Sympathie_, and had chosen to criticise it, he might have made its
author (always supposing that Marivaux _was_ its author, which does not
seem to be at all certain) much more uncomfortable. Although there is
plenty of incident, it is but a dull book, and it contains not a trace
of "Marivaudage" in style. A hero's father, who dies of poison in the
first few pages, and is shown to have been brought round by an obliging
gaoler in the last few; a hero himself, who thinks he has fallen in love
with a beautiful and rich widow, playing good Samaritaness to him after
he has fallen in among thieves, but a page or two later really does fall
in love with a fair unknown looking languishingly out of a window; a
_corsaire_,[323] with the appropriate name of Turcamène, who is
robustious almost from the very beginning, and receives at the end a
fatal stab with his own poniard from the superfluous widow, herself also
fatally wounded at the same moment by the same weapon (an economy of
time, incident, and munitions uncommon off the stage); an intermediate
personage who, straying--without any earthly business there--into one of
those park "pavilions" which play so large a part in these romances,
finds a lady asleep on the sofa, with her hand invitingly dropped,
promptly kneels down, and kisses it: these and many other things fill up
a Spanish kind of story, not uningeniously though rather improbably
engineered, but dependent for its interest almost wholly on incident;
for though it is not devoid of conversation, this conversation is
without spirit or sparkle. It is, in fact, a "circulating library" novel
before--at any rate at an early period of--circulating libraries: not
unworkmanlike, probably not very unsatisfactory to its actual readers,
and something of a document as to the kind of satisfaction they
demanded; but not intrinsically important.

One has not seen much, in English,[324] about Marivaux, despite the
existence, in French, of one of the best[325] of those monographs which
assist the foreign critic so much, and sometimes perhaps help to beget
his own lucubrations. Yet he is one of the most interesting writers of
France, one of the most curious, and, one may almost say, one of the
most puzzling. This latter quality he owes, in part at least, to a
"skiey influence" of the time, which he shares with Lesage and Prévost,
and indeed to some extent with most French writers of the eighteenth
century--the influence of the polygraphic habit.

[Sidenote: His work in general.]

He was a dramatist, and a voluminous one, long before he was a novelist:
and some of his thirty or forty plays, especially _Les Fausses
Confidences_ and _Le Jeu de l'Amour et du Hasard_, still rank among at
least the second-class classics of the French comic stage. He tried, for
a time, one of the worst kinds of merely fashionable literature, the
travesty-burlesque.[326] He was a journalist, following Addison openly
in the title, and to some extent in the manner, of _Le Spectateur_,
which he afterwards followed by _Le Cabinet d'un Philosophe_, showing,
however, here, as he was more specially tempted to do, his curious, and
it would seem unconquerable, habit of leaving things unfinished, which
only does not appear in his plays, for the simple and obvious reason
that managers will not put an unfinished play on the stage, and that, if
they did, the afterpiece would be premature and of a very lively
character. But the completeness of his very plays is incomplete; they
"run huddling" to their conclusion, and are rather bundles of good or
not so good acts and scenes than entire dramas. We are, however, only
concerned with the stories, of which there are three: the early,
complete, but doubtful _Effets de la Sympathie_, already discussed; the
central in every way, but endlessly dawdled over, _Marianne_, which
never got finished at all (though Mme. Riccoboni continued it in
Marivaux's own lifetime, and with his placid approval, and somebody
afterwards botched a clumsy _Fin_); and _Le Paysan Parvenu_, the latter
part of which is not likely to be genuine, and, even if so, is not a
real conclusion. We may, however, with some, advantage, take it before
_Marianne_, if only because it is not the book generally connected with
its author's name.

[Sidenote: _Le Paysan Parvenu._]

Notwithstanding this comparative oblivion, _Le Paysan Parvenu_ is an
almost astonishingly clever and original book, at least as far as the
five of its eight parts, which are certainly Marivaux's, go. I have read
the three last twice critically, at a long interval of time, and I feel
sure that the positive internal evidence confirms, against their
authenticity, the negative want of external for it. In any case they add
nothing--they do not, as has been said, even really "conclude"--and we
may, therefore, without any more apology, confine ourselves to the part
which is certain. Some readers may possibly know that when that
strangest of strange persons, Restif de la Bretonne (see the last
chapter of this book), took up the title with the slight change or gloss
of _Parvenu_ to _Perverti_, he was at least partly actuated by his own
very peculiar, but distinctly existing, variety of moral indignation.
And though Pierre Carlet (which was Marivaux's real name) and "Monsieur
Nicolas" (which was as near a real name as any that Restif had) were,
the one a quite respectable person on ordinary standards, and the other
an infinitely disreputable creature, still the later novelist was
perhaps ethically justified. Marivaux's successful rustic does not, so
far as we are told, actually do anything that contravenes popular
morality, though he is more than once on the point of doing so. He is
not a bad-blooded person either; and he has nothing of the wild-beast
element in the French peasantry which history shows us from the
Jacquerie to the Revolution, and which some folk try to excuse as the
result of aristocratic tyranny. But he is an elaborate and exceedingly
able portrait of another side of the peasant, and, if we may trust
literature, even with some administration of salt, of the French peasant
more particularly. He is what we may perhaps be allowed to call
unconsciously determined to get on, though he does not go quite to the
length of the _quocunque modo_, and has, as far as men are concerned,
some scruples. But in relation to the other sex he has few if any,
though he is never brutal. He is, as we may say, first "perverted,"
though not as yet _parvenu_,[327] in the house of a Parisian, himself a
_nouveau riche_ and _novus homo_, on whose property in Champagne his own
father is a wine-farmer. He is early selected for the beginnings of
Lady-Booby-like attentions by "Madame," while he, as far as he is
capable of the proceeding, falls in love with one of Madame's maids,
Geneviève. It does not appear that, if the lady's part of the matter had
gone further, Jacob (that is his name) would have been at all like
Joseph. But when he finds that the maid is also the object of
"Monsieur's" attentions, and when he is asked to take the profits of
this affair (the attitude[328] of the girl herself is very skilfully
delineated) and marry her, his own _point d'honneur_ is reached.[329]
Everything is, however, cut short by the sudden death, in hopelessly
embarrassed circumstances, of Monsieur, and the consequent cessation of
Madame's attraction for a young man who wishes to better himself. He
leaves both her and Geneviève with perfect nonchalance; though he has
good reason for believing that the girl really loves him, however she
may have made a peculiar sort of hay when the sun shone, and that both
she and his lady are penniless, or almost so.

He has, however, the luck which makes the _parvenu_, if in this instance
he can hardly be said to deserve it. On the Pont Neuf he sees an elderly
lady, apparently about to swoon. He supports her home, and finds that
she is the younger and more attractive of two old-maid and _dévote_
sisters. The irresistibleness to this class of the feminine sex (and
indeed by no means to this class only) of a strapping and handsome
footman is a commonplace of satire with eighteenth-century writers, both
French and English. It is exercised possibly on both sisters, though the
elder is a shrew; certainly on the younger, and also on their elderly
_bonne_, Catherine. But it necessarily leads to trouble. The younger,
Mlle. Habert (the curious hiding of Christian names reappears here),
wants to retain Jacob in the joint service, and Catherine at least makes
no objection, for obvious reasons. But the elder sister recalcitrates
violently, summoning to her aid her "director," and the younger, who is
financially independent,[330] determines to leave the house. She does so
(_not_ taking Catherine with her, though the _bonne_ would willingly
have shared Jacob's society), and having secured lodgings, regularly
proposes to her (the word may be used almost accurately) "swain." Jacob
has no scruples of delicacy here, though the nymph is thirty years older
than himself, and though he has, if no dislike, no particular affection
for her. But it is an obvious step upwards, and he makes no
difficulties. The elder sister, however, makes strong efforts to forbid
the banns, and her interest prevails on a "President" (the half-regular
power of the French _noblesse de robe_, though perhaps less violently
exercised, must have been almost as galling as the irresponsibleness of
men of birth and "sword") to interpose and actually stop the arranged
ceremony. But Jacob appears in person, and states his case convincingly;
the obstacle is removed, and the pair are made happy at an extraordinary
hour (two or three in the morning), which seems to have been then
fashionable for marriages. The conventional phrase is fairly justified;
for the bride is completely satisfied, and Jacob is not displeased.

His marriage, however, interferes not in the very least with his
intention to "get on" by dint of his handsome face and brawny figure. On
the very day of his wedding he goes to visit a lady of position, and
also of devoutness, who is a great friend of the President and his wife,
has been present at the irregular enquiry, and has done something for
him. This quickly results in a regular assignation, which, however, is
comically broken off. Moreover this lady introduces him to another of
the same temperament--which indeed seems to have been common with French
ladies (the Bellaston type being not the exception, but the rule). _She_
is to introduce him to her brother-in-law, an influential financier, and
she quickly makes plain the kind of gratitude she expects. This also is,
as far as we are told, rather comically interfered with--Marivaux's
dramatic practice made him good at these disappointments. She does give
the introduction, and her brother-in-law, though a curmudgeon, is at
first disposed to honour her draft. But here an unexpected change is
made by the presentation of Jacob as a man of noble sentiment. The place
he is to have is one taken from an invalid holder of it, whose wife
comes to beg mercy: whereat Jacob, magnanimously and to the financier's
great wrath, declines to profit by another's misfortune. Whether the
fact that the lady is very pretty has anything to do with the matter
need not be discussed. His--let us call it at least--good nature,
however, indirectly makes his fortune. Going to visit the husband and
wife whom he has obliged, he sees a young man attacked by three enemies
and ill-bested. Jacob (who is no coward, and, thanks to his wife
insisting on his being a gentleman and "M. de la Vallée," has a sword)
draws and uses it on the weaker side, with no skill whatever, but in the
downright, swash-and-stab, short- and tall-sailor fashion, which (in
novels at least) is almost always effective. The assailants decamp, and
the wounded but rescued person, who is of very high rank, conceives a
strong friendship for his rescuer, and, as was said above, makes his
fortune. The last and doubtful three-eighths of the book kill off poor
Mlle. Habert (who, although Jacob would never have been unkind to her,
was already beginning to be very jealous and by no means happy), and
marry him again to a younger lady of rank, beauty, fashion, and fortune,
in the imparted possession of all of which we leave him. But, except to
the insatiables of "what happened next," these parts are as questionably
important as they are decidedly doubtful.

The really important points of the book are, in the first place, the
ease and narrative skill with which the story is told in the difficult
form of autobiography, and, secondly, the vivacity of the characters.
Jacob himself is, as will have been seen already, a piebald sort of
personage, entirely devoid of scruple in some ways, but not ill-natured,
and with his own points of honour. He is perfectly natural, and so are
all the others (not half of whom have been mentioned) as far as they go.
The cross sister and the "kind" one; the false prude and false _devoté_
Mme. de Ferval, and the jolly, reckless, rather coarse Mme. de Fécour;
the tyrannical, corrupt, and licentious financier, with others more
slightly drawn, are seldom, if ever, out of drawing. The contemporary
wash of colour passes, as it should, into something "fast"; you are in
the Paris of the Regency, but you are at the same time in general human
time and place, if not in eternity and infinity.

[Sidenote: _Marianne_--outline of the story.]

The general selection, however, of _Marianne_ as Marivaux's masterpiece
is undoubtedly right, though in more ways than one it has less engaging
power than the _Paysan_, and forebodes to some extent, if it does not
actually display, the boring qualities which novels of combined analysis
and jargon have developed since. The opening is odd: the author having
apparently transplanted to the beginning of a novel the promiscuous
slaughter with which we are familiar at the end of a play. Marianne (let
us hail the appearance of a Christian-named heroine at last), a small
child of the tenderest years, is, with the exception of an ecclesiastic,
who takes to his heels and gets off, the sole survivor of a coachful of
travellers who are butchered by a gang of footpads,[331] because two of
the passengers have rashly endeavoured to defend themselves. Nothing can
be found out about the child--an initial improbability, for the party
has consisted of father, mother, and servants, as well as Marianne. But
the good _curé_ of the place and his sister take charge of her, and
bring her up carefully (they are themselves "gentle-people," as the good
old phrase, now doubtless difficult of application, went) till she is
fifteen, is very pretty, and evidently must be disposed of in some way,
for her guardians are poor and have no influential relations. The
sister, however, takes her to Paris--whither she herself goes to secure,
if possible, the succession of a relative--to try to obtain some
situation. But the inheritance proves illusory; the sister falls ill at
Paris and dies there; while the brother is disabled, and his living has
to be, if not transferred to, provided with, a substitute. This second
massacre (for the brother dies soon) provides Marivaux with the
situation he requires--that of a pretty girl, alone in the capital, and
absolutely unfriended. Fortunately a benevolent Director knows a pious
gentleman, M. de Climal, who is fond of doing good, and also, as it
appears shortly by the story, of pretty girls. Marianne, with the
earliest touch of distinct "snobbishness"--let it be proudly pointed out
that the example is not English,[332]--declines to go into service, but
does not so much mind being a shop-girl, and M. de Climal establishes
her with his _lingère_, a certain Mme. Dutour.

This good lady is no procuress, but her morals are of a somewhat
accommodating kind, and she sets to work, experiencing very little
difficulty in the process, to remove Marianne's scruples about accepting
presents from M. de Climal--pointing out, very logically, that there is
no obligation to (as Chesterfield put it not long after) _payer de sa
personne_; though she is naturally somewhat disgusted when the gifts
take the form of handsome _lingerie_ bought at another shop. When this,
and a dress to match, are made up, Marianne as naturally goes to church
to show them: and indulges in very shrewd if not particularly amiable
remarks on her "even-Christians"--a delightful English archaism, which
surely needs no apology for its revival. Coming out, she slips and
sprains her ankle, whereupon, still naturally, appears the inevitable
young man, a M. de Valville, who, after endless amicable wrangling,
procures her a coach, but not without an awkward meeting. For M. de
Valville turns out to be the nephew of M. de Climal; and the uncle, with
a lady, comes upon the nephew and Marianne; while, a little later, each
finds the other in turn at the girl's feet. Result: of course more than
suspicion on the younger man's part, and a mixture of wrath and desire
to hurry matters on the elder's. He offers Marianne a regular (or
irregular) "establishment" at a dependent's of his own, with a small
income settled upon her, etc. She refuses indignantly, the indignation
being rather suspiciously divided between her two lovers; is "planted
there" by the old sinner Climal, and of course requested to leave by
Mme. Dutour; returns all the presents, much to her landlady's disgust,
and once more seeks, though in a different mood, the shelter of the
Church. Her old helper the priest for some time absolutely declines to
admit the notion of Climal's rascality; but fortunately a charitable
lady is more favourable, and Marianne gets taken in as a _pensionnaire_
at a convent. Climal, whose sister and Valville's mother the lady turns
out to be, falls ill, repents, confesses, and leaves Marianne a
comfortable annuity. Union with Valville is not opposed by the mother;
but other members of the family are less obliging, and Valville himself
wanders after an English girl of a Jacobite exiled family, Miss Warton
(Varthon). The story then waters itself out, before suddenly collapsing,
with a huge and uninteresting _Histoire d'une Religieuse_. Whereat some
folk may grumble; but others, more philosophically, may be satisfied, in
no uncomplimentary sense, without hearing what finally made Marianne
Countess of Three Stars, or indeed knowing any more of her actual

For in fact the entire interest of _Marianne_ is concentrated in and on
Marianne herself, and the fact that this is so at once makes
continuation superfluous, and gives the novel its place in the history
of fiction. We have quite enough, as it is, to show us--as the Princess
Augusta said to Fanny Burney of the ill-starred last of French "Mesdames
Royales"--"what sort of a girl she is." And her biographer has made her
a very interesting sort of girl, and himself in making her so, a very
interesting, and almost entirely novel, sort of novelist. To say that
she is a wholly attractive character would be entirely false, except
from the point of view of the pure student of art. She is technically
virtuous, which is, of course, greatly to her credit.[333] She is not
bad-blooded, but if there were such a word as "good-blooded" it could
hardly be applied to her. With all her preserving borax- or
formalin-like touch of "good form," she is something of a minx. She is
vain, selfish--in fact wrapped up in self--without any sense of other
than technical honour. But she is very pretty (which covers a multitude
of sins), and she is really clever.

[Sidenote: Importance of Marianne herself.]

Yet the question at issue is not whether one can approve of Marianne,
nor whether one can like her, nor even whether, approving and liking her
or not, one could fall in love with her "for her comely face and for her
fair bodie," as King Honour did in the ballad, and as _homo rationalis_
usually, though not invariably, does fall in love. The question is
whether Marivaux has, in her, created a live girl, and to what extent he
has mastered the details of his creation. The only critical answer, I
think, must be that he has created such a girl, and that he has not left
her a mere outline or type, but has furnished the house as well as built
it. She is, in the particular meaning on which Mr. Hardy's defenders
insist, as "pure" a "woman" as Tess herself. And if there is a good deal
missing from her which fortunately some women have, there is nothing in
her which some women have not, and not so very much which the majority
of women have not, in this or that degree. It is difficult not to smile
when one compares her quintessence with the complicated and elusive
caricatures of womanhood which some modern novel-writers--noisily hailed
as _gyno_sophists--have put together, and been complimented on putting
together. What is more, she is perhaps the first nearly complete
character of the kind that had been presented in novel at her date. This
is a great thing to say for Marivaux, and it can be said without the
slightest fear of inability to support the saying.[334]

[Sidenote: Marivaux and Richardson--"Marivaudage."]

Although, therefore, we may not care much to enter into calculations as
to the details of the indebtedness of Richardson to Marivaux, some
approximations of the two, for critical purposes, may be useful. One may
even see, without too much folly of the Thaumast kind, an explanation,
beyond that of mere idleness, in the Frenchman's inveterate habit of not
completing. He did not want you to read him "for the story"; and
therefore he cared little for the story itself, and nothing at all for
the technical finishing of it. The stories of both his characteristic
novels are, as has been fairly shown, of the very thinnest. What he did
want to do was to analyse and "display," in a half-technical sense of
that word, his characters; and he did this as no man had done before
him, and as few have done since, though many, quite ignorant of their
indebtedness, have taken the method from him indirectly. In the second
place, his combination of method and phrase is for infinite thoughts.
This combination is not necessary; there is, to take up the comparative
line, nothing of it in Richardson, nothing in Fielding, nothing in
Thackeray. A few French eighteenth-century writers have it in direct
imitation of Marivaux himself; but it dies out in France, and in the
greatest novel-period there is nothing of it. It revives in the later
nineteenth century, especially with us, and, curiously enough, if we
look back to the beginnings of Romance in Greek, there is a good deal
there, the crown and flower being, as has been before remarked, in
Eustathius Macrembolita, but something being noticeable in earlier folk,
especially Achilles Tatius, and the trick having evidently come from
those rhetoricians[335] of whose class the romancers were a kind of
offshoot. It is, however, only fair to say that, if Marivaux thought in
intricate and sometimes startling ways, his actual expression is never
obscure. It is a maze, but a maze with an unbroken clue of speech
guiding you through it.[336]

[Sidenote: Examples:--Marianne on the _physique_ and _moral_ of
Prioresses and Nuns.]

A few examples of method and style may now be given. Here is Marianne's
criticism--rather uncannily shrewd and very characteristic both of her
subject and of herself--of that peculiar placid plumpness which has been
observed by the profane in devout persons, especially in the Roman
Church and in certain dissenting sects (Anglicanism does not seem to be
so favourable to it), and in "persons of religion" (in the technical
sense) most of all.

     This Prioress was a short little person, round and white,
     with a double chin, and a complexion at once fresh and
     placid. You never see faces like that in worldly persons: it
     is a kind of _embonpoint_ quite different from others--one
     which has been formed more quietly and more
     methodically--that is to say, something into which there
     enters more art, more fashioning, nay, more self-love, than
     into that of such as we.[337]

     As a rule, it is either temperament, or feeding, or laziness
     and luxury, which give _us_ such of it as we have. But in
     order to acquire the kind of which I am speaking, it is
     necessary to have given oneself up with a saintlike
     earnestness to the task. It can only be the result of
     delicate, loving, and devout attention to the comfort and
     well-being of the body. It shows not only that life--and a
     healthy life--is an object of desire, but that it is wanted
     soft, undisturbed, and dainty; and that, while enjoying the
     pleasures of good health, the person enjoying it bestows on
     herself all the pettings and the privileges of a perpetual

     Also this religious plumpness is different in outward form
     from ours, which is profane of aspect; it does not so much
     make a face fat, as it makes it grave and decent; and so it
     gives the countenance an air, not so much joyous, as
     tranquil and contented.

     Further, when you look at these good ladies, you find in
     them an affable exterior; but perhaps, for all that, an
     interior indifference. Their faces, and not their souls,
     give you sympathy and tenderness; they are comely images,
     which seem to possess sensibility, and which yet have merely
     a surface of kindness and sentiment.[338]

Acute as this is, it may be said to be somewhat displaced--though it
must be remembered that it is the Marianne of fifty, "Mme. la Comtesse
de * * *," who is supposed to be writing, not the Marianne of fifteen.
No such objection can be taken to what follows.

[_She is, after the breach with Climal, and after Valville has earlier
discovered his wicked uncle on his knees before her, packing up
the--well! not wages of iniquity, but baits for it--to send back to the
giver. A little "cutting" may be made._]

[Sidenote: She returns the gift-clothes.]

     Thereupon I opened my trunk to take out first the newly
     bought linen. "Yes, M. de Valville, yes!" said I, pulling it
     out, "you shall learn to know me and to think of me as you
     ought." This thought spurred me on, so that, without my
     exactly thinking of it, it was rather to him than to his
     uncle that I was returning the whole, all the more so that
     the return of linen, dress, and money, with a note I should
     write, could not fail to disabuse Valville, and make him
     regret the loss of me. He had seemed to me to possess a
     generous soul; and I applauded myself beforehand on the
     sorrow which he would feel at having treated so
     outrageously a girl so worthy of respectful treatment as I
     was--for I saw in myself, confessedly, I don't know how many
     titles to respect.

     In the first place I put my bad luck, which was unique; to
     add to this bad luck I had virtue, and they went so well
     together! Then I was young, and on the top of it all I was
     pretty, and what more do you want? If I had arranged matters
     designedly to render myself an object of sympathy, to make a
     generous lover sigh at having maltreated me, I could not
     have succeeded better; and, provided I hurt Valville's
     feelings, I was satisfied. My little plan was never to see
     him again in my lifetime; and this seemed to me a very fair
     and proud one; for I loved him, and I was even very glad to
     have loved him, because he had perceived my love, and,
     seeing me break with him, notwithstanding, would see also
     what a heart he had had to do with.

The little person goes on very delectably describing the packing, and
how she grudged getting rid of the pretty things, and at last sighed and
wept--whether for herself, or Valville, or the beautiful gown, she
didn't know. But, alas! there is no more room, except to salute her as
the agreeable ancestress of all the beloved coquettes and piquant minxes
in prose fiction since. Could anything handsomer be said of her creator?

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Prévost.]

[Sidenote: His minor novels--the opinions on them of Sainte-Beuve.]

[Sidenote: And of Planche.]

It is, though an absolute and stereotyped commonplace, an almost equally
absolute necessity, to begin any notice of the Abbé Prévost by remarking
that nothing of his voluminous work is now, or has been for a long time,
read, except _Manon Lescaut_. It may be added, though one is here
repeating predecessors to not quite the same extent, that nothing else
of his, in fiction at least, is worth reading. The faithful few who do
not dislike old criticism may indeed turn over his _Le Pour et [le]
Contre_ not without reward. But his historical and other
compilations[339]--his total production in volumes is said to run over
the hundred, and the standard edition of his _Oeuvres Choisies_
extends to thirty-nine not small ones--are admittedly worthless. As to
his minor novels--if one may use that term, albeit they are as major in
bulk as they are minor in merit--opinions of importance, and presumably
founded on actual knowledge, have differed somewhat strangely.
Sainte-Beuve made something of a fight for them, but it was the
Sainte-Beuve of almost the earliest years (1831), when, according to a
weakness of beginners in criticism, he was a little inclined "to be
different," for the sake of difference. Against _Cléveland_ even he
lifts up his heel, though in a rather unfortunate manner, declaring the
reading of the greater part to be "aussi fade que celle d'_Amadis_." Now
to some of us the reading of _Amadis_ is not "fade" at all. But he finds
some philosophical and psychological passages of merit. Over the
_Mémoires d'un Homme de Qualité_--that huge and unwieldy galleon to
which the frail shallop of _Manon_ was originally attached, and which
has long been stranded on the reefs of oblivion, while its fly-boat
sails for ever more--he is quite enthusiastic, finds it, though with a
certain relativity, "natural," "frank," and "well-preserved," gives it a
long analysis, actually discovers in it "an inexpressible savour"
surpassing modern "local colour," and thinks the handling of it
comparable in some respects to that of _The Vicar of Wakefield_! The
_Doyen de Killérine_--the third of Prévost's long books--is "infinitely
agreeable," "si l'on y met un peu de complaisance." (The Sainte-Beuve of
later years would have noticed that an infinity which has to be made
infinite by a little complaisance is curiously finite). The later and
shorter _Histoire d'une Grecque moderne_ is a _joli roman_, and
_gracieux_, though it is not so charming and subtle as Crébillon _fils_
would have made it, and is "knocked off rather haphazardly." Another
critic of 1830, now perhaps too much forgotten, Gustave Planche, does
not mention the _Grecque_, and brushes aside the three earlier and
bigger books rather hastily, though he allows "interest" to both
_Cléveland_ and the _Doyen_. Perhaps, before "coming to real things" (as
Balzac once said of his own work) in _Manon_, some remarks, not long,
but first-hand, and based on actual reading at more than one time of
life, as to her very unreal family, may be permitted here, though they
may differ in opinion from the judgment of these two redoubtable

[Sidenote: The books themselves--_Histoire d'une Grecque Moderne_.]

I do not think that when I first wrote about Prévost (I had read _Manon_
long before) more than thirty years ago, in a _Short History of French
Literature_, I paid very much attention to these books. I evidently had
not read the _Grecque Moderne_, for I said nothing about it. Of the
others I said only that they are "romances of adventure, occupying a
middle place between those of Lesage and Marivaux." It is perfectly
true, but of course not very "in-going," and whatever reading I then
gave any of them had not left very much impression on my mind, when
recently, and for the purpose of the present work, I took them up again,
and the _Histoire_ as well. This last is the story of a young modern
Greek slave named Théophé (a form of which the last syllable seems more
modern than Greek), who is made visible in full harem by her
particularly complaisant master, a Turkish pasha, to a young Frenchman,
admired and bought by this Frenchman (the relater of the story), and
freed by him. He does not at first think of making her his mistress, but
later does propose it, only to meet a refusal of a somewhat
sentimental-romantic character, though she protests not merely
gratitude, but love for him. The latter part of the book is occupied by
what Sainte-Beuve calls "delicate" ambiguities, which leave us in doubt
whether her "cruelty" is shown to others as well, or whether it is not.
In suggesting that Crébillon would have made it charming, the great
critic has perhaps made another of those slips which show the novitiate.
The fact is that it is an exceedingly dull book: and that to have made
it anything else, while retaining anything like its present "propriety,"
either an entire metamorphosis of spirit, which might have made it as
passionate as _Manon_ itself, or the sort of filigree play with thought
and phrase which Marivaux would have given, would be required. As a
"Crébillonnade" (_v. inf._) it might have been both pleasant and subtle,
but it could only have been made so by becoming exceedingly indecent.

[Sidenote: _Cléveland._]

Still, its comparative (though only comparative) shortness, and a
certain possibility rather than actuality of interest in the
situation,[340] may recommend this novel at least to mercy. If the
present writer were on a jury trying _Cléveland_, no want of food or
fire should induce him to endorse any such recommendation in regard to
that intolerable book. It is, to speak frankly, one of the very few
books--one of the still fewer novels--which I have found it practically
impossible to read even in the "skim and skip and dip" fashion which
should, no doubt, be only practised as a work of necessity (_i.e._ duty
to others) and of mercy (to oneself) on extraordinary occasions, but
which nobody but a prig and a pedant will absolutely disallow. Almost
the only good thing I can find to say about it is that Prévost, who
lived indeed for some time in England, is now and then, if not always,
miraculously correct in his proper names. He can actually spell
Hammersmith! Other merit--and this is not constant (in the dips which I
have actually made, to rise exhausted from each, and skip rather than
even skim to the rest)--I can find none. The beginning is absurd and
rather offensive, the hero being a natural son of Cromwell by a woman
who has previously been the mistress of Charles I. The continuation is a
mish-mash of adventure, sometimes sanguinary, but never exciting, travel
(in fancy parts of the West Indies, etc.), and the philosophical
disputations which Sainte-Beuve found interesting. As for the end, no
two persons seem quite agreed what _is_ the end. Sainte-Beuve speaks of
it as an attempted suicide of the hero--the most justifiable of all his
actions, if he had succeeded. Prévost himself, in the Preface to the
_Doyen de Killérine_, repeats an earlier disavowal (which he says he
had previously made in Holland) of a fifth volume, and says that his own
work ended with the murder of Cléveland by one of the characters. Again,
this is a comprehensible and almost excusable action, and might have
followed, though it could not have preceded, the other. But if it was
the end, the other was not. A certain kind of critic may say that it is
my duty to search and argue this out. But, for my part, I say as a
reader to _Cléveland_, "No more _in_ thee my steps shall be, For ever
and for ever."[341]

[Sidenote: _Le Doyen de Killérine._]

_Le Doyen de Killérine_ is not perhaps so utterly to be excommunicated
as _Cléveland_, and, as has been said above, some have found real
interest in it. It is not, however, free either from the
preposterousness or from the dulness of the earlier book, though the
first characteristic is less preposterous as such preposterousness goes.
The Dean of Killérine (Coleraine) is a Roman Catholic dean, just after
the expulsion of James II., when, we learn with some surprise, that
neighbourhood was rather specially full of his co-religionists. He is a
sort of _lusus naturae_, being bow-legged, humpbacked, potbellied, and
possessing warts on his brows, which make him a sort of later horned
Moses. The eccentricity of his appearance is equalled by that of his
conduct. He is the eldest son of an Irish gentleman (nobleman, it would
sometimes seem), and his father finds a pretty girl who is somehow
willing to marry him. But, feeling no vocation for marriage, he suggests
to her (a suggestion perhaps unique in fiction if not in fact) that she
should marry his father instead. This singular match comes off, and a
second family results, the members of which are, fortunately, not _lusus
naturae_, but a brace of very handsome and accomplished boys, George and
Patrick, and an extremely pretty girl, Rosa. Of these three, their
parents dying when they are something short of full age, the excellent
dean becomes a sort of guardian. He takes them to the exiled court of
Versailles, and his very hen-like anxieties over the escapades of these
most lively ducklings supply the main subject of the book. It might have
been made amusing by humorous treatment, but Prévost had no humour in
him: and it might have been made thrilling by passion, but he never,
except in the one great little instance, compressed or distilled his
heaps and floods of sensibility and sensationalism into that. The scene
where a wicked Mme. de S---- plays, and almost outplays, Potiphar's wife
to the good but hideous Dean's Joseph is one of the most curious in
novel-literature, though one of the least amusing.

[Sidenote: The _Mémoires d'un Homme de Qualité_.]

We may now go back to the _Mémoires_, partly in compliment to the master
of all mid-nineteenth-century critics, but more because of their almost
fortuitous good luck in ushering _Manon_ into the world. There is
something in them of both their successors, _Cléveland_ and the _Doyen_,
but it may be admitted that they are less unreadable than the first, and
less trivial than the second. The plan--if it deserve that name--is odd,
one marquis first telling his own fortunes and voyages and whatnots, and
then serving as Mentor (the application, though of course not original,
is inevitable) to another marquis in further voyages and adventures.
There are Turkish brides and Spanish murdered damsels; English politics
and literature, where, unfortunately, the spelling _does_ sometimes
break down; glances backward, in "Histoires" of the _Grand Siècle_, at
meetings with Charles de Sévigné, Racine, etc.; mysterious remedies, a
great deal of moralising, and a great deal more of weeping. Indeed the
whole of Prévost, like the whole of that "Sensibility Novel" of which he
is a considerable though rather an outside practitioner, is pervaded
with a gentle rain of tears wherein the personages seem to revel--indeed
admit that they do so--in the midst of their woes.

[Sidenote: Its miscellaneous curiosities.]

On the whole, however, the youthful--or almost youthful--half-wisdom of
Sainte-Beuve is better justified of its preference for the _Mémoires_
than of other things in the same article. I found it, reading it later
on purpose and with "preventions" rather the other way, very much more
readable than any of its companions (_Manon_ is not its companion, but
in a way its constituent), without being exactly readable _simpliciter_.
All sorts of curious things might be dug out of it: for instance, quite
at the beginning, a more definite declaration than I know elsewhere of
that curious French title-system which has always been such a puzzle to
Englishmen. "Il _se fit_ appeler le Comte de ... et, se voyant un fils,
il _lui donna_ celui de Marquis de ..." There is a good deal in it which
makes us think that Prévost had read Defoe, and something which makes it
not extravagant to fancy that Thackeray had read Prévost. But once more
"let us come to the real things--let us speak of" _Manon Lescaut_.

[Sidenote: _Manon Lescaut._]

[Sidenote: Its uniqueness.]

It would be a very interesting question in that study of
literature--rather unacademic, or perhaps academic in the best sense
only--which might be so near and is so far--whether the man is most to
be envied who reads _Manon Lescaut_ for the first time in blissful
ignorance of these other things, and even of what has been said of them;
or he who has, by accident or design, toiled through the twenty volumes
of the others and comes upon Her. My own case is the former: and I am
far from quarrelling with it. But I sometimes like to fancy--now that I
have reversed the proceeding--what it would have been like to dare the
voices--the endless, dull, half-meaningless, though not threatening
voices--of those other books--to refrain even from the appendix to the
_Mémoires_ as such, and never, till the _Modern Greekess_ has been
dispatched, return to and possess the entire and perfect jewel of
_Manon_. I used to wonder, when, for nearer five and twenty than twenty
years, I read for review hundreds of novels, English and French, whether
anybody would ever repeat Prévost's extraordinary spurt and "sport" in
this wonderful little book. I am bound to say that I never knew an
instance. The "first book" which gives a promise--dubious it may be, but
still promising--and is never followed by anything that fulfils this, is
not so very uncommon, though less common in prose fiction than in
poetry. The not so very rare "single-speech" poems are also not real
parallels. It is of the essence of poetry, according to almost every
theory, that it should be, occasionally at least, inexplicable and
unaccountable. I believe that every human being is capable of poetry,
though I should admit that the exhibition of the capability would be in
most cases--I am sure it would be in my own--"highly to be deprecated."
But with a sober prose fiction of some scope and room and verge it is
different. The face of Helen; the taste of nectar; the vision of the
clouds or of the sea; the passion of a great action in oneself or
others; the infinite poignancy of suffering or of pleasure, may
draw--once and never again--immortal verse from an exceedingly mortal
person. Such things might also draw a phrase or a paragraph of prose.
But they could not extract a systematic and organised prose tale of some
two hundred pages, each of them much fuller than those of our average
six-shilling stuff; and yet leave the author, who had never shown
himself capable of producing anything similar before, unable to produce
anything in the least like it again. I wonder that the usual literary
busybodies have never busied themselves--perhaps they have, for during a
couple of decades I have not had the opportunity of knowing everything
that goes on in French literature as I once did--with Prévost,
demonstrating that _Manon_ was a posthumous work of the Regent (who was
a clever man), or an expression of a real passion which lay at the back
of Richelieu's debauchery, or written by some unknown author from whom
the Abbé bought it, and who died early, or something else of the kind.

There does not, however, appear to be the slightest chance or hope or
fear (whichever expression be preferred) of the kind. Although Prévost
elsewhere indulges--as everybody else for a long time in France and
England alike did, save creative geniuses like Fielding--in
transparently feigned talk about the origins of his stories, he was a
very respectable man in his way, and not at all likely to father or to
steal any one else's work in a disreputable fashion. There are no other
claimants for the book: and though it may be difficult for a foreigner
to find the faults of style that Gustave Planche rebukes in Prévost
generally, there is nothing in the mere style of _Manon_ which sets it
above the others.

For once one may concede that the whole attraction of the piece, barring
one or two transient but almost Shakespearian flashes of
expression--such as the famous "Perfide Manon! Perfide!" when she and
Des Grieux first meet after her earliest treason--is to be found in its
marvellous humanity, its equally marvellous grasp of character, and the
intense, the absolutely shattering pathos of the relations of the hero
and heroine. There are those, of course, who make much of the _persona
tertia_, Tiberge, the virtuous and friendly priest, who has a remarkable
command of money for a not highly placed ecclesiastic, lends it with
singular want of circumspection, and then meddles with the best of
intentions and the most futile or mischievous of results. Very
respectable man, Tiberge; but one with whom _on n'a que faire_. Manon
and Des Grieux; Des Grieux and Manon--these are as all-sufficient to the
reader as Manon was more than sufficient to Des Grieux, and as he, alas!
was, if only in some ways, _in_sufficient to Manon.

One of the things which are nuisances in Prévost's other books becomes
pardonable, almost admirable, in this. His habit of incessant,
straight-on narration by a single person, his avoidance of dialogue
properly so called, is, as has been noted, a habit common to all these
early novels, and, to our taste if not to that of their early readers,
often disastrous. Here it is a positive advantage. Manon speaks very
little; and so much the better. Her "comely face and her fair bodie" (to
repeat once more a beloved quotation) speak for her to the ruin of her
lover and herself--to the age-long delectation of readers. On the other
hand, the whole speech is Des Grieux', and never was a monologue better
suited or justified. The worst of such things is usually that there are
in them all sorts of second thoughts of the author. There is none of
this littleness in the speech of Des Grieux. He is a gentle youth in the
very best sense of the term, and as we gather--not from anything he says
of himself, but from the general tenor--by no means a "wild gallant";
affectionate, respectful to his parents, altogether "douce," and,
indeed, rather (to start with) like Lord Glenvarloch in _The Fortunes of
Nigel_. He meets Manon (Prévost has had the wits to make her a little
older than her lover), and _actum est de_ both of them.

[Sidenote: The character of its heroine.]

But Manon herself? She talks (it has been said) very little, and it was
not necessary that she should talk much. If she had talked as Marianne
talks, we should probably hate her, unless, as is equally probable, we
ceased to take any interest in her. She is a girl not of talk but of
deeds: and her deeds are of course quite inexcusable. But still that
great and long unknown verse of Prior, which tells how a more harmless
heroine did various things--

    As answered the end of her being created,

fits her, and the deeds create her in their process, according to the
wonderful magic of the novelist's art. Manon is not in the least a
Messalina; it is not what Messalina wanted that she wants at all, though
she may have no physical objection to it, and may rejoice in it when it
is shared by her lover. Still less is she a Margaret of Burgundy, or one
of the tigress-enchantresses of the Fronde, who would kill their lovers
after enjoying their love. It has been said often, and is beyond all
doubt true, that she would have been perfectly happy with Des Grieux if
he had fulfilled the expostulations of George the Fourth as to Mr.
Turveydrop, and had not only been known to the King, but had had twenty
thousand a year. She wants nobody and nothing but him, as far as the
"Him" is concerned: but she does not want him in a cottage. And here the
subtlety comes in. She does not in the least mind giving to others what
she gives him, provided that they will give her what he cannot give. The
possibility of this combination is of course not only shocking to Mrs.
Grundy, but deniable by persons who are not Mrs. Grundy at all. Its
existence is not really doubtful, though hardly anybody, except Prévost
and (I repeat it, little as I am of an Ibsenite) Ibsen in the _Wild
Duck_, has put it into real literature. Manon, like Gina and probably
like others, does not really think what she gives of immense, or of any
great, importance. People will give her, in exchange for it, what she
does think of great, of immense importance; the person to whom she would
quite honestly prefer to give it cannot give her these other things. And
she concludes her bargain as composedly as any _bonne_ who takes the
basket to the shops and "makes its handle dance"--to use the French
idiom--for her own best advantage. It does annoy her when she has to
part from Des Grieux, and it does annoy her that Des Grieux should be
annoyed at what she does. But she is made of no nun's flesh, and such
soul as she has is filled with much desire for luxury and pleasure. The
desire of the soul will have its way, and the flesh lends itself readily
enough to the satisfaction thereof.

[Sidenote: And that of the hero.]

So, too, there is no such instance known to me of the presentation of
two different characters, in two different ways, so complete and yet so
idiosyncratic in each. Sainte-Beuve showed what he was going to become
(as well, perhaps, as something which he was going to lose) in his
slight but suggestive remarks on the relation of Des Grieux to the
average _roué_ hero of that most _roué_ time. It is only a suggestion;
he does not work it out. But it is worth working out a little. Des
Grieux is _ab initio_, and in some ways _usque ad finem_, a sort of
_ingénu_. He seems to have no vicious tendencies whatever; and had Manon
not supervened, might have been a very much more exemplary Chevalier de
Malte than the usual run of those dignitaries, who differed chiefly
from their uncrossed comrades and brethren in having no wife to be
unfaithful to. He is never false to Manon--the incident of one of
Manon's lovers trying vainly to tempt his rival, with a pretty cast-off
mistress of his own, is one of the most striking features of the book.
He positively reveres, not his mother, who is dead, and reverence for
whom would be nothing in a Frenchman, but his father, and even, it would
seem, his elder brother--a last stretch of reverence quite unknown to
many young English gentlemen who certainly would not do things that Des
Grieux did. Except when Manon is concerned, it would seem that he might
have been a kind of saint--as good at least as Tiberge. But his love for
her and his desire for her entirely saturate and transform him. That he
disobeys his father and disregards his brother is nothing: we all do
that in less serious cases than his, and there is almost warrant for it
in Scripture. But he cheats at play (let us frankly allow, remembering
Grammont and others, that this was not in France the unpardonable sin
that it has--for many generations, fortunately--been with us), at the
suggestion of his rascally left-hand brother-in-law, in order to supply
Manon's wants. He commits an almost deliberate (though he makes some
excuses on this point) and almost cowardly murder, on an unarmed
lay-brother of Saint-Sulpice, to get to Manon. And, worst of all, he
consents to the stealing of moneys given to her by his supplanters in
order to feed her extravagance. After this his suborning the King's
soldiers to attack the King's constabulary on the King's highway to
rescue Manon is nothing. But observe that, though it is certainly not
"All for God," it _is_ "All for Her." And observe further that all these
things--even the murder--were quite common among the rank and file of
that French aristocracy which was so busily hurrying on the French
Revolution. Only, Des Grieux himself would pretty certainly not have
done them if She had never come in his way. And he tells it all with a
limpid and convincing clarity (as they would say now) which puts the
whole thing before us. No apology is made, and no apology is needed. It
is written in the books of the chronicles of Manon and Des Grieux; in
the lives of Des Grieux and Manon, suppose them ever to have existed or
to exist, it could not but happen.

[Sidenote: The inevitableness of both and the inestimableness of their

It is surely not profane (and perhaps it has been done already) to
borrow for these luckless, and, if you will, somewhat graceless persons,
the words of the mighty colophon of Matthew Arnold's most unequal but in
parts almost finest poem, at least the first and last lines:

    So rest, for ever rest, immortal pair,


    The rustle of the eternal rain of love.

Nor is it perhaps extravagant to claim for their creator--even for their
reporter--the position of the first person who definitely vindicated for
the novel the possibility of creating a passionate masterpiece,
outstripping _La Princesse de Clèves_ as _Othello_ outstrips _A Woman
Killed with Kindness_. As for the enormous remainder of him, if it is
very frankly negligible by the mere reader, it is not quite so by the
student. He was very popular, and, careless bookmaker as he was in a
very critical time, his popularity scarcely failed him till his horrible
death.[342] It can scarcely be said that, except in the one great cited
instance, he heightened or intensified the French novel, but he enlarged
its scope, varied its interests, and combined new objectives with its
already existing schemes, even in his less good work. In _Manon Lescaut_
itself he gave a masterpiece, not only to the novel, not only to France,
but to all literature and all the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Crébillon _fils_.]

The unfortunate nobleman as to whom Dickens has left us in doubt whether
he was a peer in his own right or the younger son or a Marquis or Duke,
pronounced Shakespeare "a clayver man." It was perhaps, in the
particular instance, inadequate though true. I hardly know any one in
literature of whom it is truer and more adequate than it is of Claude
Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon the younger, commonly called Crébillon
_fils_.[343] His very name is an abomination to Mrs. Grundy, who
probably never read, or even attempted to read, one of his naughty
books. Gray's famous tribute[344] to him--also known to a large number
who are in much the same case with Mrs. Grundy--is distinctly
patronising. But he is a very clever man indeed, and the cleverness of
some of his books--especially those in dialogue--is positively amazing.

[Sidenote: The case against him.]

At the same time it is of the first importance to make the due provisos
and allowances, the want of which so frequently causes disappointment,
if not positive disgust, when readers have been induced by unbalanced
laudation to take up works of the literature of other days. There are,
undoubtedly, things--many and heavy things--to be said against
Crébillon. A may say, "I am not, I think, _Mr._ Grundy: but I cannot
stand your Crébillon. I do not like a world where all the men are
apparently atheists, and all the women are certainly the other thing
mentioned in Donne's famous line. It disgusts and sickens me: and I will
have none of it, however clever it may be." B, not quite agreeing with
A, may take another tone, and observe, "He _is_ clever and he _is_
amusing: but he is terribly monotonous. I do not mind a visit to the
'oyster-bearing shores' now and then, but I do not want to live in
Lampsacus. After all, even in a pagan Pantheon, there are other
divinities besides a cleverly palliated Priapus and a comparatively
ladylike Cotytto. Seven volumes of however delicately veiled
'sculduddery' are nearly as bad as a whole evening's golf-talk in a St.
Andrews hotel, or a long men's dinner, where everybody but yourself is a
member of an Amateur Dramatic Society." The present writer is not far
from agreeing with B, while he has for A a respect which disguises no
shadow of a sneer. Crébillon does harp far too much on one string, and
that one of no pure tone: and even the individual handlings of the
subject are chargeable throughout his work with _longueurs_, in the
greater part of it with sheer tedium. It is very curious, and for us of
the greatest importance, to notice how this curse of long-windedness,
episodic and hardly episodic "inset," endless talk "about it and about
it," besets these pioneers of the modern novel. Whether it was a legacy
of the "Heroics" or not it is difficult to say. I think it was--to some
extent. But, as we have seen, it exists even in Lesage; it is found
conspicuously in Marivaux; it "advances insupportably" in Prévost,
except when some God intervenes to make him write (and to stop him
writing) _Manon_; and it rests heavily even on Crébillon, one of the
lightest, if not one of the purest, of literary talents. It is
impossible to deny that he suffers from monotony of general theme: and
equally impossible to deny that he suffers from spinning out of
particular pieces. There is perhaps not a single thing of his which
would not have been better if it had been shorter: and two of his
liveliest if also most risky pieces, _La Nuit et le Moment_ and _Le
Hasard au Coin du Feu_, might have been cut down to one half with
advantage, and to a quarter with greater advantage still.

There are, however, excuses for Crébillon: and though it may seem a rash
thing to say, and even one which gives the case away, there is, at least
in these two and parts of _Le Sopha_, hardly a page--even of the parts
which, if "cut," would improve the work as a whole--that does not in
itself prove the almost elfish cleverness now assigned to him.

[Sidenote: For the defendant--The veracity of his artificiality and his
consummate cleverness.]

The great excuse for him, from the non-literary point of view, is that
this world of his--narrow though crowded as it is, corrupt,
preposterous, inviting the Judgment that came after it as no period
perhaps has ever done, except that immediately before the Deluge, that
of the earlier Roman empire, and one other--was a real world in its day,
and left, as all real things do, an abiding mark and influence on what
followed. One of the scores and almost hundreds of sayings which
distinguish him, trivial as he seems to some and no doubt disgusting as
he seems to others, is made by one of his most characteristic and most
impudent but not most offensive heroes _à la_ Richelieu, who says, not
in soliloquy nor to a brother _roué_, but to the mistress of the moment:
"If love-making is not always a pleasure, at any rate it is always a
kind of occupation." That is the keynote of the Crébillon novel: it is
the handbook, with illustrative examples, of the business, employment,
or vocation of flirting, in the most extensive and intensive meanings of
that term comprehensible to the eighteenth century.

[Sidenote: The Crébillonesque atmosphere and method.]

Now you should never scamp or hurry over business: and Crébillon
observes this doctrine in the most praiseworthy fashion. With the
thorough practicality of his century and of his nation (which has always
been in reality the most practical of all nations) he sets to work to
give us the ways and manners of his world. It is an odd world at first
sight, but one gets used to its conventions. It is a world of what they
used to call, in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth century,
"high fellers" and of great ladies, all of whom--saving for glimpses of
military and other appointments for the men, which sometimes take them
away and are useful for change of scene, of theatres, balls,
gaming-tables for men and women both--"have nothing in the world to do"
but carry on that occupation which Clitandre of "The Night and the
Moment," at an extremely suitable time and in equally appropriate
circumstances, refers to in the words quoted above. There are some other
oddities about this world. In some parts of it nobody seems to be
married. Mrs. Grundy, and even persons more exercised in actual fact
than Mrs. Grundy, would expect them all to be, and to neglect the tie.
But sometimes Crébillon finds it easier to mask this fact. Often his
ladies are actual widows, which is of course very convenient, and might
be taken as a sign of grace in him by Mrs. G.: oftener it is difficult
to say what they are legally. They are nearly all duchesses or
marchionesses or countesses, just as the men hold corresponding ranks:
and they all seem to be very well off. But their sole occupation is that
conducted under the three great verbs, _Prendre_; _Avoir_; _Quitter_.
These verbs are used rather more frequently, but by no means
exclusively, of and by the men. Taking the stage nomenclature familiar
to everybody from Molière, which Crébillon also uses in some of his
books, though he exchanges it for proper names elsewhere, let us suppose
a society composed of Oronte, Clitandre, Eraste, Damis (men), and
Cydalise, Célie, Lucinde, Julie (ladies). Oronte "takes" Lucinde,
"possesses" her for a time, and "quits" her for Julie, who has been
meanwhile "taken," "possessed," and "quitted" by Eraste. Eraste passes
to the conjugation of the three verbs with Cydalise, who, however, takes
the initiative of "quitting" and conjugates "take" in joint active and
passive with Damis. Meanwhile Célie and Clitandre are similarly occupied
with each other, and ready to "cut in" with the rest at fresh
arrangements. These processes require much serious conversation, and
this is related with the same mixture of gravity and irony which is
bestowed on the livelier passages of action.

The thing, in short, is most like an intensely intricate dance, with
endless figures--with elaborate, innumerable, and sometimes
indescribable stage directions. And the whole of it is written down
carefully by M. Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon.

He might have occupied his time much better? Perhaps, as to the subject
of occupation. But with that we have, if not nothing, very little to do.
The point is, How did he handle these better-let-alone subjects? and
what contribution, in so handling them, did he make to the general
development of the novel?

I am bound to say that I think, with the caution given above, he handled
them, when he was at his best, singularly well, and gave hints, to be
taken or left as they chose, to handlers of less disputable subjects
than his.

One at least of the most remarkable things about him is connected with
this very disputableness. Voltaire and Sterne were no doubt greater men
than Crébillon _fils_: and though both of them dealt with the same class
of subject, they also dealt with others, while he did not. But,
curiously enough, the reproach of sniggering, which lies so heavily on
Laurence Sterne and François Arouet, does not lie on Crébillon. He has
an audacity of grave persiflage[345] which is sometimes almost Swiftian
in a lower sphere: and it saves him from the unpardonable sin of the
snigger. He has also--as, to have this grave persiflage, he almost
necessarily must have--a singularly clear and flexible style, which is
only made more piquant by the "-assiez's" and "-ussiez's" of the older
language. Further, and of still greater importance for the novelist, he
has a pretty wit, which sometimes almost approaches humour, and, if not
a diabolically, a _diablotin_ically acute perception of human nature as
it affects his subject. This perception rarely fails: and conventional,
and very unhealthily conventional, as the Crébillon world is, the people
who inhabit it are made real people. He is, in those best things of his
at least, never "out." We can see the ever-victorious duke (M. de
Clerval of the _Hasard_ is perhaps the closest to the Richelieu model of
all Crébillon's coxcomb-gallants), who, even after a lady has given him
most unequivocal proofs of her affection, refuses for a long time, if
not finally, to say that he loves her, because he has himself a
graduated scheme of values in that direction, and though she may have
touched his heart, etc., she has not quite come up to his "love"
standard.[346] And we know, too, though she is less common, the
philosophical Marquise herself, who, "possessing" the most notoriously
inconstant lover in all Paris (this same M. de Clerval, it happens),
maintains her comparative indifference to the circumstance, alleging
that even when he is most inconstant he is always "very affectionate,
though a little _extinguished_." And in fact he goes off to her from the
very fireside, where such curious things have chanced. Extravagant as
are the situations in _La Nuit et le Moment_, the other best thing, they
are, but for the _longueurs_ already censured, singularly verisimilar on
their own postulates. The trusty coachman, who always drives
particularly slowly when a lady accompanies his master in the carriage,
but would never think of obeying the check-string if his master's own
voice did not authorise it; the invaluable _soubrette_ who will sit up
to any hour to play propriety, when her mistress is according a
_tête-à-tête_, but who, most naturally, always falls asleep--these
complete, at the lower end of the scale, what the dukes and the
countesses have begun at the upper. And Crébillon, despite his
verbosity, is never at a loss for pointed sayings to relieve and froth
it up. Nor are these mere _mots_ or _pointes_ or conceits--there is a
singular amount of life-wisdom in them, and a short anthology might be
made here, if there were room for it, which would entirely vindicate the

[Sidenote: Inequality of his general work--a survey of it.]

It is true that the praises just given to Crébillon do not (as was
indeed hinted above) apply to the whole of his work, or even to the
larger part of it. An unfavourable critic might indeed say that, in
strictness, they only apply to parts of _Le Sopha_ and to the two little
dialogue-stories just referred to. The method is, no doubt, one by no
means easy to apply on the great scale, and the restriction of the
subject adds to the difficulty. The longest regular stories of all, _Ah!
Quel Conte!_ and _Le Sopha_ itself, though they should have been
mentioned in reverse order, are resumptions of the Hamiltonian idea[347]
of chaining things on to the _Arabian Nights_. Crébillon, however, does
not actually resuscitate Shahriar and the sisters, but substitutes a
later Caliph, Shah Baham, and his Sultana. The Sultan is exceedingly
stupid, but also very talkative, and fond of interrupting his vizier and
the other tale-tellers with wiseacreries; the Sultana is an acute enough
lady, who governs her tongue in order to save her neck. The framework is
not bad for a short story, but becomes a little tedious when it is made
to enshrine two volumes, one of them pretty big. It is better in _Le
Sopha_ than in _Ah! Quel Conte!_ and some of the tales that it gives us
in the former are almost equal to the two excepted dialogues. Moreover,
it is unluckily true that _Ah! Quel Conte!_ (an ejaculation of the
Sultana's at the beginning) might be, as Crébillon himself doubtless
foresaw, repeated with a sinister meaning by a reader at the end.
_Tanzaï et Néadarné_ or _L'Écumoire_, another fairy story, though
livelier in its incidents than _Ah! Quel Conte!_--nay, though it
contains some of Crébillon's smartest sayings, and has perhaps his
nicest heroine,--is heavy on the whole, and in it, the author's
_gauffre_-like lightness of "impropriety" being absent, the tone
approaches nearer to that dismallest form of literature or
non-literature--the deliberate obscene.

_Les Égarements du Coeur et de l'Esprit_, on the other hand--one of
the author's earliest books--is the furthest from that most undesirable
consummation, and one of the most curious, if not of the most amusing,
of all. It recounts, from the mouth of the neophyte himself, the
"forming" of a very young man--almost a boy--to this strange kind of
commerce, by an elderly, but not yet old, and still attractive
coquette, Madame de Lursay, whose earlier life has scandalised even the
not easily scandalisable society of her time (we are not told quite
how), but who has recovered a reputation very slightly tarnished. The
hero is flattered, but for a long time too timid and innocent to avail
himself of the advantages offered to him; while, before very long,
Madame de Lursay's wiles are interfered with by an "Inconnue-Ingénue,"
with whom he falls in deep calf-love of a quasi-genuine kind. The book
includes sketches of the half-bravo gallants of the time, and is not
negligible: but it is not vividly interesting.

Still less so, though they contain some very lively passages, and are
the chief _locus_ for Crébillon's treatment of the actual trio of
husband, wife, and lover, are the _Lettres de la Marquise de M---- au
Comte de P----_. The scene in which the husband--unfaithful, peevish,
and a _petit maître_--enters his wife's room to find an ancient, gouty
Marquis, who cannot get off his knees quick enough, and terminates the
situation with all the _aplomb_ of the Regency, is rather nice: and the
gradual "slide" of the at first quite virtuous writer (the wife herself,
of course) is well depicted. But love-letters which are neither
half-badinage--which these are not--nor wholly passionate--which these
never are till the last,[348] when the writer is describing a state of
things which Crébillon could not manage at all--are very difficult
things to bring off, and Claude Prosper is not quite equal to the

It will thus be seen that the objectors whom we have called A and B--or
at least B--will find that they or he need not read all the pages of all
the seven volumes to justify their views: and some other work, still to
be mentioned, completes the exhibition. I confess, indeed, once more
unblushingly, that I have not read every page of them myself. Had they
fallen in my way forty years ago I should, no doubt, have done so; but
forty years of critical experience and exercise give one the power, and
grant one the right, of a more summary procedure in respect of matter
thus postponed, unless it is perceived to be of very exceptional
quality. These larger works of Crébillon's are not good, though they are
not by any means so bad as those of Prévost. There are nuggets, of the
shrewd sense and the neat phrase with which he has been credited, in
nearly all of them: and these the skilled prospector of reading gold
will always detect and profit by. But, barring the possibility of a
collection of such, the _Oeuvres Choisies_ of Crébillon need not
contain more than the best parts of _Le Sopha_, the two comparatively
short dialogue-tales, and a longer passage or two from _Tanzaï et
Néadarné_. It would constitute (I was going to say a respectable, but as
that is hardly the right word, I will say rather) a tolerable volume.
Even in a wider representation _Les Heureux Orphelins_ and _Lettres
Athéniennes_ would yield very little.

The first begins sensationally with the discovery, by a young English
squire in his own park, of a foundling girl and boy--_not_ of his own
production--whom he brings up; and it ends with a tedious description of
how somebody founded the first _petite maison_ in England--a worthy work
indeed. It is also noteworthy for a piece of bad manners, which, one
regrets to say, French writers have too often committed; lords and
ladies of the best known names and titles in or near Crébillon's own
day--such as Oxford, Suffolk, Pembroke--being introduced with the utmost
nonchalance.[349] Our novelists have many faults to charge themselves
with, and Anthony Trollope, in _The Three Clerks_, produced a Frenchman
with perhaps as impossible a name as any English travesty in French
literature. But I do not remember any one introducing, in a _not_
historical novel, a Duc de la Tremoille or a member of any of the
branches of Rohan, at a time when actual bearers of these titles existed
in France. As for the _Lettres Athéniennes_, if it were not for
completeness, I should scarcely even mention them. Alcibiades is the
chief male writer; Aspasia the chief female; but all of them, male and
female, are equally destitute of Atticism and of interest. The contrast
of the contrasts between Crébillon's and Prévost's best and worst work
is one of the oddest things in letters. One wonders how Prévost came to
write anything so admirable as _Manon Lescaut_; one wonders how
Crébillon came to write anything so insufficient as the two books just
criticised, and even others.

It may be said, "This being so, why have you given half a chapter to
these two writers, even with Lesage and Marivaux to carry it off?" The
reason is that this is (or attempts to be) a history of the French
novel, and that, in such a history, the canons of importance are not the
same as those of the novel itself. _Gil Blas_, _Marianne_, _Manon
Lescaut_, and perhaps even _Le Hasard au Coin du Feu_ are interesting in
themselves; but the whole work of their authors is important, and
therefore interesting, to the historical student. For these authors
carried further--a great deal further--the process of laying the
foundations and providing the materials and plant for what was to come.
Of actual masterpieces they only achieved the great, but not _equally_
great, one of _Gil Blas_ and the little one of _Manon Lescaut_. But it
is not by masterpieces alone that the world of literature lives in the
sense of prolonging its life. One may even say--touching the unclean
thing paradox for a moment, and purifying oneself with incense, and
salt, and wine--that the masterpieces of literature are more beautiful
and memorable and delectable in themselves than fertile in results. They
catch up the sum of their own possibilities, and utter it in such a
fashion that there is no more to say in that fashion. The dreary
imitation _Iliads_, the impossible sham _Divina Commedias_, the
Sheridan-Knowles Shakespearian plays, rise up and terrify or bore us.
Whereas these second-rate experimenters, these adventurers in quest of
what they themselves hardly know, strike out paths, throw seed, sketch
designs which others afterwards pursue, and plant out, and fill up.
There are probably not many persons now who would echo Gray's wish for
eternal romances of either Marivaux or Crébillon; and the accompanying
remarks in the same letter on _Joseph Andrews_, though they show some
appreciation of the best characters, are quite inappreciative of the
merit of the novel as a whole. For eternal variations of _Joseph
Andrews_, "_Passe!_" as a French Gray might have said.

Nevertheless, I am myself pretty sure that Marivaux at least helped
Richardson and Fielding, and there can be no doubt that Crébillon helped
Sterne. And what is more important to our present purpose, they and
their companions in this chapter helped the novel in general, and the
French novel in particular, to an extent far more considerable. We may
not, of course, take the course of literary history--general or
particular--which has been, as the course which in any case must have
been. But at the same time we cannot neglect the facts. And it is a
quite certain fact that, for the whole of the last half of the
eighteenth century, and nearly the whole of the first quarter of the
nineteenth, the French novel, as a novel, made singularly little
progress. We shall have to deal in the next chapter, if not in the next
two chapters, with at least two persons of far greater powers than any
one mentioned in the last two. But we shall perhaps be able to show
cause why even Voltaire and Rousseau, why certainly Diderot, why
Marmontel and almost every one else till we come, not in this volume, to
Chateaubriand, whose own position is a little doubtful, somehow failed
to attain the position of a great advancer of the novel.

These others, whatever their shortcomings, _had_ advanced it by bringing
it, in various ways, a great deal nearer to its actual ideal of a
completed picture of real human life. Lesage had blended with his
representation a good deal of the conventional picaresque; Marivaux had
abused preciousness of language and petty psychology; Prévost, save in
that marvellous windfall of his and the Muses which the historian of
novels can hardly mention without taking off his hat if he has one on,
or making his best bow if he has not, had gone wandering after
impossible and uninteresting will-o'-the-wisps; Crébillon had done worse
than "abide in his inn," he had abided almost always in his polite[350]
bordello. But all of them had meant to be real; and all of them had, if
only now and then, to an extent which even Madame de la Fayette had
scarcely achieved before, attained reality.


[309] In fact it has been said, and may be said again, that Lesage is
one of the prophets who have never had so much justice done them in
their own countries as abroad.

[310] The first part of _Gil Blas_ appeared in 1715; and nearly twenty
years later gossip said that the fourth was not ready, though the author
had been paid in advance for it six or seven years earlier.

[311] I have never read it in the original, being, though a great
admirer of Spanish, but slightly versed therein.

[312] This, which is a sort of Appendix to the _Diable Boiteux_, is much
the best of these _opera minora_.

[313] He had a temper of the most _Breton-Bretonnant_ type--not
ill-natured but sturdy and independent, recalcitrant alike to
ill-treatment and to patronage. He got on neither at the Bar, his first
profession, nor with the regular actors, and he took vengeance in his
books on both; while at least one famous anecdote shows his way of
treating a patron--indeed, as it happened, a patroness--who presumed.

[314] Asmodeus, according to his usual station in the infernal
hierarchy, is _démon de la luxure_: but any fears or hopes which may be
aroused by this description, and the circumstances of the action, will
be disappointed. Lesage has plenty of risky situations, but his language
is strictly "proper."

[315] Against this may be cited his equally anecdotic acceptance of
Regnard, who was also "run" against Molière. But Regnard was a "classic"
and orthodox in his way; Lesage was a free-lance, and even a Romantic
before Romanticism. Boileau knew that evil, as evil seemed to him, _had_
come from Spain; he saw more coming in this, and if he anticipated more
still in the future, 1830 proved him no false prophet.

[316] In other words, there is a unity of personality in the attitude
which the hero takes to and in them.

[317] And in it too, of course; as well as in Spain's remarkable but too
soon re-enslaved criticism.

[318] As he says of himself (vii. x.): _Enfin, après un sévère examen je
tombais d'accord avec moi-même, que si je n'étais pas un fripon, il ne
s'en fallait guère._ And the Duke of Lerma tells him later, "_M. de
Santillane, à ce que je vois, vous avez été tant soit peu_ picaro."

[319] The two most undoubted cases--his ugly and, unluckily, repeated
acceptance of the part of Pandarus-Leporello--were only too ordinary
rascalities in the seventeenth century. The books of the chronicles of
England and France show us not merely clerks and valets but gentlemen of
every rank, from esquire to duke, eagerly accepting this office.

[320] In a curious passage of Bk. XII. Chap. I. in which Gil disclaims
paternity and resigns it to Marialva. This may have been prompted by a
desire to lessen the turpitude of the go-between business; but it is a
clumsy device, and makes Gil look a fool as well as a knave.

[321] One of Lesage's triumphs is the way in which, almost to the last,
"M. de Santillane," despite the rogueries practised often on and
sometimes by him, retains a certain gullibility, or at least

[322] Not of course as opposed to "romantic," but as = "chief and

[323] The reader must not forget that this formidable word means
"privateer" rather than "pirate" in French, and that this was the golden
age of the business in that country.

[324] Those who are curious may find something on him by the present
writer, not identical with the above account, in an essay entitled _A
Study of Sensibility_, reprinted in _Essays on French Novelists_
(London, 1891), and partly, but outside of the Marivaux part, reproduced
in Chap. XII. of the present volume.

[325] By M. Gustave Larroumet. Paris, 1882.

[326] I need hardly say that I am not referring to things like _Rebecca
and Rowena_ or _A Legend of the Rhine_, which "burst the outer shell of
sin," and, like Mrs. Martha Gwynne in the epitaph, "hatch themselves a
cherubin" in each case.

[327] The reader will perhaps excuse the reminder that the sense in
which we (almost exclusively) use this word, and which it had gained in
French itself by the time of Talleyrand's famous double-edged sarcasm on
person and world (_Il n'est pas parvenu: il est arrivé_), was not quite
original. The _parvenu_ was simply a person who _had_ "got on": the
disobliging slur of implication on his former position, and perhaps on
his means of freeing himself from it, came later. It is doubtful whether
there is much, if indeed there is any, of this slur in Marivaux's title.

[328] It is the acme of what may be called innocent corruption. She does
not care for her master, nor apparently for vicious pleasure,
nor--certainly--for money as such. She does care for Jacob, and wants to
marry him; the money will make this possible; so she earns it by the
means that present themselves, and puts it at his disposal.

[329] He is proof against his master's threats if he refuses; as well as
against the money if he accepts. Unluckily for Geneviève, when he breaks
away she faints. Her door and the money-box are both left open, and the
latter disappears.

[330] Here and elsewhere the curious cheapness of French living (despite
what history tells of crushing taxation, etc.) appears. The _locus
classicus_ for this is generally taken to be Mme. de Maintenon's
well-known letter about her brother's housekeeping. But here, well into
another century, Mlle. Habert's 4000 _livres_ a year are supposed to be
at least relative affluence, while in _Marianne_ (_v. inf._) M. de
Climal thinks 500 or 600 enough to tempt her, and his final bequest of
double that annuity is represented as making a far from despicable _dot_
even for a good marriage.

[331] The much greater blood-thirstiness of the French highwayman, as
compared with the English, has been sometimes attributed by
humanitarians to the "wheel"--and has often been considered by persons
of sense as justifying that implement.

[332] The Devil's Advocate may say that Marianne turns out to be of
English extraction after all--but it is not Marivaux who tells us so.

[333] To question or qualify Marianne's virtue, even in the slightest
degree, may seem ungracious; for it certainly withstands what to some
girls would have been the hardest test of all--that is to say, not so
much the offer of riches if she consents, as the apparent certainty of
utter destitution if she refuses. At the same time, the Devil's Advocate
need not be a Kelly or a Cockburn to make out some damaging suggestions.
Her vague, and in no way solidly justified, but decided family pride
seems to have a good deal to do with her refusal; and though this shows
the value of the said family pride, it is not exactly virtue in itself.
Still more would appear to be due to the character of the suit and the
suitor. M. de Climal is not only old and unattractive; not only a sneak
and a libertine; but he is a clumsy person, and he has not, as he might
have done, taken Marianne's measure. The mere shock of his sudden
transformation from a pious protector into a prospective "keeper," who
is making a bid for a new concubine, has evidently an immense effect on
her quick nervous temperament. She is not at all the kind of girl to
like to be the plaything of an old man; and she is perfectly shrewd
enough to see that vengeance, and fear as regards his nephew, have as
much as anything else, or more, to do with the way in which he brusques
his addresses and hurries his gift. Further, she has already conceived a
fancy, at least, for that nephew himself; and one sees the "jury droop,"
as Dickens has put it, with which the Counsel of the Prince of the Air
would hint that, if the offers had come in a more seductive fashion from
Valville himself, they might not have been so summarily rejected. But
let it be observed that these considerations, while possibly unfair to
Marianne, are not in the least derogatory to Marivaux himself. On the
contrary, it is greatly to his credit that he should have created a
character of sufficient lifelikeness and sufficient complexity to serve
as basis for "problem"-discussions of the kind.

[334] To put the drift of the above in other words, we do not need to
hear any more of Marianne in any position, because we have had enough
shown us to know generally what she would do, say, and think, in all

[335] It has been observed that there is actually a Meredithian quality
in Aristides of Smyrna, though he wrote no novel. A tale in Greek, to
illustrate the parallel, would be an admirable subject for a University

[336] Two descriptions of "Marivaudage" (which, by the way, was partly
anticipated by Fontenelle)--both, if I do not mistake, by Crébillon
_fils_--are famous: "Putting down not only everything you said and
thought, but also everything you would like to have thought and said,
but did not," and, "Introducing to each other words which never had
thought of being acquainted." Both of these perhaps hit the modern forms
of the phenomenon even harder than they hit their original butt.

[337] It is only fair to the poor Prioress to say that there is hardly a
heroine in fiction who is more deeply in love with her own pretty little
self than Marianne.

[338] One does not know whether it was prudence, or that materialism
which, though he was no _philosophe_, he shared with most of his
contemporaries, which prevented Marivaux from completing this sharp
though mildly worded criticism. The above-mentioned profane have hinted
that both the placidity and the indifference of the persons concerned,
whether Catholic or Calvinist, arise from their certainty of their own
safety in another world, and their looking down on less "guaranteed"
creatures in this. It may be just permissible to add that a comparison
of Chaucer's and Marivaux's prioresses will suggest itself to many
persons, and should be found delectable by all fit ones.

[339] His books on Margaret of Anjou and William the Conqueror are odd
crosses between actual historical essays and the still unborn historical

[340] Mlle. de Launay, better known as Mme. de Staal-Delaunay, saw, as
most would have seen, a resemblance in this to the famous Mlle. Aïssé's.
But the latter was bought as a little child by her provident
"protector," M. de Ferréol. Mlle. Aïssé herself had earlier read the
_Mémoires d'un Homme de Qualité_ and did not think much of them. But
this was the earlier part. It would be odd if she had not appreciated
Manon had she read it: but she died in the year of its appearance.

[341] The excellent but rather stupid editor of the [Dutch] _Oeuvres
Choisies_ above noticed has given abstracts of Prévost's novels as well
as of Richardson's, which the Abbé translated. These, with
Sainte-Beuve's of the _Mémoires_, will help those who want something
more than what is in the text, while declining the Sahara of the
original. But, curiously enough, the Dutchman does not deal with the end
of _Cléveland_.

[342] He had a fit of apoplexy when walking, and instead of being bled
was actually cut open by a village super-Sangrado, who thought him dead
and only brought him to life--to expire actually in torment.

[343] Crébillon _père_, tragedian and academician, is one of the persons
who have never had justice done to them: perhaps because they never
quite did justice to themselves. His plays are unequal, rhetorical, and
as over-heavy as his son's work is over-light. But, if we want to find
the true tragic touch of verse in the French eighteenth century, we must
go to him.

[344] "Be it mine to read endless romances of Marivaux and Crébillon."

[345] Learnt, no doubt, to a great extent from Anthony Hamilton, with
whose family, as has been noticed, he had early relations.

[346] He goes further, and points out that, as she is his _really_
beloved Marquise's most intimate friend, she surely wouldn't wish him to
declare himself false to that other lady?--having also previously
observed that, after what has occurred, he could never think of
deceiving his Célie herself by false declarations. These
topsy-turvinesses are among Crébillon's best points, and infinitely
superior to the silly "platitudes reversed" which have tried to produce
the same effect in more recent times.

[347] It has been said more than once that Crébillon had early access to
Hamilton's MSS. He refers directly to the Facardins in _Ah! Quel Conte!_
and makes one of his characters claim to be grand-daughter of
Cristalline la Curieuse herself.

[348] Nor perhaps even then, for passion is absolutely unknown to our
author. One touch of it would send the curious Rupert's drop of his
microcosm to shivers, as _Manon Lescaut_ itself in his time, and
_Adolphe_ long after, show.

[349] Some remarks are made by "Madame _Hépenny_"--a very pleasing
phoneticism, and, though an actual name, not likely to offend any actual

[350] No sneer is intended in this adjective. Except in one or two of
the personages of _Les Égarements_, Crébillon's intended gentlemen are
nearly always well-bred, however ill-moralled they may be, and his
ladies (with the same caution) are ladies. It is with him, in this last
point at any rate, as with our own Congreve, whom he rather closely
resembles in some ways: though I was amused the other day to find some
twentieth-century critical objections to actresses' rendering of _Love
for Love_ as "too well-bred." The fact is that the tradition of
"breeding" never broke down in France till the _philosophe_ period,
while with us it lasted till--when shall we say?



[Sidenote: The use of the novel for "purpose"--Voltaire.]

It has been for some time a commonplace--though, like most commonplaces,
it is probably much more often simply borrowed than an actual and (even
in the sense of _communis_) original perception of the borrowers--that
nothing shows the comparative inevitableness of the novel in the
eighteenth century better than the use of it by persons who would, at
other times, have used quite different forms to subserve similar
purposes. The chief instance of this with us is, of course, Johnson in
_Rasselas_, but it is much more variously and voluminously, if not in
any single instance much better, illustrated in France by the three
great leaders of the _philosophe_ movement; by considerable, if
second-rate figures, more or less connected with that movement, like
Marmontel and Bernardin de Saint-Pierre; and by many lesser writers.

There can be no question that, in more ways than one, Voltaire[351]
deserves the first place in this chapter, not only by age, by volume,
and by variety of general literary ability, but because he, perhaps more
than any of the others, is a tale-teller born. That he owes a good deal
to Hamilton, and something directly to Hamilton's master,
Saint-Évremond, has been granted elsewhere; but that he is dependent on
these models to such an extent as to make his actual production unlikely
if the models had not been ready for him, may be roundly denied. There
are in literature some things which must have existed, and of which it
is not frivolous to say that if their actual authors had not been there,
or had declined to write them, they would have found somebody else to do
it. Of these, _Candide_ is evidently one, and more than one of
_Candide's_ smaller companions have at least something of the same
characteristic. Yet one may also say that if Voltaire himself had not
written these, he must have written other things of the kind. The
mordant wit, the easy, fluent, rippling style, so entirely free from
boisterousness yet with constant "wap" of wavelet and bursting of
foam-bubble; above all, the pure unadulterated faculty of tale-telling,
must have found vent and play somehow. It had been well if the
playfulness had not been, as playfulness too often is, of what
contemporary English called an "unlucky" (that is, a "mischievous")
kind; and if the author had not been constantly longing to make somebody
or many bodies uncomfortable,[352] to damage and defile shrines, to
exhibit a misanthropy more really misanthropic, because less passionate
and tragical, than Swift's, and, in fact, as his patron, persecutor, and
counterpart, Frederick the Jonathan-Wildly Great, most justly observed
of him, to "play monkey-tricks," albeit monkey-tricks of immense talent,
if not actually of genius. If the recent attempts to interpret
monkey-speech were to come to something, and if, as a consequence,
monkeys were taught to write, one may be sure that prose fiction would
be their favourite department, and that their productions would be,
though almost certainly disreputable, quite certainly amusing. In fact
there would probably be some among these which would be claimed, by
critics of a certain type, as hitherto unknown works of Voltaire

Yet if the straightforward tale had not, owing to the influences
discussed in the foregoing chapters, acquired a firm hold, it is at
least possible that he would not have adopted it (for originality of
form was not Voltaire's _forte_), but would have taken the dialogue, or
something else capable of serving his purpose. As it was, the particular
field or garden had already been marked out and hedged after a fashion;
tools and methods of cultivation had been prepared; and he set to work
to cultivate it with the application and intelligence recommended in the
famous moral of his most famous tale--a moral which, it is only fair to
say, he did carry out almost invariably. A garden of very questionable
plants was his, it may be; but that is another matter. The fact and the
success of the cultivation are both undeniable.

[Sidenote: General characteristics of his tales.]

At the same time, Voltaire--if indeed, as was doubted just now, he be a
genius at all--is not a genius, or even a djinn, of the kind that
creates and leaves something Melchisedec-like; alone and isolated from
what comes before and what comes after. He is an immense talent--perhaps
the greatest talent-but-not-genius ever known--who utilises and improves
and develops rather than invents. It is from this that his faculty of
never boring, except when he has got upon the Scriptures, comes; it is
because of this also that he never conceives anything really, simply,
absolutely _great_. His land is never exactly weary, but there is no
imposing and sheltering and refreshing rock in it. These _romans_ and
_contes_ and _nouvelles_ of his stimulate, but they do not either rest
or refresh. They have what is, to some persons at any rate, the
theatrical quality, not the poetical or best-prosaic. But as nearly
consummate works of art, or at least craft, they stand almost alone.

He had seen[353] the effect of which the fairy tale of the
sophisticated kind was capable, and the attraction which it had for both
vulgars, the great and the small: and he made the most of it. He kept
and heightened its _haut goût_; he discarded the limitations to a very
partial and conventional society which Crébillon put on it; but he
limited it in other ways to commonplace and rather vulgar fancy, without
the touches of imagination which Hamilton had imparted. Yet he infused
an even more accurate appreciation of certain phases of human nature
than those predecessors or partial contemporaries of his who were
discussed in the last chapter had introduced; he _practicalised_ it to
the _n_th, and he made it almost invariably subordinate to a direct,
though a sometimes more or less ignoble, purpose. There is no doubt that
he had learnt a great deal from Lucian and from Lucian's French
imitators, perhaps as far back as Bonaventure des Périers; there is, I
think, little that he had added as much as he could add from Swift.[354]
His stolen or borrowed possessions from these sources, and especially
this last, remind one in essence rather of the pilferings of a "light
horseman," or river-pirate who has hung round an "old three-decker,"
like that celebrated in Mr. Kipling's admirable poem, and has caught
something even of the light from "her tall poop-lanterns shining so far
above him," besides picking up overboard trifles, and cutting loose
boats and cables. But when he gets to shore and to his own workshop, his
almost unequalled power of sheer wit, and his general craftsmanship,
bring out of these lootings something admirable in its own way.

[Sidenote: _Candide._]

_Candide_ is almost "great," and though the breed of Dr. Pangloss in its
original kind is nearly extinct, the England which suffered the
approach, and has scarcely yet allowed itself to comprehend the reality,
of the war of 1914, ought to know that there have been and are
Pangloss_otins_ of almost appalling variety. The book does not really
require the smatches of sculduddery, which he has smeared over it, to
be amusing; for its lifelikeness carries it through. As is well known,
Johnson admitted the parallel with _Rasselas_, which is among the most
extraordinary coincidences of literature. I have often wondered whether
anybody ever took the trouble to print the two together. There would be
many advantages in doing so; but they might perhaps be counter-balanced
by the fact that some of the most fervent admirers of _Rasselas_ would
be infinitely shocked by _Candide_, and that perhaps more of the special
lovers of _Candide_ would find themselves bored to extinction by
_Rasselas_. Let those who can not only value but enjoy both be thankful,
but not proud.

Many people have written about the Consolations of Old Age, not seldom,
it is to be feared, in a "Who's afraid?" sort of spirit. But there are a
few, an apple or two by the banks of Ulai, which we may pluck as the
night approaches. One is almost necessarily accidental, for it would be
rash and somewhat cold-blooded to plan it. It consists in the reading,
after many years, of a book once familiar almost to the point of knowing
by heart, and then laid aside, not from weariness or disgust, but merely
as things happened. This, as in some other books mentioned in this
history, was the case with the present writer in respect of _Candide_.
From twenty to forty, or thereabouts, I must have read it over and over
again; the sentences drop into their places almost without exercising
any effort of memory to recognise them. From forty to seventy I do not
think I read it at all; because no reason made reading necessary, and
chance left it untouched on the shelf. Sometimes, as everybody knows,
the result of renewed acquaintance in such cases is more or less severe
disappointment; in a few of the happiest, increased pleasure. But it is
perhaps the severest test of a classic (in the exact but limited sense
of that word) that its effect shall be practically unchanged, shall have
been established in the mind and taste with such a combination of
solidity and _netteté_, that no change is possible. I do not think I
have ever found this to be more the case than with the history of
Candide (who was such a good fellow, without being in the least a prig,
as I am afraid Zadig was, that one wonders how Voltaire came to think of
him) and of Mademoiselle Cunégonde (nobody will ever know anything about
style who does not feel what the continual repetition in Candide's mouth
of the "Mademoiselle" does) of the indomitable Pangloss, and the
detestable baron, and the forgivable Paquette, and that philosopher
Martin, who did _not_ "let cheerfulness break in," and the admirable
Cacambo, who shows that, much as he hated Rousseau, Voltaire himself was
not proof against the noble savage mania.[355]

As a piece (_v. sup._) of art or craft, the thing is beyond praise or
pay. It could not be improved, on its own specification, except that
perhaps the author might have told us how Mademoiselle Cunégonde, who
had kept her beauty through some very severe experiences, suddenly lost
it. It is idle as literary, though not as historical, criticism to say,
as has been often said about the Byng passage, that Voltaire's smartness
rather "goes off through the touch-hole," seeing that the admiral's
execution did very considerably "encourage the others." It is
superfluous to urge the unnecessary "smuts," which are sometimes not in
the least amusing. All these and other sought-for knots are lost in the
admirable smoothness of this reed, which waves in the winds of time with
unwitherable greenness, and slips through the hand, as you stroke it,
with a coaxing tickle. To praise its detail would again be idle--nobody
ought to read such praise who can read itself; and if anybody, having
read its first page, fails to see that it is, and how it is,
praiseworthy, he never will or would be converted if all the eulogies of
the most golden-mouthed critics of the world were poured upon him in a
steady shower. As a whole it is undoubtedly the best, and (except part
of _Zadig_) it is nowhere else matched in the book of the romances of
Voltaire, while for those who demand "purposes" and "morals," it stands
almost alone. It is the comic "Vanity of Human Wishes" in prose, as
_Rasselas_ is the tragic or, at least, serious version: and, as has been
said, the two make an unsurpassable sandwich, or, at least, _tartine_.
Nor could it have been told, in any other way than by prose fiction,
with anything like the same effect, either as regards critical judgment
or popular acceptance.

[Sidenote: _Zadig_ and its satellites.]

_Zadig_, as has been indicated already, probably ranks in point of merit
next to _Candide_. If it had stopped about half-way, there could be no
doubt about the matter. The reader is caught at once by one of the most
famous and one of the most Voltairian of phrases, "Il savait de la
métaphysique ce qu'on a su dans tous les âges, c'est-à-dire fort peu de
chose," a little more discussion of which saying, and of others like it,
may perhaps be given later. The successive disappointments of the almost
too perfect[356] hero are given with the simplicity just edged with
irony which is Voltaire's when he is at his best, though he undoubtedly
learnt it from the masters already assigned, and--the suggestion would
have made him very angry, and would probably have attracted one of his
most Yahoo-like descents on this humble and devoted head--from Lesage.
But though the said head has no objection--much the reverse--to "happy
endings," the romance-finish of _Zadig_ has always seemed to it a
mistake. Still, how many mistakes would one pardon if they came after
such a success? _Babouc_, the first of those miniature _contes_ (they
are hardly "tales" in one sense), which Voltaire managed so admirably,
has the part-advantage part-disadvantage of being likewise the first of
a series of satires on French society, which, piquant as they are, would
certainly have been both more piquant and more weighty if there had been
fewer of them. It is full of the perfect, if not great, Voltairian
phrases,--the involuntary _Mene Tekel_, "Babouc conclut qu'une telle
société ne pouvait subsister"; the palinode after a fashion, "Il
s'affectionnait à la ville, dont le peuple était doux [oh! Nemesis!]
poli et bien-faisant, quoique léger, médisant et plein de vanité"; and
the characteristic collection of parallel between Babouc and Jonah,
surely not objectionable even to the most orthodox, "Mais quand on a été
trois jours dans le corps d'une baleine on n'est pas de si bonne humeur
que quand on a été à l'opéra, à la comédie et qu'on a soupé en bonne

[Sidenote: _Micromégas._]

_Memnon, ou La Sagesse Humaine_ is still less of a tale, only a lively
sarcastic apologue; but he would be a strange person who would quarrel
with its half-dozen pages, and much the same may be said of the _Voyages
de Scarmentado_. Still, one feels in both of them, and in many of the
others, that they are after all not much more than chips of an inferior
rehandling of _Gulliver_. _Micromégas_, as has been said, does not
disguise its composition as something of the kind; but the desire to
annoy Fontenelle, while complimenting him after a fashion as the "dwarf
of Saturn," and perhaps other strokes of personal scratching, have put
Voltaire on his mettle. You will not easily find a better Voltairism of
its particular class than, "Il faut bien citer ce qu'on ne comprend
point du tout, dans la langue qu'on entend le moins." But, as so often
happens, the cracker in the tail is here the principal point.
Micromégas, the native of Sirius, who may be Voltaire himself, or
anybody else--after his joint tour through the universes (much more
amusing than that of the late Mr. Bailey's Festus), with the smaller but
still gigantic Saturnian--writes a philosophical treatise to instruct us
poor microbes of the earth, and it is taken to Paris, to the secretary
of the Academy of Science (Fontenelle himself). "Quand le sécretaire
l'eut ouvert il ne vit rien qu'un livre tout blanc. 'Ah!' dit-il, 'je
m'en étais bien douté.'" Voltaire did a great deal of harm in the world,
and perhaps no solid good;[357] but it is things like this which make
one feel that it would have been, a loss had there been no Voltaire.

[Sidenote: _L'Ingénu._]

_L'Ingénu_, which follows _Candide_ in the regular editions, falls
perhaps as a whole below all these, and _L'Homme aux Quarante Écus_,
which follows it, hardly concerns us at all, being mere political
economy of a sort in dialogue. _L'Ingénu_ is a story, and has many
amusing things in it. But it is open to the poser that if Voltaire
really accepted the noble savage business he was rather silly, and that
if he did not, the piece is a stale and not very biting satire. It is,
moreover, somewhat exceptionally full (there is only one to beat it) of
the vulgar little sniggers which suggest the eunuch even more than the
schoolboy, and the conclusion is abominable. The seducer and,
indirectly, murderer Saint-Pouange may only have done after his kind in
regard to Mlle. de Saint-Yves; but the Ingénu himself neither acted up
to his Huron education, nor to his extraction as a French gentleman, in
forgiving the man and taking service under him.

[Sidenote: _La Princesse de Babylone._]

_La Princesse de Babylone_ is more like Hamilton than almost any other
of the tales, and this, it need hardly be said here, is high praise,
even for a work of Voltaire. For it means that it has what we commonly
find in that work, and also something that we do not. But it has that
defect which has been noticed already in _Zadig_, and which, by its
absence, constitutes the supremacy of _Candide_. There is in it a sort
of "break in the middle." The earlier stages of the courtship of
Formosante are quite interesting; but when she and her lover begin
separately to wander over the world, in order that their chronicler may
make satiric observations on the nations thereof, one feels inclined to
say, as Mr. Mowbray Morris said to Mr. Matthew Arnold (who thought it
was Mr. Traill):

    Can't you give us something new?

[Sidenote: Some minors.]

_Le Blanc et le Noir_ rises yet again, and though it has perhaps not
many of Voltaire's _mots de flamme_, it is more of a fairy moral
tale--neither a merely fantastic mow, nor sicklied over with its
morality--than almost any other. It is noteworthy, too, that the author
has hardly any recourse to his usual clove of garlic to give seasoning.
_Jeannot et Colin_ might have been Marmontel's or Miss Edgeworth's,
being merely the usual story of two rustic lads, one of whom becomes
rich and corrupt till, later, he is succoured by the other. Now
Marmontel and Miss Edgeworth are excellent persons and writers; but
their work is not work for Voltaire.

The _Lettres d'Amabed_[358] are the dirtiest and the dullest of the
whole batch, and the _Histoire de Jenni_, though not particularly dirty,
is very dull indeed, being the "History of a Good Deist," a thing
without which (as Mr. Carlyle used to say) we could do. The same sort of
"purpose" mars _Les Oreilles du Comte de Chesterfield_, in which, after
the first page, there is practically nothing about Lord Chesterfield or
his deafness, but which contains a good deal of Voltaire's crispest
writing, especially the definition of that English freedom which he
sometimes used to extol. With thirty guineas a year,[359] the
materialist doctor Sidrac informs the unfortunate Goudman, who has lost
a living by the said deafness, "on peut dire tout ce qu'on pense de la
compagnie des Indes, du parlement, de nos colonies, du roi, de l'état en
général, de l'homme et de Dieu--ce qui est un grand amusement." But the
piece itself would be more amusing if Voltaire could let the Bible
alone, though he does not here come under the stroke of Diderot's
sledge-hammer as he does in _Amabed_.

One seldom, however, echoes this last wish, and remembers the stroke
referred to, more than in reference to _Le Taureau Blanc_. Here, if
there were nobody who reverenced the volume which begins with _Genesis_
and ends with _Revelation_, the whole thing would be utterly dead and
stupid: except for a few crispnesses of the Egyptian Mambrès, which
could, almost without a single exception, have been uttered on any other
theme. The identification of Nebuchadnezzar with the bull Apis is not
precisely an effort of genius; but the assembling, and putting through
their paces, of Balaam's ass and Jonah's whale, the serpent of Eden, and
the raven of the Ark, with the three prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and
Daniel, and with an historical King Amasis and an unhistorical Princess
Amaside thrown in, is less a _conte à dormir debout_, as Voltaire's
countrymen and he himself would say, than a tale to make a man sleep
when he is running at full speed--a very dried poppy-head of the garden
of tales. On the other hand, the very short and very early _Le
Crocheteur Borgne_, which, curiously enough, Voltaire never printed, and
the not much longer _Cosi-Sancta_, which he printed in his queer
ostrich-like manner, are, though a little naughty, quite nice; and have
a freshness and demure grace about their naughtiness which contrasts
remarkably with the ugly and wearisome snigger of later work.

[Sidenote: Voltaire--the Kehl edition--and Plato.]

The half-dozen others,[360] filling scarce twenty pages between them,
which conclude the usual collection, need little comment; but a "Kehl"
note to the first of them is for considerable thoughts:

     M. de Voltaire s'est égayé quelquefois sur Platon, dont le
     galimatias, regardé autrefois comme sublime, a fait plus de
     mal au genre humain qu'on ne le croit communément.

One should not hurry over this, but muse a little. In copying the note,
I felt almost inclined to write "_M. de_ Platon" in order to put the
whole thing in a consistent key; for somehow "Plato" by itself, even in
the French form, transports one into such a very different world that
adjustment of clocks and compasses becomes at once necessary and
difficult. "Galimatias" is good, "autrefois" is possibly better, the
"evils inflicted on the human race" better still, but _égayé_ perhaps
best of all. The monkey, we know, makes itself gay with the elephant,
and probably would do so with the lion and the tiger if these animals
had not an unpleasant way of dealing with jokers. And the tomtit and
canary have, no doubt, at least private agreement that the utterances of
the nightingale are _galimatias_, while the carrion crow thinks the
eagle a fool for dwelling so high and flying so much higher. But as for
the other side of the matter, how thin and poor and puerile even those
smartest things of Voltaire's, some of which have been quoted and
praised, sound, if one attempts to read them after the last sentence of
the _Apology_, or after passage on passage of the rest of the
"galimatias" of Plato!

Nevertheless, though you may answer a fool according to his folly, you
should not, especially when he is not a fool absolute, judge him solely
thereby. When Voltaire was making himself gay with Plato, with the
Bible, and with some other things, he was talking, not merely of
something which he did not completely understand, but of something
altogether outside the range of his comprehension. But in the judgment
of literature the process of "cancelling" does not exist. A quality is
not destroyed or neutralised by a defect, and, properly speaking (though
it is hard for the critic to observe this), to strike a balance between
the two is impossible. It is right to enter the non-values; but the
values remain and require chief attention.

[Sidenote: An attempt at different evaluation of himself.]

From what has been already said, it will be clear that there is no
disposition here to give Voltaire anything short of the fullest credit,
both as an individual writer of prose fiction and as a link in the chain
of its French producers. He worked for the most part in miniature, and
even _Candide_ runs but to its bare hundred pages. But these are of the
first quality in their own way, and give the book the same position for
the century, in satiric and comic fiction, which _Manon Lescaut_ holds
in that of passion. That both should have taken this form, while,
earlier, _Manon_, if written at all, would probably have been a poem,
and _Candide_ would have been a treatise, shows on the one side the
importance of the position which the novel had assumed, and on the other
the immense advantages which it gave, as a kind, to the artist in
literature. I like poetry better than anything, but though the subject
could have been, and often has been, treated satirically in verse, a
verse _narrative_ could hardly have avoided inferiority, while even
Berkeley (who himself borrowed a little of novel-form for _Alciphron_)
could not have made _Candide_ more effective than it is. It is of course
true that Voltaire's powers as a "fictionist" were probably limited in
fact, to the departments, or the department, which he actually occupied,
and out of which he wisely did not go. He must have a satiric purpose,
and he must be allowed a very free choice of subject and seasoning. In
particular, it may be noted that he has no grasp whatever of individual
character. Even Candide is but a "humour," and Pangloss a very decided
one; as are Martin, Gordon in _L'Ingénu_, and others. His women are all
slightly varied outline-sketches of what he thought women in general
were, not persons. Plot he never attempted; and racy as his dialogue
often is, it is on the whole merely a setting for these very sparkles of
wit some of which have been quoted.

It is in these scintillations, after all, that the chief delight of his
tales consists; and though, as has been honestly confessed and shown, he
learnt this to some extent from others, he made the thing definitely his
own. When the Babylonian public has been slightly "elevated" by the
refreshments distributed at the great tournament for the hand of the
Princess Formosante, it decides that war, etc., is folly, and that the
essence of human nature is to enjoy itself, "Cette excellente morale,"
says Voltaire gravely, "n'a jamais été démentie" (the words really
should be made to come at the foot of a page so that you might have to
turn over before coming to the conclusion of the sentence) "que par les
faits." Again, in the description of the Utopia of the Gangarides (same
story), where not only men but beasts and birds are all perfectly wise,
well conducted, and happy, a paragraph of quite sober description,
without any flinging up of heels or thrusting of tongue in cheek, ends,
"Nous avons surtout des perroquets qui prêchent à merveille," and for
once Voltaire exercises on himself the Swiftian control, which he too
often neglected, and drops his beloved satire of clerics after this
gentle touch at it.[361]

He is of course not constantly at his best; but he is so often enough to
make him, as was said at the beginning, very delectable reading,
especially for the second time and later, which will be admitted to be
no common praise. When you read him for the first time his bad taste,
his obsession with certain subjects, his repetition of the same gibes,
and other things which have been duly mentioned, strike and may
disgust--will certainly more or less displease anybody but a partisan on
the same side. On a second or later reading you are prepared for them,
and either skip them altogether or pass them by without special notice,
repeating the enjoyment of what is better in an unalloyed fashion. And
so doth the excellent old chestnut-myth, which probably most of us have
heard told with all innocence as an original witticism, justify itself,
and one should "prefer the second hour" of the reading to the first. But
if there is a first there will almost certainly be a second, and it will
be a very great pity if there is no reading at all.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Rousseau--the novel-character of the _Confessions_.]

According to the estimate of the common or vulgate (I do not say
"vulgar," though in the best English there is little or no difference)
literary history, Rousseau[362] ranks far higher in the scale of
novel-writing than Voltaire, having left long and ambitious books of the
kind against Voltaire's handful of short, shorter, and shortest stories.
It might be possible to accept this in one sense, but in one which would
utterly disconcert the usual valuers. The _Confessions_, if it were not
an autobiography, would be one of the great novels of the world. A large
part of it is probably or certainly "fictionised"; if the whole were
fictitious, it would lose much of its repulsiveness, retain (except for
a few very matter-of-fact judges) all its interest, and gain the
enormous advantage of art over mere _reportage_ of fact. Of course
Rousseau's art of another kind, his mere mastery of style and
presentation, does redeem this _reportage_ to some extent; but this
would remain if the thing were wholly fiction, and the other art of
invention, divination, _mimesis_--call it what you will--would come in.
Yet it is not worth while to be idly unlike other people and claim it as
an actual novel. It may be worth while to point out how it displays some
of the great gifts of the novel-writer. The first of these--the greatest
and, in fact, the mother of all the rest--is the sheer faculty, so often
mentioned but not, alas! so invariably found, of telling the tale and
holding the reader, not with any glittering eye or any enchantment,
white or black, but with the pure grasping--or, as French admirably has
it, "enfisting"--power of the tale itself. Round this there cluster--or,
rather, in this necessarily abide--the subsidiary arts of managing the
various parts of the story, of constructing characters sufficient to
carry it on, of varnishing it with description, and to some extent,
though naturally to a lesser one than if it had been fiction pure and
simple, "lacing" it, in both senses of the word, with dialogue.
Commonplace (but not the best commonplace) taste often cries "Oh! if
this were only true!" The wiser mind is fain sometimes--not often, for
things are not often good enough--to say, "Oh! if this were only

[Sidenote: The ambiguous position of _Émile_.]

But if a severe auditor were to strike the _Confessions_ out of
Rousseau's novel-account to the good, on the score of technical
insufficiency or disqualification, he could hardly refuse to do the same
with _Émile_ on the other side of the sheet. In fact its second title
(_de l'Éducation_), its opening remarks, and the vastly larger part of
the text, not only do not pretend to be a novel but frankly decline to
be one. In what way exactly the treatise, from the mere assumption of a
supposed "soaring human boy" named Émile, who serves as the victim of a
few _Sandford-and-Merton_-like illustrations, burgeoned into the romance
of actual novel-kind with Sophie in the Fifth Book, and the purely
novel-natured, but unfinished and hardly begun, sequel of _Émile et
Sophie ou Les Solitaires_, it is impossible to say. From the sketch of
the intended conclusion of this latter given by Prévost[363] it would
seem that we have not lost much, though with Rousseau the treatment is
so constantly above the substance that one cannot tell. As it is, the
novel part is nearly worthless. Neither Émile nor Sophie is made in the
least a live person; the catastrophe of their at first ideal union might
be shown, by an advocate of very moderate skill, to be largely if not
wholly due to the meddlesome, muddle-headed, and almost inevitably
mischievous advice given to them just after their marriage by their
foolish Mentor; and one neither finds nor foresees any real novel
interest whatever. Anilities in the very worst style of the eighteenth
century--such as the story how Émile instigated mutiny in an Algerian
slave-gang, failed, made a noble protest, and instead of being impaled,
flayed, burnt alive, or otherwise taught not to do so, was made overseer
of his own projects of reformed discipline--are sufficiently
unrefreshing in fact. And the sort of "double arrangement" foreshadowed
in the professorial programme of the unwritten part, where, in something
like Davenant and Dryden's degradation of _The Tempest_, Émile and
Sophie, she still refusing to be pardoned her fault, are brought
together after all, and are married, in an actual though not consummated
cross-bigamy, with a mysterious couple, also marooned on a desert
island, is the sort of thing that Rousseau never could have managed,
though Voltaire, probably to the discontent of Mrs. Grundy, could have
done it in one way, and Sir William Gilbert would have done it
delightfully in another. But Jean-Jacques's absolute lack of humour
would have ensured a rather ghastly failure, relieved, it may be, by a
few beautiful passages.

[Sidenote: _La Nouvelle Héloïse._]

If, therefore, Rousseau had nothing but _Émile_, or even nothing but
_Émile_ and the _Confessions_ to put to his credit, he could but obtain
a position in our "utmost, last, provincial band," and that more because
of his general literary powers than of special right. But, as everybody
knows, there is a third book among his works which, whether universally
or only by a majority, whether in whole or in part, whether with heavy
deductions and allowances or with light ones, has been reckoned among
the greatest and most epoch-making novels of the world. The full title
of it is _Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse, ou Lettres de deux Amans,
habitans d'une petite ville au pied des Alpes, recueillies et publiées,
par J. J. Rousseau_.[364] Despite its immense fame, direct and at
second-hand--for Byron's famous outburst, though scarcely less
rhetorical, is decidedly more poetical than most things of his, and has
inscribed itself in the general memory--one rather doubts whether the
book is as much read as it once was. Quotations, references, and those
half-unconscious reminiscences of borrowing which are more eloquent
than anything else, have not recently been very common either in English
or in French. It has had the fate--elsewhere, I think, alluded to--of
one of the two kinds of great literature, that it has in a manner seeded
itself out. An intense love-novel--it is some time since we have seen
one till the other day--would be a descendant of Rousseau's book, but
would not bear more than a family likeness to it. Yet this, of itself,
is a great testimony.

[Sidenote: Its numerous and grave faults.]

Except in rhetoric or rhapsody, the allowances and deductions above
referred to must be heavy; and, according to a custom honoured both by
time and good result, it is well to get them off first. That peculiarity
of being a novelist only _par interim_, much more than Aramis was a
mousquetaire, appears, even in _Julie_, so glaringly as to be dangerous
and almost fatal. The book fills, in the ordinary one-volume editions,
nearly five hundred pages of very small and very close print. Of these
the First Part contains rather more than a hundred, and it would be
infinitely better if the whole of the rest, except a few passages (which
would be almost equally good as fragments), were in the bosom of the
ocean buried. Large parts of them are mere discussions of some of
Rousseau's own fads; clumsy parodies of Voltaire's satiric
manners-painting; waterings out of the least good traits in the hero and
heroine; uninteresting and superfluous appearances of the third and only
other real person, Claire; a dreary account of Julie's married life;
tedious eccentricities of the impossible and not very agreeable Lord
Edward Bomston, who shares with Dickens's Lord Frederick Verisopht the
peculiarity of being alternately a peer and a person with a courtesy
"Lord"-ship; a rather silly end for the heroine herself;[365] and
finally, a rather repulsive and quite incongruous acknowledgment of
affection for the creature Saint-Preux, with a refusal to "implement"
it (as they say in Scotland) matrimonially, by Claire, who is by this
time a widow.[366] If mutilating books[367] were not a crime deserving
terrible retribution in this life or after it, one could be excused for
tearing off the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Parts, with the
_Amours de Lord Édouard_ which follow. If one was rich, one would be
amply justified in having a copy of Part I., and the fragments above
indicated, printed for oneself on vellum.

[Sidenote: The minor characters.]

But this is not all. Even the First Part--even the presentation of the
three protagonists--is open to some, and even to severe, criticism. The
most guiltless, but necessarily much the least important, is Claire. She
is, of course, an obvious "borrow" from Richardson's lively second
heroines; but she is infinitely superior to them. It is at first sight,
though not perhaps for long, curious--and it is certainly a very great
compliment to Madame de Warens or Vuarrens and Madame d'Houdetot, and
perhaps other objects of his affections--that Rousseau, cad as he was,
and impossible as it was for him to draw a gentleman, could and did draw
ladies. It was horribly bad taste in both Julie and Claire to love such
a creature as Saint-Preux; but then _cela s'est vu_ from the time of the
Lady of the Strachy downwards, if not from that of Princess Michal. But
Claire is faithful and true as steel, and she is lively without being,
as Charlotte Grandison certainly is, vulgar. She is very much more a
really "reasonable woman," even putting passion aside, than the somewhat
sermonising and syllogising Julie; and it would have been both agreeable
and tormenting to be M. d'Orbe. (Tormenting because she only half-loved
him, and agreeable because she did love him a little, and, whether it
was little or much, allowed herself to be his.) He himself, slight and
rather "put upon" as he is, is also much the most agreeable of the
"second" male characters. Of Bomston and Wolmar we shall speak
presently; and there is so little of the Baron d'Étange that one really
does not know whether he was or was not something more than the
tyrannical husband and father, and the ill-mannered specimen of the
lesser nobility, that it pleased Saint-Preux or Rousseau to represent
him as being. He had provocation enough, even in the case of his
otherwise hardly pardonable insolence to Bomston.[368]

[Sidenote: The delinquencies of Saint-Preux.]

But Saint-Preux himself? How early was the obvious jest made that he is
about as little of a _preux_ as he is of a saint? I have heard, or
dreamt, of a schoolboy who, being accidentally somewhat precocious in
French, and having read the book, ejaculated, "_What_ a sweep he is!"
and I remember no time of my life at which I should not have heartily
agreed with that youth. I do not suppose that either of us--though
perhaps we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for not doing so--founded
our condemnation on Saint-Preux's "forgetfulness of all but love." That
is a "forfeit," in French and English sense alike, which has itself
registered and settled in various tariffs and codes, none of which
concerns the present history. It is not even that he is a most
unreasonable creature now and then; that can be pardoned, being
understood, though he really does strain the benefit of _amare et
sapere_ etc. It is that, except when he is in the altitudes of passion,
and not always then, he never "knows how to behave," as the simple and
sufficient old phrase had it. If M. d'Étange had had the wits, and had
deigned to do it, he might even, without knowing his deepest cause of
quarrel with the treacherous tutor, have pointed out that Saint-Preux's
claim to be one of God Almighty's gentlemen was as groundless as his
"proofs," in the French technical sense of gentility, were non-existent.
It is impossible to imagine anything in worse taste than his reply to
the Baron's no doubt offensive letter, and Julie's enclosed
renunciation. Even the adoring Julie herself, and the hardly less
adoring Claire--the latter not in the least a prude, nor given to giving
herself "airs"--are constantly obliged to pull him up for his want of
_délicatesse_. He is evidently a coxcomb, still more evidently a prig;
selfish beyond even that selfishness which is venial in a lover; not in
the least, though he can exceed in wine, a "good fellow," and in many
ways thoroughly unmanly. A good English school and college might have
made him tolerable: but it is rather to be doubted, and it is certain
that his way as a transgressor would have been hard at both. As it is,
he is very largely the embodiment--and it is more charitable than
uncharitable to regard him as largely the cause--of the faults of the
worst kind of French, and not quite only French, novel-hero ever since.

[Sidenote: And the less charming points of Julie. Her redemption.]

One approaches Julie herself, in critical intent, with mixed feelings.
One would rather say nothing but good of her, and there is plenty of
good to say: how much will be seen in a moment. Most of what is not so
good belongs, in fact, to the dreary bulk of sequel tacked on by
mistaken judgment to that more than true history of a hundred pages,
which leaves her in despair, and might well have left her altogether.
Even here she is not faultless, quite independently of her sins
according to Mrs. Grundy and the Pharisees. If she had not been, as
Claire herself fondly but truly calls her, such a _prêcheresse_, she
might not have fallen a victim to such a prig. One never can quite
forgive her for loving him, except on the all-excusing ground that she
loved him so much; and though she is perhaps not far beyond the licence
of "All's fair, in certain conditions," there is no doubt that, like her
part-pattern Clarissa, she is not passionately attached to the truth.
It might be possible to add some cavils, but for the irresistible plea
just glanced at, which stops one.

_Quia multum amavit!_ Nobody--at least no woman--had loved like that in
a prose novel before; nobody at all except Des Grieux, and he is but as
a sketch to an elaborate picture. She will wander after Pallas, and
would like to think that she would like to be of the train of Dian (one
shudders at imagining the scowl and the shrug and the twist of the skirt
of the goddess!). But the kiss of Aphrodite has been on her, and has
mastered her whole nature. How the thing could be done, out of poetry,
has always been a marvel to me; but I have explained it by the
supposition that the absolute impossibility of writing poetry at this
time in French necessitated the break-out in prose. Rousseau's wonderful
style--so impossible to analyse, but so irresistible--does much; the
animating sense of his native scenery something. But, after all, what
gives the thing its irresistibleness is the strange command he had of
Passion and of Sorrow--two words, the first of which is actually, in the
original sense, a synonym of the second, though it has been expanded to
cover the very opposite.

[Sidenote: And the better side of the book generally.]

But it would be unfair to Rousseau, especially in such a place as this,
to confine the praise of _Julie_ as a novel to its exhibition of
passion, or even to the charm of Julie herself. Within its proper
limits--which are, let it be repeated, almost if not quite exactly those
of the First Part--many other gifts of the particular class of artist
are shown. The dangerous letter-scheme, which lends itself so easily,
and in the other parts surrenders itself so helplessly and hopelessly,
to mere "piffle" about this and that, is kept well in hand. Much as
Rousseau owes to Richardson, he has steered entirely clear of that
system of word-for-word and incident-for-incident reporting which makes
the Englishman's work so sickening to some. You have enough of each and
no more, this happy mean affecting both dialogue and description. The
plot (or rather the action) is constantly present, probably managed,
always enlivened by the imminence of disastrous discovery. As has been
already pointed out, one may dislike--or feel little interest in--some
of the few characters; but it is impossible to say that they are out of
drawing or keeping. Saint-Preux, objectionable and almost loathsome as
he may be sometimes, is a thoroughly human creature, and is undoubtedly
what Rousseau meant him to be, for the very simple reason that he is
(like the Byronic hero who followed) what Rousseau wished to be, if not
exactly what he was, himself. Bomston is more of a lay figure; but then
the _Anglais philosophe de qualité_ of the French imagination in the
eighteenth century was a lay figure, and, as has been excellently said
by De Quincey in another matter, nothing can be wrong which conforms to
the principles of its own ideal. As for Julie and Claire, they once more

    Answer the ends of their being created.

Even the "talking-book" is here hardly excessive, and comes legitimately
under the excuse of showing how the relations between the hero and
heroine originally got themselves established.[369]

[Sidenote: But little probability of more good work in novel from its

Are we, then, from the excellence of the "Confessions" _in pari materia_
and _in ipsa_ of _Julie_, to lament that Rousseau did not take to
novel-writing as a special and serious occupation? Probably not. The
extreme weakness and almost _fadeur_ of the strictly novel part of
_Émile_, and the going-off of _Julie_ itself, are very open warnings;
the mere absence of any other attempts worth mentioning[370] is evidence
of a kind; and the character of all the rest of the work, and of all
this part of the work but the opening of _Julie_, and even of that
opening itself, counsel abstention, here as everywhere, from quarrelling
with Providence. Rousseau's superhuman concentration on himself, while
it has inspired the relevant parts of the _Confessions_ and of _Julie_,
has spoilt a good deal else that we have, and would assuredly have
spoilt other things that we have not. It has been observed, by all acute
students of the novel, that the egotistic variety will not bear heavy
crops of fruit by itself; and that it is incapable, or capable with very
great difficulty, of letting the observed and so far altruistic kind
grow from the same stool. Of what is sometimes called the dramatic
faculty (though, in fact, it is only one side of that),--the faculty
which in different guise and with different means the general novelist
must also possess,--Rousseau had nothing. He could put himself in no
other man's skin, being so absolutely wrapped up in his own, which was
itself much too sensitive to be disturbed, much less shed. Anything or
anybody that was (to use Mill's language) a permanent or even a
temporary possibility of sensation to him was within his power; anything
out of immediate or closely impending contact was not. Now some of the
great novelists have the external power--or at least the will to use
that power--alone, others have had both; but Rousseau had the internal
only, and so was, except by miracle of intensive exercise, incapable of
further range.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The different case of Diderot.]

Neither of the disabilities which weighed on Voltaire and Rousseau--the
incapacity of the former to construct any complex character, and of the
latter to portray any but his own, or some other brought into intensest
communion, actually or as a matter of wish, with his own--weighed upon
the third of the great trio of _philosophe_ leaders. There is every
probability that Diderot might have been a very great novelist if he had
lived a hundred years later; and not a little evidence that he only
missed being such, even as it was, because of that mysterious curse
which was epigrammatically expressed about him long ago (I really
forget who said it first), "Good pages, no good book." So far from being
self-centred or of limited interests, he could, as hardly any other man
ever could, claim the hackneyed _Homo sum_, etc., as his rightful motto.
He had, when he allowed himself to give it fair play, an admirable gift
of tale-telling; he could create character, and set it to work, almost
after the fashion of the very greatest novelists; his universal interest
and "curiosity" included such vivid appreciation of literature, and of
art, and of other things useful to the novel-writer, that he never could
have been at a loss for various kinds of "seasoning." He had keen
observation, an admittedly marvellous flow of ideas, and a style which
(though, like everything else about him, careless) was of singular
vigour and freshness when, once more, he let it have fair play. But his
time, his nature, and his circumstances combined to throw in his way
traps and snares and nets which he could not, or would not, avoid. His
anti-religiosity, though sometimes greatly exaggerated, was a bad
stumbling-block; although he was free from the snigger of Voltaire and
of Sterne, you could not prevent him, as Horace Walpole complains of his
distinguished sire, from blurting out the most improper remarks and
stories at the most inconvenient times and in the most unsuitable
companies; while his very multiscience, and his fertility of thought and
imagination, kept him in a whirl which hindered his "settling" to
anything. Although in one sense he had the finest and wisest critical
taste of any man then living--I do not bar even Gray or even
Lessing--his taste in some other ways was utterly untrustworthy and
sometimes horribly bad; while even his strictly critical faculty seems
never to have been exercised on his own books--a failure forming part of
the "ostrich-like indifference" with which he produced and abandoned

[Sidenote: His gifts and the waste of them.]

It is sometimes contended, and in many cases, no doubt, is the fact,
that "Selections" are disgraceful and unscholarly. But what has been
said will show that this is an exceptional case. The present writer
waded through the whole of twenty-volume edition of Assézat and Tourneux
when it first appeared, and is very glad he did; nor is there perhaps
one volume (he does not say one page, chapter, or even work) which he
has not revisited more or fewer times during the forty years in which
(alas! for the preterite) they remained on his shelves. But it is
scarcely to be expected that every one, that many, or that more than a
very few readers, have done or will do the same. It so happens, however,
that Génin's _Oeuvres Choisies_--though it has been abused by some
anti-Ydgrunites as too much Bowdlerised--gives a remarkably full and
satisfactory idea of this great and seldom[372] quite rightly valued
writer. It must have cost much, besides use of paste and scissors, to
do; for the extracts are often very short, and the bulk of matter to be
thoroughly searched for extraction is, as has just been said, huge. A
third volume might perhaps be added;[373] but the actual two are far
from unrepresentative, while the Bowdlerising is by no means

[Sidenote: The various display of them.]

The reader, even of this selection, will see how, in quite miscellaneous
or heterogeneous writing, Diderot bubbles out into a perfectly told tale
or anecdote, no matter what the envelope (as we may call it) of this
tale or anecdote may be. All his work is more or less like conversation:
and these excursus are like the stories which, if good, are among the
best, just as, if bad, they are the worst, sets-off to conversation
itself. Next to these come the longer _histoires_--as one would call
them in the Heroic novel and its successors--things sometimes found by
themselves, sometimes ensconced in larger work[374]--the story of
Desroches and Mme. de la Carlière, _Les Deux Amis de Bourbonne_, the
almost famous _Le Marquis des Arcis et Mme. de la Pommeraye_, of which
more may be said presently; and things which are not exactly tales, but
which have the tale-quality in part, like the charming _Regrets sur ma
Vieille Robe de Chambre, Ceci n'est pas un conte_, etc. Thirdly, and to
be spoken of in more detail, come the things that are nearest actual
novels, and in some cases are called so, _Le Neveu de Rameau_, the
"unspeakable" _Bijoux Indiscrets_, _Jacques le Fataliste_ (the matrix of
_Le Marquis des Arcis_) and _La Religieuse_.

The "unspeakable" one does not need much speaking from any point of
view. If it is not positively what Carlyle called it, "the beastliest of
all dull novels, past, present, or to come," it really would require a
most unpleasant apprenticeship to scavenging in order to discover a
dirtier and duller. The framework is a flat imitation of Crébillon, the
"insets" are sometimes mere pornography, and the whole thing is
evidently scribbled at a gallop--it was actually a few days' work, to
get money, from some French Curll or Drybutter, to give (the
appropriateness of the thing at least is humorous) to the mistress of
the moment, a Madame de Puisieux,[375] who, if she was like Crébillon's
heroines in morals, cannot have been like the best of them in manners.
Its existence shows, of course, Diderot's worst side, that is to say,
the combination of want of breeding with readiness to get money anyhow.
If it is worth reading at all, which may be doubted, it is to show the
real, if equivocal, value of Crébillon himself. For it is vulgar, which
he never is.

[Sidenote: _Le Neveu de Rameau._]

_Le Neveu de Rameau_, has only touches of obscenity, and it has been
enormously praised by great persons. It is very clever, but it seems to
me that, as a notable critic is said to have observed of something else,
"it has been praised quite enough." It is a sketch, worked out in a sort
of monologue,[376] of something like Diderot's own character without his
genius and without his good fellowship--a gutter-snipe of art and
letters possessed of some talent and of infinite impudence. It shows
Diderot's own power of observation and easy fluid representation of
character and manners, but not, as I venture to think, much more.

[Sidenote: _Jacques le Fataliste._]

_Jacques le Fataliste_ is what may be called, without pedantry or
preciousness, eminently a "document." It is a document of Diderot's
genius only indirectly (save in part), and to those who can read not
only in the lines but between them: it is a document, directly, of the
insatiable and restless energy of the man, and of the damage which this
restlessness, with its accompanying and inevitable want of
self-criticism, imposed upon that genius. Diderot, though he did not
rhapsodise about Sterne as he rhapsodised about Richardson, was, like
most of his countrymen then, a great admirer of "Tristram," and in an
evil hour he took it into his head to Shandyise. The book starts with an
actual adaptation of Sterne,[377] which is more than once repeated; its
scheme--of a master (who is as different as possible from my Uncle Toby,
except that when not in a passion he is rather good-natured, and at
almost all times very easily humbugged) and a man (who is what Trim
never is, both insolent and indecent)--is at least partially the same.
But the most constant and the most unfortunate imitation is of Sterne's
literally eccentric, or rather zigzag and pillar-to-post, fashion of
narration. In the Englishman's own hands, by some prestidigitation of
genius, this never becomes boring, though it probably would have become
so if either book had been finished; for which reason we may be quite
certain that it was not only his death which left both in fragments. In
the hands of his imitators the boredom--simple or in the form of
irritation--has been almost invariable;[378] and with all his great
intellectual power, his tale-telling faculty, his _bonhomie_, and other
good qualities, Diderot has not escaped it--has, in fact, rushed upon it
and compelled it to come in. It is comparatively of little moment that
the main ostensible theme--the very unedifying account of the loves, or
at least the erotic exercises, of Jacques and his master--is
deliberately, tediously, inartistically interrupted and "put off." The
great feature of the book, which has redeemed it with some who would
otherwise condemn it entirely, the Arcis and La Pommeraye episode (_v.
inf._), is handled after a fashion which suggests Mr. Ruskin's famous
denunciation in another art. The _ink_pot is "flung in the face of the
public" by a purely farcical series of interruptions, occasioned by the
affairs of the inn-landlady, who tells the story, by her servants, dog,
customers, and Heaven only knows what else; while the minor incidents
and accidents of the book are treated in the same way, in and out of
proportion to their own importance; the author's "simple plan," though
by no means "good old rule," being that _everything_ shall be
interrupted. Although, in the erotic part, the author never returns
quite to his worst _Bijoux Indiscrets_ style, he once or twice goes very
near it, except that he is not quite so dull; and when the book comes to
an end in a very lame and impotent fashion (the farce being kept up to
the last, and even this end being "recounted" and not made part of the
mainly dialogic action), one is rather relieved at there being no more.
One has seen talent; one has almost glimpsed genius; but what one has
been most impressed with is the glaring fashion in which both the
certainty and the possibility have been thrown away.

[Sidenote: Its "Arcis-Pommeraye" episode.]

The story which has been referred to in passing as muddled, or, to adopt
a better French word, for which we have no exact equivalent, _affublé_
(travestied and overlaid) with eccentricities and interruptions, the
_Histoire_ of the Marquis des Arcis and the Marquise de la Pommeraye,
has received a great deal of praise, most of which it deserves. The
Marquis and the Marquise have entered upon one of the fashionable
_liaisons_ which Crébillon described in his own way. Diderot describes
this one in another. The Marquis gets tired--it is fair to say that he
has offered marriage at the very first, but Madame de la Pommeraye, a
widow with an unpleasant first experience of the state, has declined it.
He shows his tiredness in a gentlemanly manner, but not very mistakably.
His mistress, who is not at first _femina furens_, but who possesses
some feminine characteristics in a dangerous degree, as he might perhaps
have found out earlier if he had been a different person, determines to
make sure of it. She intimates _her_ tiredness, and the Marquis makes
his first step downwards by jumping at the release. They are--the old,
old hopeless folly!--to remain friends, but friends only. But she really
loves him, and after almost assuring herself that he has really ceased
to love her (which, in the real language of love, means that he has
never loved her at all), devises a further, a very clever, but a rather
diabolical system of last proof, involving vengeance if it fails. She
has known, in exercises of charity (the _femme du monde_ has seldom
quite abandoned these), a mother and daughter who, having lost their
means, have taken to a questionable, or rather a very unquestionable
manner of life, keeping a sort of private gaming-house, and extending to
those frequenters of it who choose, what the late George Augustus Sala
not inelegantly called, in an actual police-court instance, "the
thorough hospitality characteristic of their domicile." She prevails on
them to leave the house, get rid of all their belongings (down to
clothes) which could possibly be identified, change their name, move to
another quarter of Paris, and set up as _dévotes_ under the full
protection of the local clergy. Then she manages an introduction, of an
apparently accidental kind, to the Marquis. He falls in love at once
with the daughter, who is very pretty, and with masculine (or at least
_some_ masculine) fatuity, makes Madame de la Pommeraye his confidante.
She gives him rope, but he uses it, of course, only to hang himself. He
tries the usual temptations; but though the mother at least would not
refuse them, Madame de la Pommeraye's hand on the pair is too tight. At
last he offers marriage, and--with her at least apparent consent--is
married. The next day she tells him the truth. But her diabolism fails.
At first there is of course a furious outburst. But the girl is
beautiful, affectionate, and humble; the mother is pensioned off; the
Marquis and Marquise des Arcis retire for some years to those invaluable
_terres_, after a sojourn at which everything is forgotten; and the
story ends. Diderot, by not too skilfully throwing in casuistical
attacks and defences of the two principal characters, but telling us
nothing of Madame de la Pommeraye's subsequent feelings or history, does
what he can, unluckily after his too frequent fashion, to spoil or at
least to blunt his tale. It is not necessary to imitate him by
discussing the _pros_ and _cons_ at length. I think myself that the
Marquis, both earlier and later, is made rather too much of a _benêt_,
or, in plain English, a nincompoop. But nincompoops exist: in fact how
many of us are not nincompoops in certain circumstances? Madame de la
Pommeraye is, I fear, rather true, and is certainly sketched with
extraordinary ability. On a larger scale the thing would probably, at
that time and by so hasty and careless a workman, have been quite
spoilt. But it is obviously the skeleton--and something more--of a
really great novel.

[Sidenote: _La Religieuse._]

It may seem that a critic who speaks in this fashion, after an initial
promise of laudation, is a sort of Balaam topsyturvied, and merely
curses where he is expected to bless. But ample warning was given of the
peculiar position of Diderot, and when we come to his latest known and
by far his best novel, _La Religieuse_, the paradox (he was himself very
fond of paradoxes,[379] though not of the wretched things which now
disgrace the name) remains. The very subject of the book, or of the
greatest part of it, was for a long time, if it is not still, taboo; and
even if this had not been the case, it has other drawbacks. It
originated in, and to some extent still retains traces of, one of the
silly and ill-bred "mystifications" in which the eighteenth and early
nineteenth century delighted.[380] It is, at least in appearance, badly
tainted with purpose; and while it is actually left unfinished, the last
pages of it, as they stand, are utterly unworthy of the earlier part,
and in fact quite uninteresting. Momus or Zoilus must be allowed to say
so much: but having heard him, let us cease to listen to the half-god or
the whole philologist.

[Sidenote: Its story.]

Yet _La Religieuse_, for all its drawbacks, is almost a great, and might
conceivably have been a very great book. Madame d'Holbach is credited by
Diderot's own generosity with having suggested its crowning _mot_,[381]
and her influence may have been in other ways good by governing the
force and fire, so often wasted or ill-directed, of Diderot's genius.
Soeur Sainte-Suzanne is the youngest daughter of a respectable
middle-class family. She perceives, or half-perceives (for, though no
fool, she is a guileless and unsuspicious creature), that she is
unwelcome there; the most certain sign of which is that, while her
sisters are married and dowered handsomely, she is condemned to be a
nun. She has, though quite real piety, no "vocation," and though she
allows herself to be coaxed through her novitiate, she at last, in face
of almost insuperable difficulties, summons up courage enough to
refuse, at the very altar, the final profession. There is, of course, a
terrible scandal; she has more black looks in the family than ever, and
at last her mother confesses that she is an illegitimate child, and
therefore hated by her putative father, whose love for his wife,
however, has induced him to forgive her, and not actually renounce (as
indeed, by French law, he could not) the child. Broken in heart and
spirit, Suzanne at last accepts her doom. She is fortunate in one
abbess, but the next persecutes her, brings all sorts of false
accusations against her, strips, starves, imprisons, and actually
tortures her by means of the _amende honorable_. She manages to get her
complaints known and to secure a counsel, and though she cannot obtain
liberation from her vows, the priest who conducts the ecclesiastical
part of the enquiry is a just man, and utterly repudiates the methods of
persecution, while he and her lay lawyer procure her transference to
another convent. Here her last trial (except those of the foolish
post-_scrap_, as we may call it) begins, as well as the most equivocal
and the greatest part of the book. Her new superior is in every respect
different from any she has known--of a luxurious temperament,
good-natured, though capricious, and inclined to be very much too
affectionate. Her temptation of the innocent Suzanne is defeated by this
very innocence, and by timely revelation, though the revealer does not
know what she reveals, to a "director"; and the wayward and corrupted
fancy turns by degrees to actual madness, which proves fatal, Suzanne
remaining unharmed, though a piece of not inexcusable eavesdropping
removes the ignorance of her innocence.

[Sidenote: A hardly missed, if missed, masterpiece.]

If the subject be not simply ruled out, and the book indexed for
silence, it is practically impossible to suggest that it could have been
treated better. Even the earlier parts, which could easily have been
made dull, are not so; and it is noteworthy that, anti-religionist as
Diderot was, and directly as the book is aimed at the conventual
system,[382] all the priests who are introduced are men of honour,
justice, and humanity. But the wonder is in the treatment of the
"scabrous" part of the matter by the author of Diderot's other books.
Whether Madame d'Holbach's[383] influence, as has been suggested, was
more widely and subtly extended than we know, or whatever else may be
the cause, there is not a coarse word, not even a coarsely drawn
situation, in the whole. Suzanne's innocence is, in the subtlest manner,
prevented from being in the least _bête_. The fluctuations and
ficklenesses of the abbess's passion, and in a less degree of that of
another young nun, whom Suzanne has partially ousted from her favour,
are marvellously and almost inoffensively drawn, and the stages by which
erotomania passes into mania general and mortal, are sketched slightly,
but with equal power. There is, I suppose, hardly a book which one ought
to discommend to the young person more than _La Religieuse_. There are
not many in which the powers required by the novelist, in delineating
morbid, and not only morbid, character, are more brilliantly shown.

It is not the least remarkable thing about this remarkable book, and not
the least characteristic of its most remarkable author, that its very
survival has something extraordinary about it. Grimm, who was more
likely than any one else to know, apparently thought it was destroyed or
lost; it never appeared at all during Diderot's life, nor for a dozen
years after his death, nor till seven after the outbreak of the
Revolution, and six after the suppression of the religious orders in
France. That it might have brought its author into difficulties is more
than probable; but the undisguised editor of the _Encyclopédie_, the
author, earlier, of the actually disgraceful _Bijoux Indiscrets_, and
the much more than suspected principal begetter of the _Système de la
Nature_, could not have been much influenced by this. The true cause of
its abscondence, as in so much else of his work, was undoubtedly that
ultra-Bohemian quality of indifference which distinguished Diderot--the
first in a way, probably for ever the greatest, and, above all, the most
altruistic of literary Bohemians. Ask him to do something definite,
especially for somebody else's profit, to be done off-hand, and it was
done. Ask him to bear the brunt of a dangerous, laborious, by no means
lucrative, but rather exciting adventure, and he would, one cannot quite
say consecrate, but devote (which has two senses) his life to it. But
set him to elaborate artistic creation, confine him to it, and expect
him to finish it, and you were certain to be disappointed. At another
time, even at this time, if his surroundings and his society, his
education and his breeding had been less unfortunate, he might, as it
seems to me, have become a very great novelist indeed. As it is, he is a
great possibility of novel and of much other writing, with occasional
outbursts of actuality. The _Encyclopédie_ itself, for aught I care,
might have gone in all its copies, and with all possibility of
recovering or remembering it on earth, to the place where so many people
at the time would have liked to send it. But in the rest of him, and
even in some of his own Encyclopædia articles,[384] there is much of
quite different stuff. And among the various gifts, critical and
creative, which this stuff shows, not the least, I think, was the
half-used and mostly ill-used gift of novel-writing.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The successors--Marmontel.]

What has been called the second generation of the _philosophes_, who
were naturally the pupils of the first, "were not like [that] first,"
that is to say, they did not reproduce the special talents of their
immediate masters in this department of ours, save in two instances.
Diderot's genius did not propagate itself in the novel way at all[385]:
indeed, as has been said, his best novel was not known till this second
generation itself was waning. The most brilliant of his direct hearers,
Joubert, took to another department; or rather, in his famous _Pensées_,
isolated and perfected the utterances scattered through the master's
immense and disorderly work. Naigeon, the most devoted, who might have
taken for his motto a slight alteration of the Mahometan confession of
faith, "There is no God; but there is only one Diderot, and I am his
prophet," was a dull fellow, and also, to adopt a Carlylian epithet, a
"dull-snuffling" one, who could not have told a neck-tale if the
Hairibee of the guillotine had caught him and given him a merciful
chance. Voltaire in Marmontel, and Rousseau in Bernardin de
Saint-Pierre, were more fortunate, though both the juniors considerably
transformed their masters' fashions; and Marmontel was always more or
less, and latterly altogether, an apostate from the principle that the
first and last duty of man is summed up in _écrasons l'infâme_.

This latter writer has had vicissitudes both in English and French
appreciation. We translated him early, and he had an immense influence
on the general Edgeworthian school, and on Miss Edgeworth herself. Much
later Mr. Ruskin "took him up."[386] But neither his good nor his bad
points have, for a long time, been such as greatly to commend
themselves, either to the major part of the nineteenth century, or to
what has yet passed of the twentieth, on either side of the channel.

He was, no doubt, only a second-class man of letters, and though he
ranks really high in this class, he was unfortunately much influenced by
more or less passing fashions, fads, and fancies of his
time--_sensibilité_ (see next chapter) philosophism,
politico-philanthropic economy, and what not. He was also much of a
"polygraph," and naturally a good deal of his polygraphy does not
concern us, though parts of his _Memoirs_, especially the rather
well-known accounts of his sufferings as a new-comer[387] in the
atrocious Bastille, show capital tale-telling faculty. His unequal
criticism, sometimes very acute, hardly concerns us at all; his _Essai
sur les Romans_ being very disappointing.[388] But he wrote not a little
which must, in different ways and "strengths," be classed as actual
fiction, and this concerns us pretty nearly, both as evidencing that
general set towards the novel which is so important, and also in detail.

[Sidenote: His "Telemachic" imitations worth little.]

It divides itself quite obviously into two classes, the almost didactic
matter of _Bélisaire_ and _Les Incas_, and the still partly didactic,
but much more "fictionised" _Contes Moraux_. The first part (which is
evidently of the family of _Télémaque_) may be rapidly dismissed. Except
for its good French and good intentions, it has long had, and is likely
always to have, very little to say for itself. We have seen that Prévost
attempted a sort of quasi-historical novel. Of actual history there is
little in _Bélisaire_, rather more in _Les Incas_. But historical fact
and story-telling art are entirely subordinated in both to moral
purpose, endless talk about virtue and the affections and justice and
all the rest of it--the sort of thing, in short, which provoked the
immortal outburst, "In the name of the Devil and his grandmother, _be_
virtuous and have done with it!" There is, as has just been said, a
great deal of this in the _Contes_ also; but fortunately there is
something else.

[Sidenote: The best of his _Contes Moraux_ worth a good deal.]

The something else is not to be found in the "Sensibility" parts,[389]
and could not be expected to be. They do, indeed, contain perhaps the
most absolutely ludicrous instance of the absurdest side of that
remarkable thing, except Mackenzie's great _trouvaille_ of the
press-gang who unanimously melted into tears[390] at the plea of an
affectionate father. Marmontel's masterpiece is not so very far removed
in subject from this. It represents a good young man, who stirs up the
timorous captain and crew of a ship against an Algerine pirate, and in
the ensuing engagement, sabre in hand, makes a terrible carnage: "As
soon as he sees an African coming on board, he runs to him and cuts him
in half, crying, 'My poor mother!'" The filial hero varies this a
little, when "disembowelling" the Algerine commander, by requesting the
Deity to "have pity on" his parent--a proceeding faintly suggestive of a
survival in his mind of the human-sacrifice period.

Fortunately, as has been said, it is not always thus: and some of the
tales are amusing in almost the highest degree, being nearly as witty as
Voltaire's, and entirely free from ill-nature and sculduddery. Not that
Marmontel--though a great advocate for marriage, and even (for a
Frenchman of his time) wonderfully favourable to falling in love
_before_ marriage--pretends to be altogether superior to the customs of
his own day. We still sometimes have the "Prendre-Avoir-Quitter" series
of Crébillon,[391] though with fewer details; and Mrs. Newcome would
have been almost more horrified than she was at _Joseph Andrews_ by the
perusal of one of Marmontel's most well-intentioned things, _Annette et
Lubin_. But he never lays himself out for attractions of a doubtful
kind, and none of his best stories, even when they may sometimes involve
bowing in the house of Ashtoreth as well as that of Rimmon, derive their
bait from this kind. Indeed they rather "assume and pass it by" as a
fashion of the time.

[Sidenote: _Alcibiade ou le Moi._]

We may take three or four of them as examples. One is the very first of
the collection, _Alcibiade ou le Moi_. Hardly anybody need be told that
the Alcibiades of the tale, though nominally, is not in the least really
the Alcibiades of history, or that his Athens is altogether Paris; while
his Socrates is a kind of _philosophe_, the good points of Voltaire,
Rousseau, and Diderot being combined with the faults of none of them,
and his ladies are persons who--with one exception--simply could not
have existed in Greece. This Alcibiades wishes to be loved "for
himself," and is (not without reason) very doubtful whether he ever has
been, though he is the most popular and "successful" man in Athens. His
_avoir_, for the moment, is concerned with a "Prude." (Were there prudes
in Greece? I think Diogenes would have gladly lent his lantern for the
search.) He is desperately afraid that she only loves him for _her_self.
He determines to try her; takes her, not at her deeds, but at her words,
which are, of course, such as would have made the Greeks laugh as
inextinguishably as their gods once did. She expresses gratitude for his
unselfishness, but is anything but pleased. Divers experiments are tried
by her, and when at last he hopes she will not tempt him any more,
exclaiming that he is really "l'amant le plus fidèle, le plus tendre et
le plus respectueux" ... "et le plus sot," adds she, sharply, concluding
the conversation and shutting her, let us say, doors[392] on him.

He is furious, and tries "Glicerie" (the form might be more Greek), an
_ingénue_ of fifteen, who was "like a rose," who had attracted already
the vows of the most gallant youths, etc. The most brilliant of these
youths instantly retire before the invincible Alcibiades. But in the
first place she wishes that before "explanations"[393] take place, a
marriage shall be arranged; while he, oddly enough, wishes that the
explanations should precede the hymen. Also she is particular about the
consent of her parents: and, finally, when he asks her whether she will
swear constancy against every trial, to be his, and his only, whatever
happens, she replies, with equal firmness and point, "Never!" So he is
furious again. But there is a widow, and, as we have seen in former
cases, there was not, in the French eighteenth century, the illiberal
prejudice against widows expressed by Mr. Weller. She is, of course,
inconsolable for her dear first, but admits, after a time, the
possibility of a dear second. Only it must be kept secret as yet. For a
time Alcibiades behaves nobly, but somehow or other he finds that
everybody knows the fact; he is treated by his lady-love with obvious
superiority; and breaks with her. An interlude with a "magistrate's"
wife, on less proper and more Crébillonish lines, is not more
successful. So one day meeting by the seashore a beautiful courtesan,
Erigone, he determines, in the not contemptible language of that
single-speech poetess, Maria del Occidente, to "descend and sip a lower
draught." He is happy after a fashion with her for two whole months: but
at the end of that time he is beaten in a chariot race, and, going to
Erigone for consolation, finds the winner's vehicle at her door.
Socrates, on being consulted, recommends Glicerie as, after all, the
best of them, in a rather sensible discourse. But the concluding words
of the sage and the story are, as indeed might be expected from
Xanthippe's husband, not entirely optimist: "If your wife is well
conducted and amiable, you will be a happy man; if she is ill-tempered
and a coquette, you will become a philosopher--so you must gain in any
case." An "obvious," perhaps, but a neat and uncommonly well-told story.

[Sidenote: _Soliman the Second._]

_Soliman the Second_ is probably the best known of Marmontel's tales,
and it certainly has great merits. It is hardly inferior in wit to
Voltaire, and is entirely free from the smears of uncomeliness and the
sniggers of bad taste which he would have been sure to put in. The
subject is, of course, partly historical, though the reader of Knollys
(and one knows more unhappy persons) will look in vain there, not,
indeed, for Roxelana, but for the _nez retroussé_, which is the
important point of the story. The great Sultan tires of his Asiatic
harem, complaisant but uninteresting, and orders European damsels to be
caught or bought for him. The most noteworthy of the catch or batch are
Elmire, Delia, and Roxelane. Elmire comes first to Soliman's notice,
charms him by her sentimental ways, and reigns for a time, but loses her
piquancy, and (by no means wholly to her satisfaction) is able to avail
herself of the conditional enfranchisement, and return to her country,
which his magnanimity has granted her. Her immediate supplanter, Delia,
is an admirable singer, and possessed of many of the qualifications of
an accomplished _hetæra_. But for that very reason the Sultan tires of
her likewise; and for the same, she is not inconsolable or restive:
indeed she acts as a sort of Lady Pandara, if not to introduce, at any
rate to tame, the third, Roxelane, a French girl of no very regular
beauty, but with infinite attractions, and in particular possessed of
what Mr. Dobson elegantly calls "a madding ineffable nose" of the
_retroussé_ type.

The first thing the Sultan hears of this damsel is that the Master of
the Eunuchs cannot in the least manage her; for she merely laughs at all
he says. The Sultan, out of curiosity, orders her to be brought to him,
and she immediately cries: "Thank Heaven! here is a face like a man's.
Of course you are the sublime Sultan whose slave I have the honour to
be? Please cashier this disgusting old rascal." To which extremely
irreverent address Soliman makes a dignified reply of the proper kind,
including due reference to "obedience" and his "will." This brings down
a small pageful of raillery from the young person, who asks "whether
this is Turkish gallantry?" suggests that the restrictions of the
seraglio involve a fear that "the skies should rain men," and more than
hints that she should be very glad if they did. For the moment Soliman,
though much taken with her, finds no way of saving his dignity except by
a retreat. The next time he sends for her, or rather announces his own
arrival, she tells the messenger to pack himself off: and when the
Commander of the Faithful does visit her and gives a little good advice,
she is still incorrigible. She will, once more, have nothing to do with
the words _dois_ and _devoir_. When asked if she knows what he is and
what _she_ is, she answers with perfect _aplomb_, "What we are? You are
powerful, and I am pretty; so we are quite on an equality." In the most
painfully confidential and at the same time quite decent manner, she
asks him what he can possibly do with five hundred wives? and, still
more intolerably, tells him that she likes his looks, and has already
loved people who were not worth him. The horror with which this Turkish
soldan, himself so full of sin, ejaculates, "Vous _avez_ aimé?" may be
easily imagined, and again she simply puts him to flight. When he gets
over it a little, he sends Delia to negotiate. But Roxelane tells the
go-between to stay to supper, declaring that she herself does not feel
inclined for a _tête-à-tête_ yet, and finally sends him off with this
obliging predecessor and substitute, presenting her with the legendary
handkerchief, which she has actually borrowed from the guileless
Padishah. There is some, but not too much more of it; there can but be
one end; and as he takes her to the Mosque to make her legitimate
Sultana, quite contrary to proper Mussulman usage, he says to himself,
"Is it really possible that a little _retroussé_ nose should upset the
laws of an empire?" Probably, though Marmontel does not say so, he
looked down at the said nose, as he communed with himself, and decided
that cause and effect were not unworthy of each other. There is hardly a
righter and better hit-off tale of the kind, even in French.

[Sidenote: _The Four Flasks._]

"The Four Flasks" or "The Adventures of Alcidonis of Megara," a sort of
outside fairy tale, is good, but not quite so good as either of the
former. Alcidonis has a fairy protectress, if not exactly godmother, who
gives him the flasks in question to use in amatory adventures. One, with
purple liquor in it, sets the drinker in full tide of passion; the
second (rose-coloured) causes a sort of flirtation; the third (blue)
leads to sentimental and moderate affection; and the last (pure white)
recovers the experimenter from the effects of any of the others. He
tries all, and all but the last are unsatisfactory, though, much as in
the case of Alcibiades and Glicerie, the blue has a second chance, the
results of which are not revealed. This is the least important of the
group, but is well told.

[Sidenote: _Heureusement._]

There is also much good in _Heureusement_, the nearest to a
"Crébillonnade" of all, though the Crébillonesque situations are
ingeniously broken off short. It is told by an old marquise[394] to an
almost equally old abbé, her crony, who only at the last discovers that,
long ago, he himself was very nearly the shepherd of the proverbial
hour. And _Le Mari Sylphe_, which is still more directly connected with
one of Crébillon's actual pieces, and with some of the weaker stories
(_v. sup._) of the _Cabinet des Fées_, would be good if it were not much
too long. Others might be mentioned, but my own favourite, though it has
nothing quite so magnetic in it as the _nez de Roxelane_, is _Le
Philosophe Soi-disant_, a sort of apology for his own clan, in a satire
on its less worthy members, which may seem to hit rather unfairly at
Rousseau, but which is exceedingly amusing.

[Sidenote: _Le Philosophe Soi-disant._]

Clarice--one of those so useful young widows of whom the novelists of
this time might have pleaded that they took their ideas of them from the
Apostle St. Paul--has for some time been anxious to know a _philosophe_,
though she has been warned that there are _philosophes_ and
_philosophes_, and that the right kind is neither common nor very fond
of society. She expresses surprise, and says that she has always heard a
_philosophe_ defined as an odd creature who makes it his business to be
like nobody else. "Oh," she is told, "there is no difficulty about
_that_ kind," and one, by name Ariste, is shortly added to her
country-house party. She politely asks him whether he is not a
_philosophe_, and whether philosophy is not a very beautiful thing? He
replies (his special line being sententiousness) that it is simply the
knowledge of good and evil, or, if she prefers it, Wisdom. "Only that?"
says wicked Doris; but Clarice helps him from replying to the scoffer by
going on to ask whether the fruit of Wisdom is not happiness? "And,
Madame, the making others happy." "Dear me," says naïve Lucinde, half
under her breath, "I must be a _philosophe_, for I have been told a
hundred times that it only depended on myself to be happy by making
others happy." There is more wickedness from Doris; but Ariste, with a
contemptuous smile, explains that the word "happiness" has more than one
meaning, and that the _philosophe_ kind is different from that at the
disposal and dispensation of a pretty woman. Clarice, admitting this,
asks what _his_ kind of happiness is? The company then proceeds, in the
most reprehensible fashion, to "draw" the sage: and they get from him,
among other things, an admission that he despises everybody, and an
unmistakable touch of disgust when somebody speaks of "his

Clarice, however, still plays the amiable and polite hostess, lets him
take her to dinner, and says playfully that she means to reconcile him
to humanity. He altogether declines. Man is a vicious beast, who
persecutes and devours others, he says, making all the time a
particularly good dinner while denouncing the slaughter of animals, and
eulogising the "sparkling brook" while getting slightly drunk. He
declaims against the folly and crime of the modern world in not making
philosophers kings, and announces his intention of seeking complete
solitude. But Clarice, still polite, decides that he must stay with them
a little while, in order to enlighten and improve the company.

After this, Ariste, in an alley alone, to digest his dinner and walk off
his wine, persuades himself that Clarice has fallen in love with him,
and that, to secure her face and her fortune, he has only got to go on
playing the misanthrope and give her a chance of "taming the bear." The
company, perfectly well knowing his thoughts, determine to play up to
them--not for his greater glory; and Clarice, not quite willingly,
agrees to take the principal part. In a long _tête-à-tête_ he makes his
clumsy court, airs his cheap philosophy, and lets by no means the mere
suggestion of a cloven foot appear, on the subject of virtue and vice.
However, she stands it, though rather disgusted, and confesses to him
that people are suggesting a certain Cléon, a member of the party, as
her second husband; whereon he decries marriage, but proposes himself as
a lover. She reports progress, and is applauded; but the Présidente de
Ponval, another widow, fat, fifty, fond of good fare, possessed of a
fine fortune, but very far from foolish, vows that _she_ will make the
greatest fool of Ariste. Cléon, however, accepts his part; and appears
to be much disturbed at Clarice's attentions to Ariste, who, being shown
to his room, declaims against its luxuries, but avails himself of them
very cheerfully. In the morning he, though rather doubtfully, accepts a
bath; but on his appearance in company Clarice makes remonstrances on
his dress, etc., and actually prevails on him to let a valet curl his
hair. This is an improvement; but she does not like his brown
coat.[396] He must write to Paris and order a suit of _gris-de-lin
clair_, and after some wrangling he consents. But now the Présidente
takes up the running. After expressing the extremest admiration for his
coiffure, she makes a dead set at him, tells him she wants a second
husband whom she can love for himself, and goes off with a passionate
glance, the company letting him casually know that she has ten thousand
crowns a year. He affects to despise this, which is duly reported to her
next morning. She vows vengeance; but he dreams of her (and the crowns)
meanwhile, and with that morning the new suit arrives. He is admiring
himself in it when Cléon comes in, and throws himself on his mercy. He
adores Clarice; Ariste is evidently gaining fatally on her affections;
will he not be generous and abstain from using his advantages? But if
_he_ is really in love Cléon will give her up.

The hook is, of course, more than singly baited and barbed. Ariste can
at once play the magnanimous man, and be rewarded by the Présidente's
ten thousand a year. He will be off with Clarice and on with Mme. de
Ponval, whom he visits in his new splendour. She admires it hugely, but
is alarmed at seeing him in Clarice's favourite colour. An admirable
conversation follows, in which she constantly draws her ill-bred,
ill-blooded, and self-besotted suitor into addressing her with insults,
under the guise of compliments, and affects to enjoy them. He next
visits Clarice, with whom he finds Cléon, in the depths of despair. She
begins to admire the coat, and to pride herself on her choice, when he
interrupts her, and solemnly resigns her to Cléon. Doris and Lucinde
come in, and everybody is astounded at Ariste's generosity as he takes
Clarice's hand and places it in that of his rival. Then he goes to the
Présidente, and tells her what he has done. She expresses her delight,
and he falls at her feet. Thereupon she throws round his neck a
rose-coloured ribbon (_her_ colours), calls him "her Charming man,"[397]
and insists on showing him to the public as her conquest and captive. He
has no time to refuse, for the door opens and they all appear. "Le
voilà," says she, "cet homme si fier qui soupire à mes genoux pour les
beaux yeux de ma cassette! Je vous le livre. Mon rôle est joué." So
Ariste, tearing his curled hair, and the _gris-de-lin clair_ coat, and,
doubtless, the Présidente's "red rose chain," cursing also terribly,
goes off to write a book against the age, and to prove that nobody is
wise but himself.

I can hardly imagine more than one cavil being made against this by the
most carping of critics and the most wedded to the crotchet of
"kinds"--that it is too dramatic for a _story_, and that we ought to
have had it as a drama. If this were further twisted into an accusation
of plagiarism from the actual theatre, I think it could be rebutted at
once. The situations separately might be found in many dramas; the
characters in more; but I at least am not aware of any one in which they
had been similarly put together. Of course most if not all of us have
seen actresses who would make Clarice charming, Madame de Ponval
amusing, and Doris and Lucinde very delectable adjuncts; as well as
actors by whom the parts of Cléon and Ariste would be very effectively
worked out. But why we should be troubled to dress, journey, waste time
and money, and get a headache, by going to the theatre, when we can
enjoy all this "in some close corner of [our] brain," I cannot see. As I
read the story in some twenty minutes, I can see _my_ Clarice, _my_
Madame de Ponval, _my_ Doris and Lucinde and Cléon and Ariste and
Jasmin--the silent but doubtless highly appreciative valet,--and I
rather doubt whether the best company in the world could give me quite

[Sidenote: A real advance in these.]

But, even in saying this, full justice has not yet been done to
Marmontel. He has, from our special point of view, made a real further
progress towards the ideal of the ordinary novel--the presentation of
ordinary life. He has borrowed no supernatural aid;[398] he has laid
under contribution no "fie-fie" seasonings; he has sacrificed nothing,
or next to nothing, in these best pieces, whatever he may have done
elsewhere, to purpose and crotchet. He has discarded stuffing,
digression, episode, and other things which weighed on and hampered his
predecessors. In fact there are times when it seems almost unjust, in
this part of his work, to "second" him in the way we have done; though
it must be admitted that if you take his production as a whole he
relapses into the second order.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Bernardin de Saint-Pierre.]

The actual books, in anything that can be called fiction, of Bernardin
de Saint-Pierre are of far less merit than Marmontel's; but most people
who have even the slightest knowledge of French literature know why he
cannot be excluded here. Personally, he seems to have been an
ineffectual sort of creature, and in a large part of his rather
voluminous work he is (when he ceases to produce a sort of languid
amusement) a distinctly boring one.[399] He appears to have been
unlucky, but to have helped his own bad luck with the only signs of
effectualness that he ever showed. It is annoying, no doubt, to get
remonstrances from headquarters as to your not sending any work (plans,
reports, etc.) as an engineer, and to find, or think you find, that
your immediate C.O. has suppressed them. But when you charge him with
his disgraceful proceeding, and he, as any French officer in his
position at his time was likely to do, puts his hand on his sword, it is
undiplomatic to rush on another officer who happens to be present, grab
at and draw his weapon (you are apparently not entitled to one), and
attack your chief. Nor when, after some more unsuccessful experiences at
home and abroad, you are on half or no pay, and want employment, would
it seem to be exactly the wisdom of Solomon to give a minister the
choice of employing you on (1) the civilisation of Corsica, (2) the
exploration of the unknown parts of the Western Continent, (3) the
discovery of the sources of the Nile, and (4) a pedestrian tour
throughout India. But, except in the first instance (for the "Citizen of
Geneva" did not meddle much with cold steel), it was all very like a
pupil, and (in the Citizen's later years) a friend, of Rousseau,
carrying out his master's ideas with a stronger dose of Christianity,
but with quite as little common sense. I have not seen (or remembered)
any more exact account of Saint-Pierre's relations with Napoleon than
that given by the excellent Aimé-Martin, an academic euphemiser of the
French kind. But, even reading between his lines, they must have been
very funny.[400]

_Paul et Virginie_, however, is one of those books which, having
attained and long kept a European reputation, cannot be neglected, and
it may be added that it does deserve, though for one thing only, never
to be entirely forgotten. It is chock-full of _sensibilité_, the
characters have no real character, and all healthy-minded persons have
long ago agreed that the concomitant facts, if not causes, of Virginie's
fate are more nasty than the nastiest thing in Diderot or Rabelais.[401]
But the descriptions of the scenery of Mauritius, as sets-off to a
novel, are something new, and something immensely important. _La
Chaumière Indienne_, though less of a story in size and general texture,
is much better from the point of view of taste. It has touches of real
irony, and almost of humour, though its hero, the good pariah, is a
creature nearly as uninteresting as he is impossible. Yet his "black and
polished" baby is a vivid property, and the descriptions are again
famous. The shorter pieces, _Le Café de Surate_, etc., require little

       *       *       *       *       *

It will, however, have been seen by anybody who can "seize points," that
this _philosophe_ novel, as such, is a really important agent in
bringing on the novel itself to its state of full age. That men like the
three chiefs should take up the form is a great thing; that men who are
not quite chiefs, like Marmontel and Saint-Pierre, should carry it on,
is not a small one. They all do something to get it out of the rough; to
discard--if sometimes also they add--irrelevances; to modernise this one
kind which is perhaps the predestined and acceptable literary product of
modernity. Voltaire originates little, but puts his immense power and
_diable au corps_ into the body of fiction. Rousseau enchains passion in
its service, as Madame de la Fayette, as even Prévost, had not been able
to do before. Diderot indicates, in whatever questionable material, the
vast possibilities of psychological analysis. Marmontel--doing, like
other second-rate talents, almost more _useful_ work than his
betters--rescues the _conte_ from the "demi-rep" condition into which it
had fallen, and, owing to the multifariousness of his examples, does not
entirely subjugate it even to honest purpose; while Bernardin de
Saint-Pierre carries the suggestions of Rousseau still further in the
invaluable department of description. No one, except on the small
scale, is great in plot; no one produces a really individual
character;[402] and it can hardly be said that any one provides
thoroughly achieved novel dialogue. But they have inspired and enlivened
the whole thing as a whole; and if, against this, is to be set the crime
of purpose, that is one not difficult to discard.[403]


[351] His _verse_ tales, even if stories in verse had not by this time
fallen out of our proper range, require little notice. The faculty of
"telling" did not remain with him here, perhaps because it was
prejudicially affected by the "dryness" and unpoetical quality of his
poetry, and of the French poetry of the time generally, perhaps for
other reasons. At any rate, as compared with La Fontaine or Prior, he
hardly counts. _Le Mondain_, _Le Pauvre Diable_, etc., are skits or
squibs in verse, not tales. The opening one of the usual collection, _Ce
qui plaît aux Dames_,--in itself a flat rehandling of Chaucer and
Dryden,--is saved by its charming last line--

    Ah! croyez-moi, l'erreur a son mérite,

a rede which he himself might well have recked.

[352] In justice to Voltaire it ought to be remembered that no less
great, virtuous, and religious a person than Milton ranked as one of the
two objects to which "all mortals most aspire," "to offend your

[353] It has been noted above (see p. 266, _note_), how some have
directly traced _Zadig_ to the work of a person so much inferior to
Hamilton as Gueulette.

[354] _Micromégas_ and one or two other things avowed--in fact,
Voltaire, if not "great," was "big" enough to make as a rule little
secret of his levies on others; and he had, if not adequate, a
considerable, respect for the English Titan.

[355] Cacambo was not a savage, but he had savage or, at least,
non-European blood in him.

[356] Not in the Grandisonian sense, thank heaven! But as has been
hinted, he is a _little_ of a prig.

[357] He has been allowed a great deal of credit for the Calas and some
other similar businesses. It is unlucky that the injustices he combated
were somehow always _clerical_, in this or that fashion.

[358] It was said of them at their appearance "[cet] ouvrage est sans
goût, sans finesse, sans invention, un rabâchage de toutes les vieilles
polissonneries que l'auteur a débitées sur Moïse, et Jésus-Christ, les
prophètes et les apôtres, l'Église, les papes, les cardinaux, les
prêtres et les moines; nul intêret, nulle chaleur, nulle vraisemblance,
force ordures, une grosse gaieté.... Je n'aime pas la religion: mais je
ne la hais pas assez pour trouver cela bon." The authorship, added to
the justice of it, makes this one of the most crushing censures ever
committed to paper; for the writer was Diderot (_Oeuvres_, Ed. Assézat,
vi. 36).

[359] It is a singular coincidence that this was exactly the sum which
Johnson mentioned to Boswell as capable of affording decent subsistence
in London during the early middle eighteenth century.

[360] _Songe de Platon_, _Bababec et les Fakirs_, _Aventure de la
Mémoire_, _Les Aveugles Juges des Conteurs_, _Aventure Indienne_, and
_Voyage de la Raison_.

[361] It is only fair to mention in this place, and in justice to a much
abused institution, that this Babylonian story is said to be the only
thing of its kind and its author that escaped the Roman censorship. If
this is true, the unfeathered _perroquets_ were not so spiteful as the
feathered ones too often are. Or perhaps each chuckled at the satire on
his brethren.

[362] As with other controverted points, not strictly relevant, it is
permissible for us to neglect protests about _la légende des
philosophes_ and the like. Of course Rousseau was not only, at one time
or another, the personal enemy of Voltaire and Diderot--he was, at one
time or another, the personal enemy of everybody, including (not at any
one but at all times) himself--but held principles very different from
theirs. Yet their names will always be found together: and for our
object the junction is real.

[363] Not the Abbé, who had been dead for some years, but a Genevese
professor who saw a good deal of Jean-Jacques in his later days.

[364] "For short" _La Nouvelle Héloïse_ has been usually adopted. I
prefer _Julie_ as actually the first title, and for other reasons with
which it is unnecessary to trouble the reader.

[365] She dies after slipping into the lake in a successful attempt to
rescue one of her children; but neither is drowned, and she does not
succumb rapidly enough for "shock" to account for it, or slowly enough
for any other intelligible malady to hold its course.

[366] There is another curious anticipation of Dickens here: for Julie,
as Dora does with Agnes, entreats Claire to "fill her vacant
place"--though, by the way, not with her husband. And a third parallel,
between Saint-Preux and Bradley Headstone, need not be quite farcical.

[367] You _may_ tear out Introductions, if you do it neatly; and this I
say, having written many.

[368] Also Rousseau, without meaning it, has made him by no means a
fool. When, on learning from his wife and daughter that Saint-Preux had
been officiating as "coach," he asked if this genius was a gentleman,
and on hearing that he was not, replied, "What have you paid him, then?"
it was not, as the novelist and his hero took it, in their vanity, to
be, mere insolence of caste. M. d'Étange knew perfectly well that though
he could not trust a French gentleman with his wife, there was not
nearly so much danger with his daughter--while a _roturier_ was not only
entitled to be paid, and might accept pay without derogation, but was
not unlikely, as the old North Country saying goes, to take it in malt
if he did not receive it in meal.

[369] I observe that I have not yet fulfilled the promise of saying
something of Wolmar, but the less said of him the better. He belongs
wholly to that latter portion which has been wished away; he is a
respectable Deist--than which it is essentially impossible, one would
suppose, for orthodoxy and unorthodoxy alike to imagine anything more
uninteresting; and his behaviour to Saint-Preux appears to me to be
simply nauseous. He cannot, like Rowena, "forgive as a Christian,"
because he is not one, and any other form of forgiveness or even of
tolerance is, in the circumstances, disgusting. But it was Rousseau's
way to be disgusting sometimes.

[370] We have spoken of his attempt at the fairy tale; _qui_ Gomersal
_non odit_ in English verse, _amet Le Lévite d'Ephraïm_ in French prose,
etc. etc.

[371] He did not even, as Rousseau did with his human offspring,
habitually take them to the Foundling Hospital--that is to say, in the
case of literature, the anonymous press. He left them in MS., gave them
away, and in some cases behaved to them in such an incomprehensible
fashion that one wonders how they ever came to light.

[372] Carlyle's _Essay_ and Lord Morley of Blackburn's book are
excepted. But Carlyle had not the whole before him, and Lord Morley was
principally dealing with the _Encyclopédie_.

[373] Especially as Génin, like Carlyle, did not know all. There is, I
believe, a later selection, but I have not seen it.

[374] Even the long, odd, and sometimes tedious _Rêve de D'Alembert_,
which Carlyle thought "we could have done without," but which others
have extolled, has vivid narrative touches, though one is not much
surprised at Mlle. de Lespinasse having been by no means grateful for
the part assigned to her.

[375] The cleansing effect of war is an old _cliché_. It has been
curiously illustrated in this case: for the first proof of the present
passage reached me on the very same day with the news of the expulsion
of the Germans from the village of Puisieux. So the name got
"_red_-washed" from its old reproach.

[376] There really are touches of resemblance in it to Browning,
especially in things like _Mr. Sludge the Medium_.

[377] The corporal's wound in the knee.

[378] Of course, there _are_ exceptions, and with one of the chief of
them, Xavier de Maistre, we may have, before long, to deal.

[379] His longest, most avowed, and most famous, the _Paradoxe sur le
Comédien_, has been worthily Englished by Mr. Walter H. Pollock.

[380] Its heroine, Suzanne Simonin, was, as far as the attempt to
relieve herself of her vows went, a real person; and a benevolent
nobleman, the Marquis de Croixmare, actually interested himself in this
attempt--which failed. But Diderot and his evil angel Grimm got up sham
letters between themselves and her patron, which are usually printed
with the book.

[381] _Mon père, je suis damnée_ ... the opening words, and the only
ones given, of the confession of the half-mad abbess.

[382] Evangelical Protestantism has more than once adopted the principle
that the Devil should not be allowed to have all the best tunes: and I
remember in my youth an English religious novel of ultra-anti-Roman
purpose, which, though, of course, dropping the "scabrousness," had, as
I long afterwards recognised when I came to read _La Religieuse_, almost
certainly borrowed a good deal from our most unsaintly Denis of Langres.

[383] She seems to have been, in many ways, far too good for her
society, and altogether a lady.--The opinions of the late M. Brunetière
and mine on French literature were often very different--though he was
good enough not to disapprove of some of my work on it. But with the
terms of his expression of mere opinion one had seldom to quarrel. I
must, however, take exception to his attribution of _grossièreté_ to _La
Religieuse_. Diderot, as has been fully admitted, _was_ too often
_grossier_: sometimes when it was almost irrelevant to the subject. But
here, "scabrous" as the subject might be, the treatment is scrupulously
_not_ coarse. Nor do I think, after intimate and long familiarity with
the whole of his work, that he was ever a _faux bonhomme_.

[384] They have hardly had a fair opportunity of comparison with
Voltaire's _Dictionnaire Philosophique_; but they can stand it.

[385] Unless Dulaurens' not quite stupid, but formless and
discreditable, _Compère Mathieu_ be excepted.

[386] In consequence of which Mr. Ruskin's favourite publisher, the late
Mr. George Allen, asked the present writer, some twenty years ago, to
revise and "introduce" the old translation of his _Contes Moraux_. The
volume had, at least, the advantage of very charming illustrations by
Miss Chris. Hammond.

[387] They were even worse than Leigh Hunt's in the strictly English
counterpart torture-house for the victims of tyranny--consisting, for
instance, in the supply of so good a dinner, at His Most Christian
Majesty's expense, for the prisoner's servant, that the prisoner ate it
himself, and had afterwards, on the principles of rigid virtue and
distributive justice, to resign, to the minion who accompanied him, his
own still better one which came later, also supplied by the tyrant.

[388] One expects something of value from the part-contemporary,
part-successor of the novelists from Lesage to Rousseau. But where it is
not mere blether about virtue and vice, and _le coeur humain_ and so on,
it has some of the worst faults of eighteenth-century criticism. He
thinks it would have been more "moral" if Mme. de Clèves had actually
succumbed as a punishment for her self-reliance (certainly one of the
most remarkable topsyturvifications of morality ever crotcheted); is, of
course, infinitely shocked at being asked and induced to "interest
himself in a prostitute and a card-sharper" by _Manon Lescaut_; and,
equally of course, extols Richardson, though it is fair to say that he
speaks well of _Tom Jones_.

[389] See next chapter.

[390] I wonder whether any one else has noticed that Thackeray, in the
very agreeable illustration to one of not quite his greatest
"letterpress" things, _A New Naval Drama_ (Oxford Ed. vol. viii. p.
421), makes the press-gang weep ostentatiously in the picture, though
not in the text, where they only wave their cutlasses. It may be merely
a coincidence: but it may not.

[391] There are reasons for thinking that Marmontel was deliberately
"antidoting the _fanfreluches_" of the older tale-teller.

[392] In the original, suiting the rest of the setting, it is _rideaux_.

[393] "Explanations" is quite admirable, and, I think, neither borrowed
from, nor, which is more surprising, by others.

[394] She declares that she has never actually "stooped to folly"; but
admits that on more than one occasion it was only an accidental
interruption which "luckily" (_heureusement_) saved her.

[395] It is necessary to retain the French here: for our "likes" is

[396] Cf. the stories, contradictory of each other, as to _our_
brown-coated philosopher's appearance in France. (Boswell, p. 322, Globe

[397] Cf. again the bestowal of this title by Horace Walpole, in his
later days, on Edward Jerningham, playwright, poetaster, and _petit
maître_, who, unluckily for himself, lived into the more roughly
satirical times of the Revolutionary War.

[398] "The _sylph_ishness of _Le Mari Sylphe_ is only an ingenious and
defensible fraud; and the philtre-flasks of _Alcidonis_ are little more
than "properties.""

[399] Here is a specimen of his largest and most ambitious production,
the _Études de la Nature_. "La femelle du tigre, exhalant l'odeur du
carnage, fait retentir les solitudes de l'Afrique de ses miaulements
affreux, et paraît remplie d'attraits à ses cruels amants." By an odd
chance, I once saw a real scene contrasting remarkably with
Saint-Pierre's sentimental melodrama. It was in the Clifton Zoological
Gardens, which, as possibly some readers may know, were at one time
regarded as particularly home-like by the larger carnivora. It was a
very fine day, and an equally fine young tigress was endeavouring to
attract the attention of her cruel lover. She rolled delicately about,
like a very large, very pretty, and exceptionally graceful cat; she made
fantastic gestures with her paws and tail; and she purred literally "as
gently as any sucking dove"--_roucoulement_ was the only word for it.
But her "lover," though he certainly looked "cruel" and as if he would
very much like to eat _me_, appeared totally indifferent to her

[400] So, also, when one is told that he called his son Paul and his
daughter Virginie, it is cheerful to remember, with a pleasant sense of
contrast, Scott's good-humoured contempt for the tourists who wanted to
know whether Abbotsford was to be called Tullyveolan or Tillietudlem.

[401] As the story is not now, I believe, the universal school-book it
once was, something more than mere allusion may be desirable. The ship
in which Virginie is returning to the Isle of France gets into shallows
during a hurricane, and is being beaten to pieces close to land. One
stalwart sailor, stripped to swim for his life, approaches Virginie,
imploring her to strip likewise and let him try to pilot her through the
surf. But she (like the lady in the coach, at an early part of _Joseph
Andrews_) won't so much as look at a naked man, clasps her arms round
her own garments, and is very deservedly drowned. The sailor, to one's
great relief, is not.

[402] Julie herself is an intense type rather than individual.

[403] I have not thought it necessary, except in regard to those of them
who have been touched in treating of the _Cabinet des Fées_, to speak at
any length of the minor tale-tellers of the century. They are sometimes
not bad reading; but as a whole minor in almost all senses.




[Sidenote: "Sensibility."]

Frequent reference has been made, in the last two chapters, to the
curious phenomenon called in French _sensibilité_ (with a derivative of
contempt, _sensiblerie_), the exact English form of which supplies part
of the title, and the meaning an even greater part of the subject, of
one of Miss Austen's novels. The thing itself appears first
definitely[404] in Madame de la Fayette, largely, though not unmixedly,
in Marivaux, and to some extent in Prévost and Marmontel, while it is,
as it were, sublimed in Rousseau, and present very strongly in
Saint-Pierre. There are, however, some minor writers and books
displaying it in some cases even more extensively and intensively; and
in this final chapter of the present volume they may appropriately find
a place, not merely because some of them are late, but because
Sensibility is not confined to any part of the century, but, beginning
before its birth, continued till after its end. We may thus have to
encroach on the nineteenth a little, but more in appearance than in
reality. In quintessence, and as a reigning fashion, Sensibility was the
property of the eighteenth century.[405]

[Sidenote: A glance at Miss Austen.]

To recur for a moment to Miss Austen and _Sense and Sensibility_,
everybody has laughed, let us hope not unkindly, over Marianne
Dashwood's woes. But she herself was only an example, exaggerated in the
genial fashion of her creatress, of the proper and recognised standard
of feminine feeling in and long before her time. The "man of feeling"
was admitted as something out of the way--on which side of the way
opinions might differ. But the woman of feeling was emphatically the
accepted type--a type which lasted far into the next century, though it
was obsolete at least by the Mid-Victorian period, of which some do so
vainly talk. The extraordinary development of emotion which was expected
from women need not be illustrated merely from love-stories. The
wonderful transports of Miss Ferrier's heroines at sight of their
long-lost mothers; even those of sober Fanny Price in _Mansfield Park_,
at the recovery of her estimable but not particularly interesting
brother William, give the keynote much better than any more questionable
ecstasies. "Sensibility, so charming," was the pet affectation of the
period--an affectation carried on till it became quite natural, and was
only cured by the half-caricature, half-reaction of Byronism.

[Sidenote: The thing essentially French.]

The thing, however, was not English in origin, and never was thoroughly
English at all. The main current of the Sensibility novelists, who
impressed their curious morals or manners on all men and women in
civilised Europe, was French in unbroken succession, from the day when
Madame de la Fayette first broke ground against the ponderous romances
of Madeleine de Scudéry, to the day when Benjamin Constant forged, in
_Adolphe_, the link between eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century
romance, between the novel of sentiment and the novel of analysis.

[Sidenote: Its history.]

Of the relations to it of the greater novelists of the main century we
have already spoken: and as for the two greatest of the extreme close,
Chateaubriand and Madame de Staël, they mix too many secondary purposes
with their philandering, and moreover do not form part of the plan of
the present volume. For the true Sensibility, the odd quintessence of
conventional feeling, played at steadily till it is half real, if not
wholly so, which ends in the peculiarities of two such wholesome young
Britonesses as Marianne Dashwood and Fanny Price, we must look
elsewhere. After Madame de la Fayette, and excluding with her other
names already treated, we come to Madame de Fontaines, Madame de Tencin
(most heartless and therefore naturally not least sentimental of women),
Madame Riccoboni, the group of lady-novelists of whom Mesdames de Souza
and de Duras are the chief, and, finally, the two really remarkable
names of Xavier de Maistre and Benjamin Constant. These are our
"documents." Even the minor subjects of this inquiry are pleasant pieces
of literary _bric-à-brac_; perhaps they are something a little more than
that. For Sensibility was actually once a great power in the world.
Transformed a little, it did wonderful things in the hands of Rousseau
and Goethe and Chateaubriand and Byron. It lingers in odd nooks and
corners even at the present day, when it is usually and irreverently
called "gush," and Heaven only knows whether it may not be resuscitated
in full force before some of us are dead.[406] For it has exactly the
peculiarities which characterise all recurrent fashions--the appeal to
something which is genuine connected with the suggestion of a great deal
that is not.

[Sidenote: Mme. de Tencin and _Le Comte de Comminge_.]

In the followers of Madame de la Fayette[407] we find that a good many
years have passed by. The jargon appropriated to the subject has grown
still more official; and instead of using it to express genuine
sentiments, which in another language might deserve expression well
enough, the characters are constantly suspected by the callous modern
reader or elaborately, though perhaps unconsciously, feigning the
sentiments which the jargon seems to imply that they ought to have. This
is somewhat less noticeable in the work of Madame de Tencin than
elsewhere, because d'Alembert's mother was so very much cleverer a
person than the generality of the novel-writers of her day that she
could hardly fail to hide defects more cunningly. But it is evident
enough in the _Comte de Comminge_ and in the _Malheurs de l'Amour_.
Having as questionable morals as any lady of the time (the time of the
Regency), Madame de Tencin of course always had a moral purpose in her
writings, and this again gives her books a certain difference. But, like
the former, this difference only exposes, all the more clearly, the
defects of the style, and the drawbacks from which it was almost
impossible that those who practised it should escape.

Madame de Tencin tried to escape by several gates. Besides her moral
purposes and her _esprit_, she indulged in a good deal of rather
complicated and sometimes extravagant incident. _M. de Comminge_, which
is very short, contains, not to mention other things, the rather
startling detail of a son who, out of chivalrous affection for his
lady-love, burns certain of his father's title-deeds which he has been
charged to recover, and the still more startling incident of the heroine
living for some years in disguise as a monk. The following epistle,
however, from the heroine to the hero, will show better than anything
else the topsy-turvy condition which sensibility had already reached.
All that need be said in explanation of it is that the father (who is
furious with his son, and not unreasonably so) has shut him up in a
dungeon, in order to force him to give up his beloved Adelaide.[408]

     Your father's fury has told me all I owe you: I know what
     your generosity had concealed from me. I know, too, the
     terrible situation in which you are, and I have no means of
     extracting you therefrom save one. This will perhaps make
     you more unhappy still. But I shall be as unhappy as
     yourself, _and this gives me the courage to do what I am
     required to do_. They would have me, by engaging myself to
     another, give a pledge never to be yours: 'tis at this price
     that M. de Comminge sets your liberty. It will cost me
     perhaps my life, certainly my peace. But I am resolved. I
     shall in a few days be married to the Marquis de Bénavidés.
     What I know of his character forewarns me of what I shall
     have to suffer; _but I owe you at least so much constancy as
     to make only misery for myself in the engagement I am

The extremity of calculated absurdity indicated by the italicised
passages was reached, let it be remembered, by one of the cleverest
women of the century: and the chief excuse for it is that the
restrictions of the La Fayette novel, confined as it was to the upper
classes and to a limited number of elaborately distressing situations,
were very embarrassing.

[Sidenote: Mme. Riccoboni and _Le Marquis de Cressy_.]

Madame Riccoboni, mentioned earlier as continuing _Marianne_, shows the
completed product very fairly. Her _Histoire du Marquis de Cressy_ is a
capital example of the kind. The Marquis is beloved by a charming girl
of sixteen and by a charming widow of six-and-twenty. An envious rival
betrays his attentions to Adelaide de Bugei, and her father makes her
write an epistle which pretty clearly gives him the option of a
declaration in form or a rupture. For a Sensible man, it must be
confessed, the Marquis does not get out of the difficulty too well. She
has slipped into her father's formal note the highly Sensible
postscript, "Vous dire de m'oublier? Ah! Jamais. On m'a forcé de
l'écrire; rien ne peut m'obliger à le penser ni le désirer." Apparently
it was not leap-year, for the Marquis replied in a letter nearly as bad
as Willoughby's celebrated epistle in _Sense and Sensibility_.

     MADEMOISELLE,--Nothing can console me for having been the
     innocent cause of fault being found with the conduct of a
     person so worthy of respect as you. I shall approve whatever
     you may think proper to do, without considering myself
     entitled to ask the reason of your behaviour. How happy
     should I be, mademoiselle, if my fortune, and the
     arrangements which it forces me to make, did not deprive me
     of the sweet hope of an honour of which my respect and my
     sentiments would perhaps make me worthy, but which my
     present circumstances permit me not to seek.

Sensibility does not seem to have seen anything very unhandsome in this
broad refusal to throw the handkerchief; but though not unhandsome, it
could not be considered satisfactory to the heart. So M. de Cressy
despatches this private note to Adelaide by "Machiavel the

     Is it permitted to a wretch who has deprived himself of the
     greatest of blessings, to dare to ask your pardon and your
     pity? Never did love kindle a flame purer and more ardent
     than that with which my heart burns for the amiable
     Adelaide. Why have I not been able to give her those proofs
     of it which she had the right to expect? Ah! mademoiselle,
     how could I bind you to the lot of a wretch all whose wishes
     even you perhaps would not fulfil? who, when he possessed
     you, though master of so dear, so precious a blessing, might
     regret others less estimable, but which have been the object
     of his hope and desire, etc. etc.

This means that M. de Cressy is ambitious, and wants a wife who will
assist his views. The compliment is doubtful, and Adelaide receives it
in approved fashion. She opens it "with a violent emotion," and her
"trouble was so great in reading it through, that she had to begin it
again many times before she understood it." The exceedingly dubious
nature of the compliment, however, strikes her, and "tears of regret and
indignation rise to her eyes"--tears which indeed are excusable even
from a different point of view than that of Sensibility. She is far,
however, from blaming that sacred emotion. "Ce n'est pas," she says; "de
notre sensibilité, mais de l'objet qui l'a fait naître, que nous devons
nous plaindre." This point seems arguable if it were proper to argue
with a lady.

The next letter to be cited is from Adelaide's unconscious rival, whose
conduct is--translated into the language of Sensibility, and adjusted
to the manners of the time and class--a ludicrous anticipation of the
Pickwickian widow. She buys a handsome scarf, and sends it anonymously
to the victorious Marquis just before a Court ball, with this letter--

     A sentiment, tender, timid, and shy of making itself known,
     gives me an interest in penetrating the secrets of your
     heart. You are thought indifferent; you seem to me
     insensible. Perhaps you are happy, and discreet in your
     happiness. Deign to tell me the secret of your soul, and be
     sure that I am not unworthy of your confidence. If you have
     no love for any one, wear this scarf at the ball. Your
     compliance may lead you to a fate which others envy. She who
     feels inclined to prefer you is worthy of your attentions,
     and the step she takes to let you know it is the first
     weakness which she has to confess.

The modesty of this perhaps leaves something to desire, but its
Sensibility is irreproachable. There is no need to analyse the story of
the _Marquis de Cressy_, which is a very little book[409] and not
extremely edifying. But it supplies us with another _locus classicus_ on
sentimental manners. M. de Cressy has behaved very badly to Adelaide,
and has married the widow with the scarf. He receives a letter from
Adelaide on the day on which she takes the black veil--

     'Tis from the depths of an asylum, where I fear no more the
     perfidy of your sex, that I bid you an eternal adieu. Birth,
     wealth, honours, all vanish from my sight. My youth withered
     by grief, my power of enjoyment destroyed, love past, memory
     present, and regret still too deeply felt, all combine to
     bury me in this retreat.

And so forth, all of which, if a little high-flown, is not specially
unnatural; but the oddity of the passage is to come. Most men would be a
little embarrassed at receiving such a letter as this in presence of
their wives (it is to be observed that the unhappy Adelaide is profuse
of pardons to Madame as well as to Monsieur de Cressy), and most wives
would not be pleased when they read it. But Madame de Cressy has the
finest Sensibility of the amiable kind. She reads it, and then--

     The Marquise, having finished this letter, cast herself into
     the arms of her husband, and clasping him with an
     inexpressible tenderness, "Weep, sir, weep," she cried,
     bathing him with her own tears; "you cannot show too much
     sensibility for a heart so noble, so constant in its love.
     Amiable and dear Adelaide! 'Tis done, then, and we have lost
     you for ever. Ah! why must I reproach myself with having
     deprived you of the only possession which excited your
     desires? Can I not enjoy this sweet boon without telling
     myself that my happiness has destroyed yours?"

[Sidenote: Her other work--_Milady Catesby_.]

All Madame Riccoboni's work is, with a little good-will, more or less
interesting. Much of it is full of italics, which never were used so
freely in France as in England, but which seem to suit the queer,
exaggerated, topsy-turvyfied sentiments and expressions very well. The
_Histoire d'Ernestine_ in particular is a charming little novelette. But
if it were possible to give an abstract of any of her work here, _Milady
Catesby_, which does us the honour to take its scene and personages from
England, would be the one to choose. _Milady Catesby_ is well worth
comparing with _Evelina_, which is some twenty years its junior, and the
sentimental parts of which are quite in the same tone with it. Lord
Ossery is indeed even more "sensible" than Lord Orville, but then he is
described in French. Lady Catesby herself is, however, a model of the
style, as when she writes--

     Oh! my dear Henrietta! What agitation in my senses! what
     trouble in my soul!... I have seen him.... He has spoken to
     me.... Himself.... He was at the ball.... Yes! he. Lord
     Ossery.... Ah! tell me not again to see him.... Bid me not
     hear him once more.

That will do for Lady Catesby, who really had no particular occasion or
excuse for all this excitement except Sensibility. But Sensibility was
getting more and more exacting. The hero of a novel must always be in
the heroics, the heroine in a continual state of palpitation. We are
already a long way from Madame de la Fayette's stately passions, from
Marianne's whimsical _minauderies_. All the resources of
typography--exclamations, points, dashes--have to be called in to
express the generally disturbed state of things. Now unfortunately this
sort of perpetual tempest in a teacup (for it generally is in a teacup)
requires unusual genius to make it anything but ludicrous. I myself have
not the least desire to laugh when I read such a book as _La Nouvelle
Héloïse_, and I venture to think that any one who does laugh must have
something of the fool and something of the brute in his composition. But
then Rousseau is Rousseau, and there are not many like him. At the
Madame Riccobonis of this world, however clever they may be, it is
difficult not to laugh, when they have to dance on such extraordinary
tight ropes as those which Sensibility prescribed.

[Sidenote: Mme. de Beaumont--_Lettres du Marquis de Roselle_.]

The writers who were contemporary with Madame Riccoboni's later days,
and who followed her, pushed the thing, if it were possible, even
farther. In Madame de Genlis's tiny novelette of _Mademoiselle de
Clermont_, the amount of tears shed, the way in which the knees of the
characters knock together, their palenesses, blushes, tears, sighs, and
other performances of the same kind, are surprising. In the _Lettres du
Marquis de Roselle_ of Madame Élie de Beaumont (wife of the young
advocate who defended the Calas family), a long scene between a brother
and sister, in which the sister seeks to deter the brother from what she
regards as a misalliance, ends (or at least almost ends, for the usual
flood of tears is the actual conclusion) in this remarkable passage.

     "And I," cried he suddenly with a kind of fury, "I suppose
     that a sister who loves her brother, pities and does not
     insult him; that the Marquis de Roselle knows better what
     can make him happy than the Countess of St. Séver; and that
     he is free, independent, able to dispose of himself, in
     spite of all opposition." With these words he turned to
     leave the room brusquely. I run to him, I stop him, he
     resists. "My brother!" "I have no sister." He makes a
     movement to free himself: he was about to escape me. "Oh, my
     father!" I cried. "Oh, my mother! come to my help." At these
     sacred names he started, stopped, and _allowed himself to be
     conducted to a sofa_.

[Sidenote: Mme. de Souza.]

This unlucky termination might be paralleled from many other places,
even from the agreeable writings of Madame de Souza. This writer, by the
way, when the father of one of her heroes refuses to consent to his
son's marriage, makes the stern parent yield to a representation that by
not doing so he will "authorise by anticipation a want of filial
attachment and respect" in the grandchildren who do not as yet exist.
These excursions into the preposterous in search of something new in the
way of noble sentiment or affecting emotion--these whippings and
spurrings of the feelings and the fancy--characterise all the later work
of the school.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Xavier de Maistre.]

Two names of great literary value and interest close the list of the
novelists of Sensibility in France, and show at once its Nemesis and its
caricature. They were almost contemporaries, and by a curious
coincidence neither was a Frenchman by birth. It would be impossible to
imagine a greater contrast than existed personally between Xavier de
Maistre and Henri Benjamin de Constant-Rebecque, commonly called
Benjamin Constant. But their personalities, interesting as both are, are
not the matter of principal concern here. The _Voyage autour de ma
Chambre_, its sequel the _Expédition Nocturne_, and the _Lépreux de la
Cité d'Aoste_, exhibit one branch of the river of Sensibility (if one
may be permitted to draw up a new Carte de Tendre), losing itself in
agreeable trifling wit