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Title: A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2 - To the Close of the 19th Century
Author: Saintsbury, George, 1845-1933
Language: English
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A HISTORY OF THE FRENCH NOVEL

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA · MADRAS

MELBOURNE


THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO

DALLAS · SAN FRANCISCO


THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

TORONTO



A HISTORY OF THE FRENCH NOVEL

(TO THE CLOSE OF THE 19TH CENTURY)

BY

GEORGE SAINTSBURY

M.A. AND HON. D.LITT. OXON.; HON. L.L.D. ABERD.; HON. D.LITT. DURH.;
FELLOW OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY; HON. FELLOW OF MERTON COLLEGE, OXFORD;
LATE PROFESSOR OF RHETORIC AND ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF
EDINBURGH

VOL. II

FROM 1800 TO 1900

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON

1919

    Sólo á veces, con un dejo
    de zozobra y de ansiedad,
    timido tiembla en sus labios
    un viejo y triste cantar,
    copla que vibre en el aire
    como un toque funeral:
      _La Noche Buena se viene,
      la Noche Buena se va!
      Y nosotros nos iremos
      y no volveremos más._

    CARLOS FERNANDEZ SHAW,
      _La Balada de los Viejos._


COPYRIGHT



PREFACE


"The second chantry" (for it would be absurd to keep "temple") of this
work "is not like the first"; in one respect especially, which seems to
deserve notice in its Preface or porch--if a chantry may be permitted a
porch. In Volume I.--though many of its subjects (not quite all) had
been handled by me before in more or less summary fashion, or in reviews
of individual books, or in other connections than that of the
novel--only Hamilton, Lesage, Marivaux, and the minor "Sensibility" men
and women had formed the subjects of separate and somewhat detailed
studies, wholly or mainly as novelists. The case is altered in respect
of the present volume. The _Essays on French Novelists_, to which I
there referred, contain a larger number of such studies appertaining to
the present division--studies busied with Charles de Bernard, Gautier,
Murger, Flaubert, Dumas, Sandeau, Cherbuliez, Feuillet. On Balzac I have
previously written two papers of some length, one as an Introduction to
Messrs. Dent's almost complete translation of the _Comédie_, with
shorter sequels for each book, the other an article in the _Quarterly
Review_ for 1907. Some dozen or more years ago I contributed to an
American edition[1] of translations of Mérimée by various hands, a long
"Introduction" to that most remarkable writer, and I had, somewhat
earlier, written on Maupassant for the _Fortnightly Review_. One or two
additional dealings of some substance with the subject might be
mentioned, such as another Introduction to _Corinne_, but not to
_Delphine_. These, however, and passages in more general _Histories_,
hardly need specification.

On the other hand, I have never dealt, substantively and in detail, with
Chateaubriand, Paul de Kock, Victor Hugo, Beyle, George Sand, or Zola[2]
as novelists, nor with any of the very large number of minors not
already mentioned, including some, such as Nodier and Gérard de Nerval,
whom, for one thing or another, I should myself very decidedly put above
minority. And, further, my former dealings with the authors in the first
list given above having been undertaken without any view to a general
history of the French novel, it became not merely proper but easy for me
to "triangulate" them anew. So that though there may be more previous
work of mine in print on the subjects of the present volume than on
those of the last, there will, I hope, be found here actually less, and
very considerably less, _réchauffé_--hardly any, in fact (save a few
translations[3] and some passages on Gautier and Maupassant)--of the
amount and character which seemed excusable, and more than excusable, in
the case of the "Sensibility" chapter there. The book, if not actually a
"Pisgah-sight reversed," taken from Lebanon instead of Pisgah after
more than forty years' journey, not in the wilderness, but in the
Promised Land itself, attempts to be so; and uses no more than fairly
"reminiscential" (as Sir Thomas Browne would say) notes, taken on that
journey itself.

It was very naturally, and by persons of weight, put to me whether I
could not extend this history to, or nearer to, the present day. I put
my negative to this briefly in the earlier preface: it may be perhaps
courteous to others, who may be disposed to regret the refusal, to give
it somewhat more fully here. One reason--perhaps sufficient in
itself--can be very frankly stated. I do not _know_ enough of the French
novel of the last twenty years or so. During the whole of that time I
have had no reasons, of duty or profit, to oblige such knowledge. I have
had a great many other things to do, and I have found greater recreation
in re-reading old books than in experimenting on new ones. I might, no
doubt, in the last year or two have made up the deficiency to some
extent, but I was indisposed to do so for two, yea, three reasons, which
seemed to me sufficient.

In the first place, I have found, both by some actual experiment of my
own, and, as it seems to me, by a considerable examination of the
experiments of other people, that to co-ordinate satisfactorily accounts
of contemporary or very recent work with accounts of older is so
difficult as to be nearly impossible. The _foci_ are too different to be
easily adjusted, and the result is almost always out of composition, if
not of drawing.

Secondly, though I know I am here kicking against certain pricks, it
does not appear to me, either from what I have read or from criticisms
on what I have not, that any definitely new and decisively illustrated
school of novels has arisen since the death of M. Zola.

Thirdly, it would be impossible to deal with the subject, save in an
absurdly incomplete fashion, without discussing living persons. To doing
this, in a book, I have an unfashionable but unalterable objection. The
productions of such persons, as they appear, are, by now established
custom, proper subjects for "reviewing" in accordance with the decencies
of literature, and such reviews may sometimes, with the same proviso, be
extended to studies of their work up to date. But even these latter
should, I think, be reserved for very exceptional cases.

A slight difference of method may be observed in the treatment of
authors in Chapter X. and onwards, this treatment being not only
somewhat less judicial and more "impressionist," but also more general
and less buckrammed out with abstracts of particular works.[4] There
appeared to me to be more than one reason for this, all such reasons
being independent of, though by no means ignoring, the mechanical
pressure of ever-lessening space. In the first place, a very much larger
number of readers may be presumed to be more or less familiar with the
subjects of discussion, thus not only making elaborate "statement of
case" and production of supporting evidence unnecessary, but exposing
the purely judicial attitude to the charge of "no jurisdiction."
Moreover, there is behind all this, as it seems to me, a really
important principle, which is not a mere repetition, but a noteworthy
extension, of that recently laid down. I rather doubt whether the
absolute historico-critical verdict and sentence can ever be pronounced
on work that is, even in the widest sense, contemporary. The "firm
perspective of the past" can in very few instances be acquired: and
those few, who by good luck have acquired something of it, should not
presume too much on this gift of fortune. General opinion of a man is
during his lifetime often wrong, for some time after his death almost
always so: and the absolute balance is very seldom reached till a full
generation--something more than the conventional thirty years--has
passed. Meanwhile, though all readers who have anything critical in them
will be constantly revising their impressions, it is well not to put
one's own out as more than impressions. It is only a very few years
since I myself came to what I may call a provisionally final estimate of
Zola, and I find that there is some slight alteration even in that
which, from the first, I formed of Maupassant. I can hardly hope that
readers of this part of the work will not be brought into collision with
expressions of mine, more frequently than was the case in the first
volume or even the first part of this. But I can at least assure them
that I have no intention of playing Sir Oracle, or of trailing my coat.

The actual arrangement of this volume has been the subject of a good
deal of "pondering and deliberation," almost as much as Sir Thomas
Bertram gave to a matter no doubt of more importance. There was a
considerable temptation to recur to the system on which I have written
some other literary histories--that of "Books" and "Interchapters." This
I had abandoned, in the first volume, because it was not so much
difficult of application as hardly relevant. Here the relevance is much
greater. The single century divides itself, without the slightest
violence offered, into four parts, which, if I had that capacity or
partiality for flowery writing, the absence of which in me some critics
have deplored, I might almost call Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.
There is the season, of little positive crop but important
seed-sowing,--the season in which the greater writers, Chateaubriand and
Mme. de Staël, perform their office. Here, too, quite humble
folk--Pigault-Lebrun completing what has been already dealt with,
Ducray-Duminil and others doing work to be dealt with here, and Paul de
Kock most of all, get the novel of ordinary life ready in various ways:
while others still, Nodier, Hugo, Vigny, Mérimée, and, with however
different literary value, Arlincourt, implant the New Romance. There is
the sudden, magnificent, and long-continued outburst of all the kinds in
and after 1830. There is the autumn of the Second Empire, continuing and
adding to the fruits and flowers of summer: and there is the gradual
decadence of the last quarter of the century, with some late blossoming
and second-crop fruitage--the medlars of the novel--and the dying off of
the great producers of the past. But the breach of uniformity in formal
arrangement of the divisions would perhaps be too great to the eye
without being absolutely necessary to the sense, and I have endeavoured
to make the necessary recapitulation with a single "halt" of
chapter-length[5] at the exact middle. It will readily be understood
that the loss of my own library has been even more severely felt in this
volume than in the earlier one, while circumstances, public and private,
have made access to larger collections more difficult. But I have
endeavoured to "make good" as much as possible, and grumbling or
complaining supplies worse than no armour against Fate.

I have sometimes, perhaps rashly, during the writing of this book
wondered "What next"? By luck for myself--whether also for my readers it
would be ill even to wonder--I have been permitted to execute all the
literary schemes I ever formed, save two. The first of these (omitting a
work on "Transubstantiation" which I planned at the age of thirteen but
did not carry far) was a _History of the English Scholastics_, which I
thought of some ten years later, which was not unfavoured by good
authority, and which I should certainly have attempted, if other people
at Oxford in my time had not been so much cleverer than myself that I
could not get a fellowship. It has, strangely enough, never been done
yet by anybody; it would be a useful corrective to the exoteric chatter
which has sometimes recently gone by the name of philosophy; and perhaps
it might shake Signor Benedetto Croce (whom it is hardly necessary to
say I do _not_ include among the "chatterers") in his opinion that
though, as he once too kindly said, I am a _valente letterato_, I am
sadly _digiúno di filosofia_.[6] But it is "too late a week" for this.
And I have lost my library.

Then there was a _History of Wine_, which was actually commissioned,
planned, and begun just before I was appointed to my Chair at Edinburgh,
and which I gave up, not from any personal pusillanimity or loss of
interest in the subject, but partly because I had too much else to do,
and because I thought it unfair to expose that respectable institution
to the venom of the most unscrupulous of all fanatics--those of
teetotalism. I could take this up with pleasure: but I have lost my
cellar.

What I should really like to do would be to translate _in extenso_ Dr.
Sommer's re-edition of the Vulgate Arthuriad. But I should probably die
before I had done half of it; no publisher would undertake the risk of
it; and if any did, "Dora," reluctant to die, would no doubt put us both
in 'prison for using so much paper. Therefore I had better be content
with the divine suggestion, and not spoil it by my human failure to
execute.

And so I may say, for good, _Valete_ to the public, abandoning the rest
of the leave-taking to their discretion.[7]

    GEORGE SAINTSBURY.

    1 ROYAL CRESCENT, BATH,
        _Christmas_, 1918.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] It is perhaps worth while to observe that I did not "edit" this, and
that I had nothing whatever to do with any part of it except the
_Introduction_ and my earlier translation of the _Chronique de Charles
IX_, which was, I believe, reprinted in it.

[2] In very great strictness an exception should perhaps be made for
notice of him, and of some others, in _The Later Nineteenth Century_
(Edinburgh and London, 1907).

[3] There will, for pretty obvious reasons, be fewer of these than in
the former volume. The texts are much more accessible; there is no
difficulty about the language, such as people, however unnecessarily,
sometimes feel about French up to the sixteenth century; and the space
is wanted for other things. If I have kept one or two of my old ones it
is because they have won approval from persons whose approval is worth
having, and are now out of print: while I have added one or two
others--to please myself. Translations--in some cases more than one or
two--already exist, for those who read English only, of nearly the whole
of Balzac, of all Victor Hugo's novels, of a great many of Dumas's, and
of others almost innumerable.

[4] The chief exceptions are Dumas _fils_, the earliest, and Maupassant,
the greatest except Flaubert and far more voluminous than Flaubert
himself.

[5] The most unexpected chorus of approval with which Volume I. was
received by reviewers, and which makes me think, in regard to this, of
that unpleasant song of the Koreish "After Bedr, Ohod," leaves little
necessity for defending points attacked. I have made a few addenda and
corrigenda to Volume I. to cover exceptions, and the "Interchapter" or
its equivalent should contain something on one larger matter--the small
account taken here of French _criticism_ of the novel.

[6] I wonder whether he was right, or whether the late Edward Caird was
when he said, "I don't think I ever had a pupil [and he was among the
first inter-collegiate-lecturers] with more of the philosophical _ethos_
than you have. But you're too fond of getting into logical coaches and
letting yourself be carried away in them." I think this was provoked by
a very undergraduate essay arguing that Truth, as actually realised, was
uninteresting, while the possible forms of Falsehood, as conceivably
realisable in other circumstances, were of the highest interest.

[7] I have to give, not only my usual thanks to Professors Elton, Ker,
and Gregory Smith for reading my proofs, and making most valuable
suggestions, but a special acknowledgment to Professor Ker, at whose
request Miss Elsie Hitchcock most kindly looked up for me, at the
British Museum, the exact title of that striking novel of M. H. Cochin
(_v. inf._ p. 554 _note_). I have, in the proper places, already thanked
the authorities of the _Reviews_ above mentioned; but I should like also
to recognise here the liberality of Messrs. Rivington in putting the
contents of my _Essays on French Novelists_ entirely at my disposal. And
I am under another special obligation to Dr. Hagbert Wright for giving
me, of his own motion, knowledge and reading of the fresh batch of
seventeenth-century novels noticed below (pp. xiv-xvi).



ADDENDA AND CORRIGENDA FOR VOL. I


P. 13.--"The drawback of explanations is that they almost always require
to be explained." Somebody, or several somebodies, must have said this;
and many more people than have ever said it--at least in print--must
have felt it. The dictum applies to my note on this page. An entirely
well-willing reviewer thought me "piqued" at the American remark, and
proceeded to intimate a doubt whether I knew M. Bédier's work, partly on
lines (as to the _Cantilenae_) which I had myself anticipated, and
partly on the question of the composition of the _chansons_ by this or
that person or class, in this or that place, at that or the other time.
But I had felt no "pique" whatever in the matter, and these latter
points fall entirely outside my own conception of the _chansons_. I look
at them simply as pieces of accomplished literature, no matter how,
where, in what circumstances, or even exactly when, they became so. And
I could therefore by no possibility feel anything but pleasure at praise
bestowed on this most admirable work in a different part of the field.

P. 38, l. 27.--A protest was made, not inexcusably, at the
characterisation of _Launfal_ as "libellous." The fault was only one of
phrasing, or rather of incompleteness. That beautiful story of a knight
and his fairy love is one which I should be the last man in the world to
abuse _as such_. But it contains a libel on Guinevere which is
unnecessary and offensive, besides being absolutely unjustified by any
other legend, and inconsistent with her whole character. It is of this
only that I spoke the evil which it deserves. If I had not, by mere
oversight, omitted notice of Marie de France (for which I can offer no
excuse except the usual one of hesitation in which place to put it and
so putting it nowhere), I should certainly have left no doubt as to my
opinion of Thomas Chester likewise. Anybody who wants this may find it
in my _Short History of English Literature_, p. 194.

P. 55, l. 3.--_Delete_ comma at "French."

P. 60, l. 6.--Insert "and" between "half" and "illegitimate."

P. 72, l. 4.--I have been warned of the "change-over" in "Saracen" and
"Christian"--a slip of the pen which I am afraid I have been guilty of
before now, though I have known the story for full forty years. But
Floire, though a "paynim," was not exactly a "Saracen."

P. 75, l. 2 from bottom.--_For_ "his" _read_ "their."

Pp. 158-163.--When the first proofs of the present volume had already
begun to come in, Dr. Hagbert Wright informed me that the London Library
had just secured at Sotheby's (I believe partly from the sale of Lord
Ellesmere's books) a considerable parcel of early seventeenth-century
French novels. He also very kindly allowed me perusal of such of these
as I had not already noticed (from reading at the B. M.) in Vol. I. Of
some, if not all of them, on the principle stated in the Preface of that
vol., I may say something here. There is the _Histoire des Amours de
Lysandre et de Caliste; avec figures_, in an Amsterdam edition of 1679,
but of necessity some sixty years older, since its author, the Sieur
d'Audiguier, was killed in 1624. He says he wrote it in six months,
during three and a half of which he was laid up with eight
sword-wounds--things of which it is itself full, with the appurtenant
combats on sea and land and in private houses, and all sorts of other
divertisements (he uses the word himself of himself) including a very
agreeable ghost-host--a ghost quite free from the tautology and
grandiloquence which ghosts too often affect, though not so poetical as
Fletcher's. "They told me you were dead," says his guest and
interlocutor, consciously or unconsciously quoting the _Anthology_. "So
I am," quoth the ghost sturdily. But he wants, as they so often do, to
be buried. This is done, and he comes back to return thanks, which is
not equally the game, and in fact rather bores his guest, who, to stop
this jack-in-the-box proceeding, begins to ask favours, such as that the
ghost will give him three days' warning of his own death. "I will, _if I
can_," says the Appearance pointedly. The fault of the book, as of most
of the novels of the period, is the almost complete absence of
character. But there is plenty of adventure, in England as well as in
France, and it must be one of the latest stories in which the actual
tourney figures, for Audiguier writes as of things contemporary and
dedicates his book to Marie de Medicis.

_Cléon ou le Parfait Confidant_ (Paris, 1665), and _Hattigé ou Les
Amours au Roy de Tamaran_ (Cologne, 1676), the first anonymous, the
second written by a certain G. de Brimond, and dedicated to an
Englishman of whom we are not specially proud--Harry Jermyn, Earl of St.
Albans--are two very little books, of intrinsic importance and interest
not disproportioned to their size. They have, however, a little of both
for the student, in reference to the extension of the novel _kind_. For
_Cléon_ is rather like a "fictionising" of an inferior play of Moliere's
time; and _Hattigé_, with its privateering Chevalier de Malte for a hero
and its Turkish heroine who coolly remarks "L'infidélité a des charmes,"
might have been better if the author had known how to make it so. Both
these books have, as has been said, the merit of shortness. Puget de la
Serre's _La Clytié de la Cour_ (2 vols., Paris, 1635) cannot plead even
this; for it fills two fat volumes of some 1500 pages. I have sometimes
been accused, both in France and in England, of unfairness to Boileau,
but I should certainly never quarrel with him for including La Serre
(not, however, in respect of this book, I think) among his herd of
dunces. Like most of the novels of its time, though it has not much
actual _bergerie_ about it, it suggests the _Astrée_, but the contrast
is glaring. Even among the group, I have seldom read, or attempted to
read, anything duller. _Le Mélante du Sieur Vidal_ (Paris, 1624), though
also somewhat wordy (it has 1000 pages), is much more Astréean, and
therefore, perhaps, better. Things do happen in it: among other
incidents a lover is introduced into a garden in a barrow of clothes,
though he has not Sir John Falstaff's fate. There are fresh laws of
love, and discussions of them; a new debate on the old Blonde _v._
Brunette theme, which might be worse, etc. etc. The same year brought
forth _Les Chastes Amours d'Armonde_ by a certain Damiron, which, as its
title may show, belongs rather to the pre-Astréean group (_v. sup._ Vol.
I. p. 157 _note_), and contains a great deal of verse and (by licence of
its title) a good deal of kissing; but is flatly told, despite not a
little _Phébus_. It is a sort of combat of Spiritual and Fleshly Love;
and Armonde ends as a kind of irregular anchorite, having previously
"spent several days in deliberating the cut of his vestments."

_Les Caprices Héroïques_ (Paris, 1644) is a translation, by
Chateaunières de Grenaille, from the Italian of Loredano. It consists of
variations on classical stories, treated rather in the declamation
manner, and ranging in subject from Achilles to "Friné." How many
readers (at least among those who read with their eyes only) will affirm
on their honour that they identified "Friné" at first reading? In
Italian there would, of course, be less hesitation. The book is not
precisely a novel, but it has merits as a collection of rhetorical
exercises. Of a somewhat similar kind, though even further from the
strict novel standard, is the _Diverses Affections de Minerve_ (Paris,
1625) of the above-mentioned Audiguier, where the heroine is _not_ the
goddess, and all sorts of places and personages, mythological,
classical, historic, and modern, compose a miraculous _macédoine_,
Brasidas jostling Gracchus, and Chabrias living in the Faubourg
Saint-Martin. This _is_ a sort of story, but the greatest part of the
volume as it lies before me is composed of _Lettres Espagnoles_,
_Epîtres Françaises_, _Libres Discours_, etc.

We can apparently return to the stricter romance, such as it is, with
the _Histoire Asiatique_ of the Sieur de Gerzan (Paris, 1633), but it is
noteworthy that the title-page of this ballasts itself by an "Avec un
Traité du Trésor de la Vie Humaine et La Philosophie des Dames." I
confess that, as in the case of most of the books here mentioned, I have
not read it with the care I bestowed on the _Cyrus_. But I perceive in
it ladies who love corsairs, universal medicines, poodles who are
sacrificed to save their owners, and other things which may tempt some.
And I can, by at least sampling, rather recommend _Les Travaux du Prince
Inconnu_ (Paris, 1633) by the Sieur de Logeas. It calls itself, and its
700 pages, the completion of two earlier performances, the _Roman
Historique_ and the _Histoire des Trois Frères Princes de
Constantinople_, which have not come in my way. There is, however,
probably no cause to regret this, for the author assures us that his new
work is "as far above the two former in beauty as the sun is above the
stars." If any light-minded person be disposed to scoff at him for this,
let it be added that he has the grace to abstract the whole in the _Avis
au Lecteur_ which contains the boast, and to give full chapter-headings,
things too often wanting in the group. The hero is named Rosidor, the
heroine Floralinde; and they are married with "la réjouissance générale
de toute la Chrétienté." What can mortals ask for more?

_Polémire ou l'Illustre Polonais_ (Paris, 1647), is dedicated to no less
a person than Madame de Montbazon, and contains much piety, a good deal
of fighting, and some verse. _L'Amour Aventureux_ (Paris, 1623), by the
not unknown Du Verdier, is a book with _Histoires_, and I am not sure
that the volume I have seen contains the whole of it. _L'Empire de
l'Inconstance_ (Paris, 1635), by the Sieur de Ville, and published "at
the entry of the little gallery of Prisoners under the sign of the
Vermilion Roses," has a most admirable title to start with, and a table
of over thirty _Histoires_, a dozen letters, and two "amorous judgments"
at the end. _Les Fortunes Diverses de Chrysomire et de Kalinde_ (Paris,
1635), by a certain Humbert, blazons "love and war" on its very
title-page, while _Celandre_ (Paris, 1671), a much later book than most
of these, has the rather uncommon feature of a single name for title.
Thirty or forty years ago I should have taken some pleasure in "cooking"
this batch of mostly early romances into a twenty-page article which,
unless it had been unlucky, would have found its way into some magazine
or review. Somebody might do so now. But I think it sufficient, and not
superfluous, to add this brief sketch here to the notices of similar
things in the last volume, in order to show how abundant the crop of
French romance--of which even these are only further samples--was at the
time.

P. 231, l. 9 from bottom.--_Add_ 's (Herman sla lerman's).

P. 237, _note_ 2, l. 1.--_For_ "revision" _read_ "revisal."

P. 241, 2nd par., last line but two.--_For_ "But" _read_ "Still."

P. 278, l. 7 from bottom.--Delete comma at "Thackeray's."

P. 286, l. 18.--It occurred to me (among the usual discoveries which one
makes in reading one's book after it has passed the irremeable press)
that I ought to have said "Planchet's" horse, not "D'Artagnan's." True,
as a kindly fellow-Alexandrian (who had not noticed the slip) consoled
my remorse by saying, the horse was D'Artagnan's _property_; but the
phrase usually implies riding at the moment. And Aramis, brave as he
was, would have been sure to reflect that to play a feat of possibly
hostile acrobatism on the Gascon, without notice, might be a little
dangerous.

P. 304, ll. 4 and 7.--Shift "with his wife and mistress" to l. 4,
reading "the relations with his wife and mistress of that Henri II.,"
etc.

P. 314, l. 12 from bottom.--_For_ "usual" _read_ "common" (common
norm.)

P. 338, l. 21.--Delete "in" before "among."

P. 381.--One or two reviewers and some private correspondents have
expressed surprise at my not knowing, or at any rate not mentioning, the
late Professor Morley's publication of _Rasselas_ and a translation of
_Candide_ together. I cannot say positively whether I knew of it or not,
though I must have done so, having often gone over the lists of that
editor's numerous "libraries" to secure for my students texts not
overlaid with commentary. But I can say very truthfully that no slight
whatever was intended, in regard to a scholar who did more than almost
any other single man to "vulgarise" (in the wholly laudable sense of
that too often degraded word) the body of English literature. Only, such
a book would not have been what I was thinking of. To bring out the full
contrast-complement of these two strangely coincident masterpieces, both
must be read in the originals. Paradoxically, one might even say that a
French translation of Johnson, with the original of Voltaire, would show
it better than the converse presentment. _Candide_ is so intensely
French--it is even to such an extent an embodiment of one side of
Frenchness--that you cannot receive its virtues except through the
original tongue. I am personally fond of translating; I have had some
practice in it; and some good wits have not disapproved some of my
efforts. But, unless I knew that in case of refusal I should be ranked
as a Conscientious Objector, I would not attempt _Candide_. The French
would ring in my ears too reproachfully.

P. 396, last line.--Shift comma from after to before "even."

P. 399, l. 10.--_For_ "Rousseau" _read_ "his author."

P. 424, _note_, first line.--Delete quotes before "The."

P. 453, l. 15.--_For_ "Courray" _read_ "Cou_v_ray."

P. 468, l. 17.--_For_ "France has" _read_ "France had."

P. 477.--In the original preface I apologised--not in the idle hope of
conciliating one kind of critic, but out of respect for a very different
class--for slips due to the loss of my own library, and to the
difficulty (a difficulty which has now increased owing to circumstances
of no public interest, in respect of the present volume) of consulting
others in regard to small matters of fact. I have very gratefully to
acknowledge that I found the latter class very much larger than the
former. Such a note as that at Vol. I. p. xiii, will show that I have
not spared trouble to ensure accuracy. The charge of _in_accuracy can
always be made by anybody who cares to take "the other authority." This
has been done in reference to the dates of Prévost's books. But I may
perhaps say, without _outrecuidance_, that there is an _Art de négliger
les dates_ as well as one _de les verifier_. For the purposes of such a
history as this it is very rarely of the slightest importance, whether a
book was published in the year one or the year three: though the
importance of course increases when units pass into decades, and becomes
grave where decades pass into half-centuries. Unless you can collate
actual first editions in every case (and sometimes even then) dates of
books as given are always second-hand. In reference to the same subject
I have also been rebuked for not taking account of M. Harrisse's
correction of the legend of Prévost's death. As a matter of fact I knew
but had forgotten it, and it has not the slightest importance in
connection with Prévost's work. Besides, somebody will probably, sooner
or later, correct M. Harrisse. These things pass: _Manon Lescaut_
remains.



ADDENDA AND CORRIGENDA FOR VOL. II


P. 65.--A reviewer of my first volume, who objected to my omission there
of Madame de Charrières, may possibly think that omission made more
sinful by the admission of Madame de Montolieu. But there seems to me to
be a sufficient distinction between the two cases. Isabella Agnes
Elizabeth Van Tuyll (or, as she liked to call herself, Belle de Zuylen),
subsequently Madame de Saint-Hyacinthe de Charrières (how mellifluously
these names pass over one's tongue!), was a very interesting person, and
highly characteristic of the later eighteenth century. I first met with
her long ago (see Vol. I. p. 443) in my "Sensibility" researches, as
having, in her maturer years, played that curious, but at the time not
uncommon, part of "Governess in erotics" to Benjamin Constant, who was
then quite young, and with whose uncle, Constant d'Hermenches, she had,
years earlier and before her own marriage, carried on a long and very
intimate but platonic correspondence. This is largely occupied with
oddly business-like discussions of marriage schemes for herself, one of
the _prétendants_ being no less a person than our own precious Bozzy,
who met her on the Continental tour for which Johnson started him at
Harwich. But--and let this always be a warning to literary lovers--the
two fell out over a translation of the Corsica book which she began.
Boswell was not the wisest of men, especially where women were
concerned. But even he might have known that, if you trust the
bluest-eyed of gazelles to do such things for you, she will probably
marry a market-gardener. (He seems also to have been a little afraid of
her superiority of talent, _v._ his letters to Temple and his _Johnson_,
pp. 192-3, Globe Ed.)

Besides these, and other genuine letters, she wrote not a few novels,
concocted often, if not always, in epistolary form. Their French was so
good that it attracted Sainte-Beuve's attention and praise, while quite
recently she has had a devoted panegyrist and editor in Switzerland,
where, after her marriage, she was domiciled. But (and here come the
reasons for the former exclusion) she learnt her French as a foreign
language. She was French neither by birth nor by extraction, nor, if I
do not mistake, by even temporary residence, though she did stay in
England for a considerable time. Some of these points distinguish her
from Hamilton as others do from Madame de Montolieu. If I put her in, I
do not quite see how I could leave Beckford out.

P. 400, ll. 2, 3.--_For_ "1859 ... 1858" _read_ "1857--a year, with its
successors 1858 and 1859,"



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I

                                                                  PAGE

MADAME DE STAËL AND CHATEAUBRIAND                                    1

Reasons for beginning with Mme. de Staël--_Delphine_--The
tone--The story--_Corinne_--Its improved conditions--An
illustrated edition of it--The story--The character of
Nelvil--And the book's absurdities--Compensations: Corinne
herself--Nelvil again--Its aesthetics--The author's position
in the History of the Novel--Chateaubriand: his peculiar
position as a novelist--And the remarkable interconnection
of his works in fiction--_Atala_--_René_--Difference between
its importance and its merit--_Les Natchez_--_Les
Martyrs_--The story--Its "panoramic" quality--And its
remarkable advance in style--Chateaubriand's Janus-position
in this--Illustrated.


CHAPTER II

PAUL DE KOCK, OTHER MINORS OF 1800-1830, AND NODIER                 39

 The fate of popular minor novelists--Examples of
them--Paul de Kock--_L'Enfant de ma Femme_--_Petits Tableaux
de Moeurs_--_Gustave_--The caricatured _Anglais_--_Edmond et
sa Cousine_--_André le Savoyard_--_Jean_--_La Femme_, _le
Mari et l'Amant_--_Mon Voisin Raymond_--_Le Barbier de
Paris_--The Pauline grisette--Others--The minors before
1830--Mme. de Montolieu: _Caroline de Lichtfield_--Its
advance on "Sensibility"--Madame de Genlis _iterum_--The
minor popular novel--Ducray-Duminil: _Le Petit
Carillonneur_--V. Ducange--_L'Artiste et le
Soldat_--_Ludovica_--Auguste Ricard: _L'Ouvreuse de
Loges_--The importance of these minors not
inconsiderable--The Vicomte d'Arlincourt: _Le
Solitaire_--Nodier--His short stories--_Trilby_--_Le Songe
d'Or_--The minors--_La Fée aux Miettes_--_Smarra_ and _Soeur
Béatrix_--_Inès de las Sierras_--Nodier's special quality.


CHAPTER III

VICTOR HUGO                                                         96

Limitations--_Han d'Islande_--_Bug-Jargal_--_Le Dernier Jour
d'un Condamné_--_Claude Gueux_--_Notre-Dame de Paris_--The
story easy to anticipate--Importance of the actual
_title_--The working out of the one under the other--The
story recovers itself latterly--But the characters?--The
thirty years' interval--_Les Misérables_--_Les Travailleurs
de la Mer_--The _genius loci_--Guernsey at the
time--_L'Homme Qui Rit_--_Quatre-Vingt-Treize_--Final
remarks.


CHAPTER IV

BEYLE AND BALZAC                                                   133

Beyle: his peculiarity--_Armance_--_La Chartreuse de
Parme_--The Waterloo episode--The subject and general
colour--_L'Abbesse de Castro_, etc.--_Le Rouge et le
Noir_--Beyle's masterpiece, and why--Julien Sorel and
Mathilde de la Mole--The resuscitated work: _Lamiel_--The
_Nouvelles Inédites_--_Le Chasseur Vert_--Beyle's place in
the story--Balzac: conditions of the present
dealing--Limitations of subject--And of Balzac
himself--Balzac's "general ideas"--Abstinence from
abstract--The _Oeuvres de Jeunesse_--_Les Chouans_--_La Peau
de Chagrin_--The short stories--The _Contes
Drolatiques_--Notes on select larger books: _Eugénie
Grandet_--_Le Père Goriot_ and _Les Parents
Pauvres_--Others: the general "scenic"
division--"Balzacity": its constitution--Its effect on
successors--And its own character--The "occult" element--Its
action and reaction--Peculiarity of the conversation--And of
the "story" interest.


CHAPTER V

GEORGE SAND                                                        176

 George Sand: generalities about her--Note on _Elle et
Lui_, etc., and on _Un Hiver à Majorque_--Phases of her
work--_Indiana_--_Valentine_--_Lélia_--The moral of the
group and its tragi-comedy--_Consuelo_--Much better in
parts--The degeneration--Recovery; but not maintained quite
to the end--_La Comtesse de Rudolstadt_--The "making good"
of _Lucrezia Floriani_--The story--Its balance of power--The
"Idylls": _La Petite Fadette_--_La Mare au
Diable_--_François le Champi_--Others: _Mauprat_--_La
Daniella_--_Les Beaux Messieurs de Bois-Doré_--_Le Marquis
de Villemer_--_Mlle. La Quintinie_--_Flamarande_--Summary
and judgment--Style--Conversation and description.


CHAPTER VI

THE NOVEL OF STYLE--GAUTIER, MÉRIMÉE, GÉRARD DE NERVAL,
MUSSET, VIGNY                                                      208

Gautier: his burden of "style"--Abstract (with translations)
of _La Morte Amoureuse_--Criticism thereof--A parallel from
painting--The reality--And the passion of it--Other short
stories--Gautier's humour: _Les Jeune-France_--Return to
_Fortunio_--And others--Longer books: _Le Capitaine
Fracasse_ and others--_Mlle. De
Maupin_--Mérimée--Carmen--_Colomba_--Its smaller companions:
_Mateo Falcone_, etc.--Those of _Carmen_; _Arsène
Guillot_--And _L'Abbé Aubain_--_La Prise de la Redoute_--The
_Dernières Nouvelles_; _Il Viccolo di Madama
Lucrezia_--_Djoumane_--_Lokis_--_La Chambre Bleue_--The
_Chronique de Charles IX_--The semi-dramatic stories: _La
Jacquerie_--_Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement_, etc.--Musset:
charm of his dramatised stories; his pure narration
unsuccessful--_Frédéric et Bernerette_--_Les Deux
Maîtresses_, _Le Fils du Titien_, etc.--_Emmeline_--Gérard
de Nerval: his peculiar position--_La Bohême Galante_, _Les
Filles du Feu_, and _Le Rêve et la Vie_--Their general
character--Particular examples--_Aurélia_--And especially
_Sylvie_--Alfred de Vigny: _Cinq-Mars_--The faults in its
general scheme--And in its details--_Stello_ less of a
novel, but containing better novel-stuff--Its framework and
"anecdotes"--The death of Gilbert--The satiric episode:
contrast--The Chatterton part--The tragedy of André
Chénier--_Servitude et Grandeur Militaires_--The first
story--The second--and third--The moral of the three--Note
on Fromentin's _Dominique_: its altogether exceptional
character.


CHAPTER VII

THE MINORS OF 1830                                                 281

 Sainte-Beuve: _Volupté_--Its "puff-book"--Itself--Its
character in various aspects--Jules Sandeau and Charles de
Bernard--Sandeau's work--Bernard's--Sue, Soulié, and the
novel of melodrama: _Le Juif Errant_, etc.--Melodramatic
fiction generally--_Le Château des Pyrénées_--_Les Mémoires
du Diable_--Later writers and writings of the
class--Murger--The _Vie de Bohême_--_Les Buveurs d'Eau_ and
the Miscellanies--Reybaud: _Jérôme Paturot_, and Thackeray
on its earlier part--The windfall of Malvina--The difference
of the Second Part--Not much of a novel--But an invaluable
document--Méry--_Les Nuits Anglaises_--The minor
stories--_Histoire d'une Colline_--The "Manchester"
article--Karr--Roger de Beauvoir: _Les Cabaret des
Morts_--Ourliac: _Contes du Bocage_--Achard--Souvestre,
Féval, etc.--Borel's _Champavert_.


CHAPTER VIII

DUMAS THE ELDER                                                    323

The case of Dumas--Charge and
discharge--Morality--Plagiarism and devilling--The
collaborators?--The positive value as fiction and as
literature of the books: the less worthy works--The
worthier: treatment of them not so much individually as
under heads--His attitude to plot--To character--To
description (and "style")--To conversation.


CHAPTER IX

THE FRENCH NOVEL IN 1850                                           343

The peculiarity of the moment--A political nadir--And almost
a literary zenith--The performance of the time in novel--The
_personnel_--The kinds: the historical novel--Appearance of
new classes: the historical--Other kinds and classes--The
Novel of Romanticism generally--The "ordinary"--Discussion
on a point of general novel criticism.


CHAPTER X

DUMAS THE YOUNGER                                                  365

Division of future subjects--A confession--His general
character--_La Dame aux Camélias_--_Tristan le
Roux_--_Antonine_--_La Vie à Vingt Ans_--_Aventures de
Quatre Femmes_--_Trois Hommes Forts_--_Diane de
Lys_--Shorter stories: _Une Loge à Camille_--_Le Docteur
Servans_--_Le Roman d'une Femme_--The habit of quickening up
at the end--_Contes et
Nouvelles_--_Ilka_--_Revenants_--_Sophie
Printemps_--_Affaire Clémenceau_--Story of it--Criticism of
it and of its author's work generally--Note on Dumas _fils'_
drama, etc.--Reflections.


CHAPTER XI

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT                                                   397

The contrast of Flaubert and Dumas _fils_--Some former
dealings with him--His style--The books: _Madame
Bovary_--_Salammbô_--_L'Éducation Sentimentale_--_La
Tentation de Saint-Antoine_--_Trois Contes_--_Bouvard et
Pécuchet_--General considerations.


CHAPTER XII

THE OTHER "NON-NATURALS" OF THE SECOND EMPIRE                      414

Feuillet--His novels generally--Brief notes on some: _Le
Roman d'un jeune homme pauvre_--_M. de Camors_--Other
books--_La Petite Comtesse_--_Julia de Trécoeur_--_Honneur
d'Artiste_--_La Morte_--Misters the assassins--Alphonse
Daudet and his curious position--His "personality"--His
books from this point of view and others--His
"plagiarisms"--His merits--About: _Le Roi des
Montagnes_--_Tolla_--_Germaine_--_Madelon_--_Maître Pierre_,
etc.--Summing up--Ponson du Terrail and Gaboriau--The first:
his general character--The second--_L'Affaire
Lerouge_--Feydeau: _Sylvie_--_Fanny_--Others:
_Daniel_--Droz--_Mr., Mme. et Bébé_ and _Entre
Nous_--Cherbuliez--His general characteristics--Short survey
of his books--Three eccentrics--Léon Cladel: _Les
Va-nu-pieds_, etc.--Barbey d'Aurevilly: his criticism of
novels--His novels themselves: _Les Diaboliques_ and
others--His merits--And defects--Especially as shown in
_L'Ensorcelée_--Champfleury--_Les Excentriques_.


CHAPTER XIII

NATURALISM--THE GONCOURTS, ZOLA, AND MAUPASSANT                    459

The beginnings--"Les deux Goncourts"--Their work--The
novels--_Germinie Lacerteux_ and _Chérie_ taken as
specimens--The impression produced by them--The rottenness
of their theory--And the unattractiveness of their
style--Émile Zola to be treated differently--Some points in
his personality: literary and other--The Pillars of
Naturalism--"Document" and "detail" before
Naturalism--General stages traced--Some individual pioneers;
especially Hugo--Survey of books: the short stories--"Les
Rougon-Macquart"--"Les Trois Villes"--"Les Quatre
Évangiles"--General considerations--Especially in regard to
character--[Maupassant]--_Bel-Ami_--_Une Vie_--_Fort comme
la Mort_--_Pierre et Jean_--_Notre Coeur_--_Les Dimanches_,
etc.--_Yvette_--Short stories: the various
collections--Classes: stories of 1870-71--Norman
stories--Algerian and Sporting--Purely comic--Tragic--Tales
of Life's Irony--Oddments--General
considerations--Huysmans--Belot and others.


CHAPTER XIV

OTHER NOVELISTS OF 1870-1900                                       518

The last stage--Ferdinand Fabre--_L'Abbé Tigrane_--_Norine_,
etc.--_Le Marquis de Pierrerue_--_Mon Oncle
Célestin_--_Lucifer_--_Sylviane_ and
_Taillevent_--_Toussaint Galabru_--André
Theuriet--_Sauvageonne_--_Le Fils Maugars_--_Le Don Juan de
Vireloup_ and _Raymonde_--General characteristics--Georges
Ohnet--_Serge Panine_--_Le Maître de Forges_--_Le Docteur
Rameau_--_La Grande Marnière_--Reflections--Édouard Rod--_La
Vie Privée de Michel Teissier_--_La Sacrifiée_--Note on _La
Seconde Vie de M. T._--_Le Silence_--_Là-Haut_--_La Course à
la Mort_--_Le Ménage du Pasteur Naudié_--_Mademoiselle
Annette_--_L'Eau Courante_--_Scènes de la Vie
Cosmopolite_--Catulle Mendès.

CONCLUSION                                                         556

APPENDIX                                                           571

INDEX                                                              577



CHAPTER I

MADAME DE STAËL AND CHATEAUBRIAND


[Sidenote: Reasons for beginning with Mme. de Staël.]

It has often been thought, and sometimes said, that the period of the
French Revolution and of the Napoleonic wars--extending as it does
strictly to more than a quarter of a century, while four decades were
more than completed before a distinct turn of tide--is, for France, the
least individual and least satisfactorily productive time in all her
great literature. And it is, to a large extent, true. But the loss of
individuality implies the presence of indiscernibility; and not to go
out of our own department, there are at least three writers who, if but
partially, cancel this entry to discredit. Of one of them--the lowest in
general literature, if not quite in our division of
it--Pigault-Lebrun--we have spoken in the last volume. The other
two--much less craftsmanlike novelists merely as such, but immeasurably
greater as man and woman of letters--remain for discussion in the first
chapter of this. In pure chronological order Chateaubriand should come
first, as well as in other "ranks" of various kinds. But History, though
it may never neglect, may sometimes overrule Chronology by help of a
larger and higher point of view: sex and birth hardly count here, and
the departmental primes the intrinsic literary importance.
Chateaubriand, too, was a little younger than Madame de Staël in years,
though his actual publication, in anything like our kind, came before
hers. And he reached much farther than she did, though curiously enough
some of his worst faults were more of the eighteenth century than hers.
She helped to finish "Sensibility"; she transformed "Philosophism" into
something more modern; she borrowed a good deal (especially in the
region of aesthetics) that was to be importantly germinal from Germany.
But she had practically nothing of that sense of the past and of the
strange which was to rejuvenate all literature, and which he had; while
she died before the great French Romantic outburst began. So let us
begin with her.[8]

[Sidenote: _Delphine._]

"This dismal trash, which has nearly dislocated the jaws of every critic
who has read it," was the extremely rude judgment pronounced by Sydney
Smith on Madame de Staël's _Delphine_. Sydney was a good-natured person
and a gentleman, nor had he, merely as a Whig, any reason to quarrel
with the lady's general attitude to politics--a circumstance which, one
regrets to say, did in those days, on both sides, rather improperly
qualify the attitude of gentlemen to literary ladies as well as to each
other. It is true that the author of _Corinne_ and of _Delphine_ itself
had been rather a thorn in the side of the English Whigs by dint of some
of her opinions, by much of her conduct, and, above all, by certain
peculiarities which may be noticed presently. But Sydney, though a Whig,
was not "a _vile_ Whig," for which reason the Upper Powers, in his later
years, made him something rather indistinguishable from a Tory. And that
blunt common sense, which in his case cohabited with the finest
_un_common wit, must have found itself, in this instance, by no means
at variance with its housemate in respect of Anne Germaine Necker.

There are many _worse_ books than _Delphine_. It is excellently written;
there is no bad blood in it; there is no intentional licentiousness; on
the contrary, there are the most desperate attempts to live up to a New
Morality by no means entirely of the Wiggins kind. But there is an
absence of humour which is perfectly devastating: and there is a
presence of the most disastrous atmosphere of sham sentiment, sham
morality, sham almost everything, that can be imagined. It was hinted in
the last volume that Madame de Staël's lover, Benjamin Constant, shows
in one way the Nemesis of Sensibility; so does she herself in another.
But the difference! In _Adolphe_ a coal from the altar of true passion
has touched lips in themselves polluted enough, and the result is what
it always is in such, alas! rare cases, whether the lips were polluted
or not. In _Delphine_ there is a desperate pother to strike some sort of
light and get some sort of heat; but the steel is naught, the flint is
clay, the tinder is mouldy, and the wood is damp and rotten. No glow of
brand or charcoal follows, and the lips, untouched by it, utter nothing
but rhetoric and fustian and, as the Sydneian sentence speaks it,
"trash."[9]

[Sidenote: The tone.]

In fact, to get any appropriate metaphorical description of it one has
to change the terminology altogether. In a very great line Mr. Kipling
has spoken of a metaphorical ship--

    With a drogue of dead convictions to keep her head to gale.

Madame de Staël has cast off not only that drogue, but even the other
and perhaps commoner floating ballast and steadier of dead
_conventions_, and is trying to beat up against the gale by help of all
sorts of jury-masts and extemporised try-sails of other new conventions
that are mostly blowing out of the bolt-ropes. We said that Crébillon's
world was an artificial one, and one of not very respectable artifice.
But it worked after a fashion; it was founded on some real, however
unrespectable, facts of humanity; and it was at least amusing to the
naughty players on its stage to begin with, and long afterwards to the
guiltless spectators of the commonty. In _Delphine_ there is not a
glimmer of amusement from first to last, and the whole story is compact
(if that word were not totally inapplicable) of windbags of sentiment,
copy-book headings, and the strangest husks of neo-classic type-worship,
stock character, and hollow generalisation. An Italian is necessarily a
person of volcanic passions; an Englishman or an American (at this time
the identification was particularly unlucky) has, of equal necessity, a
grave and reserved physiognomy. Orthodox religion is a mistake, but a
kind of moral-philosophical Deism (something of the Wolmar type) is
highly extolled. You must be technically "virtuous" yourself, even if
you bring a whole second volume of tedious tortures on you by being so;
but you may play Lady Pandara to a friend who is a devout adulteress,
may force yourself into her husband's carriage when he is carrying her
off from one assignation, and may bring about his death by contriving
another in your own house. In fact, the whole thing is topsy-turvy,
without the slightest touch of that animation and interested curiosity
which topsy-turviness sometimes contributes. But perhaps one should give
a more regular account of it.

[Sidenote: The story.]

Delphine d'Albémar is a young, beautiful, rich, clever, generous, and,
in the special and fashionable sense, extravagantly "sensible" widow,
who opens the story (it is in the troublesome epistolary form) by
handing over about a third of her fortune to render possible the
marriage of a cousin of her deceased husband. This cousin, Matilde de
Vernon, is also beautiful and accomplished, but a _dévote_, altogether
well-regulated and well-conducted, and (though it turns out that she has
strong and permanent affections) the reverse of "sensible"--in fact
rather hard and disagreeable--in manner. She has a scheming mother, who
has run herself deeply, though privately, into debt, and the intended
husband and son-in-law, Léonce de Mandeville, also has a mother, who is
half Spanish by blood and residence, and wholly so (according to the
type-theory above glanced at) in family pride, personal _morgue_, and so
forth. A good deal of this has descended to her son, with whom, in spite
or because of it, Delphine (she has not seen him before her rash
generosity) proceeds to fall frantically in love, as he does with her.
The marriage, however, partly by trickery on Madame de Vernon's part,
and partly owing to Delphine's more than indiscreet furthering of her
friend Madame d'Ervin's intrigue with the Italian M. de Serbellane, does
take place, and Mme. de Staël's idea of a nice heroine makes her station
Delphine in a white veil, behind a pillar of the church, muttering
reproaches at the bridegroom. No open family rupture, however, is
caused; on the contrary, a remarkable and inevitably disastrous "triple
arrangement" follows (as mentioned above), for an entire volume, in
which the widow and the bridegroom make despairing love to each other,
refraining, however, from any impropriety, and the wife, though
suffering (for she, in her apparently frigid way, really loves her
husband), tolerates the proceeding after a fashion. This impossible and
preposterous situation is at last broken up by the passion and violence
of another admirer of Delphine--a certain M. de Valorbe. These bring
about duels, wounds, and Delphine's flight to Switzerland, where she
puts up in a convent with a most superfluous and in every way
unrefreshing new personage, a widowed sister of Madame de Mandeville.
Valorbe follows, and, to get hold of Delphine, machinates one of the
most absurd scenes in the whole realm of fiction. He lures her into
Austrian territory and a chamber with himself alone, locks the door and
throws the key out of the window,[10] storms, rants, threatens, but
proceeds to no _voie de fait_, and merely gets himself and the object of
his desires arrested by the Austrians! He thus succeeds, while procuring
no gratification for himself, in entirely demolishing the last shred of
reputation which, virtuous as she is in her own way, Delphine's various
eccentricities and escapades have left her; and she takes the veil. In
the first form the authoress crowned this mass of absurdities with the
suicide of the heroine and the judicial shooting of the hero. Somebody
remonstrated, and she made Delphine throw off her vows, engage herself
to Léonce (whose unhappy wife has died from too much carrying out of the
duty of a mother to her child), and go with him to his estates in La
Vendée, where he is to take up arms for the king. Unfortunately, the
Vendéans by no means "see" their _seigneur_ marrying an apostate nun,
and strong language is used. So Delphine dies, not actually by her own
hand, and Léonce gets shot, more honourably than he deserves, on the
patriot-royalist side.

Among the minor characters not yet referred to are an old-maid
sister-in-law of Delphine's, who, though tolerably sensible in the
better sense, plays the part of confidante to her brother's _mijaurée_
of a widow much too indulgently; a M. Barton, Léonce's mentor, who,
despite his English-looking name, is not (one is glad to find) English,
but is, to one's sorrow, one of the detestable "parsons-in-tie-wigs"
whom French Anglomania at this time foisted on us as characteristic of
England; a sort of double of his, M. de Lerensei, a Protestant
free-thinker, who, with his _divorcée_ wife, puts up grass altars in
their garden with inscriptions recording the happiness of their queer
union; an ill-natured Mme. du Marset and her old cicisbeo, M. de
Fierville, who suggest, in the dismallest way, the weakest wine of
Marmontel gone stale and filtered through the dullest, though not the
dirtiest, part of Laclos.

Yet the thing, "dismal trash" as Sydney almost justly called it, is
perhaps worth reading once (nothing but the sternest voice of duty
could have made me read it twice) because of the existence of _Corinne_,
and because also of the undoubted fact that, here as there, though much
more surprisingly, a woman of unusual ability was drawing a picture of
what she would have liked to be--if not of what she actually thought
herself.[11] The borrowed beauty goes for nothing--it were indeed hard
if one did not, in the case of a woman of letters, "let her make her
dream All that she would," like Tennyson's Prince, but in this other
respect. The generosity, less actually exaggerated, might also pass.
That Delphine makes a frantic fool of herself for a lover whose
attractions can only make male readers shrug their shoulders--for though
we are _told_ that Léonce is clever, brave, charming, and what not, we
see nothing of it in speech or action--may be matter of taste; but that
her heroine's part should seem to any woman one worth playing is indeed
wonderful. Delphine behaves throughout like a child, and by no means
always like a very well-brought-up child; she never seems to have the
very slightest idea that "things are as they are and that their
consequences will be what they will be"; and though, once more, we are
_told_ of passion carrying all before it, we are never _shown_ it. It is
all "words, words." To speak of her love in the same breath with Julie's
is to break off the speech in laughter; to consider her woes and
remember Clarissa's is to be ready to read another seven or eight
volumes of Richardson in lieu of these three of Madame de Staël's.

And yet this lady could do something in the novel way, and, when the
time came, she did it.

[Sidenote: _Corinne._]

Between _Delphine_ and _Corinne_ Madame de Staël had, in the fullest
sense of a banal phrase, "seen a great of the world." She had lost the
illusions which the Duessa Revolution usually spreads among clever but
not wise persons at her first appearance, and had not left her bones,
as too many[12] such persons do, in the _pieuvre_-caves which the
monster keeps ready. She had seen England, being "coached" by
Crabb-Robinson and others, so as to give some substance to the vague
_philosophe-Anglomane_ flimsiness of her earlier fancy. She had seen
Republicanism turn to actual Tyranny, and had made exceedingly
unsuccessful attempts to captivate the tyrant. She had seen Germany, and
had got something of its then not by any means poisonous, if somewhat
windy, "culture"; a little romance of a kind, though she was never a
real Romantic; some aesthetics; some very exoteric philosophy, etc. She
had done a great deal of not very happy love-making; had been a woman of
letters, a patroness of men of letters, and--most important of all--had
never dismounted from her old hobby "Sensibility," though she had learnt
how to put it through new paces.

A critical reader of _Corinne_ must remember all this, and he must
remember something else, though the reminder has been thought to savour
of brutality. It is perfectly clear to me, and always has been so from
reading (in and between the lines) of her own works, of Lady
Blennerhassett's monumental book on her, of M. Sorel's excellent
monograph, and of scores of longer and shorter studies on and references
to her English and German and Swiss and French--from her own time
downwards, that the central secret, mainspring, or whatever any one may
choose to call it, of Madame de Staël's life was a frantic desire for
the physical beauty which she did not possess,[13] and a persistent
attempt, occasionally successful, to delude herself into believing that
she had achieved a sufficient substitute by literary, philosophical,
political, and other exertion.

[Sidenote: Its improved conditions.]

This partly pathetic, partly, alas! ridiculous, but on the whole (with a
little charity) quite commiserable endeavour, attained some success,
though probably with not a little extraneous help, in _De l'Allemagne_,
and the posthumous _Considérations_ on the Revolution; but these books
do not concern us, and illustrate only part of the writer's character,
temperament, and talent, if not genius. _Corinne_ gives us the rest, and
nearly, if not quite, the whole. The author had no doubt tried to do
this in _Delphine_, but had then had neither art nor equipment for the
task, and she had failed utterly. She was now well, if not perfectly,
equipped, and had learnt not a little of the art to use her
acquisitions. _Delphine_ had been dull, absurd, preposterous; _Corinne_,
if it has dull patches, saves them from being intolerable. If its
sentiment is extravagant, it is never exactly preposterous or exactly
absurd; for the truth and reality of passion which are absent from the
other book are actually present here, though sometimes in unintentional
masquerade.

In fact, _Corinne_, though the sisterhood of the two books is obvious
enough, has almost, though not quite, all the faults of _Delphine_
removed and some merits added, of which in the earlier novel there is
not the slightest trace. The history of my own acquaintance with it is,
I hope, not quite irrelevant. I read it--a very rare thing for me with a
French novel (in fact I can hardly recollect another instance, except, a
quaint contrast, Paul de Kock's _André le Savoyard_)--first in English,
and at a very early period of life, and I then thought it nearly as
great "rot" as I have always thought its predecessor. But though I had,
I hope, sense enough to see its faults, I had neither age nor experience
nor literature enough to appreciate its merits. I read it a good deal
later in French, and, being then better qualified, _did_ perceive these
merits, though it still did not greatly "arride" me. Later still--in
fact, only some twenty years ago--I was asked to re-edit and "introduce"
the English translation. It is a popular mistake to think that an
editor, like an advocate, is entitled, if not actually bound, to make
the best case for his client, quite apart from his actual opinions; but
in this instance my opinion of the book mounted considerably. And it has
certainly not declined since, though this _History_ has necessitated a
fourth study of the original, and though I shall neither repeat what I
said in the Introduction referred to, nor give the impression there
recorded in merely altered words. Indeed, the very purpose of the
present notice, forming part, as it should, of a connected history of
the whole department to which the book belongs, requires different
treatment, and an application of what may be called critical
"triangulation" from different stand-points.

[Sidenote: An illustrated edition of it.]

By an odd chance and counter-chance, the edition which served for this
last perusal, after threatening to disserve its text, had an exactly
contrary result. It was the handsome two-volume issue of 1841 copiously
adorned with all sorts of ingenious initial-devices, _culs-de-lampe_,
etc., and with numerous illustrative "cuts" beautifully engraved (for
the most part by English engravers, such as Orrin Smith, the Williamses,
etc.), excellently drawn and composed by French artists from Gros
downwards, but costumed in what is now perhaps the least tolerable style
of dress even to the most catholic taste--that of the Empire in France
and the Regency in England--and most comically "thought."[14] At first
sight this might seem to be a disadvantage, as calling attention to, and
aggravating, certain defects of the text itself. I found it just the
reverse. One was slightly distracted from, and half inclined to make
allowances for, Nelvil's performances in the novel when one saw him--in
a Tom-and-Jerry early chimneypot hat, a large coachman's coat flung off
his shoulders and hanging down to his heels, a swallow-tail, tight
pantaloons, and Hessian boots--extracting from his bosom his father's
portrait and expressing filial sentiments to it. One was less likely to
accuse Corinne of peevishness when one beheld the delineation of family
worship in the Edgermond household from which she fled. And the
faithful eyes remonstrated with the petulant brain for scoffing at
excessive sentiment, when they saw how everybody was always at somebody
else's feet, or supporting somebody else in a fainting condition, or
resting his or her burning brow on a hand, the elbow of which rested, in
its turn, on a pedestal like that of Mr. Poseidon Hicks in _Mrs.
Perkins's Ball_. The plates gave a safety-valve to the letterpress in a
curiously anodyne fashion which I hardly ever remember to have
experienced before. Or rather, one transferred to them part, if not the
whole, of the somewhat contemptuous amusement which the manners had
excited, and had one's more appreciative faculties clear for the book
itself.

[Sidenote: The story.]

The story of _Corinne_, though not extraordinarily "accidented" and, as
will be seen, adulterated, or at least mixed, with a good many things
that are not story at all, is fairly solid, much more so than that of
_Delphine_. It turns--though the reader is not definitely informed of
this till the book is half over--on the fact of an English nobleman,
Lord Edgermond (dead at _temp._ of tale), having had two wives, the
first an Italian. By her he had one daughter, whose actual Christian
name (unless I forget) we are never told, and he lived with them in
Italy till his wife's death. Then he went home and married a second
wife, an English or Scotch woman (for her name seems to have been
Maclinson--a well-known clan) of very prudish disposition. By her he had
another daughter, Lucile--younger by a good many years than her sister.
To that sister Lady Edgermond the second does not behave exactly in the
traditionally novercal fashion, but she is scandalised by the girl's
Italian ways, artistic and literary temperament, desire for society,
etc. After Lord Edgermond's death the discord of the two becomes
intolerable, and the elder Miss Edgermond, coming of age and into an
independent fortune, breaks loose and returns to Italy, her stepmother
stipulating that she shall drop her family name altogether and allow
herself to be given out as dead. She consents (unwisely, but perhaps
not unnaturally), appears in Italy under the name of "Corinne," and
establishes herself without difficulty in the best Roman society as a
lady of means, great beauty, irreproachable character, but given to
private displays of her talents as singer, improvisatrice, actress, and
what not.

But before she has thus thrown a still respectable bonnet over a not too
disreputable mill, something has happened which has, in the long run,
fatal consequences. Lord Edgermond has a friend, Lord Nelvil, who has a
son rather younger than Corinne. Both fathers think that a marriage
would be a good thing, and the elder Nelvil comes to stay with the
Edgermonds to propose it. Corinne (or whatever her name was then) lays
herself out in a perfectly innocent but, as he thinks, forward manner to
please him, and he, being apparently (we never see him in person) not a
little of an old fool, cries off this project, but tells Edgermond that
he should like his son to marry Lucile when she grows up.

Without an intolerable dose of "argument," it is only possible to say
here that Nelvil, after his father's death, journeys to the Continent
(where he has been already engaged in a questionable _liaison_), meets
Corinne, and, not at first knowing in the least who she is, falls, or
thinks he falls, frantically in love with her, while she really does
fall more frantically in love with him. After a sojourn, of which a
little more presently, circumstances make him (or he thinks they make
him) return home, and he falls, or thinks he falls,[15] out of love with
Corinne and into it (after a fashion) with Lucile. Corinne undertakes an
incognito journey to England to find out what is happening, but (this,
though not impossible in itself, is, as told, the weakest part of the
story) never makes herself known till too late, and Nelvil, partly out
of respect for his father's wishes, and partly, one fears, because
Lucile is very pretty and Corinne seems to be very far off, marries the
younger sister.

It would have greatly improved the book if, with or even without a
"curtain," it had ended here. But Madame de Staël goes on to tell us how
Nelvil, who is a soldier by profession,[16] leaves his wife and a little
daughter, Juliette, and goes to "Les Iles" on active service for four
years; how Lucile, not unnaturally, suspects hankering after the sister
she has not seen since her childhood; how, Nelvil being invalided home,
they all go to Italy, and find Corinne in a dying condition; how Lucile
at first refuses to see her, but, communications being opened by the
child Juliette, reconciliations follow; and how Corinne dies with Nelvil
and Lucile duly kneeling at her bedside.

The minor personages of any importance are not numerous. Besides Lady
Edgermond, they consist of the Comte d'Erfeuil, a French travelling
companion of Nelvil's; the Prince of Castel-Forte, an Italian of the
highest rank; a Mr. Edgermond, who does not make much appearance, but is
more like a real Englishman in his ways and manners than Nelvil; an old
Scotch nincompoop named Dickson, who, unintentionally, makes mischief
wherever he goes as surely as the personage in the song made music. Lady
Edgermond, though she is neither bad nor exactly ill-natured, is the
evil genius of the story. Castel-Forte, a most honourable and excellent
gentleman, has so little of typical Italianism in him that, finding
Corinne will not have him, he actually serves as common friend,
confidant, and almost as honourable go-between, to her and Nelvil.

On the other hand, French critics have justly complained, and critics
not French may endorse the complaint, that the Comte d'Erfeuil is a mere
caricature of the "frivolous" French type too commonly accepted out of
France. He is well-mannered, not ill-natured, and even not, personally,
very conceited, but utterly shallow, incapable of a serious interest in
art, letters, or anything else, blandly convinced that everything French
is superlative and that nothing not French is worthy of attention.
Although he appears rather frequently, he plays no real part in the
story, and, unless there was some personal grudge to pay off (which is
not unlikely), it is difficult to imagine why Madame de Staël should
have introduced a character which certainly does her skill as a
character-drawer very little credit.

[Sidenote: The character of Nelvil.]

It is, however, quite possible that she was led astray by a
will-o'-the-wisp, which has often misled artists not of the very first
class--the chance of an easy contrast. The light-hearted, light-minded
Erfeuil was to set off the tense and serious Nelvil--a type again, as he
was evidently intended to be, but a somewhat new type of Englishman. She
was a devotee of Rousseau, and she undoubtedly had the egregious Bomston
before her. But, though her sojourn in England had not taught her very
much about actual Englishman, she had probably read Mackenzie, and knew
that the "Man of Feeling" touch had to some extent affected us. She
tried to combine the two, with divers hints of hearsay and a good deal
of pure fancy, and the result was Oswald, Lord Nelvil. As with that
other curious contemporary of hers with whom we deal in this chapter,
the result was startlingly powerful in literature. There is no doubt
that the Byronic hero, whose importance of a kind is unmistakable and
undeniable, is Schedoni, René, and Nelvil sliced up, pounded in a
mortar, and made into a rissole with Byron's own sauce of style in
rhetoric or (if anybody will have it so) poetry, but with very little
more substantial ingredients. As for the worthy peer of Scotland or
England, more recent estimates have seldom been favourable, and never
ought to have been so. M. Sorel calls him a "snob"; but that is only one
of the numerous and, according to amiable judgments, creditable
instances of the inability of the French to discern exactly what
"snobbishness" is.[17] My Lord Nelvil has many faults and very few
merits, but among the former I do not perceive any snobbishness. He is
not in the least attracted by Corinne's popularity, either with the
great vulgar or the small, and his hesitations about marrying her do not
arise from any doubt (while he is still ignorant on the subject) of her
social worthiness to be his wife. He _is_ a prig doubtless, but he is a
prig of a very peculiar character--a sort of passionate prig, or, to put
it in another way, one of Baudelaire's "Enfants de la lune," who, not
content with always pining after the place where he is not and the love
that he has not, is constantly making not merely himself, but the place
where he is and the love whom he has, uncomfortable and miserable. There
can, I think, be little doubt that Madame de Staël, who frequently
insists on his "irresolution" (remember that she had been in Germany and
heard the Weimar people talk), meant him for a sort of modern Hamlet in
very different circumstances as well as times. But it takes your
Shakespeare to manage your Hamlet, and Madame de Staël was not
Shakespeare, even in petticoats.

[Sidenote: And the book's absurdities.]

The absurdities of the book are sufficiently numerous. Lord Nelvil, who
has not apparently had any special experience of the sea, "advises" the
sailors, and takes the helm during a storm on his passage from Harwich
to Emden; while these English mariners, unworthy professional
descendants of that admirable man, the boatswain of the opening scenes
of _The Tempest_, are actually grateful to him, and when he goes 'ashore
"press themselves round him" to take leave of him (that is to say, they
do this in the book; what in all probability they actually _said_ would
not be fit for these pages). He is always saving people--imprisoned
Jews and lunatics at a fire in Ancona; aged lazzaroni who get
caught in a sudden storm-wave at Naples; and this in spite of the
convenient-inconvenient blood-vessels which break when it is necessary,
but still make it quite easy for him to perform these Herculean feats
and resume his rather interim military duties when he pleases. As for
Corinne, her exploits with her "schall" (a vestment of which Madame de
Staël also was fond), and her crowning in the Capitol, where the crown
tumbles off--an incident which in real life would be slightly comical,
but which here only gives Nelvil an opportunity of picking it up--form a
similar prelude to a long series of extravagances. The culmination of
them is that altogether possible-improbable visit to England, which
might have put everything right and does put everything wrong, and the
incurable staginess which makes her, as above related, refuse to see
Oswald and Lucile _together_ till she is actually in _articulo mortis_.

And yet--"for all this and all this and twice as much as all this"--I
should be sorry for any one who regards Corinne as merely a tedious and
not at all brief subject for laughter. One solid claim which it
possesses has been, and is still for a moment, definitely postponed; but
in another point there is, if not exactly a defence, an immense
counterpoise to the faults and follies just mentioned. Corinne to far
too great an extent, and Oswald to an extent nearly but not quite fatal,
are loaded (_affublés_, to use the word we borrowed formerly) with a
mass of corporal and spiritual wiglomeration (as Mr. Carlyle used
expressively and succinctly to call it) in costume and fashion and
sentiment and action and speech. But when we have stripped this off,
_manet res_--reality of truth and fact and nature.

[Sidenote: Compensations--Corinne herself.]

There should be no doubt of this in Corinne's own case. It has been said
from the very first that she is, as Delphine had been, if not what her
creatress was, what she would have liked to be. The ideal in the former
case was more than questionable, and the execution was very bad. Here
the ideal is far from flawless, but it is greatly improved, and the
execution is improved far more than in proportion. Corinne is not "a
reasonable woman"; but reason, though very heartily to be welcomed on
its rare occurrences in that division of humanity, when it does not
exclude other things more to be welcomed still, is very decidedly not to
be preferred to the other things themselves. Corinne has these--or most
of them. She is beautiful; she is amiable; she is unselfish; without the
slightest touch of prudery she has the true as well as the technical
chastity; and she is really the victim of inauspicious stars, and of the
misconduct of other people--the questionable wisdom of her own father;
the folly of Nelvil's; the wilfulness in the bad sense, and the weakness
of will in the good, of her lover; the sour virtue and _borné_
temperament of Lady Edgermond. Almost all her faults and not a few of
her misfortunes are due to the "sensibility" of her time, or the time a
little before her; for, as has been more than hinted already, _Corinne_,
though a book of far less genius, strength, and concentration than
_Adolphe_, is, like it, though from the other side, and on a far larger
scale, the history of the Nemesis of Sensibility.

[Sidenote: Nelvil again.]

But Nelvil? He is, it has been said, a deplorable kind of creature--a
kind of creature (to vary Dr. Johnson's doom on the unlucky mutton)
ill-_bred_, ill-educated, ill- (though not quite in the ordinary sense)
natured, ill-fated to an extent which he could partly, but only partly,
have helped; and ill-conducted to an extent which he might have helped
almost altogether. But is he unnatural? I fear--I trow--not. He is, I
think, rather more natural than Edgar of Ravenswood, who is something of
the same class, and who may perhaps owe a very little to him. At any
rate, though he has more to do with the theatre, he is less purely
theatrical than that black-plumed Master. And it seems to me that he is
more differentiated from the Sensibility heroes than even Corinne
herself is from the Sensibility heroines, though one sympathises with
her much more than with him. _Homo est_, though scarcely _vir_. Now it
is humanity which we have been always seeking, but not always finding,
in the long and often brilliant list of French novels before his day.
And we have found it here once more.

[Sidenote: Its aesthetics.]

But we find also something more; and this something more gives it not
merely an additional but even to some extent a fresh hold upon the
history of the novel itself. To say that it is in great part a
"guide-book novel," as indeed its second title[18] honestly declares,
may seem nowadays a doubtful testimonial. It is not really so. For it
was, with certain exceptions in German, the _first_ "guide-book" novel:
and though some of those exceptions may have shown greater 'literary
genius than Madame de Staël's, the Germans, though they have, in certain
lines, had no superiors as producers of tales, have never produced a
good novel yet.[19] Moreover, the guide-book element is a great set-off
to the novel. It is not--or at any rate it is not necessarily--liable to
the objections to "purpose," for it is ornamental and not structural. It
takes a new and important and almost illimitably fresh province of
nature and of art, which is a part of nature, to be its appanage. It
would be out of place here to trace the development of this system of
reinforcing the novel beyond France, in Scott more particularly. It is
not out of place to remind the reader that even Rousseau (to whom Madame
de Staël owed so much) to some extent, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre and
Chateaubriand to more, as far as what we may call scenery-guide-booking
goes, had preceded her. But for the "art," the aesthetic addition, she
was indebted only to the Germans; and almost all her French successors
were indebted to her.[20]

[Sidenote: The author's position in the History of the Novel.]

Although, therefore, it is hardly possible to call Madame de Staël a
good novelist, she occupies a very important position in the history of
the novel. She sees, or helps to see, the "sensibility" novel out, with
forcible demonstration of the inconveniences of its theory. She helps to
see the aesthetic novel--or the novel highly seasoned and even
sandwiched with aesthetics--in. She manages to create at least one
character to whom the epithets of "noble" and "pathetic" can hardly be
refused; and at least one other to which that of "only too natural," if
with an exceptional and faulty kind of nature, must be accorded. At a
time when the most popular, prolific, and in a way craftsmanlike
practitioner of the kind, Pigault-Lebrun, was dragging it through
vulgarity, she keeps it at any rate clear of that. Her description is
adequate: and her society-and-manners painting (not least in the _récit_
giving Corinne's trials in Northumberland) is a good deal more than
adequate. Moreover, she preserves the tradition of the great
_philosophe_ group by showing that the writer of novels can also be the
author of serious and valuable literature of another kind. These are no
small things to have done: and when one thinks of them one is almost
able to wipe off the slate of memory that awful picture of a turbaned or
"schalled" Blowsalind, with arms[21] like a "daughter of the plough,"
which a cruel tradition has perpetuated as frontispiece to some cheap
editions of her works.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Chateaubriand--his peculiar position as a novelist.]

There is perhaps no more difficult person to appraise in all French
literature--there are not many in the literature of the world--than
François René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand. It is almost more difficult
than in the case of his two great disciples, Byron and Hugo, to keep his
personality out of the record: and it is a not wholly agreeable
personality. Old experience may perhaps attain to this, and leave to
ghouls and large or small coffin-worms the business of investigating and
possibly fattening on the thing. But even the oldest experience dealing
with his novels (which were practically all early) may find itself
considerably _tabusté_, as Rabelais has it, that is to say, "bothered"
with faults which are mitigated in the _Génie du Christianisme_,
comparatively (not quite) unimportant in the _Voyages_, and almost
entirely whelmed in the _Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe_. These faults are of
such a complicated and various kind that the whole armour of criticism
is necessary to deal with them, on the defensive in the sense of not
being too much influenced by them, and on the offensive in the sense of
being severe but not too severe on them.

[Sidenote: And the remarkable interconnection of his works in fiction.]

The mere reader of Chateaubriand's novels generally begins with _Atala_
and _René_, and not uncommonly stops there. In a certain sense this
reader is wise in his generation. But he will never understand his
author as a novelist if he does so; and his appreciation of the books or
booklets themselves will be very incomplete. They are both not
unfrequently spoken of as detached episodes of the _Génie du
Christianisme_; and so they are, in the illustrative sense. They are
actually, and in the purely constitutive way, episodes of another book,
_Les Natchez_, while this book itself is also a novel "after a sort."
The author's work in the kind is completed by the later _Les Martyrs_,
which has nothing to do, in persons or time, with the others, being
occupied with the end of the third century, while they deal (throwing
back a little in _Atala_) with the beginning of the eighteenth. But this
also is an illustrative companion or reinforcement of the _Génie_. With
that book the whole body of Chateaubriand's fiction[22] is thus directly
connected; and the entire collection, not a little supported by the
_Voyages_, constitutes a deliberate "literary offensive," intended to
counter-work the proceedings of the _philosophes_, though with aid drawn
from one of them--Rousseau,--and only secondarily designed to provide
pure novel-interest. If this is forgotten, the student will find himself
at sea without a rudder; and the mere reader will be in danger of
exaggerating very greatly, because he does not in the least understand,
the faults just referred to, and of failing altogether to appreciate the
real success and merit of the work as judged on that only criterion,
"Has the author done what he meant to do, and done it well, on the lines
he chose?" Of course, if our reader says, "I don't care about all this,
I merely want to be amused and interested," one cannot prevent him. He
had, in fact, as was hinted just now, better read nothing but _Atala_
and _René_, if not, indeed, _Atala_ only, immense as is the literary
importance of its companion. But in a history of the novel one is
entitled to hope, at any rate to wish, for a somewhat better kind of
customer or client.

According to Chateaubriand's own account, when he quitted England after
his not altogether cheerful experiences there as an almost penniless
_émigré_, he left behind him, in the charge of his landlady, exactly
2383 folio pages of MSS. enclosed in a trunk, and (by a combination of
merit on the custodian's part and luck on his own) recovered them
fifteen years afterwards, _Atala_, _René_, and a few other fragments
having alone accompanied him. These were published independently, the
_Génie_ following. _Les Martyrs_ was a later composition altogether,
while _Les Natchez_, the _matrix_ of both the shorter stories, and
included, as one supposes, in the 2383 waifs, was partly rewritten and
wholly published later still. A body of fiction of such a singular
character is, as has been said, not altogether easy to treat; but,
without much change in the method usually pursued in this _History_, we
may perhaps do best by first giving a brief argument of the various
contents and then taking up the censure, in no evil sense, of the
whole.

[Sidenote: _Atala._]

_Atala_ is short and almost entirely to the point. The heroine is a
half-breed girl with a Spanish father and for mother an Indian of some
rank in her tribe, who has subsequently married a benevolent chief. She
is regarded as a native princess, and succeeds in rescuing from the
usual torture and death, and fleeing with, a captive chief of another
"nation." This is Chactas, important in _René_ and also in the _Natchez_
framework. They direct their flight northwards to the French settlements
(it is late seventeenth or early eighteenth century throughout), and of
course fall in love with each other. But Atala's mother, a Christian,
has, in the tumult of her early misfortunes, vowed her daughter's
virginity or death; and when, just before the crucial moment, a
missionary opportunely or inopportunely occurs, Atala has already taken
poison, with the object, it would appear, not so much of preventing as
of avenging, of her own free will, a breach of the vow. The rest of the
story is supplied by the vain attempts of the good father to save her,
his evangelising efforts towards the pair, and the sorrows of Chactas
after his beloved's death. The piece, of course, shows that exaggerated
and somewhat morbid pathos of circumstance which is the common form of
the early romantic efforts, whether in England, Germany, or France. But
the pathos _is_ pathos; the unfamiliar scenery, unlike that of Bernardin
de Saint-Pierre (to whom, of course, Chateaubriand is much indebted,
though he had actually seen what he describes), is not overdone, and
suits the action and characters very well indeed. Chactas here is the
best of all the "noble savages," and (what hardly any other of them is)
positively good. Atala is really tragic and really gracious. The
missionary stands to other fictitious, and perhaps some real,
missionaries very much as Chactas does to other savages of story, if not
of life. The proportion of the whole is good, and in the humble opinion
of the present critic it is by far Chateaubriand's best thing in all
perhaps but mere writing.

And even in this it is bad to beat, in him or out of him. The small
space forbids mere surplusage of description, and the plot--as all plots
should do, but, alas! as few succeed in doing--acts as a bellows to
kindle the flame and intensify the heat of something far better than
description itself--passionate character. There are many fine
things--mixed, no doubt, with others not so fine--in the tempestuous
scene of the death of Atala, which should have been the conclusion of
the story. But this, in its own way, seems to me little short of
magnificent:

     "I implored you to fly; and yet I knew I should die if you
     were not with me. I longed for the shadow of the forest; and
     yet I feared to be with you in a desert place. Ah! if the
     cost had only been that of quitting parents, friends,
     country! if--terrible as it is to say it--there had been
     nothing at stake but the loss of my own soul.[23] But, O my
     mother! thy shade was always there--thy shade reproaching me
     with the torments it would suffer. I heard thy complaints; I
     saw the flames of Hell ready to consume thee. My nights were
     dry places full of ghosts; my days were desolate; the dew of
     the evening dried up as it touched my burning skin. I opened
     my lips to the breeze; and the breeze, instead of cooling
     me, was itself set aglow by the fire of my breath. What
     torment, Chactas! to see you always near me, far from all
     other humankind in the deepest solitude, and yet to feel
     that between us there was an insuperable barrier! To pass my
     life at your feet, to serve you as a slave, to bring you
     food and lay your couch in some secret corner of the
     universe, would have been for me supremest happiness; and
     this happiness was within my touch, yet I could not enjoy
     it. Of what plans did I not dream? What vision did not arise
     from this sad heart? Sometimes, as I gazed on you, I went so
     far as to form desires as mad as they were guilty: sometimes
     I could have wished that there were no living creatures on
     earth but you and me; sometimes, feeling that there was a
     divinity mocking my wicked transports, I could have wished
     that divinity annihilated, if only, locked in your arms, I
     might have sunk from abyss to abyss with the ruins of God
     and of the world. Even now--shall I say it?--even now, when
     eternity waits to engulf me, when I am about to appear
     before the inexorable Judge--at the very moment when my
     mother may be rejoicing to see my virginity devour my
     life--even now, by a terrible contradiction, I carry with me
     the regret that I have not been yours!"

At this let who will laugh or sneer, yawn or cavil. But as literature it
looks back to Sappho and Catullus and the rest, and forward to all great
love-poetry since, while as something that is even greater than
literature--life--it carries us up to the highest Heaven and down to the
nethermost Hell.

[Sidenote: _René._]

_René_[24] has greater fame and no doubt exercised far more influence;
indeed in this respect _Atala_ could not do much, for it is not the
eternal, but the temporal, which "influences." But, in the same humble
opinion, it is extremely inferior. The French Werther[25] (for the
attempt to rival Goethe on his own lines is hardly, if at all, veiled)
is a younger son of a gentle family in France, whose father dies. He
lives for a time with an elder brother, who seems to be "more kin than
kind," and a sister Amélie, to whom he is fondly, but fraternally,
attached. René has begun the trick of disappointment early, and, after a
time, determines to travel, fancying when he leaves home that his sister
is actually glad to get rid of him. Of course it is a case of _coelum
non animum_. When he returns he is half-surprised but (for him) wholly
glad to be at first warmly welcomed by Amélie; but after a little while
she leaves him, takes the veil, and lets him know at the last moment
that it is because her affection for him is more than sisterly, that
this was the reason of her apparent joy when he left her, and that
association with him is too much for her passion.[26] _She_ makes an
exemplary nun in a sea-side convent, and dies early of disease caught
while nursing others. _He_, his wretchedness and hatred of life reaching
their acme, exiles himself to Louisiana, and gets himself adopted by the
tribe of the Natchez, where Chactas is a (though not _the_) chief.

[Sidenote: Difference between its importance and its merit.]

Now, of course, if we are content to take a bill and write down Byron
and Lamartine, Senancour and _Jacopo Ortis_ (otherwise Ugo Foscolo),
Musset, Matthew Arnold, and _tutti quanti_, as debtors to _René_, we
give the tale or episode a historical value which cannot be denied;
while its positive aesthetic quality, though it may vary very much in
different estimates, cannot be regarded as merely worthless. Also, once
more, there is real pathos, especially as far as Amélie is concerned,
though the entire unexpectedness of the revelation of her fatal passion,
and the absolute lack of any details as to its origin, rise, and
circumstances, injure sympathy to some extent. But that sympathy, as far
as the present writer is concerned, fails altogether with regard to René
himself. If his melancholy were traceable to _mutual_ passion of the
forbidden kind, or if it had arisen from the stunning effect of the
revelation thereof on his sister's side, there would be no difficulty.
But, though these circumstances may to some extent accentuate, they have
nothing to do with causing the _weltschmerz_ or _selbst-schmerz_, or
whatever it is to be called, of this not very heroic hero. Nor has
Chateaubriand taken the trouble--which Goethe, with his more critical
sense of art, _did_ take--to make René go through the whole course of
the Preacher, or great part of it, before discovering that all was
vanity. He is merely, from the beginning, a young gentleman affected
with mental jaundice, who cannot or will not discover or take
psychological calomel enough to cure him. It does not seem in the least
likely that if Amélie had been content to live with him as merely "in
all good, all honour" a loving and comforting sister, he would have
really been able to say, like Geraldine in Coleridge's original draft of
_Christabel_, "I'm better now."

He is, in fact, what Werther is not--though his own followers to a large
extent are--mainly if not merely a Sulky Young Man: and one cannot help
imagining that if, in pretty early days, some one had been good enough
to apply to him that Herb Pantagruelion, in form not exactly of a halter
but of a rope's end, with which O'Brien cured Peter Simple's _mal de
mer_, his _mal du siècle_ would have been cured likewise.

Of course it is possible for any one to say, "You are a Philistine and a
Vulgarian. You wish to regard life through a horse-collar," etc., etc.
But these reproaches would leave my withers quite ungalled. I think
_Ecclesiastes_ one of the very greatest books in the world's literature,
and _Hamlet_ the greatest play, with the possible exception of the
_Agamemnon_. It is the abysmal sadness quite as much as the _furor
arduus_ of Lucretius that makes me think him the mightiest of Latin
poets. I would not give the mystical melancholy of certain poems of
Donne's for half a hundred of the liveliest love-songs of the time, and
could extend the list page-long and more if it would not savour of
ostentation in more ways than one. But mere temperamental [Greek:
heôlokrasia] or [Greek: kraipalê] (next-day nausea), without even the
exaltation of a previous orgy to ransom it,--mere spleen and sulks and
naughty-childishness,--seem to me not great things at all. You may not
be able to help your spleen, but you can "cook" it; you may have qualm
and headache, but in work of some sort, warlike or peaceful, there is
always small beer, or brandy and soda (with even, if necessary,
capsicum or bromide), for the ailment. The Renés who can do nothing but
sulk, except when they blunder themselves and make other people
uncomfortable in attempting to do something, who "never do a [manly]
thing and never say a [kind] one," are, I confess, not to my taste.[27]

[Sidenote: _Les Natchez._]

Both these stories, as will have been seen, have a distinctly religious
element; in fact, a distinctly religious purpose. The larger
novel-romance of which they form episodes, as well as its later and
greater successor, _Les Martyrs_, increase the element in both cases,
the purpose in the latter; but one of the means by which this increase
is effected has certainly lost--whether it may or may not ever
recover--its attraction, except to a student of literary history who is
well out of his novitiate. Such a person should see at once that
Chateaubriand's elaborate adoption, from Tasso and Milton, of the system
of interspersed scenes of Divine and diabolic conclaves and
interferences with the story, is an important, if not a wholly happy,
instance of that general Romantic _reversion_ to earlier literary
devices, and even atmospheres, of which the still rather enigmatic
personage who rests enisled off Saint-Malo was so great an apostle. And
it was probably effectual for its time. Classicists could not quarrel
with it, for it had its precedents, indeed its origin, in Homer and
Virgil; Romanticists (of that less exclusive class who admitted the
Renaissance as well as the Dark and Middle Ages) could not but welcome
it for its great modern defenders and examples. I cannot say that I
enjoy it: but I can tolerate it, and there is no doubt at all, odd as it
may seem to the merely twentieth-century reader, that it did something
to revive the half-extinct religiosity which had been starved and
poisoned in the later days of the _ancien régime_, forcibly suppressed
under the Republic, and only officially licensed by the Napoleonic
system. In _Les Martyrs_ it has even a certain "grace of congruity,"[28]
but in regard to _Les Natchez_, with which we are for the moment
concerned, almost enough (with an example or two to come presently) has
been said about it.

The book, as a whole, suffers, unquestionably and considerably, from the
results of two defects in its author. He was not born, as Scott was a
little later, to get the historical novel at last into full life and
activity; and it would not be unfair to question whether he was a born
novelist at all, though he had not a few of the qualifications necessary
to the kind, and exercised, coming as and when he did, an immense
influence upon it. The subject is too obscure. Its only original
_vates_, Charlevoix, though always a respectable name to persons of some
acquaintance with literature and history, has never been much more,
either in France or in England. The French, unluckily for themselves,
never took much interest in their transatlantic possessions while they
had them; and their dealings with the Indians then, and ours afterwards,
and those of the Americans since, have never been exactly of the kind
that give on both sides a subject such as may be found in all mediaeval
and most Renaissance matters; in the Fronde; in the English Civil War;
in the great struggles of France and England from 1688 to 1815; in the
Jacobite risings; in La Vendée; and in other historical periods and
provinces too many to mention. On the other hand, the abstract "noble
savage" is a faded object of exhausted _engouement_, than which there
are few things less exhilarating. The Indian _ingénu_ (a very different
one from Voltaire's) Outougamiz and his _ingénue_ Mila are rather nice;
but Celuta (the ill-fated girl who loves René and whom he marries,
because in a sort of way he cannot help it) is an eminent example of
that helpless kind of quiet misfortune the unprofitableness of which Mr.
Arnold has confessed and registered in a famous passage. Chactas
maintains a respectable amount of interest, and his visit to the court
of Louis XIV. takes very fair rank among a well-known group of things of
which it is not Philistine to speak as old-fashioned, because they never
possessed much attraction, except as being new- or regular-fashioned.
But the villain Ondouré has almost as little of the fire of Hell as of
that of Heaven, and his paramour and accomplice Akansie carries very
little "conviction" with her. In short, the merit of the book, besides
the faint one of having been the original framework of _Atala_ and
_René_, is almost limited to its atmosphere, and the alterative
qualities thereof--things now in a way ancient history--requiring even a
considerable dose of the not-universally-possessed historic sense to
discern and appreciate them.

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

[Sidenote: _Les Martyrs._]

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

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

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

[Sidenote: The story.]

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

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

[Sidenote: Its "panoramic" quality.]

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

[Sidenote: And its remarkable advance in style.]

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

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

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

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

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

     [Sidenote: Illustrated.]

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

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

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

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

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

FOOTNOTES:

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

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

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

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

[12] Perhaps, after all, _not_ too many, for they all richly deserve it.

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

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

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

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

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

[18] _Corinne, ou l'Italie._

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had Amélie sinned and not repented she might have been found in the
Second circle, flying alone; René, except _speciali gratia_, must have
sunk to the Fourth.

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

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

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

[33] See note above.

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

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

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



CHAPTER II

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


[Sidenote: The fate of popular minor novelists.]

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

[Sidenote: Examples of them.]

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

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

[Sidenote: Paul de Kock.]

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

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

[Sidenote: _L'Enfant de ma Femme._]

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

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

[Sidenote: _Petits Tableaux de Moeurs._]

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

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

     In a minute we heard the following conversation:

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

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

[Sidenote: _Gustave._]

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

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

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

[Sidenote: The caricatured _Anglais_.]

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

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

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

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

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

[Sidenote: _Edmond et sa Cousine._]

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

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

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

[Sidenote: _André le Savoyard._]

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

    Ne sit ancillae tibi amor pudori,

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

[Sidenote: _Jean._]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Sidenote: _Mon Voisin Raymond._]

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

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

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

[Sidenote: _Le Barbier de Paris._]

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

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

[Sidenote: The Pauline grisette.]

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

[Sidenote: Others.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The minors before 1830.]

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

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Mme. de Montolieu--_Caroline de Lichtfield_.]

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

[Sidenote: Its advance on "Sensibility."]

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

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

[Sidenote: Madame de Genlis _iterum_.]

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

[Sidenote: The minor popular novel--Ducray-Duminil--_Le Petit
Carilloneur_.]

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

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

[Sidenote: V. Ducange.]

[Sidenote: _L'Artiste et le Soldat._]

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

[Sidenote: _Ludovica._]

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

All this, of course, has its absurd side; but it shows, by way of
redemption, that Ducange, in one of the many agreeable phrases of his
country, "did not go to it with a dead hand." He seems, indeed, to have
been a thoroughly "live" person, if not a very wise one: and _Ludovica_
begins with a rousing situation--a crowd and block in the streets of
Paris, brought about by nobody quite knows what, but ending in a
pistol-shot, a dead body, the flight of the assassin, the dispersal of
the crowd by the _gendarmes_, and finally the discovery by a young
painter, who has just returned from seeing his mother at Versailles, of
a very youthful, very pretty, and very terrified girl, speaking an
unknown tongue, and not understanding French, who has fled for refuge
into a dark alley ending in a flight of cellar-steps. It is to the point
that among the confused cries attending the disturbance have been some
about a girl being carried off.

It must be admitted that this is not unpromising, and I really think
_Ludovica_ (with a caution as to the excessive prolixity of its kind and
time) might be recommended to lovers of the detective novel, of which it
is a rather early sample. I have confessed, in a later chapter, that
this particular "wanity" is not my favourite; but I found myself getting
through M. Victor Ducange's six volumes--burdened rather than ballasted
as they are by political outbursts, rather "thorn-crackling" attempts at
humour, and the like--with considerably less effort than has sometimes
attended similar excursions. If they had been three instead of six I
hardly think I should have felt the collar at all. The superiority to
_L'Artiste et le Soldat_ is remarkable. When honest Jules Janin
attributed to Ducange "une érudition peu commune," he must either have
been confusing Victor with Charles, or, which is more probable,
exhibiting his own lack of the quality he refers to. Ducange does quote
tags of Latin: but erudition which makes Proserpine the daughter of
_Cybele_, though certainly _peu commune_ in one sense, is not so in the
other. The purposes and the jokes, as has been said, may bore; and
though the style is better than Ducray's, it would not of itself
"over-stimulate." But the man is really almost prodigal of incident, and
does not manage it badly.

Here, you have Ludovica's father and mother (the former of whom has been
crimped to perform a marriage under the impression that he is a priest,
whereas he is really a colonel of dragoons) escaping through a hole at
the back of a picture from a skylighted billiard-room. There, an
enterprising young man, "sitting out" at a ball, to attend which he has
disguised himself, kisses his partner,[72] and by that pleasing
operation dislodges half his borrowed moustache. It falls, alas! on her
hand, she takes it for a spider, screams, and so attracts an unwelcome
public. Later in the same evening he finds himself shut up in the young
lady's bedroom, and hears her and her mother talking secrets which very
nearly concern him. The carrying off of Ludovica from Poland to Paris is
very smartly managed (I am not sure that the great Alexander or one of
his "young men" did not borrow some details from it for the arrest of
D'Artagnan and Porthos after their return from England), and the way in
which she and a double of hers, Trinette van Poupenheim, are mixed up is
really clever. So is the general cross-purposing. Cabmen turn up just
when they should; and though letters dropped out of pockets are as
common as blackberries, I know few better excuses for such carelessness
than the fact that you have pulled the letter out with a silk wrapper,
which you proceed to fold tenderly round the beautiful neck of a damsel
in a cab somewhere about midnight. A holograph will made on the eve of
Waterloo and preserved for fifteen years by the faithful depositary; a
good doctor, of course; many bad Jesuits, of course; another, and this
time virtuous, though very impudent, carrying-off of the _other_ young
woman from the clutches of the hated _congréganistes_;[73] a boghei;[74]
a jokei; a third _enlèvement_ of the real Ludovica, who escapes by a
cellar-trap; and many other agreeable things, end in the complete defeat
of the wicked and the marriage of the good to the tune of _four_
couples, the thing being thus done to the last in Ducange's usual
handsome manner.[75] I do not know whether _Ludovica_ was
melodramatised. _Le Jésuite_ of the same year by Ducange and the great
Pixérécourt looks rather like it; and so does _Il y a Seize Ans_ of a
year later, which he seems to have written alone. But if it was not it
ought to have been. The half-moustache-spider-kissing-screaming scene,
and the brilliant youth retreating through the laughing crowd with the
other half of his decoration, might have reconciled even me to the
theatre.

[Sidenote: Auguste Ricard--_L'Ouvreuse de Loges_.]

A short account of the last novel (except _Le Solitaire_) mentioned
above must stand for sample, not merely of the dozen other works of its
author, Auguste Ricard, but for many more advertised on the fly-leaves
of this time, and long since made "alms for oblivion." Their titles, _Le
Portier_, _La Grisette_, _Le Marchand de Coco_, by Ricard himself, on
one side, _L'Homme des Ruines_, _Bleack-_ (sic) _Beard_, _La Chambre
Rouge_ (by a certain Dinocourt) on the other, almost tell their whole
story--the story of a range (to use English terms once more) between the
cheap followers of Anne Radcliffe and G. W. M. Reynolds. _L'Ouvreuse de
Loges_, through which I have conscientiously worked, inclines to the
latter kind, being anti-monarchic, anti-clerical, anti-aristocratic
(though it admits that these aristocrats are terrible fellows for
behaving in a way which the _roturier_ cannot imitate, however hard he
tries), and anti-things-in-general. Its title-heroine is a bad old
woman, who "keeps the door" in the Elizabethan sense as well as
theatrically. Its real hero is a _ci-devant_ duke; malversator under the
Republic; supposed but not real victim of the Septembriseurs; atheist;
winner and loser of several fortunes; and at last _particulier_ of Paris
under a feigned name, with an apartment full of _bric-à-brac_, a drawer
full of little packets of money, after the expenditure of the last of
which he proposes to blow his brains out; tall man of stature and of his
hands, etc., etc. The book is in a way one of purpose, inculcating the
danger of wooing opera-girls, and instancing it with three very weak
young men, another duke, a rich young _parvenu_, and a musician. Of
these the first and the last are, with their wives, rather arbitrarily
saved from the clutches into which they have fallen, by the mysterious
"M. Luc," while the other comes to a very bad end. The novel, which is
in five volumes, is, like most of those mentioned in this section, not
of the kind that one would read by preference. But it is a very fair
specimen of the "below stairs" romance which sometimes prepares the way
for others, fit to take their places above stairs. And so it has its
place here.[76]

[Sidenote: The importance of these minors not inconsiderable.]

It has been pointed out more than once that though neglect of such books
as these may be perfectly natural and probable in the average reader,
such neglect--and still more any contempt of them--is, though it may not
be unnatural, utterly unscholarly and uncritical from the point of view
of history. Their authors themselves learnt something from their own
mistaken experiments, and their successors learnt a good deal more.
They found that "sculduddery" was not a necessary attraction. Ducray
does not avail himself of it, and Ducange seems to have left it off.
They did not give up, but they came less and less to depend upon,
extravagant incident, violent peripeteias, cheap supernaturalities, etc.
But the most important thing about them perhaps is the evidence they
give of learning what has been called their "business." Already, to a
great extent if not wholly, that earliest obsession and preoccupation of
the novelist--the idle anxiety to answer the question, "How do you know
all these things?"--has begun to disappear. This is rather less the case
with another foolish fancy--the belief that it is necessary to account
not merely for what we call the consequents, but for the antecedents of
all the characters (at least those of any importance) that you
introduce. There can be no doubt that this was one of the objects, as it
was part of the original cause, of the mistaken _Histoire_ system, which
made you, when or soon after you introduced a personage, "tell us all
about it," as the children say, in a separate inset tale. You did not
now do this, but you made, as in the capital instance of Victor Ducange,
huge diversions, retrospects, episodes, in the body of the story itself.
This method, being much less skippable than the inset by those who did
not want it, was not likely to continue, and so applied the cure to its
own ill. And yet further, as novels multiplied, the supposed necessity
of very great length tended to disappear. The seven or eight volumes of
the eighteenth century, which had replaced the twelves and twenties of
the seventeenth, shrank to six (_Ludovica_), five (_L'Artiste et Le
Soldat_ and _l'Ouvreuse de Loges_), four (_Le Petit Carillonneur_), and
then three or two, though later the historical kind swelled again, and
the almost invariable single volume did not establish itself till the
middle of the century. As a consequence again of this, the enormous
delay over single situations tended, though very slowly, to disappear.
It is one of the merits of Pigault-Lebrun that he is not a great sinner
in verbosity and prolixity: his contemporary minors of this volume are
far more peccant in this kind.

[Sidenote: The Vicomte d'Arlincourt--_Le Solitaire_.]

_Le Solitaire_ is a book which I have been "going to read" for some
fifty years, but by some accident did not till the present occasion. I
knew it generally as one of the vedettes of Romanticism, and as
extremely popular in its own day: also as having been, with its author's
other work in poem and play and prose fiction, the subject of some
ridicule. But till I read it, and some things about it, I never knew how
well it deserved that ridicule and yet how very popular it was, and how
really important is its position in the history of the Romantic
movement, and so of the French novel and French literature generally. It
was published at the end of January 1821, and at the end of November a
seventh edition appeared, with an elaborate _Io Triumphe!_ from the
publisher. Not only had there been those seven editions (which, it must
be remembered in fairness, represent at least seventy at the other end
of the century[77]), but it had been translated into four foreign
languages; _fourteen_ dramas had been based on it, some half of which
had been at least conditionally accepted for performance; painters of
distinction were at work on subjects from it; it had reached the stages
of Madrid and of London (where one critic had called it "a very
beautiful composition"), while French approval had been practically
unanimous. Nay, a game had been founded thereon, and--crowning, but
perhaps rather ominous honour--somebody had actually published a
burlesque imitation.

I have seldom read greater rubbish than _Le Solitaire_. It is a
historical-romantic story (the idolatrous preface refers both to Scott
and to Byron), and bears also strong, if sometimes distinctly
unfortunate, resemblances to Mrs. Radcliffe, the Germans, and
Chateaubriand. The scene is that of Charles the Bold's defeat at Morat:
and the "Solitary" is Charles himself--the identification of his body
after the decisive overthrow at Nancy _was_ a little doubtful--who has
hidden there partly to expiate, by good deeds, his crime of massacring
the monks of the adjoining Abbey of Underlach, and partly to avail
himself of a local tradition as to a _Fantôme Sanglant_, who haunts the
neighbourhood, and can be conveniently played by the aid of a crimson
mantle. The slaughter of the monks, however, is not the only event or
circumstance which links Underlach to the crimes of Charles, for it is
now inhabited by a Baron d'Herstall (whose daughter, seduced by the
Duke, has died early) and his niece, Elodie de Saint-Maur, whose father,
a former favourite of the Burgundian, that prince has killed in one of
his fits of rage. Throw in a local priest, Anselm, and you have what may
be called the chief characters; but a good Count Ecbert de Norindall, a
wicked Prince of Palzo, and divers others figure. Everybody, including
the mysterious Bleeding-Phantom-Solitary-Duke himself, falls in love
with Elodie,[78] and she is literally "carried off" (that is to say,
shouldered) several times, once by the alarming person in the crimson
shroud, but always rescued, till it is time for her to die and be
followed by him. There are endless "alarums and excursions"; some of the
_not_ explained supernatural; woods, caves, ruins, underground
passages--entirely at discretion. Catherine Morland would have been
perfectly happy with it.

It is not, however, because it contains these things that it has been
called "rubbish." A book might contain them all--Mrs. Radcliffe's own
do, with the aggravation of the explained wonders--and not be that. It
is because of the extraordinary silliness of the style and sentiments. I
should imagine that M. d'Arlincourt was trying to write like his brother
viscount, the author of _Les Martyrs_, and a pretty mess he has made of
it. "Le char de la nuit roulait silencieux sur les plaines du ciel" (p.
3). "L'entrée du jour venait de s'élancer radieuse du palais de
l'Aurore." "L'amante de l'Érèbe et la mère des Songes[79] avait achevé
la moitié de sa course ténébreuse," etc., etc. The historic present is
constantly battling with the more ordinary tenses--the very same
sentence sometimes contains both. And this half-blown bladder of a style
conveys sentiments as feebly pompous as itself. The actual story, though
no great thing, is, if you could strip it of its froth and fustian, not
so very bad: as told it is deplorable.

At the same time its mere existence--much more the fury of acceptance
which for the moment greeted it--shows what that moment wanted. It
wanted Romance, and in default of better it took _Le Solitaire_.

       *       *       *       *       *

An occasional contrast of an almost violent kind may be permitted in a
work requiring something more than merely catalogue-composition. It can
hardly be found more appropriately than by concluding this chapter,
which began with the account of Paul de Kock, by one of Charles Nodier.

[Sidenote: Nodier.]

To the student and lover of literature there is scarcely a more
interesting figure in French literary history, though there are many
greater. Except a few scraps (which, by one of the odd ways of the
book-world, actually do not appear in some editions of his _Oeuvres
Choisies_), he did nothing which had the quality of positive greatness
in it. But he was a considerable influence: and even more of a "sign."
Younger than Chateaubriand and Madame de Staël, but far older than any
of the men of 1830 proper, he may be said in a way to have, in his
single person, played in France that part of schoolmaster to
Romanticism, which had been distributed over two generations and many
personalities in England; and which Germany, after a fashion, did
without, at the cost of a few undisciplined and quickly overbloomed
master-years. Although he was born in 1780, nine years before the
Revolution itself, he underwent German and English influences early,
"took" Wertherism, Terrorism,[80] and other maladies of that _fin de
siècle_ with the utmost facility, and produced divers ultra-Romantic
things long before 1830 itself. But he had any number of literary and
other avocations or distractions. He was a kind of entomologist and
botanist, a kind of philologist (one is a little astonished to find that
rather curious and very charlatanish person and parson Sir Herbert
Croft, whose secretary Nodier was for a time, dignified in French books
by the name of "_philologue_ Anglais"), a good deal more than a kind of
bibliographer (he spent the last twenty years of his life as Librarian
of the Arsenal), and an enthusiastic and stimulating, though not exactly
trustworthy, critic. But he concerns us here, of course, for his prose
fiction, which, if not very bulky, is numerous in its individual
examples, and is animated in the best of them by a spirit almost new in
French and, though often not sufficiently caught and concentrated,
present to almost the highest degrees in at least three examples--the
last part of _La Fée aux Miettes_, _La Légende de Soeur Béatrix_, and,
above all, _Inès de las Sierras_.

For those who delight in literary filiations and genealogies, the kind
of story in which Nodier excelled (and in which, though some of his own
were written after 1830, he may truly be considered as "schoolmaster" to
Mérimée and Gautier and Gérard de Nerval and all their fellows), may be,
without violence or exaggeration, said to be a new form of the French
fairy-tale, divested of common form, and readjusted with the help of the
German _Märchen_ and fantasy-pieces. _Le Diable Amoureux_ had, no doubt,
set the fashion of this kind earlier; but that story, charming as it is,
is still scarcely "Romantic." Nodier is so wholly; and it is fair to
remember that Hoffmann himself was rather a contemporary of his, and
subject to the same influences, than a predecessor.[81]

[Sidenote: His short stories.]

The best collection of Nodier's short tales contains nine pieces:
_Trilby_, _Le Songe d'Or_, _Baptiste Montauban_, _La Fée aux Miettes_,
_La Combe de l'Homme mort_, _Inès de las Sierras_, _Smarra_, _La
Neuvaine de la Chandeleur_, and _La Légende de Soeur Béatrix_. Of
these I believe _Trilby_, _La Fée aux Miettes_, and _Smarra_ have been
the greatest favourites, and were pretty certainly the most influential
in France. My own special delights are _Le Songe d'Or_, _Inès de las
Sierras_, and _Soeur Béatrix_, with part of the _Fée_. But none is
without its attractions, and the Preface to the _Fée aux Miettes_, which
is almost a separate piece, has something of the quintessential in that
curious quality which Nodier possesses almost alone in French or with
Gérard de Nerval and Louis Bertrand only. English readers may "perceive
a good deal of [Charles] Lamb in it," with touches of Sterne and De
Quincey and Poe.

[Sidenote: _Trilby._]

It is much to be feared that more people in England nowadays associate
the name of "Trilby" with the late Mr. Du Maurier than with Nodier, and
that more still associate it with the notion of a hat than with either
of the men of genius who used it in literature.

    So mighty Byron, dead and turned to clay,
    Gave name to collars for full many a day;
    And Ramillies, grave of Gallic boasts so big,
    Found most perpetuation in a wig.[82]

The original story united divers attractions for its first readers in
1822, combining the older fashion of Ossian with the newer one of Scott,
infusing the supernatural, which was one great bait of the coming
Romanticism, and steeping the whole cake in the tears of the newer
rather than the older "Sensibility." "Trilby, le Lutin d'Argaïl"[83]
(Nodier himself explains that he alters the spelling here with pure
phonetic intent, so as to keep the pronunciation for French eyes _and_
ears[84]), is a spirit who haunts the cabin of the fisherman Dougal to
make a sort of sylph-like love to his wife Jeannie. He means and does no
harm, but he is naturally a nuisance to the husband, on whom he plays
tricks to keep him away from home, and at length rather frightens the
wife. They procure, from a neighbouring monastery, a famous exorcist
monk, who, though he cannot directly punish Trilby, lays on him sentence
of exclusion from the home of the pair, unless one of them invites him,
under penalty of imprisonment for a thousand years. How the story turns
to Jeannie's death and Trilby's duress can be easily imagined, and may
be read with pleasure. I confess that to me it seems pretty, but just a
little mawkish.[85] Perhaps I am a brute.

[Sidenote: _Le Songe d'Or._]

_Le Songe d'Or_, on the other hand, though in a way tragic, and capable
of being allegorised almost _ad infinitum_ in its sense of some of the
riddles of the painful earth, is not in the least sentimental, and is
told, till just upon the end, with a certain tender irony. The author
called it "Fable Levantine," and the venerable Lo[c]kman is introduced
in it. But I have read it several times without caring (perhaps this was
reprehensible) to ascertain whether it is in the recognised Lokman bunch
or not. All I know is that here Nodier and not Lokman has told it, and
that the result is delightful. First a beautiful "kardouon," the
prettiest of lizards, all azure and ruby and gold, finds in the desert a
heap of gold-pieces. He breaks his teeth on them, but is sure that such
nice-looking things must be good to eat--probably slices of a root which
some careless person has left too long in the sun--and that, if properly
treated, they will make a famous winter provision. So he conveys them
with much care and exertion, one by one, to a soft bed of fresh moss,
just the thing to catch the dew, under the shadow of a fine old tree.
And, being naturally tired, he goes to sleep beside them. And this is
the history of the kardouon.

Now there was in that neighbourhood a poor woodcutter named
Xaïloun--deformed, and not much more than half-witted, but amiable--who
had taken a great fancy to the kardouon as being a beautiful beast, and
likely to make a charming friend. But the kardouon, after the manner of
shy lizards, had by no means reciprocated this affection, and took
shelter behind stones and tree-stumps when advances were made to him. So
that the children, and even his own family, including his mother, used
to jeer at Xaïloun and tell him to go to his friend. On this particular
occasion, the day after the kardouon's _trouvaille_, Xaïloun actually
found the usually wide-awake animal sleeping. And as the place, with the
moss and the great tree-shadow and a running stream close by, was very
attractive, Xaïloun lay down by the lizard to wait till he should wake.
But as he himself might go to sleep, and the animal, accustomed to the
sun, might get a chill in the shade, Xaïloun put his own coat over him.
And he too slept, after thinking how nice the kardouon's friendship
would be when they _both_ woke. And this is the history of Xaïloun.

Next day again there came a fakir named Abhoc, who was on a pretended
pilgrimage, but really on the look-out for what he might get. He saw a
windfall at once, was sure that neither of its sleeping guardians could
keep it from him, and very piously thanked the Almighty for rewarding
his past devotion and self-sacrifice by opening a merry and splendid
life to him. But as, with such custodians, the treasure could be
"lifted" without the slightest difficulty, he too lay down by it, and
went to sleep, dreaming of Schiraz wine in golden cups and a harem
peopled with mortal houris. And this is the history of the fakir Abhoc.

A day and a night passed, and the morrow came. Again there passed a wise
doctor of laws, Abhac by name, who was editing a text to which a hundred
and thirty-two different interpretations had been given by Eastern Cokes
and Littletons. He had just hit upon the hundred and thirty-third--of
course the true one--when the sight described already struck him and put
the discovery quite out of his head, to be lost for ever. As became a
jurist, he was rather a more practical person than the woodcutter or the
fakir, if not than the lizard. His human predecessors were, evidently,
thieves, and must be brought to justice, but it would be well to secure
"pieces of conviction." So he began to wrap up the coins in his turban
and carry them away. But there were so many, and it was so heavy, that
he grew very weary. So he too laid him down and slept. And this is the
history of the doctor Abhac.

But on the fifth day there appeared a much more formidable person than
the others, and also a much more criminous. This was the "King of the
Desert"--bandit and blackmailer of caravans. Being apparently a bandit
of letters, he reflected that, though lizards, being, after all,
miniature dragons, were immemorial guardians of treasure, they could not
have any right in it, but were most inconveniently likely to wake if any
noise were made. The others were three to one--too heavy odds by
daylight. But if he sat down by them till night came he could stab them
one by one while they were asleep, and perhaps breakfast on the
kardouon--said to be quite good meat. And he went to sleep himself. And
this is the history of the King of the Desert.

But next day again the venerable Lokman passed by, and _he_ saw that the
tree was a upas tree and the sleepers were dead. And he understood it
all, and he passed his hand through his beard and fell on his face, and
gave glory to God. And then he buried the three covetous ones in
separate graves under the upas itself. But he put Xaïloun in a safer
place, that his friends might come and do right to him; and he buried
the kardouon apart on a little slope facing the sun, such as lizards
love, and near Xaïloun. And, lastly, having stroked his beard again, he
buried the treasure too. But he was very old: and he was very weary when
he had finished this, and God took him.

And on the seventh day there came an angel and promised Xaïloun
Paradise, and made a mark on his tomb with a feather from his own wing.
And he kissed the forehead of Lokman and made him rise from the dead,
and took him to the seventh heaven itself. And this is the history of
the angel. It all happened ages ago, and though the name of Lokman has
lived always through them, so has the shadow of the upas tree.

And this is the history of the world.

Only a child's goody-goody tale? Possibly. But for my part I know no
better philosophy and, at least as Nodier told it, not much better
literature.

[Sidenote: Minors.]

_Baptiste Montauban_ and _La Combe de l'Homme mort_ are, though scarcely
shorter than _Le Songe d'Or_, slighter. The first is a pathetic but not
quite consummate story of "love and madness" in a much better sense than
that in which Nodier's eccentric employer, Sir Herbert Croft, used the
words as his title for the history of Parson Hackman and Miss Ray.[86]
The second ("combe," the omission of which from the official French
dictionaries Nodier characteristically denounces, is our own "combe"--a
deep valley; from, I suppose, the Celtic Cwm; and pronounced by
Devonshire folk in a manner which no other Englishman, born east of the
line between the mouths of the Parret and the Axe, can master) is a
good but not supreme _diablerie_ of a not uncommon kind. _La Neuvaine de
la Chandeleur_ is longer, and from some points of view the most pathetic
of all. A young man, hearing some girls talk of a much-elaborated
ceremony like those of Hallowe'en in Scotland and of St. Agnes' Eve in
Keats, by which (in this case) _both_ sexes can see their fated lovers,
tries it, and discerns, in dream or vision, his ideal as well as his
fate. She turns out to be an actual girl whom he has never seen, but
whom both his father and her father--old friends--earnestly desire that
he should marry. He travels to her home, is enthusiastically greeted,
and finds her even more bewitching than her wraith or whatever it is to
be called. But she is evidently in bad health, and dies the same night
of aneurism. Not guested in the house, but trysted in the morning, he
goes there, and seeing preparations in the street for a funeral, asks of
some one, being only half alarmed, "_Qui est mort?_" The answer is,
"Mademoiselle Cecile Savernier."

Had these words terminated the story it would have been nearly perfect.
Two more pages of the luckless lover's progress to resignation from
despair and projected suicide seem to me to blunt the poignancy.

[Sidenote: _La Fée aux Miettes._]

In fact, acknowledging most humbly that I could not write even the worst
and shortest of Nodier's stories, I am bound to say that I think he was
not to be trusted with a long one. _La Fée aux Miettes_ is at once an
awful and a delightful example. The story of the mad shipwright Michel,
who fell in love with the old dwarf beggar--so unlike her of Bednal
Green or King Cophetua's love--at the church door of Avranches; who
followed her to Greenock and got inextricably mixed between her and the
Queen of Sheba; who for some time passed his nights in making love to
Belkis and his days in attending to the wisdom of the Fairy of the
Crumbs (she always brought him his breakfast after the Sabaean Nights);
who at last identified the two in one final rapture, after seeking for a
Singing Mandrake; and who spent the rest (if not, indeed, the whole) of
his days in the Glasgow Lunatic Asylum;--is at times so ineffably
charming that one is almost afraid oneself to repeat the refrain--

      C'est moi, c'est moi, c'est moi!
        Je suis la Mandragore!
    La fille des beaux jours qui s'éveille à l'aurore--
          Et qui chante pour toi!

though, after all, every one whose life has been worth living has
listened for the song all that life--and has heard it sometimes.

To find any fault with the matrix of this opal is probably blasphemous.
But I own that I could do without the Shandean prologue and epilogue of
the narrator and his man-servant Daniel Cameron. And though, as a
tomfool myself, I would fain not find any of the actions of my kind
alien from me, I do find some of the tomfoolery with which Nodier has
seasoned the story superfluous. Why call a damsel "Folly Girlfree"? What
would a Frenchman say if an English story-teller christened some girl of
Gaul "Sottise Librefille"? "Sir Jap Muzzleburn," the Bailiff of the Isle
of Man, and his black poodle-equerry, Master Blatt, amuse me but little;
and Master Finewood, the shipbuilder,--whose rejected six sons-in-law,
lairds of high estate, run away with his thirty thousand guineas, and
are checkmated by six sturdy shipwrights,--less. I have no doubt it is
my fault, my very great fault, but I wish they would _go_, and leave me
with Michel and La Fée, or rather allow me to _be_ Michel _with_ La Fée.

[Sidenote: _Smarra_ and _Soeur Béatrix_.]

_Smarra_--which made a great impression on its contemporaries and had a
strong influence on the Romantic movement generally--is a fantasia of
nightmare based on the beginning of _The Golden Ass_, with, again, a
sort of prologue and epilogue of modern love. It is undoubtedly a fine
piece of work of its kind and beautifully written. But in itself it
seems to me a little too much of a _tour de force_, and its kind a
little rococo. Again, _mea maxima culpa_ perhaps. On the other hand,
_Soeur Béatrix_ is a most charmingly told version of a very
wide-spread story--that of Our Lady taking the place of an erring sister
during her sojourn in the world, and restoring her to it without any
scandal when she returns repentant and miserable after years of absence.
It could not be better done.

[Sidenote: _Inès de las Sierras._]

But the jewel of the book, and of Nodier's work, to me, is _Inès de las
Sierras_--at least its first and larger part; for Nodier, in one of
those exasperatingly uncritical whims of his which have been noticed,
and which probably prevented him from ever writing a really good novel
of length, has attached an otiose explanation _à la_ Mrs. Radcliffe,
which, if it may please the weakest kind of weak brethren, may almost
disgust another, and as to which I myself exercise the critic's
_cadi_-rights by simply ignoring and banishing what I think superfluous.
As for what remains, once more, it could not be done better.

Three French officers, at the moment of disturbance of the French
garrisons in the north of Spain, owing to Napoleon's Russian disasters
(perhaps also to more local events, which it was not necessary for
Nodier to mention), are sent on remount duty from Gerona to Barcelona,
where there is a great horse-fair on. They are delayed by bad weather
and other accidents, and are obliged to stop half-way after nightfall.
But the halting-place is choke-full of other travellers on their way to
the same fair, and neither at inn nor in private house is there any room
whatever, though there is no lack of "provant." Everybody tells them
that they can only put up at "the castle of Ghismondo." Taking this for
a Spanish folkword, they get rather angry. But, finding that there _is_
a place of the name close by in the hills--ruinous, haunted, but
actual--they take plenty of food, wine, and torches, etc., and persuade,
with no little difficulty, their _arriero_ and even their companion and
the real hirer of the vehicle (a theatrical manager, who has allowed
them to accompany him, when they could get no other) to dare the night
adventure. On the way the _arriero_ tells them the legend, how,
centuries before, Ghismondo de las Sierras, ruined by debauchery,
established himself in this his last possession, with one squire, one
page (both of the worst characters), his beautiful niece Inès, whom he
has seduced, and a few desperate followers, who help him to live by
brigandage. Every night the three chiefs drank themselves senseless, and
were regularly dragged to bed by their men. But one Christmas Eve at
midnight, Inès, struck with remorse, entered the hall of orgies, and
implored them to repent, actually kneeling before Ghismondo, and placing
her hand on his heart. To which the ruffian replied by stabbing her, and
leaving her for the men-at-arms to find, a corpse, among the drunken but
live bodies. For a whole twelvemonth the three see, in dreams, their
victim come and lay a burning hand on their hearts; and at its end, on
the same day and at the same hour, the dream comes true--the phantom
appears, speaks _once_, "Here am I!" sits with them, eats and drinks,
even sings and dances, but finally lays the flaming hand of the dream on
each heart; and they die in torture--the men-at-arms entering as usual,
only to find _four_ corpses. (Now it is actually Christmas Eve--the
Spanish _Noche Buena_--at "_temp._ of tale.")

So far the story, though admirably told, in a fashion which mere summary
cannot convey, is, it may be said, not more than "as per usual." Not so
what follows.

The four travellers--the unnamed captain who tells the story; his two
lieutenants, Boutraix, a bluff Voltairian, with an immense capacity for
food and drink, and Sergy, a young and romantic Celadon, _plus_ the
actor-manager Bascara, who is orthodox--with the _arriero_, arrive at
last at the castle, which is Udolphish enough, and with some difficulty
reach, over broken staircases and through ruined corridors, the great
banqueting-hall.[87]

Here--for it is less ruinous that the rest of the building and actually
contains furniture and mouldering pictures--they make themselves
tolerably comfortable with their torches, a huge fire made up from
broken stairs and panels, abundance of provisions, and two dozen of
wine, less a supply for the _arriero_, who prudently remains in the
stables, alleging that the demons that haunt those places are fairly
familiar to him and not very mischievous. As the baggage has got very
wet during the day, the dresses and properties of Bascara's company are
taken out and put to air. Well filled with food and drink, the
free-thinker Boutraix proposes that they shall equip themselves from
these with costumes not unsuitable to the knight, squire, and page of
the legend, and they do so, Bascara refusing to take part in the game,
and protesting strongly against their irreverence. At last midnight
comes, and they cry, "Where is Inès de las Sierras?" lifting their
glasses to her health. Suddenly there sounds from the dark end of the
great hall the fateful "Here am I!" and there comes forward a figure in
a white shroud, which seats itself in the vacant place assigned by
tradition to Inès herself. She is extraordinarily beautiful, and is,
under the white covering, dressed in a fashion resembling the mouldering
portrait which they have seen in the gallery. She speaks too, half
rallying them, as if surprised at _their_ surprise; she calls herself
Inès de las Sierras; she throws on the table a bracelet with the family
arms, which they have also seen dimly emblazoned or sculptured about the
castle; she eats; and, as a final piece of conviction, she tears her
dress open and shows the scar on her breast. Then she drinks response to
the toast they had in mockery proposed; she accepts graciously the
advances of the amorous Sergy; she sings divinely, and she dances more
divinely still. The whole scene is described supremely well, but the
description of the dance is one of the very earliest and very finest
pieces of Romantic French prose. One may try, however rashly, to
translate it:

     (_She has found a set of castanets in her girdle._)

     She rose and made a beginning by grave and measured steps,
     displaying, with a mixture of grace and majesty, the
     perfection of her figure and the nobility of her attitudes.
     As she shifted her position and put herself in new aspects,
     our admiration turned to amazement, as though another and
     another beautiful woman had come within our view, so
     constantly did she surpass herself in the inexhaustible
     variety of her steps and her movements. First, in rapid
     transition, we saw her pass from a serious dignity to
     transports of pleasure, at first moderate, but growing more
     and more animated; then to soft and voluptuous languors;
     then to the delirium of joy, and then to some strange
     ecstasy more delirious still. Next, she disappeared in the
     far-off darkness of the huge hall, and the clash of the
     castanets grew feeble in proportion to the distance, and
     diminished ever till, as we ceased to see, so we ceased to
     hear her. But again it came back from the distance,
     increasing always by degrees, till it burst out full as she
     reappeared in a flood of light at the spot where we least
     expected her. And then she came so near that she touched us
     with her dress, clashing the castanets with a maddening
     volubility, till they weakened once more and twittered like
     cicalas, while now and then across their monotonous racket
     she uttered shrill yet tender cries which pierced to our own
     souls. Afterwards she retired once more, but plunged herself
     only half in the darkness, appearing and disappearing by
     turns, now flying from our gaze and now desiring to be
     seen,[88] while later still you neither saw nor heard her
     save for a far-off plaintive note like the sigh of a dying
     girl. And we remained aghast, throbbing with admiration and
     fear, longing for the moment when her veil, fluttering with
     the dance-movement, should be lighted up by the torches,
     when her voice should warn us of her return, with a joyful
     cry, to which we answered involuntarily, because it made us
     vibrate with a crowd of secret harmonies. Then she came
     back; she spun round like a flower stripped from its stalk
     by the wind; she sprang from the ground as if it rested only
     with her to quit earth for ever; she dropped again as if it
     was only her will which kept her from touching it at all;
     she did not bound from the floor--you would have thought
     that she shot from it--that some mysterious law of her
     destiny forbade her to touch it, save in order to fly from
     it. And her head, bent with an expression of caressing
     impatience, and her arms, gracefully opened, as though in
     appealing prayer, seemed to implore us to save her.

The captain himself is on the point of yielding to the temptation, but
is anticipated by Sergy, whose embrace she returns, but sinks into a
chair, and then, seeming to forget the presence of the others
altogether, invites him to follow her through tortuous and ruined
passages (which she describes) to a sepulchre, which she inhabits, with
owls for her only live companions. Then she rises, picks up her
shroud-like mantle, and vanishes in the darkness with a weird laugh and
the famous words, "_Qui m'aime me suive_."

The other three have the utmost difficulty in preventing Sergy (by main
force at first) from obeying. And the captain tries rationalism,
suggesting first that the pretended Inès is a bait for some gang of
assassins or at least brigands, then that the whole thing is a trick of
Bascara's to "produce" a new cantatrice. But Boutraix, who has been
entirely converted from his Voltairianism by the shock, sets aside the
first idea like a soldier, and Bascara rebuts the second like a sensible
man. Brigands certainly would give no such warning of their presence,
and a wise manager does not expose his prima donna's throat to
cohabitation in ruins with skeletons and owls. They finally agree on
silence, and shortly afterwards the three officers leave Spain. Sergy is
killed at Lutzen, murmuring the name of Inès. Boutraix, who has never
relapsed, takes the cowl, and the captain retires after the war to his
own small estate, where he means to stay. He ends by saying _Voilà
tout_.

Alas! it is not all, and it is not the end. Some rather idle talk with
the auditors follows, and then there is the above-mentioned Radcliffian
explanation, telling how Inès was a real Las Sierras of a Mexican
branch, who had actually made her début as an actress, had been, as was
at first thought, murdered by a worthless lover, but recovered. Her
wits, however, were gone, and having escaped from the kind restraint
under which she was put, she had wandered to the castle of her
ancestors, afterwards completely recovering her senses and returning to
the profession in the company of Bascara himself.

Now I think that, if I took the trouble to do so, I could point out
improbabilities in this second story sufficient to damn it on its own
showing.[89] But, as has been said already, I prefer to leave it alone.
I never admired George Vavasour in Trollope's _Can You Forgive Her?_ But
I own that I agree with him heartily in his opinion that "making a
conjurer explain his tricks" is despicably poor fun.

Still, the story, which ends at "Voilà tout" and which for me does so
end "for good and all," is simply magnificent. I have put it elsewhere
with _Wandering Willie's Tale_, which it more specially resembles in the
way in which the ordinary turns into the extraordinary. It falls short
of Scott in vividness, character, manners, and impressiveness, but
surpasses him in beauty[90] of style and imagery. In particular, Nodier
has here, in a manner which I hardly remember elsewhere, achieved the
blending of two kinds of "terror"--the ordinary kind which, as it is
trivially called, "frightens" one, and the other[91] terror which
accompanies the intenser pleasures of sight and sound and feeling, and
heightens them by force of contrast. The scene of Inès' actual
appearance would have been the easiest thing in the world to spoil, and
therefore was the most difficult thing in the world to do right. But it
is absolutely right. In particular, the way in which her conduct in at
once admitting Sergy's attentions, and finally inviting him to "follow,"
is guarded from the very slightest suggestion of the professional
"comingness" of a common courtesan, and made the spontaneous action of a
thing divine or diabolic, is really wonderful.

At the same time, the adverse criticism made here, with that on _La Fée
aux Miettes_ and a few other foregoing remarks, will probably prepare
the reader for the repeated and final judgment that Nodier was very
unlikely to produce a good long story. And, though I have not read
_quite_ all that he wrote, I certainly think that he never did.

[Sidenote: Nodier's special quality.]

In adding new and important masterpieces to the glittering chain of
short cameo-like narratives which form the peculiar glory of French
literature, he did greatly. And his performance and example were greater
still in respect of the _quality_ which he infused into those best
pieces of his work which have been examined here. It is hardly too much
to say that this quality had been almost dormant--a sleeping beauty
among the lively bevies of that literature's graces--ever since the
Middle Ages, with some touches of waking--hardly more than motions in a
dream--at the Renaissance. The comic Phantasy had been wakeful and
active enough; the graver and more serious tragic Imagination had been,
though with some limitations, busy at times. But this third sister--Our
Lady of Dreams, one might call her in imitation of a famous fancy--had
not shown herself much in French merriment or in French sadness: the
light of common day there had been too much for her. Yet in Charles
Nodier she found the magician who could wake her from sleep: and she
told him what she had thought while sleeping.[92]

FOOTNOTES:

[37] Vol. I. pp. 458, 472, _notes_.

[38] Vol. I. p. 161.

[39] When he published _Le Cocu_, it was set about that a pudibund lady
had asked her book-seller for "Le Dernier de M. Paul de Kock." And this
circumlocution became for a time popular, as a new name for the poor
creature on the ornaments of whose head our Elizabethans joked so
untiringly.

[40] A short essay, or at least a "middle" article, might be written on
this way of regarding a prophet in his own country, coupling Béranger
with Paul de Kock. Of course the former is by much a _major_ prophet in
verse than Paul is in prose. But the attitude of the superior French
person to both is, in different degrees, the same. (Thackeray in the
article referred to below, p. 62 _note_, while declaring Paul to be
_the_ French writer whose works are best known in England, says that his
educated countrymen think him _pitoyable_.--_Works_, Oxford edition,
vol. ii p. 533.)

[41] A gibe at the Vicomte d'Arlincourt's very popular novel, to be
noticed below. I have not, I confess, identified the passage: but it may
be in one of the plays.

[42] It would _not_ be fair to compare the two as makers of literature.
In that respect Theodore Hook is Paul's Plutarchian parallel, though he
has more literature and less life.

[43] Charity, outrunning knowledge, may plead "Irony perhaps?"
Unfortunately there is no chance of it.

[44] I really do not know who was (see a little below). Parny in his
absurd _Goddam!_ (1804) has something of it.

[45] And _he_ knew something of it through Addison.

[46] The straight hair is particularly curious, for, as everybody who
knows portraits of the early nineteenth century at all is aware,
Englishmen of the time preferred brushed back and rather "tousled"
locks. In Maclise's famous "Fraserians" there is hardly a
straight-combed head among all the twenty or thirty. At the same time it
is fair to say that our own book-illustrators and caricaturists, for
some strange reason, did a good deal to authorise the libels. Cruikshank
was no doubt a wonderful draughtsman, but I never saw (and I thank God
for it) anything like many, if not most, of his faces. "Phiz" and
Cattermole in (for example) their illustrations to _The Old Curiosity
Shop_ and _Barnaby Rudge_ sometimes out-Cruikshank Cruikshank in this
respect.

[47] Paul's ideas of money are still very modest. An income of 6000
francs (£240) represents ease if not affluence; with double the amount
you can "aspire to a duchess," and even the dispendious Irish-French
Viscount Edward de Sommerston in _La Fille aux Trois Jupons_ (_v. inf._)
starts on his career with scarcely more than three thousand a year.

[48] Paul's scholarship was very rudimentary, as is shown in not a few
scraps of ungrammatical Latin: he never, I think, ventures on Greek. But
whether he was the first to _estropier_ the not ugly form "_Cleodora_,"
I know not. Perhaps he muddled it with "Clotilde."

[49] This cult of the widow might form the subject of a not
uninteresting excursus if we were not confining ourselves to the
literary sides of our matter. It has been noticed before (Vol. I. p.
368), and forms one of the most curious differences between the two
countries. For, putting Mr. Weller out of the question, I have known far
from sentimental critics who thought Trollope's best book by no means
improved by the previous experience of Eleanor Bold. Cherolatry in
France, however, is not really old: it hardly appears before the
eighteenth century. It may be partly due to a more or less conscious
idea that perhaps the lady may have got over the obligatory adultery at
the expense of her "dear first" and may not think it necessary to
repeat. A sort of "measles over."

[50] He also improves his neglected education in a manner not
unsuggestive of Prince Giglio. In fact, I fancy there is a good deal of
half-latent parody of Paul in Thackeray.

[51] There might have been fifteen or fifty, for the book is more a
sequence of scenes than a schematic composition: for which reason the
above account of it may seem somewhat _décousu_.

[52] I think I have commented elsewhere on the difficulty of villains.
It was agreeable to find confirmation, when this book was already in the
printer's hands, given at an exemption tribunal by a theatrical manager.
For six weeks, he said, he had advertised and done everything possible
to supply the place of a good villain, with no success. And your bad
stage villain _may_ be comic: while your bad novel villain is only a
bore.

[53] Frédérique, Madame Dauberny (who has, without legal sanction,
relieved herself of a loathsome creature whom she has married, and lives
a free though not at all immoral life), was not very easy to do, and is
very well done.

[54] This, which is short and thoroughly lively, is, I imagine, the
latest of Paul's good books. It is indeed so late that instead of the
_jupons_, striped and black and white, of which Georgette has made
irreproachable but profitable use, she appears at the _denouement_ in a
crinoline!

[55] The most interesting thing in it is a longish account by Jacques of
his association with a travelling quack and fortune-teller, which at
once reminds one of _Japhet in Search of a Father_. The resemblances and
the differences are almost equally characteristic.

[56] Of course I am not comparing him with Paul on any other point.

[57] Except in regard to the historical and other matters noticed above,
hardly at all.

[58] For a picture of an actual grisette, drawn by perhaps the greatest
master of artistic realism (adjective and substantive so seldom found in
company!) who ever lived, see that _Britannia_ article of Thackeray's
before referred to--an article, for a long time, unreprinted, and
therefore, till a comparatively short time ago, practically unknown.
This and its companion articles from the _Britannia_ and the _Corsair_,
all of 1840-41, but summarising ten or twelve years' knowledge of Paris,
form, with the same author's _Paris Sketch Book_ (but as representing a
more mature state of his genius), the best commentary on Paul de Kock.
They may be found together in the third volume of the Oxford Thackeray
edited by the present writer.

[59] Unless they start from the position that an English writer on the
French novel is bound to follow--or at least to pay express attention
to--French criticism of it. This position I respectfully but unalterably
decline to accept. A critical tub that has no bottom of its own is the
very worst Danaid's vessel in all the household gear of literature.

[60] The scene and society are German, but the author knows the name to
have been originally English.

[61] Such, perhaps, as Gibbon himself may have used while he "sighed as
a lover" and before he "obeyed as a son." It should perhaps be said that
Mme. de Montolieu produced many other books, mostly translations--among
the latter a French version of _The Swiss Family Robinson_.

[62] In dealing with "Sensibility" earlier, it was pointed out how
extensively things were dealt with by _letter_. In such cases as these
the fashion came in rather usefully.

[63] The treatment of the authors here mentioned, _infra_, will, I hope,
show that the introduction of their names is not merely "promiscuous."

[64] I am quite prepared to be told that this was somebody else or
nobody at all. "Moi, je dis Madame de Genlis."

[65] P. 436.

[66] The kind endeavours of the Librarian of the London Library to
obtain some in Paris itself were fruitless, but the old saying about
neglecting things at your own door came true. My friend Mr. Kipling
urged me to try Mr. George Gregory of Bath, and Mr. Gregory procured me
almost all the books I am noticing in this division.

[67] The British Museum (see Preface) being inaccessible to me.

[68] Readers will doubtless remember that the too wild career of this
kind of vehicle, charioteered by wicked aristocrats, has been among the
thousand-and-three causes assigned for the French Revolution.

[69] Of course the author of the glossaries himself was, by actual
surname, Dufresne, Ducange being a seignory.

[70] It should be observed that a very large number of these minor
novels, besides those specially mentioned as having undergone the
process, from Ducray's downwards, were melodramatised.

[71] That is to say, in the text: the second title of the whole book,
"_ou Les Enfants de Maître Jacques_," does in some sort give a warning,
though it is with Maître Jacques rather than with his children that the
fresh start is made.

[72] He has, though unknown and supposed to be an intruder, carried her
off from an English adorer--a sort of Lovelace-Byron, whose name is Lord
Gousberycharipay (an advance on Paul de Kock and even Parny in the
nomenclature of the English peerage), and who inserts h's before French
words!

[73] If novels do not exaggerate the unpopularity of these persons
(strictly the lay members of the S.J., but often used for the whole body
of religious orders and their lay partisans), the success of "July"
needs little further explanation.

[74] That is to say, not a bogey, but a buggy.

[75] Here is another instance. Ludovica's father and a bad
Russo-Prussian colonel have to be finished off at Waterloo. One might
suppose that Waterloo itself would suffice. But no: they must engage in
single combat, and even then not kill each other, the Russian's head
being carried off by some kind of a cannon-ball and the Frenchman's
breast pierced by half a dozen Prussian lances. This is really "good
measure."

[76] Ousting others which deserved the place better? It may be so, but
one may perhaps "find the whole" without particularising everything. Of
short books especially, from Fiévée's _Dot de Suzette_ (1798), which
charmed society in its day, to Eugénie Foa's _Petit Robinson de Paris_
(1840), which amused _me_ when I was about ten years old, there were no
end if one talked.

[77] _V. inf._ on M. Ohnet's books.

[78] Many people have probably noticed the frequency of this name--not a
very pretty one in itself, and with no particular historical or other
attraction--in France and French of the earlier nineteenth century. It
was certainly due to _Le Solitaire_.

[79] If any proper moral reader is disturbed at this conjunction of
_amante_ and _mère_, he will be glad to know that M. d'Arlincourt
elsewhere regularises the situation and calls Night "_l'épouse_
d'Érèbe."

[80] In the Radcliffian-literary not the Robespierrean-political sense.
For the Wertherism, _v. sup._ on Chateaubriand, p. 24 note.

[81] He was four years older than Nodier, but did not begin to write
fiction nearly so early. The _Phantasiestücke_ are of 1814, while Nodier
had been writing stories, under German influence, as early as 1803. It
is, however, also fair to say that all those now to be noticed are later
than 1814, and even than Hoffmann's later collections, the _Elixiere des
Teufels_ and _Nachtstücke_.

[82] The prudent as well as judicious poet who wrote these lines
provided a variant to suit those who, basing their position on
"Ramillies _cock_," maintain that it was a hat, not a wig, that was
named after Villeroy's defeat. For "grave--big" read "where Gallic hopes
fell flat," and for "wig" "hat" _simpliciter_, and the thing is done.
But Thackeray has "Ramillies _wig_" and Scott implies it.

[83] Nodier, who had been in Scotland and, as has been said, was a
philologist of the better class, is scrupulously exact in spelling
proper names as a rule. Perhaps Loch Fyne is not exactly "Le Lac Beau"
(I have not the Gaelic). But from Pentland to Solway (literally) he
makes no blunder, and he actually knows all about "Argyle's Bowling
Green."

[84] If phonetics had never done anything worse than this they would not
be as loathsome to literature as they sometimes are.

[85] On the other hand, compared with its slightly elder contemporary,
_Le Solitaire_ (_v. sup._), it is a masterpiece.

[86] Two little passages towards the end are very precious. A certain
bridegroom (I abridge a little) is "perfectly healthy, perfectly
self-possessed, a great talker, a successful man of business, with some
knowledge of physics, chemistry, jurisprudence, politics, statistics,
and phrenology; enjoying all the requirements of a deputy; and for the
rest, a liberal, an anti-romantic, a philanthropist, a very good
fellow--and absolutely intolerable." This person later changes the
humble home of tragedy into a "school of mutual instruction, where the
children learn to hate and envy each other and to read and write, which
was all they needed to become detestable creatures." These words "please
the soul well."

[87] The description is worth comparing with that of Gautier's _Château
de la Misère_--the difference between all but complete ruin and mere,
though extreme, disrepair being admirably, and by the later master in
all probability designedly, worked out.

[88] _Et fugit ad salices et se cupit ante videri._

[89] Note, too, a hint at a never filled in romance of the captain's
own.

[90] I must ask for special emphasis on "beauty." Nothing can be _finer_
or _fitter_ than the style of Steenie's ghostly experiences. And the
famous Claverhouse passage _is_ beautiful.

[91] As Rossetti saw it in "Sibylla Palmifera":

     "Under the arch of Life, where Love and Death,
     _Terror_ and Mystery guard her shrine,
     I saw Beauty enthroned."

[92] Perhaps there are few writers mentioned in this book to whose
lovers exactly the same kind of apology is desirable as it is in the
case of Nodier. "Where," I hear reproaching voices crying, "is _Jean
Sbogar_? Where is _Laure Ruthwen ou les Vampires_ in novel-plural or _Le
Vampire_ in melodrama-singular? Where are a score or a hundred other
books, pieces, pages, paragraphs, passages from five to fifty words
long?" They are not here, and I could not find room for them here. "But
you found more room for Paul de Kock?" Yes: and I have tried to show
why.



CHAPTER III

VICTOR HUGO


[Sidenote: Limitations.]

At the present day, and perhaps in all days hitherto, the greatest
writer of the nineteenth century in France for length of practice,
diversity of administration of genius, height of intention, and (for a
long time at least) magnitude and altitude of fame, enjoys, and has
enjoyed, more popular repute in England for his work in prose fiction
than for any other part of it. With the comparative side of this
estimate the present writer can indeed nowise agree; and the reasons of
his disagreement should be made good in the present chapter. But this is
the first opportunity he has had of considering, with fair room and
verge, the justice of the latter part of Tennyson's compliment "Victor
_in Romance_"; and it will pretty certainly be the last. As for a
general judgment of the positive and relative value and qualities of the
wonderful procession of work--certainly deserving that adjective
whatever other or others may be added--which covers the space of a full
half-century from _Han d'Islande_ to _Quatre-Vingt-Treize_, it would,
according to the notions of criticism here followed, be improper to
attempt that till after the procession itself has been carefully
surveyed.

Nor will it be necessary to preface, to follow, or, except very rarely
and slightly, to accompany this survey with remarks on the non-literary
characteristics of this French Titan of literature. The object often of
frantic political and bitter personal abuse; for a long time of almost
equally frantic and much sillier political and personal idolatry;
himself the victim--in consequence partly of his own faults, partly of
ignoble jealousy of greatness, but perhaps most of all of the inevitable
reaction from this foolish cult--of the most unsparing rummage into
those faults, and the weaknesses which accompany them, that any poet or
prose writer, even Pope, has experienced--Victor Hugo still, though he
has had many a _vates_ in both senses of _sacer_, may almost be allowed
_carere_ critico _sacro_,[93] in the best sense, on the whole of his
life and work. I have no pretensions to fill or bridge the whole of the
gap here. It will be quite task enough for the present, leaving the life
almost alone, to attempt the part of the work which contains prose
fiction. Nothing said of this will in the least affect what I have often
said elsewhere, and shall hold to as long as I hold anything, in regard
to the poetry--that its author is the greatest poet of France, and one
of the great poets of the world.

[Sidenote: _Han d'Islande._]

To deal with Hugo's first published, though not first written, novel
requires, in almost the highest degree, what Mr. Matthew Arnold called
"a purged considerate mind." There are, I believe, some people (I myself
know at least one of great excellence) who, having had the good luck to
read _Han d'Islande_ as schoolboys, and finding its vein congenial to
theirs, have, as in such cases is not impossible, kept it unscathed in
their liking. But this does not happen to every one. I do not think,
though I am not quite certain, that when I first read it myself I was
exactly what may be called a schoolboy pure and simple (that is to say,
under fifteen). But if I did not read it in upper school-boyhood (that
is to say, before eighteen), I certainly did, not much later. I own that
at that time, whatever my exact age was, I found it so uninteresting
that I do not believe I read it through. Nor, except in the last
respect, have I improved with it--for it would be presumptuous to say,
"has it improved with me"--since. The author apologised for it in two
successive prefaces shortly after its appearance, and in yet another
after that of _Notre-Dame de Paris_, ten years later. None of them, it
is to be feared, "touches the spot." The first, indeed, is hardly an
apology at all, but a sort of _goguenard_ "showing off" of the kind not
uncommon with youth; the second, a little more serious, contains rather
interesting hits[94] of again youthful jealousy at the popularity of
Pigault-Lebrun and Ducray-Duminil; the third and much later one is a
very early instance of the Victorian philosophising. "There must be," we
are told with the solemnity which for some sixty years excited such a
curious mixture of amazement and amusement, "in every work of the
mind--drama or novel--there must be many things felt, many things
observed, and many things divined," and while in _Han_ there is only one
thing felt--a young man's love--and one observed--a girl's ditto--the
rest is all divined, is "the fantastic imagination of an adolescent."

One impeticoses the gratility of the explanation, and refrains, as far
as may be, from saying, "Words! words!" Unluckily, the book does very
little indeed to supply deeds to match. The feeling and the observation
furnish forth a most unstimulating love-story; at least the present
critic, who has an unabashed fondness for love-stories, has never been
able to feel the slightest interest either in Ordener Guldenlew or in
Ethel Schumacker, except in so far as the lady is probably the first of
the since innumerable and sometimes agreeable heroines of her name in
fiction. As for the "divining," the "intention," and the "imagination,"
they have been exerted to sadly little purpose. The absurd nomenclature,
definitely excused in one of the prefaces, may have a slight historic
interest as the first attempt, almost a hopeless failure, at that
_science des noms_ with which Hugo was later credited, and which he
certainly sometimes displayed. It is hardly necessary to say much about
Spladgest and Oglypiglaf, Musdaemon and Orugix. They are pure
schoolboyisms. But it is perhaps fair to relieve the author from the
reproach, which has been thrown on him by some of his English
translators, of having metamorphosed "Hans" into "Han." He himself
explains distinctly that the name was a nickname, taken from the grunt
or growl (the word is in France applied to the well-known noise made by
a paviour lifting and bringing down his rammer) of the monster.

But that monster himself! A more impossible improbability and a more
improbable impossibility never conceived itself in the brain of even an
as yet failure of an artist. Han appears to have done all sorts of nasty
things, such as eating the insides of babies when they were alive and
drinking the blood of enemies when they were not dead, out of the skulls
of his own offspring, which he had extracted from _their_ dead bodies by
a process like peeling a banana: also to have achieved some terrible
ones, such as burning cathedrals and barracks, upsetting rocks on whole
battalions, and so forth. But the only chances we have of seeing him at
real business show him to us as overcoming, with some trouble, an infirm
old man, and _not_ overcoming at all, after a struggle of long duration,
a not portentously powerful young one. His white bear, and not he, seems
to have had the chief merit of despatching six surely rather incompetent
hunters who followed the rash "Kennybol": and of his two final
achievements, that of poniarding two men in a court of justice might
have been brought about by anybody who was careless enough of his own
life, and that of setting his gaol on fire by any one who, with the same
carelessness, had a corrupt gaoler to supply him with the means.

It would be equally tedious and superfluous to go through the minor
characters and incidents. The virtuous and imprisoned statesman
Schumacker, Ethel's father, excites no sympathy: his malignant and
finally defeated enemy, the Chancellor Ahlefeld, no interest. That
enemy's most _un_virtuous wife and her paramour Musdaemon--_the_
villain of the piece as Han is the monster--as to whom one wonders
whether he could ever have been as attractive as a lover as he is
unattractive as a villain, are both puppets. Indeed, one would hardly
pay any attention to the book at all if it did not hold a position in
the work of a man of the highest genius partly similar to, and partly
contrasted with, that of _Zastrozzi_ and _St. Irvyne_. But _St. Irvyne_
and _Zastrozzi_ are much shorter than _Han d'Islande_, and Shelley,
whether by accident, wisdom (_nemo omnibus horis insanit_), or the
direct intervention of Apollo, never resumed the task for which his
genius was so obviously unsuited.

Still, it must be said for Hugo that, even at this time, he could
have--in a manner actually had--put in evidence of not absolute
incompetence for the task.

[Sidenote: _Bug-Jargal._]

_Bug-Jargal_ was, as glanced at above, written, according to its
author's own statement, two years before _Han_, when he was only
sixteen; was partially printed (in the _Constitutionnel_) and (in fear
of a piracy) rewritten in fifteen days and published, seven years after
its composition, and almost as many before _Notre-Dame de Paris_
appeared. Taking it as it stands, there is nothing of the sixteen years
or of the fifteen days to be seen in it. It is altogether superior to
_Han_, and though it has not the nightmare magnificence and the
phantasmagoric variety of _Notre-Dame_, it is, not merely because it is
much shorter, a far better told, more coherent, and more generally human
story. The jester-obi Habibrah has indeed the caricature-grotesquery of
Han himself, and of Quasimodo, and long afterwards of Gwynplaine, as
well as the devilry of the first named and of Thénardier in _Les
Misérables_; but we do not see too much of him, and nothing that he does
is exactly absurd or utterly improbable. The heroine--so far as there is
a heroine in Marie d'Auverney, wife of the part-hero-narrator, but
separated from him on the very day of their marriage by the rebellion of
San Domingo--is very slight; but then, according to the story, she is
not wanted to be anything more. The cruelty, treachery, etc., of the
half-caste Biassou are not overdone, nor is the tropical scenery, nor
indeed anything else. Even the character of Bug-Jargal himself, a
modernised Oroonoko (whom probably Hugo did not know) and a more direct
descendant of persons and things in Rousseau, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre,
and to some extent the "sensibility" novelists generally (whom he
certainly did know), is kept within bounds. And, what is perhaps most
extraordinary of all, the half-comic interludes in the narrative where
Auverney's comrades talk while he makes breaks in his story, contain few
of Hugo's usually disastrous attempts at humour. It is impossible to say
that the book is of any great importance or of any enthralling interest.
But it is the most workmanlike of all Hugo's work in prose fiction, and,
except _Les Travailleurs de La Mer_ and _Quatre-Vingt-Treize_, which
have greater faults as well as greater beauties, the most readable, if
not, like them, the most likely to be re-read.

[Sidenote: _Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamné._]

Its merits are certainly not ill set off by the two shorter pieces, both
of fairly early date, but the one a little before and the other a little
after _Notre-Dame de Paris_, which usually accompany it in the collected
editions. Of these _Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamné_ is, with its tedious
preface, almost two-thirds as long as _Bug-Jargal_ itself; the other,
_Claude Gueux_, contents itself with thirty pages. Both are pieces with
a purpose--manifestos of one of Hugo's most consistent and most
irrational crazes--the objection to capital punishment.[95] There is no
need to argue against this, the immortal "Que MM. les assassins," etc.,
being, though in fact the weakest of a thousand refutations, sufficient,
once for all, to explode it. But it is not irrelevant to point out that
the two pieces themselves are very battering-rams against their own
theory. We are not told--the objection to this omission was made at the
time, of course, and Hugo's would-be lofty waving-off of this is one of
the earliest of many such--what the condemned person's crime was. But
the upshot of his lucubrations during these latest hours of his is this,
that such hours are almost more uncomfortable than the minutes of the
actual execution can possibly be. As this is exactly one of the points
on which the advocates of the punishment, whether from the point of view
of deterrence or from that of retribution, chiefly rely, it seems
something of a blunder to bring it out with all the power of a poet and
a rhetorician. We _want_ "M. l'Assassin," in fact, to be made very
uncomfortable--as uncomfortable as possible--and we want M. l'Assassin,
in intention or deliberation, to be warned that he will be so made.
"Serve him right" sums up the one view, "De te fabula" the other. In
fact cheap copies of _Le Dernier Jour_, supplied to all about to commit
murder, would be highly valuable. Putting aside its purpose, the mere
literary power is of course considerable if not consummate; it hardly
pretends to be a "furnished" _story_.

[Sidenote: _Claude Gueux._]

The piece, however, is tragic enough: it could hardly fail to be so in
the hands of such a master of tragedy, just as it could hardly fail to
be illogical in the hands of such a paralogician. But _Claude Gueux_,
though it ends with a murder and an attempt at suicide and an execution,
is really, though far from intentionally, a farce. The hero, made (by
the "fault of society," of course) a criminal, though not a serious one,
thinks himself persecuted by the prison director, and murders that
official. The reader who does not know the book will suppose that he has
been treated as Charles Reade's wicked governor treated Josephs and
Robinson and the other victims in _It is Never too Late to Mend_. Not at
all. The redoubtable Claude had, like the great Victor himself and other
quite respectable men, an equally redoubtable appetite, and the prison
rations were not sufficient for him. As he was a sort of leader or
prison shop-steward, and his fellow-convicts looked up to him, a young
fellow who was not a great eater used to give Claude part of his
allowance. The director, discovering this, removed the young man into
another ward--an action possibly rather spiteful, possibly also only a
slight excess, or no excess at all, of red-tapeism in discipline. Claude
not merely asks reasons for this,--which, of course, even if
respectfully done, was an act of clear insubordination on any but
anarchist principles,--but repeats the enquiry. The director more than
once puts the question by, but inflicts no penalty. Whereupon Claude
makes a harangue to the shop (which appears, in some astounding fashion,
to have been left without any supervision between the director's
visits), repeats once more, on the director's entrance, his
insubordinate enquiry, again has it put by, and thereupon splits the
unfortunate official's skull with a hatchet, digging also a pair of
scissors, which once belonged to his (left-handed) wife, into his own
throat. And the wretches actually cure this hardly fallen angel, and
then guillotine him, which he takes most sweetly, placing at the last
moment in the hand of the attendant priest, with the words _Pour les
pauvres_, a five-franc piece, which one of the Sisters of the prison
hospital had given him! After this Hugo, not contented with the tragedy
of the edacious murderer, gives us seven pages of his favourite rhetoric
in _saccadé_ paragraphs on the general question.

As so often with him, one hardly knows which particular question to ask
first, "Did ever such a genius make such a fool of himself?" or "Was
ever such an artist given to such hopeless slips in the most rudimentary
processes of art?"

[Sidenote: _Notre-Dame de Paris._]

But it is, of course, not till we come to _Notre-Dame de Paris_ that any
serious discussion of Hugo's claims as a novelist is possible. Hitherto,
while in novel at least he has very doubtfully been an _enfant sublime_,
he has most unquestionably been an _enfant_. Whatever faults may be
chargeable on his third novel or romance proper, they include no more
childishness than he displayed throughout his life, and not nearly so
much as he often did later.

The book, moreover, to adopt and adapt the language of another matter,
whether disputably or indisputably great in itself, is unquestionably so
"by position." It is one of the chief manifestos--there are some who
have held, and perhaps would still hold, that it is _the_ chief
manifesto and example--of one of the most remarkable and momentous of
literary movements--the great French Romantic revolt of
_mil-huit-cent-trente_. It had for a time enormous popularity, extending
to many who had not the slightest interest in it as such a manifesto; it
affected not merely its own literature, but others, and other arts
besides literature, both in its own and other countries. To whatever
extent this popularity may have been affected--first by the transference
of interest from the author's "letters" to his politics and sociology,
and secondly, by the reaction in general esteem which followed his
death--it is not very necessary to enquire. One certainly sees fewer,
indeed, positively few, references to it and to its contents now. But it
was so bright a planet when it first came into ken; it exercised its
influence so long and so largely; that even if it now glows fainter it
is worth exploring, and the analysis of the composition of its light is
worth putting on record.

[Sidenote: The story easy to anticipate.]

In the case of a book which, whether it has or has not undergone some
occultation as suggested, is still kept on sale not merely in the
original, but in cheap translations into every European tongue, there is
probably no need to include an actual "argument" in this analysis. As a
novel or at least romance, _Notre-Dame de Paris_ contains a story of the
late fifteenth century, the chief characters of which are the Spanish
gipsy[96] dancing-girl Esmeralda, with her goat Djali; Quasimodo, the
hunchbacked dwarf and bell-ringer of the cathedral; one of its
archdeacons, Claude Frollo, theologian, philosopher, expert in, but
contemner of, physical and astrological science, and above all,
alchemist, if not sorcerer; the handsome and gallant, but "not
intelligent" and not very chivalrous soldier Phoebus de Chateaupers,
with minors not a few, "supers" very many, and the dramatist Pierre
Gringoire as a sort of half-chorus, half-actor throughout. The evolution
of this story could not be very difficult to anticipate in any case;
almost any one who had even a slight knowledge of its actual author's
other work could make a guess at the _scenario_. The end must be tragic;
the _beau cavalier_ must be the rather unworthy object of Esmeralda's
affection, and she herself that of the (one need hardly say very
different) affections of Frollo and Quasimodo; a charge of sorcery,
based on the tricks she has taught Djali, must be fatal to her; and
poetic justice must overtake Frollo, who has instigated the persecution
but has half exchanged it for, half-combined it with, later attempts of
a different kind upon her. Although this _scenario_ may not have been
then quite so easy for any schoolboy to anticipate, as it has been
later, the course of the romantic novel from Walpole to Scott in
English, not to mention German and other things, had made it open enough
to everybody to construct. The only thing to be done, and to do, now
was, and is, to see, on the author's own famous critical principles,[97]
how he availed himself of the _publica materies_.

[Sidenote: Importance of the actual _title_.]

Perhaps the first impression of any reader who is not merely not an
expert in criticism, but who has not yet learnt its first, last, and
hardest lesson, shirked by not a few who seem to be experts--to suspend
judgment till the case is fully heard--may be unfavourable. It is true
that the title _Notre-Dame de Paris_, so stupidly and unfairly disguised
by the addition-substitution of "_The Hunchback_ of Notre Dame" in
English translations--quite honestly and quite legitimately warns any
intelligent reader what to expect. It is the cathedral itself, its
visible appearance and its invisible _aura_, atmosphere, history,
spirit, inspiration which gives the author--and is taken by him as
giving--his real subject. Esmeralda and Quasimodo, Frollo and Gringoire
are almost as much minors and supers in comparison with It or Her as
Phoebus de Chateaupers and the younger Frollo and the rest are in
relation to the four protagonists themselves. The most ambitious piece
of _dianoia_--of thought as contrasted with incident, character, or
description--is that embodied in the famous chapter, _Ceci tuera cela_,
where the fatal effect of literature (at least printed literature) on
architecture is inculcated. The situation, precincts, construction,
constitution of the church form the centre of such action as there is,
and supply by far the larger part of its scene. Therefore nobody has a
right to complain of a very large proportion of purely architectural
detail.

[Sidenote: The working out of the one under the other.]

But the question is whether, in the actual employment, and still more in
what we may call the administration, of this and other diluents or
obstruents of story, the artist has or has not made blunders in his art;
and it is very difficult not to answer this in the affirmative. There
were many excuses for him. The "guide-book novel" had already, and not
so very long before, been triumphantly introduced by _Corinne_. It had
been enormously popularised by Scott. The close alliance and almost
assimilation of art and history with literature was one of the supremest
articles of faith of Romanticism, and "the Gothic" was a sort of symbol,
shibboleth, and sacrament at once of Romanticism itself. But Victor
Hugo, like Falstaff, has, in this and other respects, abused his power
of pressing subjects into service almost, if not quite, damnably.
Whether out of pure wilfulness, out of mistaken theory, or out of a
mixture[98] of these and other influences, he has made the first volume
almost as little of a story as it could possibly be, while remaining a
story at all. Seventy mortal pages, pretty well packed in the standard
two-volume edition, which in all contains less than six hundred, dawdle
over the not particularly well-told business of Gringoire's interrupted
mystery, the arrival of the Flemish ambassadors, and the election of the
Pope of Unreason. The vision of Esmeralda lightens the darkness and
quickens the movement, and this brightness and liveliness continue till
she saves her unlucky dramatist from the murderous diversions of the
Cour des Miracles. But the means by which she does this--the old
privilege of matrimony--leads to nothing but a single scene, which might
have been effective, but which Hugo only leaves flat, while it has no
further importance in the story whatsoever. After it we hop or struggle
full forty pages through the public street of architecture pure and
simple.

[Sidenote: The story recovers itself latterly.]

At first sight "Coup d'oeil impartial sur l'Ancienne Magistrature" may
seem to give even more promise of November than of May. But there _is_
action here, and it really has something to do with the story. Also, the
subsequent treatment of the recluse or anchoress of the severest type in
the Place Notre-Dame itself (or practically so), though it is much too
long and is lengthened by matters with which Hugo knows least of all how
to deal, has still more claim to attention, for it leads directly on not
merely to the parentage of Esmeralda, but to the tragedy of her fate.
And almost the whole of the second volume is, whether the best
novel-matter or not, at any rate genuine novel-matter. If almost the
whole of the first had been boiled down (as Scott at his best would have
boiled it) into a preliminary chapter or two, the position of the book
as qualified to stand in its kind could not have been questioned. But
its faults and merits in that kind would still have remained matters of
very considerable question.

[Sidenote: But the characters?]

In respect of one fault, the side of the defence can surely be taken
only by generous, but hardly judicious or judicial devotees. Hugo's
singular affection for the monster--he had Stephano to justify him, but
unfortunately did not possess either the humour of that drunken
Neapolitan butler or the power of his and Caliban's creator--had made a
mere grotesque of _Han_, but had been reduced within more artistic
limits in _Bug_. In _Le Dernier Jour_ and _Claude Gueux_ it was excluded
by the subjects and objects alike.[99] Here it is, if not an
_intellectus_, at any rate _sibi permissus_; and, as it does not in the
earlier cases, it takes the not extremely artistic form of violent
contrast which was to be made more violent later in _L'Homme Qui Rit_.
If any one will consider Caliban and Miranda as they are presented in
_The Tempest_, with Quasimodo and Esmeralda as _they_ are presented
here, he will see at once the difference of great art and great failure
of art.

Then, too, there emerges another of our author's persistent obsessions,
the exaggeration of what we may call the individual combat. He had
probably intended something of this kind in _Han_, but the mistake there
in telling about it instead of telling it has been already pointed out.
Neither Bug-Jargal nor Habibrah does anything glaringly and longwindedly
impossible. But the one-man defence of Notre-Dame by Quasimodo against
the _truands_ is a tissue not so much of impossibilities--they, as it
has been said of old, hardly matter--as of the foolish-incredible. Why
did the numerous other denizens of the church and its cloisters do
nothing during all this time? Why did the _truands_, who, though they
were all scoundrels, were certainly not all fools, confine themselves to
this frontal assault of so huge a building? Why did the little rascal
Jean Frollo not take some one with him? These are not questions of mere
dull common sense; it is only dull absence of common sense which will
think them so. Scott, who, once more, was not too careful in stopping
loose places, managed the attacks of Tillietudlem and Torquilstone
without giving any scope for objections of this kind.

Hugo's strong point was never character, and it certainly is not so
here. Esmeralda is beautiful, amiable, pathetic, and unfortunate; but
the most uncharitable interpretation of Mr. Pope's famous libel never
was more justified than in her case. Her salvage of Gringoire and its
sequel give about the only situations in which she is a real
person,[100] and they are purely episodic. Gringoire himself is as much
out of place as any literary man who ever went into Parliament. Some may
think better of Claude Frollo, who may be said to be the
Miltonic-Byronic-Satanic hero. I own I do not. His mere
specification--that of the ascetic scholar assailed by physical
temptation--will pass muster well enough, the working out of it hardly.

His brother, the _vaurien_ Jean, has, I believe, been a favourite with
others or the same, and certainly a Villonesque student is not out of
place in the fifteenth century. Nor is a turned-up nose, even if it be
artificially and prematurely reddened, unpardonable. But at the same
time it is not in itself a passport, and Jean Frollo does not appear to
have left even the smallest _Testament_ or so much as a single line
(though some snatches of song are assigned to him) reminding us of the
"Dames des Temps Jadis" or the "Belle Heaulmière." Perhaps even Victor
never presumed more unfortunately on victory than in bringing in Louis
XI., especially in one scene, which directly challenges comparison with
_Quentin Durward_. While, though Scott's _jeunes premiers_ are not, as
he himself well knew and frankly confessed, his greatest triumphs, he
has never given us anything of the kind so personally impersonal as
Phoebus de Chateaupers.

_Per contra_ there are of course to be set passages which are actually
fine prose and some of which might have made magnificent poetry; a real
or at least--what is as good as or better than a real--a fantastic
resurrection of Old Paris; and, above all, an atmosphere of "sunset and
eclipse," of night and thunder and levin-flashes, which no one of
catholic taste would willingly surrender. Only, ungrateful as it may
seem, uncritical as some may deem it, it is impossible not to sigh,
"Oh! why were not the best things of this treated in verse, and why were
not the other things left alone altogether?"

[Sidenote: The thirty years' interval.]

For a very long stretch of time--one that could hardly be paralleled
except in a literary life so unusually extended as his--it might have
seemed that one of those _voix intérieures_, which he was during its
course to celebrate in undying verse, had whispered to Hugo some such
warning as that conveyed in the words of the close of the last
paragraph, and that he, usually the most indocile of men, had listened
to it. For all but three decades he confined his production--at least in
the sense of substantial publication[101]--to poetry almost invariably
splendid, drama always grandiose and sometimes grand, and prose-writing
of a chiefly political kind, which even sympathisers (one would suppose)
can hardly regard as of much value now if they have any critical
faculty. Even the tremendous shock of disappointment, discomfiture, and
exile which resulted from the success of Napoleon the Third, though it
started a new wave and gust of oceanic and cyclonic force, range, and
volume in his soul, found little prose vent, except the wretched stuff
of _Napoléon le Petit_, to chequer the fulgurant outburst of the
_Châtiments_, the apocalyptic magnificence of the _Contemplations_, and
the almost unmatched vigour, variety, and vividness of the _Légende des
Siècles_.

At last, in 1862, a full decade after the cataclysm, his largest and
probably his most popular work of fiction made its appearance in the
return to romance-writing, entitled _Les Misérables_. I daresay
biographies say when it was begun; it is at any rate clear that even
Victor Hugo must have taken some years, especially in view of his other
work, to produce such a mass of matter.[102] Probably not very many
people now living, at least in England, remember very clearly the
immense effect it produced even with us, who were then apt to regard
Hugo as at best a very chequered genius and at worst an almost
charlatanish rhetorician.

[Sidenote: _Les Misérables._]

It was no doubt lucky for its popularity that it fell in with a general
movement, in England as well as elsewhere, which had with us been, if
not brought about, aided by influences in literature as different as
those of Dickens and Carlyle, through Kingsley and others
downwards,--the movement which has been called perhaps more truly than
sympathetically, "the cult of the lower [not to say the criminal]
classes." In France, if not in England, this cult had been oddly
combined with a dash of rather adulterated Romanticism, and long before
Hugo, Sues and Sands, as will be seen later, had in their different
manner been priests and priestesses of it. In his own case the adoption
of the subject "keyed on" in no small degree to the mood in which he
wrote the _Dernier Jour_ and _Claude Gueux_, while a good deal of the
"Old Paris" mania (I use the word nowise contumeliously) of _Notre-Dame_
survived, and even the "Cour des Miracles" found itself modernised.

Whether the popularity above mentioned has kept itself up or not, I
cannot say. Of one comparatively recent edition, not so far as I know
published at intervals, I have been told that the first volume is out of
print, but none of the others, a thing rather voiceful to the
understanding. I know that, to me, it is the hardest book to read
through of any that I know by a great writer. _Le Grand Cyrus_ and
_Clélie_ are certainly longer, _Clarissa_ and _Sir Charles Grandison_
are probably so. _Le Vicomte de Bragelonne_ is almost as long. There are
finer things in it than in any of them, (except the deaths of Lovelace
and Porthos and the kidnapping of General Monk) from the pure novel
point of view, and not a few passages which ought to have been verse
and, even prose as they are, soar far over anything that Mademoiselle de
Scudéry or Samuel Richardson or Alexandre Dumas could possibly have
written in either harmony. The Scudéry books are infinitely duller, and
the Richardson ones much less varied.

But none of these others besets the path of the reader with things to
which the obstacles interposed by Quilp in the way of Sampson Brass were
down-pillows, as is the case with _Les Misérables_. It is as if Victor
Hugo had said, "You shall read this at your peril," and had made good
the threat by dint of every blunder in novel-writing which he could
possibly commit. With his old and almost invariable fault (there is a
little of it even in _Les Travailleurs de la Mer_, and only
_Quatre-Vingt-Treize_ avoids it entirely), he delays any real interest
till the book, huge as it is, is almost half way through. Twenty pages
on Bishop Myriel--that rather piebald angel who makes the way impossible
for any successor by his fantastic and indecent "apostolicism" in
living; who tells, _not_ like St. Athanasius, an allowable equivocation
to save his valuable self, but a downright lie to save a worthless
rascal; and who admits defeat in argument by the stale sophisms of a
moribund _conventionnel_--might have been tolerable. We have, in the
compactest edition I know, about a hundred and fifty. The ruin and
desertion of Fantine would have been worth twenty more. We have from
fifty to a hundred to tell us the story of four rather impossibly
beautiful _grisettes_, and as many, alas! too possible, but not
interesting, rascals of students. It is difficult to say how much is
wasted on the wildly improbable transformation of Jean Valjean, convict
and pauper, into "M. Madeleine," _maire_ and (_nummis gallicis_)
millionaire, through making sham jet. All this, by any one who really
knew his craft, would have been sketched rapidly in fluent preliminary,
and subsequent piecemeal retrospect, so as to start with Valjean's
escape from Thénardier and his adoption of Cosette.

The actual matter of this purely preliminary kind extends, as has been
ascertained by rough but sufficient calculation of the sort previously
employed, to at least three-quarters of an average novel of Sir
Walter's: it would probably run to two or three times the length of a
modern "six-shilling." But Hugo is not satisfied with it. A point, an
important point, doubtless, but one that could have been despatched in a
few lines, connects the novel proper with the Battle of Waterloo. To
that battle itself, even the preliminary matter in its earliest part is
some years posterior: the main action, of course, is still more so. But
Victor must give us _his_ account of this great engagement, and he gives
it in about a hundred pages of the most succinct reproduction. For my
part, I should be glad to have it "mixed with much wine," even if the
wine were of that luscious and headachy south-of-France character which
he himself is said to have preferred to Bordeaux or Champagne, Sauterne
or even Burgundy. Nay, without this I like it well enough and quarrel
with nothing in it, though it is in many respects (from the famous
hollow way which nobody else ever heard of downwards) very much of a
dream-battle. Victor does quite as much justice as any one could expect
him to do--and, thank heaven, there are still some Englishmen who are
perfectly indifferent whether justice is done to them or not in these
matters, leaving it to poorer persons in such ways who may be glad of
it--to English fighting; while if he represents Wellington as a mere
calculator and Napoleon as a hero, we can murmur politely (like a Roman
Catholic bishop, more real in many ways than His Greatness of Digue),
"Perhaps so, my dear sir, perhaps so." But what has it all got to do
here? Even when Montalais and her lover sat on the wall and talked for
half a volume or so in the _Vicomte de Bragelonne_; even when His
Majesty Louis XIV. and his (one regrets to use the good old English
word) pimp, M. le Duc de Saint-Aignan, exhausted the resources of
carpentry and the stores of printer's ink to gain access to the
apartment of Mlle. de la Vallière, the superabundance, though trivial,
was relevant: this is not. When Thénardier tried to rob and was no doubt
quite ready to murder, but did, as a matter of fact, help to
resuscitate, the gallant French Republican soldier, who was so glad to
receive the title of baron from an emperor who had by abdication
resigned any right to give it that he ever possessed, it might have been
Malplaquet or Leipsic, Fontenoy or Vittoria, for any relevance the
details of the battle possessed to the course of the story.

Now relevance (to make a short paragraph of the kind Hugo himself loved)
is a mighty goddess in novelry.

And so it continues, though, to be absolutely just, the later parts are
not exposed to quite the same objections as the earlier. These
objections transform themselves, however, into other varieties, and are
reinforced by fresh faults. The most inexcusable digressions, on
subjects as remote from each other as convents and sewers, insist on
poking themselves in. The central, or what ought to be the central,
interest itself turns on the ridiculous _émeute_ of Saint-Merry, a thing
"without a purpose or an aim," a mere caricature of a revolution. The
_gamin_ Gavroche puts in a strong plea for mercy, and his sister
Eponine, if Hugo had chosen to take more trouble with her, might have
been a great, and is actually the most interesting, character. But
Cosette--the cosseted Cosette--Hugo did not know our word or he would
have seen the danger--is merely a pretty and rather selfish little doll,
and her precious lover Marius is almost ineffable.

Novel-heroes who are failures throng my mind like ghosts on the other
shore of the river whom Charon will not ferry over; but I can single out
none of them who is, without positively evil qualities, so absolutely
intolerable as Marius.[103] Others have more such qualities; but he has
no good ones. His very bravery is a sort of moral and intellectual
running amuck because he thinks he shall not get Cosette. Having,
apparently, for many years thought and cared nothing about his father,
he becomes frantically filial on discovering that he has inherited from
him, as above, a very doubtful and certainly most un-"citizen"-like
title of Baron. Thereupon (taking care, however, to have cards printed
with the title on them) he becomes a violent republican.

He then proceeds to be extremely rude to his indulgent but royalist
grandfather, retires to a mount of very peculiar sacredness, where he
comes in contact with the Thénardier family, discovers a plot against
Valjean, appeals to the civil arm to protect the victim, but, for
reasons which seem good to him, turns tail, breaks his arranged part,
and is very nearly accessory to a murder. At the other end of the story,
carrying out his general character of prig-pedant, as selfish as
self-righteous, he meets Valjean's rather foolish and fantastic
self-sacrifice with illiberal suspicion, and practically kills the poor
old creature by separating him from Cosette. When the _éclaircissement_
comes, it appears to me--as Mr. Carlyle said of Loyola that he ought to
have consented to be damned--that Marius ought to have consented at
least to be kicked.

Of course it may be said, "You should not give judgments on things with
which you are evidently out of sympathy." But I do not acknowledge any
palpable hit. If certain purposes of the opposite kind were obtruded
here in the same fashion--if Victor (as he might have done in earlier
days) had hymned Royalism instead of Republicanism, or (as perhaps he
would never have done) had indulged in praise of severe laws and
restricted education,[104] and other things, I should be "in sympathy,"
but I hope and believe that I should not be "out of" criticism. Unless
strictly adjusted to the scale and degree suitable to a novel--as Sir
Walter has, I think, restricted his Mariolatry and his Jacobitism, and
so forth--I should bar them as I bar these.[105] And it is the fact that
they are not so restricted, with the concomitant faults which, again
purely from the point of view of novel-criticism as such, I have
ventured to find, that makes me consider _Les Misérables_ a failure as a
novel. Once again, too, I find few of the really good and great
things--which in so vast a book by such a writer are there, and could
not fail to be there--to be essentially and specially good and great
according to the novel standard. They are, with the rarest exceptions,
the stuff of drama or of poetry, not of novel. That there are such
exceptions--the treacherous feast of the students to the mistresses they
are about to desert; the escapes of Valjean from the ambushes laid for
him by Thénardier and Javert; some of the Saint-Merry fighting; the
guesting of the children by Gavroche in the elephant; and others--is
true. But they are oases in a desert; and, save when they would be
better done in poetry, they do not after all seem to me to be much
better done than they might have been by others--the comparative
weakness of Hugo in conversation of the kind suitable for prose fiction
making itself felt. That at least is what the present writer's notion of
criticism puts into his mouth to say; and he can say no other.

[Sidenote: _Les Travailleurs de la Mer._]

_Les Travailleurs de la Mer_, on the other hand, is, according to some
persons, among whom that present writer desires to be included, the
summit of Victor Hugo's achievements in prose fiction. It has his
"signatures" of absurdity in fair measure. There is the celebrated
"Bug-Pipe" which a Highlander of the garrison of Guernsey sold (I am
afraid contrary to military law) to the hero, and on which that hero
performed the "_melancholy_ air" of "Bonny Dundee."[106] There is the
equally celebrated "First of the Fourth" (Première de la Quatrième),
which is believed to be Hugonic for the Firth of Forth. There are some
others. There is an elaborate presentation of a quite impossibly named
clergyman, who is, it seems, an anticipator of "le Puseysme" and an
actual high-churchman, who talks as never high-churchman talked from
Laud to Pusey himself, but rather like the Reverend Gabriel
Kettledrummle (with whom Hugo was probably acquainted "in translations,
Sir! in translations").[107] Gilliatt, the hero, is a not very human
prig outside those extraordinary performances, of which more later, and
his consummate end. Déruchette, the heroine, is, like Cosette, a pretty
nullity.[108] As always, the author _will_ not "get under way"; and
short as the book is, and valuable as is its shortness, it could be cut
down to two-thirds at least with advantage. Clubin and Rantaine, the
villains, are pure melodrama; Mess Lethierry, the good old man, is
rather an old fool, and not so very good. The real business of the
book--the salvage by Gilliatt of the steamer wrecked on the Douvres--is,
as a schoolboy would say, or would have said, "jolly impossible." But
the book as a whole is, despite or because of its tragic quality, almost
impossibly "jolly."

[Sidenote: The _genius loci._]

For here--as he did previously (by the help of the form that was more
his own and of Jersey) in the _Contemplations_--he had now got in prose,
by that of the smaller, more isolated, and less contaminated[109]
island, into his own proper country, the dominion of the Angel of the
Visions of the Sea. He has told us in his own grandiloquent way, which
so often led him wrong, that when he settled to exile in the Channel
Islands, his son François observed, "Je traduirai Shakespeare," and _he_
said, "Je contemplerai l'océan." He did; and good came of it. Students
of his biography may know that in the dwelling which he called
Hauteville House (a name which, I regret to say, already and properly
belonged to another) he slept and mainly lived in a high garret with
much glass window, overlooking the strait between Guernsey and Sark.
These "gazebos," as they used to be called, are common in St. Peter
Port, and I myself enjoyed the possession of a more modest and quite
unfamous one for some time. They are worth inhabiting and looking from,
be the weather fair or foul. Moreover, he was, I believe, a very good
walker, and in both the islands made the best of opportunities which are
unmatched elsewhere. Whether he boated much I do not know. The profusion
of nautical terms with which he "deaves" us (as the old Scotch word has
it) would rather lead me to think _not_. He was in this inferior to
Prospero; but I hope it is not blasphemy to say that, _mutatis
mutandis_, he had something of the banished Duke of Milan in him, and
that, in the one case as in the other, it was the island that brought it
out. And he acknowledged it in his Dedication to "Guernesey--_sevère et
douce_."

[Sidenote: Guernsey at the time.]

_Sevère et Douce!_ I lived in Guernsey as a Master at Elizabeth College
from 1868, two years after Victor Hugo wrote that dedication, to 1874,
when he still kept house there, but had not, since the "Année Terrible,"
occupied it much. I suppose the "severity" must be granted to an island
of solid granite and to the rocks and tides and sea-mists that surround
it. But in the ordinary life there in my time there was little to
"asperate" the _douceur_. Perhaps it does not require so very much to
sweeten things in general between the ages of twenty-three and
twenty-nine. But the things in general themselves were dulcet enough.
The beauty of the place--extraordinarily varied in its triangle of some
half-score miles or a little less on each side--was not then in the
least interfered with by the excessive commercial glass-housing which, I
believe, has come in since. For what my friend of many days, the late
Mr. Reynolds of Brasenose and East Ham, a constant visitor in summer,
used to call "necessary luxuries," it was still unique. When I went
there you could buy not undrinkable or poisonous Hollands at four
shillings a gallon, and brandy--not, of course, exactly cognac or _fine
champagne_, but deserving the same epithets--for six. If you were a
luxurious person, you paid half-a-crown a bottle for the genuine produce
of the Charente, little or not at all inferior to Martell or Hennessy,
and a florin for excellent Scotch or Irish whiskey.[110] Fourpence
half-penny gave you a quarter-pound slab of gold-leaf tobacco, than
which I never wish to smoke better.

But this easy supplying of the bodily needs of the "horse with wings"
and his "heavy rider" was as nothing to other things which strengthened
the wings of the spirit and lightened the weight of the burden it bore.
I have not been a great traveller outside the kingdom of England: and
you may doubtless, in the whole of Europe or of the globe, find more
magnificent things than you can possibly find in an island of the
dimensions given. But for a miniature and manageable assemblage of
amenities I do not think you can easily beat Guernsey. The town of St.
Peter Port, and its two castles, Fort George above and Castle Cornet
below, looking on the strait above mentioned, with the curiously
contrasted islets of Herm and Jethou in its midst; the wonderful coast,
first south- and then westward, set with tiny coves of perfection like
Bec-du-Nez, and larger bays, across the mouth of which, after a storm
and in calm sunny weather, you see lines of foam stretching from
headland to headland, out of the white clots of which the weakest
imagination can fancy Aphrodite rising and floating shorewards, to
vanish as she touches the beach; the great western promontory of
Pleinmont, a scarcely lessened Land's End, with the Hanois rocks beyond;
the tamer but still not tame western, northern, and north-eastern
coasts, with the Druid-haunted level of L'Ancresse and the minor port of
St. Samson--all these furnish, even to the well-girt man, an
extraordinary number[111] of walks, ranging from an hour's to a day's
and more there and back; while in the valleys of the interior you find
scenery which might be as far from the sea as Warwickshire, or on the
heights springs which tell you that they must have come from the
neighbourhood of the Mount of Dol or the Forest of Broceliande.

With such colour and form of locality to serve, not merely as
inspiration but as actual scene and setting, such genius as Hugo's could
hardly fail. The thing is sad and delightful and great. As life, you may
say, it could not have happened; as literature it could not but have
happened, and has happened, at its best, divinely well. The contrast of
the long agony of effort and its triumph on the Douvres, with the swift
collapse of any possible reward at St. Samson, is simply a windfall of
the Muses to this spoiled and, it must be confessed, often self-spoiling
child of theirs. There are, of course, absurdities still, and of a
different kind from the bug-pipe. I have always wished to know what the
experiences of the fortunate and reverend but sheepish Ebenezer had been
at Oxford--he must certainly have held a King Charles scholarship in his
day--during that full-blooded time of the Regency. The circumstances of
the marriage are almost purely Hugonian, though it does Hugo credit that
he admires the service which he travesties so remarkably. But the _Dieu_
(not _diable_) _au corps_ which he now enjoys enables him to change into
a beauty (in the wholly natural gabble of Mess Lethierry on the recovery
of the _la Durande_) those long speeches which have been already noted
as blots. And, beauty or blot, it would not have mattered. All is in the
contrast of the mighty but conquered Douvres and the comparatively
insignificant rocklet--there are hundreds like it on every granite
coast--where Death the Consoler sets on Gilliatt's head the only crown
possible for his impossible feat, and where the dislike of the ignorant
peasantry, the brute resistance of machinery and material, the violence
of the storm, the devilish ambush of the _pieuvre_, and all other evils
are terminated and evaded and sanctified by the embrace and the
euthanasia of the sea. Perhaps it is poetry rather than novel or even
romance--in substance it is too abstract and elemental for either of the
less majestical branches of inventive literature. But it is great. "By
God! 'tis good," and, to lengthen somewhat Ben's famous challenge, "if
you like, you may" put it with, and not so far from, in whatever order
you please--the deaths of Cleopatra and of Colonel Newcome.

The book is therefore a success; but that success is an evident _tour de
force_, and it is nearly as evident to any student of the subject that
such a _tour de force_ was not likely to be repeated, and that the thing
owed its actual salvage to a rather strict limitation of subject and
treatment--a limitation hitherto unknown in the writer and itself
unlikely to recur. Also that there were certain things in it--especially
the travesties of names and subjects of which the author practically
knew nothing--the repetition and extension of which _was_ likely to be
damaging, if not fatal. In two or three years the "fatality" of which
Victor Hugo himself was dangerously fond of talking (the warning of
Herodotus in the dawn about things which it is not lawful to mention
has been too often neglected) had its revenge.

[Sidenote: _L'Homme Qui Rit._]

_L'Homme Qui Rit_ is probably the maddest book in recognised literature;
certainly the maddest written by an author of supreme genius without the
faintest notion that he was making himself ridiculous. The genius is
still there, and passage on passage shows us the real "prose-poetry,"
that is to say, the prose which ought to have been written in verse. The
scheme of the quartette--Ursus, the misanthrope-Good-Samaritan; Homo,
the amiable wolf; Gwynplaine, the tortured and guiltless child and
youth; Dea, the adorable maiden--is unexceptionable _per se_, and it
could have been worked out in verse or drama perfectly, though the
actual termination--Gwynplaine's suicide in the sea after Dea's
death--is perhaps too close and too easy a "variation of the same thing"
on Gilliatt's parallel self-immolation after Déruchette's marriage.[112]
Not a few opening or episodic parts--the picture of the caravan; the
struggle of the child Gwynplaine with the elements to save not so much
himself as the baby Dea; the revulsions of his temptations and
persecutions later; and yet others[113]--show the poet and the master.

But the way in which these things are merged in and spoilt by a torrent
of silliness, sciolism, and sheer nonsense is, even after one has known
the book for forty years and more, still astounding.

One could laugh almost indulgently over the "bug-pipe" and the "First of
the Fourth"; one could, being of those who win, laugh quite indulgently
over the little outbursts of spite in _Les Travailleurs_ at the
institutions and ways of the country which had, despite some rather
unpardonable liberties, given its regular and royal asylum to the
exiled republican and almost anarchist author. Certainly, also, one can
laugh over _L'Homme Qui Rit_ and its picture of the English aristocracy.
But of such laughter, as of all carnal pleasures (to steal from
Kingsley), cometh satiety, and the satiety is rather early reached in
this same book. One of the chief "persons of distinction" in many ways
whom I have ever come across, the late Mr. G. S. Venables--a lawyer of
no mean expertness; one of the earliest and one of the greatest of those
"gentlemen of the Press" who at the middle of the nineteenth century
lifted journalism out of the gutter; a familiar of every kind of the
best society, and a person of infinite though somewhat saturnine
wit--had a phrase of contempt for absurd utterances by persons who ought
to have known better. "It was," he said, "like a drunk child." The major
part of _L'Homme Qui Rit_ is like the utterance of a drunk child who had
something of the pseudo-Homeric Margites in him, who "knew a great many
things and knew them all badly." I could fill fifty pages here easily
enough, and with a kind of low amusement to myself and perhaps others,
by enumerating the absurdities of _L'Homme Qui Rit_. As far as I
remember, when the book appeared, divers good people (the bad people
merely sneered) took immense pains to discover how and why this great
man of letters made so much greater a fool of himself. This was quite
lost labour; and without attempting the explanation at all, a very small
selection of the facts, being in a manner indispensable, may be given.

The mysterious society of "Comprachicos" (Spanish for "child-buyers"),
on whose malpractices the whole book is founded; the entirely false
conception of the English House of Lords, which gives much of the
superstructure; the confusion of English and French times and seasons,
manners and customs, which enables the writer to muddle up Henri-Trois
and Louis-Quinze, Good Queen Bess and Good Queen Anne: these and other
things of the kind can be passed over. For things like some of them
occur in much saner novelists than Hugo; and Sir Walter himself is
notoriously not free from indisputable anachronisms.[114] But you have
barely reached the fiftieth page when you come to a "Lord Linnæus
Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie et Hunkerville, Marquis de Corleone en
Sicile," whose English peerage dates from Edward _the Elder_ (the origin
of his Sicilian title is not stated, but it was probably conferred by
Hiero or Dionysius), and whose name "Clancharlie" has nothing whatever
to do with Scotland or Ireland. This worthy peer (who, as a Cromwellian,
exiled himself after the Restoration) had, like others of the godly, a
bastard son, enjoying at "_temp._ of tale" the remarkable courtesy title
of "Lord David Dirry-Moir," but called by the rabble, with whom his
sporting tastes make him a great favourite, "Tom-Jim-Jack." Most
"love-children" of peers would be contented (if they ever had them) with
courtesy titles; but Lord David has been further favoured by Fortune and
King James II., who has first induced the _comprachicos_ to trepan and
mutilate Clancharlie's real heir (afterwards Gwynplaine, the eponymous
hero of the book), and has then made Lord David a "_pair
substitué_"[115] on condition that he marries one of the king's natural
daughters, the Duchess Josiane, a duchess with no duchy ever mentioned.
In regard to her Hugo proceeds to exhibit his etymological powers,
ignoring entirely the agreeable heroine of _Bevis of Hampton_, and
suggesting either an abbreviation of "Josefa y Ana" (at this time, we
are gravely informed, there was a prevalent English fashion of taking
Spanish names) or else a feminine of "Josias." Moreover, among dozens of
other instances of this Bedlam nomenclature, we have a "combat of box"
between the Irishman "Phelem-ghe-Madone" (because Irishmen are often
Roman Catholics?) and the Scotchman "Helmsgail" (there is a place
called Helms_dale_ in Scotland, and if "gael" why not "gail"?), to the
latter of whom a knee is given by "Lord Desertum" (Desart? Dysart?
what?).

And so it goes on. There is the immortal scene (or rather half-volume)
in which, Hugo having heard or read of _peine forte et dure_, we find
sheriffs who discharge the duty of Old Bailey judges, fragments of Law
Latin (it is really a pity that he did not get hold of our inimitable
Law _French_), and above all, and pervading all, that most fearful
wildfowl the "wapentake," with his "iron weapon." He, with his satellite
the justicier-quorum (but, one weeps to see, not "custalorum" or
"rotalorum"), is concerned with the torture of Hardquanonne[116]--the
original malefactor[117] in Gwynplaine's case--and thereby restores
Gwynplaine to his (unsubstituted) rank in the English peerage, when he
himself is anticipating similar treatment. There is the presentation by
the librarian of the House of Lords of a "little red book" which is the
passport to the House itself: and the very unmannerly reception by his
brother peers, from which he is in a manner rescued by the chivalrous
Lord David Dirry-Moir at the price of a box on the ears for depriving
him of his "substitution." There is the misconduct of the Duchess
Josiane, divinely beautiful and diabolically wicked, who covets the
monster Gwynplaine as a lover, and discards him when, on his
peerification, he is commanded to her by Queen Anne as a husband. And
then, after all this tedious insanity and a great deal more, there is
the finale of the despair of Gwynplaine, of his recovery of the dying
Dea in a ship just starting for Holland, of her own death, and of his
suicide in the all-healing sea--a "reconciliation" not far short of the
greatest things in literature.

Now I am not of those unhappy ones who cannot away with the mixture of
tragedy and farce. I have not only read too much, but lived too long for
that. But then the farce must be in life conceivable and in literature
conscious. Shakespeare, and even men much inferior to Shakespeare, have
been able to provide for this stipulation munificently.

With Victor Hugo, generally more or less and intensively here, it was
unfortunately different. His irony was almost always his weakest point;
or rather it was a kind of hit-or-miss weapon, with which he cut himself
as often as he cut his inimical objects or persons. The intense
absurdity of his personified wapentakes, of his Tom-Jim-Jacks, of his
courtesy-title bastards, he deliberately declined (as in the anecdote
above given) to see. But these things, done and evidently thought fine
by the doer, almost put to rout the most determined and expert sifter of
the faults and merits of genius. You cannot enjoy a Garden of Eden when
at every other step you plunge into a morass of mire. You cannot drink a
draught of nectar, arranged on the plan of certain glasses of liqueur,
in superimposed layers of different savour and colour, when every other
layer is "stummed" folly or nauseous bad taste. A novel is not like a
book of poems, where, as you see that you have hit on a failure, you
turn the page and find a success. To which it may be added finally that
while erudition of _any_ kind is a doubtful set-off to fiction, the
presentation of ragbag erudition of this kind is, to speak moderately
and in his own words of something else, "a rather hideous thing."[118]

Still, with readers of a certain quality, the good omens may to some
extent shame the ill even here. The death of Dea, with its sequel, is
very nearly perfect; it only wants the verse of which its author was
such an absolute master, instead of the prose, where he alternately
triumphed and bungled, to make it so. And one need not be a common
paradoxer to take either side on the question whether on the whole the
omen, if not the actuality, of _L'Homme Qui Rit_ or that of _Les
Travailleurs de la Mer_ was the happier. For, while the earlier and
better book showed how faults were hardening and might grow worse still,
the later showed how these very faults, attaining their utmost possible
development, could not entirely stifle the rarer gifts. I do not
remember that anybody in 1869 took this apparently aleatory side of the
argument. If he did he was justified in 1874.

[Sidenote: _Quatre-Vingt-Treize._]

One enormous advantage of _Quatre-Vingt-Treize_ over its immediate
predecessor lay on the surface--an advantage enormous in all cases, but
almost incalculable in this particular one. In _L'Homme Qui Rit_ Victor
Hugo had been dealing with a subject about which he knew practically
nothing, and about which he was prepared to believe, or even practise,
anything. Here, though he was still prepared to believe a great deal, he
yet knew a very great deal more. A little room for his eccentricities
remained, and long after the truth had become a matter of registered
history, he could accept the legendary lies about the _Vengeur_; but
there was no danger of his giving us French wapentakes brandishing
iron-weapons, or calling a French noble by any appellation comparable to
Lord Linnæus[119] Clancharlie.

But, it may be said, is not the removal of these annoyances more than
compensated, in the bad sense, by things inseparable from such a
subject, as treated by such an author?--the glorification of
"Quatre-Vingt-Treize" itself, and, in particular, of the
Convention--that remarkable assembly which seems to have made up its
mind to prove for all time that, in democracies, the scum comes to the
top?--that assembly in which Fabre d'Eglantine stood for poetry, Marat
for humanitarianism, Robespierre for justice, Hébert and Chaumette for
decency, Siéyès and Chabot for different forms of religion, the
composers of the Republican Calendar[120] for common sense? where the
only suggestion of a great man was Danton, and the only substitutes for
an honest one were the prigs and pedants of the Gironde? To which the
only critical answer must be, even when the critic does not contest the
correctness of this description--"Why, no!"

It is better, no doubt, that a novelist, and that everybody else, should
be a _bien-pensant_; but, as in the case of the poet, it will not
necessarily affect his goodness in his art if he is not. He had, indeed,
best not air his opinions, whatever they are, at too great length; but
_what_ they are matters little or nothing. A Tory critic who cannot
admire Shelley or Swinburne, Dickens or Thackeray, because of their
politics, is merely an ass, an animal unfortunately to be found in the
stables or paddocks of every party. On the other hand, absurdities and
faults of taste matter very much.

Now from these latter, which had nearly ruined _L'Homme Qui Rit_,
_Quatre-Vingt-Treize_, if not entirely free, suffers comparatively
little. The early and celebrated incident of the carronade running amuck
shows characteristic neglect of burlesque possibilities (and, as I
believe some experts have maintained, of actual ones), but it has the
qualities of the Hugonian defects. An arm-chair critic may ask, Where
was the English fleet in the Channel when a French one was allowed to
come out and slowly mob the _Claymore_ to destruction, without, as far
as one sees, any interference or counter-effort, though the expedition
of that remarkable corvette formed part of an elaborate and carefully
prepared offensive?[121] Undoubtedly, the Convention scenes must be
allowed--even by sympathisers with the Revolution--to be clumsy
stopgaps, unnecessary to the action and possessed of little intrinsic
value in themselves. The old fault of verbosity and "watering out"
recurs; and so does the reappearance, with very slight change, of
figures and situations. Cimourdain in character is very much of a more
respectable Claude Frollo; and in conduct, _mutatis_ not so very many
_mutandis_, almost as much of a less respectable Javert. The death of
Gauvain is far less effective than that of Sydney Carton, which had
preceded it; and the enormous harangue of the Marquis to the nephew who
is about to liberate him, though it may be intended to heighten the
_peripeteia_, merely gives fresh evidence of Hugo's want of proportion
and of his flux of rhetoric.

All this and more is true; yet _Quatre-Vingt-Treize_ is, "in its _fine_
wrong way," a great book, and with _Les Travailleurs de la Mer_,
completes the pillars, such as they are, which support Hugo's position
as a novelist. The rescue of the children by Lantenac is superb, though
you may find twenty cavils against it easily: and the whole presentation
of the Marquis, except perhaps the speech referred to, is one of the
best pictures of the _ancienne noblesse_ in literature, one which--to
reverse the contrast just made--annihilates Dickens's caricature thereof
in _A Tale of Two Cities_. The single-handed defence of La Tourgue by
"L'Imanus" has of course a good deal of the hyperbole which began with
Quasimodo's similar act in _Notre-Dame_; but the reader who cannot "let
himself go" with it is to be pitied. Nowhere is Hugo's child-worship
more agreeably shown than in the three first chapters of the third
volume. And, sinking particulars for a more general view, one may say
that through the whole book, to an extent surpassing even _Les
Travailleurs de la Mer_ as such, there is the great Victorian _souffle_
and surge, the rush as of mighty winds and mightier waters, which
carries the reader resistlessly through and over all obstacles.

[Sidenote: Final remarks.]

Yet although Hugo thus terminated his career as a novelist, if not in
the odour of sanctity, at any rate in a comfortable cloud of incense due
to a comparative success; although he had (it is true on a much smaller
scale) even transcended that success in _Les Travailleurs de la Mer_;
although, as a mere novice, he had proved himself a more than tolerable
tale-teller in _Bug-Jargal_, it is not possible, for any critical
historian of the novel as such, to pronounce him a great artist, or even
a tolerable craftsman, in the kind as a whole. It has already been
several times remarked in detail, and may now be repeated in general,
that the things which we enjoy in his books of this kind are seldom
things which it is the special business of the novelist to produce, and
practically never those which are his chief business. In no single
instance perhaps, with the doubtful exception of Gilliatt's battle with
brute matter and elemental forces, is "the tale the thing" purely as
tale. Very seldom do we even want to know what is going to happen--the
childishly simple, but also childishly genuine demand of the reader of
romance as such, if not even of the novel also. Scarcely once do we--at
least do I--take that interest in the development of character which is
the special subject of appetite of readers of the novel, as such and by
itself. The baits and the rewards are now splendour of style; now
magnificence of imagery; sometimes grandeur of idea; often pathos; not
seldom the delight of battle in this or that sense. These are all
excellent seasonings of novelry; but they are not the root of the
matter, the _pièce de résistance_ of the feast.

Unfortunately, too, Hugo not merely cannot, or at any rate does not,
give the hungry sheep their proper food--an interesting story worked out
by interesting characters--but will persist in giving them things as
suitable (granting them to be in the abstract nourishing) as turnips to
the carnivora or legs of mutton to the sheep which walk on them. It
would, of course, not be just to press too strongly the objections to
the novel of purpose, though to the present writer they seem almost
insuperable. But it is not merely purpose in the ordinary sense which
leads Victor astray, or rather (for he was much too wilful a person to
be led) which he invents for himself to follow, with his eyes open, and
knowing perfectly well what he is doing. His digressions are not
_parabases_ of the kind which some people object to in Fielding and
still more in Thackeray--addresses to the reader on points more or less
intimately connected with the subject itself. A certain exception has
been made in favour of some of the architectural parts of _Notre-Dame de
Paris_, but it has been admitted that this will not cover "Ceci Tuera
Cela" nor much else. For the presence of the history of the sewers of
Paris in _Les Misérables_ and any number of other things; for not a
little of the first volume of _Les Travailleurs_ itself; for about half,
if not more, of _L'Homme Qui Rit_, starting from Ursus's Black-book of
fancy pleasances, palaces, and estates belonging to the fellow-peers of
Lord Linnæus Clancharlie and Hunkerville; for not a few chapters even of
_Quatre-Vingt-Treize_, there is no excuse at all. They are simply
repulsive or at least unwelcome "pledgets" of unsucculent matter stuck
into the body of fiction, as (but with how different results!) _lardons_
or pistachios or truffles are stuck into another kind of composition.

It is partly, but not wholly, due to this deplorable habit of irrelevant
divagation that Hugo will never allow his stories to "march" (at least
to begin with marching),[122] _Quatre-Vingt-Treize_ being here the only
exception among the longer romances, for even _Les Travailleurs de la
Mer_ never gets into stride till nearly the whole of the first volume is
passed. But the habit, however great a nuisance it may be to the reader,
is of some interest to the student and the historian, for the very
reason that it does not seem to be wholly an outcome of the other habit
of digression. It would thus be, in part at least, a survival of that
odd old "inability to begin" which we noticed several times in the last
volume, aggravated by the irrepressible wilfulness of the writer, and by
his determination not to do like other people, who _had_ by this time
mostly got over the difficulty.

If any further "dull moral" is wanted it may be the obvious lesson that
overpowering popularity of a particular form is sometimes a misfortune,
as that of allegory was in the Middle Ages and that of didactics in the
eighteenth century. If it had not been almost incumbent on any Frenchman
who aimed at achieving popularity in the mid-nineteenth century to
attempt the novel, it is not very likely that Hugo would have attempted
it. It may be doubted whether we should have lost any of the best
things--we should only have had them in the compacter and higher shape
of more _Orientales_, more _Chants du Crépuscule_, more _Légendes_, and
so forth. We should have lost the easily losable laugh over bug-pipe and
wapentake--for though Hugo sometimes _thought_ sillily in verse he did
not often let silliness touch his expression in the more majestical
harmony--and we should have been spared an immensely greater body of
matter which now provokes a yawn or a sigh.

This is, it may be said, after all a question of taste. Perhaps. But it
can hardly be denied by any critical student of fiction that while
Hugo's novel-work has added much splendid matter to literature, it has
practically nowhere advanced, nor even satisfactorily exemplified, the
art of the novel. It is here as an exception--marvellous, magnificent,
and as such to be fully treated; actually an honour to the art of which
it discards the requirements, but an exception merely and one which
proves, inasmuch as it justifies, the cautions it defies.[123]

FOOTNOTES:

[93] Mr. Swinburne's magnificent pæans are "vatical" certainly, but
scarcely critical, save now and then. Mr. Stevenson wrote on the
Romances, but not on "the whole."

[94] See note in Vol. I. p. 472 of this _History_, and in the present
volume, _sup._ p. 40.

[95] These crazes were not in origin, though they probably were in
influence, political: Hugo held more than one of them while he was still
a Royalist.

[96] She is of course not really Spanish or a gipsy, but is presented as
such at first.

[97] Stated in the Preface to _Cromwell_, the critical division of his
fourfold attack on neo-Classicism, as _Les Orientales_ were the
poetical, _Hernani_ was the dramatic, and _Notre-Dame_ itself the
prose-narrative.

[98] It is scarcely excessive to say that this mixture of wilful temper
and unbridled theorising was the Saturnian influence, or the "infortune
of Mart," in Hugo's horoscope throughout.

[99] Unless anybody chooses to say that the gallows and the guillotine
are Hugo's monsters here.

[100] The failure of the riskiest and most important scene of the whole
(where her surrender of herself to Phoebus is counteracted by Frollo's
stabbing the soldier, the act itself leading to Esmeralda's
incarceration) is glaring.

[101] _Le Beau Pécopin_ in his _Rhine_-book is, of course, fairly
substantial in one sense, but it is only an episode or inset-tale in
something else, which is neither novel or romance.

[102] It must be four or five times the length of Scott's average, more
than twice that of the longest books with which Dickens and Thackeray
used to occupy nearly two years in monthly instalments, and very nearly,
if not quite, that of Dumas' longest and most "spun-out" achievements in
_Monte Cristo_, the _Vicomte de Bragelonne_ and _La Comtesse de Charny_.

[103] I am not forgetting or contradicting what was said above (page 26)
of René. But René _does_ very little except when he kills the
she-beavers; Marius is always doing something, and doing it offensively.

[104] The "Je ne sais pas lire" argument has more than once suggested to
me a certain historical comparison. There have probably never been in
all history two more abominable scoundrels for cold-blooded cruelty, the
worst of all vices, than Eccelino da Romano and the late Mr. Broadhead,
patron saint and great exemplar of Trade-Unionism. Broadhead could
certainly read. Could Ezzelin? I do not know. But if he could not, the
Hugonic belief in the efficacy of reading is not strongly supported. If
he could, it is definitely damaged.

[105] _Vide_ what is said below on _Quatre-Vingt-Treize_.

[106] After the lapse of more than half a century some readers may have
forgotten, and more may never have heard, the anecdote connected with
this. It was rashly and somewhat foolishly pointed out to the
poet-romancer himself that the air of "Bonny Dundee" was the very
reverse of melancholy, and that he must have mistaken the name. His
reply was the most categoric declaration possible of his general
attitude, in such cases, "Et moi, je l'appelle 'Bonny Dundee.'" _Victor
locutus est: causa finita est_ (he liked tags of not recondite Latin
himself). And the leading case governs those of the bug-pipe and the
(later) wapentake and _justicier-quorum_, and all the other wondrous
things of which but a few can be mentioned here.

[107] I do not know whether any one has ever attempted to estimate his
actual debt to Scott. There are better classics of inquiry, but in the
class many worse subjects.

[108] In the opening scene she is something worse. If her writing
"Gilliatt" in the snow had been a sort of rustic challenge of the "malo
me petit, et fugit ad salices" kind, there might have been something
(not much) to say for her. But she did not know Gilliatt; she did not
want to know him; and the proceeding was either mere silly childishness,
or else one of those pieces of bad taste of which her great creator was
unluckily by no means incapable.

[109] I use this adjective in no contumelious sense, and certainly not
because I have lived in Guernsey and only visited Jersey. To the
impartial denizen of either, the rivalry of the two is as amusing as is
that of Edinburgh and Glasgow, of Liverpool and Manchester, or of
Bradford and Leeds. But, at any rate at the time of which I am speaking,
Jersey was much more haunted by outsiders (in several senses of that
word) than Guernsey. Residents--whether for the purposes unblushingly
avowed by that sometime favourite of the stage, Mr. Eccles, or for the
reasons less horrifying to the United Kingdom Alliance--found themselves
more at home in "Caesarea" than in "Sarnia," and the "five-pounder," as
the summer tripper was despiteously called by natives, liked to go as
far as he could for his money, and found St. Helier's "livelier" than
St. Peter Port.

[110] Really good wines were proportionally cheap; but the little isle
was not quite so good at beer, except some remarkable old ale, which one
small brewery had ventured on, and which my friends of the 22nd Regiment
discovered and (very wisely) drank up.--It may surprise honest fanatics
and annoy others to hear that, despite the cheapness and abundance of
their bugbear, there was no serious crime of any kind in Guernsey during
the six years I knew it, and no disorder worth speaking of, even among
sailors and newly arrived troops.

[111] The shape of the island; the position of its only "residential"
town of any size in the middle of one of the coasts, so that the roads
spread fan-wise from it; the absence of any large flat space except in
the northern parish of "The Vale"; the geological formation which tends,
as in Devonshire, to sink the roads into deep and sometimes "water"
lanes; lastly, perhaps, the extreme subdivision of property, which
multiplies the ways of communication--these things contribute to this
"_pedestrian_-paradise" character. There are many places where, with
plenty of good walking "objectives," you can get to none of them without
a disgusting repetition of the same initial grind. In Guernsey, except
as regards the sea, which never wearies, there is no such even partial
monotony.

[112] It is well known that even among great writers this habit of
duplication is often, though very far from always, present. Hugo is
specially liable to it. The oddest example I remember is that the
approach to the Dutch ship at the end of _L'Homme Qui Rit_ reproduces on
the Thames almost exactly the details of the iron gate of the sewers on
the Seine, where Thénardier treacherously exposes Valjean to the
clutches of Javert, in _Les Misérables_, though of course the use made
of it is quite different.

[113] It must be remembered that this also belongs to the Channel
Islands division: and the Angel of the Sea has still some part in it.

[114] Those of _Ivanhoe_ and _Kenilworth_ have enraged pedants and
amused the elect for a century. But I do not remember much notice being
taken of that jump of half a millennium and one year more in _The
Talisman_, where Count Henry of Champagne "smiles like a sparkling
goblet of his own wine." This was in 1192, while the ever-blessed Dom
Pérignon did not make champagne "sparkle" till 1693. Idolatry may
suggest that "sparkling" is a perpetual epithet of wine; but I fear this
will not do.

[115] _Substitué_ means "entailed" in technical French. But I know no
instance of this kind of "contingent remainder" in England.

[116] A compound (as Victor himself might suggest) of "Hardyknut" and
"Sine qua non"? Or "Hardbake"?

[117] He has been found out through the agency of one "Barkilphedro"
(Barkis-Phaedrus?), an Irishman of familiar sept, who is "Decanter of
the Bottles of the Sea," and who finds, in one of his trovers, a
derelict gourd of confession thrown overboard by the Comprachicos when
wrecked (in another half-volume earlier) all over the Channel from
Portland to Alderney.

[118] Perhaps there is no more conspicuous instance of irritating
futility in this way than the famous [Greek: anagkê] and [Greek:
anagneia] of _Notre-Dame_. Of course anybody who knows no Greek can see
that the first four letters of the two words are the same. But anybody
who knows some Greek knows that the similarity is purely _literal_, such
as exists between "Chateaubriand" and "Chat Botté" and that the [Greek:
an] has a different origin in the two cases. Moreover, [Greek:
anagneia], "uncleanness," is about the last word one would choose to
express the _liaison_ of thought--"The dread constraint of physical
passion" or "Lust is Fate"--which Hugo wishes to indicate. It is a mere
jingle, suggestive of a schoolboy turning over the dictionary.

[119] That the only person at all likely to be "name-father" of this
name was not born till a considerable time after his name-child's death
would perhaps be worth remarking in another writer. In Hugo it hardly
counts.

[120] Let me do even _them_ one justice in this connection. They did not
suppose that the only way to make people get up earlier was to make
these people's clocks and watches tell lies.

[121] There is a smaller point which might be taken up. Undoubtedly
there were many double traitors on both sides in the other Great War.
But, like all their kind, they had a knack for being found out. Dumas
would, I think, have given us something satisfactory as to the
"aristocrat" at Jersey who betrayed the _Claymore_ to the Revolutionary
authorities.

[122] It is impossible, with him, not to think of Baudelaire's great
line in _L'Albatros_ (which some may have read even before _Les
Travailleurs_)--

     "Ses ailes de géant l'empêchent de _marcher_,"

though the sense is not absolutely coextensive.

[123] If I have spoken above "so that the Congregation be thereby
offended," let me point out that there is no other way of dealing with
the subject critically, except perhaps by leaving a page blank save for
such words, in the middle of it, as "Victor Hugo is Victor Hugo; and he
is for each reader to take or to leave." _He_ would, I think, have
rather liked this; _I_ should not, as a person, dislike it; but I fear
it might not suit with my duty as a critic and a historian.



CHAPTER IV

BEYLE AND BALZAC


There may possibly be some readers who might prefer that the two
novelists whose names head this chapter should be treated each in a
chapter to himself. But after trying several plans (for I can assure
such readers that the arrangement of this History has been the reverse
of haphazard) I have thought it best to yoke them. That they have more
in common with each other, not merely than either has with Hugo or
Dumas, or even George Sand, but than either of these three has with the
others, few will deny. And as a _practising_ novelist Beyle has hardly
substance enough to stand by himself, though as an influence--for a time
and that no short one and still existing--scarcely any writer in our
whole list has been more efficacious. It is not my purpose, nor, I
think, my duty, to say much about their relations to each other; indeed
Beyle delayed his novel-work so long, and Balzac codified his own so
carefully and so early, that the examination of the question would need
to be meticulous, and might even be a little futile in a general
history, though it is an interesting subject for a monograph. It is
enough to say that, _generally_, both belong to the analytical rather
than to the synthetical branch of novel-writing, and may almost be said
between them to have introduced the analytical romance; that they
compose their palettes of sombre and neutral rather than of brilliant
colours; that actual "story interest" is not what they, as a rule,[124]
aim at. Finally--though this may be a proposition likely to be disputed
with some heat in one case if not in both--their conception of humanity
has a certain "other-worldliness" about it, though it is as far as
possible from being what is usually understood by the adjective
"unworldly" and though the forms thereof in the two only partially
coincide.

[Sidenote: Beyle--his peculiarity.]

Of the books of Henri Beyle, otherwise Stendhal,[125] to say that they
are not like anything else will only seem banal to those who bring the
banality with them. To annoy these further by opposing pedantry to
banality, one might say that the aseity is quintessential. There
never--to be a man of great power, almost genius, a commanding
influence, and something like the founder of a characteristic school of
literature--was such a _habitans in sicco_ as Beyle; indeed his
substance and his atmosphere are not so much dry as _desiccated_. The
dryness is not like that which was attributed in the last volume to
Hamilton, which is the dryness of wine: it is almost the dryness of
ashes. By bringing some humour of your own[126] you may confection a
sort of grim comedy out of parts of his work, but that is all. At the
same time, he has an astonishing command of such reality, and even
vitality, as will (one cannot say survive but) remain over the process
of desiccation.

That Beyle was not such a passionless person as he gave himself out to
be in his published works was of course always suspected, and more than
suspected, by readers with any knowledge of human nature. It was finally
proved by the autobiographic _Vie de Henri Brulard_, and the other
remains which were at last given to the world, nearly half a century
after the author's death, by M. Casimir Stryienski. But the great part
which he played in producing a new kind of novel is properly concerned
with the earlier and larger division of the work, though the posthumous
stuff reinforces this.

[Sidenote: _Armance._]

Some one, I believe, has said--many people may have said--that you never
get a much truer notion, though you may afterwards get a clearer and
fuller, of a writer than from his earliest work.[127] _Armance_, Beyle's
first published novel,[128] though by no means the one which has
received most attention, is certainly illuminating. Or rather, perhaps
one should say that it poses the puzzle which Beyle himself put briefly
in the words quoted by his editor and biographer: "Qu'ai-j'été? que
suis-je? En vérité je serais bien embarrassé de le dire." To tell equal
truth, it is but a dull book in itself, surcharged with a vague
political spite, containing no personage whom we are permitted to like
(it would be quite possible to like Armance de Zohiloff if we were only
told less _about_ her and allowed to see and hear more _of_ her), and
possessing, for a hero, one of the most obnoxious and foolish prigs that
I can remember in any novel. Octave de Malivert unites varieties of
detestableness in a way which might be interesting if (to speak with
only apparent flippancy) it were made so. He is commonplace in his
adoration of his mother and his neglect (though his historian calls it
"respect") of his father; he is constantly a prig, as when he is shocked
at people for paying more attention to him when they hear that his
parents are going to be indemnified to a large extent for the thefts of
their property at the Revolution; he is such a sneak and such a snob
that he is always eavesdropping to hear what people say about him; such
a bounder that he disturbs his neighbours by talking loud at the play;
such a brute that he deliberately kills a rather harmless coxcomb of a
marquis who rebukes him for making this _tapage_; and such a still
greater brute (for in the duel he had himself been wounded) that he
throws out of the window an unfortunate lackey who gets in his way at a
party where Octave has, as usual, lost his temper. Finally, he is a
combination of prig, sneak, cad, brute, and fool when (having picked up
and read a forged letter which is not addressed to him, though it has
been put by enemies in his way) he believes, without any enquiry, that
his unlucky cousin Armance, to whom he is at last engaged, is deceiving
him, but marries her all the same, lives with her (she loves him
frantically) for a few days, and then, pretending to go to the succour
of the Greeks, poisons himself on board ship--rather more, as far as one
can make out, in order to annoy her than for any other reason. That
there are the elements, and something more than the elements, of a
powerful story in this is of course evident; there nearly always are
such elements in Beyle, and that is why he has his place here. But, as
has been said, the story is almost as dull as it is disagreeable.
Unluckily, too, it is, like most of his other books, pervaded by an
unpleasant suggestion that the disagreeableness is intimately connected
with the author's own nature. As with Julien Sorel (_v. inf._) so with
Octave de Malivert, one feels that, though Beyle would never have
behaved exactly like his book-child, that book-child has a great deal
too much of the uncanny and semi-diabolical doubles of some occult
stories in it--is, in fact, an incarnation of the bad Beyle, the seamy
side of Beyle, the creature that Beyle might have been but for the grace
of that God in whom he did not believe. Which things, however one may
have schooled oneself not to let book and author interfere with each
other, are not comfortable.

It ought, however, to be said that _Armance_ is an early and remarkable
Romantic experiment in several ways, not least in the foreign mottoes,
English, Portuguese, Spanish, and German, which are prefixed to the
chapters. Unluckily some of them[129] are obviously retranslated from
French versions unverified by the originals, and once there is a most
curious blunder. Pope's description of Belinda's neck and cross, not
quite in the original words but otherwise exact, is attributed
to--Schiller!

[Sidenote: _La Chartreuse de Parme._]

I have read, I believe, as much criticism as most men, possibly, indeed,
a little more than most, and I ought long ago to have been beyond the
reach of shocking, startling, or any other movement of surprise at any
critical utterance whatsoever. But I own that an access of _fou rire_
once came upon me when I was told in a printed page that _La Chartreuse
de Parme_ was a "very lively and very amusing book." A book of great and
peculiar power it most undoubtedly is, a book standing out in the
formidable genealogy of "psychological" novels as (_salva reverentia_)
certain names stand out from the others in the greater list that opens
the first chapter of St. Matthew. But "lively"? and "amusing"? Wondrous
hot indeed is this snow, and more lustrous than any ebony are the
clerestories towards the south-north of this structure.

[Sidenote: The Waterloo episode.]

[Sidenote: The subject and general colour.]

To begin with, there rests on the whole book that oppression of _récit_
which has been not unfrequently dwelt upon in the last volume, and
sometimes this. Of the 440 pages, tightly printed, of the usual reprint,
I should say that two-thirds at least are solid, or merely broken by one
or two paragraphs, which are seldom conversational. This, it may be
said, is a purely mechanical objection. But it is not so. Although the
action is laid in the time contemporary with the writer and writing,
from the fall of Napoleon onwards, and in the country (Italy) that he
knew best, the whole cast and scheme are historical, the method is that
of a lecturer at a panorama, who describes and points while the panorama
itself passes a long way off behind a screen of clear but thick glass.
In two or perhaps three mostly minute parts or scenes this description
may seem unjust. One, the first, the longest, and the best, is perhaps
also the best-known of all Beyle's work: it is the sketch of the
_débâcle_ after Waterloo. (It is not wonderful that Beyle should know
something about retreats, for, though he was not at Waterloo, he had
come through the Moscow trial.) This is a really marvellous thing and
intensely interesting, though, as is almost always the case with the
author, strangely unexciting. The interest is purely intellectual, and
is actually increased by comparison with Hugo's imaginative account of
the battle itself; but you do not care the snap of a finger whether the
hero, Fabrice, gets off or not. Another patch later, where this same
Fabrice is attacked by, and after a rough-and-tumble struggle kills, his
saltimbanque rival in the affections of a low-class actress, and then
has a series of escapes from the Austrian police on the banks of the Po,
has a little more of the exciting about it. So perhaps for some--I am
not sure that it has for me--may have the final, or provisionally final,
escape from the Farnese Tower. And there is, even outside of these
passages, a good deal of scattered incident.

But these interesting plums, such as even they are, are stuck in an
enormous pudding of presentation of the intrigues and vicissitudes of a
petty Italian court,[130] in which, and in the persons who take part in
them, I at least find it difficult to take the very slightest interest.
Fabrice del Dongo himself,[131] with whom every woman falls in love, and
who candidly confesses that he does not know whether he has ever been
really in love with any woman--though there is one possible exception
precedent, his aunt, the Duchess of Sanseverina, and one subsequent,
Clélia Conti, who saves him from prison, as above--is depicted with
extraordinary science of human nature. But it is a science which, once
more, excludes passion, humour, gusto--all the _fluids_ of real or
fictitious life. Fabrice is like (only "much more also") the simulacra
of humanity that were popular in music-halls a few years ago. He walks,
talks, fights, eats, drinks, _thinks_ even, and makes love if he does
not feel it, exactly like a human being. Except the "fluids" just
mentioned, it is impossible to mention anything human that he lacks. But
he lacks these, and by not having them lacks everything that moves the
reader.

And so it is more or less with all of them: with the Duchess and Clélia
least perhaps, but even with them to some extent; with the Duchess's
first _cicisbeo_ and then husband, Count Mosca, prime minister of the
Duke of Parma; with his master, the feebly cruel and feebly tyrannical
Ranuce-Ernest IV.; with the opposition intriguers at court; with the
Archbishop, to whom Fabrice is made, by the influence of Count and
Duchess, coadjutor and actual successor; with Clélia's father and her
very much belated husband--with all of them in short. You cannot say
they are "out"; on the contrary they do and say exactly what in the
circumstances they would do and say. Their creator's remarks about them
are sometimes of a marvellous subtlety, expressed in a laconism which
seems to regard Marivaudage or Meredithese with an aristocratic disdain.
But at other times this laconic letter literally killeth. Perhaps two
examples of the two effects should be given:

     (_Fabrice has found favour in the eyes and arms of the
     actress Marietta_)

     The love of this pretty Marietta gave Fabrice all the charms
     of the sweetest friendship. _And this made him think of the
     happiness of the same kind which he might have found with
     the Duchess herself._

If this is not "piercing to the accepted hells beneath" with a
diamond-pointed plunger, I know not what is.

But much later, quite towards the end of the book, the author has to
tell how Fabrice again and Clélia "forgot all but love" in one of their
stolen meetings to arrange his escape.

     (_He has, by the way, told a lie to make her think he is
     poisoned_)

     She was so beautiful--half-dressed and in a state of extreme
     passion as she was--that Fabrice could not resist an almost
     involuntary movement. No resistance was opposed.[132]

Now I am not (see _Addenda and Corrigenda_ of the last volume) avid of
expatiations of the Laclosian kind. But this is really a little too much
of the "Spanish-fleet-taken-and-burnt-as-per-margin" order.

[Sidenote: _L'Abbesse de Castro_, etc.]

Much the same characteristics, but necessarily on a small scale, appear
in the short stories usually found under the title of the first and
longest of them, _L'Abbesse de Castro_. Two of these, _Mina de Wangel_
and _Le Philtre_, are _historiettes_ of the passion which is absent from
_La Chartreuse de Parme_; but each is tainted with the _macabre_ touch
which Beyle affected or which (for that word is hardly fair) was natural
to him. In one a German girl of high rank and great wealth falls in love
with a married man, separates him from his wife by a gross deception,
lives with him for a time; and when he leaves her on finding out the
fraud, blows her brains out. In the other a Spanish lady, seduced and
maltreated by a creole circus-rider of the worst character, declares to
a more honourable lover her incurable passion for the scoundrel and
takes the veil. The rest are stories of the Italian Renaissance, grimy
and gory as usual. Vittoria Accoramboni herself figures, but there is no
evidence that Beyle (although he had some knowledge of English
literature[133]) knew at the time our glorious "White Devil," and his
story dwells little on her faults and much on the punishment of her
murderers. _L'Abbesse de Castro_ itself, _La Duchesse de Palliano_, _San
Francesco à Ripa_, _Vanina Vanini_ are all of the same type and all full
of the gloomier items seen by the Dreamer of Fair Women--

    Scaffolds, still sheets of water, divers woes,
    Ranges of glimmering vaults with iron grates,

and blood everywhere. And these unmerry tales are always recounted _ab
extra_; in fact, many of them are real or pretended abstracts from
chronicles of the very kind which furnished Browning with the matter of
_The Ring and the Book_. It is, however, more apt and more curious to
compare them with the scenes of Gerard's experiences with the princess
in _The Cloister and the Hearth_, as instances of different handling of
the same matter by two novelists of talent almost, if not quite,
reaching genius.

[Sidenote: _Le Rouge et le Noir._]

This singular aloofness, this separation of subject and spectator by a
vast and impenetrable though translucent wall, as in a museum or a
_morgue_, is characteristic of all Beyle's books more or less. In fact,
he somewhere confesses--the confession having, as always in persons of
anything like his stamp, the nature of a boast--that he cannot write
otherwise than in _récit_, that the broken conversational or dramatic
method is impossible to him. But an almost startling change--or perhaps
it would be more accurate to say reinforcement--of this method appears
in what seems to me by far the most remarkable and epoch-making of his
books, _Le Rouge et le Noir_. That there is a strong autobiographic
element in this, though vigorously and almost violently "transposed,"
must have been evident to any critical reader long ago. It became not
merely evident but _evidenced_ by the fresh matter published thirty
years since.

[Sidenote: Beyle's masterpiece, and why.]

The book is a long one; it drags in parts; and, long as it is, there is
stuff in it for a much longer--indeed preferably for two or three. It is
not only a _roman passionnel_, as Beyle understood passion, not only a
collection of Parisian and Provincial scenes, but a romance of secret
diplomacy, and one of Seminarist life, with constant side-excursions of
Voltairianism, in religion, of the revolutionary element in politics
which Voltaire did not ostensibly favour, however much he may have been
responsible for it, of private cynicism, and above all and most
consistently of all, of that psychological realism, which is perhaps a
more different thing from psychological reality than our clever ones for
two generations have been willing to admit, or, perhaps, able to
perceive.

That--to adopt a division which foolish folk have sneered at directly
and indirectly, but which is valuable and almost necessary in the case
of second-class literature--it is rather an unpleasant than a pleasant
book, must be pretty well apparent from what has been already said of
its author and itself. That it is a powerful one follows almost in the
same way. But what has to be said, for the first, if not also the last,
time in reference to Beyle's fiction, is that it is interesting.

[Sidenote: Julien Sorel and Mathilde de la Mole.]

The interest depends almost entirely--I really do not think it would be
rash to say entirely--upon the hero and one of the heroines. The other
personages are dramatically and psychologically competent, but Beyle
has--perhaps save in one or two cases intentionally--made them something
of _comparses_ or "supers." There may be two opinions about the other
heroine, Madame de Rênal, Julien Sorel's first and last love, his victim
in two senses and directly the cause of his death, though he was not
directly the cause of hers. She seems to me merely what the French call
a _femmelette_, feebly amorous, feebly fond of her children, feebly
estranged from and unfaithful to her husband, feebly though fatally
jealous of and a traitress to her lover--feebly everything. Shakespeare
or Miss Austen[134] could have made such a character interesting, Beyle
could not. Nor do the other "seconds"--Julien's brutal peasant father
and brothers, the notables of Verrières, the husband, M. de Rênal
(himself a _gentillâtre_, as well as a man of business, a bully, and a
blockhead), and the hero's just failure of a father-in-law, the Marquis
de la Mole--seem to me to come up to the mark. But, after all, they
furnish forth the action, and are necessary in their various ways to set
forth the character of that hero and his second love, almost in the
mediaeval sense his wife and his widow, Mathilde de la Mole, heiress,
great lady, _fille folle de son corps_, and, in a kind of way, Queen
Whims.

Julien Sorel, allowance being made for his date, is one of the most
remarkable heroes of fiction. He is physically handsome, in fact
beautiful,[135] intellectually very clever, and possessed, in especial,
of a marvellous memory; also, though not well educated early, capable of
learning anything in a very short time--but presented in these
favourable lights without any exaggeration. A distinguished Lord Justice
was said by his admirers, at the beginning of his manhood, to have
obtained more marks in examinations than any youthful person in the
United Kingdom: and Julien, with equal opportunities, would probably
have done the same in France. Morally, in no limited sense of the word,
he does not possess a single good quality, and does possess most bad
ones, with the possible exceptions of gluttony and avarice. That, being
in each case a family tutor or _employé_ under trust, he seduces the
wife of his first employer and the daughter of the second, cannot, in
the peculiar circumstances, be said to count. This is, as it were, the
starting-point, the necessary handicap, in the competition of this kind
of novel. It is as he is, and in reference to what he does, after this
is put aside, that he has to be considered. He is not a stage villain,
though he has the peculiar, and in the circumstances important, if
highly-to-be-deprecated habit of carrying pocket-pistols. He is not a
Byronic hero with a terrible but misty past. He is not like Valmont of
the _Liaisons Dangereuses_,[136] a professional and passionless
lady-killer. He is not a swindler nor (though he sometimes comes near to
this also) a conspirator like Count Fosco of _The Woman in White_. One
might make a long list of such negatives if it were worth while. He is
only an utterly selfish, arrogant, envious, and generally
bad-blooded[137] young man, whom circumstances partly, and his own
misdeeds helping them, first corrupt and then destroy. You never
sympathise with him for one moment, except in a peculiar fashion to be
noted presently; but at the same time he neither quite bores you nor
quite disgusts you. _Homo est_, and it is Beyle's having made him so
that makes Beyle a sort of genius and much more than a sort of novelist.

But I am not certain that Mathilde is not even a greater creation,
though again it is, except quite towards the end, equally impossible to
like her. _Femina est_, though sometimes _furens_, oftener still
_furiosa_ (in a still wider sense than that in which Mr. Norris has[138]
ingeniously "feminated" Orlando _Furioso_), and, in part of her conduct
already alluded to, as destitute of any morality as Julien himself.
Although there could hardly be (and no doubt had better not be) many
like her, she is real and true, and there are not a few redeeming
features in her artistically and even personally. She is, as has been
said, both rich and noble, the famous lover of the third Valois
Marguerite being an (I suppose collateral) ancestor of hers.[139] Her
father is not merely a patrician but a Minister at the close of the
French Restoration; she may marry any one she likes; and has, in fact, a
train of admirers whom she alternately cajoles and snubs. Julien is
taken into the household as half private secretary, half librarian; is
especially favoured by her father, and treated by her brother (one of
Beyle's few thoroughly good fellows) almost on equal terms. But his bad
blood and his want of breeding make him stiff and mysterious, and
Mathilde takes a perverse fancy to him, the growth of which is skilfully
drawn. Although she is nothing so little as a Lélia or an Indiana or a
Valentine (_vide_ next chapter), she is idiosyncratically romantic, and
at last it is a case of ladders up to the window, "the irreparable," and
various wild performances on her part and her lover's. But this is all
comparatively banal. Beyle's touch of genius only reappears later. An
extraordinary but (when one comes to think of it) not in the least
unnatural series of "ups and downs" follows. Julien's bad blood and
vulgar nature make him presume on the advantage he has obtained;
Mathilde's _morgue_ and hot-headedness make her feel degraded by what
she has given. She neglects him and he becomes quite frantic about
_her_; he takes sudden dudgeon and she becomes frantically desirous of
_him_. This spiritual or emotional man-and-woman-in-the-weather-house
business continues; but at last, with ambages and minor peripeteias
impossible to abstract, it so comes about that the great and proud
Marquis de La Mole, startlingly but not quite improbably, chooses to
recognise this traitor and seducer as a possible by-blow of nobility,
gets him a commission, endows him handsomely, and all but gives his
consent to a marriage.

Then the final revolution comes. With again extraordinary but, as it is
told, again not inconceivable audacity, Julien refers for character to
his first mistress in both senses, Madame de Rênal, and she "gives him
away." The marquis breaks off the treaties, and Julien, leaving his
quarters, journeys down to Verrières and shoots Madame de Rênal (with
the pocket-pistols) in church. She does not die, and is not even very
seriously wounded; but he is tried, is (according, it would seem, to a
state of French law, which contrasts most remarkably with one's recent
knowledge of it) condemned, and after a time is executed for a murder
which has not been committed. Mathilde (who is to bear him a child and
always considers herself his wife) and Madame de Rênal both visit him in
prison, the former making immense efforts to save him. But Julien,
consistently with his character all through, is now rather bored by
Mathilde and exceedingly fond of Madame de Rênal, who dies shortly
after him. What becomes of Mathilde we are not told, except that she
devotes herself to her paulo-post-future infant. The mere summary may
seem rather preposterous; the book is in a way so. But it is also, in no
ordinary sense, once more real and true. It has sometimes been regarded
as a childish, but I believe it to be a true, criterion of novels that
the reader should feel as if he would like to have had personal dealings
with the personages. I should very much like to have shot[140] Julien
Sorel, though it would have been rather an honour for him. And I should
very much like to have made Mathilde fall in love with me. As for Madame
de Rênal, she was only good for suckling fools and telling tales out of
school. But I do not find fault with Beyle for drawing her, and she,
too, is very human.

In fact the book, pleasant or unpleasant, if we reflect on what the
French novel was at the time, deserves a very high place. Compare it
with others, and nowhere, except in Balzac, will you find anything like
it for firm analysis of character, while I confess that it seems to me
to be more strictly human of this world, and at the same time more
original,[141] than a good deal of the _Comédie_.

[Sidenote: The resuscitated work--_Lamiel_.]

The question, "Would a novelist in altered circumstances have given us
more or better novels?" is sometimes treated as _ultra vires_ or _nihil
ad rem_ on the critic's part. I myself have been accused rather of
limiting than of extending the province of the literary critic; yet I
think this question is, sometimes at least, in place. If so, it can
seldom be more in place than with Beyle, first because of the unusually
mperfect character of his actual published work; and secondly, because
of the still more unusual abundance of half-done work, or of fragments
of self-criticism, which what has been called the "Beyle resurrection"
of the close of the last century has furnished. Indeed the unfinished
and scarcely more than half-drafted novel of _Lamiel_ almost by itself
suggests the question and supplies the answer. That answer--except from
favourers of the grime-novel which, oddly enough, whether by coincidence
or common causation became so popular at about the time of this
"resurrection"--can hardly be favourable. _Lamiel_ is a very grubby
little book. The eponymous heroine is adopted as a child by a parish
beadle and his wife, who do not at all maltreat her, except by bringing
her up in ways of extreme propriety, which she detests, taking delight
in the histories of Mandrin, Cartouche and Co. At early maidenhood she
is pitched upon as _lectrice_, and in a way favourite, by the great lady
of the neighbourhood, the Duchess of Miossens; and in this position
first attracts the attention of a peculiarly diabolical little dwarf
doctor, who, bar the comic[142] element, reminds one rather of Quilp.
His designs are, however, baulked in a most Beylian manner; for Lamiel
(who, by a pleasing chance, was at first called "Amiel"--a delightfully
_other_ Amiel!) coolly bestows some money upon a peasant to "teach her
what love is," and literally asks the Gebirian question about the ocean,
"Is this all?" after receiving the lesson. Further, in the more and more
unfinished parts of the book, she levants for a time with the young
duke, quits him, becomes a professional hetaera in Paris, but never
takes any fancy to the business of her avocation till she meets an
all-conquering criminal, Valbayre.[143] The scenario tells us that,
Valbayre having been caught by justice, she sets fire to the Palace
thereof, and her own bones are discovered in the ashes.

This, though Beyle at least meant to season the misanthropy with irony
(he might be compared with Meredith for some slightly cryptic views of
"the Comic Spirit"), is rather poor stuff, and certainly shows no
improvement or likelihood of improvement on the earlier productions. It
is even somewhat lamentable, not so much for the presence of grime as
because of the absence of any other attraction. _Le Rouge et le Noir_ is
not exactly rose-pink, but it derives hardly any, if any, interest from
its smirches of mud and blood and blackness. In _Lamiel_ there is little
else. Moreover, that unchallengeable "possibility of humanity" which
redeems not merely _Le Rouge et le Noir_ but the less exciting books, is
wanting here. Sansfin, the doctor, is a mere monstrosity in mind as well
as in body, and, except perhaps when she ejaculates (as more briefly
reported above), "Comment! ce fameux amour, _ce n'est que ça_?" Lamiel
herself is not made interesting.

[Sidenote: The _Nouvelles Inédites_.]

The _Vie de Henri Brulard_, of high importance for a History of
Novelists, is in strictness outside the subject of a historian of the
Novel, though it might be adduced to strengthen the remarks made on
Rousseau's _Confessions_.[144] And the rest of the "resurrected" matter
is also more autobiographical, or at best illustrative of Beyle's
restless and "masterless" habit of pulling his work to pieces--of "never
being able to be ready" (as a deservedly unpopular language has
it)--than contributory to positive novel-achievement. But the first and
by far the most substantive of the _Nouvelles Inédites_, which his
amiable but not very strong-minded literary executor, Colomb, published
soon after his death, needs a little notice.

[Sidenote: _Le Chasseur Vert._]

_Le Chasseur Vert_[145] (which had three other titles, three successive
prefaces, and in its finished, or rather unfinished, form is the salvage
of five folio volumes of MS., the rest being at best sketched and at
worst illegible) contains, in what we have of it, the account of the
tribulations of a young sub-lieutenant of Lancers (with a great deal of
money, a cynical but rather agreeable banker-papa, an adoring mother,
and the record of an expulsion from the Polytechnique for supposed
Republicanism) suddenly pitchforked into garrison, soon after the
Revolution of July, at Nancy. Here, in the early years of the July
monarchy, the whole of decent society is Legitimist; a very small but
not easily suppressible minority Republican; while officialdom, civil
and military, forms a peculiar _juste milieu_, supporting itself by
espionage and by what Their Majesties of the present moment, the Trade
Unions, call "victimisation," but in a constant state of alarm for its
position, and "looking over its shoulder" with a sort of threefold
squint, at the white flag, the eagles--and the guillotine. Nothing
really happens, but it takes 240 pages to bring us to an actual meeting
between Lieutenant Lucien Leeuwen and his previously at distance adored
widow, the Marquise de Chasteller.

The book is not a _very_ good novel, even as a fragment, and probably
nothing would ever have made it so as a whole. But there is good
novel-stuff in it, and it is important to a student of the novel and
almost indispensable to a student of this novelist. Of the cynical
papa--who, when his son comes to him in a "high-falutin" mood, requests
him to go to his (the papa's) opera-box, to replace his sire with some
agreeable girl-officials of that same institution, and to spend at least
200 francs on a supper for them at the Rocher--one would gladly see
more. Of the barrack (or rather _not_-barrack) society at Nancy, the
sight given, though not agreeable, is interesting, and to any one who
knew something of our old army, especially before the abolition of
purchase, very curious. There is no mess-room and apparently no common
life at all, except on duty and at the "pension" hotel-meals, to
which,--rather, it would seem, at the arbitrary will of the colonel than
by "regulation,"--you have to subscribe, though you may, and indeed
must, live in lodgings exactly like a _particulier_. Of the
social-political life of the place we see rather too much, for Beyle,
not content with making the politics which he does not like make
themselves ridiculous--or perhaps not being able to do so--himself tells
us frequently that they _are_ ridiculous, which is not equally
effective. So also, instead of putting severe or "spiritual" speeches in
Lucien's mouth, he tells us that they _were_ spiritual or severe, an
assurance which, of course, we receive with due politeness, but which
does not give us as much personal delectation as might be supplied by
the other method. No doubt this and other things are almost direct
results of that preference for _récit_ over semi-dramatic evolution of
the story by deed and word, which has been noticed. But they are
damaging results all the same: and, after making the fairest allowance
for its incomplete condition, the thing may be said to support, even
more than _Lamiel_ does, the conclusion already based upon the
self-published stories (and most of all upon that best of them, _Le
Rouge et le Noir_) that Beyle could never have given us a thoroughly
hit-off novel.

[Sidenote: Beyle's place in the story.]

Still, there is always something unfair in making use of "Remains," and
for my part I do not think that, unless they are of extraordinary merit,
they should ever be published. "Death _should_ clear all scores" in this
way as in others. Yet no really critical person will think the worse of
Beyle's published work because of these _anecdota_, though they may, as
actually before us, be taken as throwing some light on what is not so
good in the _publicata_. There can be no doubt that Beyle occupies a
very important position in the history of the novel, and not of the
French novel only, as the first, or almost the first, analyst of the
ugly for fictitious purposes, and as showing singular power in his
analysis. Unfortunately his synthetic gifts were not equally great. He
had strange difficulty in making his stories _march_; he only now and
then got them to _run_; and though the real life of his characters has
been acknowledged, it is after all a sort of "Life-in-Death," a new
manifestation of the evil power of that mysterious entity whom
Coleridge, if he did not discover, first named and produced in
quasi-flesh, though he left us without any indication of more than one
tiny and accidental part of her dread kingdom.

He has thus the position of _père de famille_, whether (to repeat the
old joke) of a _famille déplorable_ in the moral, not the sentimental,
sense, must, I suppose, be left matter of opinion. The plentiful crop of
monographs about him since M. Stryienski's Pompeian explorations and
publications is in a manner--if only in a manner--justified by the
numerous followers--not always or perhaps often conscious followers, and
so even more important--in his footsteps. Nobody can say that the
picaresque novelists, whether in their original country or when the
fashion had spread, were given to _berquinades_ or fairy-tales. Nobody
can say that the tale-writers who preceded and followed them were
apostles of virtue or painters of Golden-Age scenes. But, with some
exceptions (chiefly Italian) among the latter, they did not, unless
their aim were definitely tragical--an epithet which one could show, on
irrefragable Aristotelian principles, to be rarely if ever applicable to
Beyle and his school--they did not, as the common phrase goes, "take a
gloomy view" only. There were cakes and ale; and the cakes did not
always give internal pains, nor the ale a bad headache. As even Hazlitt
(who has been selected, not without reason, as in many ways like Beyle)
said of himself on his death-bed, rather to some folks' surprise though
not to mine, most of the characters "had a happy life," though the
happiness might be chequered: and some of them were "good." It is
scarcely an exaggeration to say that in Beyle's books happiness does not
exist, and virtue has hardly a place. There are some characters who may
be said to be neutral or "on the line"; they may be not definitely
unhappy or definitely bad. But this is about as far as he ever goes in
that direction. And accordingly he and his followers have the fault of
one-sidedness; they may (he did) see life steadily, but they do not see
it whole. There is no need to preach a sermon on the text: in this book
there is full need to record the fact.[146]

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Balzac--conditions of the present dealing.]

In dealing with Beyle's greater companion here there are certain
things--not exactly difficulties, but circumstances conditioning the
treatment--which should be stated. That it is well to know something
about your subject has been an accepted doctrine with all save very
young persons, idle paradoxers, and (according to Sir Walter Scott) the
Scottish Court of Session in former days.[147] That it is also well not
to know too much about it has sometimes been maintained, without any
idleness in either sense of the word; the excess being thought likely to
cause weariness, "staleness," and absence of interest. If this were
necessarily so, it might be better for the writer once more to leave
this part of the chapter (since at least the heading of it could not
possibly be omitted in the history) a blank or a constellation of
asterisks in Sternian fashion. For it has fallen to his lot to translate
one whole novel of Balzac's,[148] to edit a translation of the entire
_Comédie_,[149] superintending some of the volumes in narrow detail, and
studying each in short, but (intentionally at least) thorough
_Introductions_, with a very elaborate preface-study of the whole; to
read all Balzac's rather voluminous miscellanea from the early
novel-attempts to posthumous things, including letters; and, finally, to
discuss the subject once more, with the aid or burden of many previous
commentaries, in a long _Review_ article.[150] Nevertheless, he does not
feel that any disgust forbids while a clear duty calls: and he hopes to
show that it is not always necessary to weary of quails as in the
Biblical, partridges as in the old _fabliau_, and pigeons in the Dumas
_fils_ (_v. inf._) version of the Parable of Satiety.

[Sidenote: Limitations of Subject.]

In no case, however, not even in that of Victor Hugo, is the easement
given by the general plan of the book, in regard to biographical and
other not strictly literary details, more welcome. We shall say nothing
on the point whether the author of the _Comédie Humaine_ should be
called M. de Balzac or M. Balzac or M. Balssa; nothing about his family,
his friends, his enemies, his strangely long-deferred, and, when it
came, as strangely ill-fated marriage; little, though something
necessarily, about his tastes, his commercial and other enterprises, and
so forth; and not very much--something here also becoming obligatory--on
his manner of producing the immense and wonderful work which he has left
us. Those who are curious about such things will find ample satisfaction
in the labours of M. Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, of MM. Christophe and
Cerfbeer, and of others.[151] Here he is, for us, Honoré de Balzac,
author of the _Juvenilia_ (saved from, as it is understood, a larger
bulk still) in ten volumes; of the mighty "Comedy" itself, and, more
incidentally, of the considerable epistolary and miscellaneous
production referred to above. The manner in which this enormous output
was put out has perhaps too much to do with its actual character to be
passed over in total silence. It represents thirty years' working time
almost entirely spent upon it,[152] the alternatives being the
above-mentioned commercial speculations (which were almost invariably
unfortunate, and involved him, during the whole of his career, in
complicated indebtedness) and a good deal of travel, very frequently
connected with these speculations. Of the society which formed so large
a part of the life of the time and of which he wrote so often, Balzac
saw little. He worked at enormous stretches, and he rewrote his work, in
MS., in proof and in temporarily final print, with insatiable and
indefatigable industry. To no writer could the commonplace extravagance
about burning the candle at both ends be applied so truly as to Balzac.
Only, his candle was shaped like a wheel with no felloes, and he burnt
it at the end of every spoke and at the nave as well. How he managed to
last, even to fifty, is one of the major curiosities of literary
biography.

[Sidenote: And of Balzac himself.]

Of the three divisions of this vast but far from chaotic production, the
miscellaneous, of course, concerns us least. It shows Balzac as a
failure of a dramatist, a critic of very varying competence,[153] not a
particularly effective _writer_ merely as such, not possessed of much
logical power, but having pretty wide interests and abundantly provided
with what we may call the odd tools of the novelist's workshop. As a
correspondent his writing has absolutely none of what may be called the
"departmental" interest of great letter-writers--of Madame de Sévigné or
Lady Mary, of Horace Walpole or Cowper; its attraction is not epistolary
but wholly autobiographic. And it is only fair to say that, despite
Balzac's immense and intense self-centredness, it leaves one on the
whole with a much better opinion of him as a man than might be derived
from his books or from the anecdotes about him. To adapt one of the best
known of these, there was, in fact, nothing real to him but Honoré de
Balzac, Honoré de Balzac's works and schemes, and, in rare cases (of
which Madame Hanska was the chief), Honoré de Balzac's loves. These
constituted his subject, his universe of thought and feeling, of action
and passion. But at the same time he stands apart from all the other
great egotists. He differs from those of whom Byron is the chief in that
he does not introduce himself prominently in his fictitious creations.
He does not, like those who may take their representative in Goethe,
regard everything merely as it relates to his personality. His chief
peculiarity, his unique literary character, and, it may be added at
once, his greatness and his weakness, all consist in the fact that he
evolves a new world out of himself. Now and then he may have taken an
actual human model--George Sand, Madame d'Agoult, Madame de Castries,
Liszt, Latouche,[154] Rémusat--as many others as anybody likes. But
always these had not merely to receive the Balzacian image and
superscription, but to be transmuted into creatures of a _Balzacium
Sidus_. And it is the humanity of this planet or system, much more than
of our world, whereof his _Comédie_ is the Comedy--a _Comédie
Balzacienne_.

[Sidenote: Balzac's "general ideas."]

But, it has been said, and the saying has been attributed to no less a
critic than M. Faguet, there are no "general ideas" in Balzac.[155] One
can only reply, "Heavens! Why should there be?" The celebrated unreason
of "going to a gin-palace for a leg of mutton" (already quoted, and
perhaps to be quoted again) is sound and sensible as compared with
asking general ideas from a novelist. They are not quite absolutely
forbidden to him, though he will have to be very careful lest they get
in his way. But they are most emphatically not his business, except as
very rare and very doubtful means to a quite different end, means
absolutely insufficient by themselves and exceedingly difficult to
combine with the other means which--more or fewer of them--are not only
sufficient but necessary. The "slice of human life," not necessarily,
but preferably ordinary, presenting probable and interesting
characters, connected by sufficient plot, diversified and adorned by
descriptive and other devices, and abundantly furnished with the
conversation of men and women of this world, the whole forming such a
whole as will amuse, thrill, affect, and in other ways, to use the
all-important word once more, _interest_ the reader,--that is what is
wanted. And this definition is as rigid at least as the Aristotelian
definition of tragedy and perhaps more exhaustive, as concerns the
novel, including, with the necessary modifications, the romance--and the
romance, including, with the necessary modifications, the novel. In it
"general ideas," unless a very special and not at all usual meaning is
attached to the term, can have no right of place. They may be brought
in, as almost anything may be brought in if the writer is Samson enough
to bring it. But they cannot be demanded of him as facts, images,
emotions, style, and a very large number of other things can or may be,
not, of course, all at once, but in larger or smaller selection. General
ideas may and perhaps should be demanded from the philosopher, the
historian, the political student. From the poet and the novelist they
cannot be. And that they should be so demanded is one of the chief
instances of what seems to the present writer to be the greatest mistake
of French novel, as of other, criticism--its persistent relapse upon the
rule-system and its refusal to judge by the result.[156]

It is all the more unreasonable to demand general _ideas_ from Balzac
himself, because he is so liberal of general _imagery_, and what is
more, general _prosopopoeia_. Be the Balzacian world real, as some
would have it to be, or be it removed from our mundane reality by the
subtle "other-planetary" influence which is apparent to others, its
complexity, its fullness, its variety, its busy and by no means
unsystematic life and motion, cannot be denied. Why on earth cannot
people be content with asking Platonism from Plato and Balzacity from
Balzac? At any rate, it is Balzacity which will be the subject of the
following pages, and if anybody wants anything else let him go
elsewhere.

[Sidenote: Abstinence from abstract.]

There is hardly likely to be much grumbling at the absence of such
detailed abstract or survey of individual books as has been given in
cases of what may seem to be much less importance. To begin with, such a
survey as is possible[157] exists already from these hands in the
Introductions to the translated edition above referred to, and to
paraphrase or refashion it here would probably occupy a hundred pages,
if not more. Nor would the plan, elsewhere adopted, of analysing afresh
one, or two, or more examples, as representative, be satisfactory.
Although Balzac is in a sense one of the most intensely individual of
all novelists, his individuality, as in a very few others of the
greatest cases, cannot be elicited from particular works. Just as
_Hamlet_ will give you no idea of the probable treatment of _As You Like
It_, so _Eugénie Grandet_ contains no key to _La Cousine Bette_. Even
the groups into which he himself rather empirically, if not quite
arbitrarily, separated the _Comédie_, though they lend themselves a
little more to specification, do not yield very much to the classifier.
The _Comédie_, once more, is a world--a world open to the reader, "all
before him." Chronological order may tell him a little about Balzac, but
it will not tell him very much about Balzac's work that he cannot gain
from the individual books, except in the very earliest stages. There is
no doubt that the _Oeuvres de Jeunesse_, if not very delightful to the
reader (I have myself read them not without pleasure), are very
instructive; the instruction increases, while the pleasure is actually
multiplied, when you come to _Les Chouans_ and the _Peau de Chagrin_.
But it is, after a fashion, only beyond these that the true Balzac
begins, and the beginning is, to a large extent, a reaction from
previous work in consequence of a discovery that the genius, without
which he had acknowledged that it was all up with him,[158] did not lie
that way, and that he had no hope of finding it there. Not that there is
no genius in the two books mentioned; on the contrary, it is there first
to be found, and in _La Peau_ is of the first order. But their ways are
not the ways in which he was to find it--and himself--more specially.

[Sidenote: The _Oeuvres de Jeunesse_.]

As to _Argow le Pirate_[159] and _Jane la Pâle_ (I have never ceased
lamenting that he did not keep the earlier title, _Wann-Chlore_) and the
rest, they have interest of various kinds. Some of it has been glanced
at already--you cannot fully appreciate Balzac without them. But there
is another kind of interest, perhaps not of very general appeal, but not
to be neglected by the historian. They are almost the only accessible
body, except Pigault-Lebrun's latest and Paul de Kock's earliest, of the
popular fiction _before_ 1830, of the stuff of which, as previously
mentioned, Ducray-Duminil, the lesser Ducange, and many others are
representatives, but representatives difficult to get at. This class of
fiction, which arose in all parts of Europe during the last years of the
eighteenth century and the earlier of the nineteenth, has very similar
characteristics, though the examples differ very slightly in different
countries. What are known with us as the Terror Novel, the Minerva
Press, the Silver Fork school, etc. etc., all have their part in it, and
even higher influences, such as Scott's, are not wanting. _Han
d'Islande_ and _Bug-Jargal_ themselves belong to some extent to the
class, and I am far from certain that the former is at all better than
some of these _juvenilia_ of Balzac's. But as a whole they are of course
little more than curiosities.

Whether these curiosities are more widely known than they were some
five-and-twenty, or thirty, years ago, when Mr. Louis Stevenson was the
only friend of mine who had read them, and when even special writers on
Balzac sometimes unblushingly confessed that they had not, I cannot say.
Although printed in the little fifty-five-volume[160] edition which for
so many years represented Balzac, they were excluded, as noted above,
from the statelier "Définitive," and so may have once more "gone into
abscondence." I do not want to read them again, but I no more repent the
time once spent on them than I did earlier. In fact I really do not
think any one ought to talk about Balzac who has not at least gained
some knowledge of them, for many of their defects remained with him when
he got rid of the others. These defects are numerous enough and serious
enough. The books are nothing if not uncritical, generally extravagant,
and sometimes (especially in _Jean Louis_) appallingly dull. Scarf-pins,
made of poisoned fish-bones (_Argow le Pirate_), extinction of virgins
under copper bells (_Le Centénaire_), attempts at fairy-tales (_La
Dernière Fée_) jostle each other. The weaker historical kind figures
largely in _L'Excommunié_ (one of the least bad), _L'Israëlite_,
_L'Héritière de Birague_, _Dom Gigadas_. There is a _Vicaire des
Ardennes_ (remarkably different from him of Wakefield), which is a kind
of introduction to _Argow le Pirate_, and which, again, is not the
worst. When I formerly wrote about these curious productions, after
reading them, I had not read Pigault-Lebrun, and therefore did not
perceive, what I now see to be an undoubted fact, that Balzac was,
sometimes at least, trying to follow in Pigault's popular footsteps. But
he had not that writer's varied knowledge of actual life or his power of
telling a story, and though he for the most part avoided Pigault's
_grossièreté_, the chaotic plots, the slovenly writing, and other
defects of his model abode with him.

[Sidenote: _Les Chouans._]

There are not many more surprising things, especially _in pari materia_,
to be found in literary history than the sun-burst of _Les Chouans_
after this darkness-that-can-be-felt of the early melodramas. Not that
_Les Chouans_ is by any means a perfect novel, or even a great one. Its
narrative drags, in some cases, almost intolerably; the grasp of
character, though visible, is inchoate; the plot is rather a polyptych
of separate scenes than a connected action; you see at once that the
author has changed his model to Sir Walter and think how much better Sir
Walter would have done the thing. But there is a strange air of "coming
alive" in some of the scenes, though they are too much separated, as in
the case of the finale and of the execution of the rather hardly used
traitor earlier. These possess a character of thrill which may be looked
for in vain through all the ten volumes of the _Oeuvres de Jeunesse_.
Montauran _is_ a hero in more than one sense, and Mlle. de Verneuil is
still more a heroine. Had Balzac worked her out as he worked out others,
who did not deserve it so well, later, she might have been one of the
great characters in fiction. Even as it is, the "jour sans lendemain,"
which in one sense unites, and in another parts, her and her lover for
ever, is one of the most really passionate things that the French novel,
in its revival, had yet seen. Besides this, there is a sort of extrinsic
appeal in the book, giving that curious atmosphere referred to already,
and recalling the old prints of the earth yawning in patches and animals
rearing themselves from it at the Creation. The names and personages of
Hulot and Corentin were to be well known later to readers of the "fifty
volumes," and even the ruffianly patriot[161] Marche-à-Terre had his
future.

[Sidenote: _La Peau de Chagrin._]

The second[162] blast of the horn with which Balzac challenged admission
to the Inner Sanctuaries or strongholds of the novel, _La Peau de
Chagrin_, had that character of _difference_ which one notices not
seldom in the first worthy works of great men of letters--the absence of
the mould and the rut. _Les Chouans_ was a Waverley novel Gallicised and
Balzacified; _La Peau de Chagrin_ is a cross between the supernatural
romance and the novel of psychology. It is one of the greatest of
Balzac's books. The idea of the skin--a new "wishing" talisman, which
shrinks with every exercise of the power it gives, and so threatens
extinction at once of wishing and living--is of course not wholly novel,
though refreshed in detail. But then nothing is wholly novel, and if
anything could be it would probably be worthless. The endless changes of
the eternal substance make the law, the curse, and the blessing of life.
In the working out of his theme it may possibly be objected that Balzac
has not _interested_ the reader quite enough in his personages--that he
seems in a way to be thinking more of the play than of the actors or the
audience. His "orgie" is certainly not much of a success; few orgies in
print are, except when they are burlesqued. But, on the other hand, the
curiosity-shop is splendid. Yet it is not on the details of the book,
important as these have been allowed to be throughout Balzac, that
attention should be mainly concentrated. The point of it is the way in
which the necessary atmosphere of bad dream is kept up throughout, yet
with an appropriate contrast of comparatively ordinary life. A competent
critic who read _Les Chouans_, knowing nothing about its author or his
work, should have said, "Here is more than a promising craftsman";
reading _La Peau de Chagrin_ in the same conditions he should have said,
"Here is a great, though by no means a faultless, artist." One who read
both ought to have had no doubt as to the coming of something and
somebody extraordinary.

[Sidenote: The short stories.]

Thenceforward Balzac, though hardly ever faultless except in short
stories, was almost always great, and showed what may be called a
diffused greatness, to which there are few parallels in the history of
the novel. Some of the tales are simply wonderful. I cannot think of
any one else, even Mérimée, who could have done _La Grande
Bretèche_--the story of a lover who, rather than betray his mistress,
allows himself to suffer, without a word, the fate of a nun who has
broken her vows--as Balzac has done it. _La Recherche de l'Absolu_ is
one, and _Le Chef-d'oeuvre Inconnu_ is another, of the greatest known
masterpieces in the world of their kind. _La Fille aux Yeux d'Or_ and
_Une Passion dans le Désert_ have not the least need of their
"indexable" qualities to validate them. In the most opposite styles
_Jésus Christ en Flandre_ and _La Messe de l'Athée_ have their warmest
admirers. In fact it is scarcely too much to say that, in the whole list
of nearer two than one score--as they were published in the old
collection from _Le Bal de Sceaux_ to _Maître Cornélius_--scarcely any
are bad or insignificant, few mediocre, and not a few equal, or hardly
inferior, to those specially pointed out just now. As so often
happens, the short story estopped Balzac from some of his usual
delinquencies--over-detail, lingering treatment, etc.,--and encouraged
his virtues--intensity, grandeur, and idiosyncratic tone.

[Sidenote: The _Contes Drolatiques_.]

Of his one considerable collection of such stories--the _Contes
Drolatiques_--it is not possible to speak quite so favourably as a
whole; yet the reduction of favour need not be much. Of its greatest
thing, _La Succube_, there have hardly been two opinions among competent
and unprejudiced judges. "Pity and terror" are there well justified of
their manipulator. The sham Old French, if not absolutely "according to
Cocker" (or such substitute for Cocker as may be made and provided by
scholarly authority), is very much more effective than most such things.
Not a few of the stories are good and amusing in themselves, though of
course the votaries of prunes and prism should keep clear of them. The
book has perhaps only one serious fault, that of the inevitable and no
doubt invited suggestion of, and comparison with, Rabelais. In some
points this will hold not so badly, for Balzac had narrative power of
the first order when he gave it scope; the deficiencies of mere style
which sometimes affect his modern French do not appear so much in this
_pastiche_, and he could make broad jokes well enough. But--and this
"but" is rather a terrible one--the saving and crowning grace of
Pantagruelist humour is not in him, except now and then in its grimmer
and less catholic variety or manifestation. And this absence haunts one
in these _Contes Drolatiques_, though it is to some extent compensated
by the presence of a "sentiment" rare elsewhere in Balzac.

[Sidenote: Notes on select larger books: _Eugénie Grandet_.]

Turning to the longer books, the old double difficulty of selection and
omission comes on one in full force. There are, I suppose, few
Balzacians who have not special favourites, but probably _Eugénie
Grandet_, _Le Père Goriot_, and the two divisions of _Les Parents
Pauvres_ would unite most suffrages. If I myself--who am not exactly a
Balzacian, though few can admire him more, and not very many, I think,
have had occasion for knowing his work better--put _Eugénie Grandet_ at
the head of all the "scenes" of ordinary life, it is most certainly not
because of its inoffensiveness. It _is_ perhaps partly because, in spite
of that inoffensiveness, it fixes on one a grasp superior to anything of
Beyle's and equal to anything of Flaubert's or Maupassant's. But the
real cause of admiration is the nature of the grasp itself. Here, and
perhaps here only--certainly here in transcendence--Balzac grapples
with, and vanquishes, the bare, stern, unadorned, unbaited, ironic facts
of life. It is not an intensely interesting book; it is certainly not a
delightful one; you do not want to read it very often. Still, when you
have read it you have come to one of the ultimate things: the
_flammantia moenia_ of the world of fiction forbid any one to go
further at this particular point. And when this has been said of a
novel, all has been said of the quality of the novelist's genius, though
not of its quantity or variety.

[Sidenote: _Le Père Goriot_ and _Les Parents Pauvres_.]

The other three books selected have greater "interest" and, in the case
of the _Parents Pauvres_ at least, much greater variety; but they do not
seem to me to possess equal consummateness. _Le Père Goriot_ is in its
own way as pathetic as _Eugénie Grandet_, and Balzac has saved its
pathos from being as irritating as that of the all but idiotic
grandfather in _The Old Curiosity Shop_. But the situation still has a
share of that fatal helpless ineffectiveness which Mr. Arnold so justly
denounced. Of the remaining pair, _La Cousine Bette_ is, I suppose,
again the favourite; but I am not a backer. I have in other places
expressed my opinion that if Valérie Marneffe is part-model[163] of
Becky Sharp, which is not, I believe, absolutely certain, the copy
far--indeed infinitely--exceeds the original, and not least in the facts
that Becky is attractive while Valérie is not, and that there is any
amount of possibility in her. I should not wonder if, some day, a
novelist took it into his head to show Becky as she would have been if
she had had those thousands a year for which, with their accompanying
chances of respectability, she so pathetically sighed. Now Valérie is,
and always must have been, a _catin_, and nothing else. Lisbeth, again,
though I admit her possibility, is not, to me, made quite probable.
Hulot, very possible and probable indeed, does not interest or amuse me,
and the angelic Adeline is good but dull. In fact the book, by its very
power, throws into disastrous eminence that absence of _delightfulness_
which is Balzac's great want, uncompensated by the presence of the
magnificence which is his great resource. _La Peau de Chagrin_ and some
of the smaller things have this relief; _La Cousine Bette_ has not. And
therefore I think that, on the whole, _Le Cousin Pons_ is the better of
the two, though it may seem to some weaker, further "below proof."
Everything in it is possible and probable, and though the comedy is
rather rueful, it is comedy. It is a play; its companion is rather too
much of a sermon.

[Sidenote: Others--the general "scenic" division.]

The "Scènes de la Vie Privée" (to pass to a rapid general survey of the
"Acts" of the Comedy) provide an especially large number of short
stories, almost the only ones of length being _Modeste Mignon_ and
_Béatrix_, a strongly contrasted couple. _Modeste Mignon_ is perhaps one
of the best of Balzac's _second_ best. _Béatrix_, a book of more power,
appeals chiefly to those who may be interested in the fact (which
apparently _is_ the fact) that the book contains, almost more than any
other, figures taken from real people, such as George Sand--the
"Camille" of the novel--and some of those about her. The "Scènes de la
Vie de Province" are richer in "magnums." _Eugénie Grandet_ is here,
with a sort of companion, cheerfuller generally, in _Ursule Mirouet_.
The shorter stories are grouped under the titles of _Les Parisiens en
Province_ (with the first appearance of _Gaudissart_) and _Les
Rivalités_. _Le Lys dans la Vallée_ (which one is sometimes anxiously
begged to distinguish from "the lily _of_ the valley," otherwise
_muguet_) holds, for some, an almost entirely unique place in Balzac's
work, or one shared only in part by _Mémoires de Deux Jeunes Mariées_. I
have never, I think, cared much for either. But there is more strength
in two pairs of volumes which contain some of the author's
masterpieces--_Les Célibataires_ with _Pierrette_, _Le Curé de Tours_,
and the powerful, if not particularly pleasant, _Un Ménage de
Garçon_;[164] and _Illusions Perdues_, running up well with _Un Grand
Homme de Province à Paris_ and the semi-idyllic _Ève et David_.

But I suppose the "Scenes of Parisian Life" seem to be the citadel to
most people. Here are three of the four books specially selected above,
_Le Père Goriot_ and both the constituents of _Les Parents Pauvres_.
Here are the _Splendeurs et Misères des Courtisanes_, which some rank
among the very first; not a few short stories in the volumes taking
their titles from _La Dernière Incarnation de Vautrin_ and _La Maison
Nucingen_; with _César Birotteau_ (_Balzac on Bankruptcy_, as it has
been profanely called) and the celebrated _Histoire des Treize_.

This last, I confess frankly, has always bored me, even though the
volume contains _La Fille aux Yeux d'Or_. The idea of a secret society
in Society itself was not new; it was much more worthy of Sue or Soulié
than of Balzac, and it does not seem to me to have been interestingly
worked out. But perhaps this is due to my perverse and elsewhere
confessed objection to crime and conspiracy novels generally.

Neither have I ever cared much for the group of "Scenes de la Vie
Politique," ranging from _Une Ténébreuse Affaire_ to _Le Député
d'Arcis_, the last being not entirely Balzac's own. The single volume,
"Scènes de la Vie Militaire," consisting merely of _Les Chouans_ and
_Une Passion dans le Désert_, is much better, and the "Scènes de la Vie
de Campagne" reach a high level with _Le Médecin de Campagne_, _Le Curé
de Village_, and the late, grim, but very noteworthy _Les Paysans_.

None, however, of these sometimes rather arbitrary groups of Balzac's
contains such thoroughly satisfactory matter as that which he chose to
call "Études Philosophiques." It includes only one full-volume novel,
but that is the _Peau de Chagrin_ itself.[165] And here are most of the
short stories singled out at first, _La Recherche de l'Absolu_, _Jésus
Christ en Flandre_, _Le Chef-d'oeuvre Inconnu_, with _Melmoth
Réconcilié_[166] in the same batch. The two volumes entitled _L'Enfant
Maudit_ and _Les Marana_ contain all but a dozen remarkable tales. Here,
too, is the curious treatise _Sur Cathérine de Médicis_, with another,
to some people among the most interesting of all, the autobiographic
_Louis Lambert_, and also the mystical, and in parts very beautiful,
_Séraphita_.

The "Études Analytiques," which complete the original _Comédie_ with the
two notorious volumes of _Physiologie du Marriage_ and _Petites Misères
de la Vie Conjugale_, are not novels or tales, and so do not concern
us. They are not the only instance in literature showing that the
sarcasm

    The _God_ you took from a printed book

extends to other things besides divinity. The old conventional satires
on marriage are merely rehashed with some extra garlic. Balzac had no
personal experience of the subject till just before his death, and his
singular claustral habits of life could not give him much opportunity
for observation.

[Sidenote: "Balzacity": its constitution.]

Experience, indeed, and observation (to speak with only apparent
paradox), though they played an important, yet played only a subordinate
part at any time in the great Balzacian achievement. Victor Hugo, in
what was in effect a funeral oration, described that achievement as "un
livre qui est l'Observation et qui est l'Imagination." But no one
familiar with the Victorian rhetoric will mistake the _clou_, the
dominating and decisive word of that sentence. It is the conjunction.
Hugo meant to draw attention to the astonishing _union_ of Imagination
with Observation--two things which, except in the highest poetry, are
apt to be rather strangers to each other--and by putting Imagination
last he meant also doubtless that this was the dominating--the
masculine--element in the marriage. In the immense volume of discussion
of Balzac which the long lifetime succeeding his death has seen, and
which thickened and multiplied towards the close of the last century and
a little later--owing to the conclusion of the _Édition Définitive_ with
its additions and illustrative matter--this point has perhaps been too
frequently lost sight of. The great critics who were his contemporaries
and immediate survivors were rather too near. The greatest of the later
batch, M. Brunetière, was a little too eager to use Balzac as a stick to
beat the Romantics with for one thing, and to make him out a pioneer of
all succeeding French fiction for another. But, quite early, Philarète
Chasles hit the white by calling him a _voyant_ (a word slightly varying
in signification from our "seer"), and recently a critic of less repute
than Brunetière, but a good one--M. Le Breton--though perhaps sometimes
not quite fair to Balzac, recognises his Romanticism, his _frénésie_,
and so the Imagination of which the lunatic and the lover are--and of
which the devotee of Romance in verse and prose should be--compact.

Nevertheless it would be of course highly improper, and in fact absurd,
to deny the "observation"--at least in detail of all kinds. Although--as
we have seen and may see again when we come to Naturalism and look
back--M. Brunetière was quite wrong in thinking that Balzac _introduced_
"interiors" to French, and still more wrong in thinking that he
introduced them to European, novel-writing, they undoubtedly make a
great show in his work--are, indeed, one of its chief characteristics.
He actually overdoes them sometimes; the "dragging" of _Les Chouans_ is
at least partly due to this, and he never got complete mastery of his
tendency that way. But undoubtedly this tendency was also a source of
power.

Yet, while this observation of _things_ is not to be denied, Balzac's
observation of _persons_ is a matter much more debatable. To listen to
some of the more uncritical--especially among the older and now almost
traditional--estimates of him, an unwary reader who did not correct
these, judging for himself, might think that Balzac was as much of an
"observational" realist in character as Fielding, as Scott when it
served his turn, as Miss Austen, or as Thackeray. Longer study and
further perspective seem recently to have put more people in the
position which only a few held some years ago. The astonishing force,
completeness, _relative_ reality of his creations is more and more
admitted, but it is seen (M. Le Breton, for instance, admits it in
almost the very words) that the reality is often not _positive_. In fact
the _Comédie_ may remind some of the old nautical laudation of a ship
which cannot only sail close to the wind, but even a point or two on the
other side of it. If even Frenchmen now confess that Balzac's characters
are very often not _des êtres réels_, no Englishman need be ashamed of
having always thought so.

The fact is that this giant in novel-writing did actually succeed in
doing what some of his brethren in _Hyperion_ would have liked to do--in
setting up a new world for himself and getting out of the existing
universe. His characters are never _in_human; they never fail to be
human; they are of the same flesh and blood, the same soul and spirit,
as ourselves. But they have, as it were, colonised the fresh planet--the
Balzacium Sidus--and taken new colour and form from its
idiosyncrasies.[167]

[Sidenote: Its effect on successors.]

It is for this reason that one hesitates to endorse the opinions quoted
above as to the filiation of all or most subsequent French fiction upon
Balzac. Of course he had a great influence on it; such a genius, in such
circumstances, could not but have. The "interior" business was largely
followed and elaborated; it might be argued--though the contention would
have to be strictly limited and freely provisoed--that Naturalism in
general--as the "Rougon-Macquart" scheme certainly was in
particular--was a sort of bastard of the _Comédie_. Other points of
relationship might be urged. But all this would leave the most
characteristic Balzacities untouched. In the most obvious and
superficial quality--pessimistic psychology--the other novelist dealt
with in this chapter--Beyle--is far more of a real origin than Balzac
is. If one takes the most brilliant of his successors outside the
Naturalist school--Flaubert and Feuillet--very little that is really
Balzacian will be found in either. At least _Madame Bovary_ and _M. de
Camors_--which, I suppose, most people would choose to represent the
greatest genius and the most flexible talent of the Second Empire in
novel-writing--seem to me to show hardly anything that is like Balzac.
The Goncourts have something of degraded Balzacianism on its lower side
in them, and Zola approaches, at least in his "apocalyptic" period,
something like a similar though less offensive degradation of the
higher. But I can hardly conceive anything less like Balzac's work than
Maupassant's.

[Sidenote: And its own character.]

For the fact is that the real Balzac lies--to and for me--almost
entirely in that _aura_ of other-worldliness of which I have spoken. It
is in the revelation of this other world, so like ours and yet not the
same; in the exploration of its continents; in the frequentation of its
inhabitants; that the pleasure which he has to give consists. How he
came himself to discover it is as undiscoverable as how his in some sort
analogue Dickens, after pottering not unpleasantly with Bozeries,
"thought of Mr. Pickwick," and so of the rest of _his_ human (and
extra-human) comedy. But the facts, in both cases fortunately, remain.
And it may be possible to indicate at least some qualities and
characteristics of the fashion in which he dealt with this world when he
_had_ discovered it. In _Les Chouans_ he had found out not so much it,
as the way to it; in the books between that and _La Peau de Chagrin_ he
was over the border, and with _La Peau_ itself he had "crossed
Jordan,"--it was all conquest and extension--as far as permitted--of
territory afterwards.

[Sidenote: The "occult" element.]

There can, I should suppose, be very little doubt that the fancy for the
occult, which played a great part, as far as bulk goes, in the
_Juvenilia_, but produced nothing of value there, began to bear fruit at
this time. The Supernatural (as was remarked of woman to the indignation
of Mr. Snodgrass) is a "rum creetur." It is very difficult to deal with;
to the last degree unsatisfactory when of bad quality and badly handled;
but possessing almost infinite capabilities of exhibiting excellence,
and conveying enjoyment. Of course, during the generation before
Balzac's birth and also that between his birth and 1830, the Terror
Novel--from the _Castle of Otranto_ to Maturin--had circled through
Europe, and "Illuminism" of various kinds had taken particular hold of
France just before the Revolution. But Balzac's "Occult," like Balzac's
everything, was not the same as anybody else's. Whether you take it in
_La Peau de Chagrin_ itself, or in _Séraphita_, or anywhere, it
consists, again, rather in atmosphere than in "figures." A weaker genius
would have attached to the skin of that terrible wild ass--gloomier, but
more formidable than even the beast in Job[168]--some attendant evil
spirit, genie, or "person" of some sort. A bit of shagreen externally,
shrinking--with age--perhaps? with weather?--what not?--a life shrinking
in mysterious sympathy--that is what was wanted and what you have,
without ekings, or explanations, or other trumpery.

[Sidenote: Its action and reaction.]

Nor is it only in the ostensibly "occult" or (as he was pleased to call
them) "philosophic" studies and and stories that you get this
atmosphere. It spreads practically everywhere--the very bankruptcies and
the sordid details of town and country life are overshadowed and in a
certain sense _dis_-realised by it. Indeed that verb which, like most
new words, has been condemned by some precisians, but which was much
wanted, applies to no prose writer quite so universally as to Balzac. He
is a _dis_-realiser, not by style as some are, but in thought--at the
very same time that he gives such impressions of realism. Sometimes, but
not often, he comes quite close to real mundane reality, sometimes, as
in the most "philosophical" of the so-called philosophical works, he
hardly attempts a show of it. But as a rule when he is at his very best,
as in _La Peau de Chagrin_, in _La Recherche de l'Absolu_, in _Le
Chef-d'oeuvre Inconnu_, he attains a kind of point of unity between
disrealising and realising--he disrealises the common and renders the
uncommon real in a fashion actually carrying out what he can never have
known--the great Coleridgian definition or description of poetry. In
fact, if prose-poetry were not a contradiction in terms, Balzac would
be, except in style,[169] the greatest prose-poet of them all.

[Sidenote: Peculiarity of the conversation.]

On[170] one remarkable characteristic of the _Comédie_ very little has
usually been said. It has been neglected wholly by most critics, though
it is of the very first importance. And that is the astonishingly small
use, _in proportion_, which Balzac makes of that great weapon of the
novelist, dialogue, and the almost smaller effect which it accordingly
has in producing his results (whatever they are) on his readers. With
some novelists dialogue is almost all-powerful. Dumas, for instance (as
is pointed out elsewhere), does almost everything by it. In his best
books especially you may run the eye over dozens, scores, almost
hundreds of pages without finding a single one printed "solid." The
author seldom makes any reflections at all; and his descriptions, with,
of course, some famous exceptions, are little more than longish stage
directions. Nor is this by any means merely due to early practice in the
drama itself; for something like it is to be found in writers who have
had no such practice. In Balzac, after making every allowance for the
fact that he often prints his actual conversations without typographical
separation of the speeches, the case is just the other way. Moreover,
and this is still more noteworthy, it is not by what his characters do
say that we remember them. The situation perhaps most of all; the
character itself very often; the story sometimes (but of that more
presently)--these are the things for and by which we remember Balzac and
the vast army of his creations; while sometimes it is not even for any
of these things, but for "interiors," "business," and the like. When one
thinks of single points in him, it is scarcely ever of such things as
the "He has got his discharge, by----!" of Dickens; as the "Adsum" of
Thackeray; as the "Trop lourd!" of Porthos' last agony; as the longer
but hardly less quintessenced malediction of Habakkuk Mucklewrath on
Claverhouse. It is of Eugénie Grandet shrinking in automatic repulsion
from the little bench as she reads her cousin's letter; of Henri de
Marsay's cigar (his enjoyment of it, that is to say, for his words are
quite commonplace) as he leaves "la Fille aux Yeux d'Or"; of the lover
allowing himself to be built up in "La Grande Bretèche." Observe that
there is not the slightest necessity to apportion the excellence implied
in these different kinds of reminiscence; as a matter of fact, each way
of fastening the interest and the appreciation of the reader is
indifferently good.[171] But the distinction remains.

[Sidenote: And of the "story" interest.]

There is another point on which, though no good critic can miss it, some
critics seem to dislike dwelling; and this is that, though Balzac's
separate situations, as has just been said, are arresting in the highest
degree, it is often distinctly difficult to read him "for the story."
Even M. Brunetière lets slip an admission that "interest" of the
ordinary kind is not exactly Balzac's forte; while another admirer of
his grants freely that his _affabulation_ is weak. Once more, we need
not and must not make too much of this; but it is important that it
should not be forgotten, and the extreme Balzacian is sometimes apt to
forget it. That it comes sometimes from Balzac's mania for rehandling
and reshaping--that he has actually, like the hero of what is to some
his most unforgettable short story, daubed the masterpiece into a
blur--is certain. But it probably comes more often, and is much more
interesting as coming, from want of co-ordination between the observing
and the imagining faculties which are (as Hugo meant) the yoked coursers
of Balzac's car.

The fact is that _exceptis excipiendis_, of which _Eugénie Grandet_ is
the chief solid example, it is not by the ordinary means, or in the
ordinary ways, that Balzac makes any considerable part of his appeal. He
is very much more _der Einzige_ in novel-writing than Jean Paul was in
novel-writing or anything else; for a good deal of Richter's uniqueness
depended[172] upon eccentricities of style, etc., from which Balzac is
entirely free. And the same may be said, with the proper mutations, of
George Meredith. No one ever made less use--despite his "details" and
"interiors"--of what may be called intellectual or artistic costume and
properties than the author of the _Comédie Humaine_. The most
egotistical of men in certain ways, he never thrusts his _ego_ upon you.
The most personal in his letters, he is almost as impersonal in most of
his writings (_Louis Lambert_, etc., being avowedly exceptional) as
Shakespeare. Now, though the personal interest may be not illegitimate
and sometimes great, the impersonal is certainly greater. Thanks to
industrious prying, not always deserving the adjective impertinent, we
know a great deal about Balzac; and it is by no means difficult to apply
some of the knowledge to aid the study of his creation. But in reading
the creation itself you never need this knowledge; it never forces
itself on you. The hundreds, and almost thousands, of persons who form
the company of the _Comédie_--their frequently recurring parts adjusted
with extraordinary, though by no means obtrusive or offensive,
consistency to the enormous world of detail and scenery and general
"surroundings" in which their parts are played--are never interfered
with by the pointing-stick or the prompter. They are _there_; they can't
help being there, and you have to make the best or the worst of them as
you can. Considering the general complexion of this universe, its
inevitableness and apparent [Greek: autarkeia] may seem, in some moods
and to some persons, a little oppressive; it is always, perhaps, as has
been admitted, productive rather of admiration than of pleasure. Faults
of various kinds may be found with it. But it is almost always
wonderful; it is often great, and it is sometimes of the greatest.[173]

FOOTNOTES:

[124] Of course there are exceptions, _Le Rouge et le Noir_ and _La Peau
de Chagrin_ being perhaps the chief among long novels; while some of
Balzac's short stories possess the quality in almost the highest degree.

[125] He tried several pseudonyms, but settled on this. Unfortunately,
he sometimes (not always) made it "_De_ Stendhal," without anything
before the "De," and more unfortunately still, in the days of his
Napoleonic employment he, if he had not called himself, had allowed
himself to be called "M. _de_ Beyle"--an assumption which though
dropped, was not forgotten in the days of his later anti-aristocratism.

[126] Beyle himself recognized the necessity of the reader's
collaboration.

[127] This does not apply to poets as much as to prose writers: a fact
for which reasons could perhaps be given. And it certainly does not
apply to Balzac.

[128] He was now forty-four, and had published not a few volumes, mostly
small, of other kinds--travel description (which he did uncommonly
well), and miscellaneous writing, and criticism, including the famous
_Racine et Shakespeare_, an _avant-coureur_ of Romanticism which
contained, besides matter on its title-subjects, some sound estimate of
Scott as a writer and some very unsound abuse about him as a man. This
last drew from Byron, who had met Beyle earlier at Milan, a letter of
expostulation and vindication which did that noble poet infinite credit,
but of which Beyle, by no means to _his_ credit, took notice. He was
only too like Hazlitt in more ways than one: though few books with
practically the same title can be more different than _De l'Amour_ and
_Liber Amoris_.

[129] As for instance, those from Dekker and Massiger; Camoens and
Ercilla are allowed their native tongues "neat."

[130] The actual "Chartreuse" of Parma only makes its appearance on the
very last page of the book, when the hero, resigning his arch bishopric,
retires to it.

[131] He is the younger son of a rich and noble family, but his father
disowns and his older brother denounces him quite early. It is
characteristic of Beyle that we hear very little of the father and are
practically never even introduced to the brother.

[132] These four words somehow make me think of Samuel Newcome's comment
on the unfortunate dinner where "Farintosh" did not appear: "Scarcely
anything was drank."

[133] See note above.

[134] Both would have declined to meddle with her, I think, but for
different reasons.

[135] Beyle, who had himself no good looks, is particularly lavish of
them to his heroes.

[136] Perhaps one of the rare biographical details which, as has been
explained, may "force the _consigne_" here, is that Beyle in his youth,
and almost up to middle age, was acquainted with an old lady who had the
very unenviable reputation of having actually "sat for" Madame de
Merteuil.

[137] This bad bloodedness, or [Greek: kakoêtheia], of Beyle's heroes is
really curious. It would have qualified them later to be Temperance
fanatics or Trade Union demagogues. The special difference of all three
is an intense dislike of somebody else "having something."

[138] In that merry and wise book _Clarissa Furiosa_.

[139] She keeps the anniversary of his execution, and imitates
Marguerite in procuring and treasuring, at the end of the story,
Julien's severed head. (It may be well to note that Dumas had not yet
written _La Reine Margot_.)

[140] In proper duel, of course; not as he shot his mistress.

[141] Its great defect is the utter absence of any poetical element.
But, as Mérimée (than whom there could hardly be, in this case, a critic
more competent or more friendly) said, poetry was, to Beyle, _lettre
close_.

[142] It seems curiously enough, that Beyle did mean to make the book
_gai_. It is a a very odd kind of gaiety!

[143] This attraction of the _forçat_ is one of the most curious
features in all French Romanticism. It was perhaps partly one of the
general results of the Revolutionary insanity earlier, partly a symptom
or sequel of Byronism. But the way it raged not only among folks like
Eugène Sue, but among men and women of great talent and sometimes
genius--George Sand, Balzac, Dumas, Victor Hugo--the last and greatest
carrying it on for nearly two generations--is a real curiousity of
literature. (The later and different crime-novel of Gaboriau & Co. will
be dealt with in its place.)

[144] _V. sup._ vol. i. p. 39.

[145] A pseudonymous person has "reconstituted" the story under the
title of _Lucien Leeuwen_ (the hero's name). But some not inconsiderable
experience of reconstitutions of this kind determined me to waste no
further portion of my waning life on any one of them.

[146] It may be desirable to glance at Beyle's avowed or obvious
"intentions" in most if not all his novels--in the _Chartreuse_ to
differentiate Italian from French character, in _Le Rouge et le Noir_ to
embody the Macchiavellian-Napoleonic principle which has been of late so
tediously phrased (after the Germans) as "will to" something and the
like. These intentions may interest some: for me, I must confess, they
definitely get in the way of the interest. For essays, "good": for
novels, "no."

[147] Vide _Guy Mannering_ as to the "macers."

[148] _Les Chouans._

[149] Forty vols. London: 1895-8.

[150] _Quarterly Review_ for January 1907.

[151] I believe I may say, without fatuity, that the general
Introduction and the _Quarterly_ article, above referred to, contain
most things that anybody but a special student will need.

[152] It is, however, important to remember that almost the whole of the
first of these three decades was taken up with the tentatives, while the
concluding _lustrum_ was comparatively infertile. The _Comédie_ was, in
the main, the crop of fifteen years only.

[153] It ought always to be, but has not always been, put as a round sum
to his credit in this part of the account that he heartily recognised
the value of Scott as a novelist. A hasty thinker might be surprised at
this; not so the wiser mind.

[154] This remarkable person deserves at least a note here "for one
thing that he did"--the novel of _Fragoletta_ (1829), which many should
know _of_--though they may not know _it_--from Mr. Swinburne's poem, and
some perhaps from Balzac's own review. It is one of the followings of
_La Religieuse_, and is a disappointing book, not from being too immoral
nor from being not immoral enough, but because it does not "come off."
There is a certain promise, suggestion, "atmosphere," but the actual
characterisation is vague and obscure, and the story is told with no
grasp. This habit of "flashing in the pan" is said to have been
characteristic of all Latouche's work, which was fairly voluminous and
of many different kinds, from journalism to poetry; and it may have been
partly due to, partly the cause of, a cross-grained disposition. He had,
however, a high repute for spoken if not written criticism, had a great
influence as a trainer or mentor on George Sand, and perhaps not a
little on Balzac himself. During the later years of his fairly long life
he lived in retirement and produced nothing.

[155] One of the friends who have read my proofs takes a more
Alexandrian way with this objection and says "But there _are_." I do not
know that I disagree with him: but as he does not disagree with what
follows in itself, both answers shall stand.

[156] Cf. Maupassant's just protest against this, to which we shall
come.

[157] An actual reduction of Balzac's books to smaller but still
narrative scale is very seldom possible and would be still more rarely
satisfactory. The best substitute for it is the already glanced at
_Répertoire_ of MM. Christophe and Cerfbeer, a curious but very
satisfactory Biographical Dictionary of the Comedy's _personae_.

[158] "Sans génie je suis flambé," as he wrote early to his sister.

[159] This is about the best of the batch, and I agree with those who
think that it would not have disfigured the _Comédie_. Indeed the
exclusion of these _juvenilia_ from the _Édition Définitive_ was a
critical blunder. Even if Balzac did once wish it, the "dead hand" is
not to be too implicitly given way to, and he was so constantly changing
his views that he probably would have altered this also had he lived.

[160] A certain kind of commentator would probably argue from Mr.
Browning's well-known words "_fifty_ volumes long" that he _had_, and
another that he had _not_ read the _Oeuvres de Jeunesse_.

[161] He would not have liked the name "patriot" because of its
corruption, but he was one.

[162] Not a few things, some of them very good, came between--the
pleasant _Maison du Chat-qui-Pelote_, several of the wonderful short
stories, and the beginning of the _Contes Drolatiques_. But none of them
had the "importance"--in the artistic sense of combined merit and
scale--of the _Peau_.

[163] I mean, of course, as far as books go. We have positive testimony
that there was a live Becky, and I would I had known her!

[164] Originally and perhaps preferably called _La Rabouilleuse_ from
the early occupation of its heroine, Flore Brazier, one of Balzac's most
notable figures.

[165] It is one of the strangest instances of the limitations of some of
the best critics that M. Brunetière declined even to speak of this great
book.

[166] The immense influence of Maturin in France, and especially on
Balzac, is an old story now, though it was not always so.

[167] It is possible that some readers may miss a more extended survey,
or at least sample, of these characters. But the plea made above as to
abstract of the stories is valid here. There is simply not room to do
justice to say, Lucien de Rubempré, who pervades a whole block of novels
and stories, or to others from Rastignac to Corentin.

[168] It has sometimes occurred to me that perhaps the skin _was_ that
of Job's onager.

[169] He does try a sort of pseudo-poetical style sometimes; but it is
seldom successful, and sometimes mere "fine-writing" of no very fine
kind. The close of _Peau de Chagrin_ and _Séraphita_ contain about the
best passages.

[170] The two next paragraphs are, by the kind permission of the Editor
and Publisher of the _Quarterly Review_, reprinted, with some slight
alterations, from the article above referred to.

[171] I have known this denied by persons of authority, who would exalt
the gift of conversation even above the pure narrative faculty. I should
admit the latter was commoner, but hardly that it was inferior.

[172] I believe I may speak without rashness thus, for a copy of the
sixteen-volume (was it not?) edition was a cherished possession of mine
for years, and I even translated a certain amount for my own
amusement--especially _Die unsichtbare Loge_.

[173] I have said nothing here on a point of considerable interest to
myself--the question whether Balzac can be said ever (or at least often)
to have drawn a gentleman or a lady. It would require too much
"justification" by analysis of particular characters. And this would
pass into a more general enquiry whether these two species exist in the
Balzacium Sidus itself. Which things open long vistas. (_V. inf._ on
Charles de Bernard.)



CHAPTER V

GEORGE SAND


[Sidenote: George Sand--generalities about her.]

There is a Scotch proverb (not, I think, among those most generally
known), "Never tell your foe when your foot sleeps"; and some have held
that this applies specially to the revelation, by an author, of his own
weak points. I do not agree with them, having always had a fancy for
playing and seeing cards on table--except at cards themselves, where a
dummy seems to me only to spoil the game. Therefore I admit, in coming
to George Sand, that this famous novelist has not, _as_ a novelist, ever
been a favourite of mine--that I have generally experienced some, and
occasionally great, difficulty in reading her. Even the "purged
considerate mind" (without, I venture to hope, much dulling of the
literary palate) which I have brought to the last readings necessary for
this book, has but partially removed this difficulty. The causes of it,
and their soundness or unsoundness as reasons, must be postponed for a
little--till, as usual, sufficient survey and analysis of at least
specimens (for here as elsewhere the immense bulk of the total work
defies anything more than "sampling") have supplied due evidence. But it
may be said at once that no kind of prejudice or dislike, arising from
the pretty notorious history and character of Amantine (Amandine?
Armandine?) Lucile Aurore Dupin or Dudevant, commonly called George
Sand, has anything to do with my want of affection or admiration for her
work. I do not recommend her conduct in her earlier days for imitation,
and I am bound to say that I do not think it was ever excused by what
one may call real love. But she seems to have been an extremely good
fellow in her age, and not by any means a very bad fellow in her youth.
She was at one time pretty, or at least good-looking;[174] she was at
all times clever; and if she did not quite deserve that almost
superhuman eulogy awarded in the Devonshire epitaph to

    Mary Sexton,
    Who pleased many a man and never vexed one,[175]

she did fulfil the primal duty of her sex, and win its greatest triumph,
by complying with the first half of the line, while, if she failed as to
the second, it was perhaps not entirely her fault.[176] Finally,
Balzac's supposed picture of her as Camille in _Béatrix_ has the almost
unique peculiarity, among its author's sketches of women, of being
positively attractive--attractive, that is to say, not merely to the
critic as a powerful study and work of art; not perhaps at all to the
sentimentalist as a victim or an adorable piece of _candeur_; not to the
lover of physical beauty or passion, but to the reader--"sensible" in
the old sense as well as in the new--who feels that here is a woman he
should like to have known, even if he feels likewise that his
weather-eye would have had to be kept open during the knowledge.

[Sidenote: Phases of her work.]

It has been customary--and though these customary things are sometimes
delusive and too often mechanical, there is also occasionally, and, I
think, here, her work, something not negligible in them, if they be not
applied too rigidly--to divide George Sand's long period (nearly half a
century) of novel-production into four sub-periods, corresponding
roughly with the four whole decades of the thirties, forties, fifties,
and sixties.[177] The first, sometimes called, but, I think,
misleadingly, "Romantic," is the period of definite and mainly sexual
revolt, illustrated by such novels as _Indiana_, _Valentine_, _Lélia_,
and _Jacques_. The second is that of _illuminé_ mysticism and
semi-political theorising, to which _Spiridion_, _Consuelo_, _La
Comtesse de Rudolstadt_, and others belong. The third, one of a certain
_apaisement_, when the author had finally settled at her country-house
of Nohant in Berry, turns to studies of rural life: _La Petite Fadette_,
_François le Champi_, _La Mare au Diable_, etc. The last is represented
by novels of no one particular, or at least single, scope or bent, _Les
Beaux Messieurs de Bois-Doré_, _Le Marquis de Villemer_, _Mademoiselle
La Quintinie,_ etc., reaching to _Flamarande_ and its sequel shortly
before her death. The thing, as has been hinted already, is one of those
first rough sketches of the ground which, if not too closely adhered to,
are often useful. As a matter of fact, the divisions often--as one might
be sure they would--run cross. There is a lot of occult or semi-occult
stuff in _Lélia_, and the "period of appeasement" did not show much
reconciliation and forgiveness of injury in _Elle et Lui_, whether we
take this as by the injured or as by her who had done the wrong. But if
we take the two first novels briefly and _Lélia_ itself more fully for
Period I.; _Consuelo_ and its sequel (_Spiridion_ has been "done and
done thoroughly"[178] by Thackeray in the _Paris Sketch-book_) for II.;
the three above-mentioned _berquinades_ for the Third, with _Lucrezia
Floriani_ thrown between as an all-important outsider, and _Les Beaux
Messieurs de Bois-Doré_ for IV., giving each some detailed criticism,
with a few remarks on others, it ought to suffice as a fairly solid
groundwork for a general summing-up.

[Sidenote: _Indiana_.]

To understand the _furore_ with which _Indiana_ and _Valentine_ were
received, one must remember the time and the circumstance with even more
care than is usually desirable. They were--if not quite so well written
as they seemed even to Thackeray--written very well; they expressed the
full outburst of the French _Sturm und Drang_ movement; there was
nothing like them either in French or in any other literature, though
Bulwer was beginning similar things with us. Essentially, and when taken
_sub specie aeternitatis_, they are very nearly rubbish. The frail
(extremely frail) and gentle Indiana, with her terrible husband, whose
crimes against her and nature even reach the abominable pitch of
declaring himself ready to shoot expected poachers and possible
burglars; her creole maid and foster-sister "Noun," who disguises
herself in Indiana's garments and occupies her room, receives there a
lover who is afterwards her mistress's, but soon commits suicide; the
lover himself, a most appalling "tiger," as his own time would have
called him; and the enigmatic English cousin, indifferently designated
as "Sir Rodolphe Brown," "Sir Ralph," "Sir Brown," and "M. Brown," with
whom Indiana makes a third trial of hitherto "incomprised" and
unattained happiness--are all inhabitants of a sort of toy doll's-house
partaking of the lunatic-asylum. But the author's three prefaces,
written at intervals of exactly ten years, passably inconsistent in
detail, but all agreeing in contempt of critics and lofty anarchist
sentiment, are great fun, and are almost a reward for reading the book.

[Sidenote: _Valentine._]

_Valentine_ has more of the really admirable description of her beloved
Berry with which the author so often honeys her drugs; but the
novel-part of it is largely composed of the same sort of violent bosh
which almost monopolises _Indiana_. In fact, the peasant-_bourgeois_
hero Benedict, whom every woman loves; who is a conceited and
ill-mannered mixture of clown and prig; who is angry with his mistress
Valentine (Madame de Lansac) for "not knowing how to prefer him to her
honour," though one would have said she had given ample proofs of this
preference; and who finally appeases the reader by tumbling on the
points of a pitchfork placed in his way by an (as it happens) unduly
jealous husband, is a more offensive creature than any one in the
earlier book.[179] One is, on the other hand, a little sorry for
Valentine, while one is sorry for nobody in _Indiana_ except perhaps for
the husband, who has the sense to die early.

[Sidenote: _Lélia._]

_Lélia_, some years younger than these and later than the Musset
tragedy, is a good deal better, or at least less childish. It is beyond
all question an extraordinary book, though it may be well to keep the
hyphen in the adjective to prevent confusion of sense. It opens, and to
a large extent continues, with a twist of the old epistolary style
which, if nothing else, is ingeniously novel. George Sand was in truth a
"well of ingenuity" as D'Artagnan was a _puits de sagesse_, and this
accounts, to some extent, for her popularity. You have not only no dates
and no places, but no indication who writes the letters or to whom they
are written, though, unless you are very stupid, you soon find out. The
_personae_ are Lélia--a _femme incomprise_, if not incomprehensible;
Sténio, a young poet, who is, in the profoundest and saddest sense of
the adverb, hopelessly in love with her; and a mysterious personage--a
sort of Solomon-Socrates-Senancour--who bears the Ossianesque name of
Trenmor, with a later and less provincially poetical _alias_ of
"Valmarina."[180] The history of the _preuves_ of Trenmor's
novel-nobility are soon laid before the reader. They are not, in their
earlier stages, engaging to the old-fashioned believer in "good form."

Trenmor is the sort of exaggeration of Childe Harold which a lively but
rather vulgar mind might conceive. "He was born great; but they
developed the animal in him." The greatness postponed its appearance,
but the animality did credit to the development. "He used to love to
beat his dogs; before long he beat his prostitutes." This harmless
diversion accentuated itself in details, for which, till the acme, the
reader must be referred to the original. The climacteric moment came. He
had a mistress called "La Mantovana," whom he rather preferred to the
others, because she was beautiful and impudent. "In a night of noise and
wine" he struck her, and she drew a dagger. This made him love her for a
moment; but unfortunately she made an improper observation; thereupon he
tore off her pearl necklace and trod it under his feet. She wept. This
annoyed Trenmor very much. "She had wished revenge for a personal
insult, and she cried for a toy!" Accordingly he had a "crispation of
nerves," which obliged him to take a large cut-glass decanter and hit
her on the head with it. According to the natural perversity on such
occasions of such persons, she died. The brutal justice of mankind--so
hateful to Godwin and George Sand and Victor Hugo--sent Trenmor, not,
indeed, to the gallows, as it should have done, but to the galleys. Yet
the incident made Lélia, who (she must have had a sweet set of friends)
somehow knew him, very fond of Trenmor, though she certainly told him
that he might as well repent of what he had done, which seems
inconsistent.

They let him out after five years (why, Heaven or the other
place knows!) and he became a reformed character--the
Solomon-Socrates-Senancour above mentioned _plus_ a sort of lay
"director" to Lélia, with a carbonaro attitude of political
revolutionary and free-thinking _illuminé_. Now _corruptio pessimi_ is
seldom _optima_.

The main interest, however, shifts (with apparitions of
Trenmor-Valmarina) to the loves (if they may be called so) of the
pitiable Sténio and the intolerable heroine. She is unable to love
anybody, and knows it; she can talk--ye Demons, how she can talk!--but
she can never behave like a woman of this world. She alternately hugs
Sténio, so that she nearly squeezes his breath out, and, when he draws
natural conclusions from this process, pushes him away. But worse and
more preposterous things happen. Lélia has a sister, Pulchérie, who is
very like her (they are of course both impossibly beautiful) in body,
and so far resembles her in mind and soul as to be unable to behave
decently or sensibly. But her want of decency and sense takes the more
commonplace line of becoming an actual courtesan of the "Imperia" kind
in Italy. By a series of muddles for which Lélia is--as her plain-spoken
sister points out after the catastrophe--herself really responsible,
Sténio is induced, during the excitement of an _al fresco_ fête at night
in the grounds of a sort of fairy palace, to take the "coming" sister
for the recalcitrant one, and avail himself of her complaisance, _usque
ad finem_. Lélia reproaches him (which she has not the least right to
do), and he devotes himself entirely to Pulchérie (La Zinzolina is her
professional name) and her group of noble paramours. He gets, however,
generally drunk and behaves with a brutal rudeness, which would, in the
Italy of tradition, have finished things up very soon by a stiletto
thrust, and in honest England by a kicking into the street. There are
mysterious plots, cardinals, and anything else you like or don't like.
Lélia becomes an abbess, Sténio a suicide, the above-mentioned priest,
Magnus, being much concerned in this. She admits her unfortunate lover
to burial, and is degraded and imprisoned for it--or for having saved
Trenmor-Valmarina from the law. Everybody else now dies, and the
nightmare comes to an end.

[Sidenote: The moral of the group and its tragi-comedy.]

The beauties of style which softened the savage breast of Thackeray
himself in the notice above mentioned, and which, such as they are,
appear even in George Sand's earliest work, will receive attention when
that work comes to be discussed as a whole. Meanwhile, at the risk of
any charge of Philistinism, I confess that this part of it seems to me,
after fifty years and more of "corrected impression," almost worthless
_au fond_. It is, being in prose, and therefore destitute of the
easements or at least masquerades which poetry provides for nonsense,
the most conspicuous and considerable example--despite the undoubted
talent of the writer--of the mischief which Byronism did on the
Continent. With us, though it made a great stir, it really did little
harm except to some "silly women" (as the apostle, in unkindly and
uncourtly, but truly apostolic fashion, had called similar persons of
the angelic sex ages before). Counter-jumpers like Thackeray's own
Pogson worshipped "the noble poet"; boys of nobler stamp like Tennyson
_thought_ they worshipped him, but if they were going to become men of
affairs forgot all about him; if they were to be poets took to Keats and
Shelley as models, not to him. Critics hardly took him seriously, except
for non-literary reasons. There was, as I think somebody (perhaps
Thackeray himself) says upon something, "too much roast beef about" for
us to fill our bellies with this worse than east wind of Sensibility
gone rotten. But abroad, for reasons which would be easy but irrelevant
to dwell upon, Byron hit the many-winged bird of popular favour on
nearly all its pinions. He ran strikingly and delightfully contrary to
the accepted _Anglais_, whether of the philosophical or the caricature
type; he was noble, but revolutionary; he looked (he never was, except
in non-essentials) Romantic; he was new, naughty, nice, all at once. And
they went mad over him, and to a large extent and for a long time
remained so; indeed, Continental criticism, whether Latin, Teutonic,
Scandinavian, or Slav, has never reached "the centre" about Byron. Now
George Sand was at no time exactly a silly woman, but she was for a long
time a woman off her balance. Byronism was exactly the -ism with which
she could execute the wildest feats of half-voluntary and
half-involuntary acrobatics, saltimbanquery, and chucking of her bonnet
over all conceivable and inconceivable mills. Childe Harold, Manfred,
Conrad, Lara, Don Juan, Sardanapalus--the shades of these caught her
and waltzed with her and reversed and figured and gesticulated,

     With their Sentimentalibus lacrimae rorum, and pathos and
     bathos delightful to see,

--or perhaps _not_ so very delightful?

But let us pass to the next stage.

[Sidenote: _Consuelo._]

Those persons (I think, without tempting Nemesis too much, I might say
those fortunate persons) to whom the world of books is almost as real as
the other two worlds of life and of dream, may or must have observed
that the conditions and sensations of the individual in all three are
very much the same. In particular, the change from a state of discomfort
to one of comfort--or _vice versa_ unluckily, but with that we have
nothing immediately to do--applies to all. In actual life you are hot,
tired, bored, headachy, "spited with fools," what not. A change of
atmosphere, a bath, a draught of some not unfermented liquor, the sight
of a face, what not again, nay, sometimes a mere shift of clothing, will
make you cool, satisfied, at peace. In dreams you have generally to
wake, to shake off the "fierce vexation," and to realise that it _is_ a
dream; but the relief comes sooner or later. If anybody wants to
experience this change from discomfort to comfort in the book-world of a
single author, I cannot commend anything better than the perusal, with a
short interval--but there should be some--of _Consuelo_ after _Lélia_.
We may have some things to say against the later novel; but that does
not matter.

[Sidenote: Much better in parts.]

It opens with no tricks or _tours de force_; in no atmosphere of
darkened footlights and smell of sawdust; but in frank and free
novel-fashion, with a Venetian church, a famous maestro (Porpora), a
choir of mostly Italian girls, and the little Spanish gipsy Consuelo,
the poorest, humblest, plainest (as most people think) of all the bevy,
but the possessor of the rarest vocal faculties and the most
happiness-producing-and-diffusing temper. There is nothing in the least
milk-soppy or prudish about Consuelo, though she is perfectly "pure";
nor is there anything tractified about her, though she is pious and
generous. The contrast between her and her betrothed, the handsome but
worthless Anzoleto, also a singer, is, at first, not overworked; and one
scene--that in which, when Consuelo has got over the "scraggy" age and
is developing actual beauty, she and Anzoleto debate, in the most
natural manner, whether she _is_ pretty or not--is quite capital, one of
the things that stick in one's memory and stamp the writer's genius, or,
at any rate, consummate talent.

[Sidenote: The degeneration.]

This happy state of affairs continues without much deterioration, though
perhaps with some warnings to the experienced, for some two hundred
pages. The situations and the other characters--the Professor Porpora
himself; Count Zustiniani, _dilettante_, _impresario_ and of course
gallant; his _prima donna_ and (in the story at least) first mistress,
La Corilla; her extravagances and seduction of the handsome Anzoleto;
his irresolution between his still existing affection for Consuelo, who
passes through all these things (and Zustiniani's siege of her) "in
maiden meditation, fancy-free"--all discharge themselves or play their
parts quite as they ought to do. But this comparatively quiet, though by
no means emotionless or unincidented, part of the story "ends in a
blow-up," or rather in a sink-down, for Anzoleto, on a stolen gondola
trip with Clorinda, third cantatrice and interim mistress of Zustiniani
(beautiful, but stupid, and a bad singer), meets the Count in another
gondola with Corilla herself, and in his fury rams his rival and the
perfidious one. Consuelo, who has at last had her eyes opened, quits
Venice and flees, with a testimonial from Porpora, to Germany. Even then
one hopes for the best, and acknowledges that at any rate something not
far from the best, something really good, has been given one for two
hundred well-filled pages--more than the equivalent of the first deck of
one of our old average "three-deckers."

But in the mind of experience such hopes are always accompanied by
fears, and alas! in this instance "the fears have it." There is on the
border of Bohemia a "Castle of the Giants"; and oh! how one wishes that
my Uncle Toby had allowed the sea to execute the ravages he deprecated
and sweep that castle into nothingness! When we get there Byronism is
back--nay, its papa and mamma, Lewisism and Radcliffism, are back
also--with their cardboard turrets and precipices and grottos; their
pine-woods reminding one of the little bristly green things, on round
cinnamon-coloured bases, of one's youth; their floods and falls so
obviously supplied at so much a thousand gallons by the nearest water
company, and their mystery-men and dwarfs and catalepsies and all the
rest of the weary old "tremblement." Count Christian of Rudolstadt is
indeed a gentleman and an almost too affectionate father; his brother,
Baron Frederick, a not disagreeable sportsman and _bon vivant_; their
sister, the Canoness, a not too theatrical old maid; and Frederick's
daughter, Amélie, though pert and not too good-natured, the most human
creature of them all, albeit with the humanities of a soubrette rather
than of a great lady. But what shall one say of Albert of Rudolstadt,
the heir, the betrothed of Amélie (this fact excusing much in her), and,
when Consuelo has joined the circle at Porpora's recommendation as
music-mistress and companion in the higher kind to Amélie--_her_ slave,
conqueror, tormentor, and in the long-run husband? He is perhaps the
most intolerable hero[181] ever designed as a gentleman by a novelist
who has been classed as great, and who certainly has some qualities
necessary to greatness. In reading about him vague compunctions even
come over the mind at having spoken harshly of Sténio and Trenmor.
Sténio was always a fool and latterly a cad; Trenmor first a brute and
then a bore. Albert is none of these (except perhaps the last), but he
is madder than the Mad Hatter and the March Hare put together, and as
depressing as they are delightful. He has hallucinations which
obliterate the sense of time in him; he thinks himself one of his
ancestors of the days of Ziska; he has second sight; he speaks Spanish
to Consuelo and calls her by her name when he first sees her, though he
has not the faintest _sane_ idea who she is or whence she comes; and he
reduces his family to abject misery by ensconcing himself for days in a
grotto which can be isolated by means of a torrent turned on and off at
pleasure by a dwarf gipsy called Zdenko, who is almost a greater
nuisance than Albert himself. Consuelo discovers his retreat at the risk
of being drowned; and various nightmarish scenes occur, resulting in the
slight return to sanity on Albert's part involved in falling in love
with her, and a very considerable advance towards _in_sanity on hers by
falling in love with him. But perhaps this give-and-take of lovers may
seem attractive to some. And when after a time we get into mere
hocus-pocus, and it seems to Consuelo that Albert's violin "speaks and
utters words as through the mouth of Satan," the same persons may think
it fine. For myself, I believe that without fatuity I may claim to be,
if not a _visionnaire_ (perhaps that also), at least a lover of visions,
and of Isaiah and Ezekiel and the Revelation. Dante, Blake, Shelley, the
best of Lamennais and the best of Hugo excite in me nothing but a
passionate reverence. I can walk day-long and night-long by Ulai and
Chebar and Lethe-Eunoe and have no thought of sneer or slumber, shrug or
satiety. But when you ask me to be agitated at Count Albert of
Rudolstadt's violin ventriloquising Satan I really must decline. I do
even remember the poor creature Paul de Kock, and would fain turn to one
of the things he was writing at this very time.

[Sidenote: Recovery; but not maintained quite to the end.]

_Consuelo_ is a very long book--it fills three of the tightly printed
volumes of the old Michel-Calmann-Lévy collection, with some three or
four hundred pages in each; and we have not got, in the above survey, to
more than the middle of the second. But in its afternoon and evening
there is some light. The creature Anzoleto recurs; but his immediate
effect is good,[182] for it starts the heroine on a fresh elopement of
an innocent kind, and we get back to reality. The better side of George
Sand's Bohemianism revives in Bohemia itself; and she takes Consuelo to
the road, where she adopts male dress (a fancy with her creatress
likewise), and falls in with no less a person than the composer Haydn in
his youth. They meet some Prussian crimps, and escape them by help of a
coxcombical but not wholly objectionable Austrian Count Hoditz and the
better (Prussian) Trenck. They get to Vienna (meeting La Corilla in an
odd but not badly managed maternity-scene half-way) and rejoin old
Porpora there. There are interviews with Kaunitz and Maria Theresa:[183]
and a recrudescence of the Venetian musical jealousies. Consuelo
endeavours to reopen communications with the Rudolstadts, but
Porpora--chiefly out of his desire to retain her on the stage, but
partly also from an honest and not wholly unsound belief that a union
between a gipsy girl and a German noble would itself be madness--plays
false with the letters. She accepts a professional invitation from
Hoditz to his castle in Moravia, meets there no less a person than
Frederic the Second _incognito_, and by his order (after she has saved
his life from the vengeance of the re-crimped deserter rescued with her
by Hoditz and Trenck) is invited to sing at Berlin. The carrying out of
the invitation, which has its Fredericianities[184] (as one may perhaps
be allowed to call them), is, however, interrupted. The mysterious
Albert, who has mysteriously turned up in time to prevent an attempt of
the other and worse (Austrian) Trenck on Consuelo, is taken with an
apparently mortal illness at home, and Consuelo is implored to return
there. She does so, and a marriage _in articulo mortis_ follows, the
supposed dead Zdenko (whom we did not at all want) turning up alive
after his master's death. Consuelo, fully if not cheerfully adopted by
the family, is offered all the heirloom jewels and promised succession
to the estates. She refuses, and the book ends--with fair warning that
it is no ending.

[Sidenote: _La Comtesse de Rudolstadt._]

When her history begins again under the title she has "reneged," the
reader may for no short time think that the curse of the sequel--a curse
only too common, but not universal--is going to be averted. She is in
Berlin alone (see note above); is successful, but not at all
happy--perhaps least of all happy because the king, partly out of
gratitude for his safety, partly out of something like a more natural
kind of affection than most authors have credited him with, pays her
marked attentions. For a time things are not unlively; and even the very
dangerous experiment of a supper--one of those at which Frederic's
guests were supposed to have perfectly "free elbows" and availed
themselves of the supposition at their peril--a supper with Voltaire, La
Mettrie, Algarotti, D'Argens, Pöllnitz, and "Quintus Icilius"
present--comes off not so badly. One of the reasons of this is that
George Sand has the sense to make Voltaire ill and silent, and puts the
bulk of the "business" on La Mettrie--a person much cleverer than most
people who have only read book-notices of him may think, but not
dangerously brilliant. Then Consuelo, or "La Porporina," as her stage
name is, gets mixed up--owing to no fault of her own in the first place
at any rate--with the intrigues of the Princess Amélie of Prussia and
her lover, the less bad Trenck. This has two awkward results--for
herself an imprisonment at Spandau, into which she is cast by Frederic's
half jealous, half purely tyrannical wrath, and for us a revival of all
the _massacrant_ illuminism in which the Princess herself is dabbling.
So we have on the scene not only (as the reader sees at once, though
some rather clumsy efforts are made to hide it) the resuscitated Albert,
who passes as a certain Trismegistus, not only the historical charlatan
Saint-Germain, but another charlatan at this time not at all historical
(seeing that the whole story ends in 1760, and he never left Palermo
till nine years later), Cagliostro. Even at Spandau Consuelo herself is
not quite uninteresting; but the Illuminati determine to rescue her, and
for the latter part of the first volume and the whole of the second the
entire thing is, once more, Bosh. The most absurd "double-gangings" take
place between an _inconnu_ named Liverani, whom Consuelo cannot help
loving, and Albert himself, who _is_ Liverani, as everybody but herself
sees at once, interspersed between endless tracts of the usual rubbish
about underground tribunals, and judges in red cloaks, and skeletons,
and museums of torture-implements, and all the Weishauptian trumpery of
mixed occultism and revolutionary sentiment. The author has even the
insufferable audacity to fling at us _another_ resuscitation--that of
the Countess Wanda, Albert's mother, who appears to have transmitted to
him her abominable habit of catalepsy. So ends, unsatisfactorily
enough--unless anybody is satisfied by the fact that two solid children
result from the still mystifying married life of the pair--the story
which had begun so well in the first volume of _Consuelo_, and which in
the major part of _Consuelo_ itself, though not throughout, maintains
the satisfaction fairly.

[Sidenote: The "making good" of _Lucrezia Floriani_.]

If any reader, in two ways gentle, has been good enough to take some
interest in the analysis of these books, but is also so soft-hearted as
to feel slightly _froissé_ by it, as showing a disqualifying inability
to sympathise with the author, I hope I may put myself right by what I
am going to say of another. _Lucrezia Floriani_ is to me the most
remarkable book that George Sand ever wrote; and the nearest to a great
one, if it be not actually that. I have read it, with no diminution of
interest and no abatement of esteem, at very different times of my life,
and I think that it is on the whole not only the most perfect revelation
of what at any rate the author would have liked to be her own
temperament, but--a much greater thing--a presentment in possible and
human form of a real temperament, and almost of a real character.
Further, it is much the most achieved example of that peculiar style of
which more will be said in a general way presently, and it contains
comparatively few blots. One always smiles, of course, at the picture of
Lucrezia swinging in a hammock in the centre of a large room, the four
corners of which are occupied by four bedsteads containing four
children, in the production of whom not exactly _four_ fathers, as they
ought for perfect symmetry, but as a compromise _three_, have assisted.
One always shudders at her notion of restoring a patient, suffering
under a nervous ailment, by surrounding his couch with the cherubic
countenances and the balmy breaths of these infants.[185] Prince Karol,
the hero (such as there is), is a poor creature, though not such a cad
as Sténio; but then, according to Madame Dudevant, men as a rule _were_
poor creatures, unless they were convicts or conjurors, so the
presentation is _ex hypothesi_ or _secundum hypothesin_ correct. And the
whole is firmly drawn and well, but neither gaudily nor pitchily,
coloured. It ought to be remembered that, with the possible exception of
Jane Austen, who has no peer or second among lady novelists, these
either confine themselves to representation of manners, external
character, _ton_, as was said of Fanny Burney, or else, like the other
"George" and Charlotte Brontë, endeavour to represent themselves as they
are or as they would like to be on the canvas. They never create; if
they "imitate" not in the degraded modern but the original classical
sense, and do it well, _punctum ferunt_--_suum_ if not _omne_.

[Sidenote: The story.]

_Lucrezia Floriani_ does this higher imitation well--almost, if not
quite, greatly. Had George Sand been more of a blue-stocking and of an
affected creature than she was, she might have called the book
_Anteros-Nemesis_. The heroine, by her real name Antonietta Menapace, is
the daughter of a fisherman on the Lago d'Iseo, and in her earliest
girlhood the servant-maid of a rich neighbour's wife. As her father, a
close-fisted peasant, wants her to marry a well-to-do churl of her own
rank, she elopes with her employer's son and has two children by him;
but develops a magnificent voice, with no small acting and managing
capacity. So she makes a fortune by the time she is thirty, acquiring
the two other children by two other lovers, and having so many more who
do not leave permanent memorials of their love and necessitate polygonal
rooms, that, as she observes, "she cannot count them."[186] At the
above-mentioned age, however, she becomes weary of this sort of life,
retires to her native district, buys the very house in which she had
been a servant, and with the heir of which (now dead) she had eloped,
and settles down to be a model mother, a Lady Bountiful, and a sort of
recluse. No more "love" for her. In fact, in one of the most remarkable
passages of the book she gives a story of her chief attachments, showing
that, with brief accesses of physical excitement, it has always been
_amour de tête_ and never _amour de coeur_.

Things being so, there arrive one evening, at the only inn on the lake,
a young German Prince, Karol von Roswald, and his friend the Italian
Count Salvator Albani. They are travelling for the Prince's health, he
being a sort of spoilt child, pitiably nervous, imperfectly educated,
and half paralysed by the recent death of his mother and the earlier one
of a _fiancée_. The inn is good to eat in (or rather out of), but for
nothing else; and Salvator, hearing of Lucrezia, whose friend, though
not her lover, he has formerly been, determines to ask a hospitality
which she very cheerfully gives them. _Cetera quis nescit_, as George
Sand herself in other but often-repeated words admits.[187] Karol falls
in love at first sight, though he is horrified at his hostess's past. He
also falls ill, and she nurses him. Salvator leaves them for a time,
and though Lucrezia plays quite the reverse of the part of temptress,
the inevitable does not fail to happen.

That they were _not_ married and that they did _not_ live happy ever
after, everybody will of course be certain, though it is not Karol's
fault that actual marriage does not take place. There is, however, an
almost literal, if unsanctified and irregular honeymoon; but long before
Salvator's[188] return, it has "reddened" more than ominously. Karol is
insanely jealous, and it may be admitted that a more manly and less
childishly selfish creature might be somewhat upset by the arrival of
Lucrezia's last lover, the father of her youngest child, though it is
quite evident that she has not a spark of love for this one left. But he
is also jealous of Salvator; of an old artist named Beccaferri whom she
assists; of a bagman who calls to sell to her eldest boy a gun; of the
aged peasant whom she had refused to marry, but whose death-bed she
visits; of the _curé_; of everybody. And his jealousy takes the form not
merely of rage, which is bad enough for Lucrezia's desire of peace, but
of cold insult, which revolts her never extinguished independence and
pride. He has, as noted, begged her to marry him in the time of
intoxication, but she has refused, and persists in the refusal. After
one or two "scenes" she rows herself over to an olive wood on the other
side of the lake, and makes it a kind of "place of sacrifice"--of the
sacrifice, that is to say, of all hopes of happiness with him or any one
thenceforward. But she neither dismisses nor leaves him; on the
contrary, they live together, unmarried, but with no public scandal, for
ten years, his own passion for her in its peculiar kind never ceasing,
while hers gradually dies under the stress of the various torments he
inflicts, unintentionally if not quite unconsciously, upon her. At last
it is too much, and she dies of heart-failure at forty years of age.

[Sidenote: Its balance of power.]

One might make a few cavils at this. The exact reason of what has been
called the "sacrifice" is not made clear, despite Lucrezia's soliloquy
in the olive wood. If it were meant as an atonement for her ill-spent
youth it would be intelligible. But there is no sign of this, and it
would not be in George Sand's way. Lucrezia merely resolves that she
will try to make everybody happy without trying or expecting to be happy
herself. But she must know more and more that she is _not_ making Karol
happy, and that the cohabitation cannot, even in Italy, but be
prejudicial to her children; though, to do him the very scanty justice
he deserves, he does not behave ill to them, little as he likes them.

Again, this long self-martyrdom would need no explanation if she
continued to love Karol. But it is very doubtful whether she had not
ceased to do so (she was admittedly good at "ceasing to love") when she
left the Wood of Olives, and the cessation admittedly took place long
before the ten years' torture came to an end. One is therefore,
from more than one point of view, left with a sort of Fakir
self-mortification, undertaken and "dreed" neither to atone for
anything, nor to propitiate any Power, nor really to benefit any man.
After all, however, such a thing is quite humanly possible. And these
_aporiae_ hardly touch knots--only very small spots--in a reed of
admirable strength and beauty. We know that George Sand did _not_
sacrifice herself for her lovers--very much the reverse. But we know
also that in her youth and early middle age she was very much of a
Lucrezia Floriani, something of a genius, if not so great a one as she
made her creature, something of a beauty, entirely negligent of ordinary
sexual morality, but thoroughly, if somewhat heartlessly, good-natured,
and (not merely at the times mentioned, but to the end of her life) an
affectionate mother, a delightful hostess, and a very satisfactory
friend. No imaginary Sténio or Karol, no actual Sandeau or Musset or
Chopin could have caused her at any time of her life the misery which
the Prince caused Lucrezia, because she would simply have "sent him
walking," as the vigorous French idiom has it. But it pleased her to
graft upon her actual nature something else that it lacked, and a
life-like and tragical story resulted.

It is not a bad "turn over of the leaf" from this, the strongest, and in
the best sense most faultless, of George Sand's novels of analysis, to
the "idyllic" group of her later middle and later period--the
"prettiest" division, and in another grade of faultlessness the most
free from faults, in ordinary estimation, of her entire production.

[Sidenote: The "Idylls"--_La Petite Fadette_.]

The most popular of these, the prettiest again, the most of a
_bergerie-berquinade-conte-de-fées_, is no doubt _La Petite Fadette_,
the history of two twin-boys and a little girl--this last, of course,
the heroine. The boys are devoted to each other and as like as two peas
in person, but very different in character, one being manly, and the
other, if not exactly effeminate, something like it. As for Fadette,
she, though never exactly like the other girl of the saying "horrid,"
but only (and with very considerable excuses) naughty and untidy and
rude, becomes "so very, very good when she is good" as to awake slight
recalcitrances in those who have acquired the questionable knowledge of
good and evil in actual life. But one does not want to cavil. It _is_ a
pretty book, and when the not exactly wicked but somewhat ill-famed
grandmother's stocking yields several thousand francs and facilitates
the marriage of Landry, the manly brother, and Fadette, one can be very
cheerfully cheerful, and anticipate a real ever-after happiness for
both. No doubt, too, the army did knock the girlishness out of the other
brother, Sylvinet, and we hope that one of the village gossips was wrong
when she said that he would never love any girl but one. For it is
hardly necessary to say that his agreement with his twin extends to love
for Fadette--love which is quite honourable, and quite kindly
extinguished by that agreeable materialisation of one of Titania's
lower-class maids-of-honour.

Only one slight piece of _malice_ (in the mitigated French sense) may be
permitted. We are told that Sylvinet, after the marriage, served for ten
years "in the Emperor Napoleon's glorious campaigns." This will hardly
admit of a later date for that marriage itself than the breach of the
Peace of Amiens. And this, even if Landry was no more than eighteen or
nineteen at that time (he could hardly be less), will throw the date of
his and his brother's birth well before the Revolution. Now, to insist
on chronological exactitude and draw inferences from its absence is--one
admits most cheerfully, and more than admits--a mere curmudgeonly
pedantry in most cases of great or good fiction, prose or verse. One
knows what to think of people who make crimes of these things in
Shakespeare or Scott, in Dumas or Thackeray. But when a writer makes a
great point of Purpose and sets a high value on Questions, it is not
unfair to expect him or her to mind their P's and Q's in other matters.
George Sand is never tired, in other books, of insisting on the
blessedness of the Revolution itself, on the immense and glorious
emancipation from feudal tyranny, etc. But how does it come about that
there is not the very slightest sign of that tyranny in the earlier part
of the story, or of any general disturbance in the middle and later
part? _Glissons; n'appuyons pas_ on this point, but it may be permitted
to put it.

[Sidenote: _La Mare au Diable._]

In another book of this group--I think chronologically the earliest,
also very popular, and quite "on the side of the angels"--the heroine,
another divine little peasant-girl--who, if George Sand had been fond of
series-titles, might have caused the book to be named _La Petite
Marie_--omits any, however slightly, "horrid" stage altogether. She is,
if not "the whole" good--which, as Empedocles said long ago, few can
boast to find,--good, and nothing but good, except pretty, and other
things which are parts or forms of goodness. The piece really is, in the
proper sense which so few people know, or at least use, an idyll, a
little picture of Arcadian life. Speaking precisely--that is to say in
_précis_--it is nothing but the story of a journey in which the
travellers get benighted, and which ends in a marriage. Speaking
analytically, it consists of a prologue--one of the best examples of
George Sand's style and of her power of description, dealing with the
ploughlands of Berry and the ways of their population; of the
proposition to a young widower that he shall undertake re-marriage with
a young widow, well-to-do, of another parish; of his going a-wooing with
the rather incongruous adjuncts of a pretty young servant girl, who is
going to a "place," and his own truant elder sonlet; of the benighting
of them as above by the side of a mere or marsh of evil repute; of the
insult offered to Marie on the arrival at her new place; of the
discomfiture of Germain, the hero, at finding that the young widow keeps
a sort of court of pretenders dangling about her; of his retirement and
vengeance on Marie's insulter; and of the proper marriage-bells. There
is also a rather unnecessary appendix, doubtless dear to the folklorist,
of Berrichon wedding customs.

Once more, to cavil at this would be contemptibly easy. To quote _La
Terre_ against it would be uncritical, for, as may be seen later,
whatever M. Zola's books are, they are not evidence that can negative
anything. It would be as sensible to set against the night scene in the
wood by the Devil's Pool the history of the amiable Dumollard, who, as
far as fifty years' memory serves me, used, some years before George
Sand's death, sometimes to escort and sometimes to lie in wait for
servant-girls on the way to or from places, violate, murder, and rob
them, in another country district of France. Nor would it be quite
critical, though a little more so, to compare George Sand's own friend,
contemporary, and in some sort counterpart, Balzac's peasant scenes
against her. If, at this time, she viewed all such things _en rose_,
Balzac viewed them, at this and almost all times, _en noir_. Perhaps
everybody (except the wicked farmer, who insults Marie) is a little too
good, and it seems rather surprising that somebody did not say something
about Germain and Marie arriving next morning instead of overnight. But
never mind this. The scenery and the writing of the book have real
charm. The long conversation by the watch-fire in the wood, where
Germain tries to break off his suit to the widow already and transfer
himself to Marie, with Marie's cool and (for she has loved him already)
self-denying refusal on the most atrociously rational and business-like
principles, is first-rate. It may rank, with the above-mentioned
discussion about Consuelo's beauty between herself and her lover, as one
of the best examples of George Sand's gift for the novel.

[Sidenote: _François le Champi._]

The third in the order of mention of what is usually considered her
trilogy of idylls, _François le Champi_, if not the prettiest, is the
strongest, and the most varied in interest, of the three. The shadier
side of human character lifts itself and says, _Et in Arcadia ego_,[189]
much more decidedly than in the childish petulances of _La Petite
Fadette_ and the merely "Third Murderer" appearance of the unprincipled
farmer in _La Mare au Diable_. Even the mostly blameless hero is
allowed, towards the close, to exhibit the well-known _rusé_ or _madré_
characteristics of the French peasant to the extent of more than one not
quite white lie; the husband of the heroine is unfaithful, tyrannical as
far as he dare be, and a waster of his family's goods before his
fortunately rather early death; his pretty young sister, Mariette, is a
selfish and spiteful minx; and his paramour (sarcastically named "La
Sevère") is unchaste, malignant, and dishonest all at once--a
combination which may be said to exclude any possible goodness in woman.

The only thoroughly white sheep--though the "Champi" or foundling (his
cradle being the genial fields and not the steps of stone) has but the
grey patches noticed above, and those acquired with the best
intentions--is Madeleine Blanchet, his protectress for many years, and
finally, after difficulties and her widowhood, his wife. That she is
some twelve years older than he is is a detail which need not in itself
be of much importance. It lends itself to that combination of maternal
and sexual affection of which George Sand is so fond, and of which we
may have to speak some harsh words elsewhere. But here it matters
little. Arcady is a kind of Saturnian realm, and "mixtures" elsewhere
"held a stain" may pass there.

[Sidenote: Others--_Mauprat_.]

We may make a further _glissade_ (to return to some remarks made above),
though of a different kind, over a few of the very large number of
novels that we cannot discuss in detail. But _Mauprat_ adds just a
little support to the remarks there made. For this (which is a sort of
crime-and-detection novel, and therefore appeals to some readers more
than to the present historian) turns wholly on the atrocious deeds of a
seignorial family of the most melodramatic kind. Yet it is questionable
whether the wickedest of them ever did anything worse than the action of
their last and renegade member, who actually, when he comes into the
property, ruins his ancestral castle because naughty things have been
done there. Now, when Milton said, "As well kill a man as kill a good
book," though it was no doubt an intentional hyperbole, there was much
sound sense in what he said. Still, except in the case of such a book as
has been produced only a few times in the world's history, it may be
urged that probably something as good might be written by somebody else
among the numerous men that were not killed. But, on the same principle,
one would be justified in saying, "Better kill a hundred men than ruin a
castle with hundreds of years of memories, bad or good." You can never
replace _it_, while the hundred men will, at the very moment they are
killed, be replaced, just as good on the average, by the ordinary
operations of nature. Besides, by partially ruining the castle, you give
an opening to the sin of the restorer, for which there is, we know, _no_
pardon, here or hereafter.[190]

[Sidenote: _La Daniella._]

_La Daniella_ is a rather long book and a rather dull one. There is a
good deal of talkee-talkee of the _Corinne_ kind in it: the heroine is
an angelic Italian soubrette; the hero is one of the coxcombish heroes
of French novels, who seem to have set themselves to confirm the most
unjust ideas of their nation entertained in foreign climes; there is a
"Miss Medora," who, as the hero informs us, "plays the coquette
clumsily, as English girls generally do," etc. _Passons outre_, without
inquiring how much George Sand knew about English girls.

[Sidenote: _Les Beaux Messieurs de Bois-Doré._]

One of the best of her books to read, though it has neither the human
interest of _Lucrezia Floriani_, nor the prettiness of the Idylls, nor
the style-colour of some other books, is _Les Beaux Messieurs de
Bois-Doré_. It is all the more agreeable that we may even "begin with a
little aversion." It suggests itself as a sort of interloper in the
great business of Dumas and Co.: it opens, indeed, only a few years
before D'Artagnan rode up to the inn on the buttercup-coloured pony.
And, in manner, it may look at first as if the writer were following
another but much inferior example--our own G. P. R. James; for there are
"two cavaliers," and one tells the other a tale fit to make him fall
asleep and off his saddle. But it improves remarkably, and before you
have read a hundred pages you are very fairly "enfisted." The figure of
the old Marquis de Bois-Doré--an aged dandy with divers absurdities
about him,[191] but a gentleman to his by no means yet stiffened or
stooping backbone; a heart of gold, and a wrist with a good core of
steel left in it--might easily have been a failure. It is a success. His
first guest and then adversary, the wicked Spaniard, Sciarra d'Alvimar
or de Villareal, whom the old marquis runs through the body in a
moonlight duel for very sufficient reason,[192] may not be thought quite
equally successful. Scoundrel as he is, George Sand has unwisely thrown
over him a touch of _guignon_--of shadowing and resistless fate--which
creates a certain sympathy; and she neglects the good old rule that your
villain should always be allowed a certain run for his money--a
temporary exercise of his villainy. Alvimar, though he does not feel the
marquis's rapier till nearly the end of the first half, as it were, of
the book, is "marked down" from the start, and never kills anything
within those limits except a poor little tame wolf-cub which is going
(very sensibly) to fly at him. He is altogether too much in appearance
and too little in effectuality of the stage Spaniard--black garments,
black upturned moustache, hook-nose, _navaja_, and all the rest of it.
But he does not spoil the thing, though he hardly does it much good; and
if he is badly treated he has his revenge on the author.

For the book becomes very dull after his supposed death (he _does_ die,
but not at once), and only revives when, some way into the second
volume, an elaborate attempt to revenge him is made by his servant,
Sanche, _âme damnée_ and also _damnante_ (if one may coin this variant),
who is, as it turns out, his irregular father. This again rather stagy
character organises a formidable body of wandering _reîtres_, gipsies,
and miscellaneous ruffians to attack and sack the marquis's house--a
plan which, though ultimately foiled, brings about a very refreshing
series of hurly-burlys and hullabaloos for some hundred and fifty pages.
The narrative is full of improbable impossibilities, and contrasts
singularly with the fashion in which Dumas, throughout all his great
books (and not a few of his not so great ones), manages to _escamoter_
the difficulty. The boy Mario,[193] orphan of the murdered brother, left
unknown for many years, recognised by his uncle, avenger of his father
on Sanche, as Bois-Doré himself had been on Alvimar, is altogether too
clever and effective for his age; and the conduct of Bellinde,
Bois-Doré's cashiered _gouvernante_, is almost preposterous throughout.
But it is what a schoolboy of the old days would have called a "jolly
good scrimmage," and restores the interest of the book for most of the
second volume. The end--scarcely, one would think, very interesting to
any one--is quite spoilt for some by another example of George Sand's
inveterate passion for "maternal" love-making and matches where the lady
is nearly double the age of her husband. Others--or the same--may not be
propitiated for this by the "horrors"[194] which the author has
liberally thrown in. But the larger part of the book, like the larger
part of _Consuelo_, is quite good stuff.

[Sidenote: _Le Marquis de Villemer._]

It is, indeed, a really lively book. Two duller ones than the first two
allotted, at the beginning of this notice, to her last period I have
seldom read. They are both instances (and one at least contains an
elaborate vindication) of the "novel of purpose," and they are by
themselves almost enough to damn it. M. le Marquis de Villemer is an
appalling prig--virtuous, in the Devil-and-his-grandmother style, to the
_n_th--who devotes his energies to writing a _History of the Patriciate
since the Christian Era_, the object being to reveal the sins of
aristocracy. He has a rather nice half-brother spend-thrift, Duque
d'Aleria (Madame de Villemer the elder has first married a Spaniard),
whose debts he virtuously pays, and after a great deal of scandal he
marries a poor but noble and noble-minded damsel, Caroline de
Saint-Geneix, who has taken the position of companion to his mother in
order to help her widowed and four-childed sister. For the virtue of
George Sand's virtuous people _is_ virtue and no mistake. The lively and
amiable duke is fortunately fitted with a lively and amiable duchess,
and they show a little light in the darkness of copy-book morality and
republican principles.

[Sidenote: _Mlle. La Quintinie._]

This kindly light is altogether wanting in _Mademoiselle La Quintinie_,
where the purpose passes from politics to religion. The book is rather
famous, and was, at the time, much read, because it is not merely a
novel of purpose, but an instance of the duello fought, not with sword
or pistol, not with quarter-staves or sand-bags, but with _feuilletons_
of fiction. It, and Octave Feuillet's _Sibylle_, to which it is the
countercheck-quarrelsome, both appeared in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_.
It should be seen at a further stage of this volume that I do not think
_Sibylle_ a masterpiece, either of tale-telling or of argumentation,
though it is more on my side than the reply is. But Feuillet, though not
a genius, as some people would have George Sand to be, nor yet
possessing anything like the talent which no sane criticism can deny
her, was a much better craftsman in the art of novel-writing.

[Sidenote: _Flamarande._]

For a final notice--dealing also with the last, or almost the last, of
all her books--we may take _Flamarande_ and its sequel, _Les Deux
Frères_. They give the history of the unfounded jealousy of a husband in
regard to his wife--a jealousy which is backed up by an equally
unfounded suspicion (supported by the most outrageous proceedings of
espionage and something like burglary) on the part of a confidential
servant, who, as we are informed at last, has himself had a secret
passion for his innocent mistress. It is more like a Feuillet book than
a George Sand, and in this respect shows the curious faculty--possessed
also by some lady novelists of our own--of adapting itself to the change
of novel-fashion. But to me at least it appeals not.

So turn we from particulars (for individual notice of the hundred books
is impossible) to generals.

[Sidenote: Summary and judgment.]

[Sidenote: Style.]

It may be difficult to sum up the characteristics of such a writer as
George Sand shortly, but it has to be done. There is to be allowed
her--of course and at once--an extraordinary fertility, and a hardly
less extraordinary escape from absolute sinking into the trivial. She is
preposterous early, somewhat facile and "journalistic" later, but she is
never exactly commonplace. She belongs to the school of immense and
almost mechanical producers who are represented in English by Anthony
Trollope as their "prior" and by Mrs. Oliphant[195] and Miss Braddon as
commandresses of the order. (I think she runs a good deal below the
Prior but a good deal above the Commandresses.[196]) But, if she does so
belong, it is very mainly due, not to any pre-eminence of narrative
faculty, but to that gift of style which has been for nearly a hundred
years admitted. Now I have in this _History_ more than once, and by no
means with tongue in cheek, expressed a diffidence about giving opinions
on this point. I have, it is true, read French for more than sixty
years, and I have been accustomed to "read for style" in it, and in
divers other languages, for at least fifty. But I see such extraordinary
blunders made by foreigners in regard to this side of our own
literature, that I can never be sure--being less conceited than the
pious originator of the phrase--that even the Grace of God has prevented
me from going the same way. Still, if I have any right to publish this
book, I must have a little--I will not say "right," but _venia_ or
licence--to say what seems to me to be the fact of the matter. That
fact--or that seeming of fact--is that George Sand's style is _too_
facile to be first-rate. By this I do not mean that it is too plain. On
the contrary, it is sometimes, especially in her early books, ornate to
gorgeousness, and even to gaudiness. And it was a curious mistake of the
late Mr. Pater, in a quite honorific reference to me, to imply that I
preferred the plain style--a mistake all the more curious that he knew
and acknowledged (and was almost unduly grateful for) my admiration of
his own. I like both forms: but for style--putting meaning out of the
question--I would rather read Browne than Swift, and Lamennais than
Fénelon.

George Sand has both the plain and the ornate styles (and various shades
of "middle" between them) at command. But it seems to me that she has
them--to use a financial phrase recently familiar--too much "on tap."
You see that the current of agreeable and, so to speak, faultless
language is running, and might run volubly for any period of life that
might be allotted to her. In fact it did so. Now no doubt there was
something of Edmond de Goncourt's bad-blooded fatuity in his claim that
his and his brother's epithets were "personal," while Flaubert's were
not. Research for more personal "out-of-the-wayness" in style will
rarely result in anything but jargon. But, on the other hand, Gautier's
great injunction:

    Sculpte, lime, cisèle!

is sound. You cannot reach the first class in any art by turning a tap
and letting it run.

[Sidenote: Conversation and description.]

The one point of what we may call the "furniture" of novels, in which
she seems to me to have, occasionally at least, touched supremacy, is
conversation. It has been observed by those capable of making the
induction that, close as drama and novel are in some ways, the
distinction between dramatic and non-dramatic talk is, though narrow,
deeper than the very deepest Alpine crevasse from Dauphiné to Carinthia.
Such specimens as those already more than once dwelt on--Consuelo's and
Anzoleto's debate about her looks, and that of Germain and Marie in the
midnight wood by the Devil's Mere--are first-rate, and there is no more
to say. Some of her descriptions, again, such as the opening of the book
last quoted (the wide, treeless, communal plain with its various
labouring teams), or as some of the Lake touches in _Lucrezia Floriani_,
or as the relieving patches in the otherwise monotonous grumble of _Un
Hiver à Majorque_, are unsurpassable. Nor is this gift limited to mere
_paysage_. The famous account of Chopin's playing already mentioned for
praise is only first among many. But whether these things are supported
by sufficient strength of character, plot, incident, "thought," and the
rest; whether that strange narrative power, so hard to define and so
impossible to mistake or to fail to distinguish from these other
elements, is present--these are great questions and not easy to answer.
I am, as will have been seen throughout, rather inclined to answer them
in the unfavourable way.

In fact--impertinent, insolent, anything else as it may seem--I venture
to ask the question, "Was George Sand a very great craftswoman in the
novel?" and, what is more, to answer it in the negative. I understand
that an ingenious critic of her own sex has recently described her
method as "rolling through the book, locked in the embraces of her
subject," as distinguished from the aloofness and elaboration of a more
recent school. So far, perhaps, so good; but I could wish to find "the
intricacies of Diego and Julia" more interesting to me than as a rule
they are. And it must be remembered that she is constantly detaching
herself from the forlorn "subject," leaving it _un_embraced and
shivering, in order to sermonise it and her readers. I do not make the
very facile and somewhat futile criticism that she would have written
better if she had written half or a quarter as much as she did. She
could not have written little; it is as natural and suitable for Tweed
to "rin wi' speed" as for Till to "rin slaw," though perhaps the
result--parallel to but more cheerful than that recorded in the old
rhyme--may be that Till has the power not of drowning but of
intoxicating two men, where Tweed can only manage one. But this
engrained fecundity and facundity of hers inevitably make her work
novel-journalism rather than novel-literature in all points but in that
of style, which has been discussed already.[197]

FOOTNOTES:

[174] It is attested by the well-known story, more excusable in a man
than creditable to a gentleman, of her earliest or earliest known lover,
Jules Sandeau (_v. inf._), seeing a photograph of her in later days,
turning to a companion and saying, "Et je l'ai connue _belle_!"

[175] It is possible that some readers may not know the delightfully
unexpected, and not improbably "more-expressive-than-volumes" _third_
line--

     "Not like the woman who lies under the next stone."

But tradition has, I believe, mercifully omitted to identify this
neighbouring antipode.

[176] Details of personal scandal seldom claim notice here. But it may
be urged with some show of reason that _this_ scandal is too closely
connected with the substance and the spirit of the novelist's whole
work, from _Indiana_ to _Flamarande_, to permit total ignoring of it.
_Lucrezia Floriani_, though perhaps more suggestive of Chopin than of
Musset, but with "tangency" on both, will be discussed in the text. That
most self-accusing of excuses, _Elle et Lui_, with its counterblast Paul
de Musset's _Lui et Elle_, and a few remarks on _Un Hiver à Majorque_
(conjoined for a purpose, which will be indicated) may be despatched in
a note of some length.

[Sidenote: Note on _Elle et Lui_, etc.,]

The rival novel-_plaidoyers_ on the subject of the loves and strifes of
George Sand and Alfred de Musset are sufficiently disgusting, and if
they be considered as novels, the evil effect of purpose--and
particularly of personal purpose--receives from them texts for a whole
series of sermons. Reading them with the experience of a lifetime, not
merely in literary criticism, but (for large parts of that lifetime) in
study of evidence on historical, political, and even directly legal
matters, I cannot help coming to the conclusion that, though there is no
doubt a certain amount of _suggestio falsi_ in both, the _suppressio
veri_ is infinitely greater in _Elle et Lui_. If the letters given in
Paul de Musset's book were not written by George Sand they were written
by Diabolus. And there is one retort made towards the finale by "Édouard
de Falconey" (Musset) to "William Caze" (George Sand) which stigmatises
like the lash of a whip, if not even like a hot iron, the whole face of
the lady's novels.

"Ma chère," lui dit-il, "vous parlez si souvent de chasteté que cela
devient indécent. Votre amitié n'est pas plus 'sainte' que celle des
autres." [If he had added "maternité" the stigma would have been
completer still.] And there is also a startling verisimilitude in the
reply assigned to her:

"Mon cher, trouvez bon que je console mes amis selon ma méthode. Vous
voyez qu'elle leur plaît assez, puisqu'ils y reviennent."

It was true: they did so, rather to their own discredit and wholly to
their discomfort. But she and her "method" must have pleased them enough
for them to do it. It is not so pleasing a method for an outsider to
contemplate. He sees too much of the game, and has none of the pleasure
of playing or the occasional winnings. Since I read Hélisenne de Crenne
(_v. sup._ Vol. I, pp. 150-1) there has seemed to me to be some likeness
between the earlier stage of her heroine (if not of herself) and that of
George Sand in her "friendships." They both display a good deal of mere
sensuality, and both seem to me to have been quite ignorant of passion.
Hélisenne did not reach the stage of "maternal" affection, and perhaps
it was well for her lover and not entirely bad for her readers. But the
best face that can be put on the "method" will be seen in _Lucrezia
Floriani_.

[Sidenote: and on _Un Hiver à Majorque_.]

The bluntness of taste and the intense concentration on self, which were
shown most disagreeably in _Elle et Lui_, appear on a different side in
another book which is not a novel at all--not even a novel as far as
masque and domino are concerned,--though indirectly it touches another
of George Sand's curious personal experiences--that with Chopin. _Un
Hiver à Majorque_ is perhaps the most ill-tempered book of travel,
except Smollett's too famous production, ever written by a novelist of
talent or genius. The Majorcans certainly did not ask George Sand to
visit them. They did not advertise the advantages of Majorca, as is the
fashion with "health resorts" nowadays. She went there of her own
accord; she found magnificent scenery; she flouted the sentiments of
what she herself describes as the most priest-ridden country in Europe
by never going to church, though and while she actually lived in a
disestablished and disendowed monastery. To punish them for which (the
_non sequitur_ is intentional) she does little but talk of dirt,
discomfort, bad food, extortion, foul-smelling oil and garlic, varying
the talk only to foul-smelling oil and garlic, extortion, bad food,
discomfort, or dirt. The book no doubt yields some of her finest
passages of descriptive prose, both as regards landscape, and in the
famous record of Chopin's playing; but otherwise it is hardly worth
reading.

[177] She survived into the next decade and worked till the last with no
distinct declension, but she did not complete it, dying in 1876. Her
famous direction about her grave, _Laissez la verdure_, is
characteristic of her odd mixture if theatricality and true nature. But
if any one wishes to come to her work with a comfortable preoccupation
in favor of herself, he should begin with her _Letters_. Those of her
old age especially are charming.

[178] Cf. Mr. Alfred Lammle on his unpoetical justice to Mr. Fledgeby in
_Our Mutual Friend_.

[179] Valentine has an elder sister who has a son, irregularily
existent, but is as much in love with Benedict as if she were a girl and
he were a gentleman; and this son marries the much older Athenais, a
lovely peasant girl who has been the unwilling _fiancée_ and wife of the
ingenious pitchforker. You have seldom to go far in George Sand for an
unmarried lady with a child for chastity, and a widow who marries a boy
for maternal affection.

[180] There is also an Irish priest called Magnus, who, like everybody
else, is deeply and (in the proper sense of _sans espoir_) desperately
in love with Lélia. He is, on the whole, quite the maddest--and perhaps
the most despicable--of the lot.

[181] If any one says, "So, then, there are several 'most
intolerables,'" let me point out that intolerableness is a more than
"twy-peaked" hill or range. Julien Sorel and Marius were not designed to
be gentlemen.

[182] It is bad for Amélie, who, in a not unnatural revulsion from her
_fiancé's_ neglects and eccentricities, lets herself be fooled by the
handsome Italian.

[183] George Sand's treatment of the great Empress, Marie Antoinette's
mother, is a curious mixture of half-reluctant admiration and Republican
bad-bloodedness.

[184] Porpora is included, but the amiable monarch, who has heard that
the old _maestro_ speaks freely of him, gives private orders that he
shall be stopped at the frontier.

[185] _Cow's_ breath has, I believe, been prescribed in such cases by
the faculty; hardly children's.

[186] She does not make the delicate distinction once drawn by another
of her sex: "I can tell you how many people I have kissed, but I cannot
tell you how many have kissed _me_."

[187] She is rather fond of taking her readers into confidence this way.
I have no particular objection to it; but those who object to
Thackeray's _parabases_ ought to think this is a still more
objectionable thing.

[188] The Count Albani plays his difficult part of thirdsman very well
throughout, though just at first he would make an advance on "auld lang
syne" if Lucrezia would let him. But later he is on strict honour, and
quarrels with the Prince for his tyranny.

[189] It is very pleasing to see, as I have seen, this famous phrase
quoted as if it had reference to the _joys_ of Arcadia.

[190] If any among my congregation be offended by apparent flippancy in
this notice of a book which, to my profound astonishment, some people
have taken as the author's masterpiece, I apologise. But if I spoke more
seriously I should also speak more severely.

[191] He is a frantic devotee of the _Astrée_, and George Sand brings in
a good deal about the most agreeable book, without, however, showing
very intimate or accurate knowledge of it.

[192] The Spaniard (rather his servant with his connivance) has murdered
and robbed Bois-Doré's brother.

[193] He is also very handsome, and so makes up for the plurality of the
title.

[194] Alvimar lies dying for hours with the infidel Bohemians and
roistering Protestant _reîtres_ not only disturbing his death-bed, but
interfering with the "consolation of religion"; the worst of the said
Bohemians is buried alive (or rather stifled after he has been
_half_-buried alive) by the little gipsy girl, Pilar, whom he has
tormented; and Pilar herself is burnt alive on the last page but one,
after she has poisoned Bellinde.

[195] Taking her work on the whole. The earlier part of it ran even
Trollope hard.

[196] Her points of likeness to her self-naming name-child, "George
Eliot," are too obvious to need discussion. But it is a question whether
the main points of _un_likeness--the facility and extreme fecundity of
the French George, as contrasted with the laborious book-bearing of the
English--are not more important than the numerous but superficial and to
a large extent non-literary resemblances.

[197] I have said little or nothing of the short stories. They are
fairly numerous, but I do not think that her _forte_ lay in them.



CHAPTER VI

THE NOVEL OF STYLE--GAUTIER, MÉRIMÉE, GÉRARD DE NERVAL, MUSSET, VIGNY


In arranging this volume I have thought it worth while to include, in a
single chapter and _nominatim_ in the title thereof, five writers of
prose novels or tales; all belonging to "1830"; four of them at least
ranking with all but the greatest of that great period; but no one
exclusively or even essentially a novelist as Balzac and George Sand
were in their different ways, and none of them attempting such imposing
bulk-and-plan of novel-matter as that which makes up the prose fiction
of Hugo. Gautier was an admirable, and Musset and Vigny at their best
were each a consummate, poet; while the first-named was a "polygraph" of
the polygraphs, in every kind of _belles-lettres_. Mérimée's novels or
tales form a small part of his whole work. "Gérard" is perhaps only
admissible here by courtesy, though more than one or two readers, I
hope, would feel his absence as a dark gap in the book. Musset, again,
not ill at short stories, is far better at short plays. _One_ novel of
Vigny's has indeed enjoyed great fame; but, as will be seen, I am
unluckily unable to admire it very much, and I include him here--partly
because I do not wish to herd so clear a name with the Sues and the
Souliés, even with the Sandeaus and Bernards--partly because, though his
style in prose is not so marked as that in verse, some of his minor work
in fiction is extremely interesting. But though so much of their work,
and in Musset's and Vigny's cases all their best work, lies outside our
province, and though they themselves, with the possible exception of
Gérard and Gautier, who have strong affinities, are markedly different
from one another, there is one point which they all have in common, and
this point supplies the general title of this chapter. Style of the more
separable and elaborate kind does not often make its appearance very
early in literary departments; and there may be (_v. inf._) some special
reasons why it should not do so in prose fiction. With the exception of
Marivaux, who had carried his attention to it over the boundary-line of
mannerism, few earlier novelists, though some of them were great
writers, had made a point of it, the chief exceptions being in the
particular line of "wit," such as Hamilton, Crébillon _fils_, and
Voltaire. Chateaubriand had been almost the first to attempt a
novel-_rhetoric_; and it must be remembered that Chateaubriand was a
sort of human _magnus Apollo_ throughout the July monarchy. At any rate,
it is a conspicuous feature in all these writers, and may serve as a
link between them.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Gautier--his burden of "style."]

Some readers may know (for I, and the others, which I shall probably
quote again, have quoted it before now) a remark of Émile de Girardin
when Théophile Gautier asked him how people liked a story which "Théo"
had prevailed on that experienced editor to insert as a _feuilleton_ in
the _Presse_: "Mon ami, l'abonné ne s'amuse pas _franchement_. Il est
gêné par le style." Girardin, though not exactly a genius, was an
exceedingly clever man, and knew the foot of his public--perhaps of
"_the_ public"--to a hundredth of an inch. But he could hardly have
anticipated the extent to which his criticism would reflect the attitude
of persons who would have been, and would be, not a little offended at
being classed with _l'abonné_. The reproach of "over-styling" has been
cast at Gautier by critics of the most different types, and--more
curiously at first sight than after a moment's reflection--by some who
are themselves style-mad, but whose favourite vanities in that matter
are different from his. I can hardly think of any writer--Herrick as
treated by Hazlitt is the chief exception that occurs to me at the
moment--against whom this cheap and obvious, though, alas! not very
frequently possible, charge of "bright far-shining emptiness," of
glittering frigidity, of colour without flesh and blood, of art without
matter, etc., etc., has been cast so violently--or so unjustly. In
literature, as in law and war, the favourite method of offensive defence
is to reserve your _triarii_, your "colophon" of arms or arguement, to
the last; but there are cases in all three where it is best to carry an
important point at once and hold it. I think that this is one of these
cases; and I do not think that the operation can be conducted with
better chance of success than by inserting here that outline,[198] with
specimens, of _La Morte Amoureuse_ which has been already promised--or
threatened--in the Preface. For here the glamour--if it be only
glamour--of the style will have disappeared; the matter will remain.


     [Sidenote: Abstract (with translations) of _La Morte
     Amoureuse_.]

     You ask me, my brother, if I have ever loved. I answer
     "Yes." But it is a wild and terrible story, a memory whose
     ashes, with all my sixty-six years, I hardly dare to
     disturb. To you I can refuse nothing, but I would not tell
     the tale to a less experienced soul. The facts are so
     strange that I myself cannot believe in their actual
     occurrence. For three years I was the victim of a diabolical
     delusion, and every night--God grant it was a dream--I, a
     poor country priest, led the life of the lost, the life of
     the worldling and the debauchee. A single chance of too
     great complacency went near to destroy my soul; but at last,
     with God's aid and my patron saint's, I exorcised the evil
     spirit which had gained possession of me. Till then my life
     was double, and the counterpart by night was utterly
     different from the life by day. By day I was a priest of the
     Lord, pure, and busied with holy things. By night, no sooner
     had I closed my eyes than I became a youthful gallant,
     critical in women, dogs, and horses, prompt with dice and
     bottle, free of hand and tongue; and when waking-time came
     at dawn of day, it seemed to me as if I then fell asleep and
     was a priest only in dreams. From this sleep-life I have
     kept the memory of words and things, which recur to me
     against my will; and though I have never quitted the walls
     of my parsonage, those who hear me talk would rather think
     me a man of the world and of many experiences, who has
     entered the religious life hoping to finish in God's bosom
     the evening of his stormy day, than a humble seminarist,
     whose life has been spent in an obscure parish, buried deep
     in woods, and far removed from the course of the world.

     Yes, I have loved--as no one else has loved, with a mad and
     wild passion so violent that I can hardly understand how it
     failed to break my heart.

After rapidly sketching the history of the early seminary days of the
priest Romuald, his complete seclusion and ignorance almost of the very
names of world and woman, the tale goes on to the day of his ordination.
He is in the church, almost in a trance of religious fervour; the
building itself, the gorgeously robed bishop, the stately ceremonies,
seem to him a foretaste of heaven, when suddenly--

     By chance I raised my head, which I had hitherto kept bowed,
     and saw before me, within arm's length as it seemed, but in
     reality at some distance and beyond the chancel rails, a
     woman of rare beauty and royally apparelled. At once, as it
     were, scales dropped from my eyes. I was in the case of a
     blind man whose sight is suddenly restored. The bishop, but
     now so dazzling to me, became dim, the tapers in their
     golden stands paled like the stars at morning, and darkness
     seemed to pervade the church. On this background of shade
     the lovely vision stood out like an angelic appearance,
     self-illumined, and giving rather than receiving light. I
     dropped my eyelids, firmly resolving not again to raise
     them, that so I might escape the distraction of outward
     things, for I felt the spell more and more, and I hardly
     knew what I did; but a minute afterwards I again looked up,
     for I perceived her beauty still shining across my dropped
     lashes as if with prismatic glory, and encircled by the
     crimson halo that, to the gazer, surrounds the sun. How
     beautiful she was! Painters, when in their chase of the
     ideal they have followed it to the skies and carried off
     therefrom the divine image of Our Lady, never drew near this
     fabulous reality. Nor are the poet's words more adequate
     than the colours of the limner. She was tall and
     goddess-like in shape and port. Her soft fair hair rolled on
     either side of her temples in golden streams that crowned
     her as with a queen's diadem. Her forehead, white and
     transparent, tinged only by blue vein-stains, stretched in
     calm amplitude over two dark eyebrows--a contrast enhanced
     still further by the sea-green lustre of her glittering and
     unfathomable eyes. Ah, what eyes! One flash of them was
     enough to settle the fate of a man. Never had I seen in
     human eyes such life, such clearness, such ardour, such
     humid brilliancy; and there shot from them glances like
     arrows, which went straight to my heart. Whether the flame
     which lit them came from hell or heaven I know not, but from
     one or the other it came, most surely. No daughter of Eve
     she, but an angel or a fiend, perhaps--who knows?--something
     of both. The quarrelets of pearl flashed through her scarlet
     smile, and as her mouth moved the dimples sank and filled by
     turns in the blush-rose softness of her exquisite cheek.
     Over the even smoothness of her half-uncovered shoulders
     played a floating gloss as of agate, and a river of large
     pearls, not greatly different in hue from her neck,
     descended towards her breast. Now and then she raised her
     head with a peacock-like gesture, and sent a quiver through
     the ruff which enshrined her like a frame of silver
     filigree.

The strange vision causes on Romuald strange yet natural effects. His
ardent aspiration for the priesthood changes to loathing. He even tries
to renounce his vows, to answer "No" to the questions to which he should
answer "Yes," and thus to comply with the apparent demand of the
stranger's eyes. But he cannot. The awe of the ceremony is yet too
strong on his soul, if not on his senses and imagination; and the fatal
words are spoken, the fatal rites gone through, despite the promises of
untold bliss which the eyes, evermore caressing and entreating, though
sadder, as the completion of the sacrifice approaches, continue to make
him.

     At last it was over--I was a priest. Never did face of woman
     wear an expression of such anguish as hers. The girl whose
     lover drops lifeless at her side, the mother by her dead
     child's cradle, Eve at the gate of paradise, the miser who
     finds his buried treasure replaced by a stone, the poet
     whose greatest work has perished in the flames, have not a
     more desolate air. The blood left her countenance, and it
     became as of marble; her arms fell by her side, as if their
     muscles had become flaccid; and she leant against a pillar,
     for her limbs refused to support her. As for me, with a
     livid face bathed as if in the dews of death, I bent my
     tottering steps towards the church door. The air seemed to
     stifle me, the vaulted roof settled on my shoulders, and on
     my head seemed to rest the whole crushing weight of the
     dome. As I was on the point of crossing the threshold a hand
     touched mine suddenly--a woman's hand--a touch how new to
     me! It was as cold as the skin of a serpent, yet the contact
     burnt like the brand of a hot iron. "Unhappy wretch! What
     have you done?" she said to me in a low voice, and then
     disappeared in the crowd.

On the way to the seminary, whither a comrade has to support him, for
his emotion is evident to all, a page, unnoticed, slips into Romuald's
hand a tablet with the simple words, "Clarimonde. At the Concini
Palace." He passes some days in a state almost of delirium, now forming
wild plans of escape, now shocked at his sinful desires, but always
regretting the world he has renounced, and still more Clarimonde.

     I do not know how long I remained in this condition, but, as
     in one of my furious writhings I turned on my bed, I saw the
     Father Serapion standing in the middle of the cell gazing
     steadily at me. Shame seized me, and I hid my face with my
     hands. "Romuald," said he, at the end of a few minutes,
     "something extraordinary has come on you. Your conduct is
     inexplicable. You, so pious, so gentle, you pace your cell
     like a caged beast. Take heed, my brother, of the
     suggestions of the Evil One, for he is wroth that you have
     given yourself to the Lord, and lurks round you like a
     ravening wolf, if haply a last effort may make you his."

Then, bidding him redouble his pious exercises, and telling him that he
has been presented by the bishop to a country cure, and must be ready to
start on the morrow, Serapion leaves him. Romuald is in despair at
quitting the neighbourhood of Clarimonde. But his seminarist
inexperience makes him feel, more than ever, the impossibility even of
discovering her, and the hints of Serapion have in a manner reawakened
his conscience. He departs on the morrow without protest. They quit the
city, and begin to climb the hills which surround it.

     At the top I turned round once more to give a last look to
     the place where dwelt Clarimonde. The city lay wholly in the
     shadow of a cloud; its blue and red roofs were blended in
     one general half-tint, above which here and there white
     flakes of the smoke of morning fires hovered. By some
     optical accident a single edifice stood out gilded by a ray
     of light, and more lofty than the mass of surrounding
     buildings. Though more than a league off, it seemed close to
     us. The smallest details were visible--the turrets, the
     terraces, the windows, and even the swallow-tailed vanes.
     "What is that sunlit palace yonder?" I asked of Serapion. He
     shaded his eyes with his hand, and after looking he
     answered, "It is the palace which Prince Concini gave to the
     courtesan Clarimonde. Terrible things are done there." As he
     spoke, whether it were fact or fancy I know not, it seemed
     to me that I saw a slender white form glide out on the
     terrace, glitter there for a second, and then disappear. It
     was Clarimonde! Could she have known that at that moment,
     from the rugged heights of the hill which separated me from
     her, and which I was never more to descend, I was bending a
     restless and burning gaze on the palace of her abode,
     brought near me by a mocking play of light, as if to invite
     me to enter? Ah yes! she knew it doubtless, for her soul was
     bound to mine too nearly not to feel its least movements;
     and this it must have been which urged her to climb the
     terrace in the cold morning dews, wrapped only in her snowy
     nightgear.

But the die is cast, and the journey continues. They reach the modest
parsonage where Romuald is to pass the rest of his days, and he is
installed in his cure, Serapion returning to the city. Romuald attacks
his work desperately, hoping to find peace there, but he very partially
succeeds. The words of Clarimonde and the touch of her hand haunt him
constantly, and sometimes even stranger things happen. He sees the flash
of the sea-green eyes across his garden hedges; he seems to find the
imprint of feet, which are assuredly not those of any inhabitant of the
village, on the gravel walks. At last one night he is summoned late to
the bedside of a dying person, by a messenger of gorgeous dress and
outlandish aspect. The journey is made in the darkness on fiery steeds,
through strange scenery, and in an unknown direction. A splendid palace
is at length reached--too late, for the priest is met by the news that
his penitent has already expired. But he is entreated, and consents, at
least to watch and pray by the body during the night. He is led into the
chamber of death, and finds that the corpse is Clarimonde. At first he
mechanically turns to prayer, but other thoughts inevitably occur. His
eyes wander to the appearance and furniture of the boudoir suddenly put
to so different use: the gorgeous hangings of crimson damask contrasting
with the white shroud, the faded rose by the bedside, the scattered
signs of revelry, distract and disturb him. Strange fancies come thick.
The air seems other than that to which he is accustomed in such chambers
of the dead. The corpse appears from time to time to make slight
movements; even sighs seem to echo his own. At last he lifts the veil
which covers her, and contemplates the exquisite features he had last
seen at the fatal moment of his sacrifice. He cannot believe that she is
dead. The faint blush-rose tints are hardly dulled, the hand is not
colder than he recollects it.

     The night was now far spent. I felt that the moment of
     eternal separation was at hand, and I could not refuse
     myself the last sad pleasure of giving one kiss to the dead
     lips of her, who, living, had had all my love. Oh, wonder! A
     faint breath mingled with mine, the eyes opened and became
     once more brilliant. She sighed, and uncrossing her arms she
     clasped them round my neck with an air of ineffable
     contentment. "Ah!" she said, with a voice as faint and as
     sweet as the last dying vibrations of a harp, "is it you,
     Romuald? I have waited for you so long that now I am dead.
     But we are betrothed to one another from this moment, and I
     can see you and visit you henceforward. Romuald, I loved
     you! Farewell; this is all I have to say; and thus I restore
     the life you gave me for a minute with your kiss. We shall
     soon meet again." Her head fell back, but she still held me
     encircled. A furious gust of wind forced in the window and
     swept into the room: the last leaflet of the white rose
     quivered for a minute on its stalk and then fell, and
     floated through the open casement, bearing with it the soul
     of Clarimonde. The lamp went out, and I sank in a swoon.

He wakes in his own room, and hears from his ancient _gouvernante_ that
the same strange escort which carried him off has brought him back.
Soon afterwards his friend Serapion comes to visit him, not altogether
to his delight, for he, rightly suspects the father of some knowledge of
his secret. Serapion announces to him, as a matter of general news, that
the courtesan Clarimonde is dead, and mentions that strange rumours have
been current respecting her--some declaring her to be a species of
vampire, and her lovers to have all perished mysteriously. As he says
this he watches Romuald, who cannot altogether conceal his thoughts.
Thereat Serapion--

     "My son," said he, "it is my duty to warn you that your feet
     are on the brink of an abyss; take heed of falling. Satan's
     hands reach far, and the grave is not always a faithful
     gaoler. Clarimonde's tombstone should be sealed with a
     triple seal, for it is not, say they, the first time she has
     died. May God watch over you." Saying this, Serapion slowly
     went out, and I saw him no more. I soon recovered
     completely, and returned to my usual occupations; and though
     I never forgot the memory of Clarimonde and the words of the
     father, nothing extraordinary for a time occurred to confirm
     in any way his ill-omened forebodings, so that I began to
     believe that his apprehensions and my own terror were
     unfounded. But one night I had a dream. Scarcely had I
     fallen asleep when I heard my bed-curtains drawn, the rings
     grating sharply on the rods. I raised myself abruptly on my
     elbow and saw before me the shadowy figure of a woman. At
     once I recognised Clarimonde. She carried in her hand a
     small lamp of the shape of those which are placed in tombs,
     and the light of it gave to her tapering fingers a rosy
     transparency which, with gradually fainter tints, prolonged
     itself till it was lost in the milky whiteness of her naked
     arm. The only garment she had on was the linen shroud which
     covered her on her death-bed, and she tried to hold up its
     folds on her breast as if shame-stricken at her scanty
     clothing. But her little hand was not equal to the task; and
     so white was she that the lamplight failed to make
     distinction between the colour of the drapery and the hue of
     the flesh. Wrapped in this fine tissue, she was more like an
     antique marble statue of a bather than a live woman. Dead or
     alive, woman or statue, shadow or body, her beauty was
     unchangeable, but the green flash of her eyes was somewhat
     dulled, and her mouth, so red of old, was now tinted only
     with a faint rose-tint like that of her cheeks. The blue
     flowerets in her hair were withered and had lost almost all
     their petals; yet she was still all charming--so charming
     that, despite the strangeness of the adventure and the
     unexplained fashion of her entrance, no thought of fear
     occurred to me. She placed the lamp on the table and seated
     herself on the foot of my bed; then, bending towards me, she
     spoke in the soft and silvery voice that I have heard from
     none but her. "I have kept you waiting long, dear Romuald,
     and you must have thought that I had forgotten you. But I
     come from very far--from a place whence no traveller has yet
     returned. There is neither sun nor moon, nor aught but space
     and shadow; no road is there, nor pathway to guide the foot,
     nor air to uphold the wing; and yet here am I, for love is
     stronger than death, and is his master at the last. Ah! what
     sad faces, what sights of terror, I have met! With what
     pains has my soul, regaining this world by force of will,
     found again my body and reinstalled itself! With what effort
     have I lifted the heavy slab they laid upon me, even to the
     bruising of my poor feeble hands! Kiss them, dear love, and
     they will be cured." She placed one by one the cold palms of
     her little hands against my mouth, and I kissed them again
     and again, while she watched me with her smile of ineffable
     content. I at once forgot Serapion's advice, I forgot my
     sacred office; I succumbed without resistance at the first
     summons, I did not even attempt to repulse the tempter.

She tells him how she had dreamed of him long before she saw him; how
she had striven to prevent his sacrifice; how she was jealous of God,
whom he preferred to her; and how, though she had forced the gates of
the tomb to come to him, though he had given life back to her with a
kiss, though her recovery of it has no other end than to make him happy,
she herself is still miserable because she has only half his heart. In
his delirium he tells her, to console her, that he loves her "as much as
God."

"Instantly the glitter as of chrysoprase flashed once more from her
eyes. 'Is that true?--as much as God?' cried she, winding her arms round
me. 'If 'tis so you can come with me; you can follow me whither I
will.'" And fixing the next night for the rendezvous, she vanishes. He
wakes, and, considering it merely a dream, resumes his pious exercises.
But the next night Clarimonde, faithful to her word, reappears--no
longer in ghostly attire, but radiant and splendidly dressed. She brings
her lover the full costume of a cavalier, and when he has donned it
they sally forth, taking first the fiery steeds of his earlier nocturnal
adventure, then a carriage, in which he and Clarimonde, heart to heart,
head on shoulder, hand in hand, journey through the night.

     Never had I been so happy. For the moment I had forgotten
     everything, and thought no more of my priesthood than of
     some previous state of life. From that night forward my
     existence was as it were doubled, and there were in me two
     men, strangers each to the other's existence. Sometimes I
     thought myself a priest who dreamt that he was a gallant,
     sometimes a gallant who dreamt that he was a priest.... I
     could not distinguish the reality from the illusion, and
     knew not which were my waking and which my sleeping moments.
     Two spirals, entangled without touching, form the nearest
     representation of this life. The young cavalier, the
     coxcomb, the debauchee, mocked the priest; the priest held
     the dissipations of the gallant in horror. Notwithstanding
     the strangeness of the situation, I do not think my reason
     was for a moment affected. The perceptions of my two
     existences were always firm and clear, and there was only
     one anomaly which I could not explain, and this was that the
     same unbroken sentiment of identity subsisted in two beings
     so different. Of this I could give myself no explanation,
     whether I thought myself to be really the vicar of a poor
     country village, or else Il Signor Romualdo, lover in
     possession of Clarimonde.

The place, real or apparent, of Il Signor Romualdo's sojourn with his
beloved is Venice, where they inhabit a gorgeous palace, and where
Romuald enters into all the follies and dissipations of the place. He is
unalterably faithful to Clarimonde, and she to him; and the time passes
in a perpetual delirium. But every night--as it now seems to him--he
finds himself once more a poor country priest, horrified at the misdeeds
of his other personality, and seeking to atone for them by prayer and
fasting and good works. Even in his Venetian moments he sometimes thinks
of Serapion's words, and at length he has especial reason to remember
them.

     For some time Clarimonde's health had not been very good;
     her complexion faded from day to day. The doctors who were
     called in could not discover the disease, and after useless
     prescriptions gave up the case. Day by day she grew paler
     and colder, till she was nearly as white and as corpse-like
     as on the famous night at the mysterious castle. I was in
     despair at this wasting away, but she, though touched by my
     sorrow, only smiled at me sweetly and sadly with the fatal
     smile of those who feel their death approaching. One morning
     I was sitting by her. In slicing some fruit it happened that
     I cut my finger somewhat deeply. The blood flowed in crimson
     streamlets, and some of it spurted on Clarimonde. Her eyes
     brightened at once, and over her face there passed a look of
     fierce joy which I had never before seen in her. She sprang
     from the bed with catlike activity and pounced on the wound,
     which she began to suck with an air of indescribable
     delight, swallowing the blood in sips, slowly and carefully,
     as an epicure tastes a costly vintage. Her eyelids were half
     closed, and the pupils of her sea-green eyes flattened and
     became oblong instead of round.... From time to time she
     interrupted herself to kiss my hand; then she began again to
     squeeze the edges of the wound with her lips in order to
     draw from it a few more crimson drops. When she saw that the
     blood ran no longer, she rose with bright and humid eyes,
     rosier than a May morning, her cheeks full, her hands warm,
     yet no longer parched, fairer in short than ever, and in
     perfect health. "I shall not die! I shall not die!" she
     said, clasping my neck in a frenzy of joy. "I can live long
     and love you. My life is in yours, my very existence comes
     from you. A few drops of your generous blood, more precious
     and sovereign than all the elixirs of the world, have given
     me back to life."

     This scene gave me matter for much reflection, and put into
     my head some strange thoughts as to Clarimonde. That very
     evening, when sleep had transported me to my parsonage, I
     found there Father Serapion, graver and more careworn than
     ever. He looked at me attentively and said, "Not content
     with destroying your soul, are you bent also on destroying
     your body? Unhappy youth, into what snares have you fallen!"
     The tone in which he said this struck me much at the time;
     but, lively as the impression was, other thoughts soon drove
     it from my mind. However, one evening, with the aid of a
     glass, on whose tell-tale position Clarimonde had not
     counted, I saw her pouring a powder into the cup of spiced
     wine which she was wont to prepare after supper. I took the
     cup, and, putting it to my lips, I set it down, as if
     intending to finish it at leisure. But in reality I availed
     myself of a minute when her back was turned to empty it
     away, and I soon after went to bed, determined to remain
     awake and see what would happen. I had not long to wait.
     Clarimonde entered as soon as she had convinced herself that
     I slept. She uncovered my arm and drew from her hair a
     little gold pin; then she murmured under her breath, "Only
     one drop, one little crimson drop, one ruby just to tip the
     bodkin! As you love me still I must not die. Ah, poor love!
     I am going to drink his blood, his beautiful blood, so
     bright and so purple. Sleep, my only treasure; sleep, my
     darling, my deity; I will do you no harm; I will only take
     so much of your life as I need to save my own. Did I not
     love you so much I might resolve to have other lovers, whose
     veins I could drain; but since I have known you I hate all
     others. Ah, dear arm, how round it is, and how white! How
     shall I ever dare to pierce the sweet blue veins!" And while
     she spoke she wept, so that I felt her tears rain on the arm
     she held. At last she summoned courage; she pricked me
     slightly with the bodkin and began to suck out the blood.
     But she drank only a few drops, as if she feared to exhaust
     me, and then carefully bound up my arm after anointing it
     with an unguent which closed the wound at once. I could now
     doubt no longer: Serapion was right. Yet, in spite of this
     certainty, I could not help loving Clarimonde, and I would
     willingly have given her all the blood whereof she had need,
     to sustain her artificial life. Besides, I had not much to
     fear; the woman was my warrant against the vampire; and what
     I had heard and seen completely reassured me. I had then
     well-nourished veins, which were not to be soon drawn dry,
     nor had I reason to grudge and count their drops. I would
     have pierced my arm myself and bid her drink. I was careful
     to make not the slightest allusion to the narcotic she had
     given me, or to the scene that followed, and we lived in
     unbroken harmony. But my priestly scruples tormented me more
     than ever, and I knew not what new penance to invent to
     blunt my passion and mortify my flesh. Though my visions
     were wholly involuntary and my will had nothing to do with
     them, I shrank from touching the host with hands thus
     sullied and spirit defiled by debauchery, whether in act or
     in dream. To avoid falling into these harassing
     hallucinations, I tried to prevent myself sleeping; I held
     my eyelids open, and remained in a standing posture,
     striving with all my force against sleep. But soon the waves
     of slumber drowned my eyes, and seeing that the struggle was
     hopeless, I let my hands drop in weariness, and was once
     more carried to the shores of delusion.... Serapion exhorted
     me most fervently, and never ceased reproaching me with my
     weakness and my lack of zeal. One day, when I had been more
     agitated than usual, he said to me, "There is only one way
     to relieve you from this haunting plague, and, though it be
     extreme, we must try it. Great evils need heroic remedies. I
     know where Clarimonde was buried; we must disinter her, and
     you shall see the real state of your lady-love. You will
     hardly be tempted to risk your soul for a vile body, the
     prey of worms and ready to turn to dust. That, if anything,
     will restore you to yourself." For my part, I was so weary
     of this double life that I closed with his offer. I longed
     to know once for all, which--priest or gallant--was the
     dupe of a delusion, and I was resolved to sacrifice one of
     my two lives for the good of the other--yea, if it were
     necessary, to sacrifice both, for such an existence as I was
     leading could not last.... Father Serapion procured a
     mattock, a crowbar, and a lantern, and at midnight we set
     out for the cemetery, whose plan and arrangements he knew
     well. After directing the rays of the dark lantern on the
     inscriptions of several graves, we came at last to a stone
     half buried under tall grass, and covered with moss and
     lichen, whereon we deciphered this epitaph, "Here lies
     Clarimonde, who in her lifetime was the fairest in the
     world." "'Tis here," said Serapion; and, placing his lantern
     on the ground, he slipped the crowbar into the chinks of the
     slab and essayed to lift it. The stone yielded, and he set
     to work with the spade. As for me, stiller and more gloomy
     than the night itself, I watched him at work, while he,
     bending over his ill-omened task, sweated and panted, his
     forced and heavy breath sounding like the gasps of the
     dying. The sight was strange, and lookers-on would rather
     have taken us for tomb-breakers and robbers of the dead than
     for God's priests. The zeal of Serapion was of so harsh and
     savage a cast, that it gave him a look more of the demon
     than of the apostle or the angel, and his face, with its
     severe features deeply marked by the glimmer of the lantern,
     was hardly reassuring. A cold sweat gathered on my limbs and
     my hair stood on end. In my heart I held Serapion's deed to
     be an abominable sacrilege, and I could have wished that a
     flash of lightning might issue from the womb of the heavy
     clouds, which rolled low above our heads, and burn him to
     ashes. The owls perched about the cypress trees, and,
     disturbed by the lantern, came and flapped its panes heavily
     with their dusty wings, the foxes barked in the distance,
     and a thousand sinister echoes troubled the silence. At
     length Serapion's spade struck the coffin with the terrible
     hollow sound that nothingness returns to those who intrude
     on it. He lifted the lid, and I saw Clarimonde, as pale as
     marble, and with her hands joined; there was no fold in her
     snow-white shroud from head to foot; at the corner of her
     blanched lips there shone one little rosy drop. At the sight
     Serapion broke into fury. "Ah! fiend, foul harlot, drinker
     of gold and blood, we have found you!" said he, and he
     scattered holy water over corpse and coffin, tracing the
     sign of the cross with his brush. No sooner had the blessed
     shower touched my Clarimonde than her fair body crumbled
     into dust, and became nought but a hideous mixture of ashes
     and half-burnt bones. "There, Signor Romuald," said the
     inexorable priest, pointing to the remains, "there is your
     mistress. Are you still tempted to escort her to the Lido or
     to Fusina?" I bowed my head; a mighty ruin had taken place
     within me. I returned to my parsonage, and Il Signor
     Romualdo, the lover of Clarimonde, said farewell for ever to
     the poor priest whose strange companion he had been so long.
     Only the next night I again saw Clarimonde. She said to me,
     as at first in the church porch, "Poor wretch, what have you
     done? Why did you listen to that frantic priest? Were you
     not happy? And what harm had I done you that you should
     violate my grave, and shamefully expose the misery of my
     nothingness? Henceforward all communication between us, soul
     and body, is broken. Farewell, you will regret me." She
     vanished in the air like a vapour, and I saw her no more.

     Alas! she spoke too truly. I have regretted her again and
     again. I regret her still. The repose of my soul has indeed
     been dearly bought, and the love of God itself has not been
     too much to replace the gap left by hers. This, my brother,
     is the history of my youth. Never look at woman, and let
     your eyes as you walk be fixed upon the ground; for, pure
     and calm as you may be, a single moment is sufficient to
     make you lose your eternal peace.

[Sidenote: Criticism thereof.]

Now, though to see a thing in translation be always to see it "as in a
glass darkly"; and though in this case the glass may be unduly flawed
and clouded, my own critical faculties must not only now be
unusually[199] enfeebled by age, but must always have been crippled by
some strange affection, if certain things are not visible here to any
intelligent and impartial reader. The story, of course, is not pure
invention; several versions of parts, if not the whole, of it will occur
to any one who has some knowledge of literature; and I have recently
read a variant of great beauty and "eeriness" from the Japanese.[200]
But the merit of a story depends, not on its originality as matter, but
on the manner in which it is told. It surely cannot be denied that this
is told excellently. That the part of Serapion (though somebody or
something of the kind is almost necessary) is open to some criticism,
may be granted. He seems to know too much and yet not enough: and if he
was to interfere at all, one does not see why he did not do it earlier.
But this is the merest hole-picking, and the biggest hole it can make
will not catch the foot or the little finger of any worthy reader. As to
the beauty of the phrasing, even in another language, and as rendered by
no consummate artist, there can be little question about that. Indeed
there we have consent about Gautier, though, as has been seen, the
consent has not always been thoroughly complimentary to him. To go a
step further, the way in which the diction and imagery are made to
provide frame and shade and colour for the narrative leaves very little
room for cavil. Without any undue or excessive "prose poetry," the
descriptions are like those of the best imaginative-pictorial verse
itself. The first appearance of Clarimonde; the scene at her death-bed
and that of her dream-resurrection, have, I dare affirm it, never been
surpassed in verse or prose for their special qualities: while the
backward view of the city and the recital of what we may call Serapion's
soul-murder of the enchantress come little behind them.

But, it may be said, "You are still kicking at open doors. The degree of
your estimate is, we think, extravagant, but that it is deserved to some
extent nobody denies. In mere point of expression, and even to some
extent, again, in conception of beauty, Gautier's manner, though too
much of one kind, and that too old-fashioned, is admitted; it is his
matter which is questioned or denied."

[Sidenote: A parallel from painting.]

Here also, I think, the counter-attack can be completely barred or
broken to the satisfaction of all but those who cannot or will not see.
In the first place one must make a distinction, which ought not to be
regarded as over-subtilising, but which certainly seems to be ignored by
many people. There are in all arts, and more especially in the art of
literature, two stages or sets of stages in the discharge of that duty
of every artist--the creation of beauty. The one is satisfied by the
achievement of the beautiful in the presentation itself; the other gives
you, in your own interior collection or museum, the thing presented.
This is not the common distinction between form and matter, between
style and substance, between subject and treatment; it is something more
intimate and "metaphysical." To illustrate it, let me take a pair of
instances, not from letters, but from painting as produced by two dead
masters of our own, Rossetti and Albert Moore. I used to think the
last-named painter disgracefully undervalued both by the public and by
critics. One could look at those primrose-tinted ladies of his, with
their gossamer films of raiment and their flowerage always suggestive of
the asphodel mead, for hours: and if one's soul had had a substantial
Palace of Art of her own, there would have been a corridor wholly Albert
Moorish--a corridor, for his things never looked well with other
people's and they could not, by themselves, have filled a hall.

But their beauty, as has been untruly said of Gautier's representation
in the other art, _was_ "their sole duty." You never wanted to kiss even
the most beautiful of them, or to talk to her, or even to sit at her
feet, except for purposes of looking at her, for which that position has
its own special advantages. And although by no means mere pastiches or
replicas of each other, they had little of the qualities which
constitute personality. They were almost literally "dreams that waved
before the half-shut eye," and dreams which you knew to be dreams at the
time; less even than dreams--shadows, and less even than shadows, for
shadows imply substance, and these did not. If you loved them you loved
them always, and could not be divorced from them. But it was an entirely
contemplative love; and if divorce was unthinkable it was because there
was no _thorus_ and no _mensa_ at which they could possibly have
figured.[201] They were the Eves of a Paradise of _two_ dimensions only.

Now with Rossetti it was entirely different. His drawing may have been
as faulty as people said it was, and he may have been as fond as they
also said of bestowing upon all his subjects exaggerated and almost
ungainly features, which possibly belonged to the Blessed Damozel, but
were not the most indisputable part of her blessedness. But they were,
despite their similarity of type, all personal and individual, and all
suggestive to the mind and the emotions of real women, and of the things
which real women are and do and suffer. And they were all differently
suggestive. Proserpine and Beata Beatrix; the devotional figures in
their quietude or their ecstasy, and the forlorn leaguer-lasses of that
little masterpiece of the novitiate, "Hesterna Rosa"; the Damozel
herself and a Corsican lady whose portrait, unpublished and unexhibited,
has been familiar to me for six-and-thirty years;--all these and all the
others would behave to you, and you would behave to them, if they could
be vivified, in ways different individually but real and live.

[Sidenote: The reality.]

Now it is beauty of reality as well as of presentation that I at least
find in _La Morte Amoureuse_. Clarimonde alive is very much more than a
"shadow on glass"; Clarimonde dead is more alive than many live women.

[Sidenote: And the passion of it.]

But the audacity of infatuation need not stop here. I should claim for
_La Morte Amoureuse_, and for Gautier as the author of it, more than
this. It appears to me to be one of the very few expressions in French
prose of really passionate love. It is, with _Manon Lescaut_ and
_Julie_, the most consummate utterance that I at least know, in that
division of literature, of the union of sensual with transcendental
enamourment. Why this is so rare in French is a question fitter for
treatment in a _History of the French Temperament_ than in one of the
French Novel. That it is so I believe to be a simple fact, and simple
facts require little talking about. No prose literature has so much
love-making in it as French, and none so much about different species of
love: _amour de tête_ and _amour des sens_ especially, but also not
unfrequently _amour de coeur_, and even _amour d'âme_. But of the
combination that _we_ call "passionate love"--that fills our own late
sixteenth, early seventeenth, and whole nineteenth century literature,
and that requires love of the heart and the head, the soul and the
senses, together--it has (outside poetry of course)[202] only the three
books just mentioned and a few passages such as Atala's dying speech,
Adolphe's, alas! too soon obliterated reflections on his first success
with Ellénore, perhaps one or two more before _La Morte Amoureuse_, and
even since its day not many. Maupassant (_v. inf._) _could_ manage the
combination, but too often confined himself to exhibitions of the
separate and imperfect divisions, whereof, no doubt, the number is
endless.

That Gautier always or often maintained himself at this pitch, either of
what we may call power of projecting live personages or of exhibition of
great passions, it would be idle and uncritical to contend; that he did
so here, and thereby put himself at once and for ever on the higher,
nay, highest level of literature, I do, after fifty years' study of the
thing and of endless other things, impenitently and impavidly affirm.

[Sidenote: Other short stories.]

What is more, in his shorter productions he was often not far below it,
save in respect of intensity. If I do not admire _Fortunio_ quite so
much as some people do, it is not so much because of its comparative
heartlessness--a thing rare in Gautier--as because for once, and I think
once only in pieces of its scale, the malt of the description _does_ get
above the meal of the personal interest, though that personal interest
exists. But _Jettatura_, with its combination of romantic and tragical
appeal; _Avatar_, with its extraordinary mixture of romance, again, with
humour, its "excitingness," and its delicacy of taste; the equally
extraordinary felicity of the dealings with that too often unmanageable
implement the "classical dictionary" in _Arria Marcella_, _Une Nuit de
Cléopâtre_, and perhaps especially _Le Roi Candaule_; the tiny
sketches--half-_nouvelle_ and half-"middle" article--of _Le Pied de la
Momie_, _La Pipe d'Opium_, and _Le Club des Haschischins_,--what
marvellous consummateness in the various specifications and conditions
do these afford us!

Sometimes, however, I have thought that just as _La Morte Amoureuse_ is
almost or quite sufficient text for vindicating the greatness or
greaterness of "Théo," so his earliest book of prose fiction, _Les
Jeune-France_, will serve the same purpose for another side of him,
lesser if anybody likes, but exceptionally "complementary." In
particular it possesses a quality which up to his time was very rare in
France, has not been extraordinarily common there even since, and is
still, even in its ancestral home with ourselves, sometimes
inconceivably blundered about--the quality of Humour.[203]

[Sidenote: Gautier's humour--_Les Jeune-France_.]

For wit, France can, of course, challenge the world; nay, she can do
more, she can say to the world, "I have taught you this; and you are no
match for your teacher." But in Humour the case is notoriously altered.
None of the Latin nations, except Spain, the least purely Latin of them,
has ever achieved it, as the original or unoriginal Latins themselves
never did, with the exception of the lighter forms of it in Catullus, of
the grimmer in Lucretius--those greatest and most un-Roman of Roman
poets.[204] In all the wide and splendid literature of French before the
nineteenth century only Rabelais and Molière[205] can lay claim to it.
Romanticism brings humour in its train, as Classicism brings wit; but it
is curious how slow was the Romanticisation of French in this respect,
with one exception. There is no real humour in Hugo, Vigny, George Sand,
Balzac, scarcely even in Musset. Dumas, though showing decidedly good
gifts of possibility in his novels, does not usually require it there;
the absence of it in his dramas need hardly be dwelt on. Mérimée, one
cannot but think, might have had it if he had chosen; but Mérimée did
not choose to have so many things! If Gérard de Nerval's failure of a
great genius had failed in the comic instead of the romantic-tragical
direction, he would have had some too--in fact he had it in the
embryonic and unachieved fashion in which the author of _Gaspard de la
Nuit_, and Baudelaire, and Paul Verlaine have had it since in verse and
prose. But Gautier has it plump and plain, and without any help from the
strange counterfeiting fantasy of verse which sometimes confers it. He
has it always; at all times of his life; in the hackwork which made
abortion of so much greater literature, and in his actually great
literature, poems, novels, travels--what not. But he never has it more
strongly, vividly, and originally than in _Les Jeune-France_, a
coming-of-age book almost as old as _mil-huit-cent-trente_, written in
part no doubt in the immortal _gilet rouge_ itself, if only as kept for
study wear like Diderot's old dressing-gown.

There are two dangers lying in wait for the reader of the book. One is
the ordinary and quite respectable putting-out-of-the-lip at its
juvenile improprieties; the other, a little more subtle, is the notion
that the things, improper or not (and some of them are quite _not_), are
mere _juvenilia_--clever undergraduate work. The first requires no
special counterblast; the old monition, "Don't like it for its
impropriety, but also don't let its impropriety hide its merits from you
if it has any," will suffice. The other is, as has been said, more
insidious. I can only say that I have read much undergraduate or but
slightly post-graduate literature of many generations--before the day of
_Les Jeune-France_, about its date, between that day and my own season
of passing through those "sweet hours and the fleetest of time," and
since that season till the present moment. But many equals of this book
I have not read.

It is of course necessary to remember that it is expressly subtitled
"Romans Goguenards," thereby preparing the reader for the reverse of
seriousness. That reverse, especially in young hands, is a difficult
thing to manage. "Guffaw" and "yawn" are two words which have actually
two letters in common; _y_ and _g_ are notoriously interchangeable in
some dialects and circumstances, while _n_ and _u_ are the despair of
the copyist or the student of copies. There remain only "ff"--the
lightest of literals. We need not cite _nominatim_ (indeed it might be
rash) the endless examples in French and English where the guffaw of the
writer excites the yawn of the reader. But this is hardly ever the case,
at least as I find it, with Gautier.

The _Preface_, in which the author presents himself in his unregenerate
and un-"young-France" condition, is really a triumph; I wish I could
give the whole of it here. And what is more, it is a sort of epitome by
anticipation of the entire Gautier, though without, of course, the
mastery of artistry he attained in years of laborious prose and verse.
For that quality of humour which his younger friend Taine was to define
happily, though by no means to his own comfort or approval, in the
phrase devoted to one of our English masters of it, "Il se moque de ses
émotions à l'instant même où il s'y livre," you must go to Fielding or
to Thackeray to beat it.

He (the supposed author) _was_ the most ordinary and insignificant
creature in the world. He had never either killed a policeman nor
committed suicide; he possessed neither pipe, nor dagger, _ni quoi que
ce soit qui ait du caractère_. He _did_ like cats (which taste
fortunately remained with Gautier himself throughout his life), and his
reflections on politics had arrived at a final result of zero (another
abiding feature, by the way, with "Théo"). He never could learn to play
at cards. He thought artists were merely mountebanks, etc., etc. But
some kind friends took him in hand and made him an accomplished
Jeune-France. He took to himself a very long _nom de guerre_, a very
short moustache, a middle parting to his hair (the history of the
middle parting would be worth writing), and a "delirious" waistcoat. He
learnt to smoke, and to get "Byronically" drunk. He bought an Italian
stiletto (by great luck he had a sallow complexion naturally); a silk
rope-ladder ("which is of the first importance"); several reams of paper
for love-letters, and a supply of rose-coloured and avanturine wax.[206]
He is going to be, if he is not as yet, "fatal," "vague,"
"fallen-angelical," "volcanic." There is only one desirable quality
which unkind fate has put beyond his reach. He is not, and cannot make
himself, an illegitimate child! Now, I am sorry for any one who, having
read this, cannot lean back in his chair and follow it up for himself by
a series of fancy pictures of Jeunes-something from 1830 to 1918.[207]

Of the actual stories "Daniel Jovard" takes up the cue of the _Preface_
directly, and describes the genesis of a _romantique à tous crins_.
"Onuphrius" honestly sub-titles itself "Les Vexations Fantastiques d'un
admirateur d'Hoffmann," and has, I think, sometimes been dismissed as a
Hoffmannesque _pastiche_. Far be it from me to hint the slightest
denigration of the author of the _Phantasiestücke_ and the
_Nachtstücke_, of the _Serapion's-Brüder_ and the _Kater Murr_--not the
least pleasing features on the right side of the half-glorious,
half-ghastly contrast between the Germany of a hundred years ago and the
Germany of to-day. But "Onuphrius" is Hoffmann Gautierised, German
"Franciolated," a _Walpurgisnacht_ softened by Morgane la Fée. "Elias
Wildmanstadius," one of the earliest, remains one of the most
agreeable, pictures of a fanatic of the mediaeval. The overture and the
finale, both pieces in which the great motto "Trinq!" is perhaps a very
little abused, nevertheless contain a considerable amount of wisdom, and
the last not a little wit.[208] But the central story _Celle-ci et
Celle-là_, which fills nearly half the book, is no doubt the article on
which one must--as far as this essay-piece is concerned--judge Gautier's
tale-telling gifts. It is "improper" in part; indeed, the thing, which
is largely dialogic, may be thought to have been a young romantic's
challenge to Crébillon. The points of the contest would require a very
careful judge to reckon them out. Although Gautier was no democrat, and
certainly no misogynist, his lady of quality, Madame de M., is terribly
below the Crébillonesque Marquises and Célies in every respect, except
the beauty, which we have to take on trust; while, if she is not quite
such a fiend as Laclos's heroine, she is also unlike her in being
stupid. The hero, Rodolphe, though by no means a cad and possessed of
much more heart than M. de Clerval or Clitandre, has neither their
manners nor their wit. But Mariette, the _servante-maîtresse_, though
much less moral, is much more attractive than Pamela; the whole of the
story is hit off with a pleasant mixture of humour, narrative faculty,
bright phrase,[209] and good nature, of which the first is simply absent
in Crébillon and the last rather dubiously present.

We may return very shortly to the later, longer, and, I suppose, more
accomplished stories before relinquishing Gautier.

[Sidenote: Return to _Fortunio_.]

I have known very good people who liked _Fortunio_; I care for it less
than for any other of its author's tales. The fabulously rich and
entirely heartless hero has not merely the extravagance but (which is
very rare with Gautier) the vulgarity of Byronism; the opening orgie,
by an oversight so strange that it may almost seem to be no oversight at
all, reminds one only too forcibly of the ironic treatment accorded to
that institution in _Les Jeune-France_, and suffers from the
reminder; the blending of East and West and the _Arabian Night_ harems
in Paris, "unbeknown" to everybody,[210] almost attain that
_plusquam_-Aristotelian state of reprobation, the impossible which is
also improbable; and the courtesan heroines--at least two of them,
Musidora and Arabelle--are even more faulty in this respect. No doubt

    [Greek: pollai morphai tôn ouraniôn],

and the forms of the Pandemic as well as of the Uranian Aphrodite are
numerous likewise. But among them one finds no probability or
possibility of Gautier's Musidora of eighteen, who might be a young
duchess gone to the bad. Neither is the end of the girl, suicide, in
consequence of the disappearance of her lover, though quite possible and
even probable, at all suitable to Gautier's own fashion of thinking and
writing. Mérimée could have done it perfectly well. Of almost no others
of the delectable contents of the two volumes of _Nouvelles_ and of
_Romans et Contes_ has one to speak in this fashion, while some of them
come very nearly up to their companion _La Morte Amoureuse_ itself.

How Gautier managed to keep all this comparatively serious, if not quite
so, in treatment, is perhaps less difficult to make out than why he took
the trouble to do so. But it is the entire absences of irony on the one
side and on the other of the dream-quality--the pure imagination which
makes the impossibilities of _La Morte_ and of _Arria Marcella_, and
even of the trifle _Omphale_, so delightful--that deprives _Fortunio_ of
attraction in my eyes. Such faint glimmerings of it as there are are
confined to two very minor characters:--one of the courtesans, Cinthia,
a beautiful statuesque Roman, who has simplified the costume-problem by
wearing nothing--literally nothing--except one of two dresses, one black
velvet and the other white watered silk; and the "Count George" (we are
never told his surname), who gives the overture-orgie. One might, as the
lady said to Professor Wilson in regard to the _Noctes_, say to him, "I
really think you eat too many oysters, and drink too much [not indeed in
his case] whisky," and I can find no excuse for his deliberately
upsetting an enormous bowl of flaming arrack punch on a floor swept by
women's dresses. But he is quite human, and he makes the best speech and
scene in the book when he remonstrates with Musidora for secluding
herself because she cannot discover the elusive marquis-rajah
tiger-keeper,--and, I fear I must add, "tiger" himself,--from whom the
thing takes its title.[211]

[Sidenote: And others.]

It is, however, almost worth while to go through the freak-splendours
and transformation-scene excitements of _Fortunio_ to prepare the
palate[212] to enjoy _La Toison d'Or_ which follows. Here is once more
the true Gautieresque humour, good humour, marvellous word-painting, and
romance, agreeably--indeed charmingly--twisted together. There is no
fairy-story transposed into a modern and probable key which surpasses
this of the painter Tiburce; and the disorderly curios of his rooms; and
his sudden and heroic determination to fall desperately in love with a
blonde; and his setting off to Flanders to find one; and the
fruitlessness of his search and his bewitchment with the Magdalen in the
"Descent from the Cross" at Antwerp (ah! what has become of it?); and
his casual discovery and courtship of a girl like that celestial
convertite; and her sorrow when she finds that she is only a substitute;
and her victory by persuading her lover to paint her _as_ the Magdalen
and so work off the witchery.[213] Of course some one may shrug
shoulders and murmur, "Always the _berquinade_?" But I do not think _La
Morte Amoureuse_ was a _berquinade_.

[Sidenote: Longer books, _Le Capitaine Fracasse_ and others.]

Of Gautier's longer books it is not necessary to say much, because, with
perhaps one exception, they are admittedly not his forte.[214] Of the
longest, _Le Capitaine Fracasse_, I am myself very fond. Its opening and
first published division, _Le Château de la Misère_, is one of the
finest pieces of description in the whole range of the French novel; and
there are many interesting scenes, especially the great duel of the hero
Sigognac with the bravo Lampourde. But some make it a reproach, not, I
think, of very damaging validity, that so much of the book is little
more than a "study off" the _Roman Comique_;[215] and it is, though not
exactly a reproach, a great misfortune that in time, kind, and almost
everything else it enters into competition with Dumas, whose gifts as a
manager of such things were as much above Gautier's as his powers as a
writer were below Théo's. _Le Roman de la Momie_, though possessing the
abiding talisman of style, suffers in the first place from being mere
Egyptology novelised, and in the second from the same thing having been
done, on a scale much better suited to the author, in _Le Pied de la
Momie_. Nor are _Spirite_ and _Militona_ free from parallel charges:
while _La Belle Jenny_--that single and unfortunate appeal to the
_abonné_ noted above--really may fail to amuse those who are not "irked
by the style."

[Sidenote: _Mlle. de Maupin._]

There remains the most notorious and the most abused of all Gautier's
work, _Mademoiselle de Maupin_. Perhaps here also, as in the case of _La
Morte Amoureuse_, I cannot do better than simply reprint, with very
slight addition, what I said of the book nearly forty years ago. For the
case is a peculiar one, and I have made no change in my own estimate,
though I think the inclusion of the _Preface_--not because I agree with
it any less--more dubious than I did then. In this _Preface_ the
doctrine of "art for art's sake" and of its consequent independence of
any _licet_ or _non-licet_ from morality is put with great ability and
no little cogency, but in a fashion essentially juvenile, from its want
of measure and its evident wish to provoke as much as to prove.[216]
Without it the book would probably have excited far less odium and
opprobrium than it has actually done; it would, if separate, be an
excellent critical essay on the general subject; while in its actual
position it almost subjects the text to the curse of purpose, from which
nothing which claims to be art ought (according to the doctrine of both
preface and book) to be more free.

With the novel itself it is difficult to deal in the way of abstract and
occasional excerpt, not merely because of its breaches of the
proprieties, but on account of the plan on which it is written. A
mixture of letters and narrative,[217] dealing almost entirely with
emotions, and scarcely at all with incidents, it defies narrative
analysis such as that which was given to its elder sister in
naughtiness, _La Religieuse_. It would seem that Goethe, who in many
ways influenced Gautier, is responsible to some extent for its form, and
perhaps for the fact that _As You Like It_ plays an even more important
part in it than _Hamlet_ plays in _Wilhelm Meister_. No one who has read
it can fail thenceforward to associate a new charm with the image of
Rosalind, even though she be one of Shakespeare's most gracious
creations; and this I know is a bold word. But, in truth, it is in more
ways than one an unspeakable book. Those who like may point to a couple
of pages of loose description at the end, a dialogue in the style of a
polite _Jacques le Fataliste_ in the middle, a dozen phrases of a
hazardous character scattered here and there. Diderot himself--no
strait-laced judge, indeed _particeps ejusdem criminis_--remarked long
ago, and truly enough, that errors of this sort punish themselves by
restricting the circulation, and diminishing the chance of life of the
book, or other work, that contains them. But it is not these things that
the admirers of _Mademoiselle de Maupin_ admire. It is the wonderful and
final expression, repeated, but subtly shaded and differenced, in the
three characters of Albert, Rosette, and Madeleine herself, of the
aspiration which, as I have said, colours Gautier's whole work. If he,
as has been justly remarked, was the priest of beauty, _Mademoiselle de
Maupin_ is certainly one of the sacred books of the cult. The apostle to
whom it was revealed was young, and perhaps he has mingled words of clay
with words of gold. It would be difficult to find a Bowdler for this
Madeleine, and impossible to adapt her to the use of families. But those
who understand as they read, and can reject the evil and hold fast the
good, who desire sometimes to retire from the meditation of the weary
ways of ordinary life to the land of clear colours and stories, where
there is none of this weariness, who are not to be scared by the poet's
harmless puppets or tempted by his guileless baits--they at least will
take her as she is and be thankful.[218]

Still, as has been said, the book might have been made still better by
being cut down a little; not, indeed, to the dimensions of a very short
story, but to something like those of _Fortunio_ or of _Jettatura_. For
undoubtedly, while Gautier had an all but unsurpassed command of the
short story proper, a really long one was apt to develop some things in
him which, if they were not essentially faults, were not likely to
improve a full-sized novel. He would too much abound in description; the
want of _evolution_ of character--his character is not bad in itself,
but it is, to use modern slang, rather static than dynamic--naturally
shows itself more; and readers who want an elaborate plot look for it
longer and are more angry at not being fed. But for the short, shorter,
and shortest kind--the story which may run from ten to a hundred pages
with no meticulous limitations on either side--it seems to me that in
the French nineteenth century there are only three other persons who can
be in any way classed with him. One of these, his early contemporary,
Charles de Bernard, and another, who only became known after his death,
Guy de Maupassant, are to be treated in other chapters here. Moreover,
Bernard was slighter, though not so slight as he has sometimes been
thought; and Maupassant, though very far from slight, had a _lésion_ (as
his own school would say) which interfered with universality. The third
competitor, not yet named, who was Gautier's almost exact contemporary,
though he began a very little earlier and left off a little earlier too,
carried metal infinitely heavier than the pleasant author of _Le
Paratonnerre_, and though not free from partly disabling prejudices, had
more balance[219] than Maupassant. He had more head and less heart, more
prose logic and less poetical fancy, more actuality and less dream than
"Théo." But I at least can find no critical abacus on which, by totting
up the values of both, I can make one greatly outvalue the other. And to
the understanding I must have already spoken the name of Prosper
Mérimée.[220]

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Mérimée.]

All the world knows _Carmen_, though it may be feared that the knowledge
has been conveyed to more people by the mixed and inferior medium of
the stage and music than by the pure literature of the original tale.
Yet it may be generously granted that the lower introduction may have
induced some to go on, or back, to the higher. Of the unfaulty
faultlessness of that original there has never been any denial worth
listening to; the gainsayers having been persons who succumbed either to
non-literary prejudice[221] of one kind or another or to the peculiarly
childish habit of going against established opinion. For combined
interest of matter and perfection of form I should put it among the
dozen best short stories of the world so far as I am acquainted with
them. The appendix about the gipsies is indeed a superfluity,
induced, it would seem, partly by Mérimée's wish to have a gibe at
Borrow for being a missionary, and partly by a touch of
inspectorial-professorial[222] habit in him which is frequently apparent
and decidedly curious. But it is an appendix of the most appendicious,
and can be cut away without the slightest Manx-cat effect. From the
story itself not a word could be abstracted without loss nor one added
to it without danger. The way in which the narrator--it is impossible to
tell the number of the authors who have wrecked themselves over the
narrator when he has to take part in the action--and the guide are put
and kept in their places, as well as the whole part of José Navarro, are
_impayables_. If the Hispanolatry of French Romanticism had nothing but
Gastibelza and L'Andalouse in verse and José Navarro in prose to show,
it would stand justified and crowned among all the literary manias in
history.

[Sidenote: Carmen.]

About Carmen herself there has been more--and may justly be a little
more--question. Is her _diablúra_ slightly exaggerated? Or, to put the
complaint in a more accurately critical form, has Mérimée attended a
little too much to the task of throwing on the canvas a typical Rommany
_chi_ or _callee_, and a little too little to that of bodying forth a
probable and individual human girl? As an advocate I think I could take
a brief on either side of the question without scandalising the, on this
point, almost neurotic conscience of the late Mr. Anthony Trollope. But,
as a juryman, my verdict on either indictment would be "Not guilty, and
_please_ do it again."

But I had much rather decline both functions and all litigious
proceedings, and go from the courts of law to the cathedral of
literature and thank the Lord thereof for this wonderful triumph of
letters. And, in the same way, if any quarrelsome person says, "But only
a few pages back you were in parallel ecstasies about _La Morte
Amoureuse_," I decline the daggers. Each is supreme in its kind, though
the kinds are different. Of each it may be said, "It cannot be better
done," but there may be--in fact there is nearly sure to be--something
in the individual taste of each reader which will make the appeal of one
to his heart, if not to his head, more intimate and welcome. That has
nothing to do with their general literary value, which in each case is
consummate. And happy are those who can appreciate both.

Consummateness, in the various kinds, is, indeed, the mark of Mérimée's
stories. The variety is greater than in those of Gautier, because, just
as "Théo" had the advantage of Prosper in point of poetry, he had a
certain disadvantage in point of range of intellect, or, to prevent
mistake, let us say interest--which perhaps is only another _tropos_ (as
the Greeks would have said and as the chemists in a very limited sense
do say after them) of the same thing. Beauty was Gautier's only idol;
Mérimée had more of a pantheon.

[Sidenote: _Colomba._]

As to _Colomba_ compared with _Carmen_, there is, I believe, a sort of
sectarianism among Prosperites. I hope I am, as always, catholic. I do
not know that, in the terms of classical scholarship, it is "castigated"
to the same extent as its rival in point of superfluities. Not that I
wish anything away from it; but I think a few things might be away
without loss--which is not the case with _Carmen_. Yet, on the other
hand, the danger of the type seems to me more completely avoided.[223]
At any rate, my admiration for the book is not in any way bribed by that
Rossetti portrait of a Corsican lady to which I have referred above. For
though she certainly _is_ Colomba, I never saw the face till
years--almost decades--after I knew the story.

[Sidenote: Its smaller companions--_Mateo Falcone_, etc.]

But of the smaller tales which usually accompany her, who shall
exaggerate the praise? _Mateo Falcone_, that modern Roman father (by the
way, there is said to be more Roman blood in Corsica than in any part of
the mainland of Italy, and the portrait above mentioned is almost pure
Faustina), is another of those things which are _à prendre ou à
laisser_. It could not, again, be better done; and if any one will
compare it with the somewhat similar anecdote of lynch-law in Balzac's
_Les Chouans_, he ought to recognise the fact--good as that also is.
_Les Âmes du Purgatoire_ is also "first choice." Of what may be called
the satellites of the great _Don Juan_ story--satellites with a nebula
instead of a planet for their centre--it is quite the greatest. But of
this group _La Vénus d'Ille_ is my favourite, perhaps for a rather
illegitimate reason. That reason is the possibility of comparing it with
Mr. Morris's _Ring given to Venus_--a handling of the same subject in
poetry instead of in prose, with a happy ending instead of an unhappy
one, and pure Romantic in every respect instead of, as _La Vénus d'Ille_
is, late classical, with a strong Romantic _nisus_.[224]

For, though it might be improper here to argue out the matter, these
last words can be fitted to Mérimée's _ethos_ from the days of "Clara
Gazul" and "Hyacinthe Maglanovich" to those when he wrote _Lokis_ and
_La Chambre Bleue_. A deserter from Romanticism he was never; a Romantic
free-lance (after being an actual Romantic pioneer) with a strong
Classical element in him he was always.

[Sidenote: Those of _Carmen_; _Arsène Guillot_.]

The almost unavoidable temptation of taking _Colomba_ and _Carmen_
together has drawn us away from the companions, as they are usually
given, of the Spanish story among Mérimée's earlier works. More than
two-thirds of the volume, as most people have seen it, consist of
translations from the Russian of Poushkin and Gogol, which need no
notice here. But _Arsène Guillot_ and _L'Abbé Aubain_, the two pieces
which immediately follow _Carmen_, can by no means be passed over. If
(as one may fairly suppose, without being quite certain) the selection
of these for juxtaposition was authentic and deliberate, it was
certainly judicious. They might have been written as a trilogy, not of
sequence, but of contrast--a demonstration of power in essentially
different forms of subject. _Arsène Guillot_, like _Carmen_, is tragedy;
but it is _tragédie bourgeoise_ or _sentimentale_. There are no daggers
or musquetoons, and though (since the heroine throws herself out of a
window) there is some blood, she dies of consumption, not of her wounds.
She is only a _grisette_ who has lost her looks, the one lover she ever
cared for, and her health; while the other characters of importance
(Mérimée has taken from the stock-cupboard one of the cynical,
rough-mannered, but really good-natured doctors common in French and not
unknown in English literature) are the lover or gallant himself, Max de
Saligny (quite a good fellow and perfectly willing, though he had tired
of Arsène, to have succoured her had he known her distress), and the
Lady Bountiful, Madame de Piennes. How a "triangle" is established
nobody versed in novels needs to be told, though everybody, however well
versed, should be glad to read. Arsène of course must die; what the
others who lived did with their lives is left untold. The thing is quite
unexciting, but is done with the author's miraculous skill; nor perhaps
is there any piece that better shows his faculty of writing like the
"gentleman,"[225] which, according to a famous contrast, he was, on a
subject almost equally liable to more or less vulgar Paul-de-Kockery, to
sloppy sentimentalism, and to cheap cynical journalese.

[Sidenote: And _L'Abbé Aubain_.]

As for _L'Abbé Aubain_, it is slight but purely comic, of the very best
comedy, telling how a great lady, obliged by pecuniary misfortunes to
retire with her husband to a remote country house, takes a fancy to, and
imagines she has possibly excited fatal passion in, the local priest;
attributes to him a sentimental past; but half good-naturedly, half
virtuously obtains for him a comfortable town-cure in order to remove
him, and perhaps herself, from temptation. This moving tale of
self-denial and of averted sorrow, sin, and perhaps tragedy, is told in
letters to another lady. Then follows a single epistle from the Abbé
himself to his old Professor of Theology, telling, with the utmost
brevity and matter-of-factness, how glad he is to make the exchange,
what a benevolent nuisance the patroness has been, and how he looks
forward to meeting the Professor in his new parsonage, with a plump
chicken and a bottle of old bordeaux between them. There is hardly
anywhere a better bit of irony of the lighter kind. It is rather like
Charles de Bernard, with the higher temper and brighter flash of
Mérimée's style.

[Sidenote: _La Prise de la Redoute._]

All the stories just noticed, except _Carmen_ itself (which is of 1847),
appeared originally in the decade 1830-40, as well as others of less
note, and one wonderful little masterpiece, which deserves notice by
itself. This is _La Prise de la Redoute_, a very short thing--little
more than an anecdote--of one of the "furious five minutes," or hours,
not unknown in all great wars, and seldom better known than in that of
these recent years, despite the changes of armament and tactics. It is
almost sufficient to say of it that no one who has the slightest
critical faculty can fail to see its consummateness, and that any one
who does not see or will not acknowledge that consummateness may make up
his mind to one thing--that he is not, and--but by some marvellous
exertion of the grace of God--never will be, a critic. He may have in
him the elements of a capital convict or a faithful father of a family;
he may be a poet--poets, though sometimes very good, have sometimes been
very bad critics--or a painter, or a philosopher, as distinguished as
any of those whose names the Bertram girls learnt; or an elect
candlestick-maker, fit to be an elder of any Little Bethel. But of
criticism he can have no jot or tittle, no trace or germ. The question
is, for once, not one of anything that can be called merely or mainly
"taste." A man who is not a hopelessly bad critic, though he may not
have in him the _catholicon_ of critical goodness, may fail to
appreciate _La Morte Amoureuse_ because of its dreaminess and
supernaturality and all-for-loveness; _Carmen_ because Carmen shocks
him; _La Venus d'Ille_ because of its _macabre_ tone; _Les Jeune-France_
because of their _goguenarderie_ or _goguenardise_. But the case of the
_Redoute_ is one of those rare instances where the intellect and the
aesthetic sense approach closest--almost merge into each other,--as,
indeed, they did in Mérimée himself. The principles as well as the
practice of narrative are here at once reduced to their lowest and
exalted to their highest terms. The thing is not merely fermented but
distilled; not so much a fact as a formula, with a formula's precision
but without its dryness. If we take the familiar trichotomy of body,
soul, and spirit and apply it to subject, style, and narrative power in
a story, we shall find them all perfectly achieved and perfectly wedded
here.[226]

[Sidenote: The _Dernières Nouvelles_; _Il Viccolo di Madama Lucrezia_.]

About the same time as that at which _Carmen_ was published (indeed a
year earlier) Mérimée wrote a shorter, but not very short story, _Il
Viccolo di Madama Lucrezia_, which for some reason only appeared, at
least in book form, long after, with the _Dernières Nouvelles_ and
posthumously. It is, I think, his one attempt in the explained[227]
supernatural--a kind for which I have myself no very great affection.
But it is extremely well done, and if there are some suggestions of
impropriety in it, Hymen, to use Paul de Kock's phrase (it is really
pleasant to think of Paul and Prosper--the farthest opposites of French
contemporary novel-craft--together), covers up the more recent of them
with his mantle.

But some at least of the other contents of the same volume are worthy of
greater praise. One, _Le Coup de Pistolet_, is a translation from
Poushkin; another, _Federigo_, an agreeable version of an Italian
folk-tale--one of the numerous legends in which a 'cute' and not
unkindly sinner escapes not only perdition, but Purgatory, and takes
Paradise by storm of wit.[228] A third piece, _Les Sorcières
Espagnoles_, is folklorish in a way likewise, but inferior.

Yet another trio remains, and its constituents, _Lokis_, _La Chambre
Bleue_, and _Djoumane_, are among Mérimée's greatest triumphs.
_Djoumane_ is not dated; the other two date from the very last years of
his life and of the Second Empire; and, unless I mistake, were written
directly to amuse that Imperial Majesty who lives yet, and who, as all
good men must hope, may live to see the _revanche_, if not of the
dynasty, at any rate of the country, which she did so much to adorn.

[Sidenote: _Djoumane._]

Of the three, _Djoumane_--the account of a riding dream during a
campaign in Algeria--is the slightest, no doubt, and to a certain extent
a "trick" story. But it has the usual Mériméan consummateness in its own
way; and I can give it one testimonial which, like all testimonials, no
doubt depends on the importance of the giver, but which, to that
extent, is solid. I have read dozens, scores, almost hundreds of
dream-stories. I cannot remember a single one, except this, which "took
me in" almost to the very awaking.

There is no trick in either of the others, though in one of them there
is the supernatural--_not_ explained. But they are examples--closely and
no doubt intentionally juxtaposed--in two different kinds, both of them
exceptionally difficult and dangerous: the story of more or less
ordinary life, with only a few suggestions of anything else, which
resolves itself into horrible tragedy; and the story, again of ordinary
life, with a tragic suggestion in the middle, which unknits itself into
pure comedy at the end.

[Sidenote: _Lokis._]

_Lokis_ is a story of lycanthropy, or rather _arct_anthropy. A
Lithuanian Count's mother has been carried off, soon after her marriage,
by a bear, and just rescued with a lucky shot at the monster. She goes,
as is not very wonderful, quite mad, does not recover when her child is
born, and is under restraint in her own house, as wife and widow, for
the term of her life. Her son, however, shows no overt symptoms of
anything wrong except fits of melancholy and seclusion, being in other
respects a gentleman of most excellent "havings"--handsome, brave,
sportsmanlike, familiar with the best European society, and even
something of a scholar. He entertains a German minister and professor,
whose special forte is Lithuanian, in order that the pundit may study
some rare books and MSS. in his library; and his guest, being a great
traveller, a good rider, and, though simple in his ways, not at all
unlike a man of this world, makes a friend of him. It so happens, too,
that they have a common acquaintance--a neighbour, and, as is soon seen,
an idol of the Count's, Mademoiselle Julie Ivinska, very pretty, very
merry, and, if not very wise, clever enough to take in the scholar, on
his own ground, with a vernacular ("jmoude") version of one of
Mickiewitz's poems. All goes well in a way, except for occasional
apparitions of the poor mad Countess; but there is a rather threatening
episode of a ride into a great forest, which is popularly supposed to
contain a "sanctuary of the beasts," impenetrable by any hunter, and in
which they actually meet a local sorceress, with a basket of poisonous
mushrooms and a tame snake in it. Another episode gives us odd comments,
and a sort of nightmare afterwards, of the Count, when his guest happens
to mention the blood-drinking habits of the South American gauchos, in
which the professor himself has been forced to take part.

But these things and other "lights" of the catastrophe are very
artistically kept down, and you are never nudged or winked at in the
offensive "please note" manner. The guest goes away, but, not much to
anybody's surprise, is very soon asked to return and celebrate the
wedding of the Count and Mlle. Ivinska, who are both Lutherans. He goes,
and finds a great semi-pagan feast of the local peasantry (which does
not much please him) and one or two bad omens, including an appearance
of the mad old Countess with evil words, which please him still less.
But the feast ends at last and the newly married couple retire, there
being, of course, no "going away." Early in the morning the pastor is
waked by the sound of a heavy body (a sound which he had noticed before
but never interpreted) clambering down a tree just outside his window. A
little later, as the bridal pair do not appear, their door is broken
open, and the new Countess is found alone, dead, drenched in blood, and
her throat, not cut, but _bitten_ through.

The whole story is told by the minister himself to an otherwise
unidentified Theodore and Adelaide (who may be anybody, but who adroitly
soften the conclusion), and with that consummate management of the
difficult part of actor-narrator which has been noted. In every respect
but the purely sentimental one it seems to me beyond reproach and almost
beyond praise.[229]

[Sidenote: _La Chambre Bleue._]

There could not, as has been said, be a greater contrast than _La
Chambre Bleue_ in everything but craftsmanship. Two lovers (being French
they have to be unlawful lovers, but the story would be neither injured
nor improved, as a story, if the relation were taken quite out of the
reach of the Divorce and Admiralty division, as it could be by a very
little ingenuity) meet, in slight disguise,[230] at a railway station to
spend "a day and a night and a morrow" together at a country hotel--not
a great way from Paris, but outside the widest _banlieue_. They meet and
start all right; but Fortune begins, almost at once, to play them
tricks. They are not, as of course they wish to be, alone in the
carriage. A third traveller (one knows the wretch) gets in at the last
moment, and when, not to waste too much time, they begin to make love in
English, he very properly tells them that he is an Englishman, assuring
them, however, that he is probably going to sleep, and in any case will
not attend to anything they say. Then he takes a Greek book from his
bag, and devotes himself first to it and then to slumber. When their
journey comes to an end, so does his, and he goes to the same hotel, but
not before he has had an angry interview on the platform with some one
who calls him "uncle." However, at the moment this does not matter much.
Still, the _guignon_ is on them; their _chambre bleue_ is between two
other rooms, and--as is the common habit of French hotels and the not
uncommon one of English--has doors to both, which, though they can be
fastened, by no means exclude sound. One of the next rooms is the
Englishman's; the other, unfortunately, is a large upper chamber, in
which the officers of a departing regiment are entertaining their
successors. They are very noisy, very late, and somewhat impertinent
when asked not to disturb their neighbours; but they break up at last,
and the lovers have, as the poet says, "moonlight [actually] and sleep
[possibly] for repayment." But with the morning a worse thing happens.
The lover, waking, sees at the foot of the bed, flowing sluggishly from
the crack under the Englishman's door, a dark brownish-red fluid. It is
blood, certainly blood! and what on earth is to be done? Apparently the
Englishman (they have heard a heavy bump in the night) has either
committed suicide or been murdered, perhaps by the nephew; the matter
will be enquired into; in the circumstances they themselves cannot
escape examination, and the escapade will come out (blue spectacles and
black veils being alike useless against Commissaries of Police and
Judges of Instruction). The only hope is an early Paris train, if they
can get their bill, obtain some sort of breakfast, and catch it. But,
just as they have determined to do so, the facts next door are
discovered. The Englishman, who has ordered two bottles of _porto_, has
fallen asleep over the second, knocked it down while still half-full,
followed it himself to the floor, and reclined there peacefully, while
the fluid from the broken bottle trickled over the boards,[231] under
the door, and into the agapemone beyond. Once more (but for one
horrible[232] piece of libel), the thing could hardly be better.

[Sidenote: The _Chronique de Charles IX._]

Mérimée's largest and most ambitious attempt at pure prose fiction--the
_Chronique de Charles IX_--has been rather variously judged. That the
present writer once translated the whole of it may, from different
points of view, be regarded as a qualification and a disqualification
for judging it afresh. For a mere amateur (and there are
unfortunately[233] only too many amateur translators) it might be one
or the other, according as the executant had been pleased or bored by
his occupation. But to a person used to the manner, something of an
expert in literary criticism, and brought by the writing of many books
to an even keel between _engouement_ and disgust, it certainly should
not be a _dis_qualification. I do not think that the _Chronique_, as a
romance of the Dumas kind, though written long before Dumas so
fortunately deserted the drama for the kind itself, is entirely a
success. It has excellent characters, if not in the actual hero, in his
two Dalilahs--the camp-follower girl, who is a sort of earlier Carmen,
and the great lady--and in his fear-neither-God-nor-Devil brother; good
scenes in the massacre and in other passages also. But as a whole--as a
modernised _roman d'adventures_--it does not exactly _run_: the reader
does not devour the story as he should. He may be--I am--delighted with
the way in which the teller tells; but the things which he tells are of
much less interest. One cannot exactly say with that acute critic (if
rather uncritical acceptor of the accomplished facts of life and death
and matrimony), Queen Gertrude of Denmark, "More matter with less art,"
for there is plenty of matter as well as amply sufficient and yet not
over-lavish art. But one is not made to take sufficient interest in the
particular matter supplied.

[Sidenote: The semi-dramatic stories. _La Jacquerie._]

The other considerable and early attempt in historical romance, _La
Jacquerie_, is not in pure novel form, but it may fitly introduce some
notice of its actual method, in which Mérimée frequently, Gautier more
than once, and a third eminent man of letters to be noticed presently
most of all, distinguished themselves. This was what, in Old French,
would have been called the story _par personnages_--the manner in which
the whole matter is conveyed, not by _récit_, not by the usual form of
mixed narrative and conversation, but by dramatic or semi-dramatic
dialogue only, with action and stage direction, but no connecting
language of the author to the reader. The early French mysteries and
miracles--still more the farces--were not altogether unlike this; we saw
that some of the curious intermediate work of the late sixteenth and
early seventeenth centuries took it, and that both of Crébillon's most
felicitous, if not most edifying exercises are in dialogue form. The
admiration of the French Romantics for the "accidented" and "matterful"
English, Spanish, and German drama naturally encouraged experiment in
this kind. Gautier has not very much of it, though there is some in _Les
Jeune-France_, and his charming ballets might be counted in. But Mérimée
was particularly addicted thereto. _La Jacquerie_ is injured to some
tastes by excessive indulgence in the grime and horror which the subject
no doubt invited. We do not all rejoice in the notion of a Good Friday
service, "extra-illustrated" by a real crucifixion alive of a generous
Jacques who has surrendered himself; or in violence offered (it is true,
with the object of securing marriage) to a French heiress by an English
captain of Free Companions. Even some of those who may not dislike these
touches of _haut goût_, may, from the coolest point of view of strict
criticism, say that the composition is too _décousu_, and that, as in
the _Chronique_, there is little actual interest of story. But the
phantasmagoria of gloom and blood and fire is powerfully presented. The
earlier _Théâtre de Clara Gazul_,[234] one of the boldest and most
successful of all literary mystifications, belongs more or less to the
same class, which Mérimée never entirely deserted.

[Sidenote: _Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement_, etc.]

The best of all these is, to my thinking, undoubtedly the _Carrosse du
Saint-Sacrement_. It is also, I believe, the only one that ever was
tried on the actual stage--it is said without success--though surely
this cannot have been the form that it took in _La Périchole_, not the
least amusing of those levities of Offenbach's which did so disgust the
Pharisees of academic music and so arride the guileless public. _Le
Carrosse_ itself is a charming thing--very, very merry and by no means
unwise--without a drop of bad blood in it, and, if no better than, very
nearly as good as it should be from the moral point of view. _La Famille
Carvajal_ has the same fault of gruesomeness as _La Jacquerie_, with
less variety, and _Une Femme est un Diable_, a fresh handling of
something like the theme of _Le Diable Amoureux_ and _The Monk_, if
better than Lewis, is not so good as Cazotte. But _L'Occasion_ is almost
great, and I think _Le Ciel et l'Enfer_ absolutely deserves that too
much lavished ticket. Indeed Doña Urraca in this, like La Périchole in
_Le Carrosse_, seems to me to put Mérimée among the greatest masters of
feminine character in the nineteenth century, and far above some others
who have been held to have reached that perilous position.

At the same time, this hybrid form between _nouvelle_ and _drame_ has
some illegitimate advantages. You can, some one has said, "insinuate
character," whereas in a regular story you have to delineate it; and
though in some modern instances critics have seemed disposed to put a
higher price on the insinuation than on the delineation, not merely in
this particular form, I cannot quite agree with them. All the same,
Mérimée's accomplishments in this mixed kind are a great addition to his
achievements in the story proper, and, as has been confessed before, I
should be slow to deny him the place of the greatest "little master" in
fiction all round, though I may like some little masterpieces of others
better than any of his.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Musset: charm of his dramatised stories; his pure narration
unsuccessful.]

By an interesting but not at all inexplicable contrast the only writer
of prose fiction (except those to whom separate chapters have been
allotted and one other who follows him here) to be in any way classed
with Mérimée and Gautier as a man of letters generally--Alfred de
Musset--displays the contrast of values in his work of narrative and
dramatic form in exactly the opposite way to (at least) Mérimée's.
Musset's _Proverbes_, though, I believe, not quite successful at first,
have ever since been the delight of all but vulgar stage-goers: they
have, from the very first, been the delight of all but vulgar readers
for their pure story interest. Even some poems, not given as intended
dramas at all, possess the most admirable narrative quality and
story-turn.

As for the _Comédies-Proverbes_, it is impossible for the abandoned
reader of plays who reads them either as poems or as stories, or as
both, to go wrong there, whichever of the delightful bunch he takes up.
To play upon some of their own titles--you are never so safe in swearing
as when you swear that they are charming; when the door of the library
that contains them is opened you may think yourself happy, and when it
is shut upon you reading them you may know yourself to be happier. But
in pure prose narratives this exquisite poet, delightful playwright, and
unquestionable though too much wasted genius, never seems quite at home.
For though they sometimes have a poignant appeal, it is almost always
the illegitimate or at any rate extrinsic one of revelation of the
author's personal feeling; or else that of formulation of the general
effects of passion, not that of embodiment of its working.

[Sidenote: _Frédéric et Bernerette._]

Thus, for instance, there are few more pathetic stories in substance, or
in occasional expression of a half-aphoristic kind, than _Frédéric et
Bernerette_. The grisette heroine has shed all the vulgarity of Paul de
Kock's at his worst, and has in part acquired more poignancy than that
of Murger at his best. Her final letter to her lover, just before her
second and successful attempt at suicide, is almost consummate. But,
somehow or other, it strikes one rather as a marvellous single study--a
sort of modernised and transcended _Spectator_ paper--a "Farewell of a
Deserted Damsel"--than as part, or even as _dénouement_, of a story.
When the author says, "Je ne sais pas lequel est le plus cruel, de
perdre tout à coup la femme qu'on aime par son inconstance, ou par sa
mort," he says one of the final things finally. But it would be as final
and as impressive if it were an isolated _pensée_. The whole story is
not well told; Frédéric, though not at all a bad fellow, and an only too
natural one, is a thing of shreds and patches, not gathered together and
grasped as they should be in the hand of the tale-teller; the narrative
"backs and fills" instead of sweeping straight onwards.

[Sidenote: _Les Deux Maîtresses, Le Fils du Titien_, etc.]

So, again, the first story,[235] _Les Deux Maîtresses_, with its
inspiring challenge-overture, "Croyez-vous, madame, qu'il soit possible
d'être amoureux de deux personnes à la fois?" is in parts interesting.
But one reader at least cannot help being haunted as he reads by the
notion how much better Mérimée would have told it. _Le Fils du
Titien_--the story of the great master's lazy son, on whom even love and
entire self-sacrifice--lifelong too--on the part of a great lady, cannot
prevail to do more in his father's craft than one exquisite picture of
herself, inscribed with a sonnet renouncing the pencil thenceforth--is
the best told story in the book. But Gautier would certainly have done
it even better. _Margot_, in the same fatal way and, I fear, in the same
degree, suggests the country tales of Musset's own faithless love.

[Sidenote: _Emmeline._]

But the most crucial example of the "something wrong" which pursues
Musset in pure prose narrative is _Emmeline_. It is quite free from
those unlucky, and possibly unfair, comparisons with contemporaries
which have been affixed to its companions. A maniac of parallels might
indeed call it something of a modernised _Princesse de Clèves_; but this
would be quite idle. The resemblance is simply in situation; that is to
say, in the _publica materies_ which every artist has a right to make
his own by private treatment. Emmeline Duval is a girl of great wealth
and rather eccentric character, who chooses to marry (he has saved her
life, or at any rate saved her from possible death and certain damage) a
person of rank but no means, M. de Marsan. There is real love between
the two, and it continues on his side altogether unimpaired, on hers
untroubled, for years. A conventional lady-killer tries her virtue, but
is sent about his business. But then there turns up one Gilbert, to whom
she yields--exactly how far is not clearly indicated. M. de Marsan finds
it out and takes an unusual line. He will not make any scandal, and will
not even call the lover out. He will simply separate and leave her whole
fortune to his wife. She throws her marriage contract into the fire (one
does not presume to enquire how far this would be effective), dismisses
Gilbert through the medium of her sister, and--we don't know what
happened afterwards.

Now the absence of _finale_ may bribe critics of the present day; for my
part, as I have ventured to say more than once before, it seems that if
you accept this principle you had much better carry it through, have no
middle or beginning, and even no title, but issue, in as many copies as
you please, a nice quire or ream of blank paper with your name on it.
The purchasers could cut the name out, and use it for original
composition in a hundred forms, from washing bills to tragedies.

But I take what Musset has given me, and, having an intense admiration
for the author of _A Saint Blaise_ and _L'Andalouse_ and the _Chanson de
Fortunio_, a lively gratitude to the author of _Il ne faut jurer de
rien_ and _Il faut qu'une porte soit ouverte ou fermée_, call _Emmeline_
a very badly told and uninteresting story. The almost over-elaborate
description of the heroine at the beginning does not fit in with her
subsequent conduct; Gilbert is a nonentity; the husband, though noble in
conduct, is pale in character, and the sister had much better have been
left out.[236] So the rest may be silence.

[Sidenote: Gérard de Nerval--his peculiar position.]

I have been accused (quite good-naturedly) of putting Rabelais in this
history because I liked him, though he was not a novelist. My conscience
is easy there; and I think I have refuted the peculiar charge
beforehand. But I might have a little more difficulty (though I should
still lose neither heart nor hope) in the case of the ill-fated but
well-beloved writer whom gods and men call Gérard de Nerval, or simply
Gérard, though librarians and bibliographers sometimes insist on his
legal surname, Labrunie. It certainly would be difficult, from the same
point of view of strict legality, to call anything of his exactly a
novel. He was a poet, a dramatist, a voyage-and-travel writer, a
bibliographer (strange trade, which associates the driest with the most
"necta_w_eous" of men!) even sometimes a tale-teller by name, but even
then hardly a novelist. Yet he managed to throw over the most unlikely
material a novelish or at least a romantic character, which is
sometimes--nay, very often--utterly wanting in professed and admitted
masters of the business; and he combines with this faculty--or rather he
exalts and transports it into--a strange and exquisite charm, which
nobody else in French, except Nodier[237] (who very possibly taught
Gérard something), possesses, and which, though it is rather commoner in
English and in the best and now almost prehistoric German, is rare
anywhere, and, in Gérard's peculiar brand of it, almost entirely
unknown.

For this "Anodos"--the most unquestionably entitled to that title of all
men in letters; this wayless wanderer on the earth and above the earth;
this inhabitant of mad-houses; this victim, finally, either of his own
despair and sorrow or of some devilry on the part of others,[238]
unites, in the strange spell which he casts over all fit readers, what,
but for him, one might have called the idiosyncrasies in strangeness of
authors quite different from each other and--except at the special
points of contact--from him. He is like Borrow or De Quincey (though he
goes even beyond both) in the singular knack of endowing or investing
known places and commonplace actions with a weird second essence and
second intention. He is like Charles Lamb in his power of dropping from
quaintness and almost burlesque into the most touching sentiment and
emotion. Mr. Lang, in his Introduction to Poe, has noticed how Gérard
resembles America's one "poet of the first order" in fashioning lines
"on the further side of the border between verse and music"--a remark
which applies to his prose as well.[239] He has himself admitted a kind
of _sorites_ of indebtedness to Diderot, Sterne, Swift, Rabelais,
Folengo, Lucian, and Petronius. But this is merely on the comic and
purely intellectual side of him, while it is further confined, or nearly
so, to the trick of deliberate "promiscuousness." On the
emotional-romantic if not even tragic score he may write off all imputed
indebtedness--save once more in some degree, to Nodier. And the
consequence is that those who delight in him derive their delight from
sources of the most extraordinarily various character, probably never
represented by an exactly similar group in the case of any two
individual lovers, but quite inexhaustible. To represent him to those
who do not know him is not easy; to represent him to those who do is
sure, for this very reason, to arouse mild or not mild complaints of
inadequacy. And it must be clear, from what has been already said, that
some critic may very likely exclaim, in reference to any selected piece,
"Why, this is neither a novel nor a romance, nor even in any
legitimate sense a tale!" The inestimable rejoinder already
quoted,[240]--episcopal, and dignifying even that order though it was
made only by a bishop _in partibus_--is the only one here.

[Sidenote: _La Bohême Galante_, _Les Filles du Feu_, and _Le Rêve et la
Vie_.]

The difficulty of discussing or illustrating, in short space and due
proportion, the novel or _roman_ element in such a writer must be
sufficiently obvious. His longer travels in Germany and the East are
steeped in this element; and the shorter compositions which bear names
of novel-character are often "little travels" in his native province,
the Isle of France, and that larger _banlieue_ of Paris, towards Picardy
and Flanders, which our Seventy Thousand saved, by dying, the other day.
But it is impossible--and might even, if possible, be superfluous--to
touch the first group. Of the second there are three subdivisions,
which, however, are represented with not inconsiderable variation in
different issues.[241] Their titles are _La Bohême Galante_, _Les Filles
du Feu_, and _Le Rêve et la Vie_, the last of which contains only one
section, _Aurélia_, never, if I do not mistake, revised by Gérard
himself, and only published after his most tragic death. Its
_supra_-title really describes the most characteristic part or feature
of all the three and of Gérard's whole work.

[Sidenote: Their general character.]

To one who always lived, as Paul de Saint-Victor put it in one of the
best of those curious exercises of his mastery over words, "in the
fringes[242] of the actual world," this confusion of place and no
place, this inextricable blending of fact and dream, imagination and
reality, was natural enough; and no one but a Philistine will find fault
with the sometimes apparently mechanical and Sternian transitions which
form part of its expression. There was, indeed, an inevitable
_mixedness_ in that strange nature of his; and he will pass from almost
"true Dickens" (he actually admits inspiration from him) in accounts of
the Paris _Halles_, or of country towns, to De Quinceyish passages, free
from that slight touch of _apparatus_ which is undeniable now and then
in the Opium Eater. Here are longish excursions of pure family history;
there, patches of criticism in art or drama; once at least an elaborate
and--for the time--very well informed as well as enthusiastic sketch of
French seventeenth-century poetry. It may annoy the captious to find
another kind of confusion, for which one is not sure that Gérard himself
was responsible, though it is consistent enough with his peculiarities.
Passages are redistributed among different books and pieces in a rather
bewildering manner; and you occasionally rub your eyes at coming
across--in a very different context, or simply shorn of its old
one--something that you have met before. To others this, if not exactly
an added charm, will at any rate be admitted to "grace of congruity." It
would be less like Gérard if it were otherwise.

[Sidenote: Particular examples.]

In fact it is in these mixed pieces that Gérard's great attraction lies.
His regular stories, professedly of a Hoffmannesque kind, such as _La
Main Enchantée_ and _Le Monstre Vert_, are good, but not extraordinarily
good, and classable with many other things of many other people. I, at
least, know nothing quite like _Aurélia_ and _Sylvie_, though the
dream-pieces of Landor and De Quincey have a certain likeness, and
Nodier's _La Fée aux Miettes_ a closer one.

[Sidenote: _Aurélia._]

_Aurélia_ (which, whether complete in itself or not, was pretty clearly
intended to be followed by other things under the general title of _Le
Rêve et la Vie_) has, as might be expected, more dream than life in it.
Or rather it is like one of those actual dreams which themselves mix up
life--a dream in the composition. Aurélia is the book-name of a lady,
loved (actually, it seems) and in some degree responsible for her
lover's aberrations of mind. He thinks he loves another, but finds he
does not. The two objects of his passion meet, and the second generously
brings about a sort of reconciliation with the first. But he has to go
to Paris on business, and there he becomes a mere John-a-Dreams, if not,
in a mild way, a mere Tom of Bedlam. The chief drops into reality,
indeed, are mentions of his actual visits to _maisons de santé_. But the
thing is impossible to abstract or analyse, too long to translate as a
whole, and too much woven in one piece to cut up. It must be read as it
stands, and any person of tolerable intelligence will know in a page or
two whether Gérard is the man for him or not. But when he was writing it
he was already over even the fringe of ordinary sane life, and near the
close of life itself. In _Sylvie_ he had not drifted so far; and it is
perhaps his best diploma-piece.[243]

[Sidenote: And especially _Sylvie_.]

For _Sylvie_, with its sub-title, "Souvenirs du Valois," surely exhibits
Gérard, outside the pure travel-books, at his very best, as far as
concerns that mixture of _rêve_ and _réalité_--the far-off goal of
Gautier's[244] _Chimère_--which has been spoken of. The author comes out
of a theatre where he has only seen Her, having never, though a constant
worshipper, troubled himself to ask, much less to seek out, what She
might be off the stage. And here we may give an actual piece of him.

     We were living then in a strange kind of time,[245] one of
     those which are wont to come after revolutions, or the
     decadences of great reigns. There was no longer any
     gallantry of the heroic kind, as in the time of the Fronde;
     no vice, elegant and in full dress, as in that of the
     Regency; no "Directory" scepticism and foolish orgies. It
     was a mixture of activity, hesitation, and idleness--of
     brilliant utopias; of religious or philosophical aspiration;
     of vague enthusiasms mingled with certain instincts of a
     sort of Renaissance. Men were weary of past discords; of
     uncertain hopes, much as in the time of Petronius or
     Peregrinus. The materialist part of us hungered for the
     bouquet of roses which in the hands of Isis was to
     regenerate it--the Goddess, eternally young and pure,
     appeared to us at night and made us ashamed of the hours we
     had lost in the day. We were not at the age of ambition, and
     the greedy hunt for place and honours kept us out of
     possible spheres of work. Only the poet's Ivory Tower
     remained for us, and we climbed it ever higher and higher to
     be clear of the mob. At the heights whither our masters
     guided us we breathed at last the pure air of solitude; we
     drank in the golden cup of legend; we were intoxicated with
     poetry and with love. But, alas! it was only love of vague
     forms; of tints roseal and azure; of metaphysical phantoms.
     The real woman, seen close, revolted our ingenuousness: we
     would have had her a queen or a goddess, and to draw near
     her was fatal.

But he went from the play to his club, and there somebody asked him for
what person (in such cases one regrets _laquelle_) he went so constantly
to the same house; and, on the actress being named, kindly pointed out
to him a third member of this club as the lady's lover-in-title. The
peculiar etiquette of the institution demanded, it seems, that the
fortunate gallant should escort the beloved home, but then go to the
_cercle_ and play (they were wise enough to play whist then) for great
part of the night before exercising the remainder of his rights and
privileges. In the interval, apparently, other cats might be grey. And,
as it happened, Gérard saw in a paper that some shares of his, long
rubbish, had become of value. He would be better off; he might aspire
to a portion of the lady's spare hours. But this notion, it is not
surprising to hear, did not appeal to our Gérard. He sees in the same
paper that a _fête_ is going to take place in his old country of the
Valois; and when at last he goes home two "faces in the fire" rise for
him, those of the little peasant girl Sylvie and of the châtelaine
Adrienne--beautiful, triumphant, but destined to be a nun. Unable to
sleep, he gets up at one in the morning, and manages to find himself at
Loisy, the scene of the _fête_, in time.

One would fain go on, but duty forbids a larger allotment of space; and,
after all, the thing itself may be read by any one in half an hour or
so, and will not, at least ought not, to be forgotten for half a
lifetime--or a whole one. The finding of Sylvie, no longer a _little_
girl, but still a girl, still not married, though, as turns out, about
to be so, is chequered with all sorts of things--sketches of landscape;
touches of literature; black-and-white renderings of the _Voyage à
Cythère_; verses to Adrienne; to the actress Aurélie (to become later
the dream-Aurélia); and, lastly--in the earlier forms of the piece at
any rate--snatches of folk-song, including that really noble ballad:

    Quand Jean Renaud de la guerre revint,

which falls very little, if at all, short of the greatest specimens of
English, German, Danish, or Spanish.

And over and through it all, and in other pieces as well, there is the
faint, quaint, music--prose, when not verse--which reminds one[246]
somehow of Browning's famous Toccata-piece. Only the "dear dead women"
are dear dead fairies; and the whole might be sung at that "Fairy's
Funeral" which Christopher North imagined so well, though he did not
carry it out quite impeccably.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Alfred de Vigny: _Cinq-Mars_.]

The felicity of being enabled to know the causes of things, a recognised
and respectable form of happiness, is also one which I have recently
enjoyed in respect of Alfred de Vigny's _Cinq-Mars_. For Vigny as a poet
my admiration has always been profound. He appears to me to have
completed, with Agrippa d'Aubigné, Corneille, and Victor Hugo, the
_quatuor_ of French poets who have the secret of magnificence;[247] and,
scanty as the amount of his poetical work is, _Éloa_, _Dolorida_, _Le
Cor_, and the finest passages in _Les Destinées_ have a definite variety
of excellence and essence which it would not be easy to surpass in kind,
though it might be in number, with the very greatest masters of poetry.
But I have never been able, frankly and fully, to enjoy his novels,
especially _Cinq-Mars_. In my last reading of the chief of them I came
upon an edition which contains what I had never seen before--the
somewhat triumphant and strongly defiant tract, _Réflexions sur la
Vérité dans l'Art_, which the author prefixed to his book after its
success. This tractate is indeed not quite consistent with itself, for
it ends in confession that truth in art is truth in observation of human
nature, not mere authenticity of fact, and that such authenticity is of
merely secondary importance at best. But in the opening he had taken
lines--or at any rate had said things--which, if not absolutely
inconsistent with, certainly do not lead to, this sound conclusion. In
writing historical novels (he tells us) he thought it better not to
imitate the foreigners (it is clear that this is a polite way of
indicating Scott), who in their pictures put the historical dominators
of them in the background; he has himself made such persons principal
actors. And though he admits that "a treatise on the decline and fall of
feudalism in France; on the internal conditions and external relations
of that country; on the question of military alliances with foreigners;
on justice as administered by parliaments, and by secret commissions on
charges of sorcery," might not have been read while the novel _was_;
the sentence suggests, with hardly a possibility of rebuttal, that a
treatise of this kind was pretty constantly in his own mind while he was
writing the novel itself. And the earlier sentence about putting the
more important historical characters in the foreground remains "firm,"
without any necessity for argument or suggestion.

[Sidenote: The faults in its general scheme.]

Now I have more than once in this very book, and often elsewhere,
contended, rightly or wrongly, that this "practice of the foreigners,"
in _not_ making dominant historical characters their own dominant
personages, is _the_ secret of success in historical novel-writing, and
the very feather (and something more) in the cap of Scott himself which
shows his chieftainship. And, again rightly or wrongly, I have also
contended that the hand of purpose deadens and mummifies story. Vigny's
own remarks, despite subsequent--if not recantation--qualification of
them, show that the lie of his land, the tendency of his exertion, _was_
in these two, as I think, wrong directions. And I own that this
explained to me what I had chiefly before noticed as merely a fact,
without enquiring into it, that _Cinq-Mars_, admirably written as it is;
possessing as it does, with a hero who might have been made interesting,
a great person like Richelieu to make due and not undue use of; plenty
of thrilling incident at hand, and some actually brought in; love
interest _ad libitum_ and fighting hardly less so; a tragic finish from
history, and opportunity for plenty of lighter contrast from Tallemant
and the Memoirs--that, I say, _Cinq-Mars_, with all this and the
greatness of its author in other work, has always been to me not a live
book, and hardly one which I can even praise as statuesque.[248]

It is no doubt a misfortune for the book with its later readers--the
earlier for nearly twenty years were free from this--that it comes into
closest comparison with Dumas' best work. Its action, indeed, takes
place in the very "Vingt Ans" during which we know (except from slight
retrospect) nothing of what D'Artagnan and the Three were doing. But
more than one or two of the same historical characters figure, and in
the chapters dealing with the obscure _émeute_ which preceded the actual
conspiracy, as well as in the scenes touching Anne of Austria's private
apartments, the parallel is very close indeed.

[Sidenote: And in its details.]

Now of course Dumas could not write like Vigny; and though, as is
pointed out elsewhere, to regard him as a vulgar fellow is the grossest
of blunders as well as a great injustice, Vigny, in thought and taste
and _dianoia_ generally, was as far above him as in style.[249] But that
is not the question. I have said[250] that I do not quite _know_
D'Artagnan, though I think I know Athos, as a man; but as a novel-hero
the Gascon seems to me to "fill all numbers." Cinq-Mars may be a
succession or chain of type-personages--generous but headlong youth,
spoilt favourite, conspirator and something like traitor, finally
victim; but these are the "flat" characters (if one may so speak) of the
treatise, not the "round" ones of the novel. And I cannot _unite_ them.
His love-affair with Marie de Gonzague leaves me cold. His friend, the
younger De Thou, is hardly more than "an excellent person." The
persecution of Urbain Grandier and the sufferings of the Ursuline Abbess
seem to me--to use the old schoolboy word--to be hopelessly "muffed";
and if any one will compare the accounts of the taking of the
"Spanish bastion" at Perpignan with the exploit at that other
bastion--Saint-Gervais at Rochelle--he will see what I mean as well as
in any single instance. The second part, where we come to the actual
conspiracy, is rather better than the first, if not much; and I think
Vigny's presentment of Richelieu has been too much censured. Armand
Duplessis was a very great man; but unless you accept the older
Machiavellian and the more modern German doctrines as to what a great
man may do, he must also be pronounced a most unscrupulous one; while
there is little doubt (unless you go back to Louis XI.) that Vigny was
right in regarding him as the original begetter of the French
Revolution. But he is not here made by any means wholly inhuman, and
Vigny makes it justly clear that, if he had not killed Cinq-Mars,
Cinq-Mars would have killed him. In such cases of course the person who
begins may be regarded as the assassin; but it is doubtful whether this
is distributive justice of the highest order. And I do not see much
salvation for France in Henry d'Effiat.

This, however, is a digression from our proper subject, but one
justifying itself after a fashion, inasmuch as it results from Vigny's
own faulty handling of the subject itself and is appropriate to his line
of argument in his _Examen_. He has written the novel not as he ought
and as he ought not. The political and historical interests overshadow,
confuse, and hamper the purely "fictional" (as people say now), and when
he has got hold of a scene which _is_ either purely "fictional," or
historical with fictitious possibilities, he does not seem (to me) to
know how to deal with it. There is one--of the extremest melodramatic
character and opportunities--where, in a hut perched on the side of a
Pyrenean gorge or cañon, Richelieu's villainous tool, the magistrate
Laubardemont; his mad niece, the former Ursuline Abbess, who has helped
to ruin Urbain Grandier; his outcast son Jacques, who has turned Spanish
officer and general bravo; and a smuggler who has also figured in the
Grandier business, forgather; where the mad Abbess dies in terror, and
Jacques de Laubardemont by falling through the flimsy hut-boards into
the gorge, his father taking from him, by a false pretence before his
death, the treaty between the Cinq-Mars conspirators and Spain. All this
is sufficiently "horrid," as the girls in _Northanger Abbey_ would say,
and divers French contemporaries of Vigny's from Hugo to Soulié would
have made good horrors of it. In his hands it seems (to me) to miss
fire. So, again, he has a well-conceived interview, in which Richelieu,
for almost the last time, shows "the power of a strong mind over a weak
one," and brings the King to abject submission and the surrender of
Cinq-Mars, by the simple process of leaving his Majesty to settle by
himself the problems that drop in from France, England, and where or
whence not, during the time of the Cardinal's absence. It is less of a
failure than the other, being more in Vigny's own line; but it is
impossible not to remember several scenes--not one only--in _Quentin
Durward_, and think how much better Scott would have done it; several in
the Musketeer-trilogy, if not also in the Margot-Chicot series, and make
a parallel reflection. And as a final parry by anticipation to the
objection that such comparison is "rascally," let it be said that
nothing of the kind ever created any prejudice against the book in my
case. I failed to get on with it long before I took the least trouble to
discover critical reasons that might excuse that failure.

[Sidenote: _Stello_ less of a novel, but containing better novel-stuff.]

But if any one be of taste sufficiently like mine to find disappointment
of the unpleasant kind in _Cinq-Mars_, I think I can promise him an
agreeable, if somewhat chequered, surprise when, remembering _Cinq-Mars_
and basing his expectations upon it, he turns to _Stello_. It is true
that the book is, as a whole, even less "precisely a novel" than
Sainte-Beuve's _Volupté_. But for that very reason it escapes the
display of the disabilities which _Cinq-Mars_, being, or incurring
obligation to be, precisely a novel, suffers. It is true also that it
exhibits that fancy for putting historical persons in the first "plan"
which he had avowed, and over which heads have been shaken. The bulk of
it, indeed, consists of romanticised _histoires_ or historiettes (the
narrator calls them "anecdotes") of the sad and famous fates of two
French poets, Gilbert and André Chénier, and of our English Chatterton.
But, then, no one of these can be called "a dominant historical
personage," and the known facts permit themselves to be, and are,
"romanticised" effectively enough. So the flower is in each case plucked
from the nettle. And there is another flower of more positive and less
compensatory kind which blooms here, which is particularly welcome to
some readers, and which, from _Cinq-Mars_ alone, they could hardly have
expected to find in any garden of Alfred de Vigny's. For this springs
from a root of ironic wit which almost approaches humour, which, though
never merry, is not seldom merciful, and is very seldom actually savage,
though often sad. Now irony is, to those who love it, the saving grace
of everything that possesses it, almost equal in charm, and still more
nearly equal in power, to the sheer beauty, which can dispense with it,
but which sometimes, and not so very rarely, is found in its company.

[Sidenote: Its framework and "anecdotes."]

The substance, or rather the framework, of _Stello, ou Les Diables
Bleus_, requires very little amplification of its double title to
explain it. Putting that title in charade form, one might say that its
first is a young poet who suffers from its second--like many other young
persons, poetical and unpoetical, of times Romantic and un-Romantic.
Having an excessively bad fit of his complaint, he sends for a certain
_docteur noir_ to treat the case. This "Black Doctor" is not a
trout-fly, nor the sort of person who might be expected in a story of
_diablerie_. It is even suggested that he derived the name, by which he
was known to society, from the not specially individual habit of wearing
black clothes. But there must have been something not quite ordinarily
human about him, inasmuch as, having been resident in London at the time
of Chatterton's death in 1770, he was--apparently without any signs of
Old Parr-like age--a fashionable doctor at Paris in the year 1832. His
visit ends, as usual, in a prescription, but a prescription of a very
unusual kind. The bulk of it consists of the "anecdotes"--again perhaps
not a very uncommon feature of a doctor's visit, but told at such length
on the three subjects above mentioned that, with "links" and
conclusion,[251] they run to nearly four hundred pages.

It is possible that some one may say "_Connu!_" both to the stories
themselves and to the moral of real suffering, as opposed to mere
megrim, which is so obviously deducible from them. But Stello was quite
as clever as the objectors, and knew these things quite as
well--perhaps, as far as the case of Gilbert is concerned, rather better
than most Englishmen. It is in the manner of the Black Doctor's telling
and handling that the charm lies.

[Sidenote: The death of Gilbert.]

Even for those gluttons of matter who do not care much for manner there
is a good deal in the three stories. The first avails itself--as Vigny
had unwisely _not_ availed himself in _Cinq-Mars_, though he was well
acquainted with Shakespeare and lesser English masters--of the mixture
of comic and tragic. The suffering[252] of the unfortunate youth who was
partly a French Chatterton and partly a French Clare, his strange visit
to the benevolent but rather ineffectual Archbishop of Paris, and the
scene at his death-bed, exhibit, at nearly its best, the tragic power
which Vigny possessed in a very high, though not always well exercised,
degree. And the passage of the poet's death is of such _macabre_ power
that one must risk a translation:

     (_The doctor has been summoned, has found the patient in his
     garret, bare of all furniture save a bed with tattered
     clothes and an old trunk._)

     His face was very noble and very beautiful; he looked at me
     with fixed eyes, and between them and the nose, above the
     cheeks, he showed that nervous contraction which no ordinary
     convulsion can imitate, which no illness gives, but which
     says to the physician, "Go your ways!" and is, as it were, a
     standard which Death plants on his conquests. He clutched in
     one hand his pen, his poor last pen, inky and ragged, in the
     other a crust of his last piece of bread. His legs knocked
     together, so as to make the crazy bed crackle. I listened
     carefully to his hard breathing; I heard the rattle with
     its hollow husk; and I recognised Death in the room as a
     practised sailor recognises the tempest in the whistle of
     the wind that precedes it.

     "Always the same, to all thou comest," I said to Death, he
     himself speaking low enough for my lips to make, in dying
     ears, only an indistinct murmur. "I know thee always by
     thine own hollow voice, lent to youth and age alike. How
     well I know thee and thy terrors, which are no longer such
     to me![253] I feel the dust that thy wings scatter in the
     air as thou comest; I breathe the sickly odour of it; I see
     its pale ashes fly, invisible as they may be to other men's
     sight. O! thou Inevitable One, thou art here, verily thou
     comest to save this man from his misery. Take him in thine
     arms like a child; carry him off; save him; I give him to
     thee. Save him only from the devouring sorrow that
     accompanies us ever on the earth till we come to rest in
     thee, O Benefactor and Friend!"

     I had not deceived myself, for Death it was. The sick man
     ceased to suffer, and began suddenly to enjoy the divine
     moment of repose which precedes the eternal immobility of
     the body. His eyes grew larger, and were charged with
     amazement; his mouth relaxed and smiled; his tongue twice
     passed over his lips as if to taste once more, from some
     unseen cup, a last drop of the balm of Life. And then he
     said with that hoarse voice of the dying which comes from
     the inwards and seems to come from the very feet:

    At the banquet of life a guest ill-fated.[254]

[Sidenote: The satiric episode--contrast.]

But this death-bed, and the less final but hardly less tragic wanderings
of the victim in his visit to the Archbishop (by whom also the doctor
has been summoned), are contrasted and entangled, very skilfully indeed,
with a scene--the most different possible--in which he still appears.
The main personages in this, however, are his Majesty Louis XV. and the
reigning favourite, Mademoiselle de Coulanges, a young lady who, from
the account given of her, might justify the description, assigned
earlier to one of her official predecessors in a former reign, of being
"belle comme un ange, et bête comme un panier."[255] At first the lovers
(if we are to call them so) are lying, most beautifully dressed and
quite decorously, on different sofas, both of them with books in their
hands, but one asleep and the other yawning. Suddenly the lady springs
up shrieking, and the polite and amiable monarch (apart from his
Solomonic or Sultanic weaknesses, and the perhaps graver indifference
with which he knowingly allowed France to go to the devil, Louis le
Bien-Aimé was really _le meilleur fils du monde_) does his best to
console his beloved and find out the reason of her woes. It appears at
last that she thinks she has been bitten by a flea, and as the summer is
very hot, and there has been much talk of mad dogs, she is convinced
that the flea was a mad flea, and that she shall die of hydrophobia. (As
it happens, the flea is not a flea at all, but a grain of snuff.)
However, the Black Doctor is sent for, and finds the King as affable as
usual, but Mlle. de Coulanges coiled up on a sofa--like something
between a cat and a naughty child afraid of being scolded--and hiding
her face. On being coaxed with the proper medical manner, she at last
bursts out laughing, and finally they all laugh together, till his
Majesty spills his coffee on his gold waistcoat, and then pulls the
doctor down on a sofa to talk Paris gossip. And now the Black One clears
himself from any connection with the serpent as far as wisdom is
concerned, though he has plenty of a better kind. Fresh from Gilbert's
appeal to the Archbishop, he tries to interest this so amiable Royalty
in the subject. But the result is altogether unfortunate. The lady is
merely contemptuous and bored. The King gets angry, and displays that
indifference to anybody else's suffering which moralists (whether to an
exaggerated extent or not, is another question) are wont to connect with
excessive attention to a man's own sensual enjoyments. After some by no
means stupid but decidedly acid remarks on Voltaire, Rousseau, and
others, he takes (quite good-naturedly in appearance) the doctor's arm,
walks with him to the end of the long apartment, opens the door, quotes
certain satiric verses on literary and scientific "gents," and--shuts it
on his medical adviser and guest.

I know few things of the kind more neatly done, or better adjusted to
heighten the tragic purpose.

[Sidenote: The Chatteron part.]

To an Englishman the next episode may be less satisfactory, though it
was very popular in France under its original form, and still more so
when Vigny dramatised it in his famous _Chatterton_. It is not that
there is any (or at any rate much) of the usual caricature which was
(let us be absolutely equitable and say) exchanged between the two
countries for so long a time. Vigny married an English wife, knew
something of England, and a good deal of English literature. But,
regardless of his own historical _penchants_ and of the moral of this
very book--that Sentiment must be kept under the control of Reason--he
was pleased to transmogrify Chatterton's compassionate Holborn landlady
into a certain Kitty Bell--a pastry-shop keeper close to the Houses of
Parliament, who is very beautiful except that she has the inevitable
"large feet" (let us hope that M. le Comte de Vigny, who was a
gentleman, took only the first _signalement_ from Madame la Comtesse),
extraordinarily sentimental, and desperately though (let us hope again,
for she has a husband and two children) quite virtuously in love with
the boy from Bristol. He entirely transforms Lord Mayor Beckford's part
in the matter;[256] changes, for his own purposes, the arsenic into
opium (a point of more importance than it may seem), and in one blunt
word does all he can to spoil the story. It is too common an experience
when foreigners treat such things, and I say this with the fullest
awareness of the danger of _De te fabula_.

[Sidenote: The tragedy of André Chénier.]

These two stories, however, fill scarcely more than a third of the book,
and the other two-thirds, subtracting the moral at the end, deal with a
matter which Vigny, once more, understood thoroughly. The fate of André
Chénier is "fictionised" in nearly the best manner, though with the
author's usual fault of inability to "round out" character. We do not
sufficiently realise the poet himself. But his brother, Marie-Joseph,
requiring slighter presentment, has it; and so, on a still smaller
scale, has the well-meaning but fatuous father, who, hopelessly
misunderstanding the signs of the times, actually precipitates his elder
son's fate by applying, in spite of remonstrance, to the tiger-pole-cat
Robespierre for mercy. The scene where this happens--and where the
"sea-green incorruptible" himself, Saint-Just (prototype of so many
Republican enthusiasts, ever since and to-day), Marie-Joseph, and the
Black Doctor figure--is singularly good. Hardly less so are the
pictures--often painted by others but seldom better--of the ghastly
though in a way heroic merriment of the lost souls in Saint-Lazare,
between their doom and its execution, and the finale. In this the
doctor's soldier-servant Blaireau ("Badger"), still a gunner on active
service (partly, one fancies, from former touches,[257] by concealed
good intention, partly from mere whim and from disgust at the drunken
hectorings of General Henriot), refuses to turn his guns on the
Thermidorists, and thus saves France from at least the lowest depths of
the Revolutionary Inferno.[258] Perhaps there is here, as with Vigny's
fiction throughout, a certain amateurishness, and a very distinct
inability to keep apart things that had better not be mixed. But there
is also evidence of power throughout, and there is actually some
performance.

[Sidenote: _Servitude et Grandeur Militaires._]

His third and last work, of anything like the kind, _Servitude et
Grandeur Militaires_, is no more of a regular novel than _Stello_; but,
though perhaps in an inferior degree, it shares the superiority of
_Stello_ itself over _Cinq-Mars_ in power of telling a story. Like
_Stello_, too, it is a frame of short tales, not a continuous narrative;
and like that, and even to a greater degree, it exhibits the intense
melancholy (almost unique in its particular shade, though I suppose it
comes nearer to Leopardi's than to that of any other great man of
letters) which characterises Alfred de Vigny. His own experience of
soldiering had not been fortunate. He had begun, as a mere boy, by
accompanying Louis XVIII. in his flight before the Hundred Days; he had
seen, for another fourteen or fifteen years during the Restoration,

    No wars where triumphs on the victors wait,

but only the dreary garrison life (see on Beyle, _sup._ p. 149) of
French peace time, and, in the way of active service, only what all
soldiers hate, the thankless and inglorious police-work which comes on
them through civil disturbance. Whether he was exactly the kind of man
to have enjoyed the livelier side of martialism may be the subject of
considerable doubt. But at any rate he had no chance of it, and his
framework here is little more than a tissue of transcendental
"grousing."

[Sidenote: The first story.]

The first story illustrating "Servitude" is sufficiently horrible, and
has a certain element of paradox in it. The author, actually on his very
disagreeable introduction to a military career by flight, meets with an
old officer who tells him his history. He has been at one time a
merchant sailor; and then in the service of the Directory, by whom he
was commissioned to carry convicts to Cayenne. The most noteworthy of
these, a young man of letters, who had libelled one of the tyrants, and
his still younger wife, are very charming people; and the captain, who
makes them his guests, becomes so fond of them that he even proposes to
give up his profession and farm with them in the colony. He has,
however, sealed orders, to be opened only in mid-Atlantic; and when he
does open them, he finds, to his unspeakable horror, a simple command to
shoot the poet at once. He obeys; and the "frightfulness" is doubled by
the fact that a rather clumsy device of his to spare the wife the sight
of the husband's death is defeated by the still greater clumsiness of a
subordinate. She goes mad; and, as expiation, he takes charge of her,
shifts from navy to army, and carries her with him on all his campaigns,
being actually engaged in escorting her on a little mule-cart when Vigny
meets him. They part; and ten years afterwards Vigny hears that the
officer was killed at Waterloo--his victim-charge following him a few
days later. The story is well told, and not, as actual things go,
impossible. But there are some questions which it suggests. "Is it, _as
literature_, a whole?" "Is it worth telling?" and "Why on earth did the
captain obey such an order from a self-constituted authority of
scoundrels to whom no 'sacrament' could ever be binding, if it could
even exist?"[259]

[Sidenote: The second]

The second is also tragical, but less so; and is again very well told.
It is concerned with the explosion of a powder-magazine--fortunately not
the main one--at Vincennes, brought about by the over-zeal of a good old
adjutant, the happiness of whose domestic interior just before his fate
(with some other things) forms one of Vigny's favourite contrasts.

[Sidenote: and third.]

But, as in _Stello_, he has kept the best wine to the last. The single
illustration of _Grandeur_ must have, for some people, though it may not
have for all, the very rare interest of a story which would rather gain
than lose if it were true. It opens in the thick of the July
Revolution, when the veteran French army--half-hearted and gaining no
new heart from the half-dead hands which ought to have guided it--was
subjected, on a larger scale, to the same sort of treatment which the
fresh-recruited Sherwood Foresters (fortunately _not_ half-hearted)
experienced in Dublin at Easter 1916. The author, having, luckily for
himself, resigned his commission a year or two before, meets an old
friend--a certain Captain Renaud--who, though a _vieux de la vieille_,
has reached no higher position, but is adored by his men, and generally
known as "Canne de Jonc," because he always carries that not very lethal
weapon, and has been known to take it into action instead of a sword.

In the "sullen interval" of the crisis the two talk; and Renaud is led
into telling the chief experiences of his life. He had known little of
his father--a soldier before him--but had been taken by that father on
Bonaparte's Egyptian expedition till, at Malta, he was stopped by
Bonaparte himself, who would have no boy on it save Casabianca's (pity
he did not stop him too!). But he only sends Renaud back to the Military
Academy, and afterwards makes him his page. The father is blown up in
the _Orient_, but saved, and, though made prisoner by us, is well
treated, and, as being of great age and broken health, allowed, by
Collingwood's interest, to go to Sicily. He dies on the way; but is able
to send a letter to his son, which is one of the finest examples of
Vigny's peculiar melancholy irony. In this he recants his worship of the
(now) Emperor. It has, however, no immediate effect on the son. But
before long, by an accident, he is an unwilling and at first unperceived
witness of the famous historical or half-historical interview at
Fontainebleau between Napoleon and the Pope, where the bullied Holy
Father enrages, but vanquishes, the conqueror by successively
ejaculating the two words _Commediante!_ and _Tragediante!_ (This scene
is again admirable.) The page's absence from his ordinary duty excites
suspicion, and the Emperor, _more_ _suo_, exiles him to the
farce-tragedy of the Boulogne flotilla, where the clumsy flat-bottoms
are sunk at pleasure as they exercise[260] by English frigates. The
father's experience is repeated with the son, for he also is captured
and also falls into the beneficent power of Collingwood, whom Vigny
almost literally beatifies.[261] The Admiral keeps the young man on
parole with him four years at sea, and when he has--"so as by water" if
not fire--overcome the temptation of breaking his word, effects exchange
for him. But, as is well known (the very words occur here, though I do
not know whether for the first time or not), Napoleon's motto in such
cases was: "Je n'aime pas les prisonniers. On se fait tuer." He goes
back to his duty, but avoids recognition as much as possible, and
receives no, or hardly any, promotion. Once, just after Montmirail, he
and the Emperor meet, whether with full knowledge on the latter's part
is skilfully veiled. But they touch hands. Still Captain Renaud's
_guignon_ pursues him in strange fashion; and during a night attack on a
Russian post near Reims he kills, in a mere blind mellay, a boy officer
of barely fourteen, and is haunted by remorse ever afterwards.

A few days after telling the story he is shot by a _gamin_ whom older
men have made half-drunk and furnished with a pistol with directions to
do what he does. And all this is preserved from being merely sentimental
("Riccobonish," as I think Vigny himself--but it may be somebody
else--has it) by the touch of true melancholy on the one hand and of
all-saving irony on the other.

[Sidenote: The moral of the three.]

So also these two curious books save Vigny himself to some extent from
the condemnation, or at any rate the exceedingly faint praise, which his
principal novel may bring upon him as a novelist. But they do so to some
extent only. It is clear even from them, though not so clear as it is
from their more famous companion, that he was not to the manner born.
The riddles of the painful earth were far too much with him to permit
him to be an unembarrassed master or creator of pastime--not necessarily
horse-collar pastime by any means, but pastime pure and simple. His
preoccupations with philosophy, politics, world-sorrow, and other things
were constantly cropping up and getting in the way of his narrative
faculty. I do not know that, even of the scenes that I have praised, any
one except the expurgated Crébillonade of the King and the Lady and the
Doctor goes off with complete "currency," and this is an episode rather
than a whole tale, though it gives itself the half-title of _Histoire
d'une Puce Enragée_. He could never, I think, have done anything but
short stories; and even as a short-story teller he ranks with the other
Alfred, Musset, rather than with Mérimée or Gautier. But, like Musset,
he presents us, as neither of the other two did (for Mérimée was not a
poet, and Gautier was hardly a dramatist), with a writer, of mark all
but the greatest, in verse and prose and drama; while in prose and verse
at least he shows that quality of melancholy magnificence which has been
noted, as hardly any one else does in all three forms, except Hugo
himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE ON FROMENTIN'S _DOMINIQUE_

[Sidenote: Note on Fromentin's _Dominique_: its altogether exceptional
character.]

I have found it rather difficult to determine the place most proper for
noticing the _Dominique_ of Eugène Fromentin--one of the most remarkable
"single-speech" novels in any literature. It was not published till the
Second Empire was more than half-way through, but it seems to have been
written considerably earlier; and as it is equally remarkable for
_lexis_ and for _dianoia_, it may, on the double ground, be best
attached to this chapter, though Fromentin was younger than any one else
here dealt with, and belonged, in fact, to the generation of our later,
though not latest, constituents. But, in fact, it is a book like no
other, and it is for this reason, and by no means as confessing omission
or after-thought, that I have made the notice of it a note. In an
outside way, indeed, it may be said to belong to the school of _René_,
but the resemblance is very partial.

The author was a painter--perhaps the only painter-novelist of merit,
though there are bright examples of painter-poets. His other literary
work consists of a good book on his Netherlandish brethren in art, and
of two still better ones, descriptive of Algeria. And _Dominique_ itself
has unsurpassed passages of description at length, as well as numerous
tiny touches like actual _remarques_ on the margin of the page. Only
once does his painter's eye seem to have failed him as to situation. The
hero, when he has thrown himself on his knees before his beloved, and
she (who is married and "honest") has started back in terror, "drags
himself after her." Now I believe it to be impossible for any one to
execute this manoeuvre without producing a ludicrous effect. For which
reason the wise have laid it down that the kneeling posture should never
be resorted to unless the object of worship is likely to remain fairly
still. But this is, I think, the only slip in the book. It is
exceedingly interesting to compare Fromentin's descriptions with those
of Gautier on the one hand before him, and with those of Fabre and
Theuriet on the other later. I should like to point out the differences,
but it is probably better merely to suggest the comparison. His actual
work in design and colour I never saw, but I think (from attacks on it
that I _have_ seen) I should like it.

But his descriptions, though they would always have given the book
distinction, would not--or would not by themselves--have given it its
special appeal. Neither does that appeal lie in such story as there
is--which, in fact, is very little. A French squire (he is more nearly
that than most French landlords have cared to be, or indeed have been
able to be, since the Revolution and the Code Napoléon) is orphaned
early, brought up at his remote country house by an aunt, privately
tutored for a time, not by an abbé, but by a young schoolmaster and
literary aspirant; then sent for three or four years to the nearest
"collége," where he is bored but triumphant: and at last, about his
_vingt ans_, let loose in Paris. But--except once, and with the result,
usual for him, of finding the thing a failure--he does not make the
stock use of liberty at that age and in that place. He has, at school,
made friends with another youth of good family in the same province, who
has an uncle and cousins living in the town where the college is. The
eldest she-cousin of Olivier d'Orsel, Madeleine, is a year older than
Dominique de Bray, and of course he falls in love with her. But though
she, in a way, knows his passion, and, as one finds out afterwards,
shares or might have been made to share it, the love is "never told,"
and she marries another. The destined victims of the _un_smooth course,
however, meet in Paris, where Dominique and Olivier, though they do not
share chambers, live in the same house and flat; and the story of just
overcome temptation is broken off at last in a passionate scene like
that of "Love and Duty"--which noble and strangely undervalued poem
might serve as a long motto or verse-prelude to the book. It is rather
questionable whether it would not be better without the thin frame of
actual proem and conclusion, which does actually enclose the body of the
novel as a sort of _récit_, provoked partly by the suicide, or attempted
suicide, of Olivier after a life of fastidiousness and frivolity. The
proem gives us Dominique as--after his passion-years, and his as yet
unmentioned failure to achieve more than mediocrity in letters--a quiet
if not cheerful married man with a charming wife, pretty children, a
good estate, and some peasants not in the least like those of _La
Terre_; while in the epilogue the tutor Augustin, who has made his way
at last and has also married happily, drives up to the door, and the
book ends abruptly. It is perhaps naughty, but one does not want the
wife, or the children, or the good peasants, or the tutor Augustin,
while the suicide of Olivier appears rather copy-booky. It is especially
annoying thus to have what one does not want to know, and not what one,
however childishly, does want to know--that is to say, the after-history
of Madeleine.

Yet even in the preliminary forty or fifty pages few readers can fail to
perceive that they have got hold of a most uncommon book. Its
uncommonness, as was partly said above, does not consist merely in the
excellence of its description; nor in the acuteness of the occasional
_mots_; nor in the passion of the two main characters; nor in the
representation of the mood of that "discouraged generation of 1850" of
which it is, in prose and French, the other Testament corresponding to
Matthew Arnold's in verse and English. Nor does it even consist in all
these added together; but in the way in which they are fused; in which
they permeate each other and make, not a group, but a whole. It might
even, like Sainte-Beuve's _Volupté_ (_v. inf._). be called "not
precisely a novel" at all, and even more than Fabre's _Abbé Tigrane_
(_v. inf._ again), rather a study than a story. And it is partly from
this point of view that one regrets the prologue and epilogue. No
doubt--and the plea is a recurring one--in life these storms and
stresses, these failures and disappointments, do often subside into
something parallel to Dominique's second existence as squire, sportsman,
husband, father, and farmer. No doubt they

    Pulveris exigui jactu compacta quiescunt,

whether the dust is of the actual grave and its ashes, or the more
symbolical one of the end of love. But on the whole, for art's sake,
this somewhat prosaic _Versöhnung_ is better left behind the scenes. Yet
this may be a private--it may be an erroneous--criticism. The positive
part of what has been said in favour of _Dominique_ is, I think,
something more. There are few novels like it; none exactly like, and
perhaps one does not want many or any more. But by itself it stands--and
stands crowned.

FOOTNOTES:

[198] Some years after its original appearance Mr. Andrew Lang, in
collaboration with another friend of mine, who adopted the _nom de
guerre_ of "Paul Sylvester," published a complete translation under the
title of _The Dead Leman_; and I believe that the late Mr. Lafacido
Hearn more recently executed another. But this last I have never seen.
(The new pages which follow to 222, it may not be superfluous to repeat,
appeared originally in the _Fortnightly Review_ for 1878, and were
reprinted in _Essays on French Novelists_, London, 1891. The Essay
itself contains, of course, a wider criticism of Gautier's work than
would be proper here.)

[199] For, as a rule, the critical faculty is like wine--it steadily
improves with age. But of course anybody is at liberty to say, "Only, in
both cases, when it is good to begin with."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[209] It is here that the famous return of a kiss _revu, corrigé et
considérablement augmenté_ is recorded.

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

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

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

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

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

[215] _V. sup._ Vol. I. p. 279-286. Of course the duplication, _as
literature_, is positively interesting and welcome.

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

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

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

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

[220] For reference to previous dealings of mine with Mérimée see
_Preface_.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[227] A very "gentle" reader may perceive something _not_ quite
explained, and I should be happy to allow it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[235] Of the collection definitely called _Nouvelles_.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[250] _Vide infra_ on Dumas himself.

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

[252] But see note 2 on next page.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER VII

THE MINORS OF 1830


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

[Sidenote: Sainte-Beuve.--_Volupté._]

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

[Sidenote: Its "puff-book."]

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

[Sidenote: Itself.]

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

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

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

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

[Sidenote: Its character in various aspects.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Jules Sandeau and Charles de Bernard.]

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

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

[Sidenote: Sandeau's work.]

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

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

[Sidenote: Bernard's]

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

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

It is particularly difficult, in such a book as this, to deal with so
large a collection of what may be most appropriately called "Scenes and
Characters" as that which constitutes his most valuable if not all his
valuable work. In the older handling referred to, I selected, for pretty
full abstract and some translation, _Un Homme Sérieux_ among longer
books, and _Le Gendre_ among the short stories; and I still think them
the best, except _Le Pied d'Argile_, which, from Thackeray's
incomparable adaptation[273] of it in _The Bedford Row Conspiracy_,
remains as a standing possibility of acquaintance with Charles de
Bernard's way for those who do not read French, or do not care to
"research" for the original. Thackeray also gave a good deal of _Les
Ailes d'Icare_ in abstract and translation, and he borrowed something
more from it in _A Shabby Genteel Story_. _La Peau du Lion_ and _La
Chasse aux Amants_ have some slight resemblance to _Le Gendre_, in that
the gist of all three is concerned with the defeat of unscrupulous
lovers, and neither is much inferior to it. I never knew anybody who had
read _La Femme de Quarante Ans_ and its history of sentimental
star-gazing _à deux_ without huge enjoyment; and _L'Arbre de la
Science_, as well as the shorter _Un Acte de Vertu_, deserve special
mention.

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Sue, Soulié, and the novel of melodrama--_Le Juif Errant_,
etc.]

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

[Sidenote: Melodramatic fiction generally.]

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

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

[Sidenote: _Le Château des Pyrénées._]

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

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

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

[Sidenote: _Les Mémoires du Diable._]

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Murger.]

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

[Sidenote: The _Vie de Bohême_.]

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

[Sidenote: _Les Buveurs d'Eau_ and the Miscellanies.]

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Reybaud--_Jérôme Paturot_, and Thackeray on its earlier
part.]

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

[Sidenote: The windfall of Malvina.]

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

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

[Sidenote: The difference of the Second Part.]

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

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

[Sidenote: Not much of a novel.]

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

[Sidenote: But an invaluable document.]

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

[Sidenote: Méry.]

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

[Sidenote: _Les Nuits Anglaises._]

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

[Sidenote: The minor stories.]

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

[Sidenote: _Histoire d'une Colline._]

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

[Sidenote: The "Manchester" article.]

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

[Sidenote: Karr.]

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

[Sidenote: Roger de Beauvoir--_Le Cabaret des Morts_.]

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

[Sidenote: Ourliac--_Contes du Bocage_.]

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

[Sidenote: Achard.]

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

[Sidenote: Souvestre, Féval, etc.]

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

[Sidenote: Borel's _Champavert_.]

Borel, whose real Christian name, it is almost unnecessary to say, was
Pierre, and who was a sort of incarnation of a "Jeune-France" (beginning
as a _bousingot_--not ill translated by the contemporary English
"bang-up" for an extreme variety of the kind--and ending as a
_sous-préfet_), wrote other things, including a longer and rather
tedious novel, _Madame Putiphar_. But the tales of _Champavert_,[310]
which had the doubly-"speaking" sub-title of _Contes Immoraux_, are
capital examples of the more literary kind of "rotting." They are
admirably written; they show considerable power. But though one would
not be much surprised at reading any day in the newspaper a case in
which a boatman, plying for hire, had taken a beautiful girl for "fare,"
violated her on the way, and thrown her into the river, the subject is
not one for art.

FOOTNOTES:

[262] It will be observed that I use the words referred to in this note
with more discrimination than is always the case with some excellent
folk. I sympathise with Cadoudal most of the three, but I quite
recognise that Bonaparte had a kind of right to try, and to execute him.
So, if Pichegru had been tried, he might have been executed. The Enghien
business was pure murder. In some more recent instances these
distinctions have not, I think, been correctly observed by public
speakers and writers.

[263] This _philosophe inconnu_ (as his ticket-name goes in French) is,
I fancy, even more unknown in England. I have not read much of him; but
I think, if it had come in my way, I should have read more.

[264] Without doing this, it my be suggested that the contrast elsewhere
quoted "Mérimée était gentilhomme; Sainte-Beuve ne l'était pas," was
likely to make its unfavourable side specially felt in this connection.
He seems to have disgusted even the Princess Mathilde, one of the
staunchest of friends and certainly not the most squeamish or prudish of
women. Nor, in another matter, can I approve his favourite mixture of
rum and curaçao as a liqueur. I gave it a patient trial once, thinking
it might be critically inspiring. But the rum muddles the curaçao, and
the curaçao does not really improve the rum. It is a pity he did not
know the excellent Cape liqueur called Vanderhum, which is not a mixture
but a true hybrid of the two.

[265] In articles written for the _Fortnightly Review_ during a large
part of the year 1878, and reprinted in the volume of _Essays on French
Novelists_ frequently referred to.

[266] _Vide_ the wonderful poem--one of Mr. Anon's pearls, but Donne's
for more than a ducat--"Thou sent'st to me a heart was crowned," etc.
However, the bitter remark quoted elsewhere (_v. inf._) looks like a
lasting wound.

[267] I can conceive a modernist rising up and saying, "And your mawkish
ante-nuptial wooings? Haven't _we_ had enough of _them_?" To which I
should reply, "Impossible." The sages of old have rightly said that 'The
way of a man with a maid' is a mystery always, and the proofs thereof
are well seen in literature as in life. But the way of an extra-man with
another person's wife can, as illustrated, if not demonstrated, by the
myriads of treatises thereon in French and the thousands of imitations
in other languages (reinforced, if not the Stoic scavenger-researcher so
pleases, by the annals of the Divorce Court and its predecessors), be
almost scientifically reduced to two classes. (1) Is the lady
_adulteraturient_? In that case results can be attained anyhow. (2) Is
she not? In that case results can be attained nohow. Which considerably
minishes the interest of this situation. The interest of the other is
the interest of "the world's going round" in quality, and almost
infinitely various in detail. But when something has once happened the
variety ceases, or is immensely reduced.

[268] "_Bien! mon sang._" I suppose "democratic" sentiment is quite
insensible to this, which seems to be a pity.

[269] I think it should be added to Sandeau's credit that (as it appears
to me at least) he had a strong influence on the reaction against
Naturalism at the end of the century.

[270] Most of his contemporaries would have envied him this admirably
_moyen-âge_ and sonorous designation. But it is certainly cumbrous for a
title-page, and its owner--a modest man with a sense of humour--may
perhaps have thought that it _might_ be rather more ridiculous than
sublime there.

[271] As is usual and natural with men of his time, La Vendée mostly
supplies it; but that glorious failure did not inspire him quite so well
as it did Sandeau or even (_v. inf._) Édouard Ourliac. However, he was a
sound Royalist, for which peace be to his soul!

[272] Who, by the way, was a good friend and a good appreciator of
Bernard.

[273] For any one who cares for the minor "arts and crafts" of
literature this is _the_ example of Adaptation itself. The story is not
translated; it is not imitated; it is not parodied. It is simply
_transfused_ from one body of a national literature into another, and I
defy the acutest and most experienced critic to find in the English, if
he did not previously know the facts, any trace of a French original.

[274] Corinne made a great blunder: but admirers of Miss Austen have
sometimes taken it as being greater than it was. "Vulgaire" and "vulgar"
are by no means exact synonyms: in fact the French word is probably used
much oftener in a more or less inoffensive sense than otherwise.

[275] Especially in the next chapter but one.

[276] Or was it Comte that was "naught" and Fourier that was "void"? I
am sure the third person, namely, Cabet, was "puerile"; but I do not
think I could read _Aurora Leigh_ again, even to make sure of the
distribution of the other epithets.

[277] The real _old_ Constantia has, I believe, ceased to exist. It was
a delicious _vin de liqueur_, but you might as well ice Madeira or a
brown sherry.

[278] Thackeray pays Sue the very high compliment of having "tried
almost always [to attain], and in _Mathilde_ very nearly succeeded in
attaining, a tone of _bonne compagnie_," I found the particular book
difficult to get hold of. Apropos of French naval novels, will somebody
tell me who wrote _Le Roi des Gabiers_, an immense _feuilleton_-romance,
which I remember reading a vast number of years ago? I think he had (or
took) a Breton name, and wrote others. But the navy, even with Jean Bart
and Surcouf and the Bailli, has never attracted any of the _great_
French novelists.

[279] I ought perhaps to say that the second volume does not seem to me
to be quite equal to the first. The "sixteen years allowed for
refreshment" do not justify themselves.

[280] In _La Lionne_ (which is not to be confused with _Le Lion
Amoureux_, a "psychological" diploma-piece praised by some) there are
chapters and chapters of love-making "of a sort." But it is not the
right sort.

[281] The famous or legendary chamber at Glamis--and perhaps another not
so generally known story of a mansion farther north still, where you see
from the courtyard a window the room belonging to which cannot be found
from the inside--will occur. But Soulié, though he might have heard of
the former, is very unlikely to have known the latter, which comes
nearer to his arrangement.

[282] The contact _here_ with the _Peau de Chagrin_ need hardly be dwelt
upon.

[283] A little more on this subject may be given later to Gaboriau and
Ponson du Terrail.

[284] Reprinted in _Essays on French Novelists_.

[285] A somewhat fuller discussion of this heretical _bona patria_ of
literature may be found in the original Essay. I had at one time thought
of reprinting it--in text or appendix--here. But perhaps it would be
superfluous. I ought, however, to add that I have seen, in French
writers, later again than those referred to in the text, some touches of
revived interest in Murger.

[286] Translated at length in the Essay.

[287] I have always been a little curious to know whether that
remarkable periodical, Cope's _Tobacco Plant_, which gave us not a
little of James Thomson the Second's work, was really, as it might have
been, conceived as a follower of _Le Castor_.

[288] Murger knows this and allows it.

[289] Who, moreover, _did_ work, and that pretty hard, in his
Secretaryship, and by no means disdained pay for it--purely "patriotic"
as (in his view) it was.

[290] _Jérôme Paturot, with Considerations on Novels in General_,
originally appeared in _Fraser_ for September 1843. Not reprinted in the
author's lifetime, or till the supplementary collection of 1885-86. May
be found, with some remarks by the present writer, in the "Oxford"
Thackeray, vol. vi. pp. 318-342.

[291] It is fair to say that some of the best Alexandriana were still to
come.

[292] The retort courteous, if not even the countercheck quarrelsome,
"Then why do you notice it?" is pretty obvious. Taking it as the former,
it may be answered, "The political novel, if not the most strictly
legitimate species of the kind, is numerous and not unimportant. It may
therefore be allowed a specimen, and an examination of that specimen."

[293] Malvina, as one might expect, is by this time an "Anti-" of the
most stalwart kind; though in the Saint-Simonian salad days, she had (as
naturally) taken the other side.

[294] Probably more people know _La Croix de Berny_, which he wrote with
Sandeau, Gautier, and Madame de Girardin, than anything exclusively his.

[295] Others may have been more fortunate. In any case, what follows,
whatever its intrinsic merit, is typical of a great mass of similar
French fiction, and therefore may claim attention here.

[296] It would be interesting to know where Méry got this hideous,
cacophonous, hopelessly anti-analogical and anti-etymological but alas!
actually existing name. I never heard of a ship called by it, but I once
knew a poor lady on whom it had been inflicted at her baptism. Why any
one with Jemima (not, of course, originally a feminine of "Jem," but
adopted as such), which, though a little comic, is not intolerable,
Jacqueline and Jaquetta (which are exceedingly pretty), and Jacobina
(which, though with unfortunate historical associations, is not itself
ugly) to choose from, should have invented this horrible solecism, I
never could make out. It is, I believe, confined to Scotland, and the
only comfort connected with it is the negative one that, in two
considerable residences there, I never heard of a "_Charles_ina." I
suppose "Caroline" and "Charlotte" sufficed; or perhaps, while Whigs
disliked the name (at least before that curious purifier of it, Fox),
Tories shrank from profanation thereof.

[297] Was it Mr. Augustus Dunshunner? It was just about the time of the
Glenmutchkin Railway, and most of "Maga's" men were Oxonians.

[298] See in vol. v. of the Oxford edition of Thackeray (for the thing,
though never acknowledged, is certainly his) an exemplary
"justification" of this very impudent offender.

[299] I have no quarrel with Manchester--quite the reverse--in
consequence of divers sojourns, longer and shorter, in the place, and of
much kindness shown to me by the not at all barbarous people. But
neither the climate nor the general "conditions" of the city can be
called paradisaical.

[300] They were as much shocked at it as we were at their "Houses of
Tolerance" and at the institution of the _grisette_.

[301] Not the worst perhaps of the myriad attempts to do something of
the same kind in English was made recently: "If a man conscientiously
objects to be shot _for_ his country, he may be conscientiously shot
_by_ it."

[302] Here is one from "Un Diamant" (_Contes et Nouvelles_), which,
though destitute of the charms of poetry, rivals and perhaps indeed
suggested our own

And even an Eastern Counties' train Comes in at last.

"Quelque loin qu'on aille, on finit par arriver; _on arrive bien à
Saint-Maur--trois lieues à faire--en coucou_."

[303] In the same article in which he dealt with Charles de Bernard.

[304] I know that many people do not agree with me here; but Blake did:
"Tell me the facts, O historian, and leave me to reason on them as I
please; away with your reasoning and your rubbish.... Tell me the What:
I do not want you to tell me the Why and the How. I can find that out
for myself."

[305] If my friend Mr. Henley were alive (and I would he were) I should
have to "look out for squalls." It was, as ought to be well known, his
idea that _Henri Trois et Sa Cour_ was much more the rallying trumpet of
1830 that _Hernani_, and I believe a large part of his dislike for
Thackeray was due to the cruel fun which _The Paris Sketch-book_ makes
of _Kean_. But I speak as I think and find, after long re-thinking and
researching.

[306] I have made some further excursions in the work of Achard, but
they did not incline me to continue them, and I do not propose to say
anything of the results here. I learn from the books that there were
some other Achards, one of whom "improved the production of the
beet-root sugar." I would much rather have written _Belle-Rose_.

[307] Emma Robinson. I used, I think, to prefer her to either of her
more famous companions in the list. But I have never read her _Caesar
Borgia_. It sounds appetising.

[308] Some may say, "There might have been an end much sooner with some
of the foregoing." Perhaps so--once more. I do not claim to be _hujus
orbis Papa_ and infallible. But I sample to the best of my knowledge and
judgment.

[309] _Beau Démon_, _Coeur d'Acier_, _La Tache Rouge_, etc. Féval began
a little later than most of the others in this chapter, but he is of
their class.

[310] Thackeray, when very young and wasting his time and money in
editing the _National Standard_, wrote a short and very savage review of
this which may be found in the Oxford Edition of his works (vol. i., as
arranged by the present writer). It is virtuously indignant (and no
wonder, seeing that the writer takes it quite seriously), but, as
Thackeray was almost to the last when in that mood, quite
bull-in-a-china-shoppy. You _might_ take it seriously, and yet
critically in another way, as a "degeneracy" of the Terror-Novel. But
the "rotting" view is better.



CHAPTER VIII

DUMAS THE ELDER


[Sidenote: The case of Dumas.]

With Dumas[311] _père_ the same difficulties (or nearly the same) of
general and particular nature present themselves as those which occurred
with Balzac. There is, again, the task--not so arduous and by no means
so hopeless as some may think, but still not of the easiest--of writing
pretty fully without repetition on subjects on which you have written
fully already. There is the enormous bulk, far greater than in the other
case, of the work: which makes any complete survey of its individual
components impossible. And there is the wide if not universal knowledge
of this or that--if not of this _and_ that--part of it; which makes such
survey unnecessary and probably unwelcome. But here, as there, in
whatever contrast of degree and kind, there is the importance in
relation to the general subject, which needs pretty abundant notice, and
the particular character of that importance, which demands special
examination.

There are probably not quite so many readers as there might have been a
generation ago who would express indignation at the idea that the two
novelists can be held in any degree[312] comparable. Between the two
periods a pretty strong and almost concerted effort was made by persons
of no small literary position, such as Mr. Lang, Mr. Stevenson, and Mr.
Henley, who are dead, and others, some of whom are alive, to follow the
lead of Thackeray many years earlier still. They denounced, supporting
the denunciation with all the literary skill and vigour of which they
were capable, the notion, common in France as well as in England, that
Dumas was a mere _amuseur_, whether they did or did not extend their
battery to the other notion (common then in England, if not in France)
that he was an amuser whose amusements were pernicious. These efforts
were perhaps not entirely ineffectual: let us hope that actual reading,
by not unintelligent or prejudiced readers, had more effect still.

[Sidenote: Charge and discharge.]

But let us also go back a little and, adding one, repeat what the
charges against Dumas are. There is the moral charge just mentioned;
there is the not yet mentioned charge of plagiarism and "devilling"; and
there is the again already mentioned complaint that he is a mere
"pastimer"; that he has no literary quality; that he deserves at best to
take his chance with the novelists from Sue to Gaboriau who have been or
will be dismissed with rather short shrift elsewhere. Let us, as best
seems to suit history, treat these in order, though with very unequal
degrees of attention.

[Sidenote: Morality.]

The moral part of the matter needs but a few lines. The objection here
was one of the still fewer things that did to some extent justify and
"_sens_ify" the nonsense and injustice since talked about Victorian
criticism. In fact this nonsense may (there is always, or nearly
always, some use to be made even of nonsense) be used against its
earlier brother. It is customary to objurgate Thackeray as too moral.
Thackeray never hints the slightest objection on this score against
these novels, whatever he may do as to the plays. For myself, I do not
pretend to have read everything that Dumas published. There may be among
the crowd something indefensible, though it is rather odd that if there
is, I should not merely never have read it but never have heard of it.
If, on the other hand, any one brings forward Mrs. Grundy's opinion on
the Ketty and Milady passages in the _Mousquetaires_; on the story of
the origin of the Vicomte de Bragelonne; on the way in which the divine
Margot was consoled for her almost tragic abandonment in a few hours by
lover and husband--I must own that as Judge on the present occasion I
shall not call on any counsel of Alexander's to reply. "Bah! it is
bosh," as the greatest of Dumas' admirers remarks of another matter.

[Sidenote: Plagiarism and devilling.]

The plagiarism (or rather devilling + plagiarism) article of the
indictment, tedious as it may be, requires a little longer notice. The
facts, though perhaps never to be completely established, are
sufficiently clear as far as history needs, on the face of them. Dumas'
works, as published in complete edition, run to rather over three
hundred volumes. (I have counted them often on the end-papers of the
beloved tomes, and though they have rather a knack, like the windows of
other enchanted houses, of "coming out" different, this is near enough.)
Excluding theatre (twenty-five volumes), travels, memoirs, and so-called
history, they must run to about two hundred and fifty. Most if not all
of these volumes are of some three hundred pages each, very closely
printed, even allowing for the abundantly "spaced" conversation. I
should say, without pretending to an accurate "cast-off," that any
_three_ of these volumes would be longer even than the great
"part"-published works of Dickens, Thackeray, or Trollope; that any
_two_ would exceed in length our own old average "three-decker"; and
that any _one_ contains at least twice the contents of the average
six-shilling masterpiece of the present day.

Now it stands to reason that a man who spent only the later part of his
working life in novel-production, who travelled a great deal, and who,
according to his enemies, devoted a great deal of time to relaxation,[313]
 is not likely to have written all this enormous bulk himself, even
if it were physically possible for him to have done so. One may go
farther, and say that pure internal evidence shows that the whole was
_not_ written by the same person.

[Sidenote: The Collaborators?]

As for the actual collaborators--the "young men," as Thackeray
obligingly called them, who carried out the works in a less funereal
sense than that in which the other "young men" carried out Ananias and
Sapphira--that is a question on which I do not feel called upon to enter
at any length. Anybody who cannot resist curiosity on the point may
consult Alphonse Karr (who really might have found something fitter on
which to expend his energies); Quérard, an ill-tempered bibliographer,
for whom there is the excuse that, except ill-temper, idleness, with a
particularly malevolent Satan to find work for its hands to do, or mere
hunger, hardly anything would make a man a bibliographer of his sort;
and the person whom the law called Jacquot, and he himself by the
handsomer title of Eugène de Mirecourt. Whether Octave Feuillet
exercised himself in this other kind before he took to his true line of
novels of society; whether that ingenious journalist M. Fiorentino also
played a part, are matters which who so lists may investigate. The most
dangerous competitor seems to be Auguste Maquet--the "Augustus MacKeat"
of the Romantic dawn--to whom some have even assigned the
_Mousquetaires_[314] bodily, as far as the novel adds to the Courtils de
Sandras "memoirs." But even with him, and still more with the others,
the good old battle-horse, which never fails one in this kind of
_chevauchée_, will be found to be effective in carrying the banner of
Alexander the Greatest safe through. How does it happen that in the
independent work of none of these, nor of any others, do the _special_
marks and merits of Dumas appear? How does it happen that these marks
and merits appear constantly and brilliantly in all the best work
assigned to Dumas, and more fitfully in almost all its vast extent?
There may be a good deal of apple in some plum-jam and perhaps some
vegetable-marrow. But plumminess is plumminess still, and it is the
plumminess of "Dumasity" which we are here to talk of, and that
only--the quality, not the man. And whether Dumas or Diabolus conceived
and brought it about matters, in the view of the present historian, not
a _centime_. By "Dumas" is here and elsewhere--throughout this chapter
and throughout this book--meant Dumasity, which is something by itself,
and different from all other "-nesses and -tudes and -ties."

[Sidenote: The positive value as fiction and as literature of the books:
the less worthy works.]

We can therefore, if we choose, betake ourselves with a joyful and quiet
mind to the real things--the actual characteristics of that Dumasity,
Diabolicity, or _Dieu-sait-quoi_, which distinguishes (in measures and
degrees varying, perhaps essentially, certainly according to the
differing castes of readers) the great Mousquetaire trilogy; the hardly
less great collection of _La Reine Margot_ and its continuations; the
long eighteenth-century set which, in a general way, may be said to be
two-centred, having now Richelieu (the Duke, not the Cardinal) and now
Cagliostro for pivot; and _Monte Cristo_--with power to add to their
number. In what will be said, attention will chiefly be paid to the
books just mentioned, and perhaps a few more, such as _La_ _Tulipe
Noire_; nor is even this list so closed that anybody may not consider
any special favourites of his own admissible as subjects for the almost
wholly unmitigated appreciation which will follow. I do not think that
Dumas was ever at his best before the late sixteenth century or after
the not quite latest eighteenth. _Isabel de Bavière_ and the _Bâtard de
Mauléon_, with others, are indeed more readable than most minor
historical novels; but their wheels drive somewhat heavily. As for the
revolutionary set, after the _Cagliostro_ interest is disposed of, some
people, I believe, rate _Le Chevalier de Maison Rouge_ higher than I do.
It is certainly better than _Les Blancs et les Bleus_ or _Les Louves de
Machecoul_, in the latter of which Dumas has calmly "lifted" (or allowed
a lazy "young man" to lift) the whole adventure of Rob Roy at the Fords
of Frew, pretty nearly if not quite _verbatim_.[315] Of more avowed
translations such as _Ivanhoe_ and _Jacques Ortis_ (the latter about as
much out of his way as anything could be), it were obviously superfluous
to take detailed notice. In others the very titles, such as, for
instance, _Les Mohicans de Paris_, show at once that he is merely
imitating popular styles. Yet others, such as _Madame de Chamblay_[316]
(in which I cannot help thinking that the "young man" was Octave
Feuillet not yet come to his prime), have something of the ordinary
nineteenth-century novel--not of the best kind.

But in all these and many more it is simply a case of "Not here!" though
in the historical examples, before Saint Bartholomew and after
Sainte-Guillotine, the sentence may be mitigated to "Not here
_consummately_." And it may be just, though only just, necessary to say
that this examination of Dumas' qualities should itself, with very
little application or moral, settle the question whether he is a mere
circulating-library caterer or a producer of real literature.

[Sidenote: The worthier--treatment of them not so much individually as
under heads.]

To give brief specifications of books and passages in the novels
mentioned above, in groups or individually, may seem open to the
objections often made to a mere catalogue of likes and dislikes. But,
after all, in the estimation of aesthetic matters, it _is_ likes and
dislikes that count. Nowhere, and perhaps in this case less than
anywhere else, can the critic or the historian pretend to dispense his
readers from actual perusal; it is sufficient, but it is at the same
time necessary, that he should prepare those who have not read and
remind those who have. For champion specimen-pieces, satisfying, not
merely in parts but as wholes, the claim that Dumas shall be regarded as
an absolute master in his own craft and in his own particular division
of it, the present writer must still select, after fifty years' reading
and re-reading, _Vingt Ans Après_ and _La Reine Margot_. Parts of _Les
Trois Mousquetaires_ are unsurpassed and unsurpassable; but the
Bonacieux love-affair is inadequate and intruded, and I have never
thought Milady's seduction of Felton quite "brought off." In _Le Vicomte
de Bragelonne_ this inequality becomes much more manifest. Nothing,
again, can surpass the single-handed achievement of D'Artagnan at the
beginning in his kidnapping of General Monk, and few things his failure
at the end to save Porthos, with the death of the latter--a thing which
has hardly a superior throughout the whole range of the novel in
whatever language (so far as I know) it has been written. But the "young
men" were allowed their heads, by far too frequently and for too long
periods, in the middle;[317] and these heads were by no means always
equal to the occasion. There is no such declension in the immediate
followers of _La Reine Margot_, _La Dame de Monsoreau_, and _Les
Quarante-Cinq_. Chicot is supreme, but the personal interest is less
distributed than in the first book and in the _Mousquetaire_ trilogy.

This lack of distribution, and the inequalities of the actual
adventures, are, naturally enough, more noticeable still in the longer
and later series dealing with the eighteenth century, while, almost of
necessity, the purely "romantic" interest is at a lower strength. I can,
however, find very little fault with _Le Chevalier d'Harmental_--an
excellent blend of lightness and excitement. _Olympe de Clèves_ has had
very important partisans;[318] but though I like Olympe herself almost
better than any other of Dumas' heroines, except Marguerite, she does
not seem to me altogether well "backed up"; and there is here, as there
had been in the _Vicomte de Bragelonne_, and was to be in others, too
much insignificant court-intrigue. The Cagliostro cycle again appeals
very strongly to some good critics, and I own that in reading it a
second time I liked it better than I had done before. But I doubt
whether the supernatural of any kind was a circle in which Dumas could
walk with perfect freedom and complete command of his own magic. There
remains, as among the novels selected as pieces, not of conviction, but
of diploma, _Monte Cristo_, perhaps the most popular of all, certainly
one of the most famous, and still holding its popularity with good wits.
Here, again. I have to confess a certain "correction of impression." As
to the _Château d'If_, which is practically an independent book, there
can hardly be two opinions among competent and unprejudiced persons. But
I used to find the rest--the voluminous rest--rather heavy reading.
Recently I got on better with them; but I can hardly say that they even
now stand, with me, that supreme test of a novel, "Do you want to read
it again?" I once, as an experiment, read "Wandering Willie's Tale"
through, every night for a week, having read it I don't know how many
times before; and I found it no more staled at the seventh enjoyment
than I should have found the charm of Helen or of Cleopatra herself. I
do not know how many times I have read Scott's longer novels (with one
or two exceptions), or Dickens', or Thackeray's, or not a few others in
French and English, including Dumas himself. And I hope to read them all
once, twice, or as many times more as those other Times which are in
Some One's hand will let me. But I do not want to read _Monte Cristo_
again.

It will be clear from these remarks that, whether rightly or wrongly, I
think Dumas happiest in his dealings with historical or quasi-historical
matters, these dealings being subject to the general law, given more
than once elsewhere, that the historical personages shall not, in their
historically registered and detailed character, occupy the chief
positions in the story. In other words, he seems to me to have preferred
an historical canvas and a few prominent figures outlined thereon--in
which respect he does not greatly differ from other historical novelists
so far as they are historical novelists merely. But Dumas, as a novelist
of French history, had at his disposal sources and resources, for
filling up his pictures, which were lacking elsewhere, and which, in
particular, English novelists possessed hardly at all, as regards
anything earlier than the eighteenth century. I dare say it has often
occurred to other people, as it has to me, how vastly different _Peveril
of the Peak_--one of the least satisfactory of Scott's novels--would
have been if Pepys's Diary had been published twenty years earlier
instead of two years later. Evelyn was available, but far less suitable
to the purpose, and was only published when Scott had begun to write
rather than to read.[319] For almost every year, certainly for every
decade and every notable person's life with which and with whom he
wished to deal, Dumas had "Memoirs" on to which, if he did not care to
take the trouble himself, he had only to turn one of the "young men" to
get facts, touches, ornaments, suggestions enough for twenty times his
own huge production. Of course other people had these same stores open
to them, and that other people did not make the same use thereof[320] is
one of the chief glories of Alexander the Great in fiction. But in any
real critical-historical estimate of him, the fact has to take its
place, and its very great place.

But there is the other fact, or collection of facts, of greater
importance still, implied in the question, "What did he do with these
stores?" and "How did he, as it seems to Alexandrians at least, do so
much better than those other people, to whom they were open quite as
freely?"

It is, however, before answering these questions at large, perhaps once
more necessary to touch on what may be called the historical-_accuracy_
objection. If anybody says, "The man represents Charles I. as having
been taken, after he had been sold by the Scotch, direct from Newcastle
to London, tried at once, and executed in a day or two. This was not the
way things happened"--you are bound to acknowledge his profound and
recondite historical learning. But if he goes on to say that he cannot
enjoy _Vingt Ans Après_ as a novel because of this, you are equally
bound to pity his still more profound aesthetic ignorance and impotence.
The facts, in regard to the criticism of historical novels as such,
illustrate the wisdom of Scott in keeping his historical characters for
the most part in the background, and the _un_wisdom of Vigny in
preferring the opposite course. But they do nothing more. If Dumas had
chosen, he might have separated the dramatic meeting of the Four at
Newcastle itself--and the intenser tale of their effort to save Charles,
with its sequel of their own narrow escape from the _Éclair_ felucca--by
chapters, or a book, of adventures in France. But he did not choose; and
the liberty of juxtaposition which he took is more apparently than
really different from that which Shakespeare takes, when he jumps ten
years in _Antony and Cleopatra_. What Dumas _really_ borrows from
history--the tragic interest of the King's fate--is in each case
historically true, though it is eked and adapted and manipulated to suit
the fictitious interest of the Quadrilateral. You certainly could not,
then or now, _ride_ from Windsor to London in twenty minutes, though you
could now motor the distance in the time, at the risk of considerable
fines. And an Englishman, jealous of his country's honour, might urge
that, while the "Vin _de Porto_" itself came in rather later, there were
few places in the England of the seventeenth century where that "Vin
_d'Espagne_," so dear to Athos, was not more common than it was in
France, though one would not venture to deny that the shortly-to-become
Baron de Bracieux _had_ some genuine Xérès (as we are told) in his
cellar. But these things are--no more and no less than the greater
ones--utter trifles as far as the actual novel interest is concerned.
They are, indeed, less than trifles: they can hardly be said to exist.

[Sidenote: His attitude to Plot.]

The "four wheels of the novel" have been sometimes, and perhaps rightly,
said to be Plot, Character, Description, and Dialogue--Style[321] being
a sort of fifth. Of the first there is some difficulty in speaking,
because the word "plot" is by no means used, as the text-books say,
"univocally," and its synonyms or quasi-synonyms, in the different
usages, are themselves things "kittle" to deal with. "Action" is
sometimes taken as one of these synonyms--certainly in some senses of
action no novelist has ever had more; very few have had so much. But of
concerted, planned, or strictly co-ordinated action, of more than
episode character, he can hardly be said to have been anything like a
master. His best novels are chronicle-plays undramatised--large numbers
of his scenes could be cut out with as little real loss as foolish
"classical" critics used to think to be the case with Shakespeare; and
his connections, when he takes the trouble to make any, are often his
very weakest points. Take, for instance, the things that bring about
D'Artagnan's great quest for the diamonds--one of the most excellent
episodes in this department of fiction, and something more than an
episode in itself. The author actually cannot think of any better way
than to make Constance Bonacieux--who is represented as a rather
unusually intelligent woman, well acquainted with her husband's
character, and certainly not likely to overestimate him through any
superabundance of wifely affection or admiration--propose that he, a
middle-aged mercer of sedentary and _bourgeois_ habits, shall undertake
an expedition which, on the face of it, requires youth, strength,
audacity, presence of mind, and other exceptional qualities in no
ordinary measure, and which, if betrayed to an ever vigilant, extremely
powerful, and quite unscrupulous enemy, is almost certain to be
frustrated.

Still the "chronicle"-action dispenses a man, to a large extent, in the
eyes of some readers at any rate, from even attempting exact and tight
_liaisons_ of scene in this fashion, though of course if he does attempt
them he submits himself to the perils of his attempt just as his heroes
submit themselves to theirs. But other readers--and perhaps all those
predestined to be Alexandrians--do not care to exact the penalties for
such a failure. They are quite content to find themselves launched on
the next reach of the stream, without asking too narrowly whether they
have been ushered decorously through a lock or have tumbled somehow over
a lasher. Such troubles never drown or damage _them_. And indeed there
are some of them sufficiently depraved by nature, and hardened by
indulgence in sin, to disregard _general_ action altogether, and to look
mainly if not wholly to the way in which the individual stories are
told, not at that in which they come to have to be told. Of Dumas' power
of telling a story there surely can be no two opinions. The very
reproach of _amuseur_ confesses it. Of the means--or some of them--by
which he does and does not exercise this power, more may be said under
the heads which follow. We are here chiefly concerned with the power as
it has been achieved and stands--in, for instance, such a thing, already
glanced at, as the "Vin de Porto" episode or division of _Vingt Ans
Après_, which, though there are scores of others nearly as good, seems
to me on the whole the very finest thing Dumas ever did in his own
peculiar kind. There are just two dozen pages of it--pages very well
filled--from the moment when Blaisois and Mousqueton express their ideas
on the subject of the unsuitableness of beer, as a fortifier against
sea-sickness, to that when the corpse of Mordaunt, after floating in the
moonlight with the gold-hilted dagger flashing from its breast, sinks
for the last time. The interest grows constantly; it is never, as it
sometimes is elsewhere, watered out by too much talk, though there is
enough of this to carry out the author's usual system (_v. inf._).
Nothing happens sufficiently extravagant or improbable to excite disgust
or laughter, though what does happen is sufficiently "palpitating." If
this is melodrama, it is melodrama free from most of the objections made
elsewhere to the kind. And also if it is melodrama, it seems to me to be
melodrama infinitely superior, not merely in degree, but in kind, to
that of Sue and Soulié.

[Sidenote: To Character.]

It is in this "enfisting" power of narrative, constantly renewed if not
always logically sustained and connected, that Dumas' excellence, if not
his actual supremacy, lies; and the fact may dispense us from saying any
more about his plots. As to Character, we must still keep the
offensive-defensive line. Dumas' most formidable enemies--persons like
the late M. Brunetière--would probably say that he has no character at
all. Some of his champions would content themselves with ejaculating
the two names "D'Artagnan!" and "Chicot!" shrugging their shoulders, and
abstaining from further argument as likely to be useless, there being no
common ground to argue upon. In actual life this might not be the most
irrational manner of proceeding; but it could hardly suffice here. As is
usually, if not invariably, the case, the difference of estimate _is_
traceable, in the long run, to the fact that the disputants or
adversaries are not using words in the same sense--working in
conjunction with the other fact that they do not like and want the same
things. Almost all words are ambiguous, owing to the length of time
during which they have been used and the variety of parts they have been
made to play. But there are probably few which--without being absolutely
equivocal like "box" and our other "foreigners' horrors"--require the
use of the _distinguo_ more than "character." As applied to novels, it
may mean (1) a human personality more or less deeply analysed; (2) one
vividly distinguished from others; (3) one which is made essentially
_alive_ and almost recognised as a real person; (4) a "personage"
ticketed with some marks of distinction and furnished with a dramatic
"part"; (5) an eccentric. The fourth and fifth may be neglected here. It
is in relation to the other three that we have to consider Dumas as a
character-monger.

In the competition for representation of character which depends upon
analysis, "psychology," "problem-projection," Dumas is of course
nowhere, though, to the disgust of some and the amusement of others,
_Jacques Ortis_ figures in the list of his works. _René_, _Adolphe_, the
works of Madame de Staël (if they are to be admitted) and those of Beyle
(which no doubt must be) found nothing corresponding in his nature; and
there was not the slightest reason why they should. The cellar of the
novel contains even more than the "thousand dozen of wine" enshrined by
that of Crotchet Castle, but no intelligent possessor of it, any more
than Mr. Crotchet himself, would dream of restricting it to one kind of
vintage. Nor, probably, would any really intelligent possessor arrange
his largest bins for this kind, which at its best is a very exquisite
_vin de liqueur_, but which few people wish to drink constantly; and
which at its worst, or even in mediocre condition, is very poor
tipple--"shilpit," as Peter Peebles most unjustly characterises sherry
in _Redgauntlet_. Skipping (2) for the moment, I do not know that under
head (3) one can make much fight for Alexander. D'Artagnan and Chicot
are doubtless great, and many others fall not far short of them. I am
always glad to meet these two in literature, and should be glad to meet
them in real life, particularly if they were on my side, though their
being on the other would add considerably to the excitement of one's
existence--so long as it continued. But I am not sure that I _know_ them
as I know Marianne and Des Grieux, Tom Jones and My Uncle Toby, the
Baron of Bradwardine and Elizabeth Bennet. Athos I know or should know
if I met him, which I am sorry to say I have not yet done; and La Reine
Margot, and possibly Olympe de Clèves; but there is more guess-work
about the knowledge with her than in the other cases. Porthos (or
somebody very like him) I did know, and he was most agreeable; but he
died too soon to go into the army, as he ought to have done, after
leaving Oxford. And though I never met a complete Aramis, I think I have
met him in parts. There are not many more of this class. On the other
hand, there is almost an entire absence in Dumas of those mere
lay-figures which are so common in other novelists. There is great
plenty of something more than toy-theatre characters cut out well and
brightly painted, fit to push across the stage and justify their "words"
and vanish; but that is a different thing.

And this leads us partly back and partly up to the second head, the
provision of characters sufficiently distinguished from others, and so
capable of playing their parts effectually and interestingly. It is in
this that he is so good, and it is this which distinguishes himself from
all his fellows but the very greatest. D'Artagnan and Chicot are again
the best; but how good, at least in the better books, are almost all the
others! D'Artagnan would be a frightful loss, but suppose he were not
there and you knew nothing about him, would you not think Planchet
something of a prize? Without Chicot there would be a blank horrible to
think of. But do we not still "share"? Have we not Dom Gorenflot?

It is in this provision of vivid and sufficiently, if not absolutely,
vivified characters and personages--"company" for his narrative
dramas--that Dumas is so admirable under this particular head. If they
are rarely detachable or independent, they work out the business
consummately. Lackeys and ladies' maids, inn-keepers and casual guests
at inns, courtiers and lawyers, noblemen and "lower classes," they all
do what they ought to do; they all "answer the ends of their being
created,"--which is to carry out and on, through two or three or half a
dozen volumes, a blissful suspension from the base realities of
existence. And if anybody asks of them more than this, it is his own
fault, and a very great fault too.[322]

[Sidenote: To Description (and "style").]

Of Description, as of the "fifth wheel" style, there is little to say
about Dumas, though the littleness is in neither respect damaging. They
are both adequate to the situation and the composition. Can you say much
more of him or of anybody? If it were worth while to go into detail at
all, this adequacy could be made out, I think, a good deal more than
sufficiently. Take one of his greatest things, the "Bastion
Saint-Gervais" in the _Mousquetaires_. If he has not made you see the
heroic hopeless town, and the French leaguer and the shattered redoubt
between, and the forlorn hope of the Four foolhardy yet forethoughtful
and for ever delightful heroes, with their not so cheerful followers,
eating, drinking, firing, consulting, and flaunting the immortal
napkin-pennant in the enemy's face--you would not be made to see it,
though the authors of _Inès de las Sierras_ or of _Le Château de la
Misère_ had given you a cast of their office. And, what is more, the
method of _Inès de las Sierras_ and of _Le Château de la Misère_ would
have been actually out of place. It would have got in the way of the
business, the engrossing business, of the manual fight against the
Rochellois, and the spiritual fight against Richelieu and Rochefort and
Milady. So, again--so almost tautologically--with "style" in the more
complicated and elaborate sense of the word. One may here once more
thank Émile de Girardin for the phrase that he used of Gautier's own
style in _feuilleton_ attempts. It _would_ be _gênant pour
l'abonné_--even for an _abonné_ who was not the first comer. It is not
the beautiful phrase, over which you can linger, that is required, but
the straightforward competent word-vehicle that carries you on through
the business, that you want in such work. The essence of Dumas' quality
is to find or make his readers thirsty, and to supply their thirst. You
can't quench thirst with _liqueurs_; if you are not a Philistine you
will not quench it with vintage port or claret, with Château Yquem, or
even with fifteen-year-old Clicquot. A "long" whisky and potash, a
bottle of sound Medoc, or, best of all, a pewter quart of not too small
or too strong beer--these are the modest but sufficient quenchers that
suit the case. And Dumas gives you just the equivalents of these.

[Sidenote: To Conversation.]

But it may seem that, for the last head or two, the defence has been a
little "let down"--the pass, if not "sold," somewhat weakly held.[323]
No such half-heartedness shall be chargeable on what is going to be said
under the last category, which, in a way, allies itself to the first. It
is, to a very large extent, by his marvellous use of conversation that
Dumas attains his actual mastery of story-telling; and so this
characteristic of his is of double importance and requires a Benjamin's
allowance of treatment. The name just used is indeed specially
appropriate, because Conversation is actually the youngest of the
novelist's family or staff of work-fellows. We have seen, throughout or
nearly throughout the last volume, how very long it was before its
powers and advantages were properly appreciated; how mere _récit_
dominated fiction; and how, when the personages were allowed to speak,
they were for the most part furnished only or mainly with
harangues--like those with which the "unmixed" historian used to endow
his characters. That conversation is not merely a grand set-off to a
story, but that it is an actual means of telling the story itself, seems
to have been unconscionably and almost unintelligibly slow in occurring
to men's minds; though in the actual story-telling of ordinary life by
word of mouth it is, and always must have been, frequent enough.[324] It
is not impossible that the derivation of prose from verse fiction may
have had something to do with this, for gossippy talk and epic or
romance in verse do not go well together. Nor is it probable that the
old, the respectable, but the too often mischievous disinclination to
"mix kinds" may have had its way, telling men that talk was the
dramatist's not the novelist's business. But whatever was the cause,
there can be no dispute about the fact.

It was, it should be hardly necessary to say, Scott who first discovered
the secret[325] to an effectual extent, though he was not always true to
his own discovery. And it is not superfluous to note that it was a
specially valuable and important discovery in regard to the novel of
historical adventure. It had, of course, and almost necessarily, forced
itself, in regard to the novel of ordinary life, upon our own great
explorers in that line earlier. Richardson has it abundantly. But when
you are borrowing the _subjects_ of the historian, what can be more
natural than to succumb to the _methods_ of the historian--the long
continuous narrative and the intercalated harangue? It must be done
sometimes; there is a danger of its being done too often. Before he had
found out the true secret, Scott blunted the opening of _Waverley_ with
_récit_; after he had discovered it he relapsed in divers places, of
which the opening of _The Monastery_ may suffice for mention here. Dumas
himself (and it will be at once evident that this is a main danger of
"turning on your young man") has done it often--to take once more a
single example, there is too much of it in the account of the great
_émeute_, by which Gondy started the Fronde. But it is the facility
which he has of dispensing with it--of making the story speak itself,
with only barely necessary additions of the pointer and reciter at the
side of the stage--which constitutes his power. Instances can hardly be
required, for any one who knows him knows them, and every one who goes
to him, not knowing, will find them. Just to touch the _apices_ once
more, the two scenes following the actual overtures of the
_Mousquetaires_ and of _La Reine Margot_--that where the impossible
triple duel of D'Artagnan against the Three is turned into triumphant
battle with the Cardinalists, blood-cementing the friendship of the
Four; and that where Margot, after losing both husband and lover, is
supplied with a substitute for both; adding the later passage where La
Mole is saved from the noose at the door--may suffice.

Of course this device of conversation, like the other best things--the
beauty of woman, the strength of wine, the sharpness of steel, and red
ink--is "open to abuse."[326] It has been admitted that even the
fervency of the present writer's Alexandrianism cools at the "wall-game"
of Montalais and Malicorne. There may be some who are not even prepared
to like it in places where I do. They are like Porthos, in the great
initial interchange of compliments, and "would still be _doing_." But
surely they cannot complain of any lack of incident in this latest and
not least _Alexandreid_?

It may seem that the length of this chapter is not proportionate to the
magnitude of the claims advanced for Dumas. But, as in other cases, I
think it may not be impertinent to put in a reference to what I have
previously written elsewhere. Moreover, as, but much more than, in the
cases of Sandeau, Bernard, and Murger, there is an argument, paradoxical
in appearance merely, for the absence of prolixity.

His claim to greatness consists, perhaps primarily, in the simplicity,
straightforwardness, and general human interest of his appeal. He wants
no commentaries, no introductions, no keys, no dismal Transactions of
Dumas Societies and the like. Every one that thirsteth may come to his
fountain and drink, without mysteries of initiation, or formalities of
licence, or concomitant nuisances of superintendence and regulation. In
the _Camp of Refuge_ of Charles Macfarlane (who has recently, in an odd
way, been recalled to passing knowledge)--a full and gallant private in
the corps of which Dumas himself was then colonel _vice_ Sir Walter
deceased--there is a sentence which applies admirably to Dumas himself.
After a success over the other half of our ancestors, and during a
supper on the conquered provant, one of the Anglo-Saxon-half observes,
"Let us leave off talking, and be jolly." Nothing could please me better
than that some reader should be instigated to leave off my book at this
point, and take up _Les Trois Mousquetaires_ or _Les Quarante-Cinq_, or
if he prefers it, _Olympe de Clèves_--"and be jolly".[327]

FOOTNOTES:

[311] The postponement of him, to this last chapter of the first
division of the book, was determined on chiefly because his _novels_
were not begun at all till years after the other greater novelists,
already dealt with, had made their reputation, while the greatest of
them--the "Mousquetaire" and "Henri Trois" cycles--did not appear till
the very last _lustrum_ of the half-century. But another--it may seem to
some a childish--consideration had some weight with me. I wished to
range father and son on either side of the dividing summary; for though
the elder wrote long after 1850 and the younger some time before it, in
hardly any pair is the opposition of the earlier and later times more
clearly exposed; and the identity of name emphasises the difference of
nature.

[312] In using this phrase I remembered the very neat "score" made off
the great Alexander himself by a French judge, in some case at Rouen
where Dumas was a witness. Asked as usual his occupation, he replied
somewhat grandiloquently: "Monsieur, si je n'étais pas dans la ville de
Corneille, je dirais 'Auteur dramatique.'" "Mais, Monsieur," replied the
official with the sweetest indulgence, "il y a des degrés." (This story
is told, like most such, with variants; and sometimes, as in the
particular case was sure to happen, not of Alexander the father, but of
Alexander the son. But I tell it, as I read or heard it, long years
ago.)

[313] You may possibly do as an English novelist of the privileged sex
is said to have done, and write novels while people are calling on you
and you are talking to them (though I should myself consider it bad
manners, and the novels would certainly bear traces of the exploit). But
you can hardly do it while, as a famous caricature represents the scene,
persons of that same sex, in various dress or undress, are frolicking
about your chair and bestowing on you their obliging caresses. Nor are
corricolos and speronares, though they may be good things to write on in
one sense, good in another to write in.

[314] As far as I know Maquet, his line seems to me to have been drama
rather than fiction.

[315] I seem to remember somebody (I rather think it was Henley, and it
was very likely to be) attempting a defence of this. But, except _pour
rire_, such a thing is hopeless.

[316] I think (but it is a long time since I read the book) that it is
the heroine of this who, supposed to be a dead, escapes from "that
grewsome thing, premature interment" (as Sandy Mackay justly calls it),
because of the remarkable odour of _violettes de Parme_ which her
unspotted flesh evolves from the actual grave.

[317] I do not mind Montalais, but I object to Malicozne both in himself
and as her lover. Mlle. de la Vallière and the plots against her virtue
give us "pious Selinda" at unconscionable length, and, but that it would
have annoyed Athos, I rather wish M. le Vicomte de la Bragelonne himself
had come to an end sooner.

[318] My friend Mr. Henley, I believe, ranked it very high, and so did a
common friend of his and mine, the late universally regretted Mr. George
Wyndham. It so happened that, by accident, I never read the book till a
few years ago; and Mr. Wyndham saw it, fresh from the bookseller's and
uncut (or technically, "unopened") in my study. I told him the
circumstances, and he said, in his enthusiastic way, "I _do_ envy you!"

[319] I do not need to be reminded of the conditions of health that also
affected _Peveril_.

[320] I need not repeat, but merely refer to, what I have said of
_Cinq-Mars_ and of _Notre-Dame de Paris_.

[321] On the very day on which I was going over the rough draft of this
passage I saw, in a newspaper of repute, some words which perhaps throw
light on the objection to Dumas as having no literary merit. In them
"incident, coherence, humour, and dramatic power" were all excluded from
this merit, "style" alone remaining. Now I have been almost as often
reproved for attaching too much value to style in others as for
attending too little to it myself. But I certainly could not give it
such a right to "reign alone." It will indeed "do" almost by itself; but
other things can "do" almost without it.

[322] To be absolutely candid, Dumas himself did sometimes ask more of
them than they could do; and then he failed. There can, I think, be
little doubt that this is the secret of the inadequacy (as at least it
seems to me) of the Felton episode. As a friend (whose thousand merits
strive to cover his one crime of not admiring Dumas quite enough), not
knowing that I had yet written a line of this chapter, but as it
happened just as I had reached the present point, wrote to me: "Think
what Sir Walter would have made of Felton!"

[323] I could myself be perfectly content to adapt George III. on a
certain _Apology_, and substitute for all this a simple "I do not think
Dumas needs any defence." But where there has been so much obloquy,
there should, perhaps, be some refutation.

[324] "And then he says, says he...."

[325] In modern novels, of course. You have some good talk in Homer and
also in the Sagas, but I am not thinking or speaking of them.

[326]

     "Red ink for ornament and black for use--
     The best of things are open to abuse."

         (_The Good Clerk_ as vouched for by Charles Lamb.)

[327] Yet, being nothing if not critical, I can hardly agree with those
who talk of Dumas' "_wild_ imagination"! As the great Mr. Wordsworth was
more often made to mourn by the gratitude of men than by its opposite,
so I, in my humbler sphere, am more cast down sometimes by inapposite
praise than by ignorant blame.



CHAPTER IX

THE FRENCH NOVEL IN 1850


[Sidenote: The peculiarity of the moment.]

It was not found necessary, in the last volume, to suspend the current
of narrative or survey for the purpose of drawing interim conclusions in
special "Interchapters."[328] But the subjects of this present are so
much more bulky and varied, in proportion to the space available and the
time considered; while the fortunes of the novel itself altered so
prodigiously during that time, that something of the kind seemed to be
desirable, if not absolutely necessary. Moreover, the actual centre of
the century in France, or rather what may be called its precinct, the
political interregnum of 1848-1852, is more than a _mere_ political and
chronological date. To take it as an absolute apex or culmination would
be absurd; and even to take it as a definite turning-point might be
excessive. Not a few of the greatest novelists then living and
working--Hugo, whose most popular and bulkiest work in novel was yet to
come; George Sand, Mérimée, Gautier--were still to write for the best
part of a quarter of a century, if not more; and the most definite fresh
start of the second period, the rise of Naturalism, was not to take
place till a little later. But already Chateaubriand, Beyle, Charles de
Bernard, and, above all, Balzac, were dead or soon to die: and it cannot
be said that any of the survivors developed new characters of work, for
even Hugo's was (_v. sup._) only the earlier "writ large" and
modernised in non-essentials. On the other hand, it was only after this
time that Dumas _fils_, the earliest of what may be called the new
school, produced his most remarkable work.

But the justification of such an "Interchapter" as this practically is
depends, not on what is to come after, but on what has come before; and
in this respect we shall find little difficulty in vindicating the
position and arrangement assigned to the remarks which are to follow,
though some of these may look forward as well as backward.[329]

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: A political nadir.]

I should imagine that few Frenchmen--despite the almost infinite and
sometimes very startling variety of selection which the _laudator
temporis acti_ exhibits--look back upon the reign of Louis Philippe as a
golden age in any respect but one. Regarding it from the point of view
of general politics, the ridiculous change[330] from "King of France" to
"King of the French" stamped it at once, finally and hopelessly, as the
worst kind of compromise--as a sort of spiritual imitation of the
methods of the Triumvirate, where everybody gives up, not exactly his
father or his uncle or his brother, but his dearest and most respectable
convictions, together with the historical, logical, and sentimental
supports of them. The king himself--though certainly no fool, and though
hardly to be called an unmitigated knave--was one of those unfortunate
persons whose merits do not in the least interest and whose defects do
very strongly disgust. Domestically, the reign was a reign, in the other
sense, of silly minor revolutions, which, till the end, came to nothing,
and then came to something only less absurd than the Russian revolution
of the other day, though fortunately less disastrous;[331] of
bureaucracy of the corrupt and shabby character which seemed to cling
to the whole _régime_; and of remarkable vying between two distinguished
men of letters, Guizot and Thiers, as to which should do most to confirm
the saying of the wicked that men of letters had much better have
nothing to do with politics.[332] Abroad (with the exception of the
acquisition of Algeria, which had begun earlier, and which conferred no
great honour, though some profit, and a little snatching up of a few
loose trifles such as the Society Islands, which we had, according to
our custom, carelessly or benevolently left to gleaners), French arms,
despite a great deal of brag and swagger, obtained little glory, while
French diplomacy let itself wallow in one of the foulest sloughs in
history, the matter of the Spanish marriages.

[Sidenote: And almost a literary zenith.]

But this unsatisfactory state of things was made up--and more than made
up--for posterity if not for contemporaries--by the extraordinary
development of literature and the arts--especially literature and most
especially of all the _belles-lettres_. If (which would be rather
impossible) one were to evaluate the relative excellence of poetry and
of prose fiction in the time itself, a great deal could be said on both
sides. But if one took the larger historic view, it would certainly have
to be admitted that, while the excellence of French poetry was a
magnificent Renaissance after a long period of something like sterility,
the excellence of the novel was something more--an achievement of things
never yet achieved; an acquisition and settlement of territory which had
never previously been even explored.

I venture to hope that no great injustice has been done to the previous
accomplishments of France in this department as they were surveyed in
the last volume. She had been, if not the inventress of Romance, the
[Greek: aidoiê tamiê]--the revered distributress--of it to all nations;
she had made the short story her own to such an extent that, in almost
all its forms, she had reached and kept mastery of it; and in various
isolated instances she had done very important, if not now universally
acceptable, work in the practice of the "Heroic." With Rabelais, Lesage,
almost Marivaux, certainly, in his one diploma-piece, Prévost, she had
contributed persons and things of more or less consummateness to the
novel-staff and the novel treasury. But she had never quite reached, as
England for two full generations had reached before 1800, the consummate
expression of the--_pure_ novel--the story which, not neglecting
incident, but as a rule confining itself to the incidents of ordinary
life; advancing character to a position at least equal with plot;
presenting the manners of its own day, but charging them with essence of
humanity in all days; re-creates, for the delectation of readers, a new
world of probable, indeed of actual, life through the medium of
literature. And she had rarely--except in the fairy-tale and a very few
masterpieces like _Manon Lescaut_ again and _La Nouvelle
Héloïse_[333]--achieved what may be called the Romantic or passionate
novel; while, except in such very imperfect admixtures of the historic
element as _La Princesse de Clèves_, she had never attempted, and even
in these had never attained, the historical novel proper.

Now, in 1850, she had done all this, and more.

[Sidenote: The performance of the time in novel.]

As has been seen, the doing was, if not solely effected between 1830 and
1848, mainly and almost wholly carried out in the second quarter of the
century. In the first, only three persons possessing anything like
genius--Benjamin Constant, Madame de Staël, and Chateaubriand--had
busied themselves with the novel, and they were all strongly charged
with eighteenth-century spirit. Indeed, Constant, as we saw in the last
volume, though he left pattern and stimulus for the nineteenth and the
future generally, really represented the last dying words of that
"Sensibility" school which was essentially of the past, though it was
undoubtedly necessary to the future. Likewise in Madame de Staël, and
still more in Chateaubriand, there was model, stimulus, germ. But they
also were, on the whole, of the eve rather than of the morrow. I have
indeed sometimes wondered what would have happened if Chateaubriand had
gone on writing novels, and had devoted to fiction the talent which he
wasted on the _mesquin_[334] politics of the France of his later days
and on the interesting but restricted and egotistic _Mémoires
d'Outre-Tombe_. It is no doubt true that, though old men have often
written great poetry and excellent serious prose, nobody, so
far as I remember, has written a great novel after seventy. For
_Quatre-Vingt-Treize_, if it be great, is a romance rather than a novel,
and a romance which had much better have been poetry. But this is an
excursion into the Forbidden Country of the Might-Have-Been. We are
concerned with what was.

The accomplishment of these twenty or five-and-twenty years is so
extraordinary--when bulk, variety, novelty, and greatness of achievement
are considered together--that there is hardly anything like it
elsewhere. The single work of Balzac would mark and make an epoch; and
this is wholly the property of the period. And though there is still,
and is likely always to be, controversy as to whether the Balzacian men
and women are exactly men and women of _this_ world, there can, as may
have been shown, be no rational denial of the fact that they represent
_a_ world--not of pure romance, not of fairy-tale, not of convention or
fashion or coterie, but a world human and synthetically possible in its
kind.

[Sidenote: The _personnel_.]

But while the possession of Balzac alone would have sufficed, by itself,
to give the time front rank among the periods of the novel, it is not in
the least extravagant to add that if Balzac had been blotted out of its
record it could still prove title-deeds enough, and more than enough, to
such a place. Fault has here been found--perhaps not a few readers may
think to an excessive, certainly to a considerable extent--with the
novel-work of Hugo and with that of George Sand. But the fault-finder
has not dreamed of denying that, as literature in novel-form, _Les
Misérables_ and _L'Homme Qui Rit_ and _Quatre-Vingt-Treize_ are great,
and that _Les Travailleurs de la Mer_ is of the greatest.[335] And on
the other hand, while strong exceptions have been taken from several
sides to the work of George Sand, the fact remains--and no attempt has
been made to obscure or to shake it--that George Sand gave novel
delectation, in no vulgar fashion, and to no small extent in the form of
the pure novel itself, probably to as large a number of readers as any
novelist except Scott and Dumas; and perhaps Dickens, has ever given. Of
the miraculous production of Dumas himself almost enough should have
been said before, though a little more may come after; and whatever
controversy there may be about its purely literary value, there
can--with reasonable people who are prepared to give and take--be little
anxiety to deny that each of these three, like Balzac, might have taken
the burden of the period on his or her own shoulders, while as a matter
of fact they have but to take each a corner. Nor, even when thus
divided, is the burden left wholly to them. The utmost perfection, at
least in the short story, is reached by Mérimée and Gautier, little less
than such perfection by others. For suggestions of new kinds and new
treatments, if for no single performance, few periods, if any, have a
superior to Beyle.

But, once more, just as the time need not rely on any single champion of
its greatest to maintain its position, so, if all the greater names just
mentioned were struck out, it would still be able to "make good" by dint
of the number, the talent, the variety, the novelty of its second- and
third-rate representatives. Even those who may think that I have taken
Paul de Kock too seriously cannot deny--for it is a simple fact--the
vigorous impulse that he gave to the _popularity_ of the novel as a form
of the printed book, if not of literature; while I can hardly imagine
any one who takes the trouble to examine this fact refusing to admit
that it is largely due to an advance in reality of a kind--though they
may think this kind itself but a shady and sordid one. On the other
hand, I think less of Eugène Sue than at one time "men of good" used to
think; but I, in my turn, should not dream of denying his popularity, or
the advance which he too effected in procuring for the novel its share,
and a vast share, in the attention of the general reader. Jules Sandeau
and Charles de Bernard, Soulié and Féval and Achard, and not a few
others mentioned or not mentioned in the text, come up to support their
priors, while, as I have endeavoured to point out, two others still,
Charles Nodier and Gérard de Nerval, though it may seem absurd to claim
primacy for them, contribute that idiosyncrasy without which, whether it
be sufficient to establish primacy or not, nothing can ever claim to
possess that quality.

[Sidenote: The kinds--the historical novel.]

But while it is not necessary to repeat the favourable estimates already
given of individuals, it is almost superfluous to rest the claims of the
period to importance in novel history upon them. Elsewhere[336] I have
laid some emphatic and reiterated stress on the mischief which has
sometimes arisen from too exclusive critical attention to "kinds,"
classes, and the like in literature--to the oblivion or obscuring of
individual men and works of letters. But as there has been, and I hope
will be, no ignoring of individuals here, and as this whole book
endeavours to be a history of a kind, remarks on subdivisions of that
kind as such can hardly be regarded as inopportune or inconsistent.

[Sidenote: Appearance of new classes--the historical.]

Now it is impossible that anybody who is at all inclined or accustomed
to think about the characteristics of the pleasure he receives from
literature, should not have noticed in this period the fact--beside and
outside of the other fact of a provision of delectable novelists--of a
great splitting up and (as scientific slang would put it) fissiparous
generation of the the classes of novel. It is, indeed, open to the
advocates or generic or specific criticism--though I think they cannot
possibly maintain their position as to poetry--to urge that a great deal
of harm was done to the novel, or at least that its development was
unnecessarily retarded, by the absence of this division earlier. And in
particular they might lay stress on the fortunes and misfortunes of the
historical element. That element had at least helped to start--and had
largely provided the material of--the earlier verse-romances and stories
generally; but the entire absence of criticism at the time had merged
it, almost or altogether, in mere fiction. It had played, as we saw, a
great part in the novels of the seventeenth century; but it had for the
most part merely "got in the way" of its companion ingredients and in
its own. I have admitted that there are diversities of opinion as to its
value in the _Astrée_; but I hold strongly to my own that it would be
much better away there. I can hardly think that any one, uninfluenced by
the sillier, not the nobler, estimate of the classics, can think that
the "heroic" novels gain anything, though they may possibly not lose
very much, by the presence in them of Cyrus and Clélia, Arminius and
Candace, Roxana and Scipio. But perhaps the most fruitful example for
consideration is _La Princesse de Clèves_. Here, small as is the total
space, there is a great deal of history and a crowd, if for the most
part mute, of historical persons. But not one of these has the very
slightest importance in the story; and the Prince and the Princess and
the Duke--we may add the Vidame--who are the only figures that _have_
importance, might be the Prince and Princess of Kennaquhair, the Duke of
Chose, and the Vidame of Gonesse, in any time or no time since the
creation of the world, while retaining their fullest power of situation
and appeal.

But this side of the matter is of far less consequence than another.
This historical element of the _historia mixta_[337] was not merely
rather a nuisance and quite a superfluity as regarded the whole of the
stories in which it appeared; but its presence there and the tricks that
had to be played with it prevented the development of the historical
novel proper--that, as it has been ticketed, "bodiless childful of
life," which waited two thousand years in the ante-natal gloom before it
could get itself born. Here, indeed, one may claim--and I suppose no
sensible Frenchmen would for a moment hesitate to admit it--that even
more than in the case of Richardson's influence nearly a century
earlier, help came to their Troy from a Greek city. To France as to
England, and to all the world, Scott unlocked the hoard of this
delightful variety of fictitious literature, though it was not quite at
once that she took advantage of the treasury.

But when she did, the way in which she turned over the borrowed capital
was certainly amazing, and for a long time she quite distanced the
followers of Scott himself in England. James, Ainsworth, and even Bulwer
cannot possibly challenge comparison with the author of _Notre Dame de
Paris_ as writers, or with Dumas as story-tellers; and it was not till
the second half of the century was well advanced, and when Dumas' own
best days were very nearly over, that England, with Thackeray's _Esmond_
and Kingsley's _Westward Ho!_ and Charles Reade's _The Cloister and the
Hearth_, re-formed the kind afresh into something which France has never
yet been able to rival.

In order, however, to obviate any possible charge of insular unfairness,
it may be well to note that Chateaubriand, though he had never reached
(or in all probability attempted to reach) anything of the true Scott
kind, had made a great advance in something the same direction, and had
indeed to some extent sketched a different variety of historical novel
from Scott's own; while, before Scott's death, Victor Hugo imbued the
Scott romance itself with intenser doses of passion, of the subsidiary
interests of art, etc., and of what may be in a way called "theory,"
than Scott had cared for. In fact, the Hugonic romance is a sort of
blending of Scott and Byron, with a good deal of the author's country,
and still more of himself, added. The connection again between Scott and
Dumas is simpler and less blended with other influences; the chief
differences should have been already pointed out. But the important
thing to notice is that, with a few actual gaps, and several patches
which have been more fully worked over and occupied than others,
practically the whole of French history from the fourteenth century to,
and including, the Revolution was "novelised" by the wand of this second
magician.[338]

That the danger of the historical variety was entirely avoided by these
its French practitioners cannot indeed be said. Even Scott had not
wholly got the better of it in his less perfect pieces, such, for
instance, as those already glanced-at parts of _The Monastery_, where
historical _récit_ now and then supplies the place of vigorous
novel-action and talk. Dumas' co-operative habits (which are as little
to be denied as they are to be exaggerated) lent themselves to it much
more freely. But, notwithstanding this, the total accession of pleasure
to the novel-reader was immense, and the further possibility of such
accession practically unlimited. And accordingly the kind, though
sometimes belittled by foolish criticism, and sometimes going out of
favour by the vicissitudes of mere fashion, has constantly renewed
itself, and is likely to do so. Its special advantages and its special
warnings are of some interest to discuss briefly. Among the first may be
ranked something which the foolish belittlers above mentioned entirely
fail to appreciate, and indeed positively dislike. The danger of the
novel of ordinary and contemporary life (which accompanied this and
which is to be considered shortly as such) is that there may be so much
_mere_ ordinariness and contemporariness that the result may be
distasteful, if not sickening, to future ages. This has (to take one
example out of many) happened with the novels of so clever a person as
Theodore Hook in England, even with comparatively elect judges; with the
vulgar it is said to have happened even with such consummate things as
those of Miss Austen. With a large number of another sort of vulgar it
is said to happen with "Victorian" novels generally, while even the
elect sometimes find it difficult to prevent its happening with
Edwardian and Fifth Georgian. Now the historical novelist has before him
the entire range of the most interesting fashions, manners, incidents,
characters, literary styles of recorded time. He has but to select from
this inexhaustible store of general material, and to charge it with
sufficient power of humanity of all time, and the thing is done.[339]
Under no circumstances can the best historical novels ever lose their
attraction with the best readers; and as for the others in each kind,
who cares what happens to _them_?

There are, moreover, some interesting general rules about the historical
novel which are well worth a moment's notice, even if this partake to
some extent of the nature of repetition. The chief of them, which at
least ought to be well known, is that it is never safe to make a
prominent historical character, and seldom safe to make a prominent
historical event, the central subject of your story. The reason is of
course obvious. The generally known facts cramp and hamper the writer;
he is constantly knocking against them, and finding them in the way of
the natural development of his tale. No doubt there is, and has been, a
good deal of otiose and even rather silly criticism of details in
historical novels which do not satisfy the strict historian. The fuss
which some people used to make about Scott's anachronisms in _Ivanhoe_
and _Kenilworth_; the shakings of heads which ought to know better, over
Thackeray's dealings with the Old Chevalier and his scandals about Miss
Oglethorpe in _Esmond_, can be laughed or wondered at merely. But then
these are matters of no importance to the main story. It is Ivanhoe and
Rebecca, Henry Esmond and Beatrix,[340] all of them persons absolutely
unknown to history, in whom we are really interested; and in the other
case mentioned, Amy Robsart is such a creature or "daughter," if not "of
dreams" "of debate," that you may do almost what you like with her; and
the book does not sin by presentation of a Leicester so very different
from the historical.[341] But, on the other hand, the introduction of
historical persons, skilfully used, seasons, enforces, and vivifies the
interest of a book mightily; and the action of great historical scenes
supports that of the general plot in a still more remarkable manner. On
the whole, we may perhaps say that Dumas depends more on the latter,
Scott on the former, and that the difference is perhaps connected with
their respective bulk and position as dramatists. Dumas has made of no
historical magnate anything like what Scott has made of Richard and of
Mary and of Elizabeth; but Scott has not laid actual historical scenes
under contribution to anything like the same extent as that by which
Dumas has in a fashion achieved a running panorama-companion to the
history of France from the fourteenth century to the Revolution and,
more intensively, from the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew to the
establishment of Louis XIV.'s autocracy.

In fact, the advantages, both to the novelist and to his readers, of the
historical kind can hardly be exaggerated. The great danger of invented
prose narrative--of _all_ invented narrative, indeed, prose or
verse--has always been, and has always from the first shown itself as
being, that of running into moulds. In the old epics (the Classical, not
the _Chansons_) this danger was accentuated by the rise of
rule-criticism; but the facts had induced, if they did not justify, that
rule-system itself. The monotony of the mediaeval romance, whether
_Chanson_ or _Roman_, has been declared more than once in this book to
be exaggerated, but it certainly exists. The "heroic" succumbs to a
similar fate rather fatally, though the heroic element itself comes
slightly to the rescue; and even the picaresque by no means escapes. To
descend, or rather to look, into the gutter for a moment, the sameness
of the deliberately obscene novel is a byword to those who, in pursuit
of knowledge, have incurred the necessity of "washing themselves in
water and being unclean until the evening"; and we saw that even such a
light and lively talent as Crébillon's, keeping above the very lowest
gutter-depths, could not escape the same danger wholly. In the upper air
the fairy-tale flies too often in prescribed gyres; and the most modern
kinds of all--the novel of analysis, the problem-novel, and all the rest
of them--strive in vain to avoid the curse of--as Rabelais put something
not dissimilar long ago--"fatras _à la douzaine_." "All the stories are
told," saith the New, even as the Old, Preacher; all but the highest
genius is apt to show ruts, brain-marks, common orientations of route
and specifications of design. Only the novel of creative--not merely
synthetised--character in the most expert hands escapes--for human
character undoubtedly partakes of the Infinite; but few are they who can
command the days and ways of creation.

Yet though history has its unaltering laws; though human nature in
general is always the same; though that which hath been shall be, and
the dreams of new worlds and new societies are the most fatuous of vain
imaginations--the details of historical incident vary as much as those
of individual character or feature, and the whole of recorded time
offers them, more than half ready for use, in something like the same
condition as those patterns of work which ladies buy, fill up, and
regard as their own. To make an historical novel of the very highest
class, such as the best of Scott and Thackeray, requires of course very
much more than this--to make one of all but the highest class, such as
_Les Trois Mousquetaires_, requires much more. But that "tolerable
pastime," which it is the business of the average novelist to supply at
the demand of the average reader, can perhaps be attained more easily,
more abundantly, and with better prospect of average satisfaction in the
historical way than in any other.

[Sidenote: Other kinds and classes.]

[Sidenote: The Novel of Romanticism generally.]

It would, however, of course be an intolerable absurdity to rest the
claims of the French novel of 1825 to 1850 wholly--it would be somewhat
absurd to rest them mainly--on its performances in this single kind. It
found out, continued, or improved many others; and perhaps most of its
greatest achievements were in these others. In fact "others" is an
incorrect or at least an inexact term; for the historic novel itself is
only a subdivision or offshoot of the great literary revolution which we
call Romanticism. Indeed the entire novel of the nineteenth century,
misapprehend the fact as people may, is in fact Romantic, from the first
novel of Chateaubriand to the last of Zola, though the Romanticism is
chequered and to a certain extent warped by that invincible French
determination towards "Rule" which has vindicated itself so often, and
on which shortly we may have to make something almost like an excursus.
But this very fact, if nothing else, would make a discussion of the
Romantic novel as such out of place _here_; it will have to come, to
some extent at any rate, in the Conclusion itself. Only for the present
need it be said, without quite the same danger of meeting with scornful
or indignant protest, that all the books hitherto discussed from _René_
to _Dominique_, from _Le Solitaire_ to _Monte Cristo_--even the work of
Mérimée and Sainte-Beuve, those celebrated "apostates" as some would
have them to be--is really Romantic. It may follow the more poetical
romanticism of Nodier and Hugo, of Gautier and Gérard; the historical
romanticism of Vigny and Mérimée; the individualism and analysis of
Beyle and his disciples; the supernaturalism of George Sand and Nodier
again; the adventurous incident of Sue and Soulié and Dumas and the
Dumasians generally; it may content itself with that modified form of
the great Revolt which admits "low" or "middle" subjects and discards
the classical theories that a hero ought to be dignified. But always
there is something of the general Romantic colour about--something over
which M. Nisard has shaken or would have shaken his respectable
_perruque_.[342]

So turn we to the other larger group--the largest group of all that come
under our survey--the New Ordinary Novel, that which concerns itself
with the last shade of his colour just described.

[Sidenote: The "ordinary."]

We had seen, before the beginning of this volume, how Pigault-Lebrun, in
vulgar ways and with restricted talent, had nevertheless made distinct
advances in this direction; and we saw in the beginning of this how Paul
de Kock--with something of the same limitations but with the advantage
of a predecessor in Pigault and of further changes in society towards
the normal--improved upon the earlier progression. But Pigault and Paul
were thrown into the shade by those writers, younger contemporaries of
both, who brought to their task greater genius, better taste, and if not
knowledge of better society, at any rate better knowledge how to use
their knowledge. Whether Balzac's books can be ticketed _sans phrase_,
as "novels of _ordinary_ life," has been, or should have been, duly
discussed already. It is certain that, as a rule, they intend to be so.
So it is with at least the majority of George Sand's; so with all those
of her first lover and half name-father Sandeau; so with Charles de
Bernard; so with some at least of Mérimée's best short stories and
Musset's, if not exactly of Gautier's; so with others who have had
places, and a good many more for whom no place could be found. France,
indeed, may be said to have caught up and passed England in this kind,
between the time when Miss Austen died and that when Thackeray at last
did justice to himself with _Vanity Fair_. And this novel of ordinary
life has continued, and shows no signs of ceasing, to be the kind most
in demand, according to the usual law of "Like to Like." We shall see
further developments of it and shall have to exercise careful critical
discretion in deciding whether the apparent improvement only means
nearer approximation to our own standard of ordinariness, or to a more
abstract one. But that it was in these twenty or five and twenty years
that something like a norm of ordinariness was first reached, hardly
admits of any question. Still, very much question may arise, and must be
faced, on the point whether this novel of ordinary life has not
redeveloped a _non_-ordinary subdivision, or many such, in the "problem"
novel, the novel of analysis, of abnormal individualism, of theory,
naturalist and other, etc. To this we must turn; for at least part of
this new question is a very important one, though it may require
something of a digression to deal with it properly.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Discussion on a point of general novel criticism.]

I have in these volumes, rather sedulously--some readers no doubt may
think too sedulously--avoided "fighting prizes" on general points of the
criticism or novel-theory. Not that I have the slightest objection to
fighting "for my own hand" or to seeing or reading about a good fight
between others--very much the contrary. I never thought it the worst
compliment paid to Englishmen--the Indian opinion of us, as reported by
the late M. Darmesteter--that we cared for nothing but fighting, sport,
and making love. But the question now to be discussed is so germane to
our subject, both general and special; and the discussion of it once for
all (with _renvois_ thereto elsewhere) will save so much space, trouble,
and inconvenience, that it may as well be handled at full length.

There was hinted--in a review[343] of the first volume of this work
otherwise so complimentary that it must have satisfied the Archbishop of
Granada himself--a doubt whether I had given sufficient weight to
something which I shall let the reviewer express in his own words;[344]
and whether my admission of Rabelais (of which admission, except on
principle, he was himself very glad); my relegation of Laclos to the
Condemned Corps; and my comparative toleration of Pigault-Lebrun, did
not indicate heresy. Now I feel pretty certain that such a well-wisher
would hardly suspect me of doing any of these things by inadvertence;
and as I must have gone, and shall still go, much further from what is
the right line in his (and no doubt others') opinion, I may as well
state my point of view here. It should supply a sort of justificatory
comment not merely on the chapters and passages just referred to, and
others in the last volume, but on a much larger number in this--in fact,
after a fashion, to the whole of this. Any difference of it from the
normal French view will even help to explain my attitude in those parts
of this book (_e.g._ the remarks on Dumas _père_) to which it does not
directly apply, as well as those (_e.g._ on Dumas _fils_) to which it
does.

The whole question seems to me to turn on the curiously different
estimates which different people make of what constitutes "humanity." To
cite another dictum of my friend the enemy, he, while, as I have said,
speaking with extraordinary kindness of my chapter on Rabelais in
itself, disallows it in a _History of the Novel_ because, among other
reasons, Panurge is not, or is very slightly, human. I should have said
that Panurge was as human as Hamlet, though certainly not so
_gentle_human.[345] I never met either; but I might do so, and I am
sure I should recognise both as men and brothers. Still, the comparison
here is of course somewhat rhetorical. Let us take Panurge with Laclos'
Valmont, whom, I think, my critic _does_ consider human; whom I am sure
I never have met and never shall meet, even if I should be so
unfortunate as to go to the place which (but, of course, for the
consolations of the Church) would have been his, _if_ he had been human;
and whom I never could in the most impossible event or _milieu_
recognise as anything but a synthetised specification. One may perhaps
dwell on this, for it is of immense importance to the general question.
Panurge and Valmont, comparatively considered, have beyond doubt points
in common. Both are extremely immoral, and both are--though the one only
sometimes, the other always--ill-natured. Neither is a fool, though the
one does, or is going to do, at least one very foolish thing with his
eyes open; while nothing that the other does--even his provocation of
Madame de Merteuil--can be said to be exactly "foolish." Both are
attempts to do what Thackeray said he attempted to do in most of the
characters of _Vanity Fair_--to draw people "living without God in the
world." Yet I can tolerate Panurge, and recognise him as human even when
he indirectly murders Dindenault, even when (which is worse) he behaves
so atrociously to the Lady of Paris; and I cannot tolerate or validate
Valmont even when he excogitates and puts in practice that very
ingenious and picturesque idea of a writing-desk, or when he seeks the
consolations and fortifications of the Church after Danceny has done on
him the first part of the judgment of God. And I think I can give
reasons, both for my intolerance and for my toleration, "rightly and in
mine own division."

The reason why I think that Panurge is rightly and Valmont wrongly
"copied or re-created" is that Panurge is made at the hazard of the
artist, Valmont according to prescription. There might be--there have
been--fifty or a hundred Valmonts, the prescription being followed, and
slightly--still remaining a prescription--altered. There is and can be
only one Panurge. This difference reminds me of, and may be illustrated
by, a fact which, in one form or another, must be familiar to many
people. I was once talking to a lady who had just come over from China,
and who wore a dress of soft figured silk of the most perfect
love-in-a-mist colour-shade which I had ever seen, even in turning over
the wonder-drawers at Liberty's. I asked her if (for she then intended
to go back almost at once) she could get me any like it. "No," she said,
"at least not exactly. They never make two pieces of just the same
shade, and in fact they couldn't if they tried. They take handfuls of
different dyes, measured and mixed, as it seems, at random." Now that is
the way God and, in a lesser degree, the great artists work, and the
result is living creatures, according to the limitations of artistic and
the no-limitations of natural life. The others weigh out a dram of lust,
a scruple of cleverness, an ounce of malice, half an ounce of
superficial good manners, etc., and say, "Here is a character for you.
Type No. 12345." And it is not a living creature at all. But, having
been made by regular synthesis,[346] it can be regularly analysed, and
people say, "Oh, how clever he is." The first product, having grown
rather than been made, defies analysis, and they say, "How commonplace!"

One can perhaps lay out the ropes of the ring of combat most
satisfactorily and fairly by using the distinction of the reviewer (if I
do not misunderstand him), that I have neglected the interval between
"to copy" and "to re-create." I accept this dependence, which may
perhaps be illustrated further from that (in itself) foolish and vulgar
boast of Edmond de Goncourt's that his and his brother's epithets were
"personal" while Flaubert's were only "admirably good specimens of the
epithets of _tout le monde_."

To translate: Should the novelist aim, by _mimesis_--it is a misfortune
which I have lamented over and over again in print that "Imitation" and
"Copying" are such misleading versions of this--of actual characters, to
evolve a personality which will be recognised by all competent observers
as somebody whom he has actually met or might have met? Or should he,
trusting to his own personal powers of putting together qualities and
traits, but more or less neglecting the patterns which the Almighty has
put before him in _tout le monde_--sometimes also regarding conventional
types and "academies"--either (for this is important) to follow or
violently _not_ to follow them--produce something that owes _its_
personality to himself only? The former has been the aim of the great
English novelists since Fielding, if not since Richardson[347] or even
Defoe. It was the aim of Lesage: he has told us so in so many words. It
is by no means alien from that of Marivaux, though he did not pursue it
with a single eye; and the same may be said even of Crébillon. Whether
Prévost aimed at it or not, he hit the white in _Manon_ as certainly and
unmistakably as he lost his arrows elsewhere. Rousseau both did it and
meant it in the first part of _Julie_. Pigault, in a clumsy, botcherly
fashion, made "outers" not infrequently. But Laclos seems to me to have
(as his in some sense follower Dumas _fils_ has it in the passage noted
above) "proceeded by synthesis"--to have said, "Let us make a
mischievous Marquise and a vile Viscount. Let us deprive them of every
amiable quality and of every one that can be called in any sense 'good,'
except a certain kind of intellectual ability, and, in the Viscount's
case, an ingenious fancy in the matter of extemporising writing-desks."
And he did it; and then the people who think that because (to adopt the
language of George de Barnwell) "the True is not always the Beautiful"
the Ugly must always be the True, hail him as a master.[348]

That this half-digression, half-dilemma, is prospective as well as
retrospective will hardly form a subject of objection for any one but a
mere fault-finder. From the top of a watershed you necessarily survey
both slopes. The tendency which we have been discussing is certainly
more prevalent in the second half of the century than in the first half.
It is prominent in Dumas _fils_, with whom we shall be dealing shortly;
it increases as time goes on; and it becomes almost paramount in the
practice of and the discussions about the Naturalist School. In the time
on which we look back it is certainly important in Beyle and Balzac. But
I cannot admit that it is predominant elsewhere, and I am prepared to
deny utterly that, until the time of the Sensibility and _Philosophe_
novels, it is even a notable characteristic of French fiction. Many hard
things have been said of criticism; but, acknowledging the badness of a
bird who even admits any foulness in his own nest--far more in one who
causes it--I am bound to say that I think the state of the department of
literature now under discussion was happier before we meddled with it.
Offence must come; it would even be sometimes rather a pity if it didn't
come: but perhaps the old saying is true in the case of those by whom
some kinds of it come. If criticism and creation could be kept as
separate as some creators pridefully pretend, it would not matter. And
the best critics never attempt to show how things should be done, but
merely to point out how they have been done--well or badly. But when men
begin to write according to criticism, they generally begin to write
badly, just as when women begin to dress themselves according to
fashion-mongers they usually begin (or would but for the grace of God)
to look ugly. And there are some mistakes which appear to be absolutely
incorrigible. When I was a Professor of Literature I used to say every
year in so many words, as I had previously written for more than as many
years, when I was only a critic of it, "I do not wish to teach you how
to write. I wish to teach you how to read, and to tell you what there is
to read." The same is my wish in regard to the French Novel. What has
been done in it--not what these, even the practitioners themselves, have
said of it--is the burden of my possibly unmusical song.

       *       *       *       *       *

The excuse, indeed, for this long digression may be, I think, made
without impropriety or "forcing" to coincide with the natural sequel and
correlation of this chapter. The development of the novel of ordinary
life in the second half of the century _was_ extraordinary; but it was
to a very large extent marked by the peculiarities--some of them near to
corruptions--which have been just discussed. With the possible exception
of Beyle, there was little more theory, or attempt at synthesis in
accordance therewith, in the "ordinary" than in the "historical"
division of this earlier time. We have seen how the absence of "general
ideas"--another way of putting it--has been actually brought as a charge
against Balzac. George Sand had, especially at first, something of it;
and this something seems, to me at least, by no means to have improved
her work. In none or hardly any of the rest is there any evidence of
"school," "system," "pattern," "problem," or the like. Yet they give us
an immense amount of pastime, and I do not think their or their readers'
state was any the less gracious for what they did _not_ give us.

FOOTNOTES:

[328] I have not called this so, because the division into "Books," with
which the _raison d'être_ of "Interchapters" is almost inseparably
connected, has not been adopted in this _History_.

[329] This fact, as well, perhaps, as others, should be taken into
account by any one who may be at first sight surprised, and perhaps in
the Biblical sense "offended," at finding two-thirds of the volume
allotted to half of the time.

[330] To vary a good epigram of the _Rolliad_ crew on Pitt:

     "'The French' for 'France' can't please the _Blanc_,
         The _Bleu_ detests the 'King.'"

[331] _V. sup._ on Reybaud.

[332] This is of course quite a different thing from saying that
politicians had better have nothing to do with letters, or that men of
letters may not _discuss_ politics. It is when they become Ministers
that they too often disgust men and amuse angels.

[333] _Adolphe_ actually belongs to the nineteenth century.

[334] As I write this I remember how my friend the late M. Beljame, who
and whose "tribe" have come so nobly for English literature in France
for forty years past, was shocked long ago at my writing "Mazar_in_
Library," and refused to be consoled by my assurance that I should never
dream of writing anything but "Bibliothèque Mazar_ine_." But I had, and
have, no doubt on the principle.

[335] I _hope_, but do not trust, that no descendant of the persons who
told Charles Lamb that Burns could not at the time be present because he
was dead, will say, "But all these were subsequent to 1850."

[336] In my _History of Criticism_, _passim_.

[337] _V. sup._ Vol. I., on the "heroic" romance.

[338] It seems unnecessary to repeat what has been said on Vigny and
Mérimée; but it is important to keep constantly in mind that they came
before Dumas. As for the still earlier _Solitaire_, I must repeat that
M. d'Arlincourt's utter failure as an individual ought not completely to
obscure his importance as a pioneer in kind.

[339] "Suppose you go and do it?" as Thackeray says of another matter,
no doubt. But I am Crites, not Poietes.

[340] Pedantius may urge, "But 'James III.' is made to affect the
fortunes of Esmond and Beatrix very powerfully." True; but he himself is
by no means a _very_ "prominent historical character," and the exact
circumstances of the agony of Queen Anne, and the _coup d'état_ of
Shrewsbury and Argyle, have still enough of the unexplained in or about
them to permit somewhat free dealing.

[341] If any one says "_Leicester's Commonwealth?_" I say "_The Faërie
Queene?_"

[342] I intend nothing offensive in thus mentioning his attitude. In my
_History of Criticism_ I have aimed at justice both to his short stage
of going with, or at least not definitely against, the Romantic vein,
and his much longer one of reaction. He was always vigorous in argument
and dignified in manner; but his nature, when he found it, was
essentially neo-classic.

[343] In the _Times Literary Supplement_ for Thursday, Nov. 1, 1917.

[344] "It is vain to ask, as is the modern custom, whether the leap from
the word 'copy' to the word 'recreate' (_v. sup._ Vol. I. p. 471) does
not cover a difference in kind.... One feels that Prof. S. is rather
sympathetic to that which traditional French criticism regards as
essential ... close psychological analysis of motive," etc. And so he
even questions whether what I have given, much as he likes and praises
it, _is_ "A History of The French Novel." But did I ever undertake to
give this _from the French point of view_, or to write a _History of
French Novel-Criticism_? Or need I do so?

[345] It might, however, be a not uninteresting matter of debate whether
Panurge's conduct to the Lady of Paris was _really_ so very much worse
than part of Hamlet's to Ophelia.

[346] By one of those odd coincidences which diversify and relieve
literary work, I read, for the first time in my life, and a few hours
_after_ writing the above words, these in Dumas _fils'_ _Thérèse_: "Il
procède par synthése." They do not there apply to authorship, but to the
motives and conduct of one of the writer's questionable quasi-heroes.
But the whole context, and the usual methods of Dumas _fils_ himself,
are saturated with synthesis _by rule_. (Of course the other process is,
as also according to the strict meaning of the word, "synthetic," but
_not_ "by rule.")

[347] I own I see a little less of it and a little more of the other in
him; whence a certain lukewarmness with which I have sometimes been
reproached.

[348] My very amiable reviewer thinks that eighteenth-century French
society _did_ behave _à la Laclos_. I don't, though I think it did _à la
Crébillon_.



CHAPTER X

DUMAS THE YOUNGER


[Sidenote: Division of future subjects.]

No one who has not had some experience in writing literary
history knows the difficulties--or perhaps I should say the
"unsatisfactorinesses"--which attend the shepherding of examples into
separate chronological folds. But every one who has had that experience
knows that mere neglect to attempt this shepherding has serious
drawbacks. In such cases there is nothing for it but a famous phrase,
"We will do what we can." An endeavour has been made in the last chapter
to show that, about the middle of the nineteenth century, a noteworthy
change _did_ pass over French novel-literature. In a similar retrospect,
at the end of the volume and the _History_, we may be able, _si Dieu
nous prête vie_, to show that this change was not actually succeeded by
any other of equal importance as far as our own subject goes. But the
stage had, like all such things, sub-stages; and there must be
corresponding breaks, if only mechanical ones, in the narrative, to
avoid the distasteful "blockiness" resulting from their absence. After
several changes of plan I have thought it best to divide what remains of
the subject into five chapters (to which a separate Conclusion may be
added). The first of these will be allotted, for reasons to be given, to
Alexandre Dumas _fils_; the second to Gustave Flaubert, greatest by far,
if not most representative, of all dealt with in this latter part of the
volume; the third to others specially of the Second Empire, but not
specially of the Naturalist School; the fourth to that School itself;
and the fifth to those now defunct novelists of the Third Republic, up
to the close of the century, who may not have been dealt with before.

       *       *       *       *       *

There should not, I think, be much doubt that we ought to begin with
Alexandre Dumas, the son, who--though he launched his most famous novel
five years before Napoleon the Third made himself come to the throne,
had been writing for about as many earlier still, and lived till long
after the Terrible Year, and almost to the end of our own tether--is yet
almost more essentially _the_ novelist of the Second Empire than any one
else, not merely because before its end he practically gave up Novel for
Drama, but for other reasons which we may hope to set forth presently.

[Sidenote: A confession.]

Before sitting down comfortably to deal with him in my critical jacket,
I have to put on, for ceremonial purposes, something of a white sheet,
and to hold a candle of repentance in my hand. I have never said very
much about the younger Dumas anywhere, and I am not conscious of any
positive injustice in what I _have_ said;[349] but I do suspect a
certain imperfection of justice. This arose, as nearly all positive and
comparative injustices do, from insufficient knowledge and study. What
it was exactly in him that "put me off" of old I could not now say; but
I think it was because I did come across some of his numerous and famous
fisticuffs of Preface and Dissertation and controversy. I thought then,
and I still think, that the artist has something better to do than to
"fight prizes": he has to do things worthy of the prize. "They say. What
say they? Let them say" should be his motto. And later, when I might
have condoned this (in the proper sense of that appallingly misused
word) in virtue of his positive achievements, he had left off
novel-writing and had taken to drama, for which, in its modern forms, I
have never cared. But I fear I must make a further confession. The
extravagant praise which was lavished on him by other critics, even
though they were, in some cases at least, [Greek: philoi andres], once
more proved a stumbling-block.[350] I have endeavoured to set matters
right here by serious study of his novel work and some reference to the
rest; so I hope that I may discard the sheet, and give the rest of the
candle to the poor, now much requiring it.

[Sidenote: His general character.]

One thing about him is clear from his first famous, though not his
first, book[351]--a book which, as has been said, actually preceded the
Second Empire, but which has been thought to cast something of a
prophetic shadow over that period of revel and rottenness--that is to
say, from _La Dame aux Camélias_--that he was even then a very clever
man.[352]

[Sidenote: _La Dame aux Camélias._]

"The Lady with the Camellias" is not now the widely known book that once
it was; and the causes of its loss of vogue might serve as a text for
some "Meditations among the Tombs," though in respect of rather
different cemeteries from those which Addison or Hervey frequented. As a
mere audacity it has long faded before the flowers, themselves "over"
now, of that Naturalism which it helped to bring about; and the once
world-popular composer who founded almost, if not quite, his most
popular opera on it, has become for many years an abomination and a
hissing to the very same kind of person who, sixty years since, would
have gone out of his way to extol _La Traviata_, and have found in _Il
Trovatore_ something worth not merely all Rossini[353] and Bellini and
Donizetti put together, but _Don Giovanni_, the _Zauberflöte_, and
_Fidelio_ thrown in; while if (as he might) he had known _Tannhäuser_
and _Lohengrin_ he would have lifted up his hoof against them. It is the
nature of the fool of all times to overblame what the fools of other
times have overpraised. But the fact that these changes have happened,
and that other accidents of time have edulcorated that general ferocity
which made even men of worth in England refuse to lament the death of
the Prince Imperial in our service, should on the whole be rather
favourable to a quiet consideration of this remarkable book. Indeed, I
daresay some, if not many, of the "warm young men" to whom the very word
"tune" is anathema might read the words, "Veux-tu que nous quittions
Paris?" without having their pure and tender minds and ears sullied and
lacerated by the remembrance of "Parigi, O cara, noi lasceremo"--simply
because they never heard it.

A very remarkable book it is. Camellias have gone out of fashion, which
is a great pity, for a more beautiful flower in itself does not exist:
and those who have seen, in the Channel Islands, a camellia tree, as big
as a good-sized summer-house, clothed with snow, and the red blossoms
and green leaf-pairs unconcernedly slashing the white garment, have seen
one of the prettiest sights in the world. But I should not dream of
transferring the epithets "beautiful" or even "pretty" from the flower
to the book. It _is_ remarkable, and it is clever in no derogatory
sense. For it has pathos without mere sentiment, and truth, throwing a
light on humanity, which is not wholly or even mainly like that of

                   The blackguard boy
    That runs his link full in your face.

The story of it is, briefly, as follows. Marguerite Gautier, its
heroine, is one of the most beautiful and popular _demi-mondaines_ of
Paris, also a _poitrinaire_,[354] and as this, if not as the other, the
pet and protégée, in a _quasi_-honourable fashion, of an old duke, whose
daughter, closely resembling Marguerite, has actually died of
consumption. But she does not give up her profession; and the duke in a
manner, though not willingly, winks at it. One evening at the theatre a
young man, Armand Duval, who, though by no means innocent, is shy and
_gauche_, is introduced to her, and she laughs at him. But he falls
frantically in love with her, and after some interval meets her again.
The passion becomes mutual, and for some time she gives herself up
wholly to him. But the duke cannot stand this open _affiche_, and
withdraws his allowances. Duval is on the point of ruining himself (he
is a man of small means, partly derived from his father) for her, while
she intends to sell all she has, pay her debts, and, as we may say,
plunge into mutual ruin with him. Then appears the father, who at last
makes a direct and effective appeal to her. She returns to business,
enraging her lover, who departs abroad. Before he comes back, her
health, and with it her professional capacity, breaks down, and she dies
in agony, leaving pathetic explanations of what has driven him away from
her. A few points in this bare summary may be enlarged on presently.
Even from it a certain resemblance, partly of a topsy-turvy kind, may be
perceived by a reader of not less than ordinary acuteness to _Manon
Lescaut_. The suggestion, such as it is, is quite frankly admitted, and
an actual copy of Prévost's masterpiece figures not unimportantly in the
tale.[355] Of the difference between the two, again presently.

The later editions of _La Dame aux Camélias_ open with an "Introduction"
by Jules Janin, dealing with a certain Marie Duplessis--the recently
living original, as we are told, of Marguerite Gautier. A good deal has
been said, not by any means always approvingly, of this system of
"introductions," especially to novels. In the present instance I should
say that the proceeding was dangerous but effective--perhaps not
entirely in the way in which it was intended to be so. "Honest
Janin,"[356] as Thackeray (who had deservedly rapped his knuckles
earlier for a certain mixture of ignorance and impudence) called him
later, was in his degree almost as "clever" a man as young Dumas; but
his kind was different, and it did involve the derogatory connotation of
cleverness. It is enough to say of the present subject that it displays,
in almost the highest strength, the insincerity and superficiality of
matter and thought which accompanied Janin's bright and almost brilliant
facility of expression and style. His Marie Duplessis is one of those
remarkable young persons who, to alter Dr. Johnson very slightly, unite
"the manners of a _duchess_ with the morals of" the other object of the
doctor's comparison unaltered; superadding to both the amiability of an
angel, the beauty of Helen, and the taste in art of all the great
collectors rolled into one. The thing is pleasantly written bosh; and,
except to those readers who are concerned to know that they are going to
read about "a real person," can be no commendation, and might even cause
a little disgust, not at all from the moral but from the purely critical
side.

A lover of paradox might almost suggest that "honest Janin" had been
playing the ingenious but dangerous finesse of intentionally setting up
a foil to his text. He has certainly, to some tastes, done this. There
is hardly any false prettiness, any sham Dresden china (a thing, by the
way, that has become almost a proverbial phrase in French for
_demi-monde_ splendour), about _La Dame aux Camélias_ itself. Nor, on
the other hand, is there to be found in it--even in such anticipated
"naturalisms" as the exhumation of Marguerite's _two_-months'-old
corpse,[357] and one or two other somewhat more veiled but equally or
more audacious touches of realism--anything resembling the exaggerated
horrors of such efforts of 1830 itself as Janin's own _Âne Mort_ and
part of Borel's _Champavert_. In her splendour as in her misery, in her
frivolity as in her devotion and self-sacrifice, repulsive as this
contrast may conventionally be, Marguerite is never impossible or
unnatural. Her chief companion of her own sex, Prudence Duvernoy,
though, as might be expected, a good deal of a _proxénète_, and by no
means disinterested in other ways, is also very well drawn, and assists
the general effect more than may at first be seen.

The "problem" of the book, at least to English readers, lies in the
person whom it is impossible to call the hero--Armand Duval. It would be
very sanguine to say that he is unnatural; but the things that he does
are rather appalling. That he listens at doors, opens letters not
addressed to him, and so on, is sufficiently fatal; but a very generous
extension of lovers' privileges may perhaps just be stretched over these
things.[358] No such licence will run to other actions of his. In his
early days of chequered possession he writes, anonymously, an insulting
letter to his mistress, which she forgives; but he has at least the
grace to repent of this almost immediately. His conduct, however, when
he returns to Paris, after staying in the country with his family, and
finds that she has returned to her old ways, is the real crime. A
violent scene might, again, be excusable, for he does not know what his
father has done. But for weeks this young gentleman of France devotes
all his ingenuity and energies to tormenting and insulting the object of
his former adoration. He ostentatiously "keeps" a beautiful but
worthless friend of hers in her own class, and takes every opportunity
of flaunting the connection in Marguerite's face. He permits himself and
this creature to insult her in every way, apparently descending once
more to anonymous letters. And when her inexhaustible forgiveness has
induced a temporary but passionate reconciliation, he takes fresh
umbrage, and sends money to her for her complaisance with another letter
of more abominable insult than ever. Now it is bad to insult any one of
whom you have been fond; worse to insult any woman; but to insult a
prostitute, faugh![359]

However, I may be reading too much English taste into French ways
here,[360] and it is impossible to deny that a man, whether French or
English, _might_ behave in this ineffable manner. In other words, the
irresistible _humanum est_ clears this as it clears Marguerite's own
good behaviour, so conventionally inconsistent with her bad. The book,
of course, cannot possibly be put on a level with its pattern and
inspiration, _Manon Lescaut_: it is on a much lower level of literature,
life, thought, passion--everything. But it has literature; it has life
and thought and passion; and so it shall have no black mark here.

[Sidenote: _Tristan le Roux._]

Few things could be more different from each other than _Tristan le
Roux_--another early book of Dumas _fils_--is from _La Dame aux
Camélias_. Indeed it is a good, if not an absolutely certain, sign that
so young a man should have tried styles in novel-writing so far apart
from each other. _Tristan_ is a fifteenth-century story of the later
part of the Hundred Years' War, and of Gilles de Retz, and of Joan of
Arc, and of _diablerie_, and so forth. I first heard approval of it from
a person whose name may be unexpected by some readers--the late
Professor Robertson Smith. But the sometime editor of the _Encyclopædia
Britannica_ was exceptionally well qualified for the literary side of
his office, and could talk about French quite as knowledgeably as he
could about Arabic and Hebrew.[361] He was rather enthusiastic about the
book, an enthusiasm which, when I myself came to read it, for a
considerable time puzzled me a little. It opens pretty well, but already
with a good deal of the "possible-improbable" about it; for when some
twenty wolves have once pulled a horse down and a man off it, his chance
of escaping (especially without revolvers) seems small, even though two
rescuers come up, one of whom has a knack of shooting these
creatures[362] and the other of throttling them. It is on these rescuers
that the central interest of the story turns. Olivier de Karnak and
Tristan le Roux are, though they do not at the time know it, brothers by
the same mother, the guiltless Countess of Karnak having been drugged,
violated, and made a mother by Gilles de Retz's father. They are also
rivals for the love of their cousin Alix, and as she prefers Olivier,
this sends Tristan literally "to the Devil." The compact is effected by
means of a Breton sorceress, who has been concerned in the earlier
crime, and is an accomplice of Gilles himself. That eminent patriot
performs,[363] for Tristan's benefit or ruin, one of his black masses,
with a murdered child's blood for wine. Further _diablerie_ opens a
great tomb near Poitiers, where, seven hundred years earlier, in Charles
Martel's victory, an ancestor of the Karnaks has been buried alive,
with the Saracen Emir he had just slain, by the latter's followers; and
where the two have beguiled the time by continuous ghostly fighting. The
Saracen, when the tomb is opened, evades, seen by no one but Tristan,
and becomes the apostate's by no means guardian devil. Then we have the
introduction of the Maid (whom Tristan is specially set by his master to
catch), the siege of Orleans and the rest of it, to the tragedy of
Rouen.

Up to this point--that is to say, for some seven-eighths of the book--I
confess that I did not, and do not, think much of it. I am very fond of
fighting in novels; and of _diablerie_ even "more than reason"; and of
the Middle Ages; and of many other things connected with the work. But
it does not seem to me well managed or well told. One never can make out
whether the "Sarrazin" is, as he is actually sometimes called, Satan
himself, or not. If he is not, why call him so? If he is, why was there
so little evidence of his being constantly employed in fighting with M.
de Karnak between the Battle of Poitiers (not ours, but the other) and
the Siege of Orleans? I love my Dark and Middle Ages; but I should say
that there was considerable diabolic activity in them, outside tombs. Or
was the Princedom of the Air "in commission" all that time? Minor
improbabilities constantly jar, and there are numerous small blunders of
fact[364] of the unintentional kind, which irritate more than
intentional ones of some importance.

But at the end the book improves quite astonishingly. Tristan, as has
been said, has been specially commissioned by the fiend to effect the
ruin of Joan. He has induced his half-brother, Gilles de Retz--not,
indeed, to take the English side, for patriotism, as is well known, was
the one redeeming point of that extremely loathsome person, but--to join
the seigneurs who were malcontent with her, and if possible drug her and
violate her, a process, as we have seen, quite congenial, hereditarily
as well as otherwise, to M. de Laval. He is foiled, of course, and
pardoned. But Tristan himself openly takes the English side, inflicts
great damage on his countrymen, and after our defeat at the bastilles or
bastides round Orleans, resumes his machinations against Joan, helps to
effect her capture, and does his utmost to torment and insult her, and
if possible resume Gilles's attempt, in her imprisonment; while, on the
contrary, his brother Olivier (they are both disguised as monks) works
on her side, nearly saves her,[365] and attends her on the scaffold. It
is somewhat earlier than this that the author, as has been said, "wakes
up" and wakes _us_ up. When Tristan, admitted to Joan's cell, designs
the same outrage to which he had counselled his brother, it is the
Maid's assumption of her armour to protect herself from him that (in
this point for once historically) seals her fate. But at the very last
his hatred is changed, _not_ at all impossibly or improbably, to violent
love as she smiles on him from the fire; and he sees the legendary dove
mount to heaven, after he himself has flung to her, at her dying cry, an
improvised crucifix, or at least cross. And then a choice miracle
happens, told with almost all the vigour of the "Vin de Porto" itself.
Tristan seeks absolution, but is, though not harshly, refused, before
penitence and penance. He begs his brother Olivier's pardon, and is
again refused--this time with vituperation--but bears it calmly. He
takes, meekly, more insult from the very executioner. At last he makes
the sign of the compact and summons the "Saracen" fiend. And then, after
a very good conversation, in which the Devil uses all his powers of
sarcasm to show his victim that, as usual, he has sold his soul for
naught, Tristan draws his sword, calls on the Trinity, Our Lady, and
Joan, and one of the strangest though not of the worst fights in fiction
begins.

The Red Bastard is himself almost a giant; but the Saracen is a fiend,
and though it seems that in this case the Devil _can_ be dead, he can,
it seems also, only be killed at Poitiers in his original tomb. So

    They wrestle up, they wrestle down,
    They wrestle still and sore,

for two whole years, the Demon constantly giving ground and misleading
his enemy as much as he can. But Tristan, in the strength of repentance
and with Joan's unseen help, lives, fights, and forces the fiend back
over half France and half the world. By a good touch, after long combat,
the Devil tries to tempt his adversary on the side of chivalry, asking
to be allowed to drink at a stream on a burning day, to warm himself at
a fire they pass in a snow-storm, to rest a moment. But Tristan has the
single word "Non!" for any further pact with or concession to the Evil
One; the two years' battle wears away his sin; and at last he finds
himself pressing his fainting foe towards the very tomb in the fields of
Poitou. It opens, and the combatants entering, find themselves by the
actual graves. They drop their swords and now literally wrestle. Tristan
wins, throws the Saracen into his own tomb, and runs him through the
body, once more inflicting on him such death as he may undergo.[366]

There is a grandiose extravagance about it which is really
Oriental;[367] and perhaps it was this which conciliated Robertson
Smith, as it certainly reconciled me.

[Sidenote: _Antonine._]

A third "book of the beginning," _Antonine_, is far inferior to these.
It is, in fact, little more than a decentish Paul-de-Kockery, with a
would-be philosophical conclusion. Two young men, Gustave Daunont and
Edmond de Péreux, saunter after breakfast looking for young ladies'
ankles, and Edmond sees a pair so beautiful that he follows the
possessor and her unobservant father home. Having then ascertained that
the father is a doctor, he adopts the surprisingly brilliant expedient
of going to consult him, and so engineering an entry. _He_ thinks there
is nothing the matter with him; but the doctor (it was apparently "at
temp. of tale"--1834, while the port was getting ready,--the practice of
French physicians, to receive their patients in dressing-gowns)
discovers that he is in an advanced stage of Dumas _fils'_ favourite
_poitrine_. He says, however, nothing about it (which seems odd) to his
patient, merely prescribing roast-meat and Bordeaux; but (which seems
odder) he _does_ mention it to his daughter Antonine, the Lady with the
Ankles. For the moment nothing happens. But Gustave the friend has for
mistress an adorable _grisette_--amiability, in the widest sense, _nez
retroussé_, garret, and millinery all complete--whom Madame de Péreux,
Edmond's mother--a _sainte_, but without prejudices--tolerates, and in
fact patronises. It is arranged that Nichette shall call on Antonine to
ask, as a milliner, for her custom. Quite unexpected explanations follow
in a not uningenious manner, and the explosion is completed by Edmond's
opening (not at all treacherously) a letter addressed to Gustave and
containing the news of his own danger. The rest of the story need not be
told at length. A miraculous cure effected by M. Devaux, Antonine's
father; marriage of the pair; pensioning off of Nichette, and marriage
of Gustave to another adorable girl (ankles not here specified);
establishment of Nichette at Tours in partnership with a respectable
friend, etc., etc., can easily be supplied by any novel-reader.

But here the young author's nascent seriousness, and his still existing
Buskbody superstition, combine to spoil the book, not merely, as in the
_Tristan_ case, to top-hamper it. Having given us eight pages of rather
cheap sermonising about the poetry of youth not lasting; having
requested us to imagine Manon and Des Grieux "decrepit and catarrhous,"
Paul and Virginie shrivelled and toothless, Werther and Charlotte united
but wrinkled,[368] he proceeds to tell us how, though Gustave and his
Laurence are as happy as they can be, though Nichette has forgotten her
woes but kept her income and is married to a book-seller, things are not
well with the other pair. Antonine loves her husband frantically, but he
has become quite indifferent to her--says, indeed, that he really does
not know whether he ever _did_ love her. Later still we take leave of
him, his "poetry" having ended in a prefecture, and his passion in a
_liaison_, commonplace to the _n_th, with a provincial lawyer's wife.
_La moralité de cette comédie_ (to quote, probably not for the first
time, or I hope the last, words of Musset which I particularly like)
would appear to be--first, that to secure lasting happiness in matrimony
it is desirable, if not necessary, to have lived for eighteen months
antenuptially with a charming _grisette_--amiability, _nez retroussé_,
garret, and millinery all complete--_or_ to have yourself been this
grisette; while, on the other hand, it is an extremely dangerous thing
to recover a man of his consumption. Which last result the folklorists
would doubtless assimilate to the well-known superstition of the shore
as to the rescue of the drowning.

[Sidenote: _La Vie à Vingt Ans._]

Two other early books of this author promise the Pauline influence in
their titles and do not belie it in their contents, though in varying
way and degree. Indeed, the first story of _La Vie à Vingt Ans_--that of
a schoolboy who breaks his bounds and "sells his dictionaries" to go to
the Bal de l'Opéra; receives, half in joy, half in terror, an
assignation from a masked _débardeur_, and discovers her to be an aged
married woman with a drunken husband (the pair knowing from his card
that his uncle is a Deputy, and having determined to get a _débit de
tabac_ out of him)--made me laugh as heartily as the great Paul himself
can ever have made Major Pendennis. The rest--they are all stories of
the various amatory experiences of a certain Emmanuel de Trois Étoiles,
and have a virtuous epilogue extolling pure affection and honest
matrimony--are inferior, the least so being that of the caprice-love of
a certain Augustine, Emmanuel's neighbour on his staircase, who admits
only one other lover and finally marries _him_, but conceives a frantic
though passing affection for her _voisin_. Unluckily there is in this
book a sort of duplicate but, I think, earlier sketch of the atrocious
conduct of Duval to the Dame aux Camélias; and there are some of the
author's curious "holes where you can put your hand" (as a Jacobean poet
says of the prosodic licences in nomenclature and construction of his
fellows).

[Sidenote: _Aventures de Quatre Femmes._]

The other, much longer, and much more ambitious and elaborate book,
_Aventures de Quatre Femmes et d'un Perroquet_, seems to me on the whole
worse than any just mentioned, though it at least attempts to fly higher
than _Antonine_. It begins by one of those _goguenardises_ which 1830
itself had loved, but it is not a good specimen. Two men who have
determined on suicide--one by shooting, one by hanging--meet at the same
tree in the Bois de Boulogne and wrangle about possession of the spot,
till the aspirant to suspension _per coll._ recounts his history from
the branch on which he is perched. After which an unlucky thirdsman,
interfering, gets shot, and buried _as_ one of the others--"which is
witty, let us 'ope," as the poetical historian of the quarrel between
Mr. Swinburne and Mr. Buchanan observes of something else.[369] As the
book begins with two attempted and disappointed suicides, so it ends
with two accomplished ones. A great part, and not the least readable, is
occupied by a certain English Countess of Lindsay (for Dumas the
younger, like Crébillon the younger, commits these _scandala magnatum_
with actual titles). The hero is rather a fool, and not much less of a
knave than he should be. His somewhat better wife is an innocent
bigamist, thinking him dead; and one of the end-suicides is that of her
second husband, who, finding himself _de trop_, benevolently makes way.
As for the parrot, he nearly spoils the story at the beginning by
"_singing_" (which I never heard a parrot do), and atones at the end by
getting poisoned without deserving it. I am afraid I must call it a
rather silly book.

It does not, however, lack the cleverness with which silliness,
especially in the young _and_ the old, is often associated, and so does
not break the assignment of that quality to its author. All these five
books were produced (with others) in a very few years, by a man who was
scarcely over twenty when he began and was not thirty when he wrote the
last of them. Now people sometimes write wonderful poetry when they are
very young, because, after all, a poet is not much more than a
mouthpiece of the Divine, whose spirit bloweth where it listeth. But it
is not often that they write thoroughly good novels till, like other
personages who have to wait for their "overseership" up to thirty, they
have had time and opportunity roughly to scan and sample life. There is,
in this work of Alexander the younger, plenty of imitation, of
convention, of that would-be knowingness which is the most amusing form
of ignorance, etc., etc. But there is a good deal more: and especially
there is plenty of the famous _diable au corps_, of _verve_, of "go," of
refusal to be content with one rut and one model. And all this came
once, even at this period, in _La Dame aux Camélias_, to something which
I shall not call a masterpiece, but which certainly is a powerful thesis
for the attainment of the master's degree.

[Sidenote: _Trois Hommes Forts._]

Perhaps there is no better example of the curious mixture of _verve_,
variety, and vigorous hitting-off which characterised the youth of Dumas
_fils_ than _Trois Hommes Forts_--a book of the exact middle of the
century, which begins with an idyll, passing into a tragedy; continues
with a lively ship-and-yellow-fever scene; plunges into a villainous
conspiracy against virtue and innocence diversified with a
bull-throwing; and winds up with another killing, which, this time, _is_
no murder; a trial, after which and an acquittal the accused and the
Crown Prosecutor embrace before (and amidst the chalorous applause of)
the whole Court; not forgetting a final _panache_ of happy
marriage between innocence, a very little damaged, and the
bull-thrower-avenger-_ouvrier_, Robert. It is of course pure
melodrama--_Minnigrey_ and the Porte-Saint-Martin pleasantly
accommodated. But it is not too long; it never drags; and it knocks
about in the cheerfullest "pit-box-and-gallery" fashion from first to
last. When the wicked "Joseph le Mendiant," _alias_ M. Valéry, _alias_
Frédéric Comte de La Marche[370]--who has stabbed a priest with one hand
and throttled an old woman with the other; then made a fortune in
Madagascar; then nearly died of yellow-fever on board ship, but
recovered (something after the fashion of one of Marryat's heroes) by
drinking a bottle of Madeira; then gone home and bought an estate and
given himself the above title; then seduced the innocent sister of the
person who heard his confession; then tried to marry a high-born
maiden;[371] then threatened to betray the sister's shame if her
brother "tells"--when this villain has his skull broken by Robert, all
right-minded persons will clap their hands sore. But remembrance of one
passage at the beginning may "leave a savour of sorrow." Could you, even
in Meridional France, to-day procure a breakfast consisting of truffled
pigs' feet, truffled thrush, tomato omelette (I should bar the
tomatoes), and strawberries in summer, or "quatre-mendiants" (figs,
nuts, and almonds and raisins) in winter, _with_ a bottle of sound
Roussillon or something like it, for three francs? Alas! one fears not.

[Sidenote: _Diane de Lys._]

_Diane de Lys_, a little later than most of the books just mentioned,
and one, I think, of the first to be dramatised, so announcing the
author's change of "kind," acquired a certain fame by being made (in
which form I am not certain, but probably as a play) the subject of one
of those odd "condemnations" by which the Second Empire occasionally
endeavoured to show itself the defender of morality and the prop of
family and social life. I do not think that Flaubert and Baudelaire had
much reason to pride themselves on their predecessor in this particular
pillory. Alexander the younger is not here even a coppersmith; his metal
is, to me, not attractive at all. The Marquise de Lys is one of those
beauties, half Greek, half Madonnish, and wholly regular-scholastic, to
whom it has been the habit of modern novelists and poets to assign what
our Elizabethan ancestors would have called "cold hearts and hot
livers." Dumas _fils'_ theory--for he must, Heaven help him! always have
one[372]--is that it all depends on ennui. I know not. At any rate,
Diane is not a heroine that I should recommend, for personal
acquaintance, to myself or my friends. With one of those rather silly
excuses which chequer his cleverness equally, whether they are made
honestly or with tongue in cheek, our author says: "On va sans doute
nous dire que nous présentons un caractère impossible, que nous faisons
de l'immoralité" (which the compositors of the stereotyped edition
pleasantly misprint "immor_t_alité"), etc. Far be it from me to say that
any woman is impossible. I would only observe that when Diane, neglected
by and neglecting her husband for some two years, determines to take a
lover, being vexed at the idea of reaching the age of thirty without
having one; when she takes him without any particular preference, as one
might call a cab from a longish rank, and then has a fancy to make a
scientific comparison of forgotten joys with her husband, deciding
finally that there is nothing like alternation--when, I say, she does
this, I think she is not quite nice.[373] Nor does her school-friend
Marceline Delaunay--who, being herself a married woman irreproachably
faithful to her own husband, makes herself a go-between, at least of
letters, for Diane--seem very nice either. It is fair to say that Mme.
Delaunay gets punished in the latter part of the story, which any one
may read who likes. It is, if not white, a sort of--what shall we
say?--French grey, compared with the opening.

[Sidenote: Shorter stories--_Une Loge à Camille_.]

That standard edition of _Diane de Lys_ which has enabled us to pick up
such a pleasant _coquille d'imprimerie_ contains three shorter stories
(_Diane_ itself is not very long). Two or them are not worth much: _Ce
qu'on ne sait pas_ is a pathetic _grisetterie_, something of the class
of Musset's _Frédéric et Bernerette_; _Grangette_ deals with the very
true but very common admonition that in being "on with" two loves at
once there is always danger, particularly when, as M. le Baron Francis
de Maucroix does here, you write them letters (to save time) in exactly
the same phraseology. Neither love, Adeline the countess or the
Gris-Grang-ette, is disagreeable; indeed Francis himself is a not
detestable idiot, and there is a comfortable conversation as he sits at
Adeline's feet in proper morning-call costume, with his hat and stick
on a chair. (Even kneeling would surely be less dangerous, from the
point of view of recovering a more usual attitude when another caller
comes.) But the whole thing is slight. The third and last, however, _Une
Loge à Camille_, is the only thing in the whole volume that is
thoroughly recommendable. It begins with an obviously "felt" and "lived"
complaint of the woes which dramatic authors perhaps most of all, but
others more or less, experience from that extraordinary
inconsecutiveness (to put it mildly) of their acquaintances which makes
people--who, to do them justice, would hardly ask for five, ten, or
fifty shillings except as a loan, with at least pretence of
repayment--demand almost, or quite, as a right, a box at the theatre or
a copy of a book. This finished, an example is given in which the
hapless playwright, having rashly obliged a friend, becomes (very much
in the same way in which Mr. Nicodemus Easy killed several persons on
the coast of Sicily) responsible for the breach, not merely of a
left-handed yet comparatively harmless _liaison_, but of a formal
marriage, the knitting of a costly and disreputable amour, a duel, an
imprisonment for debt, and--for himself--the abiding reputation of
having corrupted, half ruined, and driven into enlistment for Africa a
guileless scientific student. It is good and clean fun throughout.[374]

[Sidenote: _Le Docteur Servans._]

[Sidenote: _Le Roman d'une Femme_.]

Some others must have shorter shrift. One volume of the standard edition
contains two stories, _Le Docteur Servans_ and _Un Cas de Rupture_. The
latter is short and not very happy, beginning with a rather feeble
following of Xavier de Maistre,[375] continuing with stock
_liaison_-matter, and ending rather vulgarly. Let us, however, give
thanks to Alexander the younger in that he nobly defends the sacred
persons of our English ladies against the venerable Gallic calumny of
large feet, though he unhappily shows imperfect knowledge of the idioms
of our language by using "Lady" as if it were like "Milady": "Reprit
Lady," "Lady vit," etc. _Le Docteur Servans_ is more substantial, though
itself not very long. It is a rather well-engineered story (illustrative
of a fact to be noticed presently in regard to much of its author's
work) about a benevolent doctor who, at first as a method of kindness
and then as a method of testing character, "makes believe," and makes
others believe, that he has the secret of Resurrection.[376] On the
other hand, I have only read _Le Roman d'une Femme_ in the beloved
little old Belgian edition which gave one one's first knowledge of so
many pleasant things, and the light-weighting and large print of which
are specially suitable to fiction. Putting one thing aside, it is not
one of its author's greatest triumphs. It begins with a good deal of
that rather nauseous gush about the adorable candour of young persons
which, in a French novel, too often means that the "blanche colombe"
will become a very dingy dunghill hen before long--as duly happens here.
There is, however, a chance for the novel reader of comparing the
departure of two of these white doves[377] from their school-dovecot
with that of Becky and Amelia from Miss Pinkerton's. And I must admit
that, after a middle of commonplace grime, the author works up an end of
complicated and by no means unreal tragedy.

[Sidenote: The habit of quickening up at the end.]

The point referred to about the two principal books just noticed, and
indeed about Alexander the Younger's books generally, is the remarkable
faculty--and not merely faculty but actual habit--which he displays, of
turning an uninteresting beginning into an interesting end. I cannot
remember any other novelist, in any of the literatures with which I am
acquainted, who possesses, or at least uses, this odd gift to anything
like the same degree. On the contrary, some of the greatest--far greater
than he is--give results exactly contrary. Lady Louisa Stuart's reproach
to Scott for "huddling up" his conclusions is well known and by no means
ill-justified, while Sir Walter is far from being a solitary sinner. I
must leave it to those who have given more study than I have to drama,
especially modern drama, to decide whether this had anything to do with
the fact that Dumas turned to the other kind. The main fact itself
admits, as far as my experience and opinion go, of absolutely no
dispute. Again and again, not merely in _Le Docteur Servans_ and _Le
Roman d'une Femme_, but in _La Dame aux Camélias_ itself, in _Tristan le
Roux_, in _Les Aventures de Quatre Femmes_, and in others still, I have
been, at first reading, on the point of dropping the book. But, owing to
the mere "triarian" habit of never giving up an appointed post, I have
been able to turn my defeat (and his, as it seemed to me) into a
victory, which no doubt I owe to him, but which has something of my own
in it too. His heroes very frequently disgust and his heroines do not
often delight me; I have "seen many others" than his baits of
voluptuousness; he does not amuse me like Crébillon; nor thrill me like
Prévost in the unique moment; nor interest me like his closest
successor, Feuillet. I cannot place his work, despite the excellence of
his mere writing, high as great literature. He is altogether on a lower
level than Flaubert or Maupassant; and one could not think of evening
him with Hugo in one way, with Balzac in another, with his own father in
a third, with Gautier or Mérimée in a fourth. But he does, somehow or
other, manage that, in the evening time, there shall be such light as he
can give; and I am bound to acknowledge this as a triumph of craft, if
not of actual art. That while a gift and a remarkable one, it is rather
a dangerous gift for a novelist to rely on, needs little argument.

[Sidenote: _Contes et Nouvelles._]

The formally titled _Contes et Nouvelles_ do not contain very much of
the first interest. In the opening one there is a lady who, not perhaps
in the context quite tastefully, remarks that "Nous avons toutes notre
calvaire," her own Golgotha consisting of the duty of adjusting "the
extremist devotion" to her husband with "remembrance" (there was a good
deal to remember) of her lover "to her last heart-beat." To help her to
perform this self-immolation, she bids the lover leave her, refuses him,
and that repeatedly, permission to return, till, believing himself
utterly cast off, he makes up his mind to love a very nice girl whom his
parents want him to marry. _Then_ the self-Calvarised lady promptly
discovers that she wants him again; and as he, acknowledging her claim,
does not disguise his actual state of feeling, she, though going off in
a huff, tells him that she had never meant him either to leave her at
first or to accept her command not to return. All this, no doubt, is not
unfeminine in the abstract; but the concrete telling of it required more
interesting personages. _Le Prix de Pigeons_ is a good-humoured
absurdity about an English scientific society, which offers a prize of
£2000 to anybody who can eat a pigeon every day for a month; _Le Pendu
de la Piroche_, a fifteenth-century anecdote, which may be a sort of
_brouillon_ for _Tristan_; _Césarine_, a fortune-telling tale. But _La
Boîte d'Argent_, the story of a man who got rid of his heart and found
himself none the better for getting it back again (the circumstances in
each case being quite different from those of _Das kalte Herz_), and _Ce
que l'on voit tous les jours_, a sketch of "scenes" between keeper and
mistress, but of much wider application, go far above the rest of the
book. The first (which is of considerable length and very cleverly
managed in the change from ordinary to extraordinary) only wants "that"
to be first-rate. The second shows in the novelist the command of
dialogue-situation and of dialogue itself which was afterwards to stand
the playwright in such good stead.

[Sidenote: _Ilka._]

Some forty years afterwards--indeed I think posthumously--another
collection appeared, with, for main title, that of its first story,
_Ilka_. Subject to the caution, several times already given, of the
inadequacy of a foreigner's judgment, I should say that it shows a great
improvement in mere style, but somewhat of a falling off in originality
and _verve_. The most interesting thing, perhaps, is an anecdote of the
author's youth, when, having in the midst of a revolution extracted the
mighty sum of two hundred francs in one bank-note from a publisher for a
bad novel (he does not tell us which), he gives it to a porter to
change, and the messenger being delayed, entertains the direst
suspicions (which turn out to be quite unjust) of the poor fellow's
honesty. The sketch of mood is capitally done, and is set off by a most
pleasant introduction of Dumas _père_. More ambitious but less
successful, except as mere descriptive _ecphrases_,[378] are the
title-story of a beautiful model posing, and _Le Songe d'une Nuit
d'Été_, with a companion picture of two lovers bathing at night; _Pile
ou Face_ (a girl who is so divided between two lovers that a friend
advises her to toss up, with the pessimist-satiric addition that no
doubt, between tossing and marriage, she will be sorry she did not take
the other, but afterwards will forget all about him) is slighter; and
_Au Docteur J. P._ looks like a kind of study for a longer novel or at
least a more elaborate novel-hero.[379]

[Sidenote: _Affaire Clémenceau._]

And so, at last, we may come to the book which curiously carries out,
with a slight deflection, but an almost equivalent intensification, of
meaning, what has been observed before of others--the singular habit
which Dumas _fils_ has of quickening up for the run-in. This book was,
I believe, in all important respects actually his run-in for the
novel-prize; and what he had hitherto shown in the conduct of individual
books he now showed in regard to his whole novel-list, betaking himself
thenceforward, though he had nearly a third of a century to live, to the
theatre, to pamphlets, etc. Against _Affaire Clémenceau_[380] there are
some things to be said, and in criticism, not necessarily hostile, a
great many about it. But nobody who knows strength when he sees it can
deny that this is a strong book from start to finish. I can very well
remember the hubbub it caused when it first appeared, and the debates
about "Tue-la!" but I did not then read it, having, as I have confessed,
a sort of prejudice--not then or at any time common with me--against the
author--a prejudice strengthened rather than weakened by reviews of the
book. What did I care (I am bound to say that I might add, "What _do_ I
care?") about discussions whether if somebody breaks the Seventh
Commandment to your discomfort you may break the Sixth to theirs? Did I
want diatribes on the non-moral character of women, or anything of that
sort? I wanted an interesting story; an attractive (no matter in what
fashion) heroine; a hero who is a gentleman, if possible, a man anyhow;
and I did not think I should find them here. _Now_, I can "dichotomise"
to some extent; and I can get an interesting story, striking moments, if
not exactly an attractive heroine or hero, at any rate such as take
their part in the interest, though I may have crows to pluck with them.
It is, once more, a strong book: it is nearly--though I do not think
quite--a great book. And to all sportsmanlike lovers of letters it is,
despite its discomfortable matter, a comfortable book, because it shows
us a considerable man of letters who has never yet, save perhaps in _La
Dame aux Camélias_, quite "come off," coming off beyond all fair doubt
or reasonable question.

[Sidenote: Story of it.]

Probably a good many people know the story of it, but certainly some do
not. It can be told pretty shortly. Pierre Clémenceau, the _fils
naturel_ (for this _vulnus_ is _eternum_) of a linen-draperess, is made,
partly on account of his birth, unhappy at school, being especially
tormented by an American-Italian boy, André Minati, whom, however, he
thrashes, and who dies--but not of the thrashing. The father of another
and _not_ hostile school-fellow, Constantin Ritz, is a sculptor, and
accident helps him to discover the same vocation in young Clémenceau,
who is taken into his protector's household as well as his studio, and
makes great progress in his art--the one thing he cares for. He goes,
however, a very little into society, and one evening meets a remarkable
Russian-Polish Countess, whose train (for it is a kind of fancy ball) is
borne by her thirteen-year-old daughter Iza, dressed as a page. The girl
is extraordinarily beautiful, and Clémenceau, whose heart is practically
virgin, falls in love with her, child as she is; improving the
acquaintance by making a drawing of her when asleep, as well as later a
bust from actual sittings, _gratis_. After a time, however, the
Countess, who has some actual and more sham "claims" in Poland and
Russia, returns thither. Years pass, during which, however, Pierre hears
now and then from Iza in a mixed strain of love and friendship, till at
last he is stung doubly, by news that she is to marry a young Russian
noble named Serge, and by a commission for the trousseau to be supplied
by his mother,[381] who has retired from business. The correspondence
changes to sharp reproach on his part and apparently surprised
resentment on hers. But before long she appears in person (the Serge
marriage having fallen through), and, to speak vernacularly, throws
herself straight at Pierre's head, even offering to be his mistress if
she cannot be his wife.[382] They are married, however, and spend not
merely a honeymoon, but nearly a honey-year in what is, in _Hereward the
Wake_, graciously called "sweet madness," the madness, however, being
purely physical, though so far genuine, on her side, spiritual as well
as physical on his. The central scene of the book (very well done) gives
a picture of Iza insisting on bathing in a stream running through the
park (private, but practically open to the public) of the house lent to
them. When her husband has brought her warm milk in a chased-silver cup
of their host's, she casts it, empty, on the ground, and on the
husband's exclamation, "Take care!" replies coolly, "What does it
matter? It isn't _mine_."

This may be said to be the third warning-bell; but though it shocks even
the "ensorceressed" Pierre for the moment, his infatuation continues. At
last he begins to have an idea that people look askance at him; trains
of suspicion are laid; after one or two clever evasions of Iza's, the
usual "epistolary communication" forces the matter, and Constantin Ritz
at last tells the unhappy husband that not merely has "Serge"
reappeared, but there are nearly half-a-dozen "others," and that doubts
have even been suggested as to connivance on Pierre's part--doubts
strengthened by Iza's treacherous complaints as to her husband having
employed her as a model. A violent scene follows, Iza brazening it out,
and calmly demanding separation. Clémenceau goes to Rome after forcing a
duel on Serge and wounding him; but the blow has weakened, if not
destroyed, his powers in art. Fresh scandals follow, and the
irresistible Iza seduces Constantin himself, characteristically
communicating the fact in an anonymous letter to her miserable husband.
He returns (for the second time), takes no vengeance on his friend, but
sees his wife. The interview provides an audaciously devised but finely
executed curtain. She calmly proposes--how shall we say it?--to "put
herself in commission." She loves nobody but him, she says, and knows he
has loved, loves, and will love nobody but her. He ought, originally,
to have taken her offer of being his mistress, and then no harm would
have happened. She would really like to go back with him to Saint-Assise
(the honeymoon place). Suppose they do? As for _living_ with him and
being "faithful" to him--that is impossible. But she will come to him,
at his whistle, whenever he likes, and be absolutely his for a day and a
night and a morrow. In fact he may begin at once if he likes: and she
puts her arms round his neck and her mouth to his. He takes her at her
word; but when the night is half passed and she is asleep, he gently
rises, goes into the next room, fetches a stiletto paper-knife with
which he has seen her playing, half wakes her, asks her if she loves
him, to which, still barely conscious, she answers "Yes!" with a
half-formed kiss on her lips. Then he stabs her dead with a single blow,
leaving the house quietly, and giving himself up to the police at dawn.

[Sidenote: Criticism of it and of its author's work generally.]

If anybody asks me, "Is this well done?" expecting me to enter on the
discussion of the _lex non scripta_, I shall reply that this is not my
trade. But if the question refers to the merits of the handling, I can
reply as confidently as the dying Charmian, "It is well done, and
fitting for a novelist." In no book, as it seems to me, has the author
obtained such a complete command of his subject or reeled out his story
with such steady confidence and fluency. No doubt he sometimes preaches
too much.[383] The elder Ritz's advice against suicide, for instance, if
sound is superfluous. But this is not a very serious evil, and the
steady _crescendo_ of interest which prevails throughout the story
carries it off. There are also numerous separate passages of real
distinction, the fateful bathing-scene being, as it should be, the best,
except the finale; but others, such as the history of Pierre's first
modelling from the life, being excellent. The satire on the literary
coteries of the Restoration is about the best thing of the kind that the
author has done; and many of the "interiors"--always a strong point with
him--are admirable. It is on the point of character that the chief
questions may arise; but here also there seems to me to be only one of
these--it is true it is the most important of all--on which there should
be much debate. The succumbing of Constantin seems perhaps a little more
justifiable by its importance to the story than by its intrinsic
probability.[384] Clémenceau seems to me "constant to himself," or in
the "good childlikeness" of his character, throughout; and to ask
whether it was necessary to make him smash the bust that he finds in
Serge's possession seems to be equivalent to asking whether it was
necessary to put the Vice-Consul of Tetuan in petticoats.[385] It is
only about Iza herself that there can be much dispute. Has that process
synthetic which is spoken of elsewhere been carried too far with her?
Have doses of childlikeness, beauty, charm, ill-nature, sensual
appetite, etc., been taken too "boldly" (in technical doctors' sense)
and mixed too crudely to measure? A word or two may be permissible on
this.

I do not think that Iza is an impossible personage; nor do I think that
she is even an improbable one to such an extent as to bar her out,
possible or impossible. But I am not sure that she is not rather
arbitrarily synthetised instead of being re-created, or that she, though
possible and not quite improbable, is not singly abnormal[386] to the
verge of monstrosity. It must be evident to any reader of tolerable
acuteness that the obsession of _Manon Lescaut_ has not left Dumas
_fils_. Although the total effect of Manon and of Iza is very different,
and although they are differently "staged," their resemblances in
detail are very great; and, to speak paradoxically, the differences are
almost more resembling still. Iza offers herself as mistress if there
are any difficulties in the way of her being a wife; would, in fact, as
she admits long afterwards, have preferred the less honourable, but also
less fettering, estate. On the other hand, be it remembered, it was
something of an accident that Manon and Des Grieux were _not_ actually
married. The two women are alike in their absolute insistence on luxury
and pleasure before anything else; but they differ in that Iza does--as
we said Manon did _not_, or did not specially--want "what Messalina
wanted." On the other hand, Iza is ill-natured and Manon is not. In
these respects we may say that the Manon-formula has passed through that
of Madame de Merteuil, and bears unpleasant signs of the passage. Manon
repents, which Iza never could do. But they agree in the courtesan
essence--the readiness to exchange for other things that commodity of
theirs which should be given only for love. I never wish to supply my
readers with problem-tabloids; but I think that in this paragraph I have
supplied them with materials for working out the double question, "Is
Iza less human than Manon? and if so, why?" for themselves, as well as,
if by any chance they should care to do so, of guessing my own answers
to it.[387]

[Sidenote: Reflections.]

It is more germane to custom and purpose here to add a few general
remarks on the story, and more, but still few, on its author's general
position. _Affaire Clémenceau_ is certainly, as has been said before,
his strongest book, and, especially if taken together with _La Dame aux
Camélias_ (which, if less free from faults, contains some different
merits), it constitutes a strong thesis or diploma-piece for all but the
highest degree as a novelist. Taking in the others which have been
surveyed, we must also acknowledge in the author an unusually wide range
and a great display of faculty--even of faculties--almost all over that
range, though perhaps in no other case than the two selected has he
thoroughly mastered and firmly held the ground which he has attempted to
win. If he has not--if _Tristan le Roux_ is, on the whole, only a
second- or third-rate historical romance; _Trois Hommes Forts_ a fair
and competent, but not thrilling melodrama, and so on, and so on--it is
no doubt partly, to speak with the sometimes useful as well as engaging
irrationality of childhood, "because he couldn't." But I think it is
also because of something that can be explained. It was because he was
far too prone to theorise about men and women and to make his books
attempted demonstrations, or at least illustrations, of his theories.
Now, to theorise about men is seldom very satisfactory; but to theorise
about women is to weigh gossamer and measure moonbeams. The very wisest
thing ever said about them is said in the old English couplet:

    Some be lewd, and some be shrewd,
        _But all they be not so_,

and I think that our fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century _vates_
showed his wisdom most in sticking to the strict negative in his
exculpatory second line, here italicised.

Now if Alexander the Younger does not absolutely insist that "all they
_be_ so," he goes very near to it, excepting only characters of
insignificant domesticity. When he does give you an "honnête femme" who
is not merely this, such as the Clémentine of the _Roman d'une Femme_ or
the Marceline of _Diane de Lys_, he gives them some queer touches. His
"_shady_ Magdalenes" (with apologies to one of the best of parodies for
spoiling its double rhyme) and his even more shady, because more
inexcusable, _marquises_; his adorable innocents, who let their
innocence vanish "in the heat of the moment" (as the late Mr. Samuel
Morley said when he forgot that Mr. Bradlaugh was an atheist), because
the husbands pay too much attention to politics; and his affectionate
wives, like the Lady in _Thérèse_,[388] who supply their missing
husbands' place just for once, and forget all about it--these _might_ be
individually creatures of fact, but as a class they _are_ creatures of
theory. And theory never made a good novel yet: it is lucky if it has
sometimes, but too rarely, failed to make a good into a bad one. But it
has been urged--and with some truth as regards at least the later forms
of the French novel--that it is almost founded on theory, and certainly
Dumas _fils_ can be cited in support--perhaps, indeed, he is the first
important and thoroughgoing supporter. And this of itself justifies the
place and the kind of treatment allotted to him here, the justification
being strengthened by the fact that he, after Beyle, and when Beyle's
influence was still little felt, was a leader of a new class of
novelist, that he is the first novelist definitely of the Second Empire.

FOOTNOTES:

[349] As, for instance, in _A Short History of French Literature_
(Oxford, 7th ed., 1917), pp. 550-552.

[350] At the same time, and admitting (see below) that it is wrong to
meet overpraise with overblame, I think that it may be met with silence,
for the time at any rate.

[351] I have, for reasons unnecessary to particularise, not observed
strict chronological order in noticing his work or that of some others;
but a sufficient "control" will, I hope, be supplied by the Appendix of
dated books under their authors' names as treated in this volume.

[352] I observe with amusement (which may or may not be shared by "the
friends of Mr. Peter Magnus") that I have repeated in the case of Dumas
_fils_ what I said on Crébillon _fils_. The contrast-parallel is indeed
rather striking. Partly it is a case of reversal, for Crébillon _père_
was a most respectable man, most serious, and an academician; the son,
though not personally disreputable, was the very reverse of serious, and
academic neither by nature nor by status. In Dumas' case the father was
extremely lively, and the Academy shuddered or sneered at him; the son
was very serious indeed, and duly academised. Some surprise was, I
remember, occasioned at the time by this promotion. There are several
explanations of it; mine is Alexander the son's fondness for the correct
subjunctive. George Sand, in a note to one of her books (I forget
which), rebelliously says that the speaker in the text _ought_ to have
said, "aimasse," not "aimais," but that he didn't, and she will not make
him do it. On the other hand, I find "aimasse," "haïsse," and "revisse"
in just three lines of _La Dame aux Camélias_. And everybody ought to
know the story of the Immortal who, upon finding a man "where nae mon
should be," and upon that "mon" showing the baseness derived from Adam
by turning on his accomplice and saying, "Quand je vous disais qu'il
était temps que je m'en aille!" neglected _crim. con._ for _crim. gram._
and cried in horror, "Que je m'en all_asse_, Monsieur!" But this
preciseness did not extend to the younger Alexander's choice of
subjects.

[353]

     To whose "music" also our young friends,
     As they tell us, have "lost the key."

[354] Dumas, like other mid-nineteenth century novelists in France and
England both, is perhaps too fond of this complaint. But, after all, it
_does_ "stage" more prettily than appendicitis or typhoid.

[355] Nor is this the only place where _Manon_ figures in the work of
Alexander the younger. Especially in the early books direct references,
more or less obvious, are frequent; and, as will be seen, the
inspiration reappears in his best and almost last novel.

[356] It may perhaps seem to some readers that Janin's own novel-work
should have been noticed earlier. I had at one time thought of doing
this. But his most famous book of the sort, _L'Âne Mort et la Femme
Guillotinée_, is a foolish _fatrasie_ of extravagant, undigested,
unaffecting horrors, from the devouring by dogs of the _live_ donkey, at
the beginning, to the "resurrectioning" of the guillotined woman, at the
end. Sterne has played tricks with many clumsy imitators, but with none
to more destructive effect than in this case. I read it first in the
flush of my early enthusiasm for 1830, and was miserably disappointed; I
tried to read it again the other day, and simply broke down. _Barnave_
is interesting only as referred to by Gautier; and so on. The fact is
that "J. J." was "J. J. _J._"--a journalist merely--with a not
unpleasant frothy ginger-beery style, but with nothing whatever within
it or beyond it.

[357]

     And, with dim-fretted foreheads all,
     On corpses _three_ months old at noon she came.

         (_The Palace of Art._)

[358] If anybody cannot tolerate the stretching he had better abstain
from Alexander the younger's work, for "they all do it" there. The fact
may have conciliated some of our own contemners of "good form."

[359] Every one is entitled to write this word once in his life, I
believe; so I have selected my occasion at last. Of course some one may
say: "You have admitted that he did not know Marguerite's pact with his
father." True; and this might excuse the wrath, but not the way of
showing it.

[360] As I write this I remember a comic experience of fifty years ago.
I was trying to find out the ruins of a certain castle in Brittany, and
appealed, in my very best bad French, to an old road-mender. He scowled
at me, as if it had been in the days of the _Combat des Trente_, and
answered, "_Mais c'est de l'Anglais que vous me parlez là!_"

[361] Another trait of his may not displease readers, though it be not
strictly relevant. I once, perhaps with some faint mischievous intent,
asked him about the competence of Dr. Pusey and of M. Renan in the
sacred tongue. "Pusey," he said, "knew pretty well everything about
Hebrew that there was to be known in his day." He was not quite so
complimentary about Renan; though, as he put his judgment less
pointedly, I do not remember the exact words.

[362] With a bow and arrows, remember; not a Browning pistol.

[363] The indebtedness to Michelet is pretty obvious.

[364] It may be well to illustrate this, lest it be said that having
been more than just to the father (_v. sup._) I am still less than just
to the son. Merlin is made to visit Morgane la Fée in the _eleventh_
century. It is quite true that people generally began to hear about
Merlin and Morgane at that time. But he had then been for about half a
millennium in the sweet prison of the Lady of the Lake--over whom even
Morgane had no power. The English child-King, for whom Bedford was
regent, is repeatedly called Henry _IV_. There would have been quite
other fish for Joan to fry, and other thread for her to retwist, if she
had had to do with Henry of Bolingbroke instead of Henry of Windsor.
Tristan's Mauthe Doog--not a bad kind of hound, though--bears the
"Celtic" name of Thor. Of course all these things are trifles, but they
are annoying and useless. When the father abridged Charles the First's
captivity from years to days, he did it for the good of his story. The
son had no such justification. He is also very careless about minute
joinings of the flats at a most important point of the conclusion (_v.
inf._). Tristan has no sword, begs one of the _bourreau_, and is
refused. He goes straight to church, and immediately afterwards we find
him sword in hand. Where did he get it? By an unmentioned miracle?

[365] Tristan defeats an effort of Xaintrailles to rescue her, in a way
vaguely resembling the defeat, in the greater Alexander's work, of the
rescue of King Charles by the Four.

[366] Unluckily, with a young man's misjudgment, Dumas would not let it
be the actual end, though that is not a couple of pages off. After the
fight Tristan goes out of the tomb to rest himself; and meets the herald
Bretagne, whom he had saved from the wolves in the overture. Bretagne
tells him what has happened since the Maid's death, including the fate
of his half-brother on the father's side, Gilles de Retz, who, like
himself, has repented in time to save his soul, if not his life. Having
also seen afar off a cavalcade in which are Olivier and Alix, now
married and rapturous, Tristan retires into the tomb, which closes over
him. His horse "Baal" and his dogs, the "Celtically" (in the latter case
we may say _Piratically_) named Thor and Brinda, are petrified round its
entrance.

[367] Crusading times, and Jôf or Edessa for Rouen and Poitiers as
places, might seem preferable. But the fifteenth century did a lot of
_diablerie_ in the West.

[368] A curious variant of this fancy of his will be noticed later. What
is more curious still need, perhaps, hardly be indicated for any
intelligent reader--the "sicklying over" of Paul-de-Kockery with a "cast
of thought"--"pale," or "dry," or up to "Old Brown" in strength and
character as it may seem to different people.

[369] As I have received complaints, mild and other, of the frequency of
my unexplained allusions, I may here refer explicitly to Mr. Traill's
_Recaptured Rhymes_; and if anybody, after looking up the book, is not
grateful to me, I am sorry for him. For the commoner practice here I can
only plead that I follow the Golden Rule. Nothing pleases _me_ so much
as an allusion that I understand--except one that I don't and have to
hunt up.

[370] _Rather_ too big a title for an adventurer to meddle with, surely?

[371] He has found out a secret about her. When she learns his crimes
and his fate, she puts an end to herself in a way which I fear Octave
Feuillet borrowed, rather unceremoniously, though he certainly improved
it, in _Julia de Trécoeur_ (_v. inf._). I did not read _Trois Hommes
Forts_ till many years after I had read and praised Feuillet's work.
Also, is it absolutely blasphemous to suggest that the beginning of the
book has a faint likeness to that of _Les Misérables_ much later?

[372] _V. sup._ last chapter, _passim_.

[373] One remembers, as so often, Dr. Johnson to Boswell: "This lady of
yours, Sir, is very fit for," etc.

[374] This is, I think, the best of his short stories. _Thérèse_ is
rather a sermon on the somewhat unsavoury text of morbid appetite in the
other sex, than a real story. The little _Histories Vraies_, which he
wrote with a friend for the _Moniteur_ in 1864, are fairly good. For the
formally entitled _Contes et Nouvelles_ and the collection headed by
_Ilka_, _v. inf._

[375] He represents himself as suffering forty-eight hours of very easy
imprisonment for not mounting guard as a "National," and writing the
story to pass the time.

[376] The author has shown his skill by inducing at least one very old
hand to wonder, for a time at least, whether Dr. Servans is a quack, or
a lunatic, or Hoffmannishly uncanny, when he is, in fact, something
quite different from any of these.

[377] The other, Clémentine (who is not very unlike a more modern Claire
d'Orbe), being not nearly so "candid" as her comrade Marie, continues
honest.

[378] _V. sup._ Vol. I. p. 204.

[379]

[Sidenote: _Revenants. Sophie Printemps._]

Two early and slight books (one of them, perhaps, the "bad" one referred
to above) may find place in a note. _Revenants_ is a fantasy, in which
the three most famous pairs of lovers of the later eighteenth century,
Des Grieux and Manon, Paul and Virginie, Werther and Charlotte, are
revived and brought together (_v. sup._ p. 378). This sort of thing, not
seldom tried, has very seldom been a success; and _Revenants_ can hardly
be said to be one of the lucky exceptions. _Sophie Printemps_ is the
history of a good girl, who, out of her goodness, deliberately marries
an epileptic. It has little merit, except for a large episode or
parenthesis of some forty or fifty pages (nearly a sixth of the book),
telling the prowess of a peremptory but agreeable baron, who first foils
a dishonest banker, and then defends this very banker against an
adventurer more rascally than himself, whom the baron kills in a duel.
This is good enough to deserve extraction from the book, and separate
publication as a short story.

[380] It is constantly called (and I fear I have myself sinned in this
respect) _L'Affaire Clémenceau_. But this is not the proper title, and
does not really fit. It is the heading of a client's instruction--a sort
of irregular "brief"--to the advocate who (_resp. fin._) is to defend
him; and is thus an autobiographic narrative (diversified by a few
"put-in" letters) throughout. The title is the label of the brief.

[381] This is probably meant as the first "fight" on the shady side of
Iza's character; not that, in this instance, she means to insult or
hurt, but that the probability of hurting and insulting does not occur
to her, or leaves her indifferent.

[382] Second "light," and now not dubious, for it is made a point of
later.

[383] It has sometimes amused me to remember that some of the warmest
admirers of Dumas _fils_ have been among the most violent decriers of
Thackeray--_for_ preaching. I suppose they preferred the Frenchman's
texts.

[384] Neither morality, nor friendship, nor anything like sense of "good
form" could be likely to hold him back. But he is represented as nothing
if not _un homme fort_ in character and temperament, who knows his woman
thoroughly, and must perceive that he is letting himself be beaten by
her in the very act of possessing her.

[385] Vide _Mr. Midshipman Easy_.

[386] This phrase may require just a word of explanation. I admitted
(Vol. I. p. 409) the abnormality in _La Religieuse_ as not
disqualifying. But this was not an abnormality of the _individual_.
Iza's is.

[387] Perhaps I may add another subject for those who like it. "Both
Manon and Iza do _prefer_, and so to speak only _love_, the one lover.
Does this in Iza's case aggravate, or does it partially redeem, her
general behaviour?" A less disputable addition, for the reason given
above, may be a fairly long note on the author's work outside of
fiction.

[Sidenote: Note on Dumas _fils'_ drama, etc.]

With the drama which has received such extraordinary encomia (the great
name of Molière having even been brought in for comparison) I have no
exhaustive acquaintance; but I have read enough not to wish to read any
more. If the huge prose tirades of _L'Étrangère_ bore me (as they do) in
the study, what would they do on the stage, where long speeches, not in
great poetry, are always intolerable? (I have always thought it one of
the greatest triumphs of Madame Sarah Bernhardt that, at the very
beginning of her career, she made the heroine of this piece--_if_ she
did so--interesting.) Over the _Fils Naturel_ I confess that even I, who
have struggled with and mastered my thousands, if not my tens of
thousands, of books, broke down hopelessly. _Francillon_ is livelier,
and might, in the earlier days, have made an amusing novel. But
discounting, judicially and not prejudicially, the excessive laudation,
one sees that even here he did what he meant to do, and though there is
higher praise than that, it is praise only too seldom deserved. As for
his Prefaces and Pamphlets, I think nearly as much must be granted; and
I need not repeat what has been said above on the other side. The
charity "puff" of _Les Madeleines Repenties_ is an admirable piece of
rhetoric not seldom reaching eloquence; and it has the not unliterary
side-interest of suggesting the question whether its ironic treatment of
the general estimate of the author as Historiographer Royal to the venal
Venus is genuine irony, or a mere mask for annoyance. The Preface to the
dreary _Fils Naturel_ (it must be remembered that Alexander the Younger
himself was originally illegitimate and only later legitimated), though
rhetorical again, is not dreary at all. It contains a very agreeable
address to his father--he was always agreeable, though with a suspicion
of rather amusing patronage-upside-down, on this subject--and a good
deal else which one would have been sorry to lose. In fact, I can see,
even in the dramas, even in the prose pamphleteering, whether the matter
gives me positive delight or not, evidence of that _competence_, that
not so seldom mastery, of treatment which entitles a man to be
considered not the first comer by a long way.

[388] The obliging gentleman who on this occasion plays the part of
"substitute" in a cricket-match, is the most elaborate and confessed
example of Dumas' "theorised" _men_. He is what the seedsmen call an
"improved Valmont," with more of lion in him than to meddle with
virgins, but absolutely destructive to duchesses and always ready to
suggest substitution to distressed grass-widows.



CHAPTER XI

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT


[Sidenote: The contrast of Flaubert and Dumas _fils_.]

In doing, as may at least be hoped, justice to M. Alexandre Dumas _fils_
in the last chapter, one point was excepted--that though I could rank
him higher than I ever expected to do as a novelist, I could not exactly
rank his work in the highest range of literature. When you compare
him--not merely with those greatest in novel-work already discussed, but
with Musset or Vigny, with Nodier, or with Gérard de Nerval, not to
mention others, there is something which is at once "weird and wanting,"
as the admirable Captain Mayne Reid says at the beginning of _The
Headless Horseman_, though one cannot say here, as there, "By Heavens!
it is 'the head!'" There is head enough of a kind--a not at all unkempt
or uncomely headpiece, very well filled with brains. But it has no
aureole, as the other preferred persons cited in the last sentence and
earlier have. This aureole may be larger or smaller, brighter or less
bright--a full circlet of unbroken or hardly broken splendour, or a sort
of will-o'-the-wisp cluster of gleam and darkness. But wherever it is
found there is, in differing degrees, _literature_ of the highest class;
of the major prose _gentes_; literature that can show itself with
poetry, under its own conditions and with its own possibilities, and
fear no disqualification. Of this I am bound to say I do not find very
much in this second division of our volume, and I find none in Dumas
_fils_. But I find a great deal more than in any one else in Gustave
Flaubert.

[Sidenote: Some former dealings with him.]

As I have said this, the reader may expect, magisterially, dreadingly,
or perhaps in some very "gentle" cases hopefully, a full chapter on
Flaubert. He shall have it. But the same cause, or group of causes,
which has been at work before prevents this from being a very long one,
and from containing very full accounts of his novels. One of the longest
and most careful of those detailed surveys of forty years ago, to which
I have perhaps too often referred, was devoted to Flaubert, and was
slightly supplemented after his death. The earlier form had, though I
did not know it for a considerable time, not displeased himself--a
fortunate result not too common between author and critic[389]--and
there are, consequently, special reasons for leaving it unaltered and
unrehashed. I shall, therefore, as with Balzac and Dumas, attempt a
shorter but more general judgment, which--his work being so much less
voluminous than theirs--may be perhaps even less extensive than in the
other cases,[390] but which should leave no doubt as to the writer's
opinion of his "place in the story."

[Sidenote: His style.]

No small part of that high claim to purely literary rank which has been
made for him rests, of course, upon his mere style--that famous and much
debated "chase of the single word" which, especially since Mr. Pater
took up the discussion of it, has been a "topic" of the most usitate in
England as well as in France. When I left my chair and my library at
Edinburgh I burnt more lecture-notes on the subject than would have
furnished material for an entire chapter here, and I have no intention
of raking my memory for their ashes. The battle on the one side with the
anti-Unitarians who regard "monology" as a fond thing vainly invented,
and on the other with Edmond de Goncourt's foolish and bumptious boast
that Flaubert's epithets were not so "personal" as his own and his
brother's, would be for a different division of literary history. But
there is something--a very important, though not a very long
something--which must be said on the subject here. I have never found
myself in the very slightest degree _gêné_--as the _abonné_ was by
Gautier's and as others are by the styles of Mr. George Meredith and Mr.
Henry James--by Flaubert's style. It has never put the very smallest
impediment, effected the most infinitesimal delay, in my comprehension
of his meaning, or my enjoyment of his art and of his story.[391] What
is more, though it has intensified that enjoyment, it has never--as may
perhaps have been the case with some other great "stylists"--_diverted_,
a little illegitimately, my attention and fruition from the story
itself. Style-craft and story-craft have married each other so perfectly
that they are one flesh for the lover of literature to rejoice in. And
if there be higher praise than this to be bestowed in the cases and
circumstances, I do not know what it is. It seems to belong in
perfection--I do not deny it to others in lesser degree--to three
writers only in this volume--Gautier, Mérimée, and Flaubert--though if
any one pleads hard for the addition of Maupassant, it will be seen when
we come to him that I am not bound to a rigid _non possumus_; and though
there is still one living writer with whom, if he were not happily
disqualified by the fact of his living, I should not refuse to complete
the Pentad. But let this suffice for the mere point of style in its
purer and therefore more controversial aspect. There may be a little
more to say incidentally as we take the general survey under the old
heads of plot, etc. But before doing this we must--the books being so
few and so individually remarkable--say a little about each of them,
though only a very little about one.

[Sidenote: The books--_Madame Bovary_.]

Flaubert, after fairly early promise, the fulfilment of which was
postponed, began late, and was a man of eight and thirty when his first
complete book, _Madame Bovary_, appeared in 1859--a year, with its
predecessor 1858, among the great years of literature, as judged by the
books they produced. An absurd prosecution was got up against it by the
authorities of that most moral of _régimes_, the Second Empire, with the
even more absurd result of a "not guilty, but please don't do anything
of the kind again" judgment. This, however, belongs mostly--not (_v.
inf._) entirely--to the biographical part of the matter, with which we
have little or nothing to do.[392] The book itself is, beyond all
question, a great novel--if it had a greater subject[393] it would have
been one of the greatest of novels. The immense influence of _Manon
Lescaut_ appears once more in it; but Emma Bovary, with far more than
all the bad points of Manon, has none of her good ones. Nor has she the
half-redeeming greatness in evil of her somewhat younger sister Iza in
_Affaire Clémenceau_. Except her physical beauty (of which we do not
hear much), there is not one attractive point in her. She sins, not out
of passion, but because she thinks a married woman ought to have lovers.
She ruins her husband, not for any intrinsic and genuine love of
splendour, luxury, or beauty, but because other women have things and
she ought to have them. She has a taste _for_ men, but none _in_ them.
Yet her creator has made her absolutely "real," and, scum of womanhood
as she is, has actually evolved something very like tragedy out of her
worthlessness, and has saved her from being detestable, because she is
such a very woman. He has, indeed, subjected her to a _kenosis_, an
evisceration, exantlation--or, in plain English, "emptying out"--of
everything positively good (she has the negative but necessary salve of
not being absolutely ill-natured) that can be added to an abstract
pretty girl; and no more. I have paid a little attention to the heroines
of the greater fiction; but she is the only one of all the _mille e tre_
I know whom the author has managed to present as acceptable, without its
being in the least possible to fall in love with her, and at the same
time without its being necessary to detest her.

This defiant and victorious naturalness--not "naturalism"--pervades the
book: from the other main characters--the luckless, brainless,
tasteless, harmless husband; the vulgar Don Juans of lovers; the
apothecary Homais[394]--one of the most original and firmly drawn
characters in fiction--from all, down to the merest "supers." It floods
the scene-painting (admirable in itself) with a light of common day--not
too cheerful, but absolutely real. It animates the conversation, though
Flaubert is not exactly prodigal of this;[395] and it presides over the
weaving of the story as such in a fashion very little, if at all,
inferior to that which prevails in the very greatest masters of pure
story-telling.

[Sidenote: _Salammbô._]

Hardly any one, speaking critically, could, I suppose, also speak thus
positively about Flaubert's second book, _Salammbô_--a romance of
Carthaginian history at the time of the Mutiny of the Mercenaries. Even
Sainte-Beuve--no weak-stomached reader--was put off by its blotches of
blood and grime, and by the sort of ghastly gorgeousness which, if it
does not "relieve" these, forms a kind of background to throw them up.
It was violently attacked by clever carpers like M. de Pontmartin, by
eccentrics of half-genius and whole prejudice like M. Barbey
d'Aurevilly, and by dull pedants like M. Saint-René Taillandier; while
it may be questioned whether, to the present day, its friends have not
mostly belonged to that "Save-me-from-them" class which simply extols
the "unpleasant" because other people find it unpleasant.[396] For my
own part, I did not enjoy it much at the very first; but I felt its
power at once, and, as always happens in such cases when admiration does
not come from the tainted source just glanced at, the enjoyment
increased, and the sense of power increased with it, the
"unpleasantness," as a known thing, becoming merely "discountable" and
disinfected. The book can, of course, never rank with _Madame Bovary_,
because it is a _tour de force_ of abnormality--a thing incompatible
with that highest art which consists in the transformation and
transcendentalising of the ordinary. The leprosies, and the
crucifixions, and the sorceries, and the rest of it are ugly; but then
Carthage _was_ ugly, as far as we know anything about it.[397] Salammbô
herself is shadowy; but how could a Carthaginian girl be anything else?
The point to consider is the way in which all this unfamiliar, uncanny,
unpleasant stuff is _fused_ by sheer power of art into something which
has at least the reality of a bad dream--which, as most people know, is
a very real thing indeed while it lasts, and for a little time after. It
increases the wonder--though to me it does not increase the interest--to
know that Flaubert took the most gigantic pains to make his task as
difficult as possible by acquiring and piecing together the available
knowledge on his subject. This process--the ostensible _sine qua non_ of
"Realism" and "Naturalism"--will require further treatment. It is almost
enough for the present to say that, though not a novelty, it had been,
and for the matter of that has been, rarely a success. It has, as was
pointed out before, spoilt most classical novels, reaching its acme of
boredom in the German work of Ebers and Dahn; and it has scarcely ever
been very successful, even in the hands of Charles Reade, who used it
"with a difference." But it can hardly be said to have done _Salammbô_
much harm, because the "fusing" process which is above referred to, and
to which the imported elements are often so rebellious, is here
perfectly carried out. You may not like the colour and shape of the
ingot or cast; but there is nothing in it which has not duly felt and
obeyed the fire of art.

[Sidenote: _L'Éducation Sentimentale._]

That there was no danger of Flaubert's merely palming off, in his novel
work, replicas with a few superficial differences, had now been shown.
It was further established by his third and longest book, _L'Éducation
Sentimentale_. This was not only, as the others had been, violently
attacked, but was comparatively little read--indeed it is the only one
of his books, with the usual exception of _Bouvard et Pécuchet_, which
has been called, by any rational creature, dull. I do not find it so;
but I confess that I find its intrinsic interest, which to me is great,
largely enhanced by its unpopularity--which supplies a most remarkable
pendant to that of _Jonathan Wild_, and is by no means devoid of value
as further illustrating the cause of the very limited popularity of
Thackeray, and even of the rarity of whole-hearted enthusiasm for Swift.
Satire is allowed to be a considerable, and sometimes held to be an
attractive, branch of literature. But when you come to analyse the
actual sources of the attraction, it is to be feared that you will
generally find them to lie outside of the pure exposure of general human
weaknesses. A very large proportion of satire is personal, and
personality is always popular. Satire is very often "naughty," and
"naughtiness" is to a good many, _qua_ naughtiness, "nice." It lends
itself well to rhetoric; and there is no doubt, whatever superior
persons may say of it, that rhetoric _does_ "persuade" a large portion
of the human race. It is constantly associated with directly comic
treatment, sometimes with something not unlike tragedy; and while the
first, if of any merit, is sure, the second has a fair though more
restricted chance, of favourable reception. Try Aristophanes, Horace,
Juvenal, Lucian, Martial; try the modern satirists of all kinds, and you
will always find these secondary sources of enjoyment present.

There is hardly one of them--if one--to be found in _L'Éducation
Sentimentale_. It is simply a panorama of human folly, frailty,
feebleness, and failure--never permitted to rise to any great heights or
to sink to any infernal depths, but always maintained at a probable
human level. We start with Frédéric Moreau as he leaves school at the
correct age of eighteen. I am not sure at what actual age we leave him,
though it is at some point or other of middle life, the most active part
of the book filling about a decade. But "vanity is the end of all his
ways," and vanity has been the beginning and middle of them--a perfectly
quiet and everyday kind of vanity, but vain from centre to
circumference and entire surface. He (one cannot exactly say
"tries," but) is brought into the possibility of trying love
of various kinds--illegitimate-romantic, legitimate-not-unromantic,
illegitimate-professional but not disagreeable, illegitimate-conventional.
Nothing ever "comes off" in a really satisfactory fashion. He is
"exposed" (in the photographic-plate sense) to all, or nearly all, the
influences of a young man's life in Paris--law, literature, art,
insufficient means, quite sufficient means, society, politics--including
the Revolution of 1848--enchantments, disenchantments--_tout ce qu'il
faut pour vivre_--to alter a little that stock expression for "writing
materials" which is so common in French. But he never can get any real
"life" out of any of these things. He is neither a fool, nor a cad, nor
anything discreditable or disagreeable. He is "only an or'nary person,"
to reach the rhythm of the original by adopting a slang form in not
quite the slang sense. And perhaps it is not unnatural that other
ordinary persons should find him too faithful to their type to be
welcome. In this respect at least I may claim not to be ordinary. One
goes down so many empty wells, or wells with mere rubbish at the bottom
of them, that to find Truth at last is to be happy with her (without
prejudice to the convenience of another well or two here and there, with
an agreeable Falsehood waiting for one). I do not know that _L'Éducation
Sentimentale_ is a book to be read very often; one has the substance in
one's own experience, and in the contemplation of other people's, too
readily at hand for that to be necessary or perhaps desirable. But a
great work of art which is also a great record of nature is not too
common--and this is what it is.

[Sidenote: _La Tentation de Saint-Antoine_.]

Yet, as has been remarked before, nothing shows Flaubert's greatness
better than his absolute freedom from the "rut." Even in carrying out
the general "Vanity" idea he has no monotony. The book which followed
_L'Éducation_ had been preluded, twenty years earlier, by some fragments
in _L'Artiste_, a periodical edited by Gautier. But _La Tentation de
Saint-Antoine_, when it finally appeared, far surpassed the promise of
these specimens. It is my own favourite among its author's books; and it
is one of those which you can read merely for enjoyment or take as a
subject of study, just as you please--if you are wise you will give
"five in five score" of your attentions to the latter occupation and the
other ninety-five to the former. The people who had made up their minds
to take Flaubert as a sort of Devil's Gigadibs--a "Swiss, not of
Heaven," but of the other place, hiring himself out to war on all things
good--called it "an attack on the idea of God"! As it, like its smaller
and later counterpart _Saint Julien l'Hospitalier_, ends in a
manifestation of Christ, which would do honour to the most orthodox of
Saints' Lives, the "attack" seems to be a curious kind of offensive
operation.

As a matter of fact, the book takes its vaguely familiar subject, and
_embroiders_ that subject with a fresh collection of details from
untiring research. The nearest approach to an actual person, besides the
tormented Saint himself, is the Evil One, not at first _in propria
persona_, but under the form of the Saint's disciple Hilarion, who at
first acts as usher to the various elements of the Temptation-Pageant,
and at last reveals himself by treacherous suggestions of unbelief. The
pageant itself is of wonderful variety. After a vividly drawn sketch of
the hermitage in the Thebaid, the drama starts with the more vulgar and
direct incitements to the coarser Deadly Sins and others--Gluttony,
Avarice, Ambition, Luxury. Then Hilarion appears and starts theological
discussion, whence arises a new series of actual visions--the excesses
of the heretics, the degradation of martyrdom itself, the Eastern
theosophies, the monstrous cults of Paganism. After this, Hilarion tries
a sort of Modernism, contrasting the contradictions and absurdities of
actual religions with a more and more atheistic Pantheism. This failing,
the Temptation reverts to the moral forms, Death and Vice contending for
Anthony and bidding against each other. The next shift of the
kaleidoscope is to semi-philosophical fantasies--the Sphinx, the
Chimaera, basilisks, unicorns, microscopic mysteries. The Saint is
nearly bewildered into blasphemy; but at last the night wanes, the sun
rises, and the face of Christ beams from it. The Temptation is
ended.[398]

The magnificence of the style, in which the sweep of this
dream-procession over the stage is conveyed to the reader, is probably
the first thing that will strike him; and certainly it never palls. But,
if not at once, pretty soon, any really critical mind must perceive
something different from, and much rarer than, mere style. It is the
extraordinary power--the exactness, finish, and freedom from any excess
or waste labour, of the narrative, in reproducing dream-quality. A very
large proportion--and there is nothing surprising in the fact--of the
best pieces of ornate prose in French, as well as in English, are busied
with dreams; but the writers have not invariably remembered one of the
most singular--and even, when considered from some points of view,
disquieting--features of a dream,--that you are never, while dreaming,
in the least surprised at what happens. Flaubert makes no mistake as to
this matter. The real realism which had enabled him to re-create the
most sordid details of _Madame Bovary_, the half-historic grime and
gorgeousness mixed of _Salammbô_, and the quintessentially ordinary life
of _L'Éducation_, came mightily to his assistance in this his Vision of
the Desert. You see and hear its external details as Anthony saw and
heard them: you almost feel its internal influence as if Hilarion had
been--as if he _was_--at your side.

[Sidenote: _Trois Contes._]

The _Trois Contes_ which followed, and which practically completed
(except for letters) Flaubert's finished work in literature,[399] have
one of those half-extrinsic interests which, once more, it is the duty
of the historian to mention. They show that although, as has been said,
Flaubert suffered from no monotony of faculty, the range of his
faculty--or rather the range of the subjects to which he chose to apply
it--was not extremely wide. Of the twin stories, _Un Coeur Simple_ is,
though so unlike in particular, alike in general _ordinariness_ to
_Madame Bovary_ and _L'Éducation Sentimentale_. The unlikeness in
particular is very striking, and shows that peculiar _victoriousness_ in
accomplishing what he attempted which is so characteristic of Flaubert.
It is the history-no-history of a Norman peasant woman, large if simple
of heart, simple and not large of brain, a born drudge and prey to
unscrupulous people who come in contact with her, and almost in her
single person uniting the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. I
admire it now, without even the touch of rather youthful impatience
which used, when I read it first, to temper my admiration. It is not a
_berquinade_, because a _berquinade_ is never quite real. _Un Coeur
Simple_ shares Flaubert's Realism as marvellously as any equal number of
pages of either of the books to which I have compared it. But there
_is_, perhaps, something provocative--something almost placidly
insolent--about the way in which the author says, "Now, I will give you
nothing of the ordinary baits for admiration, and yet, were you the
Devil himself, you shall admire me." And one does--in youth rather
reluctantly--not so in age.

_Herodias_ groups itself in the same general fashion, but even more
definitely in particulars, with _Salammbô_--of which, indeed, it is a
sort of miniature replica cunningly differentiated. Anybody can see how
easily the story of the human witchcraft of Salome, and the decollation
of the Saint, and the mixture of terror and gorgeousness in the desert
fortress, parallel the Carthaginian story. But I do not know whether it
was deliberate or unconscious repetition that made Flaubert give us
something like a duplicate of the suffete Hanno in Vitellius. There is
no lack of the old power, and the shortness of the story is at least
partly an advantage. But perhaps the Devil's Advocate, borrowing from,
but reversing, Hugo on Baudelaire, might say, "Ce frisson _n'est pas_
nouveau."

The third story, _Saint Julien l'Hospitalier_, has always seemed to me
as near perfection in its own kind as anything I know in literature, and
one of the best examples, if not the very best example, of that
adaptableness of the _Acta Sanctorum_ to modern rehandling of the right
kind, which was noticed at the beginning of this _History_.[400] The
excessive devotion of the not yet sainted Julian to sport; the crime and
the dooms that follow it; the double parricide which he commits under
the false impression that his wife has been unfaithful to him; his
self-imposed penance of ferrying, somewhat like Saint Christopher, and
the trial--a harder one than that good giant bore, for Julian has, not
merely to carry over but, to welcome, at board _and_ bed, a leper--and
the Transfiguration and Assumption that conclude the story, give some of
the best subjects--though there are endless others nearly or quite as
good--in Hagiology. And Flaubert has risen to them in the miraculous
manner in which he could rise, retaining the strangeness, infusing the
reality, and investing the whole with the beauty, deserved and required.
There is not a weak place in the whole story; but the strongest places
are, as they should be, the massacre of hart, hind, and fawn which
brings on the curse; the ghastly procession of the beasts Julian has
slain or _not_ slain (for he has met with singular ill-luck); the final
"Translation."[401] Nowhere is Flaubert's power of description greater;
nowhere, too, is that other power noticed--the removal of all temptation
to say "Very pretty, but rather _added_ ornament"--more triumphantly
displayed.

[Sidenote: _Bouvard et Pécuchet._]

Little need be said of the posthumous torso and failure,[402] _Bouvard
et Pécuchet_. Nothing ever showed the wisdom of the proverb about
half-done work, children and fools, better; and, alas! there is
something of the child in all of us, and something of the fool in too
many. It was to be a sort of extended and varied _Éducation_, not
_Sentimentale_. Two men of retired leisure and sufficient income resolve
to spend the rest of their lives "in books and work and healthful play,"
and almost as many other recreative occupations (including "teaching the
young idea how to shoot") as they or you can think of. But the work
generally fails, the books bore and disappoint them, the young ideas
shoot in the most "divers and disgusting" ways, and the play turns out
to be by no means healthful. Part of it is in scenario merely; and
Flaubert was wont to alter so much, that one cannot be sure even of the
other and more finished part. Perhaps it was too large and too dreary a
theme, unsupported by any real novel quality, to acquire even that
interest which _L'Éducation Sentimentale_ has for some. But the more
excellent way is to atone for the mistake of his literary executors, in
not burning all of it except the monumental phrase quoted above,

    Ainsi tout leur a craqué dans la main,

by simply remembering this--which is the initial and conclusion of the
whole matter--and letting the rest pass.

There is one slight danger in the estimate of Flaubert to which, though
I actually pointed it out, I think I may have succumbed a little when I
first wrote about him. He is so great a master of literature that one
may be led to concentrate attention on this; and if not to neglect, to
regard somewhat inadequately, his greatness as a novelist. Here at any
rate such failure would be petty, if not even high, treason.

[Sidenote: General considerations.]

One may look at his performance in the novel from two points of
view--that of "judging by the result" simply and in the fashion
of a summing-up; and that of bringing him under certain
ticket-qualifications, and enquiring whether they are justly applicable
to him or not. I need hardly tell any one who has done me the honour to
read either this or any other critical work of mine, which of these two
I think the more excellent way; but the less excellent in this
particular instance, may demand a little following.

Was Flaubert a Romantic? Was he a Realist? Was he a Naturalist? This is
how the enquiries come in chronological order. But for convenience of
discussion the first should be postponed to the others.

"Realist," like a good many other tickets, is printed on both sides, and
the answer to our question will be by no means the same whichever side
be looked at. That Flaubert was a Realist "in the best sense of the
term" has been again and again affirmed in the brief reviews of his
novels given above. He cannot be unreal--the "convincingness" of his
most sordid as of his most splendid passages; of his most fantastic
_diableries_ as of his most everyday studies of society; is unsurpassed.
It is, in fact, his chief characteristic. But this very fact that it
_pervades_--that it is as conspicuous in the _Tentation_ and in _Saint
Julien l'Hospitalier_ as in _Madame Bovary_ and the _Éducation_--at once
throws up a formidable, I think an impregnable, line of defence against
those who would claim him for "Realism" of the other kind--the cult of
the ugly, because, being ugly, it is more real than the beautiful. He
has no fear of ugliness, but he cultivates the ugly because it is the
real, not the real because it is the ugly. Being to a great extent a
satirist and (despite his personal boyishness) saturnine rather than
jovial in temperament, there is a good deal in him that is _not_
beautiful. But he can escape into beauty whenever he chooses, and in
these escapes he is always at his best.

This fact, while leaving him a Realist of the nobler type, at once shuts
him off from community with his friends Zola and the Goncourts, and
saves him from any stain of the "sable streams." But besides this--or
rather looking at the same thing from a slightly different point of
view--there is something which not only permits but demands the most
emphatic of "Noes!" to the question, "Was Flaubert a Naturalist?"

This something is itself the equally emphatic "Yes!" which must be
returned to the third and postponed question, "Was he a Romantic?" There
are many strange things in the History of Literature: its strangeness,
as in other cases, is one of its greatest charms. But there have been
few stranger than the obstinacy and almost passion with which the
Romanticism of Heine, of Thackeray, and of Flaubert has been denied.
Again and again it has been pointed out that "to laugh at what you love"
is not only permissible, but a sign of the love itself. Moreover,
Flaubert does not even laugh as the great Jew and the great Englishman
did. He only represents the failures and the disappointments and the
false dawns of Love itself, while in other respects he is _romantique à
tous crins_. Compare _Le Rêve_ with _La Tentation_ or _Saint-Julien
l'Hospitalier_; compare _Madame Bovary_ with _Germinie Lacerteux_; even
compare _L'Éducation Sentimentale_, that voyage to the Cythera of
Romance which never reaches its goal, with _Sapho_ and _L'Évangéliste_,
and you will see the difference. It is of course to a certain extent "Le
Coucher du Soleil Romantique" which lights up Flaubert's work, but the
_crapauds imprévus_ and the _froids limaçons_ of Baudelaire's epitaph
have not yet appeared, and the hues of the sunset itself are still
gorgeous in parts of the sky.

Of Flaubert's famous doctrine of "the single word" perhaps a little more
should, after all, be said. The results are so good, and the processes
by which they are attained get in the way of the reader so little, that
it is difficult to quarrel with the doctrine itself. But it was perhaps,
after all, something of a superstition, and the almost "fabulous
torments" which it occasioned to its upholder and practitioner seem to
have been somewhat Fakirish. We need not grudge the five years spent
over _Salammbô_; the seven over _L'Éducation_; the earlier and, I think,
less definitely known gestation of _Madame Bovary_; and that portion of
the twenty which, producing these also, filled out those fragments of
_La Tentation_ that the July Monarchy had actually seen. Perhaps with
_Bouvard et Pécuchet_ he got into a blind alley, out of which such
labour was never like to get him, and in which it was rather likely to
confine him. But if the excess of the preparation had been devoted to
the completion of, say, only half a dozen of such _Contes_ as those we
actually have, it would have been joyful.

Yet this is idle pining, and the goods which the gods provided in this
instance are such as ought rather to make us truly thankful. Flaubert
was, as has been said, a Romantic, but he was born late enough to avoid
the extravagances and the childishnesses of _mil-huit-cent-trente_ while
retaining its inspiration, its _diable au corps_, its priceless recovery
of inheritances from history. Nor, though he subjected all these to a
severe criticism of a certain kind, did he ever let this make him (as
something of the same sort made his pretty near contemporary, Matthew
Arnold, in England) inclined to blaspheme.[403] He did not, like his
other contemporary and peer in greatness of their particular country and
generation, Baudelaire, play unwise tricks with his powers and his
life.[404] He was fortunately relieved from the necessity of
journey-work--marvellously performed, but still journey-work--which had
beset Gautier and never let go of him.[405]

And he utilised these gifts and advantages as few others have done in
the service of the novel. One thing may be brought against him--I think
one only. You read--at least I read--his books with intense interest and
enjoyment, but though you may recognise the truth and humanity of the
characters; though you may appreciate the skill with which they are set
to work; though you may even, to a certain extent, sympathise with them,
you never--at least I never--feel that intense interest in them, as
persons, which one feels in those of most of the greatest novelists. You
can even feel yourself in them--a rare and great thing--you can _be_
Saint Anthony, and feel an unpleasant suspicion as if you had sometimes
been Frédéric Moreau. But this is a different thing (though it is a
great triumph for the author) from the construction for you of loves,
friends, enemies even--in addition to those who surround you in the
actual world.

Except this defect--which is in the proper, not the vulgar sense a
defect--that is to say, not something bad which is present, but only
something good which is absent--I hardly know anything wrong in
Flaubert. He is to my mind almost[406] incomparably the greatest
novelist of France specially belonging to the second half of the
nineteenth century, and I do not think that Europe at large has ever had
a greater since the death of Thackeray.

FOOTNOTES:

[389] He _might_ have said--to make a Thackerayan translation of what
was actually said later of an offering of roses rashly made to some
French men of letters at their hotel in London: "Who the devil is this?
Let them flank him his vegetables to the gate!" But what he did say, I
believe, though he did not know or mention my name, was that "a blonde
son of Albion" had ventured something _gigantesque_ on him. And
_gigantesque_ had, if I do not again fondly err, sometimes if not always
its "milder shade" of meaning in Flaubert's energetic mouth.

[390] As in those cases, and perhaps even more than in most, I have
taken pains to make the new criticism as little of a replica of the old
as possible.

[391] Possibly this is exactly what M. de Goncourt meant.

[392] There is some scandal and infinite gossip about Flaubert, with all
of which I was once obliged to be acquainted, but which I have done the
best that a rather strong memory will allow me to forget. I shall only
say that his early friend and quasi-biographer, Maxime du Camp, seems to
me to have had nearly as hard measure dealt out to him as Mr. Froude in
the matter of Mr. Carlyle. Both were indiscreet; I do not think either
was malevolent or treacherous.

[393] For in novels, to a greater degree than in poems, greatness _does_
depend on the subject.

[394] Somebody has, I believe, suggested that if Emma had married
Homais, all would have been well. If this means that he would have
promptly and comfortably poisoned her, for which he had professional
facilities, there might be something in it. Otherwise, hardly.

[395] His forte is in single utterances, such as the unmatched "J'ai un
amant!" to which Emma gives vent after her first lapse (and which
"speaks" her and her fate, and the book in ten letters, two spaces, and
an apostrophe), or as the "par ce qu'elle avait touché au manteau de
Tanit" of _Salammbô_; and the "Ainsi tout leur a craqué dans la main" of
the unfinished summary of _Bouvard et Pécuchet_.

[396] It is known that Flaubert, perhaps out of rather boyish pique
(there was much boyishness in him), had originally made its offence
ranker still. One of the most curious literary absurdities I have ever
seen--the absurd almost drowning the disgusting in it--was an American
attempt in verse to fill up Flaubert's _lacuna_ and "go one better."

[397] The old foreign comparison with London was merely rhetorical; but
there really would seem to have been some resemblance between Carthage
and modern Berlin, even in those very points which Flaubert (taking
advice) left out.

[398] There is a recent and exceptionally good translation of the book.

[399] The Letters are almost, if not quite, of first-rate quality. The
play, _Le Candidat_, is of no merit.

[400] Vol. I. p. 4.

[401] All these will be found Englished in the Essay referred to.

[402] Too much must not be read into the word "failure": indeed the next
sentence should guard against this. I know excellent critics who,
declining altogether to consider the book as a novel, regard it as a
sort of satire and _satura_, Aristophanic, Jonsonian or other, in gist
and form, and by no means a failure as such. But as such it would have
no, or very small, place here. I think myself that it is, from that
point of view, nearer to Burton than to any one else: and I think
further that it might have been made into a success of this kind or even
of the novel sort itself. But _as it stands with the sketch of a
completion_, I do not think that Flaubert's alchemy had yet achieved or
approached projection.

[403] I have sometimes wished that Mr. Arnold had written a novel. But
perhaps _Volupté_ frightened him.

[404] There is controversy on this point, and Baudelaire's indulgence in
artificial and perilous Paradises may have been exaggerated. That it
existed to some extent is, I think, hardly doubtful.

[405] I know few things of the kind more pathetic than Théo's quiet
lament over the "artistic completeness" of his ill-luck in the collapse
of the Second Empire just when, with Sainte-Beuve dead and Mérimée
dying, he was its only man of letters of the first rank left, and might
have had some relief from collar-work. But it must be remembered that
though he had ground at the mill with slaves, he had never been one of
them, and perhaps this would always have prevented his promotion.

[406] Reserving Maupassant under the "almost."



CHAPTER XII

THE OTHER "NON-NATURALS" OF THE SECOND EMPIRE


If any excuse is needed for the oddity of the title of this chapter, it
will not be to readers of Burton's _Anatomy_. The way in which the
phrase "Those six non-natural things" occurs and recurs there; the
inextinguishable tendency--in view of the eccentricity of its
application--to forget that the six include things as "natural" (in a
non-technical[407] sense) as Diet, to forget also what it really means
and expect something uncanny--these are matters familiar to all
Burtonians. And they may excuse the borrowing of that phrase as a
general label for those novelists, other than Flaubert and Dumas _fils_,
who, if their work was not limited to 1850-70, began in (but not "with")
that period, and worked chiefly in it, while they were at once _not_
"Naturalists" and yet more or less as "natural" as any of Burton's six.
One of the two least "minor," Alphonse Daudet, was among Naturalists but
scarcely of them. The other, Octave Feuillet, was anti-Naturalist to the
core.

[Sidenote: Feuillet.]

This latter, the elder of the two, though not so much the elder as used
to be thought,[408] was at one time one of the most popular of French
novelists both at home and abroad; but, latterly in particular, there
were in his own country divers "dead sets" at him. He had been an
Imperialist, and this excited one kind of prejudice against him; he
was, in his way, orthodox in religion, and this aroused another; while,
as has been already said, though his subjects, and even his treatment of
them, would have sent our English Mrs. Grundy of earlier days into
"screeching asterisks," the peculiar grime of Naturalism nowhere
smirches his pages. For my own part I have always held him high, though
there is a smatch about his morality which I would rather not have
there. He seems to me to be--with the no doubt numerous transformations
necessary--something of a French Anthony Trollope, though he has a
tragic power which Trollope never showed; and, on the other side of the
account, considerably less comic variety.

[Sidenote: His novels generally.]

As a "thirdsman" to Flaubert and Dumas _fils_, he shows some interesting
differences. Merely as a maker of literature, he cannot touch the
former, and has absolutely nothing of his poetic imagination, while his
grasp of character is somewhat thinner and less firm. But it is more
varied in itself and in the plots and scenery which give it play and
setting--a difference not necessary but fortunate, considering his very
much larger "output." Contrasted with Dumas _fils_, he affords a more
important difference still, indeed one which is very striking. I pointed
out in the appropriate place--not at the moment thinking of Feuillet at
all--the strange fashion in which Alexander the Younger constantly
"makes good" an at first unattractive story; and, even in his most
generally successful work, increases the appeal as he goes on. With
Feuillet the order of things is quite curiously reversed. Almost
(though, as will be seen, not quite) invariably, from the early days of
_Bellah_ and _Onestà_ to _La Morte_, he "lays out" his plan in a
masterly manner, and accumulates a great deal of excellent material, as
it were by the roadside, for use as the story goes on. But, except when
he is at his very best, he flags, and is too apt to keep up his curtain
for a fifth act when it had much better have fallen for good at the end
of the fourth. As has been noted already, his characters are not deeply
cut, though they are faithfully enough sketched. That he is not strong
enough to carry through a purpose-novel is not much to his discredit,
for hardly anybody ever has been. But the _Histoire de Sibylle_--his
swashing blow in the George Sand duel (_v. sup._ p. 204)--though much
less dull than the _riposte_ in _Mlle. la Quintaine_, would hardly
induce "the angels," in Mr. Disraeli's famous phrase, to engage him
further as a Hal-o'-the-Wynd on their side.

But Feuillet's most vulnerable point is the peculiar sentimental
morality-in-immorality which has been more than once glanced at. It was
frankly found fault with by French critics--themselves by no means
strait-laced--and the criticisms were well summed up (I remember the
wording but not the writer of it) thus: "An honest woman does not feel
the temptations" to which the novelist exposes his heroines. That there
_is_ a certain morbid sentimentality about Feuillet's attitude not
merely to the "triangle" but even to simple "exchange of fantasies"
between man and woman in general, can hardly be denied. He has a most
curious and (one might almost say) Judaic idea as to woman as a
temptress, in fashions ranging from the almost innocent seduction of Eve
through the more questionable[409] one of Delilah, down to the sheer
attitude of Zuleika-Phraxanor, and the street-corner woman in the
Proverbs. And this necessitates a correspondingly unheroic presentation
of his heroes. They are always being led into serious mischief ("in a
red-rose chain" or a ribbon one), as Marmontel's sham philosopher[410]
was into comic confusion by that ingenious Présidente. Yet, allowing all
this, there remains to Feuillet's credit such a full and brilliant
series of novels, hardly one of which is an actual failure, as very few
novelists can show. Although he lived long and wrote to the end of his
life, he left no "dotages"; hardly could the youngest and strongest of
any other school in France--Guy de Maupassant himself--have beaten _La
Morte_, though it is not faultless, in power.

[Sidenote: Brief notes on some--_Le Roman d'un jeune homme pauvre_.]

I suppose few novels, succeeding not by scandal, have ever been much
more popular than the _Roman d'un jeune homme pauvre_, the title of
which good English folk have been known slightly to alter in meaning by
putting the _pauvre_ before the _jeune_. It had got into its third
hundred of editions before the present century had reached the end of
its own first lustrum, and it must have been translated (probably more
than once) into every European language. It is perfectly harmless; it is
admirably written; and the vicissitudes of the loves of the _marquis
déchu_ and the headstrong creole girl are conducted with excellent
skill, no serious improbability, and an absence of that tendency to
"tail off" which has been admitted in some of the author's books. It
was, I suppose, Feuillet's diploma-piece in almost the strictest
technical sense of that phrase, for he was elected of the Academy not
long afterwards. It has plenty of merits and no important faults, but it
is not my favourite.

[Sidenote: _M. de Camors._]

[Sidenote: Other books.]

Neither is the novel which, in old days, the proud and haughty scorners
of this _Roman_, as a _berquinade_, used to prefer--_M. de Camors_.[411]
Here there is plenty of naughtiness, attempts at strong character, and
certainly a good deal of interest of story, with some striking incident.
But it is spoilt, for me, by the failure of the principal personage. I
think it not quite impossible that Feuillet intended M. de Camors as a
sort of modernised, improved, and extended Lovelace, or even
Valmont--superior to scruple, destined and able to get the better of man
or woman as he chooses. Unfortunately he has also endeavoured to make
him a gentleman; and the compound, as the chemists say, is not "stable."
The coxcombry of Lovelace and the priggishness, reversed (though in a
less detestable form), of Valmont, are the elements that chiefly remain
in evidence, unsupported by the vigorous will of either. I have myself
always thought _La Petite Comtesse_ and _Julia de Trécoeur_ among the
earlier novels, _Honneur d'Artiste_ and _La Morte_ among the later, to
be Feuillet's masterpieces, or at least nearest approaches to a
masterpiece. _Un Mariage dans le Monde_ (one or the rare instances in
which the "honest woman" does get the better of her "temptations") is
indeed rather interesting, in the almost fatal cross-misunderstanding of
husband and wife, and the almost fabulous ingenuity and good offices of
the "friend of the family," M. de Kevern, who prevents both from making
irreparable fools of themselves. _Les Amours de Philippe_ is more
commonplace--a prodigal's progress in love, rewarded at last, very
undeservedly, with something better than a fatted calf--a formerly
slighted but angelic cousin. But to notice all his work, more especially
if one took in half- or quarter-dramatic things (his pure drama does not
of course concern us) of the "Scène" and "Proverbe" kind, where he comes
next to Musset, would be here impossible. The two pairs, early and late
respectively, and already selected, must suffice.

[Sidenote: _La Petite Comtesse._]

They are all tragic, though there is comedy in them as well. Perhaps _La
Petite Comtesse_, a very short novel and its author's first thing of
great distinction, might by some be called pathetic rather than tragic;
but the line between the two is a "leaden" barrier (if indeed it is a
barrier at all) and "gives" freely. Perhaps the Gigadibs in any man of
letters may be conciliated by one of his fellows being granted some of
the fascinations of the "clerk" in the old Phyllis-and-Flora _débats_ of
mediaeval times; but the fact that _this_ clerk is also represented as a
fool of the most disastrous, though not the most contemptible kind,
should be held as a set-off to the bribery. It is a "story of
three"--though not at all the usual three--graced (or not) by a really
brilliant picture of the society of the early Second Empire. One of the
leaders of this--a young countess and a member of the "Rantipole"[412]
set of the time, but exempt from its vulgarity--meets in the country,
and falls in love with, a middle-aged _savant_, who is doing
archaeological work for Government in the neighbourhood. He despises her
as a frivolous feather-brain at first, but soon falls under the spell.
Yet what has been called "the fear of the 'Had-I-wist'" and the special
notion--more common perhaps with men than is generally thought--that she
cannot _really_ love him, makes him resist her advances. By rebound, she
falls victim for a time to a commonplace Lovelace; but finds no
satisfaction, languishes and dies, while the lover, who would not take
the goods the gods provided, tries to play a sort of altered part of
Colonel Morden in _Clarissa_, and the gods take their revenge for
"sinned mercies." In abstract (it has been observed elsewhere that
Feuillet seldom abstracts well, his work being too much built up of
delicate touches) there may seem to be something of the preposterous in
this; but it must be a somewhat coarse form of testing which discovers
any real preposterousness in the actual story.

[Sidenote: _Julia de Trécoeur._]

It may, however, as has been said, seem to some to belong to the
pathetic-sentimental rather than to the actually tragic; I at least
could not allow any such judging of _Julia de Trécoeur_, though there
are more actual faults in it than in _La Petite Comtesse_, and though,
as has been mentioned elsewhere, the rather repulsive catastrophe may
have been more or less borrowed. The _donnée_ is one of the great old
simple cross-purposes of Fate--not a mere "conflict," as the silly
modern jargon has it. Julia de Trécoeur is a wilful and wayward girl,
as are many others of Feuillet's heroines. Her mother is widowed early,
but consoles herself; and Julia--as such a girl pretty certainly would
do--resents the proceeding, and refuses to live at home or to see her
stepfather. He, however, is a friend of his wife's own cousin, and this
cousin, conceiving a passion for Julia, offers to marry her. Her
consent, in an English girl, would require some handling, but offers no
difficulties in a French one. As a result, but after a time, she agrees
to meet her mother and that mother's new husband. And then the tragedy
begins. She likes at once, and very soon loves, her stepfather--he
succumbs, more slowly, to Moira and Até. But he is horrified at the
notion of a quasi-incestuous love, and Julia perceives his horror. She
forces her horse, like the Duchess May, but over the cliffs of the
Cotentin, not over a castle wall; and her husband and her stepfather
himself see the act without being able--indeed without trying--to
prevent it. The actual place had nearly been the scene of a joint
suicide by the unhappy lovers before.

Once more, the thing comes badly out of analysis--perhaps by the
analyst's fault, perhaps not. But in its own presentation, with some
faults hardly necessary to point out, it is both poignant and
_empoignant_, and it gives a special blend of pity and terror, the two
feelings being aroused by no means merely through the catastrophe, but
by the rise and progress of the fatal passion which leads to it. I know
very few, if any, things of the same kind, in a French novel, superior,
or indeed equal to, the management of this, and to the fashion in which
the particular characters, or wants of character, of Julia's mother and
Julia's husband (excellent persons both) are made to hurry on the
calamity[413] to which she was fated.

[Sidenote: _Honneur d'Artiste._]

This tragic undercurrent, surging up to a more tragic catastrophe,
reappears in the two best of the later issues, when Feuillet was making
better head against the burst sewers[414] of Naturalism. _Honneur
d'Artiste_ is the less powerful of the two; but what of failure there
is in it is rather less glaring. Beatrice de Sardonne, the heroine, is a
sort of "Petite Comtesse" transformed--very cleverly, but perhaps not
quite successfully. _Her_ "triangle" consists of herself, a somewhat
New-Yorkised young French lady of society (but too good for the worst
part of her); and her two lovers, the Marquis de Pierrepont, a much
better Lovelace, in fact hardly a Lovelace at all, whom she is
engineered into refusing for honourable love--with a fatal relapse into
dishonourable; and the "Artiste" Jacques Fabrice. He adores her, but
she, alas! does not know whether she loves him or not till too late;
and, after the irreparable, he falls by the hazard of the lot in that
toss-up for suicide, the pros and cons of which (as in a former
instance) I should like to see treated by a philosophical historian of
the duello.

[Sidenote: _La Morte._]

In _La Morte_, on the other hand, the power is even greater--in fact it
is the most powerful book of its author, and one of the most powerful of
the later nineteenth century. But there is in it a reversion to the
"purpose" heresy; and while it is an infinitely finer novel than the
_Histoire de Sibylle_, it is injured, though not quite fatally, by the
weapon it wields. One of the heroines, Sabine, niece and pupil of an
Agnostic _savant_, deliberately poisons the other, Aliette, that she may
marry Aliette's husband. But the Agnostic teaching extends itself soon
from the Sixth Commandment to the Seventh, and M. de Vaudricourt, who,
though not ceasing to love Aliette, and having no idea of the murder,
has been ensnared into second marriage by Sabine, discovers, at almost
the same time, that his wife is a murderess and a strumpet. She is also
(one was going to say) something worse, a daughter of the horse-leech
for wealth and pleasure and position. Now you _may_ be an Agnostic and a
murderess and a strumpet and a female snob all at once: but no
anti-Agnostic, who is a critic likewise, will say that the second,
third, and fourth characteristics necessarily, and all together, follow
from Agnosticism. It may remove some bars in their way; but I can
frankly admit that I do not think it need definitely superinduce them,
or that it is altogether fair to accumulate the _post hocs_ with their
inevitable suggestion of _propter_.

However, "Purpose" here is simply at its old tricks, and I have known it
do worse things than caution people against Agnostics' nieces.

[Sidenote: Misters the assassins.]

On the other hand, the vigour, the variety, and (where the purpose does
not get too much the upper hand) the satiric skill are very nearly
first-rate. And, with the cautions and admissions just given, there is
not a little in the purpose itself, with which one may be permitted to
sympathise. After all "misters the assassins" were being allowed very
generous "law," and it was time for other people to "begin." As for
Feuillet's opposition to the "modern spirit," which was early denounced,
it is not necessary--even for any one who knows that this modern spirit
is only an old enemy with a new face, or who, when he sees the statement
that "Nothing is ever going anywhere to be the same," chuckles, and,
remembering all history to the present minute, mutters, "Everything
always has been, is, and always will be the same"--to call in these
knowledges of his to the rescue of Feuillet's position as a novelist.
That position is made sure, and would have been made sure if he had been
as much of a Naturalist as he was the reverse, by his power of
constructing interesting stories; of drawing, if not absolutely perfect,
passable and probable characters; of throwing in novel-accessories with
judgment; and of giving, by dint of manners and talk and other things
necessary, vivid and true portrayals of the society and life of his
time.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Alphonse Daudet and his curious position.]

[Sidenote: His "personality."]

Perhaps there is no novelist in French literature--or, indeed, in any
other--who, during his lifetime, occupied such a curiously "mixed"
position as Alphonse Daudet.[415] No contemporary of his obtained wider
general popularity, without a touch of irregular bait or of appeal to
popular silliness in it, than he did with _Le Petit Chose_, with the
charming bundle of pieces called _Lettres de Mon Moulin_, and later with
the world-delighting burlesque of _Tartarin de Tarascon_. _Jack_ and
_Fromont Jeune et Risler Aîné_ contained more serious advances, which
were, however, acknowledged as effective by a very large number of
readers. But he became more and more personally associated with the
Naturalist group of Zola and Edmond de Goncourt; and though he never was
actually "grimy," he had, from a quite early period, when he was
secretary or clerk to the Duc de Morny, adopted, and more and more
strenuously persisted in, a kind of "personal" novel-writing, which
might be regarded as tainted with the general Naturalist principle that
nothing is _tacendum_--that private individuality may be made public use
of, to almost any extent. Of course a certain licence in this respect
has always been allowed to novelists. In the eighteenth century English
writers of fiction had very little scruple in using and abusing that
licence, and French, though with the fear of the arbitrary justice or
injustice of their time and country before them, had almost less. As the
nineteenth went on, the practice by no means disappeared on either side
of the Channel. With us Mr. Disraeli indulged in it largely, and even
Thackeray, though he condemned it in others, and was furious when it was
exercised on himself, in journalism if not in fiction, pretty
notoriously fell into it now and then. As to Dickens, one need not go
beyond the too notorious instance of Skimpole. Quite a considerable
proportion of Balzac's company are known to have been Balzacified from
the life; of George Sand's practice it is unnecessary to say more.

[Sidenote: His books from this point of view and others.]

But none of these is so saturated with personality as Daudet; and while
some of his "gentle" readers seem not to care much about this, even if
they do not share the partiality of the vulgar herd for it, it disgusts
others not a little. Morny was not an estimable public or private
character, though if he had been a "people's man" not much fault would
probably have been found with him. I daresay Daudet, when in his
service, was not overpaid, or treated with any particular private
confidence. But still I doubt whether any gentleman could have written
_Le Nabab_. The last Bourbon King of Naples was not hedged with much
divinity; but it is hardly a question, with some, that his _déchéance_,
not less than that of his nobler spouse, should have protected them from
the catch-penny vulgarity of _Les Rois en Exil_. Gambetta was not the
worst of demagogues; there was something in him of Danton, and one might
find more recent analogies without confining the researches to France.
But even if his weaknesses gave a handle, which his merits could not
save from the grasp of the vulgariser, _Numa Roumestan_ bore the style
of a vulture who stoops upon recent corpses, not that of a dispassionate
investigator of an interesting character made accessible by length of
time. _L'Évangéliste_ had at least the excuse that the Salvation Army
was fair game; and that, if there was personal satire, it was not
necessarily obvious--a palliation which (not to mention another for a
moment) extends to _Sapho_. But _L'Immortel_ revived--unfortunately, as
a sort of last word--the ugliness of this besetting sin of Daudet's.
Even the saner members of Academies would probably scout the idea of
their being sacrosanct and immune from criticism. But _L'Immortel_,
despite its author's cleverness, is once more an essentially vulgar
book, and a vulturine or ghoulish one--fixing on the wounds and the
bruises and the putrefying sores of its subject--dragging out of his
grave, for posthumous crucifixion, a harmless enough pedant of not very
old time; and throwing dirty missiles at living magnates. It is one of
the books--unfortunately not its author's only contribution to the
list--which leave a bad taste in the mouth, a "flavour of poisonous
brass and metal sick."

[Sidenote: His "plagiarisms."]

Of another charge brought against Daudet I should make much shorter
work; and, without absolutely clearing him of it, dismiss it as, though
not unfounded, comparatively unimportant. It is that of
plagiarism--plagiarism not from any French writer, but from Dickens and
Thackeray. As to the last, one scene in _Fromont Jeune et Risler Aîné_
simply _must_ be "lifted" from the famous culmination of _Vanity Fair_,
when Rawdon Crawley returns from prison and catches Lord Steyne with his
wife. But, beyond registering the fact, I do not know that we need do
much more with it. In regard to Dickens, the resemblance is more
pervading, but more problematical. "Boz" had been earlier, and has been
always, popular in France. _L'excentricité anglaise_ warranted, if it
did not quite make intelligible, his extravaganza; his semi-republican
sentimentalism suited one side of the French temperament, etc. etc.
Moreover, Daudet had actually, in his own youth, passed through
experiences not entirely unlike those of David Copperfield and Charles
Dickens himself, while perhaps the records of the elder novelist were
not unknown to the younger. In judging men of letters as shown in their
works, however, a sort of "_cadi_-justice"--a counter-valuation of
merits and faults--is allowable. I cannot forgive Daudet his inveterate
personality: I can bid him sit down quickly and write off his
plagiarism--or most of it--without feeling the withers of my judicial
conscience in the very least wrung. For if he did not, as others have
done, make what he stole entirely his own, he had, _of_ his own, very
considerable property in rather unusually various kinds.

[Sidenote: His merits.]

The charm of his short Tales, whether in the _Lettres de Mon Moulin_ or
in collections assuming the definite title, is undeniable. The
satiric-pathetic--a not very common and very difficult kind--has few
better representatives than _La Chèvre de M. Séguin_, and the purely
comic stories are thoroughly "rejoicing." _Tartarin_, in his original
appearances, "touches the spot," "carries off all the point" in a manner
suggestive at once of Horace and Homocea; and though, as was almost
inevitable, its sequels are less effective, one would have been very
glad indeed of them if they had had no forerunner. In almost all the
books--_Robert Helmont_, by the way, though not yet mentioned, has some
strong partisans--the grip of actual modern society, which is the boast
of the later, as opposed to the earlier, nineteenth-century novel,
cannot be missed. Even those who are most disgusted by the personalities
cannot deny the power of the satiric presentation from _Le Nabab_ to
_Numa Roumestan_. _Fromont Jeune et Risler Aîné_ is, quite independently
of the definite borrowing from us, more like an English novel, in some
respects, than almost any other French one known to me up to its date;
and I have found persons, not in the least sentimentalists and very
widely read in novels both English and French, who were absolutely
enthusiastic about _Jack_.

_L'Évangéliste_ is perhaps the nearest approach to a failure, the
atmosphere being too alien from anything French to be favourable to the
development of a good story, and perhaps the very subject being unsuited
to anything, either English or French, but an episode. In more congenial
matter, as in the remark in _Numa Roumestan_ as to the peculiar kind of
unholy pleasure which a man may enjoy when he sees his wife and his
mistress kissing each other, Daudet sometimes showed cynic acumen nearer
to La Rochefoucauld than to Laclos, and worthy of Beyle at his very
best. And I have no shame in avowing real admiration for _Sapho_. It
does not by any means confound itself with the numerous studies of the
infatuation of strange women which French fiction contains; and it is
almost a sufficient tribute to its power to say that it does not, as
almost all the rest do, at once serve itself heir to, and enter into
hopeless competition with, _Manon Lescaut_. Nor is the heroine in the
least like either Marguerite Gautier or Iza Clémenceau, while the
comparison with Nana, whose class she also shares, vindicates her
individuality most importantly of all these trials. She seems to me
Daudet's best single figure: though the book is of too specialised a
kind to be called exactly his best book.

He never had strong health, and broke down early, so that his total
production is decidedly smaller than that of most of his fellows.[416]
Nor has he, I think, any pretensions to be considered a novelist of the
very first class, even putting bulk out of the question. But he can be
both extremely amusing and really pathetic; he is never unnatural; and
if there is less to be said about him than about some others, it is
certainly not because he is less good to read. On the contrary, he is so
easy and so good to read, and he has been read so much, that elaborate
discussion of him is specially superfluous. It is almost a pity that he
was not born ten or fifteen years earlier, so that he might have had
more chance of hitting a strictly distinct style. As it is, with all his
pathos and all his fun, you feel that he is of the _Epigoni_ a successor
of more than one or two Alexanders, that he has a whole library of
modern fiction behind--and, in more than one sense of the word,
before--him.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: About: _Le Roi des Montagnes_.]

There was a time when Englishmen of worth and Englishwomen of grace
thought a good deal of Edmond About. Possibly this was because he was
one of the pillars of the _Revue des Deux Mondes_. Far be it from me to
speak with the slightest disrespect of that famous periodical, to which
I have myself divers indebtednesses, and which has, in the last hundred
years or thereabouts, harboured and fostered many of the greatest
writers of France and much of her best literary work. But persons of
some age and some memory must remember a time in England when it used to
be "mentioned with _hor_" as Policeman X mentioned something or somebody
else about the same date or a little earlier. Even Matthew Arnold, in
whose comely head the bump of Veneration was not the most remarkable
protuberance, used to point to it--as something far above _us_--to be
regarded with reverence and striven towards with might and main. What
justification there might be for this in general we need not now
consider; but at any rate About has never seemed to the present
historian very much of a pillar of anything. His chief generally
accepted titles to the position in novel-writing are, I suppose, _Le Roi
des Montagnes_ and _Tolla_, each of which, and perhaps one other, we may
examine in some detail, grouping the rest (with one further exception)
more summarily. They are the better suited for our purpose in that one
is comedy if not farce, and the other a gradually threatening and at
last accomplished tragedy.

Of course it would be a very dull or a very curmudgeonly person who
should fail to see or refuse to acknowledge "fun" in the history of
Hadji or Hadgi Stavros. The mixture of sense, science, stupidity, and
unconscious humour[417] in the German narrator; the satire on the
toleration of brigandage by government in Greece (it must be confessed
that, of all the reductions to the absurd of parliamentary and
constitutional arrangements in countries unsuited for them, wherein the
last hundred years have been so prolific, Greece has provided the most
constant and reversed-sublime examples, as Russia has the most tragic);
the contrast of amiability and atrocity in the brigands themselves--all
these provide excellent opportunities, by no means always missed, for
the display of a sort of anticipated and Gallicised Gilbertianism. Nor
need the addition of stage Englishness in Mrs. Simons and her brother
and Mary Ann, of stage Americanism in Captain John Harris and his nephew
Lobster, spoil the broth.

But, to the possibly erroneous taste[418] of the present taster, it does
not seem to be a consummated _consommé_. To begin with, there is too
much of it; it is watered out to over three hundred pages when it might
have been "reduced" with great advantage to one hundred. Nor is this a
mere easy general complaint; it would be perfectly possible to point out
where reductions should take place in detail. No one skilled in the use
of the blue pencil could be at a loss where to apply it in the
preliminary matter; in the journey; in the Hadgi's gravely burlesqued
correspondence; in the escape of the ladies; in Hermann's too prolonged
yet absurdly ineffective tortures; in the civil war between the King and
his subjects; in the rather transpontine victory of the two Americans
and the Maltese over both; and, above all, in the Royal Ball, where
English etiquette requires that the rescuer must be duly introduced to
those he has rescued. Less matter (or rather less talking about matter)
with more art might have made it a capital thing, especially if certain
traces of vulgarity, too common in About, were removed together with the
mere superfluities. At any rate, this is how it strikes, and always has
struck, a younger but now old contemporary.

[Sidenote: _Tolla._]

The same fault of _longueurs_ makes itself felt in _Tolla_: and indeed
the author seems to have been conscious of it, and confesses it in an
apologetic _Preface_ to the editions after the first. But this does not
form the chief ground of accusation against it. Nor, certainly, do the
facts, as summarised in a note, justify any serious charge of
plagiarism,[419] though the celebrated Buloz seems for once to have been
an unwise editor, in objecting to a fuller acknowledgment of
indebtedness on the part of his contributor. A story of this tragical
kind will bear much fuller handling than a comic tale of scarcely more
than one situation, recounted with a perpetual "tongue-in-cheek"
accompaniment.

But, from another point of view, the book does justify the drawing of a
general literary moral, that true _données_ are very far from being
certain blessings--that they are, in fact, _dona Danaorum_--to the
novelist; that he should not hug the shore of fact, but launch out into
the ocean of invention. About, in a fashion rather cheerfully recalling
the boasts of poor Shadwell, who could "truly say that he had made
it[420] into a play" and that "four of the humours were entirely new,"
assures us that he has invented everything but the main situation, and
written everything out of his own head except a few of the letters of
Tolla. Some of these added things are good, though one of the author's
besetting sins may be illustrated by the fact that he gives nearly half
a score pages to a retrospective review of the history of a Russian
General's widow and her daughter, when as many lines--or, better still,
a line or two of explanation here and there--would be all that the story
requires.[421] But the "given" situation itself is a difficult one to
handle interestingly: and, in some estimates at any rate, the difficulty
has not been overcome here. The son--a younger, but still amply endowed
son--of one of the greatest Roman families, compact of Princes and
Cardinals, with reminiscences of Venetian dogedom, falls in love, after
a half-hearted fashion, with the daughter of another house of somewhat
less, but still old repute, and of fair, though much lesser wealth. By a
good deal of "shepherding" on the part of her family and friends, and
(one is bound to say) some rather "downright Dunstable" on her own, he
is made to propose; but _her_ family accepts the demand that the thing
shall, for a time, be kept secret from _his_. Of course no such secrecy
is long possible; and his people, especially a certain wicked
cavaliere-colonel, with the aid of a French Monseigneur and the Russians
above mentioned, plot to break the thing off, and finally succeed.
"Lello" (Manuel) Coromila finds out the plot too late. Tolla dies of a
broken heart.

It seems to me--speaking with the humility which I do not merely affect,
but really feel on the particular point--that this might make a good
subject for a play: that in the hands of Shakespeare or Shelley it might
make a very great one in two different kinds. But--now speaking with
very much less diffidence--I do not think it a promising one for a
novel; and, speaking with hardly any at all, I think that it has
certainly not made a good one here. Shut up into the narrow action of
the stage; divested of the intervals which make its improbabilities more
palpable; and with the presentation of Lello as a weaker and baser
Hamlet, of Tolla as a betrayed Juliet--with all this brought out and
made urgent by a clever actor and actress, the thing might be made very
effective. Dawdled over in a novel again of three hundred pages, it
loses appeal to the sympathy and constantly starts fresh difficulties
for the understanding.

That a very delightful girl[422] may fall in love with a nincompoop who
is also notoriously a light-of-love, is quite possible: and, no doubt,
is fortunate for the nincompoops, and, after a fashion, good for the
continuation of the human race. But, in a novel, you must make the
process interesting, and that is not, _me judice_, done here. The
nincompoop, too, is such an utter nincompoop (he is not a villain, nor
even a rascal) that, no comic use being made of his nincompoopery, he is
of no use at all. And though an old and haughty Italian family like the
Feraldis _might_ no doubt in real life--there is nothing that may not
happen in real life--consent to clandestine engagements of the kind
described, it certainly is one of the possible-improbables which are
fatal, or nearly so, to art. Two or three subordinate characters--the
good-natured and good-witted Marquis Filippo Trasimeni, the faithful
peasant Menico, Tolla's foster-brother, and even the bad chambermaid
Amarella--have some merit. But twenty of them could not save the book,
which, after dawdling till close upon its end, huddles itself up in a
few pages, chiefly of _récit_, in a singularly inartistic fashion.

[Sidenote: _Germaine._]

_Germaine_, which has been (speaking under correction) a much less
popular book than either _Le Roi des Montagnes_ or _Tolla_, is perhaps
better than either. Except for a very few pages, it does not attempt the
somewhat cackling irony of the Greek book; and though it ends with one
failure of a murder, one accomplished ditto, and two more deaths of no
ordinary kind, it does not even attempt, as the Italian one does, real
tragedy. But it has a fairly well-knit plot, some attempt at character,
sufficient change of incident and scene, and hardly any _longueurs_.
Even the hinge of the whole, though it presents certain improbabilities,
is not of the brittle and creaking kind reprobated in that of _Tolla_.

A Neapolitan-Spanish Count of Villanera, whose second title is "Marquis
of the Mounts of Iron," possessed also not only of the bluest of
blood, but of mountains of gold, has fallen in love, after an
honour-in-dishonour fashion, with the grass-widow of a French naval
captain, Honorine Chermidy, and has had a child by her. She is really a
worse Becky Sharp, or a rather cleverer Valérie Marneffe (who perhaps
was her model[423]), and she forms a cunning plan by which the child may
be legitimated and she herself, apparently renouncing, will really
secure a chance of, the countdom, the marquisate, and the mountains of
iron and gold. (Of the latter she has got a good share out of her lover
already.) The plan is that Villanera shall marry some girl (of noble
birth but feeble health and no fortune), which will, according to French
law, effect or at least permit the legitimation of the little Marques de
las Montes de Hierro--certain further possibilities being left
ostensibly to Providence, but, in Madame Chermidy's private intentions,
to the care of quite another Power. The Dowager Countess de
Villanera--rather improbably, but not quite impossibly--accepts this,
being, though proud, willing to derogate a little to make sure of an
heir to the House of Villanera with at any rate a portion (the
sceptical would say a rather doubtful portion[424]) of its own blood.

Villanera himself, though in most ways the soul of honour, accepts this
shady scheme chiefly through blind devotion to his mistress; and it only
remains to find a family whose poverty, if not their will, consents to
sell their daughter. Through the agency of that stock and pet French
novel-character, a doctor who is very clever, very benevolent, very
sceptical, and not over-scrupulous, the exact material for the mischief
is found. There is an old Duc de la Tour-D'Embleuse, who, half-ruined by
the original Revolution, has been almost completely so by that of 1830,
has thrown away what remained, and has become an amiable and adored but
utterly selfish burden on his angelic wife and daughter, the latter of
whom, like so many of the heroines of the 'fifties, especially in
France, is an all but "given-up" _poitrinaire_. The price of the
bargain--an "inscription" of fifty thousand francs a year in Rentes--is
offered on the very day when the family has come to its last _sou_;
accepted, after short and sham refusal, by the duke; acquiesced in
unselfishly by the mother, who despairs of saving her husband and
daughter from starvation in any other way; and submitted to by the
daughter herself in a spirit of martyrdom, strengthened by the certainty
that it is but for a little while. How the situation works out to an end
of liberal but not excessive poetical justice, the reader may discover
for himself: the book being, though not a masterpiece, nor even very
high in the second rank, quite worth reading. One or two things may be
noticed. The first is a really clever sketch, the best thing perhaps in
About's novel-work, of the peculiar "naughty-childishness"[425] which
belongs to lovely woman, which does not materially affect her charm or
even her usefulness in some ways, but makes her as politically
impossible in one way as does that "incapacity for taking more than one
side of a question" which Lord Halsbury has pointed out, in
another.[426] The second is the picture, in the later half of the book,
of those Ionian Islands, then still English, the abandonment of which
was the first of the many blessings conferred by Mr. Gladstone[427] on
his country, and the possession of which, during the late or any war,
would have enabled us almost to pique, repique, and capot the attempts
of our enemies in the adjacent Mediterranean regions.

[Sidenote: _Madelon._]

All these books, and perhaps one or two others, are about the same
length--an equality possibly due (as we have seen in English examples on
a different scale) to periodical publication. But once, in _Madelon_,
About attempted something of much "longer breath," as his countrymen
say. Here we have nearly six hundred pages instead of three hundred, and
each page (which is a large one) contains at least half as much again as
a page of the others. The book is a handsome one, with a title in red
ink; and the author says he took three years to write the novel--of
course as an avocation from his vocation in journalism. It is difficult
to repress, though probably needless to utter, the most obvious remark
on this; but it is not hard to give it another turn. Diderot said (and
though some people believe him not, I do) that Rousseau originally
intended, in the Dijon prize essay which made his fate and fame, to
argue that science and letters had _improved_ morality, etc.; and that
he, Diderot, had told Jean Jacques that this was _le pont aux ânes_, and
determined him to take the paradoxical side instead. The "Asses' bridge"
(_not_ in the Euclidic sense, nor as meaning that all who took it were
asses) of the mid-nineteenth century French novelist was the biography
of the _demi-monde_. Balzac had been the first and greatest engineer of
these _ponts et chaussées_; Dumas _fils_ had shown that they might lead
to no mean success; so all the others followed in a fashion certainly
rather ovine and occasionally asinine. Madelon is a young woman,
attractive rather than beautiful, who begins as a somewhat mysterious
favourite of men of fashion in Paris; establishes herself for a time as
a married woman in an Alsatian town; ruins nearly, _mais non tout_, a
country baron; and ends, as far as the book goes, by being a sort of
inferior Lola Montès to a German princeling. It has cost considerable
effort to justify even this short summary. I have found few French
novels harder to read. But there is at least one smart remark--of the
"publicist" rather than the novelist kind--towards the end:

     C'est un besoin inné chez les peuplades germaniques; il
     faut, bon gré mal gré, qu'ils adorent quelqu'un.

They did not dislike puns and verbal jingles, either in France or in
England in the mid-nineteenth century, as much as their ancestors and
their descendants in both countries have done before and since. A
survivor to-day might annotate "Et quel quelqu'un quelquefois!"

[Sidenote: _Maître Pierre_, etc. Summing up.]

In fact, to put the matter brutally, but honestly, as far as the present
writer's knowledge extends, Edmond About was not a novelist at all "in
his heart." He was a journalist (he himself admits the impeachment so
far), and he was a journalist in a country where novel- or at least
tale-writing had long established itself as part of the journalist's
business. Also he was really a good _raconteur_--a gift which, though
perhaps few people have been good novelists without it, does not by
itself make a good novelist. As a publicist, too, he was of no small
mark: his _Question Romaine_ could not be left out of any sufficient
political library of the nineteenth century. Some of his shorter tales,
such as _Le Nez d'un Notaire_ and _L'Homme à l'Oreille Cassée_, have had
a great vogue with those who like comic situations described with
lively, if not very refined, wit. He was also a good topographer; indeed
this element enters largely into most of his so-called novels already
noticed, and constitutes nearly all the interest of a very pleasant book
called _Maître Pierre_. This is a description of the _Landes_ between
Bordeaux and Arcachon, and something like a "puff" of the methods used
to reclaim them, diversified by an agreeable enough romance. The hero is
a local "king," a foundling-hunter-agriculturist who uses his kingdom,
not like Hadji Stavros, to pillage and torment, but to benefit his
subjects. The heroine is his protégée Marinette, a sort of minor Isopel
Berners, with a happier end.[428] The throwing into actual tale-form of
curious and decidedly costly local fashions of courtship is clever; but
the whole thing is a sort of glorified advertisement. Other books, _Les
Mariages de Paris_ and _Les Mariages de Province_, almost tell their
tales, and something more,[429] in their titles.

One cannot but be sorry if this seems an unfair or shabby account of a
pleasant and popular writer, but the right and duty of historical
criticism is not to be surrendered. One of the main objects of literary
history is to separate what is quotidian from what is not. To neglect
the quotidian altogether is--whatever some people may say--to fall short
of the historian's duty; to put it in its proper place _is_ that duty.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Ponson du Terrail and Gaboriau.]

What ought to be said and done about Ponson du Terrail and Gaboriau--the
younger Sue and Soulié; the protagonists of the melodramatic and
criminal _feuilleton_ during the later middle of the century--has been
rather a problem with me. Clearly they cannot be altogether neglected.
Deep would answer to deep, Rocambole to M. Lecoq, in protesting against
such an omission of their manufacturers. I do not know, indeed, that any
English writer of distinction has done for M. le Vicomte Ponson du
Terrail what Mr. Lang did, "under the species of eternity" which verse
confers, for "(Miss Braddon and) Gaboriau." I have known those who
preferred that _other_ Viscount, "Richard O'Monroy"--who shared with
"Gyp" and Armand Silvestre the cheerful office of cheering the cheerable
during the 'eighties and later--to the more canonical possessor of the
title before him. But du Terrail was what I believe is called, in
Scottish "kirk" language, a "supply"--a person who could undertake the
duty of filling gaps--of enormous efficacy in his day. That is a claim
on this history which cannot be neglected, though the people who would
fain have Martin Tupper blotted out of the history of English poetry,
might like to drop Ponson du Terrail in that of the French novel down an
oubliette, like one of his own heroes, and _not_ give him the file
mercifully furnished to that robustious marquis. Gaboriau claims, in the
same way, even more "clamantly."

The worst of it is (to play cards on table with the strictness which is
the only virtue of this book, save perhaps an occasional absence of
ignorance) that neither of them appeals to me. I have no doubt that this
recalcitrance to the crime-novel is a _culpa_, if not a _culpa maxima_.
I suppose it was born in me. It is certainly not merely due to the fact
that, in my journalist days, perhaps because I was a kind of abortion of
a barrister, I had to write endless articles on crimes.

    Penge murders knew
    The pencil blue

as regards my "copy," and a colleague once upbraided me for arguing in
favour of Mrs. Maybrick. But