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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

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. LL.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. I

FROM THE BEGINNING TO 1800

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON 1917

COPYRIGHT

PREFACE

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

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

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


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