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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

The faithful monographer above cited admits merit in Dunlop


delay), Diane and Honore were

not sister- and brother-in-law at all, and no "divorce" or even "dispensation" was needed. In the same way, Honore, having been introduced into the Order of St. John irregularly in various ways, never was a knight of it at all, and could not be bound by its rules. Q.E.D. Wicked people, of course, on the other hand, said that it was a device to retain Diane's great wealth (for Honore was quite poor in comparison) in the family; sentimental ones that it was a fortunate and blameless crowning of a long and pure attachment. As a matter of fact, no "permanent children" (to adopt an excellent phrase of the late Mr. Traill's) resulted; Diane outlived her husband, though but for a short time, and left all her property to her relations of the Levis family. The pair are also said not to have been the most united of couples. In connection with the _Astree_ their portraits are interesting. Honore d'Urfe, though he had the benefit of Van Dyck's marvellous art of cavalier creation, must have been a very handsome man. Diane's portrait, by a much harder and dryer hand, purports to have been taken at the age of sixty-four. At first sight there is no beauty in it; but on reinspection one admits possibilities--a high forehead, rather "enigmatic" eyes, not at all "extinguished," a nose prominent and rather large, but straight and with well, but not too much, developed "wings," and, above all, a full and rather voluptuous mouth. Such may have been the first identified novel-heroine. It is a popular
error to think that sixty-four and beauty are incompatibles, but one certainly would have liked to see her at sixteen, or better still and perhaps best of all, at six and twenty.

[Sidenote: The book.]

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


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