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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Certain Aramis not so good a man as three friends of his


certain Aramis--not so good

a man as three friends of his, but a very accomplished, valiant, and ingenious gentleman. The blue eyes of Madame de Longueville (M. de Scudery takes the liberty to mention specially their charm, if not their colour) were among the most victorious in that time of the "raining" and reigning influence of such things: and somehow one succumbs a little even now to her as the Queen of that bevy of fair, frail, and occasionally rather ferocious ladies of the Fronde feminine. (The femininity was perhaps most evident in Madame de Chevreuse, and the ferocity in Madame de Montbazon.) Did not Madame de Longueville--did not they all--figuratively speaking, draw that great philosopher Victor Cousin[152] up in a basket two centuries after her death, even as had been done, literally if mythically, to that greater philosopher, Aristotle, ages before? But the governor of Our Lady of the Guard[153] says to her many of these things which that very Aramis delighted to hear (though not perhaps from the lips of rivals) and described, rebuking the callousness of Porthos to them, as fine and worthy of being said by gentlemen. The Great Cyrus himself "comes to lay at her Highness's feet his palms and his trophies." His historian, achieving at once advertisement and epigram, is sure that as she listened kindly to the _Death of Caesar_ (his own play), she will do the same to the Life of Cyrus. Anne Genevieve herself will become the example of all Princesses (the Reverend Abraham Adams might have groaned
a little here), just as Cyrus was the pattern of all Princes. She is not the moon, but the sun[154] of the Court. The mingled blood of Bourbon and Montmorency gives her such an _eclat_ that it is almost unapproachable. He then digresses a little to glorify her brother, her husband, and Chapelain, the famous author of _La Pucelle_, who had the good fortune to be a friend of the Scuderys, as well as, like them, a strong "Heroic" theorist. After which he comes to that personal inventory which has been referred to, decides that her beauty is of a celestial splendour, and, in fact, a ray of Divinity itself; goes into raptures, not merely over her eyes, but over her hair (which simply effaces sunbeams); the brightness and whiteness of her complexion; the just proportion of her features; and, above all, her singularly blended air of modesty and gallantry; her intellectual and spiritual match; her bodily graces; and he is finally sure that though somebody's misplaced acuteness may discover faults which nobody else will perceive (Georges would like to see them, no doubt), her extreme kindness will pardon them. A commonplace example of flattery this? Well, perhaps not. One somehow sees, across the rhetoric, the blue eyes of Anne Genevieve and the bristling mustachios and "swashing outside" and mighty rapier of Georges; and the thing becomes alive with the life of a not ungracious past, the ills of which were, after all, more or less common to all times, and its charms (like the charms of all things and persons charming) its own.

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

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


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