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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Beginning with Artamene's first interview with Mandane


Again,

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

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

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

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

No sooner had the Princess seen my Master than she rose, and prepared to receive him with much kindness


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