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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Sidenote The oracle to Philidaspes


than before. The reflections

and soliloquies of Artamene recur; but a not unimportant, although subordinate, new character appears--not as the first example, but as the foremost representative, in the novel, of the great figure of the "confidante"--in Martesie, Mandane's chief maid of honour. Nobody, it is to be hoped, wants an elaborate account of the part she plays, but it should be said that she plays it with much more spirit and individuality than her mistress is allowed to show. Then, according to the general plan of all these books, in which fierce wars and faithful loves alternate, there is more fighting, and though Artamene is victorious (as how should he not be, save now and then to prevent monotony?) he disappears and is thought dead. Of course Mandane cries, and confesses to the confidante, being entirely "finished" by a very exquisite letter which Artamene has written before going into the doubtful battle. However, he is (yet once more, of course) not dead at all. What (as that most sagacious of men, the elder Mr. Weller, would have said)'d have become of the other seventeen volumes if he had been? There is one of the _quiproquos_ or misunderstandings which are as necessary to this kind of novel as the flirtations and the fisticuffs, brought about by the persistence of an enemy princess in taking Artamene for her son Spithridates;[166] but all comes right for the time, and the hero returns to his friends. The plot, however, thickens. An accident informs Artamene that Philidaspes is really Prince
of Assyria, sure to become King when his mother, Nitocris, dies or abdicates, and that, being as he is, and as Artamene knows already, desperately in love with Mandane, he has formed a plot for carrying her off. The difficulties in the way of preventing this are great, because, though the hero is already aware that he is Cyrus, it is for many reasons undesirable to inform Cyaxares of the fact; and at last Philidaspes, helped by the traitor Aribee (_v. sup._), succeeds in the abduction, after an interlude in which a fresh Rival, with a still larger R, the King of Pontus himself, turns up; and an immense episode, in which Thomyris, Queen of Scythia, appears, not yet in her more or less historical part of victress of Cyrus. She is here only a young sovereign, widowed in her earliest youth, extremely beautiful (see a portrait of her _inf._), who has never yet loved, but who falls instantly in love with Cyrus himself (when he is sent to her court), and is rather a formidable person to deal with, inasmuch as, besides having great wealth and power, she has established a diplomatic system of intrigue in other countries, which the newest German or other empire might envy. By the end of this volume, however, the Artamene-Cyrus confusion is partly cleared up (though Cyaxares is not yet made aware of the facts), and the hero is sent after Mandane, to be disappointed at Sinope, in the fashion recounted some thousand or two pages before.

[Sidenote: The oracle to Philidaspes.]


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