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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

But once more on that of Aglatidas and Amestris


originality may perhaps deserve a little more comment.[173] The mixture of secondary plots might, by a person more given to theorise than the present historian--who pays his readers the compliment of supposing that that excessively easy and therefore somewhat negligible business can be done by themselves if they wish--be traced to an accidental feature of the later mediaeval romances. In these the congeries of earlier texts, which the compiler had not the wits, or at least the desire, to systematise, provided something like it; but required the genius of a Spenser, or the considerable craft of a Scudery, to throw it into shape and add the connecting links. Many of the other things are to be found in the Scudery romance practically for the first time. And the suffusion of the whole with a new tone and colour of at least courtly manners is something more to be counted, as well as the constant exclusion of the clumsy "conjuror's supernatural" of the _Amadis_ group. That the fairy story sprung up, to supply the always graceful supernatural element in a better form, is a matter which will be dealt with later in this chapter. The oracles, etc., of the _Cyrus_ belong, of course, to the historical, not the imaginative side of the presentation; but may be partly due to the _Astree_, the influence of which was, we saw, admitted.

[Sidenote: Analysis resumed.]

It may seem unjust that the more this complication of interests

increases, the less complete should be the survey of them; and yet a moment's thought will show that this is almost a necessity. Moreover, the methods do not vary much; it is only that they are applied to a larger and larger mass of accumulating material. The first volume of the Fourth Part, the seventh of the twenty, follows--though with that absence of slavish repetition which has been allowed as one of the graces of the book--the general scheme. Cyrus gets out of the wood literally, but not figuratively; for when he and the King of Assyria have joined forces, to pursue that rather paradoxical alliance which is to run in couple with rivalry for love and to end in a personal combat, they see on the other side of a river a chariot, in which Mandane probably or certainly is. But the river is unbridged and unfordable, and no boats can be had; so that, after trying to swim it and nearly getting drowned, they have to relinquish the game that had been actually in sight. Next, two things happen. First, Martesie appears (as usually to our satisfaction), and in consequence of a series of accidents, shares and solaces Mandane's captivity. Then, on the other side, Panthea, Queen of Susiana, and wife of one of the enemy princes, falls into Cyrus's hands, and with Araminta (who is, it should have, if it has not been, said earlier, sister of the King of Pontus) furnishes valuable hostage for good treatment of Mandane and other Medo-Persian-Phrygian-Hircanian prisoners.

Things having thus been fairly bustled up for a time, a _Histoire_ is, of course, imminent, and we have it, of about usual length, concerning the Lydian Princess Palmis and a certain Cleandre; while, even when this is done, we fall back, not on the main story, but once more on that of Aglatidas and Amestris, which is in a sad plight, for Amestris (who has been married against her will and is _maumariee_ too) thinks she is a widow, and finds she is not.

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