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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Signed by Conrart le silencieux Conrart


It

has just been mentioned that Palmis is a Lydian Princess; and before the end of this Part Croesus comes personally into the story, being the head of a formidable combination to supplant the King of Pontus, detain Mandane, and, if possible (as the well-known oracle, in the usual ambiguity (_v. inf._), encourages him to hope), conquer the Medo-Persian empire and make it his own. But the _Histoire_ mania--now further excited by consistence in working the personages so obtained in generally--is in great evidence, and "Lygdamis and Cleonice" supply a large proportion of the early and all the middle of the eighth volume, the second of the Fourth Part. There is, however, much more business than usual at the end to make up for any slackness at the beginning. In a side-action with the Lydians both Cyrus and the King of Assyria are captured by force of numbers, though the former is at once released by the Princess Palmis, as well as Artames, son of Cyrus's Phrygian ally, whom Croesus chooses to consider as a rebel, and intends to put to death. Here, however, the captive Queen and Princess, Panthea and Araminta, come into good play, and exercise strong and successful influence through the husband of the one and the brother of the other. But at the end of book, volume, and part we leave Cyrus once more in the dismals. For though he has actually seen Mandane he cannot get at her, and he has heard three apparently most unfavourable oracles; the Babylonian one, which was quoted above, and which
he, like everybody else, takes as a promise of success to Philidaspes; the ambiguous Delphic forecast of "the fall of _an_ Empire" to Croesus; and that of his own death at the hands of a hostile queen, the only one which, historically, was to be fulfilled in its apparent sense, while the others were not. He cares, indeed, not much about the two last, but infinitely about the first.

At the opening of the Fifth Part (ninth volume) there is a short but curious "Address to the Reader," announcing the fulfilment of the first half of the promised production, and bidding him not be downhearted, for the first of the second half (the Sixth Part or eleventh volume of the whole) is actually at Press. It may be noticed that there is a swagger about these _avis_ and such like things, which probably _is_ attributable to Georges, and not to Madeleine.[174]

The inevitable _Histoire_ comes earlier than usual in this division, and is of unusual importance; for it deals with two persons of great distinction, and already introduced in the story, Queen Panthea and her husband Abradates. It is also one of the longer batch, running to some four hundred pages; and a notable part in it and in the future main story is played by one Doralise--a pretty name, which Dryden, making it prettier still by substituting a _c_ for the _s_, borrowed for his most original and (with that earlier Florimel of _The Maiden Queen_, who is said to have been studied directly off Nell Gwyn) perhaps his most attractive heroine, the Doralice of _Marriage a la Mode_. Another important character, the villain of the sub-plot, is one Mexaris.[175] At the end of the first instalment we leave Cyrus preparing elaborate machines of war to crush the Lydians.

Early in Book II. we hear of a mysterious warrior on the enemy side whom nobody knows, who calls himself Telephanes, and whom Cyrus is very anxious to meet in battle, but for the time cannot. He is also frustrated in his challenge of the King of Pontus to fight for Mandane--a challenge of which Croesus will not hear. At last Telephanes turns out to be no less a person than Mazare, Prince of Sacia, whom we know already as one of the ever-multiplying lovers and abductors of the heroine; while, after a good deal of confused fighting, another inset _Histoire_ of him closes the tenth volume (V. ii.). It is, however, only two hundred pages long--a mere parenthesis compared to others, and it leads up to his giving Cyrus a letter from Mandane--an act of generosity which Philidaspes, otherwise King of Assyria, frankly confesses that he, as another Rival, could never have done. After yet another _Histoire_ (now a "four-some") of Belesis, Hermogenes, Cleodare, and Leonice, Abradates changes sides, carrying us on to an "intricate impeach" of old and new characters, especially Araminta and Spithridates, and to the death in battle of the generous King of Susiana himself, and the grief of Panthea. There is, at the close of this volume, a rather interesting _Privilege du Roi_, signed by Conrart ("_le silencieux Conrart_"), sealed with "the great seal of yellow wax in a simple tail" (one ribbon or piece of ferret only?), and bestowing its rights "nonobstant Clameur de Haro, Charte Normande, et autres lettres contraires."


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