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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Menecrate and Thrasimede are going to fight


Then

come two more startling events. A wicked Prince Phraortes bolts with the unwilling Araminta, and the King of Assyria (_alias_ Philidaspes) slips away in search of Mandane on his own account--two things inconvenient to Cyrus in some ways, but balancing themselves in others. For if it is unpleasant to have a very violent and rather unscrupulous Rival hunting the beloved on the one hand, that beloved's jealousy, if not cured, is at least not likely to be increased by the disappearance of its object. This last, however, hits Spithridates, who is, as it has been and will be seen, the _souffre-douleur_ of the book, much harder. And the double situation illustrates once more the extraordinary care taken in systematising--and as one might almost say _syllabising_--the book. It is almost impossible that there should not somewhere exist an actual syllabus of the whole, though, my habit being rather to read books themselves than books about them, I am not aware of one as a fact.[178]

Another characteristic is also well illustrated in this context, and a further translated extract will show the curious, if not very recondite, love-casuistry which plays so large a part. But these French writers of the seventeenth century[179] did not know one-tenth of the matter that was known by their or others' mediaeval ancestors, by their English and perhaps Spanish contemporaries, or by writers in the nineteenth century. They were not "perfect in love-lore"; their _Liber

Amoris_ was, after all, little more than a fashion-book in divers senses of "fashion." But let them speak for themselves:

[Sidenote: The judgment of Cyrus in a court of love.]

[_Menecrate and Thrasimede are going to fight, and have, according to the unqualified legal theory[180] and very occasional actual practice of seventeenth-century France, if not of the Medes and Persians, been arrested, though in honourable fashion. The "dependence" is a certain Arpalice, who loves Thrasimede and is loved by him. But she is ordered by her father's will to marry Menecrate, who is now quite willing to marry her, though she hates him, and though he has previously been in love with Androclee, to whom he has promised that he will not marry the other. A sort of informal_ Cour d'Amour _is held on the subject, the President being Cyrus himself, and the judges Princesses Timarete and Palmis, Princes Sesostris and Myrsilus, with "Toute la compagnie" as assessors and assessoresses. After much discussion, it is decided to disregard the dead father's injunction and the living inconstant's wishes, and to unite Thrasimede and Arpalice. But the chief points of interest lie in the following remarks:_]

"As it seems to me," said Cyrus, "what we ought most to consider in this matter is the endeavour to make the fewest possible persons unhappy, and to prevent a combat between two gentlemen of such gallantry, that to whichever side victory inclines, we should have cause to regret the vanquished. For although Menecrate is inconstant and a little capricious, he has, for all that, both wits and a heart. We must, then, if you please," added he, turning to the two princesses, "consider that if Arpalice were forced to carry out her father's testament and marry Menecrate, everybody would be unhappy, and he would have to fight two duels,[181] one against Thrasimede and one against Philistion (_Androclee's brother_), the one fighting for his mistress, the other for his sister." "No


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