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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

And Artamene more particularly


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[Sidenote: General remarks on the book and its class.]

If the reader, having tolerated this long analysis (it is perhaps most probable that he will _not_ have done so), asks what game one pretends to have shown for so much expenditure or candle, it is, no doubt, not easy to answer him without a fresh, though a lesser, trial of his patience. You cannot "ticket" the _Grand Cyrus_, or any of its fellows, or the whole class, with any complimentary short description, such as a certain school of ancient criticism loved, and corresponding to our modern advertisement labels--"grateful and comforting," "necessary in every travelling bag," and the like. They are, indeed, as I have endeavoured to indicate indirectly as well as directly, by no means so destitute of interest of the ordinary kind as it has generally been the fashion to think them. From the charge of inordinate length it is, of course, impossible to clear the whole class, and _Artamene_ more particularly.[188] Length "no more than reason" is in some judgments a positive advantage in a novel; but this _is_ more than reason. I believe (the _moi_, I trust, is not utterly _haissable_ when it is necessary) that I myself am a rather unusually rapid, without being a careless or unfaithful, reader; and that I have by nature a very little of that faculty with which some much greater persons have been credited, of being able to

see at a glance whether anything on a page needs more than that glance or not, a faculty not likely to have been rendered abortive (though also not, I hope, rendered morbid) by infinite practice in reviewing. I do not say that, even now, I have read every word of this _Artamene_ as I should read every word of a sonnet of Shakespeare or a lyric of Shelley, even as I should read every word of a page of Thackeray. I have even skimmed many pages. But I have never found, even in a time of "retired leisure," that I could get through more than three, or at the very utmost four, of the twenty volumes or half-volumes without a day or two of rest or other work between. On the other hand, the book is not significantly piquant in detail to enable me to read attentively fifty or a hundred pages and then lay it down.[189] You do, in a lazy sort of way, want to know what happened--a tribute, no doubt, to Mlle. Madeleine--and so you have to go on ploughing the furrow. But several weeks' collar-work[190] is a great deal to spend on a single book of what is supposed to be pastime; and the pastime becomes occasionally one of doubtful pleasure now and then. In fact, it is, as has been said, best to read in shifts. Secondly, there may, no doubt, be charged a certain unreality about the whole: and a good many other criticisms may be, as some indeed have been already, made without injustice.

The fact is that not only was the time not yet, but something which was very specially of the time stood in the way of the other thing coming, despite the strong _nisus_ in its favour excited by various influences spoken of at the beginning of this chapter. This was the devotion--French at almost all times, and specially French at this--to the type. There are


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