free ebooks

A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

But Almahide contains nothing


There

is, however, one sentence in the second volume of _Ibrahim_ which is worth quotation and brief comment, because it is a text for the whole management and system of these novels, and accounts for much in their successors almost to the present day. Emilie is telling the _Histoire_ of Isabelle, and excuses herself for not beginning at the beginning: "Puisque je sais que vous n'ignorez pas l'amour du Prince de Masseran, les violences et les artifices de Julie, la trahison de Feliciane, le genereux ressentiment de Doria [this is another Doria], la mort de cet amant infortune, et ensuite celle de Julie." In other words, all these things have been the subject of previous histories or of the main text. And so it is always. Diderot admired, or at least excused, that procedure of Richardson's which involved the telling of the conversation of an average dinner-party in something like a small volume. But the "Heroic" method would have made it necessary to tell the previous experiences of the lady you took down to dinner, and the man that you talked to afterwards, while, if extended from aristocratic to democratic ideas, it would have justified a few remarks on the cabmen who brought both, and the butcher and fishmonger who supplied the feast. The inconvenience of this earlier practice made itself felt, and by degrees it dropped off; but it was succeeded by a somewhat similar habit of giving the subsequent history of personages introduced--a thing which, though Scott satirised it in Mrs. Martha
Buskbody's insistence on information about the later history of Guse Gibbie,[196] by no means ceased with his time. Both were, in fact, part of the general refusal to accept the conditions of ordinary life. If "tout _passe_" is an exaggeration, it is an exaggeration of the truth: and in fiction, as in fact, the minor shapes must dissolve as well as arise without too much fuss being made about them.[197]

[Sidenote: _Almahide._]

_Almahide_ is, I think, more readable than _Ibrahim_; but the _English_ reader must disabuse himself of the idea (if he entertains it) that he will find much of the original of _The Conquest of Granada_. The book does, indeed, open like the play, with the faction-fights of Abencerrages and Zegrys, and it ends with Boabdelin's jealousy of his wife Almahide, while a few of the other names in both are identical. But _Almahide_ contains nothing, or hardly anything, of the character of Almanzor, and Dryden has not attempted to touch a hundredth part of the copious matter of the French novel, the early history of Almahide, the usual immense digressions and side-_histoires_, the descriptions (which, as in _Ibrahim_, play, I think, a larger relative part than in the _Cyrus_), and what not.

[Sidenote: _Clelie._]

[Sidenote: Perhaps the liveliest of the set.]

Copious as these are, however, in both books, they do not fill them out to anything like the length of the _Cyrus_ itself, or of its rival in size, and perhaps superior in attraction, the _Clelie_. I do not plead guilty to inconsistency or change of opinion in this "perhaps" when it is compared with the very much larger space given to the earlier novel. _Le Grand Cyrus_ has been estated too firmly, as the type and representative of the whole class, to be dislodged, and there is, as we shall see presently, a good deal of repetition from it in _Clelie_ itself. But this latter is the more amusing book of the two; it is, though equally or nearly as big, less labyrinthine; there is somewhat livelier movement in it, and at the same time this is contrasted with a set or series of interludes of love-casuistry, which are better, I think, than anything of the kind in the _Cyrus_.[198] The most famous feature of these is, of course, the well-known but constantly misnamed "Carte de Tendre" ("Map of the Country of Tenderness"--not of "Tenderness in the _aib_stract," as _du_ Tendre would be). The discussion of what constitutes Tenderness comes quite early; there is later a notable discourse on the respective attractions of Love and of Glory or Ambition; a sort of Code and Anti-code of lovers[199] occurs as "The Love-Morality of Tiramus," with a set of (not always) contrary criticism thereof; and a debate of an almost mediaeval kind as to the respective merits of merry and melancholy mistresses. Moreover, there is a rather remarkable "Vision of Poets"--past, present, and to come--which should be taken in connection with the appearance, as an actual personage, of Anacreon. All this, taken in conjunction with the "business" of the story, helps to give it the superior liveliness with which it has, rightly or wrongly, been credited here.


eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us

freefictionbooks.org is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 freefictionbooks.org - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us