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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Clelie and Aronce are united without an earthquake


[Sidenote:

Rough outline of it.]

Of that business itself a complete account cannot, for reasons given more than once, be attempted; though anybody who wants such a thing, without going to the book itself, may find it in the places also above mentioned. There is no such trick played upon the educated but not wideawake person as (_v. inf._) in La Calprenede's chief books. Clelie is the real Clelia, if the modern historical student will pass "real" without sniffing, or even if he will not. Her lover, "Aronce," although he probably may be a little disguised from the English reader by his spelling, is so palpably the again real "Aruns," son of Porsena, that one rather wonders how his identity can have been so long concealed in French (where the pronunciations would be practically the same) from the readers of the story. The book begins with a proceeding not quite so like that of the _Cyrus_ as some to be mentioned later, but still pretty close to the elder overture. "The illustrious Aronce and the adorable Clelia" are actually going to be married, when there is a fearful storm, an earthquake, and a disappearance of the heroine. She has, of course, been carried off; one might say, without flippancy, of any heroine of Madeleine de Scudery's not only that she was, as in a famous and already quoted saying, "very liable to be carried off," but that it was not in nature that she should not be carried off as early and as often as possible. And her abductor is no less

a person than Horatius--our own Horatius Cocles--the one who kept the bridge in some of the best known of English verses, not he who provoked, from the sister whom he murdered, the greatest speech in all French tragedy before, and perhaps not merely before, Victor Hugo. Horatius is the Philidaspes of _Clelie_, but, as he was bound to be, an infinitely better fellow and of a better fate. Of course the end knits straight on to the beginning. Clelie and Aronce are united without an earthquake, and Porsena, with obliging gallantry, resigns the crown of Clusium (from which he has himself long been kept out by a "Mezentius," who will hardly work in with Virgil's), not to Aronce, but to Clelie herself. The enormous interval between (the book is practically as long as the _Cyrus_) is occupied by the same, or (_v. sup._) nearly the same tissue of delays, digressions, and other maze-like devices for setting you off on a new quest when you seem to be quite close to the goal. A large part of the scene is in Carthage, where, reversing the process in regard to Mezentius, Asdrubals and Amilcars make their appearance in a very "mixedly" historical fashion. A Prince of Numidia (who had heard of Numidia in Tarquin's days?) fights a lively water-combat with Horatius actually as he is carrying Clelie off, over the Lake of Thrasymene. All the stock legends of the Porsena siege and others are duly brought in: and the atrocious Sextus, not contented with his sin against Lucrece, tries to carry off Clelie likewise, but is fortunately or wisely prevented. Otherwise the invariable propriety which from the time of the small love-novels (_v. sup._ pp. 157-162) had distinguished these abductions might possibly have been broken through. These outlines might be expanded (and the process would not be very painful to me) into an abstract quite as long as that of Cyrus; but "It Cannot Be."


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