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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Had better let Faramond alone



La Calprenede's third novel, _Faramond_, is unfinished as his work, and the continuation seems to have more than one claimant to its authorship. If the "eminent hand" was one Vaumoriere, who independently accomplished a minor "heroic" in _Le Grand Scipion_, he was not likely to infuse much fire into the ashes of his predecessor. As it stands in La Calprenede's own part, _Faramond_ is a much duller book than _Cassandre_ or _Cleopatre_. It must, of course, be remembered that, though patriotism has again and again prompted the French to attack these misty Merovingian times (the _Astree_ itself deals with them in the liberal fashion in which it deals with everything), the result has rarely, if ever, been a success. Indeed I can hardly think of any one--except our own "Twin Brethren" in _Thierry and Theodoret_--who has made anything good out of French history before Charlemagne.[204] The reader, therefore, unless he be a very thorough and conscientious student, had better let _Faramond_ alone; but its elder sisters are much pleasanter company. Indeed the impolite thought will occur that it is much more like the Scudery novels, part of which it succeeded, and may possibly have been the result--not by any means the only one in literature--of an unlucky attempt to beat a rival by copying him or her.

[Sidenote: Gomberville--_La Caritee_.]

If any one, seeking acquaintance

with the works of Marin le Roy, Seigneur de Gomberville, begins at the beginning with his earliest work, and one of the earliest of the whole class, _La Caritee_ (not "Carit_ie_," as in some reference books), he may not be greatly appetised by the addition to the title, "contenant, sous des temps, des personnes, et des noms supposes, plusieurs rares et veritables histoires de notre temps." For this is a proclamation, as Urfe had _not_ proclaimed it,[205] of the wearisome "key" system, which, though undoubtedly it has had its partisans at all times, is loathsome as well as wearisome to true lovers of true literature. To such persons every lovable heroine of romance is, more or less, suggestive of more or fewer women of history, other romance, or experience; every hero, more or less, though to a smaller extent, recognisable or realisable in the same way; and every event, one in which such readers have been, might have been, or would have liked to be engaged themselves; but they do not care the scrape of a match whether the author originally intended her for the Princess of Kennaquhair or for Polly Jones, him and it for corresponding realities. Nor is the sequel particularly ravishing, though it is dedicated to "all fair and virtuous shepherdesses, all generous and perfect shepherds." Perhaps it is because one is not a generous and perfect shepherd that one finds the "Great Pan is Dead" story less impressive in Gomberville's prose than in Milton's verse at no distant period; is not much refreshed by getting to Rome about the death of Germanicus, and hearing a great deal about his life; or later still by Egyptian _bergeries_--things in which somehow one does not see a concatenation accordingly; and is not consoled by having the Phoenix business done--oh! so differently from the fashion of Shakespeare or even of Darley. And when it finishes with a solemn function for the rise of the Nile, the least exclusively modern of readers may prefer Moore or Gautier.

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