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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Endimion is rather interesting


and the philosophical romance

of Hedelin d'Aubignac, the earlier allegorical ones of the poet Gombauld, _Endimion_ and _Amaranthe_. The latter I have not yet seen. _Endimion_ is rather interesting; there was an early English translation of it; and I have always been of those who believe that Keats, somehow or other, was more directly acquainted with seventeenth-century literature than has generally been allowed.[211] The wanderings of the hero are as different as possible in detail; but the fact that there _are_ wanderings at all is remarkable, and there are other coincidences with Keats and differences from any classical form, which it might be out of place to dwell on here. Endymion is waked from his Latmian sleep by the infernal clatter of the dwellers at the base of the mountain, who use all the loudest instruments they possess to dispel an eclipse of the moon: and is discovered by his friend Pyzandre, to whom he tells the vicissitudes of his love and sleep. The early revealings of herself by Diana are told with considerable grace, and the whole, which is not too long, is readable. But there are many of the _naivetes_ and awkwardnesses of expression which attracted to the writers of this time the scorn of Boileau and others down to La Harpe. The Dedication to the Queen may perhaps be excused for asserting, in its first words, that as Endymion was put to sleep by the Moon, so he has been reawakened by the Sun,[212] _i.e._ her Majesty. But a Nemesis of this Phebus follows. For, later, it is laid down that
"La Lune doit _toujours_ sa lumiere au Soleil." From which it will follow that Diana owed her splendour to Anne of Austria, or was it Marie de Medicis?[213] It was fortunate for Gombauld that he did not live under the older dispensation. Artemis was not a forgiving goddess like Aphrodite.

Again, when Diana has disappeared after one of her graciousnesses, her lover makes the following reflection--that the gods apparently can depart _sans etre en peine de porter necessairement les pieds l'un devant l'autre_--an observation proper enough in burlesque, for the idea of a divine goose-step or marking time, instead of the _incessus_, is ludicrous enough. But there is not the slightest sign of humour anywhere in the book. Yet, again, this is a thing one would rather not have said, "Diane cessant de m'etre favorable, Ismene[214] _me pouvait tenir lieu de Deesse_." Now it is sadly true that the human race does occasionally entertain, and act upon, reflections of this kind: and persons like Mr. Thomas Moore and Gombauld's own younger contemporary, Sir John Suckling, have put the idea into light and lively verse. But you do not expect it in a serious romance.

Nevertheless it may be repeated that _Endimion_ is one of the most readable of the two classes of books--the smaller sentimental and the longer heroic--between which it stands in scope and character. The author's practice in the "other harmony" makes the obligatory verse-insertions rather less clumsy than usual; and it may be permitted to add that the illustrations of the original edition, which are unusually numerous and elaborate, are also rather unusually effective. "Peggy's face" is too often as "wretched" as Thackeray confessed his own attempts were; but the compositions are not, as such, despicable--even in the case of the immortal and immortalising kiss-scene itself. The "delicious event," to quote the same author in another passage, is not actually coming off--but it is very near. But it was perhaps a pity that either Gombauld or Keats ever _waked_ Endymion.


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