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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Sidenote Prince Muguet et Princesse Zaza


[Sidenote:

_Prince Muguet et Princesse Zaza._]

Caylus, however, makes up in the third tale, _Le Prince Muguet et la Princesse Zaza_, where, though the principal fairy, she of the _Hetre_, is rather silly for one of the kind, Muguet is a not quite intolerable coxcomb, and Zaza is positively charming. Her sufferings with a wicked old woman are common; but her distress when the fairy makes her seem ugly to the Prince, who has actually fallen in love with her true portrait, and the scenes where the two meet under this spell, are among the best in the whole _Cabinet_--which is a bold word. The others, though naturally unequal, never or very seldom lack charm, for the reason that Caylus knew what one has ventured to call the secret of Fairyland--that it is the land of the attained Wish--and that he has the art of scattering rememberable and generative phrases and fancies. _Tourlou et Rirette_, one of the lightest of all, may not impossibly--indeed probably--have suggested Jean Ingelow's great single-speech poem of _Divided_; the Princesses Pimprenelle and Lumineuse are the right sort of Princesses; _Nonchalante et Papillon_, _Bleuette et Coquelicot_ come and take their places unpretentiously but certainly; Mignonette and Minutieuse are not "out." Caylus is not Hamilton by a long way; but he has something that Hamilton has not. He is still less Perrault or Madame d'Aulnoy, but he has a sufficient difference from either. With these predecessors he makes the select

quartette of the fairy-tale tellers of France.

After him one expects--and meets--a drop. No reasonable person would look for a really great fairy tale from Jean Jacques, because you must forget yourself to write one; and _La Reine Fantasque_, though not bad, is not good. Madame de Villeneuve may, for ought I know, have been an excellent person in other ways, but she deserves one of the worst bolgias in the Inferno of literature for lengthening, muddling, and altogether spoiling the ever-beloved "Beauty and the Beast." Mlle. de Lussan, they say,[241] was too fond of eating, and died of indigestion. A more indigestible thing than her own _Les Veillees de Thessalie_, which figure here (she wrote a great deal more), the present writer has never come across. And as for _Prince Titi_, which fills a volume and a half, it might have been passed without any remark at all if it had not become famous in connection with the Battle of Croker and Macaulay over the body of Boswell's _Johnson_.[242]

A break takes place at the thirtieth volume of the _Cabinet_, and a fresh instalment, later than the first batch, follows, with more particulars about authors. Here we find the attributions of the very large series of imitative Eastern tales already noticed, and to be followed in this new parcel by _Soirees Bretonnes_, to Thomas Simon Gueulette. The thirty-first opens with the _Funestine_ of Beauchamps[243]--an ingenious title and heroine-name, for it avoids the unnatural sounds so common, is a quite possible feminine appellation, and though a "speaking" one, is only so to those who understand the learned languages, and so deserve to be spoken to. Moreover, the idea, though not startlingly original or a mark of genius, is good--that of an unlucky child who attracts the malignity of _all_ fairies, and is ugly, stupid, ill-natured, and everything that is detestable. Her reformation by the genie Clair-Obscur would not be bad if it were cut a great deal shorter.


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