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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

La Princesse Minon Minette et le Prince Souci


It

is followed by a series of short tales, beginning with _The Little Green Frog_, and not of the first class, which in turn are succeeded by two (or, as the latter is in two parts, three) longer stories, sometimes attributed to Caylus--_Le Loup Galeux_ and _Bellinette et Belline_. The _Soirees Bretonnes_ themselves, though apparently the earliest, are not the happiest of Gueulette's _pastiches_; the speaking names[244] especially are irritating. A certain Madame de Lintot, who does not seem to have had anything to do with the hero of Pope's famous "Ride with a Bookseller," is what may be called "neutral," with _Timandre et Bleuette_ and others; nor does a fresh instalment of Moncrif's efforts show the historian of cats at his best. But in vol. xxxiii. Mlle. de Lubert, glanced at before, raises the standard. She should have cut her tales down; it is the mischief of these later things that they extend too much. But _Lionnette et Coquerico_ is good; _Le Prince Glace et la Princesse Etincelante_ is not bad; and _La Princesse Camion_ attracts, by dint of extravagance in the literal sense. Fairy trials had gone far; but the necessity of either marrying a beautiful sort of mermaid or else of _flaying_ her, and the subsequent trial, not of flaying, but braying her in a mortar as a shrimp, show at least a lively fancy. Nor is the anonymous _Nourjahad_--an extremely moral but not dull tale, which follows--at all contemptible.

The French Bar, inexhaustible

in such things, gave another tale-teller in one Pajon, who, besides the obligatory _polissonneries_, not included in the _Cabinet_, composed not a few harmless things of some merit. The first, _Eritzine et Paretin_, is perhaps the best. Nor is the complement of vol. xxxiv., the _Bibliotheque des Fees et des Genies_ (the title of which was that of a larger collection, containing much the same matter as the _Cabinet_, and probably in Johnson's mind when he jotted down _Prince Titi_), quite barren. _La Princesse Minon-Minette et le Prince Souci_, _Apranor et Bellanire_, _Grisdelin et Charmante_, are none of them unreadable. The next volume, too, is better as a whole than any we have had for a long time. Mme. Fagnan's _Minet Bleu et Louvette_ contains, in its fifteen pages, a good situation by no means ill-treated. The pair are under the same spell--that of being ugly and witty for part of the week, handsome, stupid, and disagreeable for the other part, and of having the times so arranged that each sees the other at his or her most repulsive to her or his actual state. The way in which "Love unconquered in battle" proves, though not without fairy assistance, victorious here also, is very ingeniously managed.

One of the cleverest of all the later fairy tales is the _Acajou et Zirphile_ of Duclos, who, indeed, had sufficient wits to do anything well, and was a novelist, though not a very distinguished one, on a larger scale. The tale itself (which is said to have been written "up to" illustrations of Boucher designed for something else) has, indeed, a smatch of vulgarity, but a purely superfluous and easily removable one. It is almost as cleverly written as any thing of Voltaire's: and the final situation, where the hero, who has gone through all the mischiefs and triumphs of one of Crebillon's, recovers his only real love, Zirphile, in a torment and tornado of heads separated from bodies and hands separated from arms, is rather capital.


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