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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

The Pastoral may seem to be the most obsolete


As,

however, has been said, there was to be still another joint to this crocodile, and the four last volumes, xxxviii. to xli. (_not_, as is wrongly said by some, xxxvii. to xl.), contain a somewhat rash continuation of the _Arabian Nights_ themselves, with which Cazotte[246] appears to have had a good deal to do, though an actual Arab monk of the name of Chavis is said to have been mainly concerned. They are not bad reading; but even less of fairy tales than Gueulette's orientalities.

* * * * *

Not much apology is needed, it may be hoped, for the space given to this curious kind; the bulk of its production, the length of its popularity, and the intrinsic merit of some few of its better examples vindicate its position here. But a confession should take the place of the unnecessary excuse already partly made. The artificial fairy tale of the more regular kind was not, by the law of its being, prevented almost unavoidably from doing service to the novel at large, as the Eastern story was; but, as a matter of fact, it did little except what will be mentioned in the next paragraph. That it helped to exemplify afresh what had been shown over and over again for centuries, the singular recreative faculty of the nation and the language, was about all. But another national characteristic, the as yet incurable set of the French mind towards types--which, if the second volume of this work ever

appears, will, it is hoped, be shown to have spared the later novel--seized on these tales. They are "as like as my fingers to my fingers," and they are not very pretty fingers as a rule. Incidentally they served as frameworks to some of the worst verse in the world, nor, for the most part, did they even encourage very good prose. You may get some good out of them; but unless you like hunting, and are not vexed by frequent failures to "draw," the _Cabinet des Fees_ is best left to exploration at second-hand.

* * * * *

To collect the results of this long chapter, we may observe that in these three departments--Pastoral, Heroic, and Fairy--various important elements of _general_ novel material and construction are provided in a manner not yet noticed. The Pastoral may seem to be the most obsolete, the most of a mere curiosity. But the singular persistence and, in a way, universality of this apparently fossil convention has been already pointed out; and it is perhaps only necessary to shift the pointer to the fact that the novels with which one of the most modern, in perhaps the truest sense of that word, of modern novelists, though one of the eldest, Mr. Thomas Hardy, began to make his mark--_Under the Greenwood Tree_ and _Far from the Madding Crowd_--may be claimed by the pastoral with some reason. And it has another and a wider claim--that it keeps up, in its own way, the element of the imaginative, of the fanciful--let us say even of the unreal--without


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