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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

They charge Voltaire with actually tracing over Gueulette


[243]

Pierre Francois Godard de Beauchamps seems to have been another fair example of the half-scholarly bookmakers of the eighteenth century. He wrote a few light plays and some serious _Recherches sur les Theatres de France_ which are said to have merit. He translated the late and coxcombical but not uninteresting Greek prose romance of _Hysminias and Hysmine_, as well as that painful verse-novel, the _Rhodanthe and Dosicles_ of Theodoras Prodromus: and he composed, under a pseudonym, of course, a naughty _Histoire du Prince Apprius_ to match his good _Funestine_. The contrasted ways and works of such bookmakers at various times would make a not uninteresting essay of the Hayward type.

[244] "Engageant," "Adresse," "Parlepeu," etc. The _Avertissement de l'Auteur_ is possibly a joke, but more probably an awkward and miss-fire _supercherie_ revealing the usual ignorance of the time as to matters mediaeval. "Alienore" (though it would be better without the final _e_) is a pretty as well as historic form of one of the most beautiful and protean of girl's names: but how did her father, a "seigneur _anglais_," come to be called "Rivalon Murmasson"? And did they know much about Arabia Felix in Brittany when "Daniel Dremruz" reigned there between A.D. 680 and 720? Gueulette himself was a barrister and Procureur-Substitut at the Chatelet. He seems to have imitated Hamilton, to whom the editors of the Cabinet rather idly think him "equal," though, inconsistently,

they admit that Hamilton "stands alone" and Gueulette does not. On the other hand, they charge Voltaire with actually "tracing" over Gueulette. ("_Zadig_ est calque sur les _Soirees Bretonnes_.") This is again an exaggeration; but Gueulette had, undoubtedly, a pleasant and exceedingly fertile fancy, and a good knack of narrative.

[245] The best perhaps is of a certain peppery Breton, Saint-Foix, who was successively a mousquetaire, a lieutenant of cavalry, aide-de-camp to "Broglie the War-god," and a long-lived _litterateur_ in Paris. M. de Saint-Foix picked a quarrel in the _foyer_ of the opera with an unknown country gentleman, as it seemed, and "gave him a rendezvous." But the other party replied coolly that it "was his custom" to be called on if people had business with him, and gave his address. Saint-Foix goes next morning, and is received with the utmost politeness and asked to breakfast. "That's not the question," says the indignant Breton. "Let us go out." "I never go out without breakfasting; _it is my custom_," says the provincial, and does as he says, politely repeating invitations from time to time to his fretting adversary. At last they do go out, to Saint-Foix's great relief; but they pass a _cafe_, and it is once more the stranger's sacred custom to play a game of chess or draughts after breakfast. The same thing happens with a "turn" in the Tuileries, at which Saint-Foix does not fume quite so much, because it is on the way to the Champs Elysees, where fighting is possible. The "turn" achieved, he himself proposes to adjourn there. "What for?" says the stranger innocently. "What _for_? A pretty question _pardieu_! To fight, of course! Have you forgotten it?" "_Fight!_ Why, sir, what are you thinking of? What would people say of me? A magistrate, a treasurer of France, put sword in hand? They would take us for a couple of fools." Which argument being unanswerable, according to the etiquette of the time, Saint-Foix leaves the dignitary--who himself takes good care to tell the story. It must be remembered--first that no actual _challenge_ had passed, merely an ambiguous demand for addresses; secondly, that the treasurer, as the superior by far in rank, had a right to suppose himself known to his inferiors; and thirdly, that to challenge a "magistrate" was in France equivalent to being, in the words of a lampoon quoted by Macaulay, "'Gainst ladies and bishops excessively valiant" in England.


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