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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

It was the tennis court attendant


It passed in front of the tennis-court called the Doe, at the door of which were gathered a number of the topping citizens of the town. The novel appearance of the conveyance and team, and the noise of the mob who had gathered round the cart, induced these honourable burgomasters to cast an eye upon the strangers; and among others a Deputy-Provost named La Rappiniere came up, accosted them, and, with the authority of a magistrate, asked who they were. The young man of whom I have just spoken replied, and without touching his turban (inasmuch as with one of his hands he held his gun and with the other the hilt of his sword, lest it should get between his legs) told the Provost that they were French by birth, actors by profession, that his stage-name was Le Destin, that of his old comrade La Rancune, and that of the lady who was perched like a hen on the top of their baggage, La Caverne. This odd name made some of the company laugh; whereat the young actor added that it ought not to seem stranger to men with their wits about them than "La Montagne," "La Vallee," "La Rose," or "L'Epine." The talk was interrupted by certain sounds of blows and oaths which were heard from the front of the cart. It was the tennis-court attendant, who had struck the carter without warning, because the oxen and the mare were making too free with a heap of hay which lay before the door.
The row was stopped, and the mistress of the court, who was fonder of plays than of sermons or vespers, gave leave, with a generosity unheard of in her kind, to the carter to bait his beasts to their fill. He accepted her offer, and, while the beasts ate, the author rested for a time, and set to work to think what he should say in the next chapter.

The sally in the last sentence, with the other about the tortoise, and the mock solemnity of the opening, illustrate two special characteristics, which will be noticed below, and which may be taken in each case as a sort of revulsion from, or parody of, the solemn ways of the regular romance. There may be even a special reference to the "_Phebus_" the technical name or nickname of the "high language" in these repeated burlesque introductions of the sun. And the almost pert flings and cabrioles of the narrator form a still more obvious and direct Declaration of Independence. But these are mere details, almost trivial compared with the striking contrast of the whole presentation and _faire_ of the piece, when taken together with most of the subjects of the last chapter.

It may require a little, but it should not require much, knowledge of literary history to see how modern this is; it should surely require none to see how vivid it is--how the sharpness of an etching and the colour of a bold picture take the place of the shadowy "academies" of previous French writers.[256] There may be a very little exaggeration even here--in other parts of the book there is certainly some--and Scarron never could forget his tendency to that form of exaggeration which is called burlesque. But the stuff and substance of the piece is reality.

An important item of the same change is to be found in the management of the insets, or some of them. One of the longest and most


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