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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Hamilton's Dinarzade is slightly flippant


are left with what, even as it exists, is by far his most ambitious attempt, and with one in which, considering all its actual features, one need not be taking things too seriously if one decides that he had an aim at something like a whole--even if the legends[296] about further parts, actually seen and destroyed by a more than Byzantine pudibundity, are not taken as wholly gospel.

The completed _Fleur d'Epine_ and the uncompleted _Quatre Facardins_[297] are in effect continuous parts (and to all appearance incomplete in more than the finishing of the second story) of an untitled but intelligibly sketched continuation of the _Arabian Nights_ themselves. Hamilton, like others since, had evidently conceived an affection for Dinarzade: and a considerable contempt for Schahriar's notion of the advantages of matrimony. It is less certain, but I think possible, that he had anticipated the ideas of those who think that the unmarried sister went at least halves in the composition or remembrance of the stories themselves, or she could not have varied her timing at dawn so adroitly. He had, at any rate, an Irish-Englishman's sense of honest if humorous indignation at the part which she has to play (or rather endure) in these "two years" (much nearer three!), and the sequel in a way revenges her.

I should imagine that Thackeray must have been reminiscent of Hamilton when he devised the part of "Sister Anne" in _Bluebeard's

Ghost_. Like her, Hamilton's Dinarzade is slightly flippant; she would most certainly have observed "Dolly Codlins is the matter" in Anne's place. Like her, she is not unprovided with lovers; she actually, at the beginning, "takes a night off" that she may entertain the Prince of Trebizond; and it is the Prince himself who relates the great, but, alas! torsoed epic of the Facardins,[298] of whom he is himself one. But as there are only two stories, there is no room for much framework, and we see much less of the "resurrected" Dinarzade[299] than we could wish from what we do see and hear.

_Fleur d'Epine_, which she herself tells, is a capital story, somewhat closer to the usual norm of the _Nights_ than is usual with Hamilton. It bases itself on the well-known legends of the Princess with the literally murderous eyes; but this Princess Luisante is not really the heroine, and is absent from the greater part of the tale, though she is finally provided with the hero's brother, who is a reigning prince, and has everything handsome about him. The actual hero Tarare (French for "Fiddlestick!" or something of that sort, and of course an assumed name), in order to cure Luisante's eyes of their lethal quality, has to liberate a still more attractive damsel--the title-heroine--putative daughter of a good fairy and actual victim of a bad one, quite in the orthodox style. He does this chiefly by the aid of a very amiable mare, who makes music wherever she goes, and can do wonderful things when her ears are duly manipulated. It is a good and pleasant story, with plenty of the direct relish of the fairy-tale, Eastern and Western, and plenty also of satirical parody of the serious romance. But it is not quite consummate. The opening, however, as a fair specimen of Hamilton's style, may be given.

[Sidenote: The opening of _Fleur d'Epine_.]

Two thousand four hundred and fifty-three leagues from here there is an extraordinarily fine country called Cashmere. In this country reigned a Caliph; that Caliph had a daughter, and that daughter had a face; but people wished more than once that she had never had any. Her beauty was not insupportable till she was fifteen; but at that age it became impossible to endure it. She had the most beautiful mouth in the world; her nose was a masterpiece; the lilies of Cashmere--a thousand times whiter than ours--were discoloured beside her complexion; and it seemed impertinent of the fresh-blown rose to show itself beside the carnation of her cheek. Her forehead was unmatchable for shape and brilliancy; its whiteness was contrasted with a Vandyke point of hair blacker and more shining than jet--whence she took her name of "Luisante"; the shape of her face seemed made to frame so many wonders. But her eyes spoilt everything.

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