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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

After a fresh outburst from Dinarzade


This

particular incident comes, as has been said, just at the end of what we have of the book; indeed there is nothing more, save a burlesque embassy, amply provided with painted cloth[301] and monkeys, to the great enchanter Caramoussal (who has already figured in the book), and the announcement, by one of the other Facardins, of its result--a new adventure for champions, who must either make the Princess laugh or kill the crocodile. "It is indifferent," we learn from a most Hamiltonian sentence, "whether you begin with the crocodile or with the Princess." Indeed there is yet another means of restoring peace in the Kingdom of Astrachan, according to the enchanter himself, who modestly disclaims being an enchanter, observing (again in a thoroughly Hamiltonian manner) that as he lives on the top of a mountain close to the stars, they probably tell him more than they tell other people. It is to collect three spinning-wheels[302] which are scattered over the universe, but of some of which we have heard earlier in the story.

One takes perhaps a certain pleasure in outraging the feelings of the giant Moulineau, so hateful to Madame de Grammont, by beginning not merely in the middle but at the end--an end, alas! due, if we believe all the legends, to her own mistaken zeal when she became a _devote_--a variety of person for whom her brother[303] certainly had small affection, though he did not avenge himself on it in novel-form quite so cruelly as did Marivaux

later. It is, however, quite good to begin at the beginning, though the verse-preface needs perhaps to be read with eyes of understanding. Ostensibly, it is a sort of historical condemnation of all the species of fiction which had been popular for half a century or so, and is thus very much to our purpose, though, like almost all the verses included in these tales, it does not show the poetic power which the author of _Celle que j'adore_[304] undoubtedly possessed. Mere tales, he says, have quite banished from court favour romances, celebrated for their sentiments, from _Cyrus_ to _Zaide_, _i.e._ from Mlle. de Scudery to Mme. de la Fayette. _Telemaque_ had no better fate

On courut au Palais[305] le rendre, Et l'on s'empressa d'y reprendre Le Rameau d'Or et l'Oiseau Bleu.[306]

Then came the "Arabian tales," of which he speaks with a harshness, the sincerity or design of which may be left to the reader; and then he himself took up the running, of course obliged by request of irresistible friends of the other sex. All which may or may not be read with grains of salt--the salt-merchant of which everybody is at liberty to choose for himself. Something may be said on the subject when we, in all modesty, try to sum up Hamilton and the period.

But we must now give some more account of the "Four Facardins" themselves. He of Trebizond is a tributary Prince of Schahriar's, much after the fashion (it is to be feared here burlesqued) of the innumerable second- and third-class heroes whom one meets in the _Cyrus_. He begins, like Dinarzade,[307] by "cheeking" the Sultan on his views of matrimony; and then he tells how he set out from his dominions in quest of adventures, and met another bearer of the remarkable name which his mother had insisted on giving him. This second adventurer happened to be bearer also of a helmet with a strange bird, apparently all made of gems, as its crest. They exchange confidences, which are to the effect that the Trebizondian Facardin is a lady-killer of the most extravagant success, while the other (who is afterwards called Facardin of the Mountain) is always unfortunate in love; notwithstanding which he proposes to undertake the adventure (to be long afterwards defined) of Mousseline la Serieuse. For the present he contents himself with two or three more stories (or, rather, one in several "fyttes"), which reduce the wildest of the _Nights_ to simple village tales--of an island where lions are hunted with a provision of virgins, chanticleers, and small deer on an elaborately ruled system; of a mountain full of wild beasts, witches, lovely nymphs, savages, and an enchanter at the top. After an interruption very much in the style of Chaucer's Host and _Sir Thopas_, from Dinarzade, who is properly rebuked by the Sultan, Facardin of the Mountain (he has quite early in the story received the celebrated scratch from a lion's claw, "from his right shoulder to his left heel") recounts a shorter adventure with Princess Sapinelle of Denmark, and at last, after a fresh outburst from Dinarzade, the Prince of Trebizond comes to his own affairs.


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