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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Grundy need not be so even here


Then it is that (after some details about the Prince of Ophir, who has a minim mouth and an enormous nose, and the Princess of Bactria, whose features were just the reverse) we recover Cristalline. It is perhaps only here that even Mrs. Grundy, though she may have been uncomfortable elsewhere, can feel really shocked at Hamilton; others than Mrs. Grundy need not be so even here. The genie has discovered his Lady's little ways, and has resolved to avenge himself on her by strict custody, and by a means of delivery which, if possible, might not have entirely displeased her. The hundred rings are bewitched to their chain, and are only to be recovered by the same process which strung them on it. But this process must be applied by one person in the space of twelve hours, and the conditions are only revealed to him after he has been kidnapped or cajoled within the genie's power. If he refuses to try, he is clad as Omphale clad Hercules, and set to work. If he tries and fails, he is to be flayed alive and burnt. Facardin, to the despair of his secretary, enters--beguiled by a black ambassadress, who merely informs him that a lady wants help--the enchanted boat which takes him to the fatal scene. But when he is to be introduced to the lady he entirely declines to part with his sword; and when the whole secret is revealed he, with the help of Cristalline, who is really a good-natured creature in more senses than one, slays the three chief minions of the tyrant--a watchmaker who sets the clock, a locksmith who is to count the detached rings, and a kind of Executioner High-priest who is to do the flaying and burning,--cuts his way with Cristalline herself to the enchanted boat, regaining _terra firma_ and (relatively speaking) _terra_ not too much enchanted. But at his very landing at the mouth of the crocodile river he again meets Facardin of the Mountain (who has figured in Cristalline's history earlier) with the two others, whose stories we shall never hear; and is told about Mousseline; whereat we and the tale "join our ends" as far as is permitted.

It would be easy to pick from this story alone a sort of nosegay of Hamiltonisms like that from Fuller, which Charles Lamb selected so convincingly that some have thought them simply invented. But it would be unjust to Anthony, because, unless each was given in a _matrix_ of context, nobody could, in most cases at any rate, do justice to this curious glancing genius of his. It exists in Sydney Smith to some extent--in Thackeray to more--among Englishmen. There is, in French, something of it in Lesage, who possibly learnt it directly from him; and of course a good deal, though of a lower kind, in Voltaire, who certainly did learn it from him. But it is, with that slight indebtedness to Saint-Evremond noticed above, essentially new and original. It is a mixture of English-Irish (that is to say, Anglo-Norman) humour with French wit, almost unattainable at that day except by a man who, in addition to his natural gifts, had the mixed advantages and disadvantages of his exile position.

Frenchmen at the time--there is abundance, not of mere anecdote, but of solid evidence to prove it--knew practically nothing of English literature. Englishmen knew a good deal more of French, and imitated and translated it, sometimes more eagerly than wisely. But they had not as yet assimilated


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