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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Sidenote Marivaux Les Effets de la Sympathie


any uncomeliness in his mother's

or a favourite nurse's face. There is no retort to such a proposition as this so proper as the argument not _ad hominem_, but _ab_ or _ex homine_. The present writer did not read the _Devil_ till he had reached quite critical years; and though he read _Gil Blas_ much earlier, he was not (for what reason he cannot say) particularly fond of it until the same period was reached. And yet its attractions cannot possibly be said to be of any recondite or artificial kind, and its defects are likely to be more, not less, recognised as the critical faculty acquires strength and practice. Nevertheless, recent reperusal has made him more conscious than ever of the existence of this quality of a classic in both, but especially in the larger and more famous book. And this is a mere pailful added to an ocean of previous and more important testimony. _Gil Blas_ has certainly "classed" itself in the most various instances, of essentially critical, not specially critical but generally acute and appreciative, and more or less unsophisticated and ordinary judgments, as a thing that is past all question, equally enjoyable for its incidents, its character-sketches, and its phrasing--though the first are (for time and country) in no sense out of the way, the second scarcely go beyond the individualised type, and the third is neither gorgeous nor "alambicated," as the French say, nor in any way peculiar, except for its saturation with a sharp, shrewd, salt wit which may be described as the spirit of
the popular proverb, somehow bodied and clothed with more purely literary form. It is true that, in the last few clauses, plenty of ground has been indicated for ascription of classicality in the best sense; and perhaps Lesage himself has summed the whole thing up when, in the "Declaration" of the author at the beginning of _Gil Blas_, he claims "to have set before himself only the representation of human life as it is." He has said it; and in saying and doing it he has said and done everything for his merits as a novelist and his place in the history of the novel.

* * * * *

[Sidenote: Marivaux--_Les Effets de la Sympathie (?)_]

The Archbishop of Sens, who had the duty of "answering" Marivaux's "discourse of reception" into the Academy in the usual _aigre-doux_ manner, informed him, with Academic frankness and Archiepiscopal propriety, that "in the small part of your work which I have run through, I soon recognised that the reading of these agreeable romances did not suit the austere dignity with which I am invested, or the purity of the ideas which religion prescribes me." This was all in the game, both for an Academician and for an Archbishop, and it probably did not discompose the novelist much. But if his Grace had read _Les Effets de la Sympathie_, and had chosen to criticise it, he might have made its author (always supposing that Marivaux _was_ its author, which does


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