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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

De Valville turns out to be the nephew of M


novels of combined analysis

and jargon have developed since. The opening is odd: the author having apparently transplanted to the beginning of a novel the promiscuous slaughter with which we are familiar at the end of a play. Marianne (let us hail the appearance of a Christian-named heroine at last), a small child of the tenderest years, is, with the exception of an ecclesiastic, who takes to his heels and gets off, the sole survivor of a coachful of travellers who are butchered by a gang of footpads,[331] because two of the passengers have rashly endeavoured to defend themselves. Nothing can be found out about the child--an initial improbability, for the party has consisted of father, mother, and servants, as well as Marianne. But the good _cure_ of the place and his sister take charge of her, and bring her up carefully (they are themselves "gentle-people," as the good old phrase, now doubtless difficult of application, went) till she is fifteen, is very pretty, and evidently must be disposed of in some way, for her guardians are poor and have no influential relations. The sister, however, takes her to Paris--whither she herself goes to secure, if possible, the succession of a relative--to try to obtain some situation. But the inheritance proves illusory; the sister falls ill at Paris and dies there; while the brother is disabled, and his living has to be, if not transferred to, provided with, a substitute. This second massacre (for the brother dies soon) provides Marivaux with the situation he requires--that
of a pretty girl, alone in the capital, and absolutely unfriended. Fortunately a benevolent Director knows a pious gentleman, M. de Climal, who is fond of doing good, and also, as it appears shortly by the story, of pretty girls. Marianne, with the earliest touch of distinct "snobbishness"--let it be proudly pointed out that the example is not English,[332]--declines to go into service, but does not so much mind being a shop-girl, and M. de Climal establishes her with his _lingere_, a certain Mme. Dutour.

This good lady is no procuress, but her morals are of a somewhat accommodating kind, and she sets to work, experiencing very little difficulty in the process, to remove Marianne's scruples about accepting presents from M. de Climal--pointing out, very logically, that there is no obligation to (as Chesterfield put it not long after) _payer de sa personne_; though she is naturally somewhat disgusted when the gifts take the form of handsome _lingerie_ bought at another shop. When this, and a dress to match, are made up, Marianne as naturally goes to church to show them: and indulges in very shrewd if not particularly amiable remarks on her "even-Christians"--a delightful English archaism, which surely needs no apology for its revival. Coming out, she slips and sprains her ankle, whereupon, still naturally, appears the inevitable young man, a M. de Valville, who, after endless amicable wrangling, procures her a coach, but not without an awkward meeting. For M. de Valville turns out to be the nephew of M. de Climal; and the


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