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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Are not in the least derogatory to Marivaux himself


[328] It is the acme of what may be called innocent corruption. She does not care for her master, nor apparently for vicious pleasure, nor--certainly--for money as such. She does care for Jacob, and wants to marry him; the money will make this possible; so she earns it by the means that present themselves, and puts it at his disposal.

[329] He is proof against his master's threats if he refuses; as well as against the money if he accepts. Unluckily for Genevieve, when he breaks away she faints. Her door and the money-box are both left open, and the latter disappears.

[330] Here and elsewhere the curious cheapness of French living (despite what history tells of crushing taxation, etc.) appears. The _locus classicus_ for this is generally taken to be Mme. de Maintenon's well-known letter about her brother's housekeeping. But here, well into another century, Mlle. Habert's 4000 _livres_ a year are supposed to be at least relative affluence, while in _Marianne_ (_v. inf._) M. de Climal thinks 500 or 600 enough to tempt her, and his final bequest of double that annuity is represented as making a far from despicable _dot_ even for a good marriage.

[331] The much greater blood-thirstiness of the French highwayman, as compared with the English, has been sometimes attributed by humanitarians to the "wheel"--and has often been considered by persons of sense as justifying that implement.

[332] The Devil's Advocate may say that Marianne turns out to be of English extraction after all--but it is not Marivaux who tells us so.

[333] To question or qualify Marianne's virtue, even in the slightest degree, may seem ungracious; for it certainly withstands what to some girls would have been the hardest test of all--that is to say, not so much the offer of riches if she consents, as the apparent certainty of utter destitution if she refuses. At the same time, the Devil's Advocate need not be a Kelly or a Cockburn to make out some damaging suggestions. Her vague, and in no way solidly justified, but decided family pride seems to have a good deal to do with her refusal; and though this shows the value of the said family pride, it is not exactly virtue in itself. Still more would appear to be due to the character of the suit and the suitor. M. de Climal is not only old and unattractive; not only a sneak and a libertine; but he is a clumsy person, and he has not, as he might have done, taken Marianne's measure. The mere shock of his sudden transformation from a pious protector into a prospective "keeper," who is making a bid for a new concubine, has evidently an immense effect on her quick nervous temperament. She is not at all the kind of girl to like to be the plaything of an old man; and she is perfectly shrewd enough to see that vengeance, and fear as regards his nephew, have as much as anything else, or more, to do with the way in which he brusques his addresses and hurries his gift. Further, she has already conceived a fancy, at least, for that nephew himself; and one sees the "jury droop," as Dickens has put it, with which the Counsel of the Prince of the Air would hint that, if the offers had come in a more seductive fashion from Valville himself, they might not have been so summarily rejected. But let it be observed that these considerations, while possibly unfair to Marianne, are not in the least derogatory to Marivaux himself. On the contrary, it is greatly to his credit that he should have created a character of sufficient lifelikeness and sufficient complexity to serve as basis for "problem"-discussions of the kind.


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