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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

On the principles of rigid virtue and distributive justice

[376] There really are touches of resemblance in it to Browning, especially in things like _Mr. Sludge the Medium_.

[377] The corporal's wound in the knee.

[378] Of course, there _are_ exceptions, and with one of the chief of them, Xavier de Maistre, we may have, before long, to deal.

[379] His longest, most avowed, and most famous, the _Paradoxe sur le Comedien_, has been worthily Englished by Mr. Walter H. Pollock.

[380] Its heroine, Suzanne Simonin, was, as far as the attempt to relieve herself of her vows went, a real person; and a benevolent nobleman, the Marquis de Croixmare, actually interested himself in this attempt--which failed. But Diderot and his evil angel Grimm got up sham letters between themselves and her patron, which are usually printed with the book.

[381] _Mon pere, je suis damnee_ ... the opening words, and the only ones given, of the confession of the half-mad abbess.

[382] Evangelical Protestantism has more than once adopted the principle that the Devil should not be allowed to have all the best tunes: and I remember in my youth an English religious novel of ultra-anti-Roman purpose, which, though, of course, dropping the "scabrousness," had, as I long afterwards recognised when I came to read _La Religieuse_, almost certainly borrowed a good deal from our most unsaintly Denis of Langres.

[383] She seems to have been, in many ways, far too good for her society, and altogether a lady.--The opinions of the late M. Brunetiere and mine on French literature were often very different--though he was good enough not to disapprove of some of my work on it. But with the terms of his expression of mere opinion one had seldom to quarrel. I must, however, take exception to his attribution of _grossierete_ to _La Religieuse_. Diderot, as has been fully admitted, _was_ too often _grossier_: sometimes when it was almost irrelevant to the subject. But here, "scabrous" as the subject might be, the treatment is scrupulously _not_ coarse. Nor do I think, after intimate and long familiarity with the whole of his work, that he was ever a _faux bonhomme_.

[384] They have hardly had a fair opportunity of comparison with Voltaire's _Dictionnaire Philosophique_; but they can stand it.

[385] Unless Dulaurens' not quite stupid, but formless and discreditable, _Compere Mathieu_ be excepted.

[386] In consequence of which Mr. Ruskin's favourite publisher, the late Mr. George Allen, asked the present writer, some twenty years ago, to revise and "introduce" the old translation of his _Contes Moraux_. The volume had, at least, the advantage of very charming illustrations by Miss Chris. Hammond.

[387] They were even worse than Leigh Hunt's in the strictly English counterpart torture-house for the victims of tyranny--consisting, for instance, in the supply of so good a dinner, at His Most Christian Majesty's expense, for the prisoner's servant, that the prisoner ate it himself, and had afterwards, on the principles of rigid virtue and distributive justice, to resign, to the minion who accompanied him, his own still better one which came later, also supplied by the tyrant.

[388] One expects something of value from the part-contemporary, part-successor of the novelists from Lesage to Rousseau. But where it is not mere blether about virtue and vice, and _le coeur humain_ and so on, it has some of the worst faults of eighteenth-century criticism. He thinks it would have been more "moral" if Mme. de Cleves had actually succumbed as a punishment for her self-reliance (certainly one of the most remarkable topsyturvifications of morality ever crotcheted); is, of course, infinitely shocked at being asked and induced to "interest himself in a prostitute and a card-sharper" by _Manon Lescaut_; and, equally of course, extols Richardson, though it is fair to say that he speaks well of _Tom Jones_.

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