free ebooks

A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Even the connection with the Arthurian matter is


The day when Lancelot, at her request, had turned against the side of his friend Galahault and brought victory to Arthur's.

[55] By the way, the Vulgate Mordred is a more subtle conception than the early stories gave, or than Malory transfers. He is no mere traitor or felon knight, much less a coward, from the first; but at that first shows a mixture of good and bad qualities in which the "dram of eale" does its usual office. Here once more is a subject made to the hand of a novelist of the first class.

[56] Some poet or pundit, whether of East or West, or of what place, from Santiago to Samarcand, I know not, has laid it down, that men can love many, but without ceasing to love any; that women love only one at once, but can (to borrow, at fifty years' memory, a phrase of George Lawrence's in _Sans Merci_) "drop their lovers down _oubliettes_" with comparative ease.

[57] It is excusable to use two words for the single verb _savoir_ to bring out the meaning. King Bagdemagus does not "know" as a fact that Lancelot has slain his son, though he fears it and feels almost sure of it.



[Sidenote: Variety of the present groups.]

On the whole, however, the most important influence

in the development of the novel originally--that of the _nouvelle_ or _novella_ in French, and Italian taking the second place in order of time--must be assigned to the very numerous and very delightful body of compositions (not very long as a rule,[58] but also never exactly short) to which the name _Romans d'aventures_ has been given with a limited connotation. They exist in all languages; our own English Romances, though sometimes derived from the _chansons_ and the Arthurian Legend, are practically all of this class, and in every case but one it is true that they have actual French originals. These _Romans d'aventures_ have a habit, not universal but prevailing, of "keying themselves on" to the Arthurian story itself; but they rarely, if ever, have much to do with the principal parts of it. It is as if their public wanted the connection as a sort of guarantee; but a considerable proportion keep independence. They are so numerous, so various, and with rare exceptions so interesting, that it is difficult to know which to select for elaborate analysis and translated selection; but almost the entire _corpus_ gives us the important fact of the increased _freedom_ of fiction. Even the connection with the Arthurian matter is, as has been said, generally of the loosest kind; that with the Charlemagne cycle hardly exists. The Graal (or things connected with its legends) may appear: Gawain is a frequent hero; other, as one might call them, sociable features as regards the older stories present themselves. But as a rule the man has got his own story which he wants to tell; his own special hero and heroine whom he wants to present. Furthermore, the old community of handling, which is so noticeable in the _chansons_ more particularly, disappears almost entirely. Nothing has yet been discovered in French, though it may be any day, to serve as the origin of our _Gawain and the Green Knight_, and some special features of this are almost certainly the work of an Englishman. Our English _Ywain and Gawain_ is, as has been said, rather better than Chrestien's original. But, as a rule, the form, which is French form in language (by no means always certainly or probably French in nationality of author), is not only the original, but better; and besides, it is with it that we are busied here, though in not a few cases English readers can obtain an idea, fairly sufficient, of these originals from the English versions. As these, however, with the exception of one or two remarkable individuals or even groups, were seldom written by men of genius, it is best to go to the sources to see the power and the variety of fictitious handling which have been mentioned.

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us