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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Sidenote The late classical stage


CHAPTER XII

"SENSIBILITY." MINOR AND LATER NOVELISTS. THE FRENCH NOVEL, _c._ 1800 428

"Sensibility"--A glance at Miss Austen--The thing essentially French--Its history--Mme. de Tencin and _Le Comte de Comminge_--Mme. Riccoboni and _Le Marquis de Cressy_--Her other work: _Milady Catesby_--Mme. de Beaumont: _Lettres du Marquis de Roselle_--Mme. de Souza--Xavier de Maistre--His illustrations of the lighter side of Sensibility--A sign of decadence--Benjamin Constant: _Adolphe_--Mme. de Duras's "postscript"--_Sensibilite_ and _engouement_--Some final words on the matter--Its importance here--Restif de la Bretonne--Pigault-Lebrun: the difference of his positive and relative importance--His life and the reasons for giving it--His general characteristics--_L'Enfant du Carnaval_ and _Les Barons de Felsheim_--_Angelique et Jeanneton_--_Mon Oncle Thomas_--_Jerome_--The redeeming points of these--Others: _Adelaide de Meran and Tableaux de Societe_--_L'Officieux_--Further examples--Last words on him--The French novel in 1800.

CHRONOLOGICAL CONSPECTUS OF THE PRINCIPAL WORKS OF FRENCH FICTION NOTICED IN THIS VOLUME 475

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 479

INDEX

483

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY

[Sidenote: The early history of prose fiction.]

Although I have already, in two places,[4] given a somewhat precise account of the manner in which fiction in the modern sense of the term, and especially prose fiction, came to occupy a province in modern literature which had been so scantily and infrequently cultivated in ancient, it would hardly be proper to enter upon the present subject with a mere reference to these other treatments. It is matter of practically no controversy (or at least of none in which it is worth while to take a part) that the history of prose fiction, before the Christian era, is very nearly a blank, and that, in the fortunately still fairly abundant remains of poetic fiction, "the story is the least part" (as Dryden says in another sense), or at least the _telling_ of the story, in our modern sense, is so. Homer (in the _Odyssey_ at any rate), Herodotus (in what was certainly not intentional fiction at all), and Xenophon[5] are about the only Greek writers who can tell a story, for the magnificent narrative of Thucydides in such cases as those of the Plague and the Syracusan cataclysm shows all the "headstrong" _ethos_ of the author in its positive refusal to assume a "story" character. In Latin there is nothing before Livy and Ovid;[6] of whom the one falls into the same category with Herodotus and Xenophon, and the other, admirable _raconteur_ as he is, thinks first of his poetry. Scattered tales we have: "mimes" and other things there are some, and may have been more. But on the whole the schedule is not filled: there are no entries for the competition.

[Sidenote: The late classical stage.]


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