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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

And Bonaventure Desperiers v


The _Heptameron_.]

No book has been more subject to the "insupportable advances" of the "key"-monger than the _Heptameron_, and the rage for identifying has gone so far that the pretty old name of "Emarsuite" for one of the characters has been discarded for an alleged and much uglier "Ennasuite," which is indeed said to have MS. authority, but which is avowedly preferred because it can be twisted into "_Anne_ a Suite" ("Anne in Waiting"), and so can be fastened to an actual Maid of Honour of Marguerite's. It is only fair, however, to admit that something of the kind is at least suggested by the book itself. Even by those who do not trouble themselves in the least about the personages who may or may not have been disguised under the names of Nomerfide (the Neifile of this group) and Longarine, Saffredent and Dagoucin and Gebron (Geb_u_ron they call him now), admit the extreme probability of the Queen having invited identification of herself with Parlamente, the younger matron of the party, and of Hircan her husband with the King of Navarre.[111] But some (among whom is the present writer) think that this delightful and not too well-fated type of Renaissance amorousness, letteredness, and piety combined made a sort of dichotomy of herself here, and intended the personage of Oisille, the elder duenna (though by no means a very stern one) of the party, to stand for her as well as Parlamente--to whom one really must give the Italian pronunciation

to get her out of the abominable suggestion of our "talking-machine."

[Sidenote: Character and "problems."]

A much more genuinely literary question has been raised and discussed as to the exact authorship of the book. That it is entirely Marguerite's, not the most jealous admirers of the Queen need for a moment contend. She is known to have had a sort of literary court from Marot and Rabelais downwards, some of the members of which were actually resident with her, and not a few of whom--such as Boaistuau and Le Macon, the translators of Bandello and Boccaccio, and Bonaventure Desperiers (_v. inf._)--were positive experts in the short story. Moreover, the custom of distributing these collections among different speakers positively invited collaboration in writing. The present critic and his friend, Mr. Arthur Tilley of King's College, Cambridge, who has long been our chief specialist in the literature of the French Renaissance, are in an amicable difference as to the part which Desperiers in particular may have played in the _Heptameron_; but this is of no great importance here, and though Marguerite's other literary work is distinctly inferior in style, it is not impossible that the peculiar tone of the best parts of it, especially as regards the religious-amorous flavour, was infused by her or under her direct influence. The enthusiasm of Rabelais and Marot; the striking anecdote already mentioned which Brantome, whose mother had been one of Marguerite's maids of honour, tells us, and one or two other things, suggest this; for Desperiers was more of a satirist than of an amorist, and though the charges of atheism brought against him are (_v. inf._ again) scarcely supported by his work, he was certainly no pietist. I should imagine that he revised a good deal and sometimes imparted his nervous and manly, but, in his own _Contes_, sometimes too much summarised style. But some striking phrases, such as "_l'impossibilite_ de nostre chair,"[112] may be hers, and the following remarkable speech of Parlamente probably expresses her own sentiments pretty exactly. It is very noteworthy that Hircan, who is generally represented as "taking up" his wife's utterances with a certain sarcasm, is quite silent here.

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