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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Commonest in the combination transi de froid


[111]

The character of this Bourbon prince seems to have been very faithfully though not maliciously drawn by Margaret (for the name, _Gallice pulchrum_, is _Anglice pulchrius_, and our form may be permitted in a note) as not ungenial, not exactly ungentlemanly, and by no means hating his wife or being at all unkind to her, but constantly "hard" on her in speech, openly regarding infidelity to her as a matter of course, and not a little tinged by the savagery which (one is afraid) the English wars had helped to introduce among the French nobility; which the religious wars were deepening, and which, in the times of the Fronde, came almost to its very worst, and, though somewhat tamed later, lasted, and was no mean cause, if not so great a one as some think, of the French Revolution. Margaret's love for her brother was ill rewarded in many ways--among others by brutal scandal--and her later days were embittered by failure to protect the new learning and the new faith she had patronised earlier. But one never forgets Rabelais' address to her, or the different but still delightful piece in which Marot is supposed to have commemorated her Platonic graciousness; while her portrait, though drawn in the hard, dry manner of the time, and with the tendency of that time to "make a girl's nose a proboscis," is by no means unsuggestive of actual physical charm.

[112] This phrase, though Biblical, of course, in spirit, is not, so far as I remember, anywhere found

textually in Holy Writ. It may be patristic; in which case I shall be glad of learned information. It sounds rather like St. Augustine. But I do not think it occurs earlier in French, and the word _impossibilite_ is not banal in the connection.

[113] The famous phrase "amoureux _transi_" is simply untranslatable by any single word in English for the adjective, or rather participle. Its unmetaphorical use is, of course, commonest in the combination _transi de froid_, "frozen," and so suggests in the other a lover shivering actually under his mistress's shut window, or, metaphorically, under her disdain.

[114] The expression (_passe oultre_) commented on in speaking of Rabelais, and again one which has no English equivalent.

[115] A very early example of the special sense given to this word in French increasingly during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, of "freethinker" deepening to "atheist." Johnson's friend, it will be remembered, regarded Philosophy as something to which the irruption of Cheerfulness was fatal; Butler, as something acquirable by reading Alexander Ross; a famous ancient saying, as the remembrancer of death; and a modern usage, as something which has brass and glass "instruments." But it was Hegel, was it not? or Carlyle? who summarised the French view and its time of prevalence in the phrase, "When every one was a philosopher who did not believe in the Devil."

[116] His translations of the _Andria_ and of Plato's _Lysis_; and his verses, the chief charm of which is to be found in his adoption of the "cut and broken" stanzas which the French Renaissance loved.

[117] Not to be confused with _Jehan_ Bouchet the poet, a much older man, indeed some twenty years older than Rabelais, and as dull as Raminagrobis Cretin himself, but the inventor or discoverer of that agreeable _agnomen_ "Traverseur des Voies Perilleuses" which has been noted above.


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