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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Sidenote La Comtesse de Rudolstadt


[Sidenote:

Recovery; but not maintained quite to the end.]

_Consuelo_ is a very long book--it fills three of the tightly printed volumes of the old Michel-Calmann-Levy collection, with some three or four hundred pages in each; and we have not got, in the above survey, to more than the middle of the second. But in its afternoon and evening there is some light. The creature Anzoleto recurs; but his immediate effect is good,[182] for it starts the heroine on a fresh elopement of an innocent kind, and we get back to reality. The better side of George Sand's Bohemianism revives in Bohemia itself; and she takes Consuelo to the road, where she adopts male dress (a fancy with her creatress likewise), and falls in with no less a person than the composer Haydn in his youth. They meet some Prussian crimps, and escape them by help of a coxcombical but not wholly objectionable Austrian Count Hoditz and the better (Prussian) Trenck. They get to Vienna (meeting La Corilla in an odd but not badly managed maternity-scene half-way) and rejoin old Porpora there. There are interviews with Kaunitz and Maria Theresa:[183] and a recrudescence of the Venetian musical jealousies. Consuelo endeavours to reopen communications with the Rudolstadts, but Porpora--chiefly out of his desire to retain her on the stage, but partly also from an honest and not wholly unsound belief that a union between a gipsy girl and a German noble would itself be madness--plays false with the letters.

She accepts a professional invitation from Hoditz to his castle in Moravia, meets there no less a person than Frederic the Second _incognito_, and by his order (after she has saved his life from the vengeance of the re-crimped deserter rescued with her by Hoditz and Trenck) is invited to sing at Berlin. The carrying out of the invitation, which has its Fredericianities[184] (as one may perhaps be allowed to call them), is, however, interrupted. The mysterious Albert, who has mysteriously turned up in time to prevent an attempt of the other and worse (Austrian) Trenck on Consuelo, is taken with an apparently mortal illness at home, and Consuelo is implored to return there. She does so, and a marriage _in articulo mortis_ follows, the supposed dead Zdenko (whom we did not at all want) turning up alive after his master's death. Consuelo, fully if not cheerfully adopted by the family, is offered all the heirloom jewels and promised succession to the estates. She refuses, and the book ends--with fair warning that it is no ending.

[Sidenote: _La Comtesse de Rudolstadt._]

When her history begins again under the title she has "reneged," the reader may for no short time think that the curse of the sequel--a curse only too common, but not universal--is going to be averted. She is in Berlin alone (see note above); is successful, but not at all happy--perhaps least of all happy because the king, partly out of gratitude for his safety, partly out of something like a more natural kind of affection than most authors have credited him with, pays her marked attentions. For a time things are not unlively; and even the very dangerous experiment of a supper--one of those at which Frederic's guests were supposed to have perfectly "free elbows" and availed themselves of the supposition at their peril--a supper with Voltaire, La Mettrie, Algarotti, D'Argens, Poellnitz, and "Quintus Icilius" present--comes off not so badly. One of the reasons of this is that George Sand has the sense to make Voltaire ill and silent, and puts the bulk of the "business" on La Mettrie--a person much cleverer than most people who have only read book-notices of him may think, but not dangerously brilliant. Then Consuelo,


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