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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Sidenote The making good of Lucrezia Floriani

or "La Porporina," as her stage

name is, gets mixed up--owing to no fault of her own in the first place at any rate--with the intrigues of the Princess Amelie of Prussia and her lover, the less bad Trenck. This has two awkward results--for herself an imprisonment at Spandau, into which she is cast by Frederic's half jealous, half purely tyrannical wrath, and for us a revival of all the _massacrant_ illuminism in which the Princess herself is dabbling. So we have on the scene not only (as the reader sees at once, though some rather clumsy efforts are made to hide it) the resuscitated Albert, who passes as a certain Trismegistus, not only the historical charlatan Saint-Germain, but another charlatan at this time not at all historical (seeing that the whole story ends in 1760, and he never left Palermo till nine years later), Cagliostro. Even at Spandau Consuelo herself is not quite uninteresting; but the Illuminati determine to rescue her, and for the latter part of the first volume and the whole of the second the entire thing is, once more, Bosh. The most absurd "double-gangings" take place between an _inconnu_ named Liverani, whom Consuelo cannot help loving, and Albert himself, who _is_ Liverani, as everybody but herself sees at once, interspersed between endless tracts of the usual rubbish about underground tribunals, and judges in red cloaks, and skeletons, and museums of torture-implements, and all the Weishauptian trumpery of mixed occultism and revolutionary sentiment. The author has even the insufferable
audacity to fling at us _another_ resuscitation--that of the Countess Wanda, Albert's mother, who appears to have transmitted to him her abominable habit of catalepsy. So ends, unsatisfactorily enough--unless anybody is satisfied by the fact that two solid children result from the still mystifying married life of the pair--the story which had begun so well in the first volume of _Consuelo_, and which in the major part of _Consuelo_ itself, though not throughout, maintains the satisfaction fairly.

[Sidenote: The "making good" of _Lucrezia Floriani_.]

If any reader, in two ways gentle, has been good enough to take some interest in the analysis of these books, but is also so soft-hearted as to feel slightly _froisse_ by it, as showing a disqualifying inability to sympathise with the author, I hope I may put myself right by what I am going to say of another. _Lucrezia Floriani_ is to me the most remarkable book that George Sand ever wrote; and the nearest to a great one, if it be not actually that. I have read it, with no diminution of interest and no abatement of esteem, at very different times of my life, and I think that it is on the whole not only the most perfect revelation of what at any rate the author would have liked to be her own temperament, but--a much greater thing--a presentment in possible and human form of a real temperament, and almost of a real character. Further, it is much the most achieved example of that peculiar style of which more will be said in a general way presently, and it contains comparatively few blots. One always smiles, of course, at the picture of Lucrezia swinging in a hammock in the centre of a large room, the four corners of which are occupied by four bedsteads containing four children, in the production of whom not exactly _four_ fathers, as they ought for perfect symmetry, but as a compromise _three_, have assisted. One always shudders at her notion of restoring a patient, suffering under a nervous ailment, by surrounding his couch with the cherubic countenances and the balmy breaths of these infants.[185] Prince Karol, the hero (such as there is), is a poor creature, though not such a cad as Stenio; but then, according to Madame Dudevant, men as a rule _were_ poor creatures, unless they were convicts or conjurors, so the presentation is _ex hypothesi_ or _secundum hypothesin_ correct. And the whole is firmly drawn and well, but neither gaudily nor pitchily, coloured. It ought to be remembered that, with the possible exception of Jane Austen, who has no peer or second among lady novelists, these either confine themselves to representation of manners, external character, _ton_, as was said of Fanny Burney, or else, like the other "George" and Charlotte Bronte, endeavour to represent themselves as they are or as they would like to be on the canvas. They never create; if they "imitate" not in the degraded modern but the original classical sense, and do it well, _punctum ferunt_--_suum_ if not _omne_.

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