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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

While the first named was a polygraph of the polygraphs


[191]

He is a frantic devotee of the _Astree_, and George Sand brings in a good deal about the most agreeable book, without, however, showing very intimate or accurate knowledge of it.

[192] The Spaniard (rather his servant with his connivance) has murdered and robbed Bois-Dore's brother.

[193] He is also very handsome, and so makes up for the plurality of the title.

[194] Alvimar lies dying for hours with the infidel Bohemians and roistering Protestant _reitres_ not only disturbing his death-bed, but interfering with the "consolation of religion"; the worst of the said Bohemians is buried alive (or rather stifled after he has been _half_-buried alive) by the little gipsy girl, Pilar, whom he has tormented; and Pilar herself is burnt alive on the last page but one, after she has poisoned Bellinde.

[195] Taking her work on the whole. The earlier part of it ran even Trollope hard.

[196] Her points of likeness to her self-naming name-child, "George Eliot," are too obvious to need discussion. But it is a question whether the main points of _un_likeness--the facility and extreme fecundity of the French George, as contrasted with the laborious book-bearing of the English--are not more important than the numerous but superficial and to a large extent non-literary resemblances.

[197]

I have said little or nothing of the short stories. They are fairly numerous, but I do not think that her _forte_ lay in them.

CHAPTER VI

THE NOVEL OF STYLE--GAUTIER, MERIMEE, GERARD DE NERVAL, MUSSET, VIGNY

In arranging this volume I have thought it worth while to include, in a single chapter and _nominatim_ in the title thereof, five writers of prose novels or tales; all belonging to "1830"; four of them at least ranking with all but the greatest of that great period; but no one exclusively or even essentially a novelist as Balzac and George Sand were in their different ways, and none of them attempting such imposing bulk-and-plan of novel-matter as that which makes up the prose fiction of Hugo. Gautier was an admirable, and Musset and Vigny at their best were each a consummate, poet; while the first-named was a "polygraph" of the polygraphs, in every kind of _belles-lettres_. Merimee's novels or tales form a small part of his whole work. "Gerard" is perhaps only admissible here by courtesy, though more than one or two readers, I hope, would feel his absence as a dark gap in the book. Musset, again, not ill at short stories, is far better at short plays. _One_ novel of Vigny's has indeed enjoyed great fame; but, as will be seen, I am unluckily unable to admire it very much, and I include him here--partly because I do not wish to herd so clear a name with the Sues and the Soulies, even with the Sandeaus and Bernards--partly because, though his style in prose is not so marked as that in verse, some of his minor work in fiction is extremely interesting. But though so much of their work, and in Musset's and Vigny's cases all their best work, lies outside our province, and though they themselves, with the possible exception of Gerard and Gautier, who have strong affinities, are markedly different from one another, there is one point which they all have in common, and this point supplies the general title of this chapter. Style of the more separable and elaborate kind does not often make its appearance very early in literary departments; and there may be (_v. inf._) some special reasons why it should not do so in prose fiction. With the exception of Marivaux, who had carried his attention to it over the boundary-line of mannerism, few earlier novelists, though some of them were great writers, had made a point of it, the chief exceptions being in the particular line of "wit," such as Hamilton, Crebillon _fils_, and Voltaire. Chateaubriand had been almost the first to attempt a novel-_rhetoric_; and it must be remembered that Chateaubriand was a sort of human _magnus Apollo_ throughout the July monarchy. At any rate, it is a conspicuous feature in all these writers, and may serve as a link between them.


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