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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

For Baudelaire's still less novelish following of Gaspard


[230]

He blue-spectacled, she black-veiled.

[231] Uncarpeted and polished, French fashion, of course.

[232] Merimee represents his Englishman (and an Englishman who can read Greek, too!) as satisfied with, and ordering a second bottle of, an extemporised "port" made of ratafia, "quinze sous" _ordinaire_, and brandy! This could deceive few Englishmen; and (till very recent years) absolutely no Englishman who could read Greek at a fairly advanced period of life. From most of the French Novelists of the time it would not surprise us; but from Merimee, who was constantly visiting England and had numerous English friends, it is a little odd. It may have been done _lectoris gratia_ (but hardly _lectricis_), to suit what even the other novelists just mentioned occasionally speak of as the _Anglais de vaudeville_.

[233] I use this adverb from no trade-jealously: for I have made as many translations myself as I have ever wished to do, and have always been adequately paid for them. But there is no doubt that the competition of amateur translation too often, on the one hand, reduces fees to sweating point, and on the other affects the standard of competence rather disastrously. I once had to review a version of _Das Kalte Herz_, in which the wicked husband persecuted his wife with a "_pitcher_," _Peitsche_ being so translated by the light of nature, or the darkness of no dictionary.

justify;">[234] Professed renderings of Spanish plays which never existed. _La Guzla_--a companion volume with an audacious anagrammatising of "Gazul," etc., etc.--is a collection of pure ballads similarly attributed to a non-existent Slav poet, Hyacinthe Maglanovich. Both, in their influence on the Romantic movement, were only second to the work of actual English, German, and Spanish predecessors, and may rank with that of Nodier.

[235] Of the collection definitely called _Nouvelles_.

[236] I have left the shortest story in the volume, _Croisilles_, to a note. It has, I believe, been rather a favourite with some, but it seems to me that almost anybody could have written it, as far as anything but the mere writing goes. Nor shall I criticise _Mimi Pinson_ and other things at length. I cannot go so far as a late friend of mine, who maintained that you must always praise the work of a writer you like. But I think one has the option of silence--partial at any rate.

[237] If anybody pleads for Louis Bertrand of _Gaspard de la Nuit_ as a thirdsman, I should accept him gladly, though he is even farther from the novel-norm than Gerard himself. I once had the pleasure of bringing him to the knowledge of the late Lord Houghton, who, the next time I met him, ejaculated, "I've got him, and covered him all over with moons and stars as he deserves." I hope Lord Crewe has the copy. (For Baudelaire's still less novelish following of _Gaspard_, see below. As far as style goes, both would enter this chapter "by acclamation.")

[238] This has been already referred to above. After one of the abscondences or disappearances brought about by his madness, he was found dead--hanging to a balcony, or outside stair, or lamp-post, or what not, in one of those purlieus of Old Paris which were afterwards swept away, but which Hugo and Meryon have preserved for us in different forms of "black and white." Suicide, as always in such cases, is the orthodox word in this, and may be correct. But some of his friends were inclined to think that he had been the victim of pure murderous sport on the part of the gangs of _voyous_, ancestors of the later "apaches," who infested the capital.

[239] The quality will not be sought in vain by those who read Mr. Lang's own poems--there are several--on and from Gerard.


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