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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

242 I may be taken to task for rendering lisiere fringes


[240] "Perhaps not, my dear; perhaps not."

[241] What, I suppose, is the "standard" edition--that of the so-called _Oeuvres Completes_--contains them all, but with some additions and more omissions to and from the earlier issues. And the individual pieces, especially _Sylvie_, which is to be more fully dealt with here than any other, are subjected to a good deal of rehandling.

[242] I may be taken to task for rendering _lisiere_ "fringes," but the actual English equivalent "list" is not only ambiguous, not only too homely in its specific connotation, but wrong in rhythm. And "selvage," escaping the first and last objections, may be thought to incur the middle one. Moreover, while both words signify a well-defined edge, _lisiere_ has a sense--special enough to be noted in dictionaries--of the looser-planted border of trees and shrubs which almost literally "fringes" a regular forest.

[243] _Angelique_, which used to head _Les Filles du Feu_, in front of _Sylvie_, but was afterwards cut away by the editors of the _Oeuvres Completes_ for reasons given under the head of _Les Faux Saulniers_ (vol. iv. of that edition), is a specially Sternian piece, mixing up the chase for a rare book, and some other matters, with the adventures of a seventeenth-century ancestress of this book's author, who eloped with a servant, zigzagged as much as possible. It is quite good reading, but a little _mechanical_. Perhaps it is not too officious to remark that _Filles du Feu_ is to be interpreted here in the sense of our "_Faces_ in the fire."

[244] Gerard was a slightly older man than Theo, but they were, as they could not but be, close friends.

[245] Even those who care little for mere beauty of style--or who cannot stand the loss of it in translation--may find here a vivid picture, by a hand of the most qualified, of the mental condition which produced the masterpieces of 1825-1850. And the contrast with the "discouraged generation" which immediately followed is as striking.

[246] Especially, it may be, if one has heard Galuppi's own music played by a friend who is himself now dead.

[247] Some would make it a quintet with Leconte de Lisle, but I think "the King should consider of it" as to this. He is grand _sometimes_: but so are Pere Le Moyne and others. It is hit or miss with them; the Four can make sure of it.

[248] It does, of course, deserve, and in this place specially should receive, the credit of being the first French historical novel of the modern kind which possessed great literary merit.

[249] Alexander, though he actually wrote histories of a kind, was far below Alfred in political judgment.

[250] _Vide infra_ on Dumas himself.

[251] About Plato and Homer, who are very welcome, and "Le Mensonge Social," which is, perhaps, a little less so.

[252] But see note 2 on next page.

[253] One wonders if the Black Doctor was so sure of this on his own death-bed?

[254] The first line of Gilbert's swan-song--the only song of his that is remembered. It sets Stello himself on the track which the "Black Doctor" has concealed up to the point. As the original rhythm could not be kept without altering the substance, I have substituted another--not so unconnected as it may seem.--By the way, Vigny has taken as much liberty with French dates in this story as with English facts in the Chatterton one. Gilbert died in 1780, and Louis XV. had passed from the arms of his last mistress, Scarlatina Maligna, six years before, to be actually made the subject of a funeral panegyric by the poet. In fact, the sufferings of the latter have been argued to be pure legend. But this of course affects _literature_ hardly at all; and Vigny had a perfect right to use the accepted version.


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