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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

304 Sidenote Ourliac Contes du Bocage


translated, and to some extent

commented on by Thackeray.[303] I have, in old times, read more of his novels than I distinctly remember; and they are not very easy to procure in England now. Moreover, though he was of the right third or fourth _cru_ of _mil-huit-cent-trente_, there was something wanting in his execution. I have before me a volume of short stories, excellently entitled (from the first of them) _Le Cabaret des Morts_. One imagines at once what Poe or Gautier, what even Bulwer or Washington Irving, would have made of this. Roger (one may call him this without undue familiarity, because it is the true factor in both his names) has a good idea--the muster of defunct painters in an ancient Antwerp pot-house at ghost-time, and their story-telling. The contrast of them with the beautiful _living_ barmaid might have been--but is not--made extremely effective. In fact the fatal improbability--in the Aristotelian, not the Barbauldian sense--broods over the whole. And the Cabaret des Morts itself ceases, not in a suitable way, but because the Burgomaster shuts it up!!! All the other stories--one of Marie Antoinette's Trianon dairy; another of an anonymous pamphlet; yet another of an Italian noble and his use of malaria for vengeance; as well as the last, told by a Sister of Mercy while watching a patient--miss fire in one way or another, though all have good subjects and are all in a way well told. It is curious, and might be made rather instructive by an intelligent Professor of the Art of Story-telling,
who should analyse the causes of failure. But it is somewhat out of the way of the mere historian.[304]

[Sidenote: Ourliac--_Contes du Bocage_.]

Edouard Ourliac, one of the minor and also one of the shorter-lived men of 1830, seems to have been pleasant in his life--at least all the personal references to him that I remember to have seen, in a long course of years, were amiable; and he is still pleasant in literature. He managed, though he only reached the middle of the road, to accumulate work enough for twelve volumes of collection, while probably more was uncollected. Of what I have read of his, the _Contes_ and _Nouveaux Contes du Bocage_--tales of La Vendee, with a brief and almost brilliant, certainly vivid, sketch of the actual history of that glorious though ill-fated struggle--deserve most notice. Two of the _Nouveaux Contes_, _Le Carton D._ (a story of the rescue of her husband by a courageous woman, with the help of the more amiable weaknesses of the only amiable Jacobin leader, Danton) and _Le Chemin de Keroulaz_ (one of treachery only half-defeated on the Breton coast), may rank with all but the very best of their kind. In another, _Belle-Fontaine_, people who cannot be content with a story unless it instructs their minds on points of history, morality, cosmogony, organo-therapy, and everything _quod exit in y_, except jollity and sympathy, may find a section on the youth of 1830--really interesting to compare with the much less enthusiastic account by Gerard de Nerval, which is given above. And those who like to argue about cases of conscience may be glad to discuss whether Jean Reveillere, in the story which bears his name, _ought_ to have spared, as he actually did, the accursed _conventionnel_, who, after receiving shelter and care from women of Jean's family, had caused them to be massacred by the _bleus_, and then again fell into the Vendean's hands.


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