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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

And the novels would certainly bear traces of the exploit


[313]

You may possibly do as an English novelist of the privileged sex is said to have done, and write novels while people are calling on you and you are talking to them (though I should myself consider it bad manners, and the novels would certainly bear traces of the exploit). But you can hardly do it while, as a famous caricature represents the scene, persons of that same sex, in various dress or undress, are frolicking about your chair and bestowing on you their obliging caresses. Nor are corricolos and speronares, though they may be good things to write on in one sense, good in another to write in.

[314] As far as I know Maquet, his line seems to me to have been drama rather than fiction.

[315] I seem to remember somebody (I rather think it was Henley, and it was very likely to be) attempting a defence of this. But, except _pour rire_, such a thing is hopeless.

[316] I think (but it is a long time since I read the book) that it is the heroine of this who, supposed to be a dead, escapes from "that grewsome thing, premature interment" (as Sandy Mackay justly calls it), because of the remarkable odour of _violettes de Parme_ which her unspotted flesh evolves from the actual grave.

[317] I do not mind Montalais, but I object to Malicozne both in himself and as her lover. Mlle. de la Valliere and the plots against her virtue give us "pious Selinda"

at unconscionable length, and, but that it would have annoyed Athos, I rather wish M. le Vicomte de la Bragelonne himself had come to an end sooner.

[318] My friend Mr. Henley, I believe, ranked it very high, and so did a common friend of his and mine, the late universally regretted Mr. George Wyndham. It so happened that, by accident, I never read the book till a few years ago; and Mr. Wyndham saw it, fresh from the bookseller's and uncut (or technically, "unopened") in my study. I told him the circumstances, and he said, in his enthusiastic way, "I _do_ envy you!"

[319] I do not need to be reminded of the conditions of health that also affected _Peveril_.

[320] I need not repeat, but merely refer to, what I have said of _Cinq-Mars_ and of _Notre-Dame de Paris_.

[321] On the very day on which I was going over the rough draft of this passage I saw, in a newspaper of repute, some words which perhaps throw light on the objection to Dumas as having no literary merit. In them "incident, coherence, humour, and dramatic power" were all excluded from this merit, "style" alone remaining. Now I have been almost as often reproved for attaching too much value to style in others as for attending too little to it myself. But I certainly could not give it such a right to "reign alone." It will indeed "do" almost by itself; but other things can "do" almost without it.


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