free ebooks

A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

When the wicked Joseph le Mendiant


[Sidenote:

_Trois Hommes Forts._]

Perhaps there is no better example of the curious mixture of _verve_, variety, and vigorous hitting-off which characterised the youth of Dumas _fils_ than _Trois Hommes Forts_--a book of the exact middle of the century, which begins with an idyll, passing into a tragedy; continues with a lively ship-and-yellow-fever scene; plunges into a villainous conspiracy against virtue and innocence diversified with a bull-throwing; and winds up with another killing, which, this time, _is_ no murder; a trial, after which and an acquittal the accused and the Crown Prosecutor embrace before (and amidst the chalorous applause of) the whole Court; not forgetting a final _panache_ of happy marriage between innocence, a very little damaged, and the bull-thrower-avenger-_ouvrier_, Robert. It is of course pure melodrama--_Minnigrey_ and the Porte-Saint-Martin pleasantly accommodated. But it is not too long; it never drags; and it knocks about in the cheerfullest "pit-box-and-gallery" fashion from first to last. When the wicked "Joseph le Mendiant," _alias_ M. Valery, _alias_ Frederic Comte de La Marche[370]--who has stabbed a priest with one hand and throttled an old woman with the other; then made a fortune in Madagascar; then nearly died of yellow-fever on board ship, but recovered (something after the fashion of one of Marryat's heroes) by drinking a bottle of Madeira; then gone home and bought an estate and given himself the above title;

then seduced the innocent sister of the person who heard his confession; then tried to marry a high-born maiden;[371] then threatened to betray the sister's shame if her brother "tells"--when this villain has his skull broken by Robert, all right-minded persons will clap their hands sore. But remembrance of one passage at the beginning may "leave a savour of sorrow." Could you, even in Meridional France, to-day procure a breakfast consisting of truffled pigs' feet, truffled thrush, tomato omelette (I should bar the tomatoes), and strawberries in summer, or "quatre-mendiants" (figs, nuts, and almonds and raisins) in winter, _with_ a bottle of sound Roussillon or something like it, for three francs? Alas! one fears not.

[Sidenote: _Diane de Lys._]

_Diane de Lys_, a little later than most of the books just mentioned, and one, I think, of the first to be dramatised, so announcing the author's change of "kind," acquired a certain fame by being made (in which form I am not certain, but probably as a play) the subject of one of those odd "condemnations" by which the Second Empire occasionally endeavoured to show itself the defender of morality and the prop of family and social life. I do not think that Flaubert and Baudelaire had much reason to pride themselves on their predecessor in this particular pillory. Alexander the younger is not here even a coppersmith; his metal is, to me, not attractive at all. The Marquise de Lys is one of those


eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us

freefictionbooks.org is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 freefictionbooks.org - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us