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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Sophie Printemps is the history of a good girl


[369]

As I have received complaints, mild and other, of the frequency of my unexplained allusions, I may here refer explicitly to Mr. Traill's _Recaptured Rhymes_; and if anybody, after looking up the book, is not grateful to me, I am sorry for him. For the commoner practice here I can only plead that I follow the Golden Rule. Nothing pleases _me_ so much as an allusion that I understand--except one that I don't and have to hunt up.

[370] _Rather_ too big a title for an adventurer to meddle with, surely?

[371] He has found out a secret about her. When she learns his crimes and his fate, she puts an end to herself in a way which I fear Octave Feuillet borrowed, rather unceremoniously, though he certainly improved it, in _Julia de Trecoeur_ (_v. inf._). I did not read _Trois Hommes Forts_ till many years after I had read and praised Feuillet's work. Also, is it absolutely blasphemous to suggest that the beginning of the book has a faint likeness to that of _Les Miserables_ much later?

[372] _V. sup._ last chapter, _passim_.

[373] One remembers, as so often, Dr. Johnson to Boswell: "This lady of yours, Sir, is very fit for," etc.

[374] This is, I think, the best of his short stories. _Therese_ is rather a sermon on the somewhat unsavoury text of morbid appetite in the other sex, than a real story. The little _Histories

Vraies_, which he wrote with a friend for the _Moniteur_ in 1864, are fairly good. For the formally entitled _Contes et Nouvelles_ and the collection headed by _Ilka_, _v. inf._

[375] He represents himself as suffering forty-eight hours of very easy imprisonment for not mounting guard as a "National," and writing the story to pass the time.

[376] The author has shown his skill by inducing at least one very old hand to wonder, for a time at least, whether Dr. Servans is a quack, or a lunatic, or Hoffmannishly uncanny, when he is, in fact, something quite different from any of these.

[377] The other, Clementine (who is not very unlike a more modern Claire d'Orbe), being not nearly so "candid" as her comrade Marie, continues honest.

[378] _V. sup._ Vol. I. p. 204.

[379]

[Sidenote: _Revenants. Sophie Printemps._]

Two early and slight books (one of them, perhaps, the "bad" one referred to above) may find place in a note. _Revenants_ is a fantasy, in which the three most famous pairs of lovers of the later eighteenth century, Des Grieux and Manon, Paul and Virginie, Werther and Charlotte, are revived and brought together (_v. sup._ p. 378). This sort of thing, not seldom tried, has very seldom been a success; and _Revenants_ can hardly be said to be one of the lucky exceptions. _Sophie Printemps_ is the history of a good girl, who, out of her goodness, deliberately marries an epileptic. It has little merit, except for a large episode or parenthesis of some forty or fifty pages (nearly a sixth of the book), telling the prowess of a peremptory but agreeable baron, who first foils a dishonest banker, and then defends this very banker against an adventurer more rascally than himself, whom the baron kills in a duel. This is good enough to deserve extraction from the book, and separate publication as a short story.

[380] It is constantly called (and I fear I have myself sinned in this respect) _L'Affaire Clemenceau_. But this is not the proper title, and does not really fit. It is the heading of a client's instruction--a sort of irregular "brief"--to the advocate who (_resp. fin._) is to defend him; and is thus an autobiographic narrative (diversified by a few "put-in" letters) throughout. The title is the label of the brief.


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