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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Other than Flaubert and Dumas fils


It is known that Flaubert, perhaps out of rather boyish pique (there was much boyishness in him), had originally made its offence ranker still. One of the most curious literary absurdities I have ever seen--the absurd almost drowning the disgusting in it--was an American attempt in verse to fill up Flaubert's _lacuna_ and "go one better."

[397] The old foreign comparison with London was merely rhetorical; but there really would seem to have been some resemblance between Carthage and modern Berlin, even in those very points which Flaubert (taking advice) left out.

[398] There is a recent and exceptionally good translation of the book.

[399] The Letters are almost, if not quite, of first-rate quality. The play, _Le Candidat_, is of no merit.

[400] Vol. I. p. 4.

[401] All these will be found Englished in the Essay referred to.

[402] Too much must not be read into the word "failure": indeed the next sentence should guard against this. I know excellent critics who, declining altogether to consider the book as a novel, regard it as a sort of satire and _satura_, Aristophanic, Jonsonian or other, in gist and form, and by no means a failure as such. But as such it would have no, or very small, place here. I think myself that it is, from that point of view, nearer to Burton than

to any one else: and I think further that it might have been made into a success of this kind or even of the novel sort itself. But _as it stands with the sketch of a completion_, I do not think that Flaubert's alchemy had yet achieved or approached projection.

[403] I have sometimes wished that Mr. Arnold had written a novel. But perhaps _Volupte_ frightened him.

[404] There is controversy on this point, and Baudelaire's indulgence in artificial and perilous Paradises may have been exaggerated. That it existed to some extent is, I think, hardly doubtful.

[405] I know few things of the kind more pathetic than Theo's quiet lament over the "artistic completeness" of his ill-luck in the collapse of the Second Empire just when, with Sainte-Beuve dead and Merimee dying, he was its only man of letters of the first rank left, and might have had some relief from collar-work. But it must be remembered that though he had ground at the mill with slaves, he had never been one of them, and perhaps this would always have prevented his promotion.

[406] Reserving Maupassant under the "almost."



If any excuse is needed for the oddity of the title of this chapter, it will not be to readers of Burton's _Anatomy_. The way in which the phrase "Those six non-natural things" occurs and recurs there; the inextinguishable tendency--in view of the eccentricity of its application--to forget that the six include things as "natural" (in a non-technical[407] sense) as Diet, to forget also what it really means and expect something uncanny--these are matters familiar to all Burtonians. And they may excuse the borrowing of that phrase as a general label for those novelists, other than Flaubert and Dumas _fils_, who, if their work was not limited to 1850-70, began in (but not "with") that period, and worked chiefly in it, while they were at once _not_ "Naturalists" and yet more or less as "natural" as any of Burton's six. One of the two least "minor," Alphonse Daudet, was among Naturalists but scarcely of them. The other, Octave Feuillet, was anti-Naturalist to the core.

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