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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

And so does Rose Marius Sardat


[Sidenote: Champfleury.]

Cladel had a considerable, and Barbey d'Aurevilly an almost exclusive, fancy for the tragical. On the other hand, Champfleury (who, no doubt partly for a bibliographical memory,[453] prefixed the Champ- to his actual surname) occupies, as has been said, a curious, but in part far from unsatisfactory, position in regard to our subject, and one blessed by the Comic Spirit. His confessed fictions are, indeed, not very successful. To take one volume only, _Madame Eugenio_, the title-story, _not_ the first in order, but the longest, is most unfortunately, but far too accurately, characterised by a phrase towards its end, "ce _triste_ recit," the adjective, like our "poor," being capable of two different meanings. _Histoire du Lieutenant Valentin_, on the other hand--a story of a young soldier, who, leaving Saint-Cyr in cholera-time, has to go to hospital, and, convalescing pleasantly while shelling peas and making rose-gays for the Sisters, is naively surprised at one of them being at first very kind and then very cold to him--is a miss of a masterpiece, but still a miss, partly owing to too great length. And so with others.

[Sidenote: _Les Excentriques._]

But in his much earlier _Les Excentriques_ (not unnaturally but wrongly called "_Contes_ Excentriques" by some), handling what profess to be true stories, he shows a most excellent narrative faculty. Whether they are true or not (they rather resemble, and were perhaps inspired by, some things of Gautier and Gerard) matters little--they are quite good enough to be false. They are, necessarily, not quite equal, and there may be for some tastes, not for all, too much of the Fourierism and other queernesses of the mid-nineteenth century. Indeed, the book is of 1852, and its subjects are almost all of the decade preceding. But some are exceedingly refreshing, the dedication, of some length, to the great caricaturist Daumier being not the least so. Yet it is not so unwise as to disappoint the reader by being better than the text. "Lucas," the circle-squarer, who explains how, when he was in a room with a lady and her two daughters, he perceived that "this was all that was necessary for him to attain the cubation of two pyramids," is very choice. "Cambriel"--who not only attained the philosopher's stone and the universal medicine, but ascertained that God is six feet six high, of flame-coloured complexion, and with particularly perfect ankles--runs him hard. And so does Rose Marius Sardat, who sent a copy of his _Loi d'Union_, a large and nicely printed octavo, to every Parisian newspaper-office, informing the editors that they might reprint it in _feuilletons_ for nothing, but that he should not write the second volume unless the first were a success. Some of us ought to be particularly obliged to Rose Marius for holding that persons over seventy are indispensable, and that, if there are not enough in France, they must be imported. The difference of this from the callous short-sightedness which talks about "fixed periods" is most gratifying. But perhaps the crown and flower of the book is the vegetarian Jupille, who wrote pamphlets addressed:


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