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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Let the supernatural remain as it is


[446] Very little above it I should put the not wholly dissimilar liquor obtained, at great expense and trouble, by a late nobleman of high character and great ability from (it was said) an old monkish vineyard in the Isle of Britain. The monks must have exhausted the goodness of that _clos_; or else have taken the wine as a penance.

[447] Huysmans on this is very funny.

[448] A Spanish duchess of doubly and trebly "azured" blood revenges herself on her husband, who has massacred her lover before her eyes and given his heart to dogs, by becoming a public prostitute in Paris, and dying in the Salpetriere. It is almost, if not quite, a masterpiece.

[449] Barbey's dislike of Feuillet was, evidently and half-confessedly, increased by his notion that _M. de Camors_ had "lifted" something from _L'Ensorcelee_. There is also perhaps a touch of _Le Bonheur dans le Crime_ in _La Morte_.

[450] He knew a good deal (quite independently of Byron and Brummel) about English literature. One is surprised to find somewhere a reference to Walpole's story of Fielding and his dinner-companions.

[451] Observe that this is no demand for the explanation of the supernatural. Let the supernatural remain as it is, by all means. But curses should have causes. Ate and Weird are terrible goddesses, but they are not unreasonable ones. They might be less _terrible_ if they were.

[452] He has for two years been ordered to be present, but forbidden to celebrate; in punishment for his having, uncanonically, fought as a Chouan--if not also for attempted suicide. But we hear of no amorousness, and the husband Le Hardouey's jealousy, though prompted by his wife's apparent self-destruction, is definitely stated to have no foundation in actual guilt with the priest. On the contrary, she declares that he cared nothing for her.

[453] Of Geoffroy Tory's book which (_v. sup._ Vol. I. p. 124) helped to give us the Limousin student.

[454] It is possible that some readers may say, "Where are Erckmann-Chatrian?" The fact is that I have never been able to find, in those twin-brethren, either literature or that not quite literary interest which some others have found. But I do not wish to abuse them, and they have given much pleasure to these others. So I let them alone.

CHAPTER XIII

NATURALISM--THE GONCOURTS, ZOLA, AND MAUPASSANT

[Sidenote: The beginnings.]

If I were writing this _History_ on the lines which some of my critics (of whom, let it be observed, I do not make the least complaint) seem to prefer, or at least to miss their absence, a very large part of this chapter would give me the least possible difficulty. I should simply take M. Zola's _Le Roman Experimental_ and M. Brunetiere's _Le Roman Naturaliste_ and "combine my information." The process--easy to any one of some practice in letters--could be easier to no one than to me. For I read and reviewed both books very carefully at their first appearance; I had them on my shelves for many years; and the turning of either over for a quarter of an hour, or half at the most, would put its contents once more at my fingers' ends. But, as I have more than once pointed out, elaborate boiling down of them would not accord with my scheme and plan. Inasmuch as the episode or passage[455] is perhaps, of all those which make up our story, the most remarkable instance of a deliberate "school"--of a body of work planned and executed under more or less definite schedules--something if not much more of the critical kind than usual may be given, either here or in the Conclusion.[456] But we shall, I think, learn far better things as to M. Zola and those about him by considering what they--at least what he, his would-be teachers, and his greatest disciple--actually did, than by inquiring what they meant, or thought they meant, to do, or what other people thought about them and their doings.


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