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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

In The Later Nineteenth Century Edinburgh and London


I

have sometimes, perhaps rashly, during the writing of this book wondered "What next"? By luck for myself--whether also for my readers it would be ill even to wonder--I have been permitted to execute all the literary schemes I ever formed, save two. The first of these (omitting a work on "Transubstantiation" which I planned at the age of thirteen but did not carry far) was a _History of the English Scholastics_, which I thought of some ten years later, which was not unfavoured by good authority, and which I should certainly have attempted, if other people at Oxford in my time had not been so much cleverer than myself that I could not get a fellowship. It has, strangely enough, never been done yet by anybody; it would be a useful corrective to the exoteric chatter which has sometimes recently gone by the name of philosophy; and perhaps it might shake Signor Benedetto Croce (whom it is hardly necessary to say I do _not_ include among the "chatterers") in his opinion that though, as he once too kindly said, I am a _valente letterato_, I am sadly _digiuno di filosofia_.[6] But it is "too late a week" for this. And I have lost my library.

Then there was a _History of Wine_, which was actually commissioned, planned, and begun just before I was appointed to my Chair at Edinburgh, and which I gave up, not from any personal pusillanimity or loss of interest in the subject, but partly because I had too much else to do, and because I thought it unfair to

expose that respectable institution to the venom of the most unscrupulous of all fanatics--those of teetotalism. I could take this up with pleasure: but I have lost my cellar.

What I should really like to do would be to translate _in extenso_ Dr. Sommer's re-edition of the Vulgate Arthuriad. But I should probably die before I had done half of it; no publisher would undertake the risk of it; and if any did, "Dora," reluctant to die, would no doubt put us both in 'prison for using so much paper. Therefore I had better be content with the divine suggestion, and not spoil it by my human failure to execute.

And so I may say, for good, _Valete_ to the public, abandoning the rest of the leave-taking to their discretion.[7]

GEORGE SAINTSBURY.

1 ROYAL CRESCENT, BATH, _Christmas_, 1918.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] It is perhaps worth while to observe that I did not "edit" this, and that I had nothing whatever to do with any part of it except the _Introduction_ and my earlier translation of the _Chronique de Charles IX_, which was, I believe, reprinted in it.

[2] In very great strictness an exception should perhaps be made for notice of him, and of some others, in _The Later Nineteenth Century_ (Edinburgh and London, 1907).

[3] There will, for pretty obvious reasons, be fewer of these than in the former volume. The texts are much more accessible; there is no difficulty about the language, such as people, however unnecessarily, sometimes feel about French up to the sixteenth century; and the space is wanted for other things. If I have kept one or two of my old ones it is because they have won approval from persons whose approval is worth having, and are now out of print: while I have added one or two others--to please myself. Translations--in some cases more than one or two--already exist, for those who read English only, of nearly the whole of Balzac, of all Victor Hugo's novels, of a great many of Dumas's, and of others almost innumerable.


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