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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Sidenote Ferdinand Fabre L'Abbe Tigrane


[512]

The "time" was five and twenty years ago. But this passage, trifling as it may seem to some readers, appeared to me worth preserving, because my recent very careful reperusal of Maupassant, as a whole, made its appositeness constantly recur to me.

[513] Nearest, perhaps, in the story called "En Famille," to be found in the _Maison Tellier_ volume.

[514] Remarks already made on the particular novels and stories from this point of view need only be referred to, not repeated. But it is fair to say that some good judges plead for "warning off" instead of "inculcation."

[515] There are some, but they are very few.

[516] See Conclusion. After the above notice of Maupassant was, in its reconstituted form, entirely completed, there came into my hands a long and careful paper on the novelist's Romanticism, published by Mr. Oliver H. Moore in the Transactions of the American Modern Language Association for March 1918. Those who are curious as to French opinion of him, and especially as to the strange superstition of his "classicism" (see Conclusion again), will find large extracts and references on this subject given by Mr. Moore, who promises further discussion.

[517] One never knows what is necessary or not in the way of explanation. But perhaps it is wiser to say that I am quite aware that, besides writing _votre_,

not "notre," Baudelaire had originally written "ce long hurlement" before the immense improvement in the text, and that original "Light-houses" were painters.

[518] One slight alteration may seem almost to justify Belot's criticism of life: "Uncomfortable herself, she thought it natural to make others uncomfortable." There is certainly no want of psychological observation _there_.

CHAPTER XIV

OTHER NOVELISTS OF 1870-1900

[Sidenote: The last stage.]

The remaining novelists of the Third Republic, apart from the survivors of the Second Empire and the Naturalist School, need not occupy us very long, but must have some space. There would be no difficulty on my part in writing a volume on them, for during half the time I had to produce an article on new French books, including novels, every month,[519] and during no small part of the rest, I did similar work on a smaller and less regular scale, reading also a great deal for my own purposes. But acknowledging, as I have elsewhere done, the difficulty of equating judgment of contemporary and non-contemporary work exactly, I think I shall hardly be doing the new writers of this time injustice if I say that no one, except some excluded by our specifications as living, could put in any pretensions to be rated on level with the greater novelists from Lesage to Maupassant. There are those, of course, who would protest in favour of M. Ferdinand Fabre, and yet others would "throw for" M. Andre Theuriet, both of whom shall have due honour. I cannot wholly agree with them. But both of them, as well as, for very opposite reasons, MM. Ohnet and Rod, may at least require notice of some length.

[Sidenote: Ferdinand Fabre: _L'Abbe Tigrane_.]

_L'Abbe Tigrane_, by Ferdinand Fabre, may be described as one of not the least remarkable, and as certainly one of the most remarked, novels of the later nineteenth century. It never, I think, had a very large sale; for though at the time of its author's death, over thirty years and more after its appearance, it had reached its sixteenth thousand, that is not much for a _popular_ French novel. Books of such different appeal as Zola's and Feuillet's (not to mention for the present a capital example to be noted below) boasted ten times the number. But it dared an extremely non-popular subject, and treated that subject with an audacious disregard of anything like claptrap. There is no love in it and hardly a woman; there is no--at least no military--fighting; no adventure of any ordinary sort. It is neither a _berquinade_, nor a crime-story, nor (except in a very peculiar way) a novel of analysis. It relies on no preciousness of style, and has not very much description, though its author was a great hand at this when and where he chose. It is simply the history of an ambitious, strong-willed, strong-minded, and violent-tempered priest in an out-of-the-way diocese, who strives for and attains the episcopate, and after it the archiepiscopate, and is left aspiring to the Papacy--which, considering the characters of the actual successors of Pius IX., the Abbe Capdepont[520] cannot have reached, in the fifty years (or nearly so) since the book was published.


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