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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

A sort of duplicate of the hero of L'Abbe Tigrane


other books; but "Mr. the nephew"

(the agreeable and continuous title by which the faithful parishioners address their beloved pastor's boy relative) has a different uncle and a different _gouvernante_, at least in name, from those in _Norine_ and _Cathinelle_. The Abbe Celestin, threatened with consumption, exchanges the living in which he has worked for many years, and little good comes of it. He is persecuted, actually to the death, by his rural dean, a sort of duplicate of the hero of _L'Abbe Tigrane_; but the circumstances are not purely ecclesiastical. He has, in his new parish, taken for goat-girl a certain Marie Galtier, daughter of his beadle, but, unluckily, also step-daughter of a most abominable step-mother. Marie, as innocently as possible, "gets into trouble," and dies of it, accusations being brought against her guiltless and guileless master in consequence. There are many good passages; the opening is (as nearly always with M. Fabre) excellent; but both the parts and the whole are, once more, too long--the mere "flitting" from one parish to another seems never to be coming to an end. Still, the book should be read; and it has one very curious class of personages, the "hermits" of the Cevennes--probably the latest (the date is 1846) of their kind in literature. The general characteristics of that kind do not seem to have been exactly saintly;[532] and the best of them, Adon Laborie, after being "good" throughout, and always intending to be so, brings about the catastrophe by calmly suppressing,
in the notion that he will save the Abbe trouble, three successive citations from the Diocesan Council, thereby getting him "interdicted." The shock, when the judgment in contumacy is announced by the brutal dean, proves fatal.

[Sidenote: _Lucifer._]

In Lucifer M. Fabre is still nearer, though with no repetition, to the _Tigrane_ motive. The book justifies its title by being the most ambitious of all the novels, and justifies the ambition itself by showing a great deal of power--most perhaps again, of all; though whether that power is used to the satisfaction of the reader must depend, even more than is usual, on individual tastes. Bernard Jourfier, at the beginning of the book and of the Second Empire, is a young _vicaire_, known to be of great talents and, in especial, of unusual preaching faculty, but of a violent temper, ill at ease about his own vocation, and suspected--at least by Ultramontanes--of very doubtful orthodoxy and not at all doubtful Gallicanism. He is, moreover, the grandson of a _conventionnel_ who voted for the King's death, and the son of a deputy of extreme Liberal views. So the Jesuits, after trying to catch him for themselves, make a dead set at him, and secure his appointment to out-of-the-way country parishes only, and even in these his constant removal, so that he may acquire as little influence as possible anywhere. At last, in a very striking interview with his bishop, he succeeds in clearing his character, and enters on the way of promotion. The cabals continue; but later, on the overthrow of Bonapartism, he is actually raised to the episcopate. His violent temper, however, is always giving handles to the enemy, and he finally determines that life is intolerable. After trying to starve himself, he makes use of the picturesque but dangerous situation of his palace, and is crushed by falling, in apparent accident, through a breach in the garden wall with a precipice beneath--"falling like Lucifer," as his lifelong enemy and rival whispers to a confederate at the end. For the appellation has been an Ultramontane nickname for him long before, and has been not altogether undeserved by his pride at least. It has been said that the book is powerful; but it is almost unrelievedly gloomy throughout, and suffers from the extremely narrow range of its interest.

[Sidenote: _Sylviane_ and _Taillevent_.]


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