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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Le pere Maugars is a banker who


[Sidenote:

_Le Fils Maugars._]

_Le Fils Maugars_ is not only a longer book, but its space is less exclusively filled with a single situation, and the necessary prelude to it. In fact, the whole thing is expanded, varied, and peopled. Auberive, near Langres, the place of _Sauvageonne_, is hardly more than a large village; Saint-Clementin, on the Charente, though not a large town, is the seat of a judicial Presidency, of a _sous-prefecture_, etc. "Le _pere_ Maugars" is a banker who, from having been a working stone-mason, has enriched himself by sharp practice in money-lending. His son is a lawyer by the profession chosen for him, and a painter by preference. The heroine, Therese Desroches, is the daughter of a Republican doctor, whose wife has been unfaithful, and who suspects Therese of not being his own child. The scene shifts from Saint-Clementin itself to the country districts where Poitou and Touraine meet, as well as to Paris. The time begins on the eve of the Coup d'Etat, and allows itself a gap of five years between the first and second halves of the book. Besides the love-scenes and the country descriptions and the country feasts there is a little general society; much business; some politics, including the attempted and at last accomplished arrest of the doctor for treason to the new _regime_; a well-told account of a contest for the Prix de Rome; a trial of the elder Maugars for conspiracy (with a subordinate usurer) to defraud, etc. The whole

begins with more than a little aversion on everybody's part for the innocent Etienne Maugars, who, having been away from home for years, knows neither the fact nor the cause of his father's unpopularity; and it ends with condign poetical justice, on the extortioner in the form of punishment, and for the lovers in another way. It is thus, though a less poignant book than _Sauvageonne_, a fuller and wider one, and it displays, better than that book, the competence and adequacy which mark the author, though there may be something else to be said about it (or rather about its illustration of his general characteristics) presently.

[Sidenote: _Le Don Juan de Vireloup_ and _Raymonde_.]

_Le Don Juan de Vireloup_, a story of about a hundred pages long, which acts as makeweight to _Raymonde_, itself only about twice the length, is a capital example of Theuriet at nearly his best--a pleasant mixture of _berquinade_ and _gaillardise_ (there are at least two passages at either of which Mrs. Grundy would require _sal volatile_, and would then put the book in the fire). The reformation and salvation of Jean de Santenoge--a poor (indeed penniless) gentleman, who lives in a little old manor, or rather farm-house, buried in the woods, and whose sole occupations are poaching and making love to peasant girls--are most agreeably conducted by the agency of the daughter of a curmudgeonly forest-inspector (who naturally regards Santenoge with special abhorrence). She is helped by her grand-uncle, a doctor of the familiar stamp, who has known Diderot's child, Madame de Vandeul (the scene, as in so many of the author's books, is close to Langres), and worships Denis himself. As for _Raymonde_, its heroine comes closer to "Sauvageonne," though she is less of a savagess: and the worst that can be said against her lucky winner is that he is a little of a prig. But, to borrow, and very slightly alter, one of Sir Walter's pieces of divine charity, "The man is mortal, and a scientific person." Perhaps fate and M. Theuriet are a little too harsh to another (but not this time beggarly) _gentillatre_, Osmin de Prefontaine, to whom, one regrets to say, Raymonde positively, or almost positively, engages herself, before she in the same way virtually accepts the physiological Antoine Verdier. And the _denouement_, where everything comes right, is a little stagy.[541] But the whole is thoroughly readable, competently charactered, and illustrated by some of the best of the author's forest descriptions.


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