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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

And Jules Valles of the Commune


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I do not propose to add any further studies in detail to those already presented in this chapter. As I have (perhaps more than once) remarked, there are few periods of the century with the minor as well as major novel work of which I am better acquainted than with that of its last quarter. As I remember independently, or am in this or that way reminded, of the names of Jules de Glouvet; of at least three Pauls--Alexis, Arene, and Mahalin; of Ernest d'Hervilly; of the prolific Hector Malot; of Oscar Metenier, and Octave Mirbeau, and Jules Valles of the Commune, of the brothers Margueritte and of others too many to mention, a sort of shame invades me at leaving them out.[557] Some of them may be alive still, though most, I think, are dead. But dead or alive, I have no room for them, and, for reasons also elsewhere stated, it is perhaps as well. The blossoming of the aloe, not once in a hundred years but all through them, has been told as best I could tell it.

Not shame but sorrow attends the exclusion of others, some of them, I think, better novelists than those actually discussed in this chapter--especially "Gyp" and MM. Anatole France, Paul Bourget, Jean Richepin, and "Pierre Loti." It would have been agreeable to pay, once more, suit and service to the adorable chronicler of the little rascal Bob and the unpretentiously divine Chiffon; to recall the delighted surprise

with which one read _Le Crime de Silvestre Bonnard_, and follow the train of triumphs that succeeded it; to do justice (unbribed, but pleasantly seasoned, by some private gratitude) to the vigour and acuteness of _L'Irreparable_ and its companions; to salute that masterpiece of Realism at its best, _La Glu_, and the more complicated as well as more pathetic history of _Cesarine_; and to re-discover the countries and the manners depicted for us from _Aziyade_ to _Pecheur d'Islande_. But the _consigne_ elsewhere laid down and experienced forbids it, and I think that _consigne_ should not be "forced."

FOOTNOTES:

[519] It was in connection with this, at some time in the 'eighties, that I came across a curious survival of the old prejudice against novels--deserving perhaps, with better claim than as a mere personal anecdote, record in this history. One French publisher, who held himself above the "three-fifty," and produced dainty books of art and letters, once sent a pathetic remonstrance against his wares being reviewed "sometimes unkindly, _and always with the novels_."

[520] "Tigrane" is a nickname, early accounted for and perhaps suggesting its own explanation.

[521] At the extreme end there is an interesting reminder of that curious moment when it was thought on the cards that Pius IX. might accept an English asylum at Malta, and that, as a part-consequence, not of course Newman but Manning might be his successor. The probable results of this, to "those who knew" at the time, are still matter of interesting, if unpractical, speculation.

[522] He is playing whist comfortably with the cathedral keys in his pocket, and has nearly made a slam (Fr. _chelem_), while the pelting of the pitiless storm is on the dead bishop's bier and its faithful guardians.


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