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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

At the actual meeting of eighteenth and nineteenth

style="text-align: justify;"> CONCLUSION

The remaining pages of this book should be occupied partly with a continuation of a former chapter,[558] partly with a summary of the whole volume, the combination, almost necessary in all cases, being specially motived in this by the overlappings referred to above, and a word added on the whole _History_. Not only did Victor Hugo hold, to French literature as well as to French poetry, something very like the position[559] occupied by Tennyson and Browning in English poetry only, by covering every quarter of the century in whole or part with his work; but there was, even in France, nothing like the "general post" of disappearances and accessions which marked the period from 1820 to 1860 in English--a consequence necessarily of the later revival of French. No one except Chateaubriand corresponded to the crowd of distinguished writers who thus made their appearance, at the actual meeting of eighteenth and nineteenth, with us; and though, of course, there were exceptions, the general body of the French reinforcement did not dwindle much till 1870 onwards.

We noted that the first great development of the nineteenth-century novel was in the historical department, though many others made notable fresh starts: and we said something about the second development of the "ordinary" one which followed. It is this latter, of course, which has supplied the main material of the last

third of the present volume, though (of course again) there have been many noteworthy and some great examples of the historical itself, of the supernatural, of the eccentric, and of many other kinds. But practically all who tried these later tried the ordinary, and a great many who tried the ordinary did not try the others. It is therefore on the development of the novel of common modern life that we must, at any rate for a little time, spend most of our attention here.

The fact of the change is indeed so certain and so obvious, that there is not much need to enforce or illustrate it, though it must be remembered that, on any true conception of history, the most obvious things are not those least worthy of being chronicled. Even Hugo, likely to be, and actually being, the most recalcitrant to the movement, comes close to modern times, and to such ordinary life as was possible to him, in _Les Miserables_ and _Les Travailleurs de la Mer_. George Sand had begun as a sort of modernist; but by any one who can perform the (it is true not very easy) task of equating relative modernity, it will not be found that _Mlle. la Quintinie_, or even _Flamarande_, are more modern than _Lelia_ or _Valentine_ in the mere ratio of the dates. The ordinary life of the 'thirties and that of the 'sixties and 'seventies was no doubt different, but there is more than that difference in the books referred to. The artist is, consciously or unconsciously, trying to get nearer to her model or sitter. And this though George Sand was really almost as self-centred as Hugo, though in another way.

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