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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Ohnet is a sort of vulgarised Sandeau

balanced justice to herself

and the Jesuit, by allowing that while he and she were both _bien eleves_, he was _un peu trop_ and she was not. It is not so far, except in time, nor separated by such a difference of intervening country, from the song of the Mandragore in Nodier to those muffled shrieks of a better-known variety of the same mystic plant, that tell us of Maupassant's growing progress to his fate. As you explore the time and the space of the interval you come across wonderful things. There are the micro- macrocosms of Hugo, where, as in Baudelaire's line on the albatross quoted above, he is partly hampered because he has come down from the air of poetry to the earth of prose; of Balzac, where there is no such difficulty, but where the cosmos itself is something other than yours; of Dumas, where half the actual history of France is _dis_realised for your delectation. On a lesser scale you have the manners of town and country, of high life and low life, of Paris most of all, given you through all sorts of perspectives and in all sorts of settings by Paul de Kock and George Sand, by Sandeau and Bernard, by Alexandre Dumas _fils_ and Feuillet, by Theuriet and Fabre. Gautier and Merimee make for you that marriage of story and style which, before them, so few had attempted at all, yet which, since them, so many have tried with such doubtful success. Once more in Flaubert and then for the last time, as far as our survey goes, in Maupassant, you come to that touch of genius which exalts the novel, as
it exalts all kinds, indefinably, unmistakably, finally.

And this journey is not like the one great journey, and more than one of the lesser journeys, of our life, irremeable; there is no denial, no curse, no fiend with outstretched claw, to prevent your going back as often as you like, wandering in any direction you please, passing or staying as and where you wish. It has been perhaps unconscionable of me to inflict so big a book on my readers as a cover for giving myself the pleasure of making and remaking such journeys. But if I have persuaded any one of them to explore the country for himself, by him at least I shall not remain unforgiven.


[558] _V. sup._ "The French Novel in 1850."

[559] Called by some a "deadening" one. There was some very cheerful Life in that Death.

[560] The better part even of M. Ohnet is a sort of vulgarised Sandeau.

[561] _La Tentation_, like others of the very greatest novels, is independent of its time, save in mere unimportant "colour."

[562] How little this change was one back to classicism--as some would have it--we may see presently.

[563] The greatest of all--the direction and maintenance of the revolution under the inspiration of what is called Romance--must be again postponed for a little while.

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