free ebooks

A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

That Paul de Kock certainly made him laugh


these, but not of them--a producer at last of real "letters" and more than any one else except Chateaubriand (more "intensively" perhaps even than he was) a pioneer of Romanticism--comes Charles Nodier.

[Sidenote: Paul de Kock.]

Major Pendennis, in a passage which will probably, at least in England, preserve the name of the author mentioned long after his own works are even more forgotten with us than they are at present, allowed, when disparaging novels generally, and wondering how his nephew could have got so much money for one, that Paul de Kock "certainly made him laugh." In his own country he had an enormous vogue, till the far greater literary powers and the wider range of the school of 1830 put the times out of joint for him, and even much later. He actually survived the Terrible Year: but something like a lustrum earlier, when running over a not small collection of cheap novels in a French country inn, I do not remember coming across anything of his. And he had long been classed as "not a serious person" (which, indeed, he certainly was not) by French criticism, not merely of the most academic sort, but of all decidedly literary kinds. People allowed him _entrain_, a word even more difficult than _verve_ to English exactly, though "go" does in a rough sort of way for both. They were of course not very much shocked at his indecorums, which sometimes gave occasion for not bad jokes.[39] But if any foreigner

made any great case of him they would probably have looked, if they did not speak their thoughts, very much as some of us have looked, if we have not spoken, when foreigners take certain popular scribes and playwrights of our own time and country seriously.[40]

Let us see what his work is really like to the eyes of impartial and comparative, if not cosmopolitan, criticism.

[Sidenote: _L'Enfant de ma Femme._]

Paul de Kock, whose father, a banker, was a victim, but must have been a late one, of the Terror, was born in 1794, and took very early to letters. If the date of his first book, _L'Enfant de ma Femme_, is correctly given as 1812, he must apparently have written it before he was eighteen. There is certainly nothing either in the quantity or the quality of the performance which makes this incredible, for it does not fill quite two hundred pages of the ordinary 18mo size and not very closely packed type of the usual cheap French novel, and though it is not unreadable, any tolerably clever boy might easily write it between the time when he gets his scholarship in spring and the time when he goes up in October. The author had evidently read his Pigault and adopted that writer's revised picaresque scheme. His most prominent character (the hero, Henri de Framberg, is very "small doings"), the hussar-soldier-servant, and most oddly selected "governor" of this hero as a boy, Mullern, is obviously studied off those semi-savage "old moustaches" of whom we spoke in the last volume, though he is much softened, if not in morals, in manners. In fact this softening process is quite obvious throughout. There is plenty of "impropriety" but no mere nastiness, and the impropriety itself is, so to speak, rather indicated than described. As nearly the last sentence announces, "Hymen hides the faults of love" wherever it is possible, though it would require a most complicated system of polygamy and cross-unions to enable that amiable divinity to cover them all. There is a villain, but he is a villain of straw, and outside of him there is no ill-nature. There seems to be going to be a touch of "out-of-boundness" when Henri, just about to marry his beloved Pauline, is informed that she is his sister, and when the pair, separating in horror, meet again and, let us say, forget to separate. But the information turns out to be false, and Hymen duly uses the not uncomfortable extinguisher which, as noted above, is supplied to him as well as the more usual torch.

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us