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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Adolphine is an adored and unhoped for idol


Paul,

however, has kept his word with his subscribers by shutting out all sculduddery, even of the mildest kind, and has, if not reconciled, partly conciliated critics by throwing in some tolerable minor personages. Pelagie, Constance's lively friend, has a character which he could somehow manage without Richardsonian vulgarity. Her amiable father, an orchestra musician, who manages to find _des jolies choses_ even in a damned piece, is not bad; and, above all, Pelagie's lover, and, till Edmond's misconduct, his friend, M. Ginguet--a modest Government clerk, who adores his mistress, is constantly snubbed by her, but has his flames crowned at last,--is, though not a particularly novel character, a very well-played part.

[Sidenote: _Andre le Savoyard._]

One of the author's longer books, _Andre le Savoyard_, is a curious blend of the _berquinade_ with what some English critics have been kind enough to call the "candour" of the more usual French novel. The candour, however, is in very small proportion to the berquinity. This, I suppose, helped it to pass the English censorship of the mid-nineteenth century; for I remember a translation (it was the first book of the author's I ever read) far away in the 'fifties, among a collection of books where nothing flagrantly scabrous would have been admitted. It begins, and for the most part continues, in an almost completely Marmontelish or Edgeworthian fashion. A selfish glutton

and _petit-maitre_ of a French count, M. de Francornard, loses his way (with a postilion, a valet, and his little daughter, whom he has carried off from her mother) in the hills of Savoy, and is rescued and guested by a good peasant, whom he rewards with a _petit ecu_ (three _livres_, not five or six). The peasant dies, and his two eldest boys set out for Paris as chimney-sweeps. The elder (eleven-year-old) Andre himself is befriended by a good Auvergnat water-carrier and his little daughter Manette; after which he falls in with the Francornards--now, after a fashion, a united family. He is taken into their household and made a sort of protege by the countess, the child Adolphine being also very fond of him; while, though in another way, their _soubrette_ Lucile, a pretty damsel of eighteen, is fonder still. Years pass, and the fortunate Andre distributes his affections between the three girls. Manette, though she ends as his wife, is more of a sister at first; Adolphine is an adored and unhoped-for idol; while Lucile (it is hardly necessary to say that it is in the scenes with her that "candour" comes in) is at first a protectress, then a schoolmistress of the school of Cupid, in process of time a mistress in the other sense, and always a very good-natured and unselfish helper. In fact, Manette is so preternaturally good (she can't even be jealous in a sufficiently human way), Adolphine so prettily and at last tragically null, that one really feels inclined to observe to Andre, if he were worth it, the recondite quotation

Ne sit ancillae tibi amor pudori,

though perhaps seven years _is_ a long interval in the first third of life.

[Sidenote: _Jean._]

A still better instance of the modified _berquinade_--indeed, except for the absence of riotous fun, one of the best of all Paul de Kock's books--is _Jean_, also an example of his middle and ripest period.


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