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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

A third enlevement of the real Ludovica


the young lady's bedroom, and

hears her and her mother talking secrets which very nearly concern him. The carrying off of Ludovica from Poland to Paris is very smartly managed (I am not sure that the great Alexander or one of his "young men" did not borrow some details from it for the arrest of D'Artagnan and Porthos after their return from England), and the way in which she and a double of hers, Trinette van Poupenheim, are mixed up is really clever. So is the general cross-purposing. Cabmen turn up just when they should; and though letters dropped out of pockets are as common as blackberries, I know few better excuses for such carelessness than the fact that you have pulled the letter out with a silk wrapper, which you proceed to fold tenderly round the beautiful neck of a damsel in a cab somewhere about midnight. A holograph will made on the eve of Waterloo and preserved for fifteen years by the faithful depositary; a good doctor, of course; many bad Jesuits, of course; another, and this time virtuous, though very impudent, carrying-off of the _other_ young woman from the clutches of the hated _congreganistes_;[73] a boghei;[74] a jokei; a third _enlevement_ of the real Ludovica, who escapes by a cellar-trap; and many other agreeable things, end in the complete defeat of the wicked and the marriage of the good to the tune of _four_ couples, the thing being thus done to the last in Ducange's usual handsome manner.[75] I do not know whether _Ludovica_ was melodramatised. _Le Jesuite_ of the same year by Ducange
and the great Pixerecourt looks rather like it; and so does _Il y a Seize Ans_ of a year later, which he seems to have written alone. But if it was not it ought to have been. The half-moustache-spider-kissing-screaming scene, and the brilliant youth retreating through the laughing crowd with the other half of his decoration, might have reconciled even me to the theatre.

[Sidenote: Auguste Ricard--_L'Ouvreuse de Loges_.]

A short account of the last novel (except _Le Solitaire_) mentioned above must stand for sample, not merely of the dozen other works of its author, Auguste Ricard, but for many more advertised on the fly-leaves of this time, and long since made "alms for oblivion." Their titles, _Le Portier_, _La Grisette_, _Le Marchand de Coco_, by Ricard himself, on one side, _L'Homme des Ruines_, _Bleack-_ (sic) _Beard_, _La Chambre Rouge_ (by a certain Dinocourt) on the other, almost tell their whole story--the story of a range (to use English terms once more) between the cheap followers of Anne Radcliffe and G. W. M. Reynolds. _L'Ouvreuse de Loges_, through which I have conscientiously worked, inclines to the latter kind, being anti-monarchic, anti-clerical, anti-aristocratic (though it admits that these aristocrats are terrible fellows for behaving in a way which the _roturier_ cannot imitate, however hard he tries), and anti-things-in-general. Its title-heroine is a bad old woman, who "keeps the door" in the Elizabethan sense as well as theatrically. Its real hero is a _ci-devant_ duke; malversator under the Republic; supposed but not real victim of the Septembriseurs; atheist; winner and loser of several fortunes; and at last _particulier_ of Paris under a feigned name, with an apartment full of _bric-a-brac_, a drawer full of little packets of money, after the expenditure of the last of which he proposes to blow his brains out; tall man of stature and of his hands, etc., etc. The book is in a way one of purpose, inculcating the danger of wooing opera-girls, and instancing it with three very weak young men, another duke, a rich young _parvenu_, and a musician. Of these the first and the last are, with their wives, rather arbitrarily saved from the clutches into which they have fallen, by the mysterious "M. Luc," while the other comes to a very bad end. The novel, which is in five volumes, is, like most of those mentioned in this section, not of the kind that one would read by preference. But it is a very fair specimen of the "below stairs" romance which sometimes prepares the way for others, fit to take their places above stairs. And so it has its place here.[76]


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