free ebooks

A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

And Smarra have been the greatest favourites



To the student and lover of literature there is scarcely a more interesting figure in French literary history, though there are many greater. Except a few scraps (which, by one of the odd ways of the book-world, actually do not appear in some editions of his _Oeuvres Choisies_), he did nothing which had the quality of positive greatness in it. But he was a considerable influence: and even more of a "sign." Younger than Chateaubriand and Madame de Stael, but far older than any of the men of 1830 proper, he may be said in a way to have, in his single person, played in France that part of schoolmaster to Romanticism, which had been distributed over two generations and many personalities in England; and which Germany, after a fashion, did without, at the cost of a few undisciplined and quickly overbloomed master-years. Although he was born in 1780, nine years before the Revolution itself, he underwent German and English influences early, "took" Wertherism, Terrorism,[80] and other maladies of that _fin de siecle_ with the utmost facility, and produced divers ultra-Romantic things long before 1830 itself. But he had any number of literary and other avocations or distractions. He was a kind of entomologist and botanist, a kind of philologist (one is a little astonished to find that rather curious and very charlatanish person and parson Sir Herbert Croft, whose secretary Nodier was for a time, dignified in French books by the name of "_philologue_

Anglais"), a good deal more than a kind of bibliographer (he spent the last twenty years of his life as Librarian of the Arsenal), and an enthusiastic and stimulating, though not exactly trustworthy, critic. But he concerns us here, of course, for his prose fiction, which, if not very bulky, is numerous in its individual examples, and is animated in the best of them by a spirit almost new in French and, though often not sufficiently caught and concentrated, present to almost the highest degrees in at least three examples--the last part of _La Fee aux Miettes_, _La Legende de Soeur Beatrix_, and, above all, _Ines de las Sierras_.

For those who delight in literary filiations and genealogies, the kind of story in which Nodier excelled (and in which, though some of his own were written after 1830, he may truly be considered as "schoolmaster" to Merimee and Gautier and Gerard de Nerval and all their fellows), may be, without violence or exaggeration, said to be a new form of the French fairy-tale, divested of common form, and readjusted with the help of the German _Maerchen_ and fantasy-pieces. _Le Diable Amoureux_ had, no doubt, set the fashion of this kind earlier; but that story, charming as it is, is still scarcely "Romantic." Nodier is so wholly; and it is fair to remember that Hoffmann himself was rather a contemporary of his, and subject to the same influences, than a predecessor.[81]

[Sidenote: His short stories.]

The best collection of Nodier's short tales contains nine pieces: _Trilby_, _Le Songe d'Or_, _Baptiste Montauban_, _La Fee aux Miettes_, _La Combe de l'Homme mort_, _Ines de las Sierras_, _Smarra_, _La Neuvaine de la Chandeleur_, and _La Legende de Soeur Beatrix_. Of these I believe _Trilby_, _La Fee aux Miettes_, and _Smarra_ have been the greatest favourites, and were pretty certainly the most influential in France. My own special delights are _Le Songe d'Or_, _Ines de las Sierras_, and _Soeur Beatrix_, with part of the _Fee_. But none is without its attractions, and the Preface to the _Fee aux Miettes_, which is almost a separate piece, has something of the quintessential in that curious quality which Nodier possesses almost alone in French or with Gerard de Nerval and Louis Bertrand only. English readers may "perceive a good deal of [Charles] Lamb in it," with touches of Sterne and De Quincey and Poe.

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