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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Though he cannot directly punish Trilby


[Sidenote:

_Trilby._]

It is much to be feared that more people in England nowadays associate the name of "Trilby" with the late Mr. Du Maurier than with Nodier, and that more still associate it with the notion of a hat than with either of the men of genius who used it in literature.

So mighty Byron, dead and turned to clay, Gave name to collars for full many a day; And Ramillies, grave of Gallic boasts so big, Found most perpetuation in a wig.[82]

The original story united divers attractions for its first readers in 1822, combining the older fashion of Ossian with the newer one of Scott, infusing the supernatural, which was one great bait of the coming Romanticism, and steeping the whole cake in the tears of the newer rather than the older "Sensibility." "Trilby, le Lutin d'Argail"[83] (Nodier himself explains that he alters the spelling here with pure phonetic intent, so as to keep the pronunciation for French eyes _and_ ears[84]), is a spirit who haunts the cabin of the fisherman Dougal to make a sort of sylph-like love to his wife Jeannie. He means and does no harm, but he is naturally a nuisance to the husband, on whom he plays tricks to keep him away from home, and at length rather frightens the wife. They procure, from a neighbouring monastery, a famous exorcist monk, who, though he cannot directly punish Trilby, lays on him sentence of exclusion from the home of

the pair, unless one of them invites him, under penalty of imprisonment for a thousand years. How the story turns to Jeannie's death and Trilby's duress can be easily imagined, and may be read with pleasure. I confess that to me it seems pretty, but just a little mawkish.[85] Perhaps I am a brute.

[Sidenote: _Le Songe d'Or._]

_Le Songe d'Or_, on the other hand, though in a way tragic, and capable of being allegorised almost _ad infinitum_ in its sense of some of the riddles of the painful earth, is not in the least sentimental, and is told, till just upon the end, with a certain tender irony. The author called it "Fable Levantine," and the venerable Lo[c]kman is introduced in it. But I have read it several times without caring (perhaps this was reprehensible) to ascertain whether it is in the recognised Lokman bunch or not. All I know is that here Nodier and not Lokman has told it, and that the result is delightful. First a beautiful "kardouon," the prettiest of lizards, all azure and ruby and gold, finds in the desert a heap of gold-pieces. He breaks his teeth on them, but is sure that such nice-looking things must be good to eat--probably slices of a root which some careless person has left too long in the sun--and that, if properly treated, they will make a famous winter provision. So he conveys them with much care and exertion, one by one, to a soft bed of fresh moss, just the thing to catch the dew, under the shadow of a fine old tree. And, being naturally tired, he goes to sleep beside them. And this is the history of the kardouon.


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