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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Coupling Beranger with Paul de Kock


In

adding new and important masterpieces to the glittering chain of short cameo-like narratives which form the peculiar glory of French literature, he did greatly. And his performance and example were greater still in respect of the _quality_ which he infused into those best pieces of his work which have been examined here. It is hardly too much to say that this quality had been almost dormant--a sleeping beauty among the lively bevies of that literature's graces--ever since the Middle Ages, with some touches of waking--hardly more than motions in a dream--at the Renaissance. The comic Phantasy had been wakeful and active enough; the graver and more serious tragic Imagination had been, though with some limitations, busy at times. But this third sister--Our Lady of Dreams, one might call her in imitation of a famous fancy--had not shown herself much in French merriment or in French sadness: the light of common day there had been too much for her. Yet in Charles Nodier she found the magician who could wake her from sleep: and she told him what she had thought while sleeping.[92]

FOOTNOTES:

[37] Vol. I. pp. 458, 472, _notes_.

[38] Vol. I. p. 161.

[39] When he published _Le Cocu_, it was set about that a pudibund lady had asked her book-seller for "Le Dernier de M. Paul de Kock." And this circumlocution became for a time popular, as a new name for

the poor creature on the ornaments of whose head our Elizabethans joked so untiringly.

[40] A short essay, or at least a "middle" article, might be written on this way of regarding a prophet in his own country, coupling Beranger with Paul de Kock. Of course the former is by much a _major_ prophet in verse than Paul is in prose. But the attitude of the superior French person to both is, in different degrees, the same. (Thackeray in the article referred to below, p. 62 _note_, while declaring Paul to be _the_ French writer whose works are best known in England, says that his educated countrymen think him _pitoyable_.--_Works_, Oxford edition, vol. ii p. 533.)

[41] A gibe at the Vicomte d'Arlincourt's very popular novel, to be noticed below. I have not, I confess, identified the passage: but it may be in one of the plays.

[42] It would _not_ be fair to compare the two as makers of literature. In that respect Theodore Hook is Paul's Plutarchian parallel, though he has more literature and less life.

[43] Charity, outrunning knowledge, may plead "Irony perhaps?" Unfortunately there is no chance of it.

[44] I really do not know who was (see a little below). Parny in his absurd _Goddam!_ (1804) has something of it.

[45] And _he_ knew something of it through Addison.

[46] The straight hair is particularly curious, for, as everybody who knows portraits of the early nineteenth century at all is aware, Englishmen of the time preferred brushed back and rather "tousled" locks. In Maclise's famous "Fraserians" there is hardly a straight-combed head among all the twenty or thirty. At the same time it is fair to say that our own book-illustrators and caricaturists, for some strange reason, did a good deal to authorise the libels. Cruikshank was no doubt a wonderful draughtsman, but I never saw (and I thank God for it) anything like many, if not most, of his faces. "Phiz" and Cattermole in (for example) their illustrations to _The Old Curiosity Shop_ and _Barnaby Rudge_ sometimes out-Cruikshank Cruikshank in this respect.


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