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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

It is indeed so late that instead of the jupons


[47]

Paul's ideas of money are still very modest. An income of 6000 francs (L240) represents ease if not affluence; with double the amount you can "aspire to a duchess," and even the dispendious Irish-French Viscount Edward de Sommerston in _La Fille aux Trois Jupons_ (_v. inf._) starts on his career with scarcely more than three thousand a year.

[48] Paul's scholarship was very rudimentary, as is shown in not a few scraps of ungrammatical Latin: he never, I think, ventures on Greek. But whether he was the first to _estropier_ the not ugly form "_Cleodora_," I know not. Perhaps he muddled it with "Clotilde."

[49] This cult of the widow might form the subject of a not uninteresting excursus if we were not confining ourselves to the literary sides of our matter. It has been noticed before (Vol. I. p. 368), and forms one of the most curious differences between the two countries. For, putting Mr. Weller out of the question, I have known far from sentimental critics who thought Trollope's best book by no means improved by the previous experience of Eleanor Bold. Cherolatry in France, however, is not really old: it hardly appears before the eighteenth century. It may be partly due to a more or less conscious idea that perhaps the lady may have got over the obligatory adultery at the expense of her "dear first" and may not think it necessary to repeat. A sort of "measles over."

[50] He

also improves his neglected education in a manner not unsuggestive of Prince Giglio. In fact, I fancy there is a good deal of half-latent parody of Paul in Thackeray.

[51] There might have been fifteen or fifty, for the book is more a sequence of scenes than a schematic composition: for which reason the above account of it may seem somewhat _decousu_.

[52] I think I have commented elsewhere on the difficulty of villains. It was agreeable to find confirmation, when this book was already in the printer's hands, given at an exemption tribunal by a theatrical manager. For six weeks, he said, he had advertised and done everything possible to supply the place of a good villain, with no success. And your bad stage villain _may_ be comic: while your bad novel villain is only a bore.

[53] Frederique, Madame Dauberny (who has, without legal sanction, relieved herself of a loathsome creature whom she has married, and lives a free though not at all immoral life), was not very easy to do, and is very well done.

[54] This, which is short and thoroughly lively, is, I imagine, the latest of Paul's good books. It is indeed so late that instead of the _jupons_, striped and black and white, of which Georgette has made irreproachable but profitable use, she appears at the _denouement_ in a crinoline!

[55] The most interesting thing in it is a longish account by Jacques of his association with a travelling quack and fortune-teller, which at once reminds one of _Japhet in Search of a Father_. The resemblances and the differences are almost equally characteristic.

[56] Of course I am not comparing him with Paul on any other point.

[57] Except in regard to the historical and other matters noticed above, hardly at all.

[58] For a picture of an actual grisette, drawn by perhaps the greatest master of artistic realism (adjective and substantive so seldom found in company!) who ever lived, see that _Britannia_ article of Thackeray's before referred to--an article, for a long time, unreprinted, and therefore, till a comparatively short time ago, practically unknown. This and its companion articles from the _Britannia_ and the _Corsair_, all of 1840-41, but summarising ten or twelve years' knowledge of Paris, form, with the same author's _Paris Sketch Book_ (but as representing a more mature state of his genius), the best commentary on Paul de Kock. They may be found together in the third volume of the Oxford Thackeray edited by the present writer.


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