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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

While Nodier had been writing stories


[75] Here is another instance. Ludovica's father and a bad Russo-Prussian colonel have to be finished off at Waterloo. One might suppose that Waterloo itself would suffice. But no: they must engage in single combat, and even then not kill each other, the Russian's head being carried off by some kind of a cannon-ball and the Frenchman's breast pierced by half a dozen Prussian lances. This is really "good measure."

[76] Ousting others which deserved the place better? It may be so, but one may perhaps "find the whole" without particularising everything. Of short books especially, from Fievee's _Dot de Suzette_ (1798), which charmed society in its day, to Eugenie Foa's _Petit Robinson de Paris_ (1840), which amused _me_ when I was about ten years old, there were no end if one talked.

[77] _V. inf._ on M. Ohnet's books.

[78] Many people have probably noticed the frequency of this name--not a very pretty one in itself, and with no particular historical or other attraction--in France and French of the earlier nineteenth century. It was certainly due to _Le Solitaire_.

[79] If any proper moral reader is disturbed at this conjunction of _amante_ and _mere_, he will be glad to know that M. d'Arlincourt elsewhere regularises the situation and calls Night "_l'epouse_ d'Erebe."

[80] In the Radcliffian-literary not the Robespierrean-political sense. For the Wertherism, _v. sup._ on Chateaubriand, p. 24 note.

[81] He was four years older than Nodier, but did not begin to write fiction nearly so early. The _Phantasiestuecke_ are of 1814, while Nodier had been writing stories, under German influence, as early as 1803. It is, however, also fair to say that all those now to be noticed are later than 1814, and even than Hoffmann's later collections, the _Elixiere des Teufels_ and _Nachtstuecke_.

[82] The prudent as well as judicious poet who wrote these lines provided a variant to suit those who, basing their position on "Ramillies _cock_," maintain that it was a hat, not a wig, that was named after Villeroy's defeat. For "grave--big" read "where Gallic hopes fell flat," and for "wig" "hat" _simpliciter_, and the thing is done. But Thackeray has "Ramillies _wig_" and Scott implies it.

[83] Nodier, who had been in Scotland and, as has been said, was a philologist of the better class, is scrupulously exact in spelling proper names as a rule. Perhaps Loch Fyne is not exactly "Le Lac Beau" (I have not the Gaelic). But from Pentland to Solway (literally) he makes no blunder, and he actually knows all about "Argyle's Bowling Green."

[84] If phonetics had never done anything worse than this they would not be as loathsome to literature as they sometimes are.

[85] On the other hand, compared with its slightly elder contemporary, _Le Solitaire_ (_v. sup._), it is a masterpiece.

[86] Two little passages towards the end are very precious. A certain bridegroom (I abridge a little) is "perfectly healthy, perfectly self-possessed, a great talker, a successful man of business, with some knowledge of physics, chemistry, jurisprudence, politics, statistics, and phrenology; enjoying all the requirements of a deputy; and for the rest, a liberal, an anti-romantic, a philanthropist, a very good fellow--and absolutely intolerable." This person later changes the humble home of tragedy into a "school of mutual instruction, where the children learn to hate and envy each other and to read and write, which was all they needed to become detestable creatures." These words "please the soul well."


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