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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

Sidenote The Nouvelles Inedites


[Sidenote:

The _Nouvelles Inedites_.]

The _Vie de Henri Brulard_, of high importance for a History of Novelists, is in strictness outside the subject of a historian of the Novel, though it might be adduced to strengthen the remarks made on Rousseau's _Confessions_.[144] And the rest of the "resurrected" matter is also more autobiographical, or at best illustrative of Beyle's restless and "masterless" habit of pulling his work to pieces--of "never being able to be ready" (as a deservedly unpopular language has it)--than contributory to positive novel-achievement. But the first and by far the most substantive of the _Nouvelles Inedites_, which his amiable but not very strong-minded literary executor, Colomb, published soon after his death, needs a little notice.

[Sidenote: _Le Chasseur Vert._]

_Le Chasseur Vert_[145] (which had three other titles, three successive prefaces, and in its finished, or rather unfinished, form is the salvage of five folio volumes of MS., the rest being at best sketched and at worst illegible) contains, in what we have of it, the account of the tribulations of a young sub-lieutenant of Lancers (with a great deal of money, a cynical but rather agreeable banker-papa, an adoring mother, and the record of an expulsion from the Polytechnique for supposed Republicanism) suddenly pitchforked into garrison, soon after the Revolution of July, at Nancy. Here, in the early

years of the July monarchy, the whole of decent society is Legitimist; a very small but not easily suppressible minority Republican; while officialdom, civil and military, forms a peculiar _juste milieu_, supporting itself by espionage and by what Their Majesties of the present moment, the Trade Unions, call "victimisation," but in a constant state of alarm for its position, and "looking over its shoulder" with a sort of threefold squint, at the white flag, the eagles--and the guillotine. Nothing really happens, but it takes 240 pages to bring us to an actual meeting between Lieutenant Lucien Leeuwen and his previously at distance adored widow, the Marquise de Chasteller.

The book is not a _very_ good novel, even as a fragment, and probably nothing would ever have made it so as a whole. But there is good novel-stuff in it, and it is important to a student of the novel and almost indispensable to a student of this novelist. Of the cynical papa--who, when his son comes to him in a "high-falutin" mood, requests him to go to his (the papa's) opera-box, to replace his sire with some agreeable girl-officials of that same institution, and to spend at least 200 francs on a supper for them at the Rocher--one would gladly see more. Of the barrack (or rather _not_-barrack) society at Nancy, the sight given, though not agreeable, is interesting, and to any one who knew something of our old army, especially before the abolition of purchase, very curious. There is no mess-room and apparently no common life at all, except on duty and at the "pension" hotel-meals, to which,--rather, it would seem, at the arbitrary will of the colonel than by "regulation,"--you have to subscribe, though you may, and indeed must, live in lodgings exactly like a _particulier_. Of the social-political life of the place we see rather too much, for Beyle, not content with making the politics which he does not like make themselves ridiculous--or perhaps not being able to do so--himself tells us frequently that they _are_ ridiculous, which is not equally effective. So also, instead of putting severe or "spiritual" speeches in Lucien's mouth, he tells us that they _were_ spiritual or severe, an assurance which, of course, we receive with due politeness, but which does not give us as much personal delectation as might be supplied by the other method. No doubt this and other things are almost direct results of that preference for _recit_ over semi-dramatic evolution of the story by deed and word, which has been noticed. But they are damaging results all the same: and, after making the fairest allowance for its incomplete condition, the thing may be said to support, even more than _Lamiel_ does, the conclusion already based upon the self-published stories (and most of all upon that best of them, _Le Rouge et le Noir_) that Beyle could never have given us a thoroughly hit-off novel.


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