There is, however, probably no cause to regret this, for the author assures us that his new work is "as far above the two former in beauty as the sun is above the stars. L'Amour Aventureux Paris, , by the not unknown Du Verdier, is a book with Histoires , and I am not sure that the volume I have seen contains the whole of it.
L'Empire de l'Inconstance Paris, , by the Sieur de Ville, and published "at the entry of the little gallery of Prisoners under the sign of the Vermilion Roses," has a most admirable title to start with, and a table of over thirty Histoires , a dozen letters, and two "amorous judgments" at the end.
L'enfant de Noé
Les Fortunes Diverses de Chrysomire et de Kalinde Paris, , by a certain Humbert, blazons "love and war" on its very title-page, while Celandre Paris, , a much later book than most of these, has the rather uncommon feature of a single name for title. Thirty or forty years ago I should have taken some pleasure in "cooking" this batch of mostly early romances into a twenty-page article which, unless it had been unlucky, would have found its way into some magazine or review. Somebody might do so now. But I think it sufficient, and not superfluous, to add this brief sketch here to the notices of similar things in the last volume, in order to show how abundant the crop of French romance—of which even these are only further samples—was at the time.
And Aramis, brave as he was, would have been sure to reflect that to play a feat of possibly hostile acrobatism on the Gascon, without notice, might be a little dangerous. I cannot say positively whether I knew of it or not, though I must have done so, having often gone over the lists of that editor's numerous "libraries" to secure for my students texts not overlaid with commentary. But I can say very truthfully that no slight whatever was intended, in regard to a scholar who did more than almost any other single man to "vulgarise" in the wholly laudable sense of that too often degraded word the body of English literature.
Only, such a book would not have been what I was thinking of. To bring out the full contrast-complement of these two strangely coincident masterpieces, both must be read in the originals.
Paradoxically, one might even say that a French translation of Johnson, with the original of Voltaire, would show it better than the converse presentment. Candide is so intensely French—it is even to such an extent an embodiment of one side of Frenchness—that you cannot receive its virtues except through the original tongue.
I am personally fond of translating; I have had some practice in it; and some good wits have not disapproved some of my efforts. But, unless I knew that in case of refusal I should be ranked as a Conscientious Objector, I would not attempt Candide. The French would ring in my ears too reproachfully. I have very gratefully to acknowledge that I found the latter class very much larger than the former.
Such a note as that at Vol. The charge of in accuracy can always be made by anybody who cares to take "the other authority. For the purposes of such a history as this it is very rarely of the slightest importance, whether a book was published in the year one or the year three: though the importance of course increases when units pass into decades, and becomes grave where decades pass into half-centuries. Unless you can collate actual first editions in every case and sometimes even then dates of books as given are always second-hand.
In reference to [Pg xviii] the same subject I have also been rebuked for not taking account of M. Besides, somebody will probably, sooner or later, correct M. These things pass: Manon Lescaut remains. But there seems to me to be a sufficient distinction between the two cases. I first met with her long ago see Vol. But—and let this always be a warning to literary lovers—the two fell out over a translation of the Corsica book which she began. Boswell was not the wisest of men, especially where women were concerned.
But even he might have known that, if you trust the bluest-eyed of gazelles to do such things for you, she will probably marry a market-gardener. He seems also to have been a little afraid of her superiority of talent, v. Besides these, and other genuine letters, she wrote not a few novels, concocted often, if not always, in epistolary form.
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Their French was so good that it attracted Sainte-Beuve's attention and praise, while quite recently she has had a devoted panegyrist and editor in Switzerland, where, after her marriage, she was domiciled. But and here come the reasons for the former exclusion she learnt her French as a foreign language. She was French neither by birth nor by extraction, nor, if I do not mistake, by even temporary residence, though she did stay in England for a considerable time.
Some of these points distinguish her from Hamilton as others do from Madame de Montolieu. If I put her in, I do not quite see how I could leave Beckford out. Conclusion Appendix Index It has often been thought, and sometimes said, that the period of the French Revolution and of the Napoleonic wars—extending as it does strictly to more than a quarter of a century, while four decades were more than completed before a distinct turn of tide—is, for France, the least individual and least satisfactorily productive time in all her great literature.
And it is, to a large extent, true. But the loss of individuality implies the presence of indiscernibility; and not to go out of our own department, there are at least three writers who, if but partially, cancel this entry to discredit. Of one of them—the lowest in general literature, if not quite in our division of it—Pigault-Lebrun—we have spoken in the last volume. The other two—much less craftsmanlike novelists merely as such, but immeasurably greater as man and woman of letters—remain for discussion in the first chapter of this.
In pure chronological order Chateaubriand should come first, as well as in other "ranks" of various kinds. But History, though it may never neglect, may sometimes overrule Chronology by help of a larger and higher point of view: sex and birth hardly count here, and the departmental primes the intrinsic literary importance.
And he reached much farther [Pg 2] than she did, though curiously enough some of his worst faults were more of the eighteenth century than hers. She helped to finish "Sensibility"; she transformed "Philosophism" into something more modern; she borrowed a good deal especially in the region of aesthetics that was to be importantly germinal from Germany. But she had practically nothing of that sense of the past and of the strange which was to rejuvenate all literature, and which he had; while she died before the great French Romantic outburst began. So let us begin with her.
Sydney was a good-natured person and a gentleman, nor had he, merely as a Whig, any reason to quarrel with the lady's general attitude to politics—a circumstance which, one regrets to say, did in those days, on both sides, rather improperly qualify the attitude of gentlemen to literary ladies as well as to each other.
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It is true that the author of Corinne and of Delphine itself had been rather a thorn in the side of the English Whigs by dint of some of her opinions, by much of her conduct, and, above all, by certain peculiarities which may be noticed presently. But Sydney, though a Whig, was not "a vile Whig," for which reason the Upper Powers, in his later years, made him something rather indistinguishable from a Tory.
And that blunt common sense, which in his case cohabited with the finest un common wit, must have found [Pg 3] itself, in this instance, by no means at variance with its housemate in respect of Anne Germaine Necker. There are many worse books than Delphine. It is excellently written; there is no bad blood in it; there is no intentional licentiousness; on the contrary, there are the most desperate attempts to live up to a New Morality by no means entirely of the Wiggins kind.
But there is an absence of humour which is perfectly devastating: and there is a presence of the most disastrous atmosphere of sham sentiment, sham morality, sham almost everything, that can be imagined. But the difference! In Adolphe a coal from the altar of true passion has touched lips in themselves polluted enough, and the result is what it always is in such, alas! In Delphine there is a desperate pother to strike some sort of light and get some sort of heat; but the steel is naught, the flint is clay, the tinder is mouldy, and the wood is damp and rotten.
No glow of brand or charcoal follows, and the lips, untouched by it, utter nothing but rhetoric and fustian and, as the Sydneian sentence speaks it, "trash. In fact, to get any appropriate metaphorical description of it one has to change the terminology altogether. In a very great line Mr. Kipling has spoken of a metaphorical ship—. But it worked after a fashion; it was founded on some real, however unrespectable, facts of humanity; and it was at least amusing to the naughty players on its stage to begin with, and long afterwards to the guiltless spectators of the commonty.
In Delphine there is not a glimmer of amusement from first to last, and the whole story is compact if that word were not totally inapplicable of windbags of sentiment, copy-book headings, and the strangest husks of neo-classic type-worship, stock character, and hollow generalisation. An Italian is necessarily a person of volcanic passions; an Englishman or an American at this time the identification was particularly unlucky has, of equal necessity, a grave and reserved physiognomy.
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Orthodox religion is a mistake, but a kind of moral-philosophical Deism something of the Wolmar type is highly extolled. You must be technically "virtuous" yourself, even if you bring a whole second volume of tedious tortures on you by being so; but you may play Lady Pandara to a friend who is a devout adulteress, may force yourself into her husband's carriage when he is carrying her off from one assignation, and may bring about his death by contriving another in your own house.
In fact, the whole thing is topsy-turvy, without the slightest touch of that animation and interested curiosity which topsy-turviness sometimes contributes. But perhaps one should give a more regular account of it. A good deal of this has descended to her son, with whom, in spite or because of it, Delphine she has not seen him before her rash generosity proceeds to fall frantically in love, as he does with her. The marriage, however, partly by trickery on Madame de Vernon's part, and partly owing to Delphine's more than indiscreet furthering of her friend Madame d'Ervin's intrigue with the Italian M.
No open family rupture, however, is caused; on the contrary, a remarkable and inevitably disastrous "triple arrangement" follows as mentioned above , for an entire volume, in which the widow and the bridegroom make despairing love to each other, refraining, however, from any impropriety, and the wife, though suffering for she, in her apparently frigid way, really loves her husband , tolerates the proceeding after a fashion.
This impossible and preposterous situation is at last broken up by the passion and violence of another admirer of Delphine—a certain M. These bring about duels, wounds, and Delphine's flight to Switzerland, where she puts up in a convent with a most superfluous and in every way unrefreshing new personage, a widowed sister of Madame de Mandeville. Valorbe follows, and, to get hold of Delphine, machinates one of the most absurd scenes in the whole realm of fiction. He lures her into Austrian territory and a chamber with himself alone, locks the door and throws the key out of the window,  storms, [Pg 6] rants, threatens, but proceeds to no voie de fait , and merely gets himself and the object of his desires arrested by the Austrians!
He thus succeeds, while procuring no gratification for himself, in entirely demolishing the last shred of reputation which, virtuous as she is in her own way, Delphine's various eccentricities and escapades have left her; and she takes the veil. In the first form the authoress crowned this mass of absurdities with the suicide of the heroine and the judicial shooting of the hero.
Yet the thing, "dismal trash" as Sydney almost justly called it, is perhaps worth reading once nothing [Pg 7] but the sternest voice of duty could have made me read it twice because of the existence of Corinne , and because also of the undoubted fact that, here as there, though much more surprisingly, a woman of unusual ability was drawing a picture of what she would have liked to be—if not of what she actually thought herself. The generosity, less actually exaggerated, might also pass. Delphine behaves throughout like a child, and by no means always like a very well-brought-up child; she never seems to have the very slightest idea that "things are as they are and that their consequences will be what they will be"; and though, once more, we are told of passion carrying all before it, we are never shown it.
It is all "words, words.
She had seen England, being "coached" by Crabb-Robinson and others, so as to give some substance to the vague philosophe-Anglomane flimsiness of her earlier fancy. She had seen Republicanism turn to actual Tyranny, and had made exceedingly unsuccessful attempts to captivate the tyrant. She had seen Germany, and had got something of its then not by any means poisonous, if somewhat windy, "culture"; a little romance of a kind, though she was never a real Romantic; some aesthetics; some very exoteric philosophy, etc. She had done a great deal of not very happy love-making; had been a woman of letters, a patroness of men of letters, and—most important of all—had never dismounted from her old hobby "Sensibility," though she had learnt how to put it through new paces.
A critical reader of Corinne must remember all this, and he must remember something else, though the reminder has been thought to savour of brutality. It is perfectly clear to me, and always has been so from reading in and between the lines of her own works, of Lady Blennerhassett's monumental book on her, of M.
This partly pathetic, partly, alas! Corinne gives us the rest, and nearly, if not quite, the whole. The author had no doubt tried to do this in Delphine , but had then had neither art nor equipment for the task, and she had failed utterly. She was now well, if not perfectly, equipped, and had learnt not a little of the art to use her acquisitions. Delphine had been dull, absurd, preposterous; Corinne , if it has dull patches, saves them from being intolerable.
If its sentiment is extravagant, it is never exactly preposterous or exactly absurd; for the truth and reality of passion which are absent from the other book are actually present here, though sometimes in unintentional masquerade. In fact, Corinne , though the sisterhood of the two books is obvious enough, has almost, though not quite, all the faults of Delphine removed and some merits added, of which in the earlier novel there is not the slightest trace. The history of my own acquaintance with it is, I hope, not quite irrelevant.
But though I had, I hope, sense enough to see its faults, I had neither age nor experience nor literature enough to appreciate its merits. I read it a good deal later in French, and, being then better qualified, did perceive these merits, though it still did not greatly "arride" me. Later still—in fact, only some twenty years ago—I was asked to re-edit and "introduce" the English translation.