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A HISTORY OF THE FRENCH NOVEL

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA · MADRAS

MELBOURNE


THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO

DALLAS · SAN FRANCISCO


THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

TORONTO




A HISTORY OF THE FRENCH NOVEL

(TO THE CLOSE OF THE 19TH CENTURY)

BY

GEORGE SAINTSBURY

M.A. AND HON. D.LITT. OXON.; HON. L.L.D. ABERD.; HON. D.LITT. DURH.;
FELLOW OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY; HON. FELLOW OF MERTON COLLEGE, OXFORD;
LATE PROFESSOR OF RHETORIC AND ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF
EDINBURGH

VOL. II

FROM 1800 TO 1900

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON

1919

Sólo á veces, con un dejo
de zozobra y de ansiedad,
timido tiembla en sus labios
un viejo y triste cantar,
copla que vibre en el aire
como un toque funeral:
_La Noche Buena se viene,
la Noche Buena se va!
Y nosotros nos iremos
y no volveremos más._

CARLOS FERNANDEZ SHAW,
_La Balada de los Viejos._


COPYRIGHT




PREFACE


"The second chantry" (for it would be absurd to keep "temple") of this
work "is not like the first"; in one respect especially, which seems to
deserve notice in its Preface or porch--if a chantry may be permitted a
porch. In Volume I.--though many of its subjects (not quite all) had
been handled by me before in more or less summary fashion, or in reviews
of individual books, or in other connections than that of the
novel--only Hamilton, Lesage, Marivaux, and the minor "Sensibility" men
and women had formed the subjects of separate and somewhat detailed
studies, wholly or mainly as novelists. The case is altered in respect
of the present volume. The _Essays on French Novelists_, to which I
there referred, contain a larger number of such studies appertaining to
the present division--studies busied with Charles de Bernard, Gautier,
Murger, Flaubert, Dumas, Sandeau, Cherbuliez, Feuillet. On Balzac I have
previously written two papers of some length, one as an Introduction to
Messrs. Dent's almost complete translation of the _Comédie_, with
shorter sequels for each book, the other an article in the _Quarterly
Review_ for 1907. Some dozen or more years ago I contributed to an
American edition[1] of translations of Mérimée by various hands, a long
"Introduction" to that most remarkable writer, and I had, somewhat
earlier, written on Maupassant for the _Fortnightly Review_. One or two
additional dealings of some substance with the subject might be
mentioned, such as another Introduction to _Corinne_, but not to
_Delphine_. These, however, and passages in more general _Histories_,
hardly need specification.

On the other hand, I have never dealt, substantively and in detail, with
Chateaubriand, Paul de Kock, Victor Hugo, Beyle, George Sand, or Zola[2]
as novelists, nor with any of the very large number of minors not
already mentioned, including some, such as Nodier and Gérard de Nerval,
whom, for one thing or another, I should myself very decidedly put above
minority. And, further, my former dealings with the authors in the first
list given above having been undertaken without any view to a general
history of the French novel, it became not merely proper but easy for me
to "triangulate" them anew. So that though there may be more previous
work of mine in print on the subjects of the present volume than on
those of the last, there will, I hope, be found here actually less, and
very considerably less, _réchauffé_--hardly any, in fact (save a few
translations[3] and some passages on Gautier and Maupassant)--of the
amount and character which seemed excusable, and more than excusable, in
the case of the "Sensibility" chapter there. The book, if not actually a
"Pisgah-sight reversed," taken from Lebanon instead of Pisgah after
more than forty years' journey, not in the wilderness, but in the
Promised Land itself, attempts to be so; and uses no more than fairly
"reminiscential" (as Sir Thomas Browne would say) notes, taken on that
journey itself.

It was very naturally, and by persons of weight, put to me whether I
could not extend this history to, or nearer to, the present day. I put
my negative to this briefly in the earlier preface: it may be perhaps
courteous to others, who may be disposed to regret the refusal, to give
it somewhat more fully here. One reason--perhaps sufficient in
itself--can be very frankly stated. I do not _know_ enough of the French
novel of the last twenty years or so. During the whole of that time I
have had no reasons, of duty or profit, to oblige such knowledge. I have
had a great many other things to do, and I have found greater recreation
in re-reading old books than in experimenting on new ones. I might, no
doubt, in the last year or two have made up the deficiency to some
extent, but I was indisposed to do so for two, yea, three reasons, which
seemed to me sufficient.

In the first place, I have found, both by some actual experiment of my
own, and, as it seems to me, by a considerable examination of the
experiments of other people, that to co-ordinate satisfactorily accounts
of contemporary or very recent work with accounts of older is so
difficult as to be nearly impossible. The _foci_ are too different to be
easily adjusted, and the result is almost always out of composition, if
not of drawing.

Secondly, though I know I am here kicking against certain pricks, it
does not appear to me, either from what I have read or from criticisms
on what I have not, that any definitely new and decisively illustrated
school of novels has arisen since the death of M. Zola.

Thirdly, it would be impossible to deal with the subject, save in an
absurdly incomplete fashion, without discussing living persons. To doing
this, in a book, I have an unfashionable but unalterable objection. The
productions of such persons, as they appear, are, by now established
custom, proper subjects for "reviewing" in accordance with the decencies
of literature, and such reviews may sometimes, with the same proviso, be
extended to studies of their work up to date. But even these latter
should, I think, be reserved for very exceptional cases.

A slight difference of method may be observed in the treatment of
authors in Chapter X. and onwards, this treatment being not only
somewhat less judicial and more "impressionist," but also more general
and less buckrammed out with abstracts of particular works.[4] There
appeared to me to be more than one reason for this, all such reasons
being independent of, though by no means ignoring, the mechanical
pressure of ever-lessening space. In the first place, a very much larger
number of readers may be presumed to be more or less familiar with the
subjects of discussion, thus not only making elaborate "statement of
case" and production of supporting evidence unnecessary, but exposing
the purely judicial attitude to the charge of "no jurisdiction."
Moreover, there is behind all this, as it seems to me, a really
important principle, which is not a mere repetition, but a noteworthy
extension, of that recently laid down. I rather doubt whether the
absolute historico-critical verdict and sentence can ever be pronounced
on work that is, even in the widest sense, contemporary. The "firm
perspective of the past" can in very few instances be acquired: and
those few, who by good luck have acquired something of it, should not
presume too much on this gift of fortune. General opinion of a man is
during his lifetime often wrong, for some time after his death almost
always so: and the absolute balance is very seldom reached till a full
generation--something more than the conventional thirty years--has
passed. Meanwhile, though all readers who have anything critical in them
will be constantly revising their impressions, it is well not to put
one's own out as more than impressions. It is only a very few years
since I myself came to what I may call a provisionally final estimate of
Zola, and I find that there is some slight alteration even in that
which, from the first, I formed of Maupassant. I can hardly hope that
readers of this part of the work will not be brought into collision with
expressions of mine, more frequently than was the case in the first
volume or even the first part of this. But I can at least assure them
that I have no intention of playing Sir Oracle, or of trailing my coat.

The actual arrangement of this volume has been the subject of a good
deal of "pondering and deliberation," almost as much as Sir Thomas
Bertram gave to a matter no doubt of more importance. There was a
considerable temptation to recur to the system on which I have written
some other literary histories--that of "Books" and "Interchapters." This
I had abandoned, in the first volume, because it was not so much
difficult of application as hardly relevant. Here the relevance is much
greater. The single century divides itself, without the slightest
violence offered, into four parts, which, if I had that capacity or
partiality for flowery writing, the absence of which in me some critics
have deplored, I might almost call Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.
There is the season, of little positive crop but important
seed-sowing,--the season in which the greater writers, Chateaubriand and
Mme. de Staël, perform their office. Here, too, quite humble
folk--Pigault-Lebrun completing what has been already dealt with,
Ducray-Duminil and others doing work to be dealt with here, and Paul de
Kock most of all, get the novel of ordinary life ready in various ways:
while others still, Nodier, Hugo, Vigny, Mérimée, and, with however
different literary value, Arlincourt, implant the New Romance. There is
the sudden, magnificent, and long-continued outburst of all the kinds in
and after 1830. There is the autumn of the Second Empire, continuing and
adding to the fruits and flowers of summer: and there is the gradual
decadence of the last quarter of the century, with some late blossoming
and second-crop fruitage--the medlars of the novel--and the dying off of
the great producers of the past.



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