Art. VIII.--- Deurres complètes de M. Do Balzac. Vols. 1.--IX.

Paris. 1859. 2. Novels, of V. IIoxor.: DE BAL?!?'. Vol. I. Tlie Greatness and

Decline of C'esar Birrov:n. Transite from the French by 0. 11. WIT 21.1 F. 1. (VODRICH. New York: liudd &

Carleton. 1800, 3. Oeurres Compildes de GEOnce San; accumpraníes de Borceaux

inédits. Vol. 1.—XIII. Paris, 1959.

The most virtilulls nations har vices (11.30h of their olin without iniporting those of others. There is suficient that is vicious and demoralizing in the light literature of America at the present day, without going to France or any other country to seek something worse. Until lately in better time seemeil to lie dwuing upon us ; 11:27. th titul" sormed to have arrivoil. The people in all payts of the (01:22. Paul si their Bicos gainst the "scusation" novels, which only two or thre jedrs ago 11.30d to be sent in suchennorinous caryo's to all so there catry; cach passing through a fabulous ueber! litions in one week; the numbers said to have been sol!, (veil brofiore they rena floril the binlers, baliling computatiu. El jury close big this rublisha has been universally felt; nozius i Vitintrul public unin remporal froin il yet. Convalescence 11:15 in malbicilly. IC "Blool culmiler" stories are still real, it is only in weekly papers, where the most they cost is four cents; inleven in this ephemeral form they are only read by a certain class. Be it remembered also, that little calculated as they are to refine the mind or improve the taste', but the reverse, they are, upon the whole, less demoralizing than the sort of books which the crisis of 18:37, if it did nothing else that was good, has the creclit of having reduced to the con lition of unsaleable drugs.

Every one who travels has a lively recollection of at least sol!lO of the various ('ipedients had recourse to, from time to time, by the

enterprising.” gentlemen who made it specialty of getting up such books. First, they woull send advance copies to the village papers throughout the country, accompanied with “criticisms," got up to order in the livine market. According as these were printed, they were carefully collected. Often we have seen publishers, who now put on great airs, going about from one hotel

und reading ron 19 another, sivalthily cutting out, or tearing, hose "first-rate notices," al stowing them away in their pocketbooks, as 100 valuable to run chance of not getting them in the usual way, through the mail. When a deernt number were thus collected, they were duly printwint!: forcefcirenlars as "opinions of the prend weitir tik 10-11 Srptible of improvement, no sirupole was made olabiling a word or sentence, whiclunight show that nothing so (Scrollent, or almirable, lauderer issued from the press before. No one could enter a built, railway cr, or hotel, witholt being presented with one of these documents; and from five to lenininutes laving been allowed for its perusal, then came the "reat work" in whose praise it was got mp. If all this, duly performerd, was not suflicionit, there still remaines such advertisements ils the following: "Niv's the l'estches!ır Duily Illuminator," &c., " says the Sipseille luroru," dir., "says the Fiskill Erening Star," di Ifter suficient variety was given in this wiry, the world was informed, in capital letters, that the thirtieth clition was now in press, and would be exhausted by all the orders already received!

The public, is to have said, soon grew (isgusted with the daily repetition of such arrunt charlatanism. Accordingly, one " thrilling " novel after another failed to attract the most gullible. The publishers woull daily proclaim, in vain, that it was selling in countless thousands. Then they would try the experiment of rcchristening it --altering the title page, and announcing it, after the approved fashion, ils an entirely new book--one of startling interest, wordlerrul treshm.shinoriginality: in short, one attributed, before it was two days published, to the greatest living writers!* Ind woe to the person depending for a livelihood on his

El certain house then in Villl trees, but now elsewhere, became so famous, or rather na notorious for this sort of thing, that, like its illustrious prototype of Toyga A ('o., on the other side of the Itlantic, it received the title of New Hospital for Sick Literati," whosen advertisement, when translated into plain English, ran somewhat as follows:

With all humility we become
To inform the public that Tom Teyg-
known for his spunky-peculations,
In buying up dead reputations,
And by a mode of galvaniziny,
Which all must own is quite surprising,
Making deadl author's move again
Is though they still were living men.“


who dared as much as to hiut at all this ! No course calculated to injure liim was too treacherous or dastardly. If those who gave him employment could be bribed, directly or indirectly, to dispense with his services as those of a malicious and dangerous person, it was a righteous thing to make any necessary sacrifice either of truth or hard cash, in so just a cause. But fortunately, whatever may be the faults of American editors, there are few, if any of them, who occupy any respectable rank, who would not treat such conduct with the scorn and contempt which it deserves. And it is equally true, that there are but few American publishers who are capable of it; or of the charlatanism which leads to it. For in speaking of sensation books and the dishonest tricks had recourse to in order to palju them off on the public, as the counterfeiter tries to utter the base for the precious metal, we do not allude to any of those old established houses, whether of New York, Boston, or Philadelphia, whose names are honorably associated at home and abroad with the growth and progress of our literature. Of about fifty American publishers, there are scarcely more than three or four who trample on every principle of honor, honesty, and manliness, in the manner indicated ; nor shall we say one word, on the present occasion, calculated to show any one, not already in the secret, who these three or four are, or whether they came from the cast or from the west, from large cities, or small villages, with empty pockets, or with heavy purses. But we shall always claim the privilege of expressing our opinions freely of any book, or series of books, which seem to contain suflicient good or evil to render it worth while to examine them.

Our object, in the present article, is simply to inquire into the character of the class of books which are being introduced as substitutes for those no longer tolerated, of which we have been speaking. Are the works of Balzac anything better than the defunct sensation novels? This would be an absurd question if all that we are told in the translator's preface to the American cdition of César Birrotteau could be relied upon as true ; since we are there assured on the word of somebody, real or imaginary, writing in an English journal, that “Balzac's writings can have no other result than to increase the love of virtue and the dread of vice." We shall see presently how this is done, though we have now neither space nor time to do anything like justice to the subject. In the first place let us VOL. II. —YO. III.


remark, ini passing that no one who has made the necessary examination, anl is capable of judging honestly and disinterestedly, will deny that, of all modern french romances, those of this same 1. llonoris cloo Balzac', al' undoubtedly the most vicious and deiu ralizing in their tendency: Those of Paul de Kock and Madame Mulintar, inled, suiliciently licentious; but it is not too 1:12: 1 say that they are pure and chaste, compared to those of Balzac'. This may seem a bold assertion ; but it is not the less iru?". And far from the assertion we have quoted, as that of an English critic, being a fair representation of the general opinion entertained in England, by the cultivateil classes, of Balzac's novels, it is quite the reverse. This, indledd, need hardly be stated; for if Balzac were such a wonderful delineator of character, and at the same time so excellent and instructive a moralist, liis works would not have reinaineil untranslated into English unlil the task was undertaken under the auspices of the Messrs. Rudi & Carleton, who conclude their announcement le more with the modest assurance that, “the series will be unusually attracive."

The truth is, that no respectable, intelligent English publisher would attempt to have them translated ; and they might have remained unrendered long enough in a similar manner in America, at least as long again as they have, before any of our leading publishers coull be induced to set their imprint upon them. Madame Dudevant is by no means il moral writer. There is wothing so indelicate that she woull shrink from describing it in full. In several of her novels she exhibits to vulgar eyes the very 20t of adultery ; but always as a crime which is to be deprecated. Wany of her heroines are the chastest and most virtuous of women. This is true of her Finnma, Edmée, Quintilia, Yseult, Consuello, etc. That she has errel herself is not to be denied ; it is equally undeniable, that she has often given expression to odious sentienents. But of Balzac alone can it be said, that there is not a single story in all his numerous novels, where lore is made to play any considerable part, in which he does not make woman an adultress. With him female infidelity is the rule ; with George Sand it is but the exception. The former regards it as a matter of coursesomething that does no one any harm, save the husband, and even he, if well bred, should expect nothing different; nor should be feel annoyeil. Even the sacred name of mother has no respect

from him. Thus, his ideal of a woman is the “Lily of the Valley," who has an intrigue with a mere boy; and his ideal of a lady and mother advises lier son to make love to a married, rather than to a single woman, because the family has a "good matclı” in view for him, with which his having a young girl as a mistress, would be likely to interfere. In another place, he compares his ideal of a virtuous mother--that is, a woman without passion—to a courtezan, in her bearing towards her own son. lle receives a letter which she wishes to see, and accordingly she approaches him “ with an air at once bold and timid.” “La mère," he says, “cût en ce moment la grace d'une courtisane que veut obtenir une concession.” Such is the respect for woman, of one who is pronounced superior to any English writer of the present day, both as a dclineator of character and as a moralist; and be it remembered, that all we have just referred to, occurs in one of his least exceptionable novels.

It makes little difference which of his love stories we turn to, we find them pervaded ly the same odious sentiments. If a woman is really virtuous, she only deserves to be mocked, according to M. De Balzac'. Instance the heiress in La Femme Vertueuse, who used to displease, nay, disgust her liusband so much, because she was not easy in her manners, like other fashionable ladies of her time. Wearied with advising her, in vain, on this point, the good Parisian inagistrate, for such her husband was, enters the miserable lodyings of a poor widow, under a false name, and buys her hungry daughter, Caroline Crochard, fits up a luxurious residence for her, and lives with her, until, true to the instinet of her sex, according to Vonsieur Balzac, she proves saithless to him, after having several children by him, and clopes with another. Soon after, he meets a poor scavenger, whoin he aildresses as follows: “Friend, here is a bank note of £50 ; I give it to you-yo spend it-get drunk, beat your wise, fight with your friends—do what you will with it ;" and then, turning to the playsician, who had aided his former mistress, he says: " Doctor, I have shown you that I do not care for fifty pounds ; but as for Caroline Crochard, I should see lier dying of hunger, of thirst, aggravated by the cries of an espiring child, and I would not give a single farthing to save them one jot of their suffering; and you, even you, doctor, bccause you have assisted her-I will never see you again."

« VorigeDoorgaan »