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ADVERTISEMENT.

The name given to the hero in the following pages was chosen by fancy, though not without permission from the distinguished family to which it actually belongs. It may be well, however, to state, that a considerable portion of the volume was in type, and so fixed beyond recall, before the appearance of the graceful story entitled La Comtesse de Bonneval, which has been lately republished in a separate form from the pages of the Correspondant.

PROLOGUE OR EPILOGUE,

AS THE CASE MAY BE.

* Deem of it what thou wilt; but pardon me,
That I must bear me on in mine own way."

Schiller: The Two Piccolomini,

Header. Well, but you don't expect this sort of thing
to go down?

Author. What sort of thing?

Reader. Why, the kind of crude and shapeless con-
crete of chapters which you have chosen to call a story,
and thrown into the

press.
Author. Nay, courteous reader, I have only called it
an incident. And an incident, be pleased to observe, in
one of the most freakish, desultory periods that are to be
found in the history of any country or time: when men of
station, and some of them men of talent, owned no prin-
ciple but their own wayward fancies.

Reader. Not forgetting the fancies of those yet more
freakish ladies, whose humours had such an influence upon
the affairs of state.

Author. Till, as I was going to say, they became dan-
gerous, chiefly by perseverance in being wrong-headed.
Šo that an incident in the Fronde may well be pardoned
for being somewhat dithyrambic.

Reader. Even thus, you might have made more out of
your materials, and produced a book.

Author. By going deeper? or by treating matters
more popularly?

Reader. Either way, by being more interesting.

Author. Interest is a relative term. There are minds
among us engrossed in their own departments of study,
who may yet feel it worth while, as a by-play, to occupy
themselves for the space of two or three hundred pages on
a sketch, however imperfect, of that period in French affairs
less generally known than the reign of Louis XIV., yet
paving the way for it, and -

Reader. Sketch?' That is my ground of complaint:
an able sketch is a good thing; yours is rather an indistinct
dissolving view, in which politics fade into adventure, and
adventure into religion; much like the enchanted mirror
of your own hero, where there was nothing to grasp at,
nor any abiding impression; where all begins in a mist,
and ends in a caput mortuum.

Author. You hit me rather hard by that unexpected
comparison. But you did not take me up expecting either
an historical essay, or a thorough-paced novel?

Reader. I was in hopes you were going to make more
of Mazarin, or again, of St. Vincent de Paul.

Author. The latter I safely leave in better hands :*
the former I, for one, cannot think deserving of any great
thought or trouble in the process of developing him.

Reader. Why not, then, borrow at least a little liveli-
ness from M. Dumas ?

Author. Thank you very much.

Reader. Well, it is too bad; you have not even a word
of sentiment in it from beginning to end, except one rodo-
montade, which has all the air of a burlesque : scarcely
one reader of the gentler sort, therefore, I can promise you,
within the four seas of Britain.
Author. Alas, I must then fall back upon

the worser
half of humanity. But, en revanche, have I not a reason-
able allowance of gunpowder, perils, and imprisonment?
Do not swords flash, and carbines discharge themselves,
through the pages; are you not captured in the forest,
and locked into the Bastille? Why, pray, are all stories
to be moulded upon one type, or to occupy themselves with
one section of human interest, till every novel-reading
master or miss knows, almost unerringly, what is coming
at the last, however tortuously he or she may be conducted
towards it ? The cut-throats and their employers are killed off, together with the unsuccessful suitors: generally, indeed, they kill one another. Meanwhile the good, heroic, handsome, much-tried ones "live very happy afterwards:” and we are well aware of all these historical facts beforehand. The hero lies desperately wounded, or becomes utterly ruined, as the case may be; distress of mind brings the heroine to a brain-fever; the villains of the piece have it all their own way; universal blackness impends-n'importe, we sit it out with great composure, for we are not such simpletons as to imagine it is going to end so. The story winds and doubles about like a hunted hare; fierce gaunt greyhounds of misfortune and crime course it up and down; there seems no reasonable chance of escape; but while the inexperienced might pant with excitement and scream with terror, of course, at the right moment, poor puss turns a corner jinkin',” and is safe in her form.

* A Life of St. Vincent de Paul forms one of the volumes of the “Po-
ar Library."

Reader. The Bride of Lammermoor, for example?

Author. No; there are notable exceptions to prove the rule. Yet even with regard to those hapless Lucies and Ravenswoods who form the dark side of the canvas, certain conventional and dramatic unities exist, according to which their miseries advance to the conclusion. Characters of this class are labelled and ticketed for misfortune, and the dénouement is a mystery to no one. They remind you of the axiom so ingeniously laid down by Mr. Puff in the Critic, that when the heroine of a piece goes mad in white satin, her confidential attendant is bound, in the etiquette and due adjustment of things, to go mad, by sympathy, in white muslin. To violate the rule would bring to every well-constituted mind a sense of incongruity more distressing than the tragical events that are involved in adhering to it. Now, however numerous the demerits of my small excursion into the realms of fiction, this at least I may say, that not one reader in three could tell, without peeping on, precisely what he was coming to. The road along which I conduct him may be flat and uninteresting, and the company upon it, if not tedious in themselves, yet illdressed and ill-interpreted. But it may claim the poor

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