Obrazy na stronie
[ocr errors]


able imitators — accepts, though short, is rather more respectable with some bewilderment, and a than most of his compeers. And hazy sense that, disagreeable as it Noir et Rose,'' his latest performis, it must be somehow the cle- ance, is as inoffensive as it is futile. verest and most entertaining of It is a prettily printed little book, all fiction, considering how it is containing two magazine stories vaunted by all the world !

(as we should say on this side of the This is perhaps too long a pre- Channel)--one very noir indeed, face for a review of the French no- entitled “Le Chant du Cygne," vels of the day. We need scarcely which sets forth how a young Engtell the reader that it is not to in- lish lady, the daughter of a lord, struct him in the varieties of un- falls in love with and marries a cleanness that we turn over those Hungarian violinist, and lives very yellow volumes, in that form for happy, until she falls ill and dies, which English writers and readers with this picturesque and tragical sometimes sigh, especially the for- person, whose performance upon his mer—with fond hopes that the violin, as the yacht of her cruel royalty upon

a book which the father carries away her corpse .to public buys by thousands, instead its burial, is the swan-song which of the hundreds taken by the ends his life. Stenio Marackyz great circulating libraries of Eng- is the long-lost hero, Byronian, land, would ensure him a better impenetrable, wrapped in that very recompense for his work. When, cloak, and with those dark locks however, a writer reaches the and darker glances, which we reposition of M. Ohnet, whose latest member from our youth up. He performance bears upon it the ought to have been “ originally gratifying inscription of cinquante- published” in an Annual, Keepcinquième édition, or of Mr Besant sake, or Forget-me-not, and would (of whom we beg. pardon for the have stirred some gentle and inconjunction of names), it perhaps genuous hearts forty years ago, as does not greatly matter to him perhaps he may now. The cheerful under what régime his books are part of the book is a mildly amuspublished. And for less popular ing story of much the same calibre, authors, we greatly doubt whether the “ Malheur de la Tante Ursule," the public which buys his one, is a which is perfectly adapted to be read much better patron than the pub- in any young ladies' school, and of lic which hires their three volumes which, accordingly, the reader may —nor can it be said to be more dis- be pleased to hear. Perhaps this criminating The popularity of is the reason why it has reached M. Ohnet, for instance, is as be- its fifty-fifth edition. In the abwildering as is the popularity at- sence of respectable light litera. tained in our own country by Mr ture, a very small matter which is Hugh Conway. We are at a loss innocent and decent may thus gain to understand the reason for it, or a fictitious acceptance.

But M. what it means. There is no mere- Ohnet is not always unexceptiontricious flash of brilliancy, no un- able; and we prefer to believe justifiable means employed,—noth- that it is, as in our own country, ing to appeal to that bad side of the mere caprice of that strangest human nature which sometimes of strange beasts, the public, which responds so quickly. M. Ohnet, in has suddenly laid hands upon a me

i Noir et Rose. Par Georges Ohnet. Ollendorff: Paris.

diocrity, and given an altogether tion. His book is not so correct banal crown to a quite unremark. as that of his brother-author, but able writer who has no claim to it gives us what M. Ohnet does the highest rank, nor even to the not, an extremely lively and clever lowest, but holds that juste milieu portrait of what we may call a of talent which has been supposed new type.

The ambitious young the last thing likely to be distin- lady, bent upon making a good guished by any crown. We have match, is not new in fiction ; but long been of opinion, however, the girl, who is an amusing, bright, that this was a mistake, and that and nice little girl, and who yet mediocrity arrangé, as the French sets herself with all her might, and say, with some certain sauce which by every means in her power, to pleases the general palate, is as secure the sort of husband she aplikely to secure success as the proves—which is primarily a prince, greatest genius. To find out the and afterwards what Heaven may ingredients of that sauce is the send-is a really delightful new difficulty. What is it? To our revelation. Such a picture could own palate it is indistinguishable ; only be Parisian, or rather Parisibut M. Ohnet has found it, and enne. This young lady has the so did Mr Hugh Conway, with misfortune to be Catherine Duval, results which we all know.

the daughter of a rich papermaker The fifty-fifth edition ! Think living in the Marais-rich, respectof that, poor little English ro- able, and bourgeois to the last demancers, glad and proud of a sec. gree. There is a very pretty little ond ! Mr Besant speaks at his sketch of the serious homely house, ease of selling 20,000 copies; but of the delightful mother, modest, how many of you do that? Such a little timid, a little dévote—the as do- let the voice of experience best housekeeper, the best wife be heard—will never have to com- and mother imaginable, without a plain of their publisher, whether thought beyond her mild interior, he sells the book at (nominally) or a preoccupation except that of 315. 60. or 3 francs 50 centimes. finding for her daughter a secure Such writers want no intervention, and well-established ménage like no protectorate. But it is a lesson her own. The scene opens with a for rising genius to learn from the conversation between mother and beginning of its career, that such daughter returning from a ball, a writers are by no means necessar- ball of their own class, in celebraily the best. M. Ohnet's book is tion of a marriage in that respectthe only one before us which has able bourgeoisie which Mademoiacquired this distinction, and it is selle Catherine despises with all her absolutely the most trifling and in- soul, the mother asking anxiously, considerable of the collection, which “How did you find him ?” the is a thing that donne à pensée ; and daughter pretending not to underthe thoughts arising from that con- stand, though she is very well aware sideration are not bright.

that the person in question is “unThe next in popularity, as in certain blondin tirant sur le roux lightness and insignificance, is a lequel m'avait été présenté par Malittle book by M Halévy, a col- dame Marquesson, une marieuse lection of short stories such as enragée," and who is a young enseem to have become fashionable gineer of great promise, the most in France as in England. M. respectable and the most bourgeois Halévy is in his thirty-fourth edi- that can be conceived. Catherine has already refused seven or eight, dressmaker who made her wedding- all from the École Centrale or gown. Mademoiselle Catherine's the École Polytechnique,” and she wits, however, when set to work, is in despair.

are too strong for this excellent but Nothing, however, can be prettier not ingenious woman. The young than the home scene. The marriage lady is pushed on by her brother of the father and mother has been Octave, whose laudable attempts a love-match-absolument comme to “se faufiler dans le monde" dans les romans anglais; and they have succeeded to a certain point, have lived happy ever after, were but who feels that a great marriage it not for a son who loves pleasure for his sister is by far the best too much and a daughter who loves way of attaining his end. Ву engineers too little, and who do a fortunate chance,: he, has been their best to spoil their parents' elected a member of the “ Cercle peace.

des petits-pois,” an enormous step Papa has always lived for his in advance; but the progress of a manufactory, and mamma for papa. young man whose name is Octave The works flourished, papa was well, Duval is necessarily slow. The everything was well. They continued discussions of these iwo young peoto live in the same house, in the ple as to how this conquest of same way as people lived fifty years society is to be managed, carried ago. In the drawing-room the same old mahogany easy-chairs

, ranged while the respectable parents are

on behind-backs at stolen moments against the wall as in the First Empire, furniture made by Jacob out of the way, and the plans that -dreadful, incapable of wearing out, ferment in the active brain of the eternal, indestructible. I have tried charming, affectionate, merry, calto break one of the chairs, ard culating little minx in the tranfailed. An excellent cook and a very quillity of the evenings at home, good table was our sole luxury, for when « Catherine, un peu de Mopapa is something of a gourmand, and when he has been working hard all zart” is enough for the happiness day likes to dine well at night. As of the excellent pair over the fire, for mamma, she has not a fault-not are extremely amusing, as light as one—not even that little one. She air, yet full of spirit and character. could live upon a penny roll and some Mademoiselle contrives at last, by fried potatoes; but she watches papa a secret appeal to her father, to at his dinner, and when she sees that obtain a skilled and capable maid. he is satisfied she is happy."

The marvels that follow are enough This excellent mother is, how- to bring tears to the eyes of any ever, the despair of her daughter, lively girl. Nothing but white whose "folie,''she confesses,“c'était muslin is permitted by the careful la toilette." Mamma does not mamma; but white muslin man. know what it is to have a proper ipulated by the hands of Félicie ! gown. She lets them put anything “Quelle robes ! C'était comme un upon her shoulders, and considers brouillard blanc qui m'enveloppait. herself dressed ; and answers all Je me sentais nuage. Je ne the entreaties, the protestations, touchais plus terre." "Elle n'était the supplications of her daughter pas contente, maman,” adds the to have a dressmaker worthy of young lady ; “mais j'ai la joie de her—"une couturière qui me com- voir que papa était ravi, absoluprenne, et que fasse de moi ce ment ravi. Il me trouvait déliceuse que on en peut faire”—by declar- Quant à Octave—il ne me dit que ing that she will never give up the ces simples mots, • Tu es une mer


veille, une merveille, mer- human nature, as discussed in difveille !' Soit : mais la merveille ferent senses by the philosophers voudrait bien émerveiller autre who surround M. Sylvain Berjac, chose que le Marais—un mari, un the hero and teller of the tale, whose mari, un mari !” !

story, as contained in the earlier Needless to say that the mari part of the book, is already a miscomes in time,-a prince no less, and erable one. He has married—being in other respects so delightful, that the educated gentleman-son of a Mademoiselle Catherine actually be- peasant family rich in vineyards, lieves, that she will fall in love with and accordingly a very bon parti him in earnest—a thing totally un- in his district--the daughter of a necessary, however, to her scheme. ruined nobleman, with whom he The curiosity, however, is that this lives in very dubious happiness for little mercenary maiden is delight- a few years, then discovers in flaged ; and that her schemes, and her rante delicto, and proceeds with independence of action in the more fury, not to kill, which French law than narrow quietude of her home, justifies in such circumstances, but and the calculations which French to divorce. It is some time befreedom exacts as to the husband fore he can get over the agitation to be chosen, throw a quite new and rage into which he is thrown and most amusing light upon the by this catastrophe ; and his bourgeois interior, so respectable, friends do what they can by so peaceful, so well ordered. It is reason and argument to restore the pleasantest rendering we know him to the calm which is natural of what might very well be ren

to him.

One of these is Dr Herdered as vulgar ambition,—the de- vier, the physician of the village, termination of the nouveaux riches whose first attempt to reconcile to wriggle into society, se faufiler Sylvain to his fate is by persuaddans le monde.

ing him that “ le monde n'est Very different from this pleasant qu'une grande mécanique,” and froth is the last work of M. Cher- that it would require a continual buliez,' which ought to have been series of miracles to keep good placed at the head of our list, not

from suffering -- miracles less because of the importance of which, according to his philothe author, who is an Academician, sophy, are all false and ridiculous. one of the Forty Immortals, but also He also lends him, by way of because of the book itself, which is curing him of his misery, deux in many respects of a very high gros volumes, which make him class, full of philosophical observa- acquainted with the system of tion, and discussions which are Evolution, a system which Sylvain always clever and interesting, if finds but moderately satisfactory. somewhat above the range, we His arguments on this point are should suppose, of the ordinary simple, but somewhat embarrassreaders of fiction. La Bête (the ing for his friend the doctor, who French seem to have taken a fancy begins the discussion by asking, to titles of this kind: witness · La “ What do you think of Darwin ?" Morte' of Octave Feuillet, a lugubrious name quite undescriptive of which I approve, and others which

There are things in your Darwin the book which bears it) is the sup- go against the little good sense I posposed original foundation of our He seems to me a great philo



i La Bête. Par Victor Cherbuliez, de l'Académie Française.


sopher ; but I suspect he has as much there is a great deal of chance in the imagination as science, and that some- world, and much romance in the systimes he amuses himself at our ex- tems built upon it.

Doctor, pense. If we believe him, there was what do you think?' once in an unfruitful garden a pair of « Ma foi! I was not there ; nor, snails who loved each other dearly... to tell the truth, was any one there It was not Darwin himself who saw except the Ascidians, who have this; he learnt it from a M. Lonsdale, not written their history. But we who, according to his account, had all must be of our century. Formerly his eyes about him. From my child- everything was explained by great hood I have studied these creatures, causes acting in sudden movements. and all the Lonsdales in the world At present, what we believe in are will not persuade me that they are small beginnings which work ceasesensible to the affections. Doctor, do lessly in the dark-accumulating efyou believe that snails have tender fects. To the theory of violent and hearts?'

successive revolutions has been sub"I must confess,' said he, ‘ that up stituted the theory of an evolution to this time they have shown me no continuous and insensible. I prefer signs of it. But what of that? Fine it so. I never liked the revolutions.' souls keep their own secrets.'

"In this way, said I, it is an "• The story of the snails,' I re- affair of individual preference,-let sumed, 'made me suspicious. I have each take that which pleases him.'" little esteem for bakers who don't weigh their bread, and for people

The doctor, however, has not who pay their debts with false coin ; by any means said his last word. and I am not fond of philosophers He has even an ingenious answer who give their guesses for certain- ready to the question why the ties. . . Is it certain, for instance, that an extreme desire to please his process of evolution is arrested for

these few thousand years. It is mate inspires the Argus pheasant with the happy idea of painting his man who is the cause—not because plumage and ornamenting it with he is the climax of creation, but eyes of every colour ? Sexual selec- because of the

unnecessary action seems to me a very doubtful tivities and wants which he has affair ; I doubt whether the female brought with him into the world. pheasant accords her favours only to L'homme a tout gâté par son industhose who thus decorate themselves.

trie. L'outil est le grand criminel I doubt also whether beings better

-in which Dr Hervier agrees, by endowed and better fed have a stronger faculty of reproduction than others, the way, with the latest of our own and that this is the secret of the per- home-born philosophers, who confection of races. Do not we see the siders the steam-engine the cause beggar, living on privation, produce a of our present troubles and future large family, while a duke, fearful of ruin. If it had not been for these seeing his possessions fall to strangers, unhappy inventions, the gradual marries twice before being able to accomplish the poorest little offspring processes of evolution would have -the child in whom he would survive produced by this time something and continue the race ? Consult the better than the very imperfect first gardener you find. He will tell being who occupies the chief place you that certain plants too much cared in the universe, and who “ loge for, too highly nourished, become aujourd'hui la sagesse d'un dieu sterile in the very greatness of their

dans le corps d'un animal médiThe wood strengthens, but farewell to flowers


When Sylvain, however, and fruit: while the self-sown plant tired with all his philosophy, and by its side covers the ground with unable to dismiss his own trouble them, as if in mockery of wasted trou- from his mind, demands of his ble and vain science. Believe me, friend to explain to him how it


grows and

« PoprzedniaDalej »