Page:Margaret Fuller by Howe, Julia Ward, Ed. (1883).djvu/238

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ESSAY ON FRENCH NOVELISTS.

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the first alone retains the prestige which it had when Margaret wrote her essay. De Vigny, remarkable jmostly for purity of sentiment, finish of style, and a power of setting and limiting his pictures, is a boudoir author, and one read only in boudoirs of studious refinement. Sue, to whose motives Margaret gives the most humanitarian interpretation, has failed to commend his method to posterity. His autopsy of a diseased state of society is thought to spread too widely the infection of the evils which ho deplores. His intention is also too humane for the present day. The world of the last decade and of the present is too deeply wedded to the hard worship of money to be touched by the pathos of women who perish, or of men who starve. The grievances of the poor against the rich find to-day no one to give car to them, and few even to utter them; since those who escape starvation are too busy with beggary and plunder to waste time in such useless musings. Of the three here cited, Balzac alone remains a king among novelists; and Margaret's study of him imports as much to us today as it did to the world of her time.

She begins by commenting upon the lamentation general at that time, and not uncommon in this, over the depravity of taste and of life already becoming familiar to the youth of America throught the medium of the French novel. Concerning this, she says:

"It is useless to bewail what is the inevitable result of the movement of our time. Europe must pour her corruptions no less than her riches on our shores, both in the form of books and of living men. She cannot, if she would, check the tide which bears them hitherward. No defences are possible, on our vast extent of shore, that can preclude their ingress. Our only hope