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itself in a few short novels by GEORGE SANDthe first of the long and admirable series of her mature works—where, especially in such delicate masterpieces as La Mare au Diable, La Petite Fadette, and François le Champi, her earlier lyricism and incoherence were replaced by an idyllic sentiment strengthened and purified by an exquisite sense of truth. Flaubert's genius moved in a very different and a far wider orbit; but it was no less guided by the dictates of deliberate art. In his realism, his love of detail, and his penetrating observation of facts, Flaubert was the true heir of Balzac; while in the scrupulosity of his style and the patient, laborious, and sober treatment of his material, he presented a complete contrast to his great predecessor. These latter qualities make Flaubert the pre-eminent representative of his age. The critical sense possessed him more absolutely and with more striking results than all the rest of his contemporaries. His watchfulness over his own work was almost infinite. There has never been a writer who took his art with such a passionate seriousness, who struggled so incessantly towards perfection, and who suffered so acutely from the difficulties, the disappointments, the desperate, furious efforts of an unremitting toil. His style alone cost him boundless labour. He would often spend an entire day over the elaboration and perfection of a single sentence, which, perhaps, would be altogether obliterated before the publication of the book. He worked in an apoplectic fervour over every detail of his craft-eliminating repetitions, balancing rhythms, discovering the precise word for every shade of meaning, with an extraordinary, an almost superhuman, persistence. And in the treatment of his matter his conscientiousness was equally great. He prepared for his historical novels by profound researches in the original authorities of the period, and by personal visits to the localities he intended to describe. When he treated of modern life he was no less scrupulously exact. One of his scenes was to pass in a cabbage-garden by moonlight. But what did a cabbage-garden by moonlight really look like? Flaubert waited long for a propitious night, and then went out, notebook in hand, to take down the precise details of what he saw. Thus it was that his books were written very slowly, and his production comparatively small.
He spent six years over the first and most famous of his worksMadame Bovary; and he devoted no less than thirteen to his encyclopædic Bouvard et Pécuchet, which was still unfinished when he died.
The most abiding impression produced by the novels of Flaubert is that of solidity. This is particularly the case with his historical books. The bric-à-brac and fustian of the Romantics has disappeared, to be replaced by a clear, detailed, profound presentment of the life of the past. In Salammbó, ancient Carthage rises up before us, no crazy vision of a picturesque and disordered imagination, but in all the solidity of truth; coloured, not with the glaring contrasts of rhetoric, but with the real blaze of an eastern sun; strange, not with an imported fantastic strangeness manufactured in nineteenth-century Paris, but with the strangeness so much more, mysterious and significant of the actual, barbaric Past
The same characteristics appear in Flaubert's modern novels. Madame Bovary gives us a picture of life in a French provincial town in the middle of the last century-a picture which, with its unemphatic tones, its strong, sensitive, and accurate drawing, its masterly design, produces an effect of absolutely convincing veracity. The character and the fate of the wretched woman who forms the central figure of the story come upon us, amid the grim tepidity of their surroundings, with extraordinary force. Flaubert's genius does not act in sudden flashes, but by the method of gradual accumulation. The effects which it produces are not of the kind that overwhelm and astonish, but of the more subtle sort that creep into the mind by means of a thousand details, an infinitude of elaborated fibres, and which, once there, are there for ever.
The solidity of Flaubert's work, however, was not unaccompanied with drawbacks. His writing lacks fire; there is often a sense of effort in it; and, as one reads his careful, faultless, sculpturesque sentences, it is difficult not to long, at times, for some of the irregular vitality of Balzac. Singularly enough, Flaubert's correspondence
one of the most interesting collections of letters in the language-shows that, so far as his personal character was concerned, irregular vitality was precisely one of his dominating qualities. But in his fiction he suppressed this side of himself in the interests, as he believed, of art. It was his theory that a complete detachment was a necessary condition for all great writing; and he did his best to put this theory into practice. But there was one respect in which he did not succeed in his endeavour. His hatred and scorn of the mass of humanity, his conception of them as a stupid, ignorant, and vulgar herd, appears throughout his work, and in his unfinished Bouvard et Pécuchet reaches almost to the proportion of a monomania. The book is an infinitely elaborate and an infinitely bitter attack on the ordinary man. There is something tragic in the spectacle of this lonely, noble, and potent genius wearing out his life at last over such a task-in a mingled agony of unconscious frenzied self-expression and deliberate misguided self-immolation.
In poetry, the reaction against Romanticism had begun with the Emaux et Camées of THÉOPHILE GAUTIER-himself in his youth one of the leaders of the Romantic School; and it was carried further in the work of a group of writers known as the Parnassiens the most important of whom were LECONTE DE LISLE, SULLY PRUDHOMME, and HEREDIA. Their poetry bears the same relation to that of Musset as the history of Renan bears to that of Michelet, and the prose of Flaubert to that of Hugo. It is restrained, impersonal, and polished to the highest degree. The bulk of it is not great; but not a line of it is weak or faulty; and it possesses a firm and plastic beauty, well expressed by the title of Gautier's volume, and the principles of which are at once explained and exemplified in his famous poem beginning