The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

Volume 2, 1891/92, pg. 233-235

"En hoexkens ende boexkens."

By Miss Charlotte Reese.

"A list of twelve French novels, excellent in style and pure in tone":--

"Catherine ou la Petite Vierge," by Jules Sandeau. The heroine of this story is the niece of a parish priest or cure, who is devoted to his flock. Catherine has been brought up in the companionship with a young man, a peasant, who becomes deeply attached to her, and who, after many misadventures, marries her. Sandeau's style is elegant, correct, and temperate.

"Les Anciens Couvents de Paris," by Madame Charles Reybaud. This volume contains three detached stories, of which the "Cadet de Colombriers" is the best. The events recorded in these stories take place about the time of the great Revolution, when the superstitions and prejudices of the ancienne noblesse have to give way before new ideas. Madame Reybaud is a delightful writer, especially for the young, whose interest she keeps up to the last. She writes pure and elegant French. Other works of hers are: "Les deux Marguerites," "Mise Brun," "L'Oncle Cesar," "Sans Dot."

"Le Livre de mon Ami," by Anatole France. This volume consists of a number of detached pieces. The author has the faculty of hiding his art in a charmingly simple and graceful style, so natural that you think you might yourself write as he does. "Le Livre de Susanne" and "Bogus et Jessie," both contained in "Le Livre de Mon Ami," are quite exquisite. Anatole France has also written "Le Crime de Sylvestre," "Bonard," "Jocaste et le Chien Maigre," and "Balthazar."

"La Famille Alain," by Alphonse Karr. This is a prettily told story. The scene is laid in a fishing village. Onesime, the hero, is the son of a fisherman, who is bringing up with his own children a little orphan girl, Pulcheri, and on the loves of these two the story turns. Alphonse Karr, as a novel writer, is distinguished by his appreciation of the picturesque and by a subtle irony, which adds much to the charm of his books. He has written "Genevieve," "Voyage Autour de Mon Jardin," "Une Heure trop tard."

"Sans Famille," by Hector Malot. This is the story of a poor boy, who believes himself an orphan until he has reached manhood, when he finds that he is the son of a rich Irish lady. His uncle, in order to secure for himself a large fortune, caused this boy to be stolen, hoping that the younger brother, a delicate child would not live. After an adventurous and eventful life, however, the elder brother, the hero of "Sans Famille," is restored to his family and to wealth. Hector Malot's books are full of interest and exciting incidents. He is a keen observer, and more of a realistic writer than a poet; he belongs essentially to the modern school of French writers. He has also written "La Petite Saeur," "Une Bonne Affaire," "Le Mari de Charlotte."

"L'Histoire d'un Jeune Homme Pauvre," by Octave Feuillet. In this story a young French nobleman loses his fortune, but determines to make the best of it, and work, and thus become independent. He finds employment in the country; there he is introduced to a young lady, a relative of his employer. She is very charming, and he naturally falls in love with her. The young lady returns his affection, but she is rich, and he is very proud as well as very poor. His pride and her waywardness form obstacles, which their mutual love ultimately overcome. Octave Feuillet is not only a novelist, but also a dramatist, and in this latter characteristic he is a disciple of Alfred de Musset. Feuillet's style is elegant, and his sentiments are noble. He has written besides, "Sybille," "Scenes de la Vie Provinciale," &c., &c.

"Le Mare au Diable," by George Sand. Whoever has not read this charming little story should do so at once. It is a simple delightful idyl, full of healthy sentiment and without any affectation. There is so little to be told in the way of a tale that style and treatment are everything. A labourer, a widower with two children, marries a young girl, who can boast of nothing but her good looks and her innocence. This, and how it comes about, is all the story. George Sand's characteristics are-- great powers of observation and wonderful imagination, combined with an extraordinary facility of expressing herself in picturesque musical language. She has a touch of mysticism, no doubt inherited from her German ancestors. She wrote "Consuelo," "Lettres d'un Voyageur," "Indiana," "Le Meunier d'Angibault."

"Le Chat de la Mere Michel," by J. T. Stahl (Jules Hetzel). In this story the cat is the hero, and la Mere Michel only comes off second best. There was once a poor cat chased and ill-used by cruel boys, who had tied a saucepan to its tail. A rich countess passing in her carriage rescues the cat, and puss is established in her chateau, and placed under the protection of the housekeeper, la Mere Michel. Even a cat, however, may not enjoy unalloyed happiness. Pere Lustacru, the countess's butler, conceives a bitter dislike for the cat, and many a trap is laid which it requires all the sagacity of poor puss to evade. Once, indeed, the malicious Lustacru would have carried out his designs had not the special Providence which watches over cats sent la Mere Michel to its relief. Lustacru was turned out of the countess's house, and the cat henceforth was as much respected and honoured as any cat in Egypt. When puss died his image was carved in marble, and placed over his tomb. Stahl is a witty and elegant writer. He has written "Scenes de la vie publique et privee des animaux," "Histoire d'un Homme enrhume," "Le voyage d'un Etudiant."

"Colomba," by Paul Merimee. Merimee is an excellent storyteller; his style, clear, concise, and graphic. He possesses in an eminent degree what Voltaire calls the distinctive characteristic of his countrymen, clearness. As a novel writer Merimee's masterpiece is "Colomba," a narrative of Cosican life and manners. Colomba is the sister of a young officer in the French army who had fought at Waterloo. When his father died he returned to Corsica to live with his sister. He found his sister a beautiful young woman, who still cherished the old tradition of the "Vendetta." Colomba believed their father had been murdered by the sons of a magistrate in the village, and urged on her brother as a sacred duty to kill the assassin of their father. The brother is not at all sure that the suspected murderer is the right man, and the thought of killing an innocent man is terrible to him. In the end the brother kills in self-defence the two sons of the denounced assassin and Colomba is satisfied. The French authorities do not press the pursuit of Colomba's brother; he leaves Corsica, and marries an English girl whom he had previously met on is voyage home. Merimee has written "Lettres a une inconnue," "Essai sur l'Architecture du Moyen Age," "Matteo Falcone."

"La Fee des Greves," by Paul Feval. The scene of this story is laid in Brittany some centuries ago. La fee is the daughter of a Breton nobleman, who has loyally served his master, the legitimate Duke of Britanny. The story begins at the time when a relative of the last duke has taken possession of the throne, and all the friends and partisans of the last dynasty have been either killed or imprisoned. The father of la fee has has concealed himself in a cave near the sea. In order to supply him with food the young girl at low tide crosses the sands in disguise, and carries provisions to her father. Several people have seen her, but owing to the common belief in fairies, and other supernatural beings, they take her for the Fee des Greves (the sands). Meantime the usurper has been warned of his approaching death, which takes place on the day predicted; then the old knight may leave his hiding-place and his faithful lovely daughter is married to the man she loves. Paul Feval is a prolific writer. He is fond of describing the customs of his native place, Rennes. One of his best books is "Bondre de fer." He has written besides "Le Fils du Diable," "Le Chevalier de Treramur," "Douze Femmes."

"L'Ami Fritz," by Erckmann and Chatrian. These two novelists have always written together. They delight in describing the manners and customs of Alsatia and the Palatinate. They have struck out for themselves a new road in publishing a series of national tales, "Madame Therese," "L'Invasion," "Les Contes Fantastiques," "L'Illustre Docteur Matteus," and "L'Ami Fritz," which is their best story. This delightful little book might be compared to Goethe's "Hermann and Dorothea." "L'Ami Fritz is a kind, warm-hearted man, with plenty of means. He is a bachelor, but may still marry. The description of the stables, the arrival of the storks, the game of ninepins, and finally, the scene where Fritz in his best clothes proposes to Rosel, are all masterpieces of their kind, as much so as the paintings of Gerard Dow or Metzu.

"Les Contes du Lundi," by A. Daudet. Alphonse Daudet is a well-known novelist. His book "Froment jeune et Rieseler aine" is a delineation of character hardly inferior to Middlemarsh. He has written "La Petite Chose," "Le Roman du Chaperon Rouge," "Le Nabal." But less known are his charming "Lettres de Mon Moulin," and his still more charming "Contes du Lundi." These tales, if one may call them so, remind one of the finest Sevres or Dresden china, they are so delicate and dainty. Perhaps for this reason they lack the robustness of real life, and seem more like reflections of life than life itself.

Typed by Blossom Barden, Mar 2013