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قراءة كتاب Abbé Aubain and Mosaics

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Abbé Aubain and Mosaics

Abbé Aubain and Mosaics

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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THE ABBÉ AUBAIN AND MOSAICS

By

PROSPER MÉRIMÉE

Translated by

EMILY MARY WALLER

With an Introduction by

ARTHUR SYMONS

LONDON
GRANT RICHARDS
1903


CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

THE ABBÉ AUBAIN

MOSAICS—

MATEO FALCONE

THE VISION OF CHARLES XI.

HOW WE STORMED THE FORT

TAMANGO

THE GAME OF BACKGAMMON

THE ETRUSCAN VASE

THE VENUS OF ILLE

LOKIS

THE BLUE CHAMBER

THE "VICCOLO" OF MADAM LUCREZIA

DJOUMANE


Prosper Mérimée

INTRODUCTION

Mérimée's temperament was really that of the scholar, not of the artist, and even his art came to him as a kind of scholarship. He did one thing after another, as if challenging himself to accomplish a certain end, and then, that end accomplished, he no longer cared to repeat it. That is the scholar's way, not the artist's; and the scholar's instinct is seen, too, in that too purely critical attitude which he adopted, towards others and towards himself, working in almost a hostile fashion upon every impulse, so as to destroy his interest in any part of his work but the way in which it was done. He began his career by two very serious mystifications, Le Théâtre de Clara Gazul, a collection of short plays supposed to be translated from the Spanish, and La Guzla, a collection of ballads in prose supposed to be translated from the Illyrian. Later on he was, perhaps, a little too anxious to represent himself as having intended from the first to parody the fierceness and the "local colour" of the Romantics. "Vers l'an de grâce 1827 j'étais romantique," he says ironically, in the preface of 1840, as he reprints his work of thirteen years ago. "Nous disions aux classiques: 'Vos Grecs ne sont point des Grecs; vos Romains ne sont point des Romains; vous ne savez pas donner à vos compositions la couleur locale. Point de salut sans couleur locale.'" But no doubt he wished from the first to show that he also, by a mere disinterested effort of intelligence, could be as exotic as the Romantics; that Romanticism, like everything else, was a thing that could be done deliberately, done and then dropped. The invention of history and archaeology leads to history and archaeology themselves. Mérimée next produced a piece in dialogue on La Jacquerie, in which there is more and better history than drama; then followed his historical novel, the Chronique du Règne de Charles IX., in which he set himself, as deliberately as usual, to do more carefully what Walter Scott, then a fashion in France, had done with genius. He produced the most perfect of historical novels, and looked about for some new difficulty to conquer.

He found it in the short story, of which he was to make something firmer, more architectural, than anything yet made in this form of fiction. It was then that he wrote the best of his short stories, from the Mateo Falcone of 1829 to the Carmen of 1845. Here, anyone else would have said, he had found himself; here was the moment to pause, to "settle down" to the task of doing what he could do best, better than anyone else. But Mérimée had no sooner perfected his method than he began to tire of it. His imagination perhaps tired; he turned to history, and wrote books on the history of Spain and Russia; he became Inspector of Ancient Monuments, and wrote minute descriptions of churches; he translated from the Russian, from Poushkin, Gogol, and Tourguenieff; he travelled, and wrote somewhat dry accounts of his travels; he wrote Lokis, La Chambre Bleue, and Djoumane, the only stories which he had written for twenty-five years; and he seems to have written them in order to prove to himself that he could still write them. He died at Cannes in 1870, "claquemuré entre deux vieilles governess," notes Goncourt in his Journal: "une des plus tristes fins du monde."

Mérimée is perhaps the only writer in whom form is equivalent to what is called in slang "good form." He did his best to assimilate his mind to what seemed to him, the English pattern, as others of his compatriots have had their clothes made by English tailors. The English pattern of mind seemed to him, not that mind as it has expressed itself heroically in poetry, and with something of loose splendour in prose, but the typical middle-class mind, severe, precise, doing things by rule, stiffly proud, a mask for emotion. It was not English literature which he cared for and wished to rival, but those sides which he saw most clearly of the English temperament. As the greatest English writers have not put those sides of the national character, to any considerable extent, into their books (perhaps because, being men of genius, they were exceptions to a rule), Mérimée's work, with its cold, exact, polite record of warm and savage things, has no resemblance with English literature, and becomes, in French literature, a new thing, the personal expression of a new, singular temperament.

"Ce comédien de l'insensibilité," Goncourt calls him; and it is Goncourt who relates the famous story of his childish resolve to keep his

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