Edmond and Jules Goncourt
IN a few weeks after its publication, La Fille Elisa, the latest romance from the pen of the brothers Goncourt, had already reached its twelfth edition, — had made a sensation in France, and even some noise in such American circles as keep themselves au courant with foreign literature. It is therefore a suitable time to study the character and the physiognomy of these two authors, whose reputation is increasing every day, and who are assuming in French literature a place which constantly becomes more important.
The writings of the brothers Goncourt are too numerous and varied to be reviewed in detail, one after another. But the volume which precedes La Fille Elisa may be said to represent them all; we mean Les Idées et Sensations, —a work well suited to a general analysis, since it is composed of independent fragments, thrown together as if by chance, and treating of a multitude of subjects. It consists of the impressions of an artist intermingled with the conclusions of a thinker. It is a conglomeration of apothegms, a pot-pourri of reflections, some serious, others fantastic, when indeed they are not serious and fantastic at the same time. There is almost everything in this book; for the writers have thrown themselves entirely into it, and, almost unconsciously, have thereby given to the world a complete epitome of their intellectual and moral development. We will quote a few of the shortest among these fragments: —
“ The quickest way to succeed is to jump up behind on the cab of Success. Here one is sure to get. bespattered, and even risks a few cuts of the whip, but finally arrives safely, with the footmen, at the antechamber. ”
“ Great events are often intrusted to small men, as diamonds are sent by Paris jewelers in the hands of their shop boys.”
‘1 The worst prudery is that of corruption. It seems to me that modern society is as tawdry in regard to morals as are rogues in regard to the point of honor.”
“ Slander is, after all, the strongest bond in social intercourse.”
“ The world only pardons those superiorities by which it is not humiliated.”
“ A book is never a masterpiece; it becomes one. Genius is the talent of a dead man.”
But there is no subject upon which a Frenchman discourses more willingly than upon women: nor are the Goncourts silent. It must be premised, however, that the brothers, — thoroughly French, Parisian among the Parisians, — when they think they are speaking of woman, generally have in view only the Parisian woman, who in reality is not the only type of her sex: —
“ Between men and women, perhaps all that is sincere is what is not expressed in words.”
“ Virtuous women often speak of the faults of other women as if these faults had been stolen from themselves.”
“ There are conventionalities whose absence is more shocking in a woman than a lack of virtue. Women are more amenable to the tribunal of society than to that of morality.”
“ A man sometimes looks for truth in a book, a woman always for illusions.”
“ Too much is sometimes enough for a woman.”
“The beauty of woman is Love looking at her. ”
The Goncourts, as we understand them, were born poets, and endowed with a fair amount of imagination. Since imagination consists mainly of sensibility, the majority of poets — certainly those who are nothing else — contemplate rather than observe, color rather than design, and feel rather than think. When they have clothed their impressions in a clear and elegant form, they believe that they have formulated ideas and judgments. Most men in whom imagination is the predominating faculty absorb themselves in the spectacle of their sensations, well satisfied when they have reproduced externally these interior phenomena in a more or less fantastic garb. Nothing is perhaps more charming so long as the writer is young and sensitive; but this habit becomes a serious misfortune to those who, arrived at the age of reflection, persist in living by sensation, a faculty which constantly tends to become blunted and worn out. This was the misfortune of poor Alfred de Musset, with whom the Goncourts have a certain affinity. They might have repeated the tragic termination of his career, if they had not early adopted a system of methodical work, of which Musset was incapable. Our young authors first appeared in the literary world under the nom de plume of Cornelius Holff. The first productions signed Goncourt were a Revue du Salon, in 1852, and a few light pages, La Lorette, Les Actrices, Les Mystères du Théâtre, La Voiture de Masques, — pages wherein fantasy entirely predominated over the observation which, at a later period, became so closely intertwined with it.
From criticism, from the history of literature and of art to history itself, is but a step. The Goncourts entered this new domain by the path of anecdotes. Everybody likes anecdotes, but only artists know how to appreciate them: artists only can tell how often by its brevity an anecdote is rendered more expressive than a long recital; how it is able, in a single trait, to concentrate an entire character, an entire life, and even, sometimes, an entire epoch. Anecdotes may be compared to pen - and - ink sketches, or to the outlines which are drawn by the painter in order to fix the ideas of his picture. For the connoisseur, such a charcoal outline, dashed off in a few minutes, is often worth more than the great picture of which it is the forerunner. The Goncourts were artists in history. They wrote books composed mainly of anecdotes, collected to justify whatever theories were advanced. They made a specialty of the second half of the eighteenth century, and studied minutely its art, its literature, and above all its manners and customs. They collected pamphlets, drawings, autographs, engravings, newspapers, neglected nothing, however trifling or obscure, which might revive the life of the time. It was their ambition to paint France exactly as it had existed, — in its customs, its characters, its national physiognomy, its true color, its life. It was a great ambition. We dare not say that it has been realized.
In the Revolution there had been a vitality so intense that the fragments of whatever had lived and moved during its great epoch began to breathe and palpitate afresh as they were rescued from the dust. Passion still exhales from the remnant of this passionate period; it is almost impossible not to take sides for or against the actors in the drama. Notwithstanding their impersonal programme, the Goncourts entered into political personalities, as all their predecessors had done. Enrolling themselves among the anti - revolutionists, they wrote a book containing a few fine effects of rhetoric, but no impartiality. Their so - called Social History is only a conglomeration of tittle-tattle, fibs, and gossiping stories, whose veracity is unchallenged if their wit passes muster and if they ‘ ‘ produce a good effect in the scenery.” This superficiality is not very surprising in young writers who were mingling dissertations upon the terrible duel between the Old World and the New with studies, not less serious, on the mysteries of the theatre and on the life of the lorette. But the real reason for this superficiality lies below the surface. The habit of trifling seems to confer the right to be unjust, to omit saying all that one knows, to evoke or to silence one’s conscience. With this habit, also, it is much easier to be amusing, and wit is hard to impress into the service of equity and of laborious exactitude. The Goncourts did not lack erudition, but were entirely deficient in the philosophical capacity, the breadth of view, the warm breath of humanity, which make the true historian. They wished to prove something with their book, and the thesis which they maintained, and which is still popular in fashionable circles at Paris, is the assertion that 1793 was an invasion of barbarians, an ebullition of bad passions, a paroxysm of fury and of stupidity, Intrenched behind their hedge of quotations, Edmond discharged his popgun of peas and Jules fired off his mortar of pins upon Robespierre, Danton, Saint Just, and Marat, and riddled the grand corpses with their petty projectiles. The Castor and Pollux of bric-à-brac set out to war upon the dead giants as if they were going to hunt mosquitoes, and after each well-aimed blow exclaimed with lively satisfaction, “Ah, well done! That monster will not raise his head again! ”
We can hardly refrain from smiling when we listen to the pathos of their accusations: —
“It has been sold, — the furniture of Versailles, the magnificent furniture of embroidered blue silk, ornamented with flowers and peacock feathers, and with black ribbons fringed with silk. It has been sold, — the magnificent summer furniture, embroidered with flowers and columns on a background of white, with detached bouquets and garlands forming a mosaic, held up by wreaths of goldleaf-work inwrought in the stuff! It has been sold, — this furniture in mosaic, with garlands of gold, and bordered with braids and gold-lace-work, and fringes in silk and gold.”
From Dunkerque to Perpignan, from Bayonne to Givet, the authors have collected exact statistics concerning all the acts of vandalism. “ Not a tree remains in a forest of a hundred arpents belonging to the marshal of Castiers. . . . Go to the north, the south, the east, the west, — everywhere are traces of the Revolution. . . . Equally lamentable and monotonous would be the list of religious edifices suppressed, ruined, regretted, and mourned over.” The Goncourts draw up a list of “ churches dishonored” by having been turned into granaries, workshops, schools, lyceums; and after each name they set an exclamation mark, which represents for the innocent reader a cry of horror, or at the very least a tear.
These are the “ excesses ” of the Revolution which principally excite the indignation of our authors, and which, in their opinion, justify all the baseness and the villainies of the period of reaction. They justify the scandals of the Directory avowedly because they had been satiated by the idyls of the fêtes of flowers, of harvest, and vintage, and because the fetes of the goddess Reason had bored them to death. But having justified the Directory as being only a reaction against the Revolution which had preceded it, the historians make a sudden volt face, and show us the Directory in the darkest colors, in order to justify the advent of the empire by which it was to be overthrown. “ Nothing remained in France but debased intellects, selfish hearts, enslaved thoughts, degraded instincts, impure principles, tottering truths, — in a word, the complete materialization of man.” “All these abominations were necessary, it would appear, for the development of the new empire; they were foreseen by ‘ divine providence,’ until France, exhausted as at the termination of an orgy, should kneel in submission to Cæsar. ”
The history of French society during the Revolution corresponds well to its date and to the character of its epoch. February, 1848, the massacres of June, the coup d’etat of December, had been the mitigated repetition of the taking of the Bastile, the Thermidorian reaction, and the crime of Brumaire. When the book of the Goncourts appeared, all “respectable people ” were regarding Napoleon III. as a revival of Napoleon I,, as the saviour of society, as the predestined hero who should reassure the good and make the wicked tremble. Such enthusiasm was pardonable in dupes or in rogues, but inexplicable in the brothers Goneourt, assuredly neither the one nor the other, and who nevertheless consented to enlist on the side of the adventurer. Having completed their invective against the Revolution, the Goncourts proceeded naturally to a pleading in favor of its enemy, and wrote a second bad book. — the History of Marie Antoinette. Their heroine is represented as constantly a victim, — victim of the court, victim of the diplomatic policy, victim of the bigots, victim of slander and calumny, victim of the bourgeoisie, victim of the people, victim of feminine jealousies, victim of human perversity. By an inexplicable fatality the entire world was leagued against her, and of a saint made a martyr. Our authors admire this royal saint without reserve, — admire her when she gets up and when she sits down; when she dances; when she walks; when she acts as a queen and when she poses as a milk-maid; when she rises and when she goes to bed. This admiration is not history; it is esoteric enthusiasm. Thanks to Messrs. Edmond and Jules, Marie Antoinette became at once the ideal of the fashionable Bonapartist world, and the royal patroness of Breda Street and of the Jockey Club. The Empress Eugénie moistened with a tear the recital of her Passion, paid for masses for the repose of her soul, and led the Princess of Metternich and the Queen of Holland on a pilgrimage to the expiatory chapel. The ladies who danced the famous “germane” at Compiègne adored the Virgin Mary on Sunday and Marie Antoinette on week days. It became the fashion to consider Marie Antoinette as the last flower of the antique aristocracy, as the incarnation of all that may possess elegance and distinction. Through hatred of the democracy the gentlemen of the coup d’état became all chevaliers of Marie Antoinette. Bonapartism exhibited itself amorous of legitimacy, sighed for the old monarchy, coquetted with the ancient church. With a few bans mots it was deemed possible to travesty history, and to prove that the Revolution, by whose results all were profiting, was nevertheless but a tissue of crimes, while the old régime possessed nothing but virtues. Because the queen had been a sufficiently headstrong coquette, the assertion that the taxes, the imposts, the farms, the customs, and the salt dues had crushed the poor people was an infamous falsehood. The tears of Marie Antoinette at the Conciergerie relegated to nothingness the iniquities of the Bastile. That Marie Antoinette’s head was cut off was sufficient proof that she had never lied, had never persuaded her husband to perjure himself, and had never betrayed France to its armed enemies.
It is precisely such mixed natures as those of the Goncourts, such intellects, at once refined and somewhat sickly, which become impassioned for ambiguous beings, for elegant murderesses, for beautiful criminals, such as Beatrice Cenci, Brinvilliers, Marie Stuart, Marie Antoinette, Marie Lafarge. These they admire because of their beauty, because of their rank, and above all, because of their guilt!
But the brothers Goncourt have turned their studies on the eighteenth century to better account than in their histories of Marie Antoinette and of French society during the Revolution. At the time they began to write, it was fashionable in France to speak with extreme disdain of the literature and art of the last century, for contempt is always facile to ignorance. But in rapid succession the brothers Goncourt published their Portraits Intimes of the Eighteenth Century, a biography of Sophie Arnaud, and studies on Watteau, the painter of their predilection. A reaction of public opinion set in; a taste revived for the subtle and delicate qualities of these eighteenth century artists, and to the Goncourts in great measure belongs the honor of the revival. It is with a secret, satisfaction of amour propre that we find them saying: “ It needs more than taste, it needs character, properly to appreciate a work of art. Independence of ideas is necessary to independence of admiration.”
This bold campaign secured for the authors a merited reputation, and their intellectual horizon enlarged with their renown. They succeeded in so impregnating themselves with the art which they studied, in so saturating themselves with the literature, that their own sense of the beautiful developed, and with it the brilliant logic, the agreeable good sense, the light and delicate handling, characteristic of the eighteenth century. These conscientious studies, moreover, enabled the brothers better to understand the century in which they themselves were living. They learned to observe the salons and workshops of the world around them with the rigid exactitude of which they had acquired the habit in the retrospective observation of a former world. The success obtained by this method made them enthusiastic for it.
“ The power of observation,” say they, “ is one most characteristic of our century; it is the great talent of modern art. The art of learning how to see demands the longest apprenticeship of all the arts.” It is in the patient and intelligent study of certain sides of contemporary social existence that the Goncourts have disclosed their real originality, aud have developed into artists of intrinsic value. Hitherto they had written history which was nothing but romance; now they wrote romances which were in reality history. Hitherto they had modeled in clay, but henceforth they were destined to cast in bronze.
We do but mention their dramatic effort, Henriette Maréchal, which was drawn out with spirit, we are told, but which could not even get a hearing. The piece had been given to the public under the official patronage of the Princess Mathilde, whose protégés the Goncourts were known to be; and the Parisian students resented that intrusion of politics into art. Likewise fell Gaëtana, of their friend About, another familiar of the notorious lady. Likewise fell Tannhäuser, of Wagner, which the empress had forced upon the opera. Too clever by half, the Goncourts had contrived to enjoy the profits of opposition and the comforts of power; therefore Henriette, their daughter, was ignominiously pelted with rotten eggs.
But Renée Mauperin was a great success. The world was taken by surprise, all the more because the authors were not unknown. But in them had not been suspected the new talents which were now exhibited, — the penetration of character, the living psychology, which determined at once the success of the book. This success was confirmed by the romances which followed: Manette Salomon, Madame Gervaisais, Germaine Lacerteux, Charles Demailly, Quelques Créatures de ce Temps, and, finally, La Fille Elisa, which at present is attracting almost as much attention as L’Assommoir, of M. Zola. We may pardon the Marie Antoinette, in consideration of La Fille Elisa. The truth, cold and severe, the healthy emotion, the advocacy of a justice superior to legality, which appear in their last work, may serve to redeem the tinsel, the gilding, the false elegancies, the vicious perfumes, of the pretended history of which the maids of honor at the Tuileries had such a high opinion. The authors have themselves said in the Ideas and Sensations: “Everything is turning towards the people and from the kings. Even romances no longer enlist our sympathies for royal misfortunes, but for private griefs, descending from Priam to Cæsar Birotteau,” — and we might add, in view of the writers’ subsequent experience, from Marie Antoinette to La Eille Elisa.
The Goncourts have been reproached for their frankness and for the minuteness with which they depict things which are coarse, unwholesome, or painful, not hesitating to use the plain name for the plain thing. For our part, we approve of the physiology which the Doctors Robin and Ouimus have taught them; we approve even of this crudity of detail, for, in books destined to become monuments of contemporary history, accuracy is of far more importance than elegant prudery. The moral value of a book is measured by the amount of truth which it contains; its artistic .value depends on the distinctness of the “lines and on the clearness of the impression: for the artist the nude, for the bourgeois the draping; for the naturalist and man of science the fact, — the fact pure and simple; while disguises and circumlocutions are the delight of those who reproach nature for being ugly and common, of those who, not daring to look realities in the face, admire appearances and enjoy illusions. Yet it seems to us that there is an increasing number of people who dare to speak out frankly, and of those who are pleased to be spoken to without disguise.
The Goncourts are at the same time delicate and realistic; they know themselves to be refined, and declare with satisfaction, “The epithet rare is the true mark of a writer.” They are sculptors who carve conscientiously after their model, and dissect their “subject” as expert anatomists. Under the same glass they exhibit preparations made for the Musée Dupuytren and delicate statuettes in white marble or Florentine bronze.
From progress to progress the Goncourts, once fantastics and elegant skeptics, have reached the point of pleading the cause of certain social reforms. But they are not on this account democrats, and never will be. They are capable of pity; they know how to awaken compassion on behalf of the unfortunate, because they themselves have been moved; they have ceased, in a word, to disdain justice, and we are glad of it, but we must ask from them nothing farther. Belonging to the upper classes of the bourgeoisie, and to that minority which “ sets the fashion ” for all Paris, aristocratic in fact if not in name, they have, like others of their class, calumniated the Revolution by which their class had been emancipated. This does not prevent them from being pitilessly severe upon the horde of enriched parvenus, — “ this class, daughter of the republic, and illmannered daughter who denies the republic in order to conceal her origin.” Our artists condemn this bourgeoisie as foolish and spiteful, as envious, vain, and timid. They despise, and justly, le peuple gras, — to use the expression which the French have borrowed from the Florentines in the Middle Ages, when the state was torn by the factions, il popolo grasso and il popolo magro. As to il popolo magro, whose black multitudes stir in unquiet and discontented agitation, and who advance confusedly, pushing insurrections and revolutions before them, they seem also to inspire these writers with contempt, but a contempt extremely complex, mixed with a compassion which impels to devotion, and a terror which leans toward hatred. The masses seem to them canaille, but as such more distingué than the bourgeoisie, which is vulgar. They are capable of frightful stupidities, of ignoble crimes, and sometimes of sublime virtues; they are personified by the authors in the features of Germaine Lacerteux. More far-sighted than many of their fellows, the Goncourts see that the flood of democracy is rising, but they see it with keen regret. They seem to be convinced that with the progress of time the wild boars of the democracy cannot fail to transform themselves into the obese swine of the bourgeoisie. They are convinced that modern republics — they have in view especially Switzerland and the United States — are destitute of art and forever incapable of possessing any. This is sufficient to render these countries detestable to artists who have no hope that the miracle of the Athenian republic will ever be repeated. There is, they say, a necessary opposition between the interests of art and the interests of the populace. The authors declare that “ the beautiful is precisely what appears abominable to uneducated eyes. The beautiful is what your mistress and your servant consider, instinctively, to be frightful.”
And they quote D’Alembert as enunciating “ one of the most ridiculous assertions possible when he declared, ‘ Woe to those productions of art whose beauty is only appreciable by artists!’ ‘The mass of the people love neither the true nor the simple; they love fanfaronnade and charlatanism.’ ” Must we conclude, therefore, that the people require a better education? Not at all!
“ The peril, the great peril, of modern society is education. Every mother in the working classes wishes to give her children, instruction that she has not had, and an orthography that she does not know, though she should drain her heart’s blood for it. From this general folly, from this mania, wide-spread in the depths of society, to throw the children over the parents’ heads, and to raise them above, their own level, as if at an exhibition of fire-works, is growing up a France of clerks, employees, and pennya-liners, — a France where the laborer no longer engenders the laborer, nor the peasant the peasant; and where, before long, there will not be enough arms to carry on the rough work of the nation.”
The grand preoccupation of the Goncourts is, lest the European proletariat, by means of popular education, should become transformed into something resembling the American democracy, — a democracy rich, powerful, ambitious, but destitute of all feeling for art. “ Alas for the day,” exclaim these new Jeremiahs, “ when our people succeed in Americanizing themselves! ”
Far apart from this vulgar crowd, the Goncourts believe they have withdrawn themselves into a select circle of congenial spirits, such as collected every Friday around the dinner - table of SainteBeuve, like Taine, Berthelot, Gavarni, Renan, Scherer, Flaubert, — Flaubert, to whom is dedicated this very volume, Ideés et Sensations. “ There are in France a few score of us, artists, savants, men of the world, who understand the end and the groundwork of things. Enlightened epicureans, we enjoy all that the world has to offer of most rare, delicate, and agreeable; Outside of our circle surges incessantly the vile multitude.”
Thus might have spoken Byron, Chateaubriand. or, later, Alfred de Musset. But the pleasures afforded by vanity leave in the mouth a disagreeable taste. Those who have cried, Odi profunum, vulgus et arceo, who have withdrawn themselves to the heights of their proud solitude, must learn to live In an isolation of heart, and this is painful for those who have the faculty of loving and of being beloved. From the summit of his tower of ivory, a thousand times did Alfred de Musset complain bitterly of his fate, and repeat, in his fashion, “ It is not good for man to be alone.” It is the same with the Goncourts. Notwithstanding all that life can offer them of exquisite pleasures, they are melancholy, and like so many others seem to misunderstand the cause of their sadness. They attribute it to the faculty of observation which they had cultivated with so much care,
“ All observers are sad, and must be so. They are spectators of life. They are not actors, but witnesses; they take part neither in what may deceive nor in what will intoxicate. Their normal condition is that of melancholy serenity.”
The extreme sensibility which they had hoped to blunt by their social studies was only increased.
“ I perceive regretfully that literature and observation, instead of blunting my sensibility, have extended, refined, exposed it to the quick. A thousand resources, a thousand latent capacities for suffering, become revealed in us. Through prolonged self-analysis the soul is laid bare, and, losing its protecting envelope, becomes abnormally sensitive, defenseless, bleeding at the slightest touch.”
It is perhaps pretentious to claim to know an author better than he does himself, and yet we dare assert that this melancholy comes less from knowing humanity too well than from believing themselves freed from the obligation to love it. In reality the authors dissect their subject with too lively curiosity to permit them to compassionate the sufferings which may have been borne before it was stretched on the marble table. And it is to this very curiosity, to this intense mental activity, that they owe the preservation of their mental health. For it must be admitted, the subjects to which our two writers devote themselves are not enlivening. A thousand times must their eyes be saddened at the contemplation of so many wounds, of so many ulcers, of the ignominies and perfidies, — the stratagems and the treasons, which abound in society, in business, in polities, in industry. Humanity is stupid and perverse, and they have not failed to perceive it. They accuse nature of cruelty, and we dare not affirm that they are altogether wrong.
“ The telescopic and microscopic researches of the present day, the exploration of the infinitely great or of the infinitely little, the science of the star or of the microphyton, lead to the same infinite depth of sadness. They lead the human thought to something far sadder for man than death, — to a conviction of the nothingness which is his lot even while alive.”
“Nature is for me an enemy; the country seems to me funereal. This green earth suggests a cemetery awaiting its dead. That grass feeds on man. Those trees grow upon and blossom from what has died. This sun which shines so brightly, imperturbable and peaceful, is but the great force which putrefies. Trees, sky, water, all appear to me. merely as a life grant of laud, where the gardener sets out a few new flowers every spring, around a small basin of goldfish.”
“ Are you not aware of the value of man and of life? No man is to be found who would live his own life over again, Hardly is there a woman who would revive her eighteenth year. This shows the value of life.”
“ If it were known how much the pleasures of life cost, no one would buy them.”
“ As we advance in life, our love for society increases with our contempt for men. ”
Here in a few lines is condensed a masterpiece of the philosophy of history: “ I was inquiring how justice had been born into the world. I walked along a quay, where some boys were amusing themselves. The biggest of them exclaimed, ‘ We must have a tribunal; I am the tribunal.’ ”
The works of the Goncourts (for although Jules has died, the surviving brother retains the collective signature) will gain in value as they grow older, differing in this from many contemporary productions. They have solid qualities which deserve permanent fame, an artistic sincerity, a truthfulness, a manner of representation, which will render them precious in the eyes of future moralists and historians. Their agreeable water colors, their charming sketches, wherein they have caught the essence of contemporary French intellect and the features of Parisian physiognomy, will be one day studied by antiquaries with the same curious care which they have themselves expended upon the pictures of Fragonard or the pastels of Latour. Their exceptional merit consists in the happy alliance of a lively imagination with patient and conscientious work; of a witty aud mercurial poetic faculty with an observation as delicate and precise as that of the physician and statistician; of exact drawing, brilliant color, elegant style, and a form often exquisite, united to a perfect, command of technicalities. Passing with singular facility from graceful fancies to painful realities, they find on their rich palette colors at once for the diaphanous wings of the butterfly, and also for malignant pustules and cancers in suppuration. They transport themselves readily from the infirmary to the workshop of the painter or of the sculptor; they pass from the salon of the Princess Mathilde to the bedside of the outcast.
Doubtless there exists an obverse to these multiform talents. A severe critic will notice that these authors describe too much for the sake of the description; that they too often paint objects which have no other merit than to have been looked at by the artists; that they encroach deliberately upon the domain of painting, and exact from their pen what the brush alone is able to give; that they are sometimes over-refined, and perhaps affected; that occasionally they seem to be the dupes of their own paradoxes, and insist upon an apparent opposition of ideas which in reality is only a juggle of words; that the artistic effect becomes of too much importance to them, and the moral significance too little. Nevertheless, while we might often wish them to be other than they are, we must acknowledge that the Goncourts as Goncourts are a decided success. And in view of the steady progress manifested in the succession of their books, they deserve to be judged, above all, by their latest productions.
Finally, should we attempt to trace the intellectual paternity of the Goncourts, we should say that they proceed chiefly from Théophile Gautier, who was at once a realist ami a man of fantasy. They are also assimilated in method to Watteau as a painter, and to Flaubert as an observer; they are impregnated with the doctrines of Taine, but most of all are they disciples of Gavarni. What Gavarni concentrates in an outline drawing, they develop in one or more pages, or they extend it even to a book. They explain Gavarni to us, and Gavarni explains them. Having traversed several schools, and having learned something of each, they in their turn have become masters, and have acquired a style peculiar to themselves. It is a style of a secondary sort. In order to rank among the first, they require more strongly accentuated qualities and defects than they possess. Such as it is their art is delicate rather than powerful, and perhaps the reader must be himself an artist to be able fully to appreciate it. And we seem to be able to trace in the productions of this art the various influences which have contributed to its development, as distinctly as we perceive in a smooth and polished agate the different silicious strata by which it has been successively constituted. These rose-tinted lines we have already seen in Boucher and in Watteau; these gray bands are from Flaubert; this lace - work in opaque red reveals Gautier; these amber-hued crystals are of Musset; and from Gavarni, this opal veined with sombre violet. All these concretions are united in a fine and hard cement, which has assumed the most brilliant polish. To such a curious union of lines curved and broken, of angular designs, of variegated colors in whimsical yet harmonious juxtaposition, — to this agate, this gem of subtle, unconscious workmanship, would we compare the brothers Goncourt.