The Red and the Black

When W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM was asked to select and edit the ten best novels in world literature, he chose three novels from France, two from Russia, one from America, and four from England, and for each book he wrote an introduction. His appraisal of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary we printed in November, his essay on Fielding and Tom Jones in December; in January he discussed Balzac and Le Père Goriot, in February the Brontës and Wuthering Heights, and in March Dostoevsky and The Brothers Karamazov. The set of the Ten Best Novels will be published by the John C. Winston Company.



I HAVE found it impossible to give a reasonably lucid account in the few pages at my disposal of the life of Henri Beyle, who is known to fame as Stendhal. It would need a book to tell his story, and to make it comprehensible I should have to go into the social and political history of the times. Fortunately the book has been written and if the reader of The Red and the Black is sufficiently interested to want to know more about its author than I have space to tell him, he cannot do better than read the lively and well-documented life that Matthew Josephson has published under the title: Stendhal or The Pursuit of Happiness. I can thus content myself with giving the bare facts of Stendhal’s biography.

He was born at Grenoble in 1783, the son of an attorney, a man of property and of some consequence. His mother, the daughter of the principal doctor in the city, died when he was seven.

In 1789 the French Revolution broke out. In 1792 Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed.

Stendhal has described at length his childhood and adolescence; and his account of this period is interesting to study because he then conceived prejudices which he maintained to the end of his life. On the death of his mother, whom he loved, as he himself says, with a lover’s love, he was left to the care of his father and his mother’s sister. Ilis father was a grave, conscientious man; his aunt strict and devout. He hated them. Though belonging to the middle class they had aristocratic leanings and t he revolution filled them with dismay.

Stendhal claims that his childhood was miserable, but it does not appear that he had much to complain of. He was clever, argumentative, and very much of a handful. When the Terror reached Grenoble Stendhal’s father was placed on the list of suspects; he thought he owed this to a rival lawyer, named Amar, who wanted his practice: “But Amar,” said the smart little boy, “has put you on the list of those suspected of not loving the republic, and it is certain that you do not love it.” True, of course, but not very pleasant for a middle-aged gentleman who is in danger of losing his head to hear from the lips of his only son.

Stendhal accused his father of a horrid stinginess, but he seems always to have been able to wheedle money out of him when he wanted anything. He was forbidden to read certain books, but he read them all the same. This is what has occurred to thousands upon thousands of children all the world over since books were first printed. His chief complaint was that he was not permitted to mix freely with other children, but his life could not have been so solitary as he makes out since he had two sisters, and other little boys shared his lessons with the Jesuit priest who was his tutor, and they all went on walks together.

He was in fact brought up as children in the wellto-do middle class were brought up at the time. Like all children he looked upon the ordinary restraints as the exercise of outrageous tyranny and when he was obliged to learn his lessons, when he was not allowed to do exactly as he liked, regarded himself as treated with monstrous cruelly. In this he was like most children, but most children, when they grow up, forget their grievances.

Stendhal was unusual in that at fifty-three he harbored his old resentments, because he hated his Jesuit tutor he became violently anticlerical and to the end could never bring himself to believe that a religious person might be sincere. Because his father and his aunt were devoted royalists he became an ardent republican. But when one evening, being then eleven years old, he slipped out of the house to go to a revolutionary meeting he had something of a shock. He found the proletariat dirty and smelly, vulgar and ill-spoken. “In short, I was then as I am today,” he wrote, “I love the people, I hate their oppressors, but it would be a perpetual torture for me to live with the people. ... I had, and I have still, the most aristocratic tastes; I would do everything for the happiness of the people, but I would sooner, I believe, pass two weeks every month in prison than live with shopkeepers.” One cannot but smile when one reflects how like this attitude is to that of the bright young rebels whom one meets now and then in the drawing rooms of the rich.

Stendhal was sixteen when he first went to Paris. His father gave him an introduction to a cousin of his, a Monsieur Daru, whose two sons were in the War Office. Pierre, the elder, was in charge of a department and after some time engaged his young relat ion as one of his many secretaries. Napoleon set out on his second campaign in Italy, the brothers Daru followed him, and shortly afterwards Stendhal joined them at Milan. After some months on the clerical staff Pierre Daru got him a commission in a regiment of dragoons, but, enjoying the gaieties of Milan as he did, Stendhal made no attempt to join his regiment and taking advantage of Daru’s absence he wheedled a certain General Michaud into making him his A.D.C.

When Pierre Daru came back he ordered Stendhal to join his regiment, but this on one pretext and another he avoided doing for six months, and when at last he did, found himself so bored that on a plea of illness he got leave of absence to go home and resigned his commission. He saw no action, but this did not prevent him from boasting in after years of his prowess as a combatant; and indeed, in 1804, when he was looking for a job he wrote a testimonial himself (which General Michaud signed) in which he certified to his gallantry in various battles which he could not possibly have fought in.

He went to live in Paris on a small but sufficient allowance from his father. He had two objects in view. One was to become the greatest dramatic poet of the age. He studied a manual of play writing and went to the theater nearly every day. He noted in his diary the plays he had seen and what he thought of them. Over and over again one finds him remarking how he could work up a play he had just seen into one of his own. He seems to have had no original ideas and he was certainly no poet. His other object was to become a great lover. But for this, nature had ill equipped him; he was somewhat undersized, an ugly, plump young man with a big body and short legs, a large head and a mass of black hair; his mouth was thin, his nose thick and prominent; but his eyes were brown and eager, his feet and hands small, and his skin as delicate as a woman’s. He was proud to declare that to hold a sword raised blisters on his hand. He was besides shy and awkward. Through his cousin Martial Daru, Pierre’s younger brother, he was able to frequent the salons of some of the ladies whose husbands the revolution had enriched, but he was sadly tongue-tied in company. He could think of clever things to say, but could never summon up the courage to say them. It cramped his style.

He was angrily conscious of his provincial accent and it may be that it was to cure himself of this that he entered a dramatic school. Here he met an actress, Mélanie Guilbert by name, two or three years older than himself, and after some hesitation decided to fall in love with her. He hesitated partly because he was not sure whether she had a greatness of soul equal to his own and partly because he suspected that she was suffering from a venereal disease. Having presumably satisfied himself on both points he followed her to Marseilles where she had an engagement and where for some months he worked at a wholesale grocer’s. He came to the conclusion that she was not, either spiritually or intellectually, the woman he had thought and it was a relief to him when want of money obliged her to return to Paris.


STENDHAL had many love affairs but I can deal only with the two or three that throw light on his character. He was highly sex-conscious, but not particularly sexual; indeed until some very frank letters from one of his later mistresses were discovered, it was suspected that he was sexually frigid. His passions were cerebral and to possess a woman was a satisfaction to his vanity.

Notwithstanding his high-flown phrases there is no sign that he was capable of tenderness. He admits frankly enough that most of his love a flairs were unfortunate and it is not hard to see why. He was fainthearted. When in Italy he asked a brother officer how to go about it to win a woman’s “favors” and solemnly wrote down the advice he received. He laid siege to women by rule, just as he had tried to write plays by rule; and he was affronted when he discovered that they thought him ridiculous, and surprised when they discerned his insincerity. Clever as he was, it seems never to have occurred to him that the language a woman understands is the language of the heart and that the language of reason leaves her cold. He thought he could achieve by stratagem and chicanery what can only be achieved by feeling.

Stendhal went back to Paris some months after Melanie Guilbert left him, and through the influence of Pierre Daru obtained a post in the commissariat. He was posted to Brunswick. He abandoned the idea of being a great dramatist and decided to make a career for himself in the bureaucracy. He saw himself as a baron of the Empire, a knight of the Legion of Honor, and finally as Préfct of a department with a princely salary. Ardent republican though he was, and lookingupon Napoleon as a tyrant who had robbed France of her liberty, he wrote to his father asking him to buy him a title. He added the de to his name and called himself Henri de Beyle. But he was a competent and resourceful administrator; and in 1810, having gained promotion, he found himself back in Paris with an office in a superb suite in the Palace of the Invalides.

He acquired a cabriolet, with a pair of horses, a coachman, and a manservant. He took a little chorus girl to live with him, but that did not suffice; he felt he owed it to himself to have a mistress he could love and whose position would add to his prestige. He decided that Alexandrine Daru would fill the bill. She was t he wife of Pierre Daru, now a count, but many years younger than her husband, by whom she had had four children, and a handsome woman. There is no sign that Stendhal gave a thought to the kindness and long-suffering tolerance with which Pierre had treated him, or that it occurred to him—since he owed his advancement to his cousin and his career depended on his good graces — that it was neither politic nor elegant to seduce his wife. Gratitude was a virtue unknown to him. He set about the attack with his armory of amorous devices, but the unfortunate diffidence of which he could not rid himself, still hampered him. He was by turns sprightly and sad, flirtatious and cold, ardent and indifferent: nothing seemed to be of any use and he could not make out whether the Countess loved him or not. Sometimes he was convinced that she laughed at him behind his back because he was so bashful.

At length he went to an old friend and, having told him his troubles, asked him what tactics to pursue. They talked the matter over. The friend asked questions, Stendhal answered them, and the friend wrote them down. Here, as summarized by Matthew Josephson, are the answers to the question: What are the advantages of seducing Madame de B.? (Madame de B. was what they called Countess Daru.) “They are as follows: He would be following out the inclinations of his character; he would win great social advantages; he would pursue further his study of human passions; he would satisfy honor and pride.” A footnote to the document was written by Stendhal: “The best counsel: Attack! Attack! Attack!” It was good advice, but not easy to follow when you are cursed with an unsurmount able timidity.

Some weeks later he was invited to stay at Bèchcville, the Darns’ country house, and on the second morning, after a sleepless night, resolved to take the plunge, he put on his best striped pants. Countess Daru complimented him on them. They walked in the garden, while a friend of hers, her mother, and the children followed twenty yards behind. They strolled up and down and Stendhal, trembling but determined, fixed a certain point, which he called A, from the point B where they then were, and swore that if when they reached it he did not speak out he would kill himself. He spoke, he seized her hand and tried to kiss it. He told her that he had loved her for eighteen months, had done his best, to conceal it. and even tried not to see her, but could bear his agony no longer. She replied, not unkindly, that she had no feeling for him greater than friendship and no wish to be unfaithful to her husband. She called the rest of the party to join them. Stendhal had lost what he called the Battle of Bècheville. It may be surmised that his vanity rather than his heart was wounded.

Two months later, still smarting from his disappointment, he applied for leave of absence and went 10 Milan which he had fallen in love with on his first visit to Italy. There, ten years before, he had been attracted by a certain Gina Pietragrua who was the mistress of a brother officer of his; but he was a penniless sublieutenant and she paid little attention to him. He thought he would look her up. Her father kept a shop and when quite young she had married a government clerk. By this time she was thirty-four with a son of sixteen. On seeing her again Stendhal found her “a tall and superb woman. She still had something of the majestic in her eyes, expression, brow and nose. I found her [he adds] cleverer, with more majesty and less of that full grace of volupt uousness.” She was certainly clever enough on her husband’s small salary to have an apartment in Milan, a house in the country, servants, a box at the Scala, and a carriage.

Stendhal had always been plump, but by now with good living he was grown portly; on the other hand he had money in his pocket and fine clothes to his back. He was perpetually conscious of his ugliness and to overcome it made a point of dressing with elegance and fashion. He had obviously more chance of pleasing than when he was a povertystricken dragoon. I le thought he would amuse himself with the majestic lady during his short stay in Milan, but she was not so easy as he expected. She led him a dance and it was not till the eve of his departure for Rome that she consented to receive him in her apartment early one morning. One would have thought it an unpropitious hour for love. That day he wrote in his diary: “On the 21st September at half past eleven, I won the victory I had so long desired.” He also wrote the date on his suspenders. He had worn for the occasion the same striped pants as on the day of his declaration to Countess Darn.


IN 1812 Stendhal, having with difficulty persuaded Count Daru to transfer him from his comfortable job in Paris to active service in the commissariat, followed Napoleon and his army on the disastrous expedition to Russia and in the retreat from Moscow proved himself cool, enterprising, courageous. In 1814 the Emperor abdicated and Stendhal’s official career came to an end. He claims to have refused the important posts that were offered to him and exiled himself rather than serve the Bourbons; but the facts are not quite like that; he took the oath of allegiance to the King and made attempts to get back into the public service. They failed and he returned to Milan.

He still had enough money to live in a pleasant apartment and go to the opera as often as he liked; but he had neither the rank, the prestige, nor the cash he had had before. Gina was cold. She told him that her husband had grown jealous on hearing of his return and that her other admirers were suspicious. She begged him for the sake of her reputation to leave Milan. He could not conceal from himself that she was finished with him, but her treatment of him inflamed his passion and at length it occurred to him that, there was only one way to regain her love. He raised three thousand francs which he turned over to her, and in the spring they went to Venice accompanied by Gina’s mother, her son, and a middle-aged banker. To save appearances she insisted that Stendhal should live in a different hotel and much to his annoyance the banker invariably joined them when he and Gina dined together. Stendhal couldn’t think why. Here is an extract, in English, from his diary: “She pretends that she makes me a great sacrifice going to Venice. I was very foolish of giving her the three thousand francs which were to pay for this tour.” And ten days later: “I have had her . . . but she talked of our financial arrangements. There was no illusion possible yesterday morning. Politics kills all voluptuousness in me, apparently by drawing all the nervous fluid to the brain.”

In the autumn the party returned to Milan. Gina made Stendhal take rooms in an obscure suburb. When she gave him an assignation he went disguised, in the dead of night, throwing spies off the scent by changing carriages several times; and then was admitted to the apartment by a chambermaid. But the chambermaid, having quarreled with her mistress or won over by the money of Stendhal, made on a sudden the startling revelation that Gina’s husband was not jealous at all; she demanded all this mystery to prevent Stendhal from encountering a rival, or more properly speaking, one of his rivals, for there were many, and the maid offered to prove it to him. Next day she hid him in a small closet next to her mistress’s boudoir, and there, says Mérimée in his Notes et Souvenirs, “he saw with his own eyes, through a keyhole, the treachery that was being done to him, only three feet from his hiding place.”

“You may think perhaps,” said Stendhal, “that I rushed out of that closet in order to poniard the two of them? Nothing of the sort. ... I left my dark closet as quietly as I came in, thinking only of the ridiculous side of the adventure, laughing to myself, and also full of scorn for the lady, and quite happy, after all, to have regained my liberty.”

In 1821 on account of his relations with certain Italian patriots Stendhal was invited by the Austrian police to leave Milan. He settled down in Paris and for the next nine years mostly lived there. He had one or two dull love affairs. He frequented the salons. He was no longer tongue-tied, but was become a witty, caustic talker, at his best with eight or ten persons, but like many good talkers inclined to monopolize the conversation. He liked to lay down the law and took no pains to conceal his contempt for anyone who did not agree with him. In his desire to shock he indulged somewhat freely in the bawdy and the profane, and carping critics thought that to entertain or to provoke he too often forced his humor. Then came the revolution of 1830. Charles X went into exile and Louis Philippe ascended the throne.

Stendhal had by this time spent the little his father had left him, and his literary efforts, for he had reverted to his old ambition to become a famouswriter, brought him neither money nor reputation. His Essay on Love was issued in 1822 and in eleven years only seventeen copies were sold. He had repeatedly tried to get some kind of government post and at last, with the change of regime, he was appointed to the consulate at Trieste; but owing to his liberal sympathies, the Austrian authorities refused to accept him and he was transferred to Civita Vecchia in the Papal States.

He took his duties lightly. He was an indefatigable sightseer, and whenever he had the chance, leaving his office in charge of a subordinate, he went off on a jaunt. He was bored at Civita Vecchia and lonely, and at the age of fifty-one made an offer of marriage to a young girl, the daughter of his laundress and of a minor employee at the consulate. To his mortification the offer was refused. In 1836 he persuaded his minister to give him some small job that allowed him to live in Paris for three years while someone else temporarily occupied his post He was by then a very fat man with a very red face and long, fiercely dyed whiskers, and to cover his baldness he wore a great purple-brown wig. He dressed in the height of fashion, like a young man, and a slighting remark on the cut of his coat or the style of his pants deeply affronted him. He continued to make love, but with little success; he continued to go to parties and talk.

At length he was obliged to return to Civita Vecchia and there, two years later, he had a stroke. On his recovery he asked for leave of absence to consult a famous doctor at Geneva. He went from there to Paris and resumed his old life. One day in March, 1842, he attended an official dinner at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that evening, while walking along the boulevard, had another stroke, He was carried to his lodging and died next day.


THE first thing that must occur to one on considering the bald facts that I have related is that owing to the vicissitudes of his life Stendhal acquired a variety of experience which few novelists can boast of. He was thrown into contact in a period of great change with men of all kinds and all classes and so gained as wide a knowledge of human nature as his idiosyncrasy permitted. For even the most, observant and acute student of his fellow creatures can only know them through the medium of his own personality. Stendhal had many limitations. He had virtues: he was sensitive, emotional, diffident, honest, talented, a hard worker when there was work to be done, brave and of a remarkable originality. He was a good friend. But his defects of character were great. His prejudices were absurd, his aims unworthy. He was distrustful (and so an easy dupe), intolerant, uncharitable, none too conscientious, fatuously vain, vainglorious, sensual without delicacy and licentious without passion.

But if we know he had these defects it is because he has told us so himself. Stendhal was not a professional author, he was hardly even a man of letters, but he wrote incessantly and wrote almost, entirely about himself. For years he kept a journal of which great sections have come down to us and it is evident that he wrote with no view of publication. In his early fifties he wrote an autobiography (in 500 pages) up to the age of seventeen and this, though left unrevised at bis death, he meant to be read. In it he sometimes makes himself out more important than he realty was and claims to have done things he did not do, but on the whole he is truthful. He does not, spare himself. These books are in parts dull and often repetitive, but to read them is a salutary discipline; for few, I imagine, can do so without asking themselves whether they would make a much better showing if they were so unwise as to expose themselves with so much frankness.

When he died only two Paris papers troubled to report the fact. It locked as though he would be entirely forgotten, and indeed he might very well have been but for the efforts of two old friends who succeeded in getting the important firm of Michel Lévy to issue an edition of his principal works. The public, however, notwithstanding two articles which the powerful critic Sainte-Beuve devoted to them, remained indifferent and it was not till a later generation that Stendhal’s books began to be read. He had himself never doubted their survival, but he was prepared to wait till 1880 or even till 1935 to receive the appreciation that was his due.

Many an author has consoled himself for the neglect of his contemporaries by believing that posterity will recognize his merits. It seldom does. Posterity is busy and careless and when it concerns itself with the literary productions of the past makes its choice among those that were successful in their own day. It is only by a remote chance that a dead author is rescued from the obscurity in which he abode during his lifetime. In the case of Stendhal a professor, otherwise unknown, in his lectures at the École Normale enthusiastically praised his works and there happened to be among his students some clever young men who later made a name for themselves. They read them and, finding in them something that suited the climate of opinion at the time prevalent among the young, became fanatical admirers.

Many years later one of these students, Taine, by then a well-known and influential man of letters, a historian and something of a philosopher, wrote a celebrated article in which he called Stendhal the greatest psychologist of all the ages. Since that time an immense amount has been written about him and it is generally agreed now that he is one of the three greatest novelists that France produced in the nineteenth century.

His fame rests on a passage in his Essay on Love and on two novels. Of these The Charterhouse of Parma is perhaps the more agreeable to read and it has two characters that are captivating. The description of the Battle of Waterloo is justly famous. But The Red and the Black is more striking, more original, and more significant. It is because of this that Zola called Stendhal the father of the Naturalistic School and that Bourget and André Gide have claimed him (incorrectly) as the originator of the psychological novel. It is truly an amazing book.

Stendhal was always more interested in himself than in anyone else and was always the hero of his novels. Julian of The Red and the Black is the kind of man Stendhal would have liked to be. He made him attractive to women and successful in winning their devoted love as he would have given everything to be and never was. He made him achieve his ends with them by just those methods that he had thought out for himself and that consistently failed. He made him a brilliant talker, though very wisely never gave an example of his brilliance, but only affirmed it. He gave him his own good memory, his own courage, his own timidity, his own inferiority complex, his own ambition, sensitiveness, calculating brain, his own suspiciousness and vanity and quickness to take offense, his own unscrupulousness and his own ingratitude. Never has an author, I think, in putting himself into a character, drawn a portrait of someone so vile, so base, so worthless, so hateful.

It is curious that with the exception of his description of Waterloo, at which he was not present, Stendhal seems to have made little use in his fiction of his experiences when in the service of Napoleon. One would have supposed that the great events of which he was at least a witness would have suggested to him a theme that he would have felt called upon to deal with. The reader will remember that when he wanted to write plays he looked for subjects in the plays he was seeing: Stendhal seems to have had no gift for making up a story out of his own head and he took the plot of The Red and the Black from newspaper reports of a trial that, at the time excited interest.

A young seminarist called Antoine Berthet was tutor in the house of a M. Michoud, then in that of a M. de Cordon. He tried to seduce or did seduce the wife of the first and the daughter of the second. He was discharged. He tried then to resume his studies for the priesthood, but owing to his bad reputation no seminary would receive him. He took it into his head that the Michouds were responsible for this and in revenge shot Madame Michoud while she was in church and then himself. The wound was not fatal and he was tried: he attempted to save himself at the expense of the unfortunate woman, but was condemned to death.

This ugly, sordid story appealed to Stendhal; he looked upon Berthet’s act as a line crime (un beau crime) and as the reaction of a strong, rebellious nature against the social order. He attempted to give it elevation by putting the sufferers from Julian’s malice in a higher station socially, and by ascribing to his hero more intelligence, more force of character, and more courage than were possessed by the wretched Berthet. But it remains a sordid story and Julian base. He is astonishingly alive and the novel is passionately interesting.

Julian, a working-class boy devoured with envy and hatred of those born in a more privileged class, is representative of a type that occurs in every generation. Here, when we catch our first glimpse of him, is how Stendhal describes him: “He was a small young man of eighteen or nineteen, weakly to look at, with irregular, delicate features and an aquiline nose. His large black eyes, which in moments of tranquility, suggested reflexion and fire, were lit up at that instant with an expression of the fiercest hate. His dark chestnut hair, growing very low, gave him a small forehead and in moments of anger a look of wickedness. ... His slender, wellset figure suggested lightness rather than vigour.” Not an attractive portrait, but a good one because it does not predispose the reader in Julian’s favor.

The principal character in a novel naturally enlists the reader’s sympathy, and Stendhal, having chosen a villain for his hero, had to take care from the start that his readers should not sympathize with him too much. On the other hand he had to interest them in him. He could not afford to make him too repulsive, so he modifies his first description by dwelling repeatedly on his fine eyes, his graceful figure, and his delicate hands. At times he describes him as positively beautiful. He remembers, however, to call your attention to the malaise he excites in persons who come in contact with him and the suspicion with which he is regarded by all but those who have most cause to be on their guard against him.

Madame de Rênal, the mother of the children he is engaged to teach, is a beautifully drawn portrait of a character most difficult to depict. She is a. good wife, a good mother, a good woman, charming, virtuous, sincere; and t he narrative of her growing love for Julian, with its fears and hesitations, and the flaming passion which it becomes, is masterly. She is one of the most delightful creatures of fiction. The patrician Mathilde de la Môle is unbelievable. Stendhal had never moved familiarly in good society and he did not know how well-bred people behaved. It is the parvenu’s notion that persons of noble birth are perpetually occupied with their nobility. He thought Mademoiselle de la Môle’s insolence was aristocratic; it was merely vulgar. Her actions are a tissue of absurdities.


STENDHAL, hated the flowery manner of writing Chateaubriand had made fashionable and which a hundred lesser writers assiduously copied. His aim was to put down whatever he had to say as plainly and accurately as he could, without frills, without rhetorical flourishes or picturesque verbiage. He said (probably not quite truly) that before starting to write he read a page of the Code of Civil Law in order to chasten his language. He eschewed description of scenery and such like ornaments as were popular in his day. The cold, lucid, self-controlled style he adopted wonderfully increases the horror of the story and adds to its enthralling interest. I don’t see how the parts that deal with Julian’s life with the Rênals and at the seminary could be better; it is when the scene is changed to Paris and the mansion of the Marquis de la Môle that I, for my part, find myself incredulous. I am asked to accept more improbabilities than I can swallow and to interest myself in episodes that are pointless.

Stendhal succeeded in writing after a realistic fashion, but no one, however hard he tries, can fail to be influenced by the psychic atmosphere of his time. Romanticism was rampant. Stendhal, notwithstanding his appreciation of the good sense and urbane culture of the eighteenth century, was profoundly affected by it. He was fascinated by the ruthless men of the Italian Renaissance who were troubled neither by scruple nor remorse and hesitated at no crime to satisfy their ambition, gratify their lust, or avenge their honor. He prized their strength of will, their scorn for convention, and their freedom of soul. It is because of this romantic predilection that the last half of The Heel and the Black fails to convince.

It is when Julian, by dissimulation, diplomacy, and self-restraint, is in sight of achieving all his ambition craved that Stendhal makes what I can only look upon as a great error. We are told that Julian is clever and immensely cunning and yet to recommend himself to his future father-in-law he asks him to write to Madame de Rênal, the honest woman he seduced, for a certificate of character. Should it not have occurred to him that either she must hate him for the harm he has done her, in which case she might want to revenge herself, or still loves him, in which case she would be unlikely to welcome the news that he is going to marry someone else? We know her to be a conscientious woman. It might have crossed his mind that she might think it her duty to expose his lack of principle.

That is what she does. She writes a letter in which she tells the plain truth about him. Instead of denying it and ascribing it to the pique of a discarded mistress he takes pistols and drives down to where she lives and shoots her. No explanation is given. He acts on impulse and we know that Stendhal had an inordinate admiration for the impulsive act us a manifestation of passion; very well; but we have been shown from the beginning that the strength of Julian consisted precisely in his immense self-control. His passions, envy, hatred, pride, vanity, never dominated him, and his sexual passion, the strongest of them all, was, as with Stendhal himself, not so much a matter of urgent desire, as of the satisfaction of his vanity. At the crisis of the book Julian does the fatal thing in a novel: he acts out of character.

Stendhal had followed the story of Antoine Berthet very closely and he had without doubt the intention of following it to the end; but he seems not to have noticed that, first, he had made Julian a very different man from the blackmailer who served as his model, and second, that Berthet was persuaded that Madame Michoud had ruined his chances of making a career. He had a grievance; Julian had none. If Madame de Renal blasted his ambitious hopes he had only his own stupidity to blame, and he was very far from being stupid; and he held besides in his hand trump cards that would have enabled him to counteract the effects of his unaccountable mistake.

The fact is that Stendhal had little power of invention and so failed in devising a means of ending his book in a manner that the reader can accept as probable. But as I have pointed out no novel is perfect, owing partly to the natural inadequacy of the form and partly to the deficiencies of the human being who writes it. Notwithstanding, The Red and the Black remains one of the most remarkable ever written. To read it is a unique experience.


OVER the years the Atlantic has established the claim of publishing the work of more new writers than any other national magazine in the country. This is particularly true in the field of nonfiction: here, the Atlantic has brought into print a succession of autobiographical narratives, the true stories of men and women who have shared with the reader the truth, the humor — and the difficulties — of a singular experience.
Remember Mary Antin. the impassioned immigrant, who spoke for millions in her touching account of “The Promised Land”; Lucy Furman, who wrote so tellingly of the Kentucky mountaineers; Eleanor Risley. operating — on a shoestring — her apple orchard in the Ozarks; and far north. Hilda Rose on her Stump Farm. Bill Adams and Hugo Johanson sent us their salty stories of the sea. There were Nora Wain in the House of Exile, Agnes Newton Keith in North Borneo, and Betty MacDonald on her incomparable Egg Farm. Every one of them broke into print in the Atlantic.
To encourage more of such stories we have set up three awards of $1000 for the three best autobiographical narratives submitted before June 1, 1948. The stories must be drawn from experience and be veritable in detail. The awards are not intended for war material, and fiction will he disqualified. The length is for each writer to determine, but we suggest manuscripts of not less than -000 words or more than -2.5,000 words. The narratives may be written by an amateur or by a professional writer. On page 1 the contestant should write “For the I Personally Award”; and postage, we hope, will be enclosed. — THE EDITORS