Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 55.djvu/219

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207
TENDENCIES IN FRENCH LITERATURE.

unhealthy habitations in which the rich man permits beggars to crowd and suffer, the miasm, as if in revenge, is propagated to marble palaces.

That imbecile idea of some European nations, who, instead of disinfecting the medium, find it better to put down the doctors who propose remedies, can not make itself at home except among peoples who are destined to perish.[1]Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Archives di Psichiatria.

 
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TENDENCIES IN FRENCH LITERATURE.[2]
SUGGESTED BY PROFESSOR DOWDEN'S RECENT BOOK.
By PELHAM EDGAR, Ph. D.

"TO present Victor Hugo in a few pages is to carve a colossus on a cherry stone." Thus Professor Dowden prefaces his ten admirable pages on the great French poet; and with equal appropriateness we might assign the phrase as a motto for the whole undertaking. The subject is too vast to cope with adequately in the limits of a slender volume, the tendencies too complex; and the appeal from human interest, which since the days of Sainte-Beuve and Taine has formed such an important element in scientific criticism, had to be abandoned in favor of generalized views of literary conditions and tendencies necessarily abstract or impersonal in character. Yet, despite these evident restrictions which the requirements of his task imposed upon him, Professor Dowden has produced a work of extraordinary merit, a masterpiece indeed in its kind. If we were not assured that everything which the eminent critic writes is its own sufficient justification, we might be inclined to question the necessity of the present volume, in view of the painstaking and conscientious treatise that Mr. Saintsbury gave to the public some sixteen years ago, and which has deservedly remained until the present time the most reliable English text-book upon the subject of French literature. ^ With no desire to disparage Mr. Saintsbury's scholarly contribution, the present work does in truth supply a need which the earlier book, in spite of its abundant merit, failed to satisfy. It is not harsh criticism to state that Mr. Saintsbury's volume, crammed as it is with a plethora

  1. To the charges made against me by M. Gautier (Le procès Luccheni, 1899) of having formulated a diagnosis without seeing the patient, which was therefore inexact, and of having described characteristics of degeneration which did not exist, I answer with the pages of Forel, certainly the most eminent alienist of our time, who had him under his eyes during the whole process, and whose diagnosis differs but little from mine.
  2. A History of French Literature. By Edward Dowden, D. Lit., LL. D., etc. New York: D. Appleton and Company. 1897.