Page:The North American Review Volume 145.djvu/708

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696
THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.

prepared by Mr. John Dimitry, and has been issued, as a book for the holidays, under the title of "Three Gooa Giants."[1] The illustrations by Doré and Robida fit the stirring text.

It needed courage of a special kind to open a door leading to so many sealed chambers. But now that the door swings wide, it is cause for wonder that no one, up to this age of old things made new, should ever have thought the attempt worth making. Three centuries have turned the high road once running to it into a path untrodden save by scholars intent on wild guesses at what was never meant to be guessable. One can easily fancy the old Curé of Meudon chuckling at the idea that his giants have, in a strange land and under other skies of which he but dimly knew, been rated so high. Mr. Dimitry claims, however, that Rabelais's gigantic creations, Grandgousier, Gargantua, and Pantagruel, are "good," and cites for his witness Rabelais himself. In dividing his author "sharply into incident and philosophy—throwing out the philosophy altogether"—he seems to have found the only key to Rabelais on which learned pundits are likely to agree. In all that touches the Giants he has followed the original closely—cleansing it, as he goes along, from impurities, yet fairly preserving, through all the chapters quick with marvelous deeds, the rollicking dash of its récit bouffon. We note a few departures from the narrative part of the text. One we should have been glad to have seen kept,—that old-world jest of the roast-meat seller and the hungry porter. Its omission has the look of a lapse of the pen.

Such other changes as are found are invariably made in the line of morality. Take, for instance, Chapter XXVIII. This is a chapter which has always been held as chief among the Rabelaisian atrocities. The compiler has put a clean story—instead of a foul one—into the mouth of that unmatched rake Panurge, who gives an explanation which he does not believe, and grins like an ape over it. This, while a gain in purity, does not lose in point. The story is simply retold by making the innocent gambols of children stand for the lusty games of King Pharamond's jaunting party. Something more than graceful recognition of those proprieties which are holy is shown in substituting a stout staff for doughty Friar John's crucifix, in his mighty onslaught on the thieving Bunmakers of Lerne. It is certainly curious—given, these material facts which have so long rested on a cess-pool—to find a strong and skilled hand turning all into decency. No easy task must it have been to treat a Master who has, for centuries, only been "trusted with a muzzle and enfranchised with a clog." Yet, through this sustained swing of a wonderful narrative, what least shows itself is the idea of a task. A story, poisoned throughout in the original by a vicious philosophy, reads here like a brave tale of new-found giants. Rabelais's giants have now reached a dignity not known in their history. For the first time, they will find a welcome in American homes. They are worthy of it.

IV.
TOLSTOI'S SHORT STORIES.


Of the six short stories by Count Lyof Tolstoi which have been collected under the title of the first,[2] none, with possibly a single exception, is of recent composition. At the age of twenty-three, Count Tolstoi, fascinated by his brother's

  1. "Three Good Giants." Recorded in the Ancient Chronicles of François Rabelais. Compiled from the French by John Dimitry, A. M. Illustrated by Gustave Doré and A. Robida. Boston, Ticknor & Co., 1887.
  2. "The Invaders" and other stories. By Count Lyof N. Tolstoi. Translated from the Russian by Nathan Haskell Dole. T. Y. Crowell & Co.