Page:The sleeping beauty and other fairy tales from the old French (1910).djvu/17

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Preface

style; but the style inheres neither in its language, which is loose, nor in its construction. The story, as she wrote it, tails off woefully and drags to an end in mere foolishness.

Since Perrault, who is usually accepted as the fountainhead of these charming French fairy-stories, belongs almost entirely to the seventeenth century, it may be asked why Mr. Dulac has chosen to depict his Princes and Princess in costumes of the eighteenth? Well, for my part, I hold that he has obeyed a just instinct in choosing the period when the literature he illustrates was at the acme of its vogue. But his designs, in every stroke of which the style of that period is so unerringly felt, provide his best apology.

My own share in this volume is, perhaps, less easily defended. I began by translating Perrault's tales, very nearly word for word; because to me his style has always seemed nearly perfect for its purpose; and the essence of 'style' in writing is propriety to its purpose. On the other hand the late M. Ferdinand Brunetière has said that Perrault's is 'devoid of charm,' and on this subject M. Brunetière's opinion must needs out-value mine