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These two young people are two types — the former of
the idle, sly, and vicious ne'er-do-well, the latter of all
that is most industrious, high-minded and decently
ambitious. But Henriette is really the illegitimate
daughter of the proprietor of the works, M. Lemarie,
and his son Victor is attracted, he knows not why, by
a fraternal instinct, to the admirable Henriette. She
is loved by a countryman, the tall and handsome
Etienne, reserved and silent. The works in Nantes
are burned down, by the spite of Antoine, who has
turned anarchist. Lemarie, the selfish capitalist, is
killed by a stroke of apoplexy on hearing the news. His
widow, a woman of deep religion, gives the rest of her
life to good works, and is aided in her distributions by
Henriette, who finds so much to do for others, in the
accumulation of her labours for their welfare, that her
own happiness can find no place, and the silent Etienne
goes back to his country home in his barge. Dc Tonic
son Ante is a well-constructed book, full of noble thoughts ;
and the sale of some twenty large editions proves that it
has appealed with success to a wide public in France.
But we are accustomed in England, the home of sensi-
bihty, to guard, with humour and with a fear of the
absurd, against being swept away on the full tide of senti-

276 French Profiles

ment, and perhaps this sort of subject is better treated
by a Teutonic than by a Latin mind. At all events,
De Toide s oj^Ajne, the mo'^^- FngUsh of M. Ba zin^ novels,
is likely to be the one least appreciated in England.
A y ei x charac teristic sp ecimen of M. Bazin's deliberate

rpj prtinn of all th p rnnvpntjrma1_^]Trre^wi£h=w^Ft^ the

French love to heighten the flavou£^)f_thein-fiGtk>n, is
found in the novel called Madame Corentine, a sort of
hymn to the glory of devoted and unruffled matrimony.
This tale opens in the island of Jersey, where Madame
Corentine L'Hereec is discovered keeping a bric-a-brac
shop in St. Heliers, in company with her thirteen-year-
old daughter, Simone. Madame L'Hereec is living
separated from her husband, but M. Bazin would not
be true to his parti pris if he even suggested that there
had been any impropriety of moral conduct on either
side. On the contrary, husband and wife are excellent
alike, only, unhappily, there has been a fatal incom-
patibility of temper, exacerbated by the husband's
vixen mother. Corentine was a charming girl of Perros
in Brittany ; M. L'Hereec, a citizen of the neighbouring
town of Lannion. Now he remains in Lannion, and she
has taken refuge in Jersey ; no communication passes
between them. But the child Simone longs to see her
father, and she sends him a written word by a Breton
sailor. Old Capt. Guen, Corentine's widowed father,
writes to beg her to come to Perros, where her younger
sister, Marie Anne, has married the skipper of a fishing-
vessel. Pressed by Simone, the mother consents to go,
although dreading the approach to her husband. She
arrives to find her sister's husband, vSullian, drowned at
sea, and the father mourns over two daughters, one of
whom is a widow and the other separated from her man.
But Sullian comes back to life, and through the instru-

M. Rene Ba^in


mentality of little Simone, the L'Hercccs are brought
together, even the wicked old mother-in-law getting her
fangs successively drawn. The curtain falls on a scene
of perfect happiness, a general " Bless ye, my children "
of melodrama.

There is a great deal of charming description in this
book, both the Jersey and the Lannion and Perros
scenes being painted in delightful colours. A great part
of the novel is occupied with the pathos of the harvest
of the sea, the agony of Breton women who lose their
husbands, brothers and sons in the fisheries. Here
M. Bazin comes into direct competition with a greater
magician, with Pierre Loti in his exquisite and famous
Pecheur d'Islande. This is a comparison which is in-
evitably made, and it is one which the younger novelist,
with all his merits, is not strong enough to sustain. On
the other hand, the central subject of the novel, the
development of character in the frivolous and artless
but essentially good-hearted Corentine, is very good,
and Simone is one of the best of M. Bazin's favourite
" girhsh shapes that slip the bud in lines of unspoiled
symmetry." It is not possible for me to dwell here on
Les Noellet, a long novel about provincial society in the
Angevin district of the Vendee, nor on Humble Amour,
a series of six short stories, all (except Les Trois Pcines
d'lin Rossignol, a fantastic dream of Naples) dealing with
Breton life, because I must push on to a consideration
of a much more important work.

The most successful, and I think the best, of M. Rene
Bazin's books, is the latest. When La Terre qui Meurt
was published in 1899, there were not a few critics who
said that here at last was a really great novel. There
is no doubt, at all events, that the novelist has found
a subject worthy of the highest talent. That subject


French Profiles

briefly is the draining of the village by the city. He
takes, in La Terre qui Meurt, the agricultural class, and
shows how the towns, with their offices, cafes, railway
stations and shops, are tempting it away from the
farms, and how, under the pressure of imported produce,
the land itself, the ancient, free prerogative of France,
the inalienable and faithful soil, is d3'ing of a slow disease.
To illustrate this heroic and melancholy theme, M. Bazin
takes the history of a farm in that flat district occupying
the north-west of the department of the Vendee, between
the sandy shore of the Atlantic and the low hills of the
Bocage, which is called Le Marais. This is a curious
fragment of France, traversed by canals, a little Holland
in its endless horizons, broken up by marshes and pools,
burned hard in summer, floated over by icy fogs in
winter, a country which, from time immemorial, has
been proud of its great farms, and where the traditions
of the soil have been more conservative than anywhere
else. Of this tract of land, the famous ]\Iarais Vendcen,
with its occasional hill-town looking out from a chalky
island over a wild sea of corn and vines and dwarf
orchards to the veritable ocean far away in the west,
M, Bazin gives an enchanting picture. It may be
amusing to note that his landscape is as exact as a
guide-book, and that Sallertaine, Challans, St. Gilles,
and the rest are all real places. If the reader should
ever take the sea-baths at Sables d'Olonne, he may
drive northward and visit for himself " la terre qui
meurt " in all its melancholy beauty.

The scene of the novel is an ancient farm, called La
Fromentiere (even this, by the way, is almost a real
name, since it is the channel of Fromentine which
divides all this rich marsh-land from the populous island
of Noirmoutiers). This farmstead and the fields around

M. Rene Bazin 279

it have belonged from time immemorial to the family
of Lumineau. Close by there is a chateau, which has
always been in the possession of one noble family, that
of the Marquis de la Fromentiere. The aristocrats at
the castle have preserved a sort of feudal relation to
the farmers, as they to the labourers, the democratisation
of society in France having but faintly extended to these
outlying provinces. But hard times have come. All
these people live on the land, and the land can no longer
support them. The land cannot adapt itself to new
methods, new traditions ; it is the most unaltering thing
in the world, and when pressure comes from without
and from within, demanding new ideas, exciting new
ambitions, the land can neither resist nor change, it
can only die.

Consequently, when La Terre qui Meurt opens, the
Marquis and his family have long ceased to inhabit their
chateau. They have passed away to Paris, out of sight
of the peasants who respected and loved them, leaving
the park untended and the house empty. Toussaint
Lumineau, the farmer, who owns La Fromentiere, is a
splendid specimen of the old, heroic type of French
farmer, a man patriarchal in appearance, having in his
blood, scarcely altered by the passage of time, the pre-
judices, the faiths, and the persistencies of his ancient
race. No one of his progenitors has ever dreamed of
leaving the land. The sons have cultivated it by the
side of the fathers; the daughters have married into
the families of neighbouring farms, and have borne sons
and daughters for the eternal service of the soil. The
land was strong enough and rich enough; it could
support them all. But now the virtue has passed out
of the land. It is being killed by trains from Russia
and by ships from America ; the phylloxera has smitten

28o French Profiles

its vineyards, the shifting of markets has disturbed the
easy distribution of its products. And the land never
adapts itself to circumstances, never takes a new lease
of life, never " turns over a new life." If you trifle
with its ancient, immutable conditions, there is but one
thing that the land can do — it can die.

The whole of La Terre qui Menrt shows how, without
violence or agony, this sad condition proceeds at La
Fromentiere. Within the memory of Toussaint Lumi-
neau the farm has been prosperous and wealthy. With
a wife of the old, capable class, with three strong sons
and two wholesome daughters, all went well in the
household. But, gradually, one by one, the props are
removed, and the roof of his house rests more and
more heavily on the old man's own obstinate persistence.
W^hat will happen when that, too, is removed ? For
the eldest son, a Hercules, has been lamed for life by
a waggon which passed over his legs; the second son
and the elder daughter, bored to extinction by the farm
life, steal away, the one to a wretched post at a railway
station, the other to be servant in a small restaurant,
both infinitely preferring the mean life in a country
town to the splendid sohtude of the ancestral home-
stead. Toussaint is left with his third son, Andre, a
first-rate farmer, and with his younger daughter,
Rousille. In each of these the genuine love of the soil

But Andre has been a soldier in Africa, and has tasted
of the sweetness of the world. He pines for society and
a richer earth, more sunlight and a wider chance ; and,
at length, with a breaking heart, not daring to confide
in his proud old father, he, too, steals away, not to
abandon the tillage of the earth, but to practise it on a
far broader scale in the fertile plains of the Argentine.

M. Rene Bazin 281

The eldest son, the cripple, dies, and the old Toussaint
is left, abandoned by all save his younger daughter, in
whom the heroic virtue of the soil revives, and who
becomes mistress of the farm and the hope of the future.
And happiness comes to her, for Jean Nesmy, the
labourer from the Bocage, whom her father has despised,
but whom she has always loved, contrives to marry
Rousille at the end of the story. But the Marquis is by
this time completely ruined, and the estates are presently
to be sold. The farms, which have been in his famil}'
for centuries, will pass into other hands. What will be
the result of this upon the life at La Fromentiere ? That
remains to be seen; that will be experienced, with all
else that an economic revolution brings in its wake, by
the children of Rousille.

A field in which M. Rene Bazin has been fertile almost
from the first has been the publication in the Debats
and afterwards in book-form, of short, picturesque studies
of foreign landscape, manners and accomplishment.
He began with A I'Aventure, a volume of sketches of
modern Italian life, which he expanded a few years later
in Les Italiens d'Aujourd'hui. Perhaps the best of all
these volumes is that called Sicile, a record of a tour
along the shores of the Mediterranean, to Malta, through
the length and breadth of Sicily, northward along
Calabria and so to Naples. In no book of M. Bazin's
are his lucid, cheerful philosophy and his power of eager
observation more eminently illustrated than in Sicile.
A tour which he made in Spain during the months of
September and October, 1894, was recorded in a volume
entitled Terre d'Espagne. Of late he has expended tbe
same qualities of sight and style on the country parts
of France, the western portion of which he knows with
the closest intimacy. He has collected these impres-

282 French Profiles

sions — sketches, short tales, imaginary conversations —
in two volumes, En Province, 1896, and Croquis de France,
1899. In 1898 he accompanied, or rather pursued, the
Emperor of Germany on his famous journey to Jerusalem,
and we have the result in Croquis d'Orient. In short,
M. Bazin, who has undertaken all these excursions in the
interests of the great newspaper with which he is identi-
fied, is at the present moment one of the most active
literary travellers in France, and his records have
exactly the same discreet, safe and conciliatory qualities
which mark his novels. Wherever M. Bazin is, and
whatever he writes, hp i^ aKvayg; f TTnnpnfh,; sage.

We return to the point from which we started. What-
ever honours the future may have in store for the author
of La Terre qui Meurt, it is not to be believed that he
will ever develop into an author dangerous to morals.
His stories and sketches might have been read, had
chronology permitted, by Mrs. Barbauld to Miss Hannah
More. Mrs. Chapone, so difficult to satisfy, would have
rejoiced to see them in the hands of those cloistered
virgins, her long-suffering daughters. And there is
not, to my knowledge, one other contemporary French
author of the imagination who could endure that
stringent test. M. Bazin's novels appeal to persons
of a distinctly valetudinarian moral digestion. With
all this, they are not dull, or tiresome, or priggish. Tliey
p reach no sermon, except a broad and -jaLholesome amia-
Qility^Ljhey are possessed by no provoking propaganda
of virtue. Simply, M. Bazin sees the beauty of domestic
life in France, is fascinated by the charm of the national
gaiety and courtesy, and does not attempt to look below
the surface.

We may find something to praise, as well as perhaps
something to smile at, in this cjiasle-^and surprising

M. Rene Bazin 283

oplimisin. In a very old-fashioned book, that nobody
reads now, Alfred de_Musset's Confession d'un Enj ant^
duSuclej_J.)^&r& is a phrase which curiously prefigures
the ordinary French novehst of to-day " Y9Yez,''
says the hero of that work, " voyez comme ils parle nt
de tout : to ujours l esjtermpq les plus crus. les plus
grossiersM es plus abjec ts ; ceux-la seulement leu r
paraissent vrais ; tou^ le reste n'e st que pa rade, con^
vention et prejuges. Qu'ils racontent une anecdote,
qu'ils rendent compte de ce qu'ils ont cprouve,— tou-
jours le mot sale et physique, toujours la lettre, tou-
jours la mort." What an exact prediction; and it is
to the honour of M. Bazin jt hat all the faults of judgment
and proportion which are here so vigorously stigmatised
are avoided by his pu re and comf ortable talent.




Les Amities Fran(;aises

It was in 1883 that M. Maurice Barres first attracted
attention with that curious httle volume, Taches d'Encre.
Since then he has taken as many forms as Proteus; he
has been a Hon, and then a snake, and then a raging
fire. He has gone down into the arena of politics, and
has fought with beasts at Ephesus. He made little
impression upon the beasts, and they made none on
him, so he came up again. It was once possible to
smile at M. Barres, with his Culte du Moi and his odd
dithyrambics. It is not only the bewildered Philistine
who does not always know what this truculent and yet
insinuating prophet is precisely saying. But, at the worst,
he is saying something. M. Maurice Barres is a Voice, and
one which it is impossible to set aside. It moans like the
wind, and thunders like the sea, and warbles like a
thrush, but in the intensest of its contradictions, of its
wilful inconsistencies, it is always essentially the same.
It would be a mistake to judge M. Barres as an artist;
he is an oratorical philosopher, and one whose influence
on young men in France has been very great and is grow-
ing. There have been sides of his talent that sprang
directly from Taine ; later on he developed a curious
likeness to Matthew Arnold. But, unless one makes a
monstrous mistake, M. Barres is an unusually clear
instance of a genius in process of growth, and one that
will soon remind the dullest of us of nobody but himself.


288 French Profiles

Portions of Les Amities Frangaises are slightly obscure,
but the darkest of them is the title-page. " French
Friendships " is an odd ticket for a book in which what
we commonly call " friendship " is not once mentioned.
M. Barres — who blazoned that which most of us would
have timidly called " Notes of a Holiday Tour in Spain "
as Du Sang, de la Volupte et de la Mort — has the courage
of Ruskin in his titles. The sub-title of the work before
us is " Notes on how a little Lorrain may acquire those
feelings which give value to life." We begin to see that
we have to do with a link in the author's chain of books
on the development of natural energy, and in reality
we must go back to a very early work of his, which his
admirers still remember, Un Homme Libre, to find an
analogy to Les Amities Frangaises. We are here not
dealing with the friendship of Frenchman with French-
man, horizontally, but with what may, perpendicularly,
tend to unite in sympathy successive generations of the
sons of France. The volume is a treatise on education.
The author's own little son, Philippe, is six years old,
and it is time that he should be trained in the noble,
ardent, and chivalrous tradition of his country. Children
are little Davids who dance and sing before the Ark
before they know why the Ark is venerable. M. Barres
seeks to grasp this tendency, to mould it into a positive
enchantment, and to make it the central impulse of a
whole scheme of primary education.

Like De Quincey, whom he sometimes resembles as a
writer to an extraordinary degree, M. Maurice Barres
suffers from a certain ignorance of the source of his own
charm. His weakness is to parade strong thoughts, to be
for ever straining after energy. His strength lies in his
delicious music, in the originality and tenderness of his
ideas, in the ardour and beauty of his sensibility. In

M. Maurice Carres 289

some of his books the two elements clash in a sort of
moral chaos — exciting enough to the reader, but vain
and unsatisfactory ; as, for example, in the puerile and
charming book called Lc J or din de Berenice (1891). He
always, however, writes to express a set of ideas, and
these it is generally easy to follow, whether he chooses
to accompany them on the cymbals or on the soft re-
corder. In Les Amities Frangaises the latter prevails;
but there are very harsh notes of the former. M. Barres
forgets nothing and forgives nothing. As he walks with
Philippe over the battle-fields of Lorraine the black blood
stirs his pulses. It is not for us foreigners to judge a
sentiment so natural, yet we may be forgiven for finding
it painful. M. Barres's glowing expressions of patriotism
would seem more comfortable, to say the least, if they
were not presented to us as the expression of so bitter a
sentiment of necessity.

M. Maurice Barres never forgets that he is a Lorrain,
born in the heart of the province which was torn in half
in 1870. From his earliest years the little Philippe
must walk in the tradition of what the soil of Lorraine
means to French boys and men. He is taken up to the
heights of Vaudcmont and made to listen to the silence
which envelops his ancestors. He is taken to Domrcmy
and told about the maiden who fought for France nearly
five hundred years ago. He is taken to Niederbronn,
where a mass is being said for those who fell in the
battle of Froschweiler. In this way he is trained to
adopt a solemn and enthusiastic reverence for hereditary
emotions, his ductile intelligence being ceaselessly
occupied in contemplating the past history of his
country in hymnis et canticis. So that we begin to see
that by " amities " the author means traditional affini-
ties, not with living persons mainly, but with the soil,

290 French Profiles

with the dust in heroic tombs, with supernatural legend,
with the absorbing glory of past time. A touch of
autobiography, which escapes the author, sums up, as
well as a long treatise could, his personal position : —

" Cela m'advint ... a regarder notre Lorraine ou
j'eus mon enfance, 011 reposent mes tombeaux, ou je
voudrais par dela ma mort ennoblir des ames un peu
serves. Ailleurs, je suis un etranger qui dit avec in-
certitude quelque strophe fragmentaire, mais, au pays
de la Moselle, je me connais comme un geste du terroir,
comme un instant de son eternite, comme I'un des
secrets que notre race, a chaque saison, laisse emerger
en fleur, et si j'eprouve assez d'amour, c'est moi qui
deviendrai son coeur. Viens done, Philippe, sur la vie,
comme nous avons fait tous. Les plus sures amities
guident tes pas et sur tes yeux mettent d'abord leurs
douces mains."

We must all wish that Philippe may grow up to be
everything that his ingenious father desires him to be.
Some of us, alas ! cannot hope to be present at the
blossoming of this educational aloe. But M. Barres
must not be disappointed if the result is not so com-
pletely and directly successful as he hopes. Gifts such
as he delights in have a provoking way of skipping a
generation, and, besides, as Alphonse Karr wittily put
it, " Dieu paie— mais il ne paie pas tous les samedis."
Philippe's grandson may become a famous general,
or his niece the mother of a great philosopher. In
any case, M. Maurice Barres will have done a gallant and
a picturesque thing in insisting upon the autochthonal
virtues of the soil of France. He sows his beautiful,
winged words, and somewhere or other they will find
their harvest. So it must appear, as I suppose, to
Frenchmen. How a book like the Amities Frangaises

M. Maurice Barres 291

may appear to us Englishmen is, I am afraid, a matter
of indifference to M. Maurice Barres. It should not be
a matter of indifference to us that it contains pages of
transcendental melody for the like of which we have to
go back to that other nationalistic utterance, the Snspiria
de Profundis of Thomas de Quincey.


Le Voyage de Sparte

The position of M. Maurice Barres continues to be
unique. Although he has not long passed his fortieth
year, it is quite certain that his influence is the most
potent now moving in the intellectual world of France.
In Paris, where the rivalries of the spirit are so keen,
and where ridicule and censure blow so incessantly upon
every bud which pushes higher than the thick hedge
of mediocrity, M. Barres has contrived to expand and
flourish, in spite of vehement blasts of criticism. There
is something in him which appeals, with an extra-
ordinary directness, to the instinct of those who are
hungry for sympathy and help. Men who are ambitious
and still young, and not quite happy, simply cannot
resist the appeal of M. Barres. Even those who are no
longer young, who have the misfortune to be a genera-
tion older than M. Barres, are subjected to the impelling
charm of his melancholy, poignant fluting. It is fifteen
years since he published Un Homme Libre, a volume
which struck one as grotesque in form, violent in expres-
sion and paradoxical in aim. Yet there was something
in this thorny book by an unknown youth, some quality
of the heart, some abrupt manifestation of intellectual
rectitude, which overbalanced, already and a hundred-
fold, anything repellent in so new a method of writing.

As M. Barres began, so has he proceeded. For many

292 French Profiles

of us, the real revelation of his genius came with Le
Jardin de Berenice, that entrancing reverie, so childish
and so profound, with its babblings of the taciturn lady
of Aigues Mortes, and her symbolic donkey, and the
ducks that betrayed their lowly birth in their lack of
the elements of courtesy. Humour, philosophy, tender-
ness, irony, all were mingled to form the obscure and
glittering web of that most curious book; but no one
who read it, if he had any perception of the heavenly
signs, could doubt that its author was a new star in the

The written work of M. Barres is abundant and com-
prehensive. He has written delicious ironic pamphlets ;

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