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BOOK NOTICES., Issue 7982, 10 August 1889
Doctor Rameau. By George Ohnet (trans latedby Mrs Cashel iloey). London: Chatto and Windus.
We must confess to an insular—and we think not altogether unjustifiable—prejudice against French novels as a rule. Tho French novelist appears to labor under the impression—may we say the delusion?—that in the case of young men, at any rate, to be decent is to be unnatural. Their female characters are brought upon the stage only to go throueh an irksome and inevitable process of declension, and the conscientious author would consider it an injustice to his readers to spare them one particular in describing that process. To be tempted and to fall seems the one special function for which women were made; the one problem to which our Balzacs, and Zolas, and Gautiers can address themselves with zist and approval. And to make the thing worse it is served up under the name of high art and as a conscientious protest against the basilisk influence of a certain something, denominated Philistinism, of which the nation of shopkeepers across the herring pond avo supposed to possess the monopoly. Of conrsn, M. Ohnet has not been able altogether to overcome the subtle magnetism which has such influence over his literary countrymen; but whether we owe it to tho tact of the translator or to the delicacy of tho author, all that could offend has been eliminated, and ‘Doctor Rameau’ is good, wholesome, and able work. It deals mainly with the spiritual evolution —if we may be allowed the term —of Doctor Rameau. He is an infidel. “Peoples,” he says, “have passed away, religions have succeeded religions, the gods have changed, and heaven has remained empty.He marries a young girl, who is bound t j him by ties of gratitude, but whose temperament is incompatible with his own, and between whom and himself an effectual barrier of coldness and reserve finally intervenes. A farther element of discord exists in the person of a young painter named Munzel. The power of tho author is, perhaps, best exemplified in the deathbed scene, where his cold philosophy is met by the religious enthusiasm and terror of Conehita a scene which contains the very essence of the dramatic, and told with an unaffected force and directness which reflects credit bovh upon author and translator. One of the most eloquent passages in the book is that describing the overthrow of Rameau’s materialism. “ Rameau was carried away anew to the heavens, and he no longer wished to come down from them. He felt within himself an enthusiasm hitherto unknown and a wondrous gladness. All his former convictions he condemned as false; all his doctrines now seemed to him vain. Around him he beheld only sterile wastes and dusty ruins. Absolute certainty of the existence of a superior being, the principle of all greatness, all pity, and all love, came to him; and with a cry of ineffable happiness he confessed his blindness and opened his eyes to the new light.”
Mark Anderson: A Tale of Station Life in New Zealand. By William Langton. Wilkie and Co. A glance at the list of contents is sufficient to show that the author has culled from his experience a variety of incidents illustrative of the general routine of station life —a phase of existence of which the generality of the inhabitants of towns have but imperfect notions. The style in which the book is written is easy, clear, and graphic, free from long, prosy word paintings, with which many novels are loaded, and which very frequently detract from rather than add to the interest of a story. The book is printed in an excellent type, and enclosed in a neat ornamental cover. It should have an excellent sale.
BOOK NOTICES., Issue 7982, 10 August 1889
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