صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

NODIER'S FANTASTICISM

BY MAXIMILIAN J. RUDWIN

RENCH Romanticism is indebted to its schoolmaster for its

around Charles Nodier (1780-1844) Sunday evenings in his salon at the Arsenal (1824-7) to carry out under his leadership the literary revolution called Romanticism followed their host to his holding in the country of fantasy. This writer fathered the Fantastic in French fiction. Nodier was a fanatic fantaisiste. He was obsessed with the phantasmagoric world. Reality was to him, as to Hoffmann, but a pretext for the flight of his imagination. This cultivated and learned man of letters, this editor and librarian, this bibliographer and lexicographer, this grammarian and historian, this botanist and entomologist, this traveler and man of affairs lived in a world of dreams. Nodier had a very complex character. He was at once sceptical and superstitious, heretic and mystic, revolutionary and royalist. This investigator and innovator felt an affinity for the frantic and fantastic. He had an infatuation for the accidental and exceptional, for the fabulous and monstrous, for the mysterious and miraculous. Our writer was passionately fond of fairy-tales and ghost stories, of Eastern legends and Western myths. As a boy he read fantastic stories with such relish that he was willing, as he tells us himself, to give ten years of his life for the Fantastic.

Nodier's first novel, le Peintre de Saltsbourg (1803), already showed its author's preoccupation with the supernatural and suprasensual. His introduction to Taylor's collection of prints, les Voyages pittoresques et romantiques dans l'ancienne France (1820ff.), expressed the enthusiasm for national antiquities to which Nodier gradually rose. This marked the beginning of our writer's patriotic piety for the historic past of his country. His patriotism found a very beautiful expression in his story, la Neuvaine de la chandeleur (1839). Nodier may with right be considered the pioneer of French folk-lorists. He was an untiring collector of medieval legends and popular beliefs. Nodier may be credited, together with Chateaubriand, with the restoration of medievalism in modern arts and letters. His essay, Du fantastic en littérature (1830), is an apotheosis of the Middle Ages, which he calls the Golden Age of the Fantastic.

1 Cf. M. Schenk, la part de Charles Nodier dans la formation des idées romantiques de V. Hugo jusqu'à la Préface de Cromwell (1914), p. 104.

2 Cf. Michel Salomon, Charles Nodier et le groupe romantique d'après des documents inédits (1908), p. 276.

In this essay, our writer sketches the progress of the Fantastic through the ages. According to his point of view, it is the fantastic element which has been at all times the highest inspiration of the poet. Nodier fully realizes the difficulty of restoring this element in the literature of a period which has long ago abandoned its belief in the Supernatural. As a necessary condition for the resurrection of the Fantastic in the literature of his sceptical contemporaries, he therefore demands a suspension of disbelief on the part of both the writer and the reader. In order to obtain the reader's momentary suspension of incredulity, the writer must tell his story in such a way as not to arouse any doubt as to his own belief in its truth.

Nodier was naïf enough to think that he could reawaken in modern times the medieval faith in the marvellous and miraculous. Nevertheless, this merveilleux naïf was a step further than Chateaubriand's merveilleux chrétien toward the resurrection of the Supernatural in modern arts and letters. In contrast to Chateaubriand, our writer fully understood that the Supernatural was not merely material for stylistic embellishment. The aim of the supernatural element in art was to call forth in the reader that sort of emotion which could not be imparted by the world of realities.

Nodier's fantasticism may be defined as le merveilleux germanique et celtique. It comprises the lives of the saints, medieval traditions, popular superstitions, Germanic myths and Celtic legends. It embraces all the inhabitants of the extra-human realm: angels and saints, demons and ghosts, dragons and dwarfs, fairies and elves, sylphs and salamanders, goblins and griffins, vampires and valkyrs. Nodier himself, with his kind heart, delighted mostly in elfland and fairyland. Our author loved especially to tell stories of benevolent spirits but his appeal to the popular belief in angels and saints could easily be extended to the malevolent spirits. This is just what has happened, and diabolism has become an integral part of Nodier's fantasticism. As a matter of fact, the temptations of the devils surpass in number the interventions of the saints. Diabolical legends will be found even in the works of Nodier himself. A few of his stories deal with apparitions, sorcerers and devils.

Nodier's Tablettes romantiques (1823) contain the legend of Mont Saint-Michel. This mountain on the Norman coast is the eternal monument to the victorious leader of the hosts of Heaven in the war against the rebel angel. In his Légendes populaires de la France, collected and published in 1842, our writer included the legend, “le Château de Robert le Diable.” 3 Now Robert the Devil, , the son of a duke and duchess of Normandy, was born, according to the confession of his mother, in answer to prayers addressed to the Devil. In another version of the story, the devil himself was Robert's father. However, when Robert learned of his diabolical descent, he turned from his father to God. During his courageous defense of Rome against the besieging Saracens, an angel bestowed upon our penitent celestial weapons with which he was given power to rout his enemies. Richard sans Peur, about whom this book also contains a legend, was another son of Satan. He, too, joined the cause of the good God upon learning of his infernal origin.

Nodier was among the contributors to le Tiroir du Diable (c. 1842) and le Diable à Paris (1845-6), collections of tableaux parisi

Our writer is also credited with the story, le Violon du Diable (1849), but its authorship is very doubtful. His Infernalia (1822) is wholly a diabolical book, as the title well implies. It contains anecdotes, brief novels, novelettes and short stories on ghosts, specters, demons and vampires.*

Nodier repeatedly occupied himself with vampirism. The belief that a departed spirit returns to earth to feed on the blood of the living is very current among the Slavonic peoples. The word "vampire" itself is of Russian origin. In 1820 Nodier published a novel,

ennes.

3 The story first appeared in la Foudre for the year 1821. On the legend of Robert the Devil see Edelstand Du Méril, “De lalégende de Robert-le-Diable,” in Revue contemporaine, t. XIV (1854), pp. 25-61 (also in Etudes sur quelques points d'archéologie et d'histoire littéraire, Paris, 1862); Karl Borinski, "Eine ältere deutsche Bearbeitung von Robert le Diable,” in Germania, Bd. XXXVII (1892) and “Zur Legende von Robert dem Teufel,” in Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenschaft, Bd. XIX (1899), S. 77-87; E. Beneze, Orendel, Wilhelm von Orense und Robert der Teufel, Halle, 1897; H. Tardel, Die Sage von Robert der Teufel in neueren deutschen Dichtungen und in Meyerbeers Oper., Berlin, 1900.

4 Nodier's authorship of this book is very doubtful. It is not listed in the bibliography of this writer, as it appears in the Bulletin du Bibliophile for 1844, pp. 809-29. Infernalia has not been within the reach of the present writer.

5 On vampirism the reader is referred to the following books: Wilhelm Mannhardt, “Ueber Vampirism,” Zeitschrift für deutsche Mythologie, Bd. IV (1857); Dudley Wright, Vampires and Vampirism, London, 1914; Stefan Hoch, Die Vampyrensagen und ihre Verwertung in deutscher Literaturgeschichte, Berlin, 1900.

Lord Ruthwen, ou les Vampires, and a melodrama, le Vampire, which is an adaptation of the novel.“

Vampirism also forms the subject of Smarra, ou les démons de la nuit, published the following year, the most admired and the most characteristic of Nodier's stories. This tale of Thessalonian superstition, written in the manner of the sorceries and diableries of the Golden Ass of Apuleius, swarms with demons of all sorts. The night, according to the belief of the early Christian poets, is full of demons. Smarra, a ghoul, who drinks men's blood, is the familiar spirit of a witch, who delights in filching men's hearts. On their nocturnal revels, the evil spirit and his mistress are accompanied by a thousand demons of the night: “stunted women with a drunken look in their eyes; red and violet serpents with fire-spitting mouths; lizards, who, from out of a lake of mud and blood show faces similar to those of living human beings; heads recently detached from the trunk by the soldier's axe but fixing their eyes upon me and running away skipping on reptilian feet.”

Nodier aimed at a reconciliation of Classicism with Romanticism in Smarra, as may be seen from the famous verse by Chénier, which our writer placed as a motto at the head of the story. He also wished to pour new wine in old bottles. But in this book a new influence is already making itself felt. Nodier has now fallen under the fatal fascination of Germany. In his essay, Du fantastic en littérature, our writer hails Germany as the last retreat of the fantastic element in modern times. "Germany,” he asserts, "is richer in this form of creations than any other country in the world.” It is in his opinion "the favorite domain of the Fantastic.” Nodier is chiefly responsible for the advent of Germanism in French Romanticism.” He acquired

& Nodier's authorship of the novel, which is an adaptation of Byron's story, is doubtful. The son of our author protested to the publisher for putting his father's name on the title-page and maintained that his father had brought out the novel without writing it.

? For a discussion of the German influence on French Romanticism, cf. E. Falconet, "De l'influence de la littérature allemande sur la littérature française,” Revue du Midi, t. VI (1834); H. Leuthold, “Einfluss der deutschen Literatur auf die neuere französische Lyrik,” Süddeutsche Zeitung of 14-15 October, 1859; J. Breitinger, Die Vermittler des deutschen Geistes in Frankreich, Zürich, 1876; Stephan Born, Die romantische Schule in Deutschland und in Frankreich, Heidelberg, 1879 (= Sammlung von Vorträgen, II, 4, S. 97-124); O. Weddigen, Geischichte der Einwirkungen der deutschen Literatur auf die Literaturen der übrigen europäischen Kulturvölker, Leipzig, 1882; Raoul Rosières, "la littérature allemande en France de 1750 à 1880," Revue politique et littéraire, 3 série, 3e année (1883), No. 11, pp. 328-34 (also in Recherches sur la poésie contemporaine, Paris, 1896); Th. Süpfle, Geschichte des deutschen Kultureinflusses auf Frankreich, Gotta, 1886-90; F. Meissner, Der Einfluss des deutschen Geistes auf die französische Literatur des 19 Jahrhunderts bis 1870, Leipzig, 1893; Virgile Rossel, Histoire des relations littéraires entre la France et

his admiration for Germany through his personal contact with Mme. de Staël. German folk-lore and legend appealed strongly to our writer's fantastic spirit. Fantastic supernaturalism was the main characteristic of Romanticism in Germany; and it is from this country that it was imported into France. But it did not long remain a foreign importation. We must always bear in mind that whatever was introduced in France from abroad during the Romantic period received the national imprint of that country.

Nodier was especially attracted to a kindred spirit among the Romantic writers of Germany, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (1776-1822). Our writer was a fervent admirer of this genial German author whom he resembled in his expression of fantastic revery, psychologic mystery, and eery enchantment. Hoffmann, more than any other German author, had fervent followers and devoted disciples in France. His influence on French Romanticism far exceeded even that of Goethe. Hoffmann had a special attraction for the French Romantics. He obtained the admiration of such men as Balzac, Gautier, Nerval and Musset. His stories were repeatedly rendered into French during the second quarter of the past century and greatly affected the fiction of that period. It is no exaggeration to say that Hoffmann directed French Romanticism during the thirties. To get an idea of the effects produced by this German l'Allemagne, Paris, 1897 ; Joseph Texte, “Influence allemande dans le romantisme français," Revue des deux mondes, t. CCCLVI (1897), pp. 607-33 (also in Etudes de littérature européenne, Paris, 1898) and “les Origines de l'influence allemande dans la littérature française du XIXe siècle," in Revue de l'histoire littéraire de France, t. V (1898), pp. 1-53; Marcellin Pradels, le Romantisme français et le romantisme allemand, Biarritz, 1907; Auguste Dupouy, France et Allemagne, Paris, 1913; L. Reynaud, l'Influence allemande en France au XVIIIe et au XIXe siècle, Paris, 1922.

8 Translations of Hoffmann appeared in France by Delatouche (1823), Caben (1829), Loève-Veimars (1829-37), Toussenel (1830), Egmont (1834), Christian (1842), Marmier (1843), Champfleury (1856), and La Bedollière (1861). A complete list of French translations of Hoffmann's tales will be found in Antoine Laporte's Bibliographie contemporaine, t. VII (1890).

8 An excellent study on Hoffmann's influence in France has been written by Marcel Breuillac, "Hoffmann en France. Etude de littérature comparée,” in Revue d'histoire littéraire de la France, t. XIII (1906), pp. 427-57 and t. XIV (1907), pp. 74-105. See also Gustave Thurau, "E. T. A. Hoffmann's Erzäblungen in Frankreich," in Festschrift zum 70. Geburtstage Oskar Schades (Königsberg, 1896) and “Ein deutscher Fantastiker in Frankreich” in Europa for the year 1874, S. 522-3. J. H. Retinger, in his Paris dissertation, le Conte phantastique dans le Romantisme (1908), also stresses Hoffmann's influence on the French Romantic School. But in influencing the literature of France, Hoffmann was but repaying his debt to that country. He himself owed much to Jacques Cazotte's le Diable amoureux (1772); cf. Georg Ellinger, E. Th. A. Hoffmann (1894), p. 36; Louis P. Betz, Studien z. vgl. Literaturgeschichte d. neueren Zeit (1902), S. 38; Revue d'histoire litt. de la France, t. XIII (1906), P. 451 ; Dupouy, France et Allemagne (1913), p. 101, H. Matthey, Essai sur le merveilleux dans la littérature française (1915), p. 245 note. On the Super

« السابقةمتابعة »