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blood. Yet it would be an idle bigotry to deny that his marvellous power over language, his lucidity and gaiety, his originality of approach, his palpitating and sparkling vitality, make him beyond question the most interesting of the young writers of France to-day.
At Stafford House this summer those amongst us who take the greatest interest in French thought had the advantage of listening to M. Edouard Rod, whose word, whether in criticism or fiction, always demands attention. M. Rod has just published a novel, “Le Ménage du Pasteur Naudié” (Fasquelle), which has the peculiarity of being better adapted to English readers than to French. This is a story of Protestant life to-day in La Rochelle, that decaying centre of the Reformed Church. The hero is a middle-aged pastor, a widower, poor, with a family of little children, who has the misfortune to be fallen impetuously in love with by a wealthy orphan coquette, who insists on marrying him, and who leads him a miserable life, separating him insidiously from God, from his flock, and even from his own children. In M. Rod's methods there is always something a little chilly and unimpassioned. His points of conscience, his delicate pious scruples, his horror of the flesh and of the devil, and his concentrated observation of the social effects of religious conviction—all these are scarcely intelligible to the ordinary Parisian reader, who dismisses M. Rod as “ toujours trop suisse" for his taste. '
But a public like ours, accustomed to the novels of Mre. Humphrey Ward, should have no difficulty in thoroughly appreciating the standpoint of a book like “Le Ménage du Pasteur Naudié."
The novel is in a very curious transitional state in France. The old standards of fiction seem to be disappearing; the new have not discovered their ultimate form. An extraordinary aparchy of taste prevails, and the very rare works of fiction which attract any general notice offer little indication of the trend of narrative art.
A new writer, M. Lucien Muhlfeld, has achieved a success with a painful, rather striking, not in the least original story, called “Le Mauvais Désir" (Ollendorff). The delightful Academician, M. André Theoriet, one of the prettiest writers now living, has just published a charming romance in his familiar ribbonded style, “ Dans les Roses” (Ollendorff). These are in the conservative camp; on the other hand, the young novelists outdo one another in studies either of barbaric violence or else of gross and abject egotism-revolt against civilised prejudice, and a profound clinical examination of the "Moi” being the two themes on which the variants are mostly rung. These sketchy, experimental books, which often stand scarcely within the recognised frontiers of fiction, sometimes present features of a curious intellectual subtlety, but are usually of a kind not safely to be recommended to Anglo-Saxon readers. Subjects the discussion of which in a scientific treatise is here forbidden by law, are commonly treated as matters of entertain
ment by the very latest school of young Parisian novelists. It would be narrow-minded to attribute this to inherent viciousness, but it certainly points to a danger in that furious hatred of the obvious" which is the central cult of the school. Meanwhile, the public seems to be out of sympathy with these experimentalists, and the very latest news from Paris is that a publisher, who, greatly daring, has ventured upon a popular edition of the works of Paul de Kock (Rouff), bas achieved an enormous success! Between the publications of the Mercure de France and such naïve gauloiseries as “Monsieur Dupont " lies extended the whole range of imaginative literature.
The French are often charged with being impervious to exotic influences, but, I believe, very unjustly. A large section in Paris, as, indeed, in London, thinks nothing good that is not home-made. But Tcurgenieff and Tolstoi were known in France long before they were heard of in England, and so, in later times, were D'Annunzio and Sienciewicz. To-day English readers are totally unacquainted with the extraordinary Swedish novelist, dramatist, alchemist and atheist, August Strindberg, yet in France not only has he a large following, but he exercises a positive influence. As Strindberg, if not read in Swedish, must be read in French, I mention here that two new books of his have been published in Paris this winter, “ Axel Borg” (Mercure de France), a novel, and“ Inferno ” (Mercure de France), a study in autobiography. It is useless to deny to Strindberg something like genius; he is amazingly vivid, agitating, and personal. But his mind works in tortuous and bestial paths ; he is sort of intellectual Ishmaelite, a sceptical egotist whose hand is against every institution. His trade, apart from authorship, appears to be that of a mathematician and a chemist; his foible is loathing and contempt for woman, in whom, like a mediæval monk, he sees the devil incarnate. “Axel Borg" is a striking story of an inspector of fisheries, the wisest and most disagreeable of men, who goes out to a dreary island in the Baltic and falls in love with a girl, but will not marry ber, because she cannot be induced to confees that Woman is at all points inferior to Man, At the close of the book, he goes mad. There is insanity in all Strindberg's books. “Inferno ” is simply
journal of part of the author's life, and shows him a sufferer from megalomania, and from the mania of persecution, and from the belief that people are trying to destroy him by electricity. It is a record of wretchedness and superstition and squalor told by a maniac who is a positive Lucifer of the intellect. Yet parts of this shocking book are interesting ; the author retains, even in the ruin of his brain, a marvellous grip on the attention, and the close of the narrative is almost admirable. As I write these lines another fragment of Strindberg's autobiography appears in Stockholm, "To Damascus,"
in which he seems, like Huysmans and so many others, to be finding his way through the horrors and the agitations of an outcast life to the haven of Rome. Strindberg is certainly the most remarkable creative talent started by the philosophy of Nietzsche, and this may account for his influence over a certain class of minds in France.
The historian of the future will probably see in the extraordinary condition of imaginative literature in France at the close of this century the influence of the Goncourts. It is they who have reduced all younger writers to make a blind appeal to sensation rather than to judgment; it is they who have destroyed the authority of criticism, and elected that a psychologico-literary analysis, founded on temperament, shall take its place. All the fashionable catchwords of the moment, the theory of “non-imitation,” the theory of “la personnalité stricte,” the theory of “l'égoïsme artistique,” are the bequests of Edmond de Goncourt. Flaubert was the latest of the long succession of writers by whom the traditional principles of literary art were recognised and loyally obeyed. The Goncourts admitted no authority; all dependence upon models was pronounced to be parasitical; the doors were thrown open to every species of licence. Even the secular limitations of the French language—its syntax, its prosody, the meaning and the arrangement of its words—were given over to the incursions of the barbarian. To-day we see the result of this revolutionary system of asthetics on the minds of a hundred youths, who possess all the arrogance and not one-tenth of the originality and genius which made tolerable in Edmond de Goncourt such unreasonable pretensions and such a degraded philosophy of literature.
In a casual summary of what is being read and written in Paris at this moment, it is extraordinary how little place is taken by poetry (although experimental verse of a certain unexhilarating kind abounds), how little by history or biography, how little by any of the serious branches of imaginative and philosophical literature.
For several decades past, for some generations perhaps, no such barren field has presented itself at this season of the year. It is impossible not to feel that the distracting elements at work in the domestic polity of France are rapidly paralysing all forms of serious literary produ The century, which has been one of such unexampled splendour, is going out in darkness; a few unsteady lamps, fitfully carried by hurrying hands, and these growing fewer and fewer, alone illuminate the sinister and closing gloom. And M. Ernest Legouvé, serene still in his close upon a hundred years, surveys an emptying scene which he has known filled by the Chateaubriands and the Lamartines, the Hugos and the Flauberts, the Renans and the Taines.
THE ARCH-ENEMY OF ENGLAND.
WAS permitted in your February number to describe the part
taken by the German Emperor in the development of the problem in the Far East, which arose from the German occupation of Kiao Chao. I will now place before your readers facts that call for the gravest consideration of the British public. They may, or may not, be within the knowledge of the Foreign Olice, but as Lord Salisbury is fettered in his diplomatic dealings with Germany, and in & scarcely less degree with Russia, it follows that the information of Downing Street cannot always be utilised to the full extent against either of those aggrandising Powers.
Immediately after my statement that the Triple Alliance between Germany, Russia, and France, formed tacitly in 1895 to arrest the progress of Japan, had been revived in 1897 for the purpose of lowering the position of England in China, and of establishing in various parts of that country rights superior to hers, a semi-official communication was sent round to the papers to the effect that the British Government had received very satisfactory assurances from the German Government, and that there was no longer any doubt that the interests of the two States in China were the same, and that their policies would move on common lines. It is unnecessary to raise the veil as to the exact nature and origin of that assurance. The motives inspiring it were, however, due quite as much to the desire to allay the irritation of the Emperor William at the fathoming of his plans and the discovery of his policy as to the honest belief that an Anglo-German accord should be in wisdom, and had been in fact established. The assurance, valueless in itself, although subsequently repeated in various forms, of which the alleged Anglo-German arrangement in Africa is the latest, was in opposition to the facts. The letters and verbal messages from Berlin to Windsor were of the nature of soporifics to lull suspicion, disarm indignation, and above all to prevent action, and they have succeeded, for to their influence and effect alone must be attributed the loss of the best opportunity to arrest Russia on the threshold of her design to absorb China.
The arrangement between the Emperors of Germany and Russia on the subject of Kiao Chao and Port Arthur was a simple and epochmarking convention. Russia wanted Port Arthur, Germany retained her claim to be repaid by China with a naval station for her share in the Liaotung business, and the following is a description of how the matter was arranged during the late autumn of 1897 and the ensuing winter. By the Cassini convention, and the subsequent Secret Treaty, Russia was to acquire both Port Arthur (including Talienwan) and Kiao Chao, but it came to the knowledge of the Rassian authorities that whenever they advanced to Port Arthur, Great Britain would make a very effective response with the occupation of Kiao Chao. There was only one way of averting that consequence, and that was to arrange for Kiao Chao passing into safe and friendly hands. Germany alone fulfilled the necessary conditions, and at the appropriate moment she constituted herself the "temporary” guardian of Kiao Chao, thus closing the door to that place in England's face. The exact significance of the word "temporary" in this case will presently appear.
This description of how the occurrences in the Far East last winter came to pass is now generally accepted in official circles, with, however, one extraordinary reservation. It is asserted, and perhaps assumed by favourably placed diplomatists, that Germany's action at Kiao Chao was premature, and greatly disconcerted the Russian Government ! Affectation is a weapon not excluded from the resources of diplomacy, and the personal understanding come to in the autumn of 1897, between the Emperors William and Nicholas, at St. Petersburg, was not one of those bonds that can be pigeon-holed in an official bureau. The German Emperor came to the help of the ancient ally of his house, and his action was intended to have the effect of embarrassing England, and to deprive her of the use of the most effective answer to Russia's annexation of Port Arthur. If Germany bad not secured Kiao Chao, Russia could not have absorbed the Regent's Sword peninsula, for fear lest England should secure the preferable naval station at Kiao Chao. To those who allege that Germany's action was premature and disconcerting to Russia, it must be pointed out that it was essential that it should precede any movement on the part of Russia ; nor must it be overlooked that Germany's acquisition of a naval station in the vicinity of Peking provided Russia with a plausible excuse and justification for obtaining one also.