as she passed to her place leant over to pay her compliments. The courtyard was full of carriages, good- byes were sounding from the windows, and the music-master bowed as he passed with his violin case under his arm. How far off it all seemed!

One might multiply passages of this sort almost indefinitely, but one more extract must suffice. For my own part I do not know where to find a greater masterpiece of ironical contrast than the following pair of pictures. The wife, in the hey-day of her passion for Rodolphe, has recovered all, and more than all, her spirit and good looks; she already dreams of an elopement and of the stock scenery and joys of her novels and her books of beauty. The husband dreams too—of a happy future, when his daughter shall have her mother’s charms:

When in the middle of the night he returned from a visit to his patients, he did not dare to wake her. The shade of the night-light threw a circular flicker on the ceiling, and the closed curtains of the little cradle looked like a white tent in the shadow by the side of the bed. Charles gazed at both, and listened to the light breathing of the child. She would soon grow big; every change of the seasons would bring a change in her. He saw her in fancy coming home from school at evening, smiling, with her sleeves stained with ink and her basket on her arm. She would have to go to boarding-school, and that would be expensive. How should they manage? Then he began to plan. He would take a little farm in the neighbourhood, and manage it himself, visiting it on the way to visit his patients. He would save the proceeds and lay them up in the savings-bank. Then he would invest the sum, no matter how. Besides, his practice would increase. It must, for he had made up his mind that Bertha should be well brought up, that she should be clever, that she should play on the piano. How pretty she would be in fifteen or sixteen years, when she would wear straw bonnets like her mother’s in summer, and they would be taken for a pair of sisters! He fancied her working in the evening by their side under the lamplight, embroidering slippers, managing the house, and filling it with her gracious ways and her cheerfulness. Then they would take care to settle her well; they would find some honest fellow with a good livelihood; they would make her happy for ever.

Madame Bovary’s dreams are somewhat different:

Behind four horses at full speed she had been travelling for a week to some new country, never to return. From the mountain brow they saw some splendid city with domes, ships, bridges, forests of orange- trees, and cathedrals of white marble, with storks’ nests in their slender pinnacles. Bells sounded, mules whinnied, the guitars played, and the fountains plashed, while their spray as it floated cooled piles of fruit heaped pyramid-wise at the foot of smiling statues. Then one day they came to a fishing-village, whose brown nets were drying on the shore beside the huts. There they would stay and live in a low house with flat roof, shaded by a palm-tree, at the bottom of a gulf on the edge of the sea. They would sail in gondolas, swing in hammocks: their life should be as soft and as easy as their silken garments, as passionate and starry as the nights at which they would gaze.

The contrast between these aspirations in only less striking than the contrast of the actual to-morrows which light both these fools on their way to dusty death. For the domestic happiness which Bovary forecasts, come shame, ruin, and misery; for the dissolving-view and opera-scenery delights which Emma promises herself, come cheap debauchery, insult, persecution, cowardly desertion, hideous suffering. There is no fault in the composition of the picture; every line tells, every line would be missed if it were away. Perhaps there is some unnecessary exaggeration in the loathsomeness, if not in the horror, of the death- bed. Lamartine, who was a sentimental person, is said to have objected to this death-bed because it seemed to him that, heavy as were Emma’s crimes, her punishment was heavier still. I do not agree with this, and I do not miss or question the powerful relief which the details give when one remembers the sybaritic tastes and the horror of the disagreeable which characterised the victim. But I am not sure—falling in to this extent with the tract theory—that M. Flaubert was not reprehensibly influenced in this particular by a desire to point a moral; and if this be the case it is certainly a painful instance of a lapse into the heresy of instruction on the part of a faithful servant of art.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.