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ger than the thing he had set out to do.

As all the world knows, the RougonMacquart books were originally announced as a library written to illustrate the author's views on the subject of heredity. So far as one can judge from the novels, Zola neither knew anything about heredity, in the sense in which the man of science understands knowledge, nor had any views about it worthy of the name of views. The only possible scientific criticism on his labors in this direction is that his premises are assumed and that his conclusions do not follow from them. Such a union as that which he starts with could not have calculable consequences; and any calculation that could be made might be defeated by some accident of environment. On the other hand, to a writer with a brain like Zola's, there must have been a great charm in the difficult task of holding the tangled thread of complication through a score or so of volumes. It was a task that called for a particular kind of talent. To the peculiar gifts of the novelist had to be added those which one ordinarily associates with the traffic director of a great railway system, or a chess player who wins thirty games simultaneously. The plan, in short, made to the man of intellect an appeal to which the man of sentiment might have been deaf.

But the great scheme was presently supplanted, in effect, if not ostensibly, by a still greater plan. The study of heredity soon led up to the study of the reaction of environment upon it; and the study of the environment came to be found the more interesting study of the two. Though the old machinery was still used, it was turned to a more ambitious purpose. The study of the fortunes of a family grew by insensible degrees to be the study of the psychological condition of contemporary France. Zola aspired to take all

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the departments of French life in turn -the life of the peasants, of the bourgeoisie, of the miners, of the financiers, of the gilded youth, and the haute cocotterie-and so to produce a library which should be the complete tableau of the social organism as he saw it through his temperament. No man ever lived who possessed the knowledge really needed for the adequate execution of such a task. Zola probably started with less of the knowledge than most people. But that was precisely where intellectual power, sustained by intellectual pride, came to his assistance. He never knew any subject quite as Mr. Barrie knows Thrums, as Mr. Kipling knows Simla, or as Dickens knew London. But he was quick at learning, and believed that anything and everything could be learnt. Those who knew could tell him, and both documents and railway trains were at his service. He got up his subjects as a barrister crams his brief, and he went down, note-book in hand, to Beauce, or the Halles Centrales, or Sedan, or the French Black Country, or wherever it might be, to study the life of the people on the spot. There was, to do him justice, no pretence of any profounder knowledge. His pilgrimages in search of local color were described in the newspapers as if they were only of less importance than presidential journeys. It was his conscientious belief that he acquired in this fashion knowledge which qualified him to speak with authority on the whole of human life. He felt that, though experience, sympathy, sentiment, and emotion might be wanting, brain-power and documents could cover all the ground.

Let it be confessed at once that Zola made brain-power cover more ground than any novelist had ever made it cover before. Without wit, without pathos, without insight into human character, without even a natural turn

for story-telling, he nevertheless always contrives to be effective.

One of the secrets of his effectiveness is unquestionably his thoroughness as a literary mechanic. There are wheels within wheels, and every wheel is in complete working order. One can picture Zola, before sitting down to write a novel, making out a list of the ingredients, just as if he were going to make a pudding. Take L'Assommoir, for example, which is one of the best, and also one of the most documenté of his books. It is based upon Le Sublime -a psychological study of the working classes of Paris by Denis Poulot. That book contains a tabular classification of the various types of Parisian working men. In the novel, each type, from the ouvrier vrai to the sublime des sublimes, is represented by a special personage. For the mise-en-scène of the story of misery and degradation documentation was not required. It was merely necessary so to arrange the story that nothing typical in the life of a working man who takes to drink should be left out. An inspired writer who set out to tell a story instead of building one would have been sure to leave out something. Unregulated imagination would never have taken him all round the sights of Paris like a Cook's tourist in a brake. Zola, on the other hand, was a deliberate and conscientious builder, determined to use all the bricks. L'Assommoir is as exhaustive as an encyclopædia. It describes everything-a wedding, a funeral, a first communion, workshops, pawnshops, lodging-houses, laundries, dancing saloons, delirium tremens in the padded room, and prostitution on the exterior boulevards. And all these facts are marshalled with infinite skill. Climax succeeds climax with a tremendous crescendo effect. There is no sympathy, no human nature; but there is the appalling impression of the march of irresistible calamity.

It is the same, or nearly the same, with all the novels. Each of them betrays the comprehensive ambition of the master-builder. La Terre is not presented as a village idyll-far from it but as the complete diorama of typical village life. Au Bonheur des dames purports to assemble all known or knowable facts about big shops; Germinal all known or knowable facts about the life of the miner and the revolt of labor; L'Argent all known or knowable facts about high finance. And there is always this crescendo effect-this piling of Pelion upon Ossaalways this eye for the impressive tableau which the reader shall be unable to forget. For Zola was a poet, as well as a generalizer, if only the poet of the faits divers. One can pick scene after scene from his books, which lingers in the memory as something approaching the tremendous. The scene in which Nana dies of confluent smallpox, in the upper chamber of the hotel, while the crowds parade the streets below with the cry of "A Berlin," and the final scene of La Bête humaine, in which the stoker and the engine-driver fight for their lives, while the train, with its load of drunken solders, shouting their ribald songs, rolls on through the darkness to destruction, are two typical examples of the tableau that Zola most rejoiced to paint.

The popular name for the result of these labors thus illumined is "realism"; but that is a misnomer. Zola was neither a realist nor a romanticist. Just as from the point of science he was a sciolist, so from the point of view of art he was a melodramatist, though no doubt the greatest melodramatist that the world has ever seen. The claim that he was a realist, or a naturalist, or an experimentalist, or whatever term be preferred, must be abandoned for two reasons.

In the first place there is a fundamental fallacy in Zola's view of human

nature. It is claimed for him by his admirers, as a proof of his sincerity and candor, that he ignored conventional illusions, tore off masks, and revealed the human beast behind them. What they forget, and what he, too, apparently forgot, is that this so-called mask which he tore off is not really a mask at all. It is an accretion-a part of the man himself. Our reticences, decencies, and hypocrisies are just as real as our animal appetites, and the homage which vice pays to virtue is itself a part of virtue. It may be perfectly true that many persons of great outward respectability have vices concerning which they do not take the world into their confidence. It does not follow that they are whited sepulchres, or that their vices are their differentiating characteristics. Very often their vices are merely a concession to imperious needs-mere episodes, unrelated, unless it be accidentally and occasionally, with the real drama of their lives. Zola, as we have seen, began life in an atmosphere in which vice was very generally the pivot on which the drama of life turned. As a man of letters he carried that atmosphere with him wherever he went. He was always looking for the primitive savage in the habiliments of the civilized man, forgetting that if the civilized man were really such a savage as he represents he would not have troubled to put on the clothes. This is not realism, but only the transparent illusion of it.

In the second place, Zola's attempts at realism are defeated by the very thoroughness of his documentation. He invented very little. For every horror, and even for every improbability, he could have given chapter and The story of the man in L'Assommoir, who, for a wager, lunched off living beetles and a dead cat, is copied almost textually from the work of M. Poulot, already referred to. The story


of the peasants in La Terre, who murdered their father to escape the expense of supporting him, and then burnt his cottage down to hide the traces of their crime, is a true story that had appeared in all the newspapers of France. One could multiply instances if it were worth while. But facts which are separately true may collectively give a false impression; and as Zola is a writer who always lets you see the machinery at work, one can point out how this has happened in one novel after another. His fallacy has always been to compress his horrors to represent them as all occurring in a single place within a short period of time.

Take Pot-Bouille. It purports to be the tableau of the lives of the petits bourgeois who dwell in flats, and it gradually transpires that all the inhabitants of the block in which the action takes place are living in a state of sexual promiscuity, varied only by coarse intrigues with each other's domestic servants.

It is quite true, of course, that there are persons among the petite bourgeoisie who, while outwardly well behaved, secretly practise the vices here depicted. Evidence to that effect turns up from time to time among the faits divers. But it is not true that all the people who thus misconduct themselves are to be found living together in the same block of flats, or that any block of flats in which such a system of surreptitious free love prevailed would be in any way typical of flat-life in Paris. The whole thing suggests not real life, but Or, to speak a Palais Royal farce. accurately, it only fails to suggest a Palais Royal farce because it is not funny.

Take Nana. We know from Mr. Sherard how Zola amassed the material for this book ou a subject about which, being a good bourgeois, quite

different from the bourgeois portrayed in Pot-Bouille, he had absolutely no first-hand knowledge. An old noceur spent a whole afternoon with him in a café regaling him with the faits divers of the haute cocotterie. One can easily imagine the entertainment. It would,

of course, consist of the picked episodes of a score or more of graceless lives. Zola packs them all into the single life of a young woman who dies at one-and-twenty. Everything is there -from the rafle by the police des mœurs to the champagne supper in the abode of luxury-from the royal admirer to the amant de cœur, and the vices that one does not name in essays meant for general reading. It is a debauch of indecent documentation, but it is not a picture of real life.

All the hor

Finally take La Terre. rors recorded in La Terre have happened. No doubt there is some official record even of the horrors that cannot be allowed to blot these pages. To find evidence of the rest one would only have to search the files of the Petit Journal; and one has a very shrewd suspicion that this is just what Zola has done. All the crimes, obscenities, and miseries of fifty villages in all parts of France have been located in a single village of La Beauce. A very impressive, and even, at the first blush, a very convincing picture results from the manœuvre. But the result is not to be described as realism but rather as a rhapsody on the faits divers. It is, in fact, as if Zola had emptied the contents of all the cesspools in France into a single farmyard, in order to prove that French farmyards consisted of cesspools.

So much for the value of Zola's novels as documents. They differ from the documents of the man of science in consistently sacrificing the truth to the tableau. Beyond question Zola excelled at the tableau. Having begun by sacrificing the truth to it, he

went on to sacrifice his stories to it. The history of the development of his art is the history of the withering of the individual. He gradually discovered-what he certainly did not know when he began-that he could handle crowds as no other writer of fiction had ever handled them. He passed from the group to the mob, from the mob to the army, and even to the armies, visible and invisible, of the Catholic Church; and as he progressed, he became less and less a storyteller, and more and more a scenepainter.

He never in his life drew a character from within, or realized any individual emotion except that of hunger. The whole of the pathos of Zola is summed up in the exclamation of Gervaise, when, after starving, she gets food: "Ah, Seigneur! Que cela est bon et triste de manger quand on crève." But at first his personages were, at least, drawn from the outside in distinguishable lines, and one had an interest in following their fortunes. Later the crowds came on to the stage, and hid them from our view. Coupeau and Gervaise and Auguste Lantier may be wooden figures, but at least L'Assommoir is the well-constructed story of the drama of their lives. In Germinal there is no drama of any life, but only the drama of the revolt of labor, and Etienne Lantier is such a shadowy personality that the reasons why he led the strikers are absolutely incomprehensible. And Etienne Lantier is a more real man, and has more to do with the story of which he is the figurehead than Jean Macquart in La Débâcle; while the Abbé Froment of the Trois Villes series is the merest puppet dangling on a string.

Thus did the tableau gradually become everything, while the drama gradually sank to nothing. It was when Zola had perfected this art of the scene-painter-at the time, in fact,

of the publication of La Débâcle that he announced most positively that his novels were the vehicle of a message to the world. It remains, therefore, to search for the idea behind the tableau, to inquire what, if any, was Zola's contribution to thought on the subjects which he treated.

The task is a noisome one, suggesting a quest for hidden treasures in a drain. One is impelled to suspend the quest in order first to protest against the noisomeness, and even, so far as possible, to define it. For the obscenity of Zola is a thing apart, differing not in degree only, but in kind, from the obscenity of any other writer whose works have been accepted as literature.

Mr. Sherard lightly excused Zola's obscenity on the ground that he was a Frenchman, and that Frenchmen were habitually obscene. That will not do. The French, it is true, often write without reverence for boys, and without fear of the Young Person, but none of them, except Zola's imitators, are gross in Zola's particular manner. What they cultivate is either a coarse jocularity or else a meretricious lubricity. It is their boast that the flexibility of their language enables them to say things that could not be said in any other language. Zola's grossness is seldom either jovial or suggestive, and he makes no use of the facilities which the French language affords for expressing a coarse thought elegantly. To urge that plea on his behalf is, inferentially, to confess ignorance of French. It is not against particular but against universal notions of decency that he offends. He not only reports filthy conversations with the literal accuracy of a stenographer. He relates filthy incidents in a filthy vocabulary, as if that were the only Vocabulary that he knew. We learn from Mr. Sherard that he searched for coarse words in a dictionary of the

langue verte, as the lady in the story did in Dr. Johnson's lexicon, and he flings them about in his narratives like a sailor of the old school flinging about terms of endearment. No practice could be less French than that.

On the other hand the suggestion that he was deliberately pandering to the worst tastes of the "human beast," in which he had so firm a faith, does not seem to be well founded. The evidence indicates rather that he wrote naturally, and even sincerely, and that to our original picture of the little bourgeois of immense brain-power, sitting so many hours a day at his table to render the état d'ame of France, we should add that the little bourgeois was always haunted by some vision of obscenity and filth. Once, indeed, with his eye on the Academy of Letters, he made a desperate and temporarily successful effort to escape from that obsession. But the interlude of Le Rêve was short, and the obsession speedily returned. Sometimes, as in L'Assommoir, Nana, and La Terre, it was more or less in keeping with his subject. More often it intruded in books in which there was no artistic call for anything of the sort-in Germinal, for instance, and in L'Argent, and in PotBouille. One is bound to regard it as

an obsession, not merely because of its frequent irrelevance to the matter in band, but because it recurs, over and over again, in shapes with which the reader grows to be familiar. Evidently in looking for the philosophy of Zola, we are looking for the philosophy of an inspired Priapus. Art in his case is largely life seen through the temperament of the Garden God.

It is largely so, but not entirely. Though the Garden God is always the most conspicuous figure in Zola's landscapes, diverting attention from the artist's higher aims, the Garden God came ultimately to be introduced merely as a decorative figure, while

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