The Red Lily

Anatole France
The Red Lily, Complete, by
Anatole France

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Title: The Red Lily, Complete
Author: Anatole France
Release Date: October 4, 2006 [EBook #3922]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by David Widger


The real name of the subject of this preface is Jacques-Anatole Thibault.
He was born in Paris, April 16, 1844, the son of a bookseller of the
Quai Malaquais, in the shadow of the Institute. He was educated at the
College Stanislas and published in 1868 an essay upon Alfred de Vigny.
This was followed by two volumes of poetry: 'Les Poemes Dores'
(1873), and 'Les Noces Corinthiennes' (1876). With the last mentioned
book his reputation became established.
Anatole France belongs to the class of poets known as "Les
Parnassiens." Yet a book like 'Les Noces Corinthiennes' ought to be
classified among a group of earlier lyrics, inasmuch as it shows to a
large degree the influence of Andre Chenier and Alfred de Vigny.
France was, and is, also a diligent contributor to many journals and
reviews, among others, 'Le Globe, Les Debats, Le Journal Officiel,
L'Echo de Paris, La Revue de Famille, and Le Temps'. On the last
mentioned journal he succeeded Jules Claretie. He is likewise Librarian
to the Senate, and has been a member of the French Academy since
The above mentioned two volumes of poetry were followed by many
works in prose, which we shall notice. France's critical writings are
collected in four volumes, under the title, 'La Vie Litteraire'
(1888-1892); his political articles in 'Opinions Sociales' (2 vols., 1902).
He combines in his style traces of Racine, Voltaire, Flaubert, and
Renan, and, indeed, some of his novels, especially 'Thais' (1890),
'Jerome Coignard' (1893), and Lys Rouge (1894), which was crowned
by the Academy, are romances of the first rank.
Criticism appears to Anatole France the most recent and possibly the
ultimate evolution of literary expression, "admirably suited to a highly
civilized society, rich in souvenirs and old traditions . . . . It proceeds,"
in his opinion, "from philosophy and history, and demands for its
development an absolute intellectual liberty . . . . . It is the last in date
of all literary forms, and it will end by absorbing them all . . . . To be
perfectly frank the critic should say: 'Gentlemen, I propose to enlarge
upon my own thoughts concerning Shakespeare, Racine, Pascal,
Goethe, or any other writer.'"

It is hardly necessary to say much concerning a critic with such
pronounced ideas as Anatole France. He gives us, indeed, the full
flower of critical Renanism, but so individualized as to become
perfection in grace, the extreme flowering of the Latin genius. It is not
too much to say that the critical writings of Anatole France recall the
Causeries du Lundi, the golden age of Sainte-Beuve!
As a writer of fiction, Anatole France made his debut in 1879 with
'Jocaste', and 'Le Chat Maigre'. Success in this field was yet decidedly
doubtful when 'Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard' appeared in 1881. It at
once established his reputation; 'Sylvestre Bonnard', as 'Le Lys Rouge'
later, was crowned by the French Academy. These novels are replete
with fine irony, benevolent scepticism and piquant turns, and will
survive the greater part of romances now read in France. The list of
Anatole France's works in fiction is a large one. The titles of nearly all
of them, arranged in chronological order, are as follows: 'Les Desirs de
Jean Seyvien (1882); Abeille (1883); Le Livre de mon Ami (1885);
Nos Enfants (1886); Balthazar (1889); Thais (1890); L'Etui de Naire
(1892); Jerome Coignard, and La Rotisserie de la Reine Pedanque
(1893); and Histoire Contemporaine (1897-1900), the latter consisting
of four separate works: 'L'Orme du Mail, Le Mannequin d'Osier,
L'Anneau d'Amethyste, and Monsieur Bergeret a Paris'. All of his
writings show his delicately critical analysis of passion, at first
playfully tender in its irony, but later, under the influence of his critical
antagonism to Brunetiere, growing keener, stronger, and more bitter. In
'Thais' he has undertaken to show the bond of sympathy that unites the
pessimistic sceptic to the Christian ascetic, since both despise the world.
In 'Lys Rouge', his greatest novel, he traces the perilously narrow line
that separates love from hate; in 'Opinions de M. l'Abbe Jerome
Coignard' he has given us the most radical breviary of scepticism
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