|C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the Worlds Best Literature.|
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
H. R. Keller. The Readers Digest of Books.
|The History of French Society during the Revolution and the Directory|
|Edmond (18221896) and Jules (18301870) de Goncourt|
|French Society, The History of, during the Revolution and the Directory (The History of French Society during the Directory, 1879; and The History of French Society during the Revolution, 1880), by Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, are curious as well as interesting compilations of historical material. They show the authors constant preoccupation with visual impressions. The Goncourts were not philosophers, and they throw no new light upon the causes of events; but they were tireless in research, and they tell us all the curious incidental little facts ignored by greater historians. Theirs is probably the least gloomy study of the Revolution ever written. Under the guillotine they note the cake-vender. Believing that the revolution originated in aristocratic salons, they picture the social life which preceded it, and tell us how the lords and ladies dressed their hair, and what they wore, and how they talked. They show that in spite of fear and bloodshed, people feasted, danced, and went to the theatre as usual. In their study of the Directory they show the country plunged in torpor after its period of excess. The people are weary of struggle, of success, of failure, of all things, until awakened to new energy by a youth of twenty-eight. Napoleon reconstructs society; and in the reaction which follows, cynicism changes to an eager rush for wealth, pleasure, and position. The Goncourts touch lightly upon the great political events, and emphasize the gardens and ball-rooms of Paris,all the places where well-dressed people gather. They are not interested in masses of society, but delight in portrait-painting. Their histories abound in pictures and picturesque effects. But in spite of their careful word-searching, they are always more sensitive than intelligent. The result of their labor is finally an enumeration of noteworthy details, which they have been unable to synthesize. They are not successful in presenting as a logical whole the period of which they treat.|| 1|