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Papurge, accompanied by Friar John, and many other persons, shall proceed in a ship to the other end of the world, there to consult the famous oracle of Bacbuc, or the Holy Bottle. Finally, in Books Fourth and Fifth, (Book Fifth was published from the MS., after the death of Rabelais,) we have a narrative of the voyage—how the voyagers conversed and amused themselves while on board; how they encountered a great storm ; how they touched at one place after another—the land of the Chitterlings, or Sausages; the land of the Papimanes, or Popemaniacs; the land of Gaster, or Lord Belly; the Ringing Island; the Queendom of Quintessence, &c. &c.—what wonders they saw in each; and how at last they arrived safely at their destination, and consulted the Bottle. And here the tale abruptly closes.
To give one that does not know the work an idea of the extraordinary mass of miscellaneous matter that is piled up in it on this almost absurd basis, is impossible. Dissertation, dialogue, anecdote, quaint learning, grotesque conception, trenchant sarcasm, the oddest and sharpest wit, the most riotous laughter, the profoundest allegory, the most abject drivelling, the filthiest word-garbage, the most astounding profanity-are here mingled, and jumbled into union. The book is literally unique. There does not exist in the whole literature of the world
any other that can be said really to resemble it. What Jean Paul is in German, Rabelais is in French; and yet the two men are wholly unlike.
Dismissing, as irrelevant and absurd, the controversy carried on with such pitiful results by Motteux and others, as to the real dramatis persona (Louis XII., Francis I., Henry II., Cardinal Châtillon, the Cardinal d'Amboise, &c. &c.) supposed to be represented under the names, Grangousier, Gargantua, Pantagruel, Friar John, Panurge, &c. &c., and believing nothing more than that Rabelais designed his work to be, as M. Jacob well names it, ' a critique of the world,' clutching here and there, possibly, at a real bit of fact when it suited his purpose, a judicious critic, we imagine, would find it convenient to discuss specially these four things in respect to Rabelais-his obscenity, his humour, his poetic or dramatic power, and his opinions or philosophy. We have space but for a word on each.
The obscenity of Rabelais, it has been remarked, is something stupendous. “He who has his mind stored,' says a critic, with the objectionable passages of Swift, Sterne, Boccaccio, and the Elizabethan dramatists, may fancy that he knows the ' limit to which grossness in writing may extend. But alas ! if he has not read Rabelais, his knowledge in this respect is as nothing; he cannot conceive the full strong torrent of undis
guised and elaborated filth which rolls through a work as bulky as Don Quixote. All that mass of objects and facts, in short, that society has agreed to keep nailed down under hatches, as suppressed and unnameable between cleanly men, is here broken in upon, shovelled out, and exposed to the sun. Here, of course, there start up the two apologetic commonplaces the custom of the age, and the difference between mere coarseness and studiously-seductive description. Both apologies are worth something; but neither is sufficient. That gentlemen and ladies of the age of Francis I. read Rabelais and found him
delectable;' that the Cardinal du Bellay called his book, par excellence, ' The Book,' and caused a gentleman that had not read it to retire from his table,- is all very true ; but it is just as true, that in no age whatever could - The Book' have been written except by a man æsthetically depraved. Again; that the style is not purposely seductive—that it is not pictures of intellectual Aspasias, or of Laises rosy from the bath, that Rabelais delights to offer, but pictures of dirty Molls and hag-like Sycoraxes—is just as true; but we question if, all things considered, this mends the matter. In short, let it be distinctly understood by all heads of households that Rabelais is not a family author. Nor is our English translation a whit purer, in this respect, than the original. Begun by Sir Thomas Urquhart, a wit of the reign of Charles II., who, in the execution of his difficult task, ransacked the entire vocabulary of the English tongue, besides dipping occasionally into his native Scotch, for expressions tantamount to those of the original; and continued by Mr. Peter Motteux, a naturalized French Londoner of the beginning of last century, who, after a desultory semi-literary life, was found dead, under suspicious circumstances, in a house of bad fame in St. Clement Danes, on the morning of his fifty-eighth birthday,—this translation is a perfect marvel for exuberance of foul speech. The most terrible sight on earth, as the critic quoted above has very truly said, would be that of a young lady in white muslin opening a volume of Urquhart's Rabelais.' We are not sure, indeed, if Mr. Bohn has done right in including this work in his valuable series of reprints, and so making it more accessible than it was. It is but fair, however, after all this, to quote, in regard to this very point, the deliberate judgment of so high an authority as Coleridge. “I could write,' says Coleridge, 'a treatise in praise of the moral elevation of Rabelais' work, which would make the church stare and the conventicle groan, and yet would be truth
and nothing but truth.' And again (Table Talk, p. 93), 'the
morality of the work is of the most refined and exalted kind; 'as for the manners, to be sure, I cannot say as much.' And really, whatever may be the impression made by parts, it is with a feeling towards the author very different from that of disgust, that one concludes a continuous perusal of the Pantagruel.
The humour of Rabelais is a subject for a dissertation rather than a paragraph ; and the critic in such a case should prepare his ground by means of whole pages of examples. All that we can do here is to quote a specimen or two, to exhibit a frequent verbal form of the Rabelæsian jest.
Panurge's Praise of Indebtedness.—God forbid that I should ever be out of debt. He that leaves not some leaven over-night will hardly have paste the next morning. Be still indebted to somebody or other, that there may always be somebody to pray for you. Creditors, I will maintain it to the very fire, are fair and goodly creatures ; and whoso lendeth nothing is a foul and ugly creature-an imp of the rogue below. O what a rare and ancient thing are debts ! I give myself to Saint Babolin, if, all my life, I have not esteemed debts to be, as it were, a connexion and colligation of the heavens and the earth—the sole cement of the human lineage (yea, without them all humanity would perish); perchance that they are even that great soul of the universe which, according to the academicians, rivifies all things. To perceive this, only represent to your calm mind the idea and form of some world (take, if you please, the thirtieth of those that the philosopher, Metrodorus, imagined) wherein there shall be neither debtor nor creditor. A world without debts! Then, among the stars there will be no regular course; all will be disorder. Jupiter, not considering himself a debtor to Saturn, will depose him from his sphere; and &c.'—Book III., chap. 3.
How Panurge behaved during the storm.- Panurge having fed the fishes with the contents of his stomach, lay on the deck all huddled up, forlorn, jointless, and half dead; invoked all the blessed saints and saintesses to his aid; vowed he would confess himself in time and place convenient; then called out 'Steward, my friend, my father, my uncle, a little salt meat; we shall drink too much anon, I fear. Would I were now at this very moment safe on shore. O thrice and four times happy those that plant cabbages! O Fates, why did you not spin me to be a planter of cabbages? O how small is the number of those that Jupiter has been so propitious to, as to predestinate them to plant cabbages! * * Murder, this wave will sweep us away. O my friends, a little vinegar! I sweat with sheer agony. * Bou, bou, bou, bous, bous. It is all over with me. Bou, bou, bou, bou. Otto, to, to, to, ti. Bou, bou, bou, ou, ou, ou, bou, bou, bous, bous, I drown, I sink, I die, good people, I die.' * * Friar John perceived him as he was going on the quarter-deck, and said, 'What, Panurge the calf-Panurge the weeper-Panurge the whiner! Much better for you to help us here than to cry like a calf, sitting on your hams like a monkey.' • Be, be, be, bous, bous, bous,' answered Panurge,
Friar John, my friend, my good father, I drown, I drown, my friend, I drown. It is all over with me, my spiritual father, my friend, it is all over with me. Be, be, be, bous, bous. I drown. O my father, my uncle, my all. The water has got into my shoes. Bous, bous, bous, pash, hu, hu, hu, ha, ha, ha, ha. I drown. Alas! alas! hu, hu, hu. Bebebous, bous, bobous, bobous, bous, alas! alas! Would I were just now with those good holy friars going to the council, that we met this morning, so godly, so fat, so merry, so plump, so happy. Holos, holos, holos, alas, alas, Friar John, my father, my friend, confession. Here I am at your knees; Confiteor ; your holy blessing.' (Here a volley of oaths at his cowardice from Friar John.) · Let us not swear,' said Panurge, my father, my friend; not just now, at least. To-morrow, as much as you please. Holos, holos, alas, our ship leaks. I drown, alas! alas! I will give eighteen hundred thousand crowns to any one that will put me on shore just as I am. Alas, Confiteor, one little word of testament, or codicil at least.' (Another burst of wrath from Friar John.)
· Alas! alas!' said Panurge. · Alas! bou, bou, bous, bous.. Alas! alas! was it here we were predestined to perish. Holos, good people, I drown, I die. Consummatum est. I am a dead man.' (Friar John swears again.) '0, Friar John, my spiritual father, my friend, let us not swear. You sin. Alas, alas! bebebebous, bous, bous! I drown, I die, my friends! I die at peace with all the world! Farewell! In manus-Bous, bous, bouououous! St. Michael! St. Nicholas! now or never! I here solemnly vow, that if you help me this bout-I mean, if you set me ashore out of this danger, I will build you a fine, large, little chapel or two, between Luande and Moussoreau. Alas, alas! there has gone into my mouth above eighteen bucketfuls or so! Bous, bous, bous, bous! How bitter and salt it is! (Another shower of curses from Friar John, who threatens to throw him overboard.) Oh,' said Panurge, 'you sin, Friar John, my former crony! Former, I say, for at present I am not, you are not. It grieves me to tell
you so; for I believe this swearing does your spleen a deal of good, as a wood-cleaver finds great relief in crying 'hem!' at every blow. Nevertheless, you sin, my sweet friend. * * Bebebebous, bous, bous, bous, bous—I drown! I see neither heaven nor earth! Alas, alas! O that at this present hour I were in the close of Seuillé, or at Innocent the pastrycook’s, before the public-house at Chinon, though I had to put on an apron and make pies myself! My honest man—(he speaks to a sailor)—could you throw me ashore? You can do never so many things, they have informed me. I will give you all Salmagundin to yourself, if by any contrivance you can get me ashore.'— Book iv. chapters 18—20.
Were we required to characterise, in one word, the style, or method, as it may be called, of the peculiar humour of Rabelais, we should say it consists in abandonment—i. e., in unchecked, NO. XX.
headlong effusion of everything that comes into the head. In many passages he reminds us of a rough, uncultivated genius, scribbling off page after page of prose fit for horses, simply to make his friends laugh. There is no erasure, no suppression; sentence tumbles after sentence; rubbish is rolled upon sense; good things are not picked out and placed in concatenation, but are presented native as they grew, amid whole beds of weeds. Analysing this method of humorous invention by sheer abandonment of the faculties to their own course, psychologists would probably arrive at the conclusion that its extreme efficacy depends on the extraordinary complexity of the associative or suggestive processes it gives rise to. In ordinary conversation, in a calm mood, one passes from thought to thought by very simple bonds of association; in public speaking, again, the associative links or hooks by which one advances from one thought on to its successor, are more numerous—the associations of cadence or rhythm, for example, and those of gesticulation or muscular movement, not to speak of the high suggestive power of emotional warmth, all working in unison with the mere logical connexion of reason, so as to lead to more splendid reaches of invention, and produce richer effects; but a higher complication still, and consequently a more marvellous power of production, comes into play, in those special moods of either Pythic fervour on the one hand, or voluntary zanyism on the other, when the mind loses all control, as it were, over any part of itself, and drifts along as fate decrees. Omitting the higher kind of abandonment-Pythic fervour, as we have here named it--that leads to bursts of lofty and earnest expression, we think we could cull passages in abundance from our noted humorists, illustrative of the force, for purely humorous effect, of that other variety of the same mental condition, that consists in mere zanyism. • I would I were a weaver; I could sing psalms or anything?—
If I live to be served such another trick, i'll have my brains taken out and buttered, and give them to a dog for a newyear's gift.' What are these, and a hundred other such conceits in Falstaff, but the lucky result, as it were, of sheer voluntary drivel—the lips speaking on in blind haste, and Nature, per force, supplying the matter. And precisely so it is in Rabelais. In him, however, the zanyism is most frequently of a peculiar genus-a vinous zanyism, so to speak; the zanyism of intoxication. We seem to see all through the heavy eye, the swaggering look, the alternate mock-solemnity and downright idiotcy of drunkenness. Indeed, as has been well remarked, the whole of Rabelais's book may be best conceived as a drama within a drama; the real scene being the tavern-parlour of the