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LITERARY RELATIONSHIPS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT
Balzac remarks disparagingly of his native city, Tours, where
the best French is spoken, that it was one of the least literary cities
in France. 1 In like manner Guy de Maupassant, acclaimed as the
master of a perfect French prose style, was to an astonishing degree
unversed in literature. "No mind was less bookish," observes M.
Faguet. "When he published at the beginning of Pierre et Jean,
perhaps in order to enlarge the volume, a brief critical study, he
proved nothing except that he had read nothing." 2 Amid the
Sunday afternoon discussions at the house of Flaubert, and at the
famous "jeudis" of Zola, Maupassant was taciturn, and made the
impression of a brawny athlete with little interest in writing. More
than one person who met this "taureau triste" 3 — as Taine called him
familiarly — before his reputation was established, was astonished
to learn later of his ability as a writer. " II n'aimait point a parler
literature," was his excuse. 4
In this way that vision direde, unobscured by the medium of
books, which the Goncourt brothers had heralded, Guy de Mau-
passant actually possessed. 5 Such a perfect realist did he thus
become that, to quote M. Faguet again, "le lecteur ne sait pas, et
c'est ce qu'il faut, quand il lit Maupassant, si c'est de 1'art de Mau-
passant, ou seulement de la veYite', qu'il a le gout." 6
We may confidently expect, therefore, that any important liter-
ary influence upon Maupassant will be exerted by means of oral
1 Le Curt de Tours, in CEuvres de Balzac (Calmann Levy ed. [1892)), p. 193. In his
correspondence Balzac usually speaks of Touraine In terms of deepest affection.
* Emile Faguet, in Revue Bleue, LII (July 15, 1893).
s Victor Giraud, Essai sur Taine (5 8 ed.; Paris, 1912), p. 106, n. 3.
' Letter of Edouard Rod to Monsieur le baron A. Lumbroso, October 6, 1904 (A. Lum-
broso, Souvenirs sur Maupassant , p. 374). Reng Doumic, in Revue des Deux Mondes,
CXX (1893), 194, says: "Tout ce qui est d'ordre intellectuel, ceuvre ou conquSte de
l'esprit, lui gchappe. Et comme il arrive, ce qu'il ne comprend pas, il le nie. . . . Et
quand Rodolphe de Salins continue exposant ses theories sur la destinee humaine, a
savoir que la pensee est dans la creation un accident a jamais regrettable, et que la terre a
8t6 faite pour les animaux non pour les hommes, decidement par sa bouche c'est Mau-
passant qui parle. ' '
»E. Maynial, "La Composition dans les romans de Maupassant," in Revue Bleue
LXXII (October 31, 1903), 563. See Edmond el Jules de Goncourt, Prefaces et manifested
littiraires (Paris, 1880), p. 13.
' E. Faguet, loc. cit.
645] 141 [Modern Philology, March, 1918
142 Olin H. Moore
transmission, so familiar in the history of the primitive ballad and
folk-tale. To Alfred de Musset he is indebted hardly more than for
the inspiration of juvenile madrigals and sonnets composed at the
lycee of Rouen. 1 Possibly also traces of that quality, which Professor
Irving Babbitt calls "the Romantic art of impassioned recollection,"
which was so prominent a characteristic of Musset, may be discovered
in the works of both Flaubert and his pupil, Maupassant. At the
conclusion of the Education sentimentale, Fr6d6ric remarks: "C'est
la ce que nous avons eu de meilleur!" Deslaurier replies, in similar
reminiscent vein, "Oui, peut-etre bien? C'est la ce que nous
avons eu de meilleur!" In L'Spave, Maupassant concludes with a
sob as the memory of the former beauty of the heroine comes back
to him: "Ah! celle d'autrefois . . . celle de l'6pave . . . quelle
creature . . . divine!" 2 In Regret, Monsieur Saval weeps as he
thinks of the happiness which was once in his reach and which he had
failed to grasp. 3
Despite these resemblances, it is safe to assert that Maupassant's
indebtedness to Musset was not excessive. His imitation of Edgar
Allan Poe was slighter still and has been overestimated by a few
writers. Notwithstanding the protestations of Mme de Maupassant,
most critics are disposed to accept as conclusive the argument that
stories like Le Horla, so far from having any foreign origin, are merely
the faithful journal of an author whose reason was tottering. 4 Where
Maupassant's imitation of Poe seems perfectly clear is in an unedited
story called Le Tic. Instead of describing the father and daughter,
about whom the narrative revolves, Maupassant says simply:
" lis me firent l'effet, tout de suite, de personnages d'Edgar Poe. . . ."
Then follows a tale of the daughter's rescue from the grave, quite in
the manner of the Premature Burial and the Fall of the House of Usher. b
J E. Maynial, La Vie et V autre de Guy de Maupassant (Paris, 1907), p. 82.
2 L'£pave, in La Petite Roque, p. 92. The Louis Conard edition (1908-1910) has
been used for references to Maupassant's works.
3 Regret, in Miss Harriet, pp. 259 ft.
4 E. Maynial, op. cit., pp. 248-251. See Henry James in Fortnightly Review, XLIX
(1888), 376: ". . . . These last things range from Le Horla (which is not a specimen of
the author's best vein — the only occasion on which he has the weakness of imitation is
when he strikes us as emulating Edgar Poe) " To parody the language of the
late Mr. James, this very inaccurate statement is certainly not a specimen of the critic's
6 Le Tic, CEuvres Posthum.es, 1, 227-234.
Literary Relationships of de Maupassant 143
This story affords apparently the one instance where Maupassant
mentions Poe. A more significant influence upon Maupassant,
exerted of course through the medium of books, is that of Balzac.
As Maupassant remarks, speaking for his realistic brethren, it is
"Balzac que nous citons tous, quelles que soient nos tendances,
parce que son esprit est aussi vane" qu'^tendu. . . ." 1
Despite the usual opinion of critics that the direct influence of
Balzac upon Maupassant was slight, the two authors clearly had
much in common. If we have M. Faguet's authority that Maupas-
sant read nothing at all, we also have his authority that Balzac read
no other author than Walter Scott. It is not surprising, then, that
Maupassant had Balzac's passion for observing fife at first hand, for
recording his impressions in carefully taken notes, for a realism
which was the farthest possible remove from the classical copying of
Virgil and other "perfect" models. On the other hand, if Balzac
was classical in his exclusive study of man, and all that pertains to
mankind, Maupassant flaunted the classical motto of Terence:
" Je tache que rien de ce qui touche les hommes ne me soit stranger." 2
Furthermore, if Taine finds the Comedie humaine a vast study of
humanity from the zoological point of view, the works of Maupassant
lay no less emphasis upon the animalism of man. There is even in
the Contes and in the Nouvelles far more of the lingering Romanticism
of Balzac than is commonly supposed.
Occasionally it is not difficult to discover resemblances of detail
between the writers. Bel-Ami has been recognized as a modernized
Lucien de Rubempre. It seems to me also that Balzac's story entitled
Adieu 3 may well have furnished Maupassant with a suggestion for
his conte entitled Berthe. 4 Adieu concerns a girl named Stephanie,
reduced to insanity, who finds as a companion Genevieve, an idiotic
peasant girl. Genevieve had been loved by a mason named Dallot,
who married her for her dowry. For a time she was extremely
happy, for love had awakened in her heart a great response. Then
Dallot deserted her for another girl who possessed two quarters of
1 Riponse a M. Albert Wolff, in Mile Fifi, p. 284.
! Riponse a M. Wolff, op. cit., p. 283.
s (Euvres Completes (Calmann L6vy ed. ), in volume entitled Louis Lambert,
* In volume entitled Yvette, pp. 251-269.
144 Olin H. Moore
land more than she, and Genevieve lost what little intelligence love
had developed in her. Maupassant's Berthe concerns an idiot girl
with a fair dowry who is greatly benefited by marriage and declines
immediately after she is deserted by her husband.
Often the influence of Balzac upon Maupassant is exerted through
the intermediary of Flaubert, as in the case of the famous doctrine
of "impersonality," formulated by Flaubert, adopted by Maupassant,
but probably inspired by a reading of Balzac's novels. A curious
illustration of this second-hand transmission is found in the imitation
of an incident of Balzac's Honorine. 1 In the midst of his garden
Count Octave has a magnificent basin, swarming with goldfish.
When he is in a pensive mood, he goes there to brood over Honorine,
who has deserted him. It had been as he stood over the basin with
Honorine, then a girl of seventeen, and had thrown bread to the
fishes, that he had spoken his first words of love to her. This episode,
utilized by Flaubert, reappears in Bel-Ami when Georges Du Roy
accompanies Suzanne Walter to the basin in the conservatory to
throw bread to the fishes and to plan an elopement. 2
It is not my intention, however, to enter thoroughly into the
subject of Balzac's influence here. Even briefer mention will be
allowed Maupassant's story entitled L'Endormeuse, which appeared
in September, 1889, 3 and concerns a suicide club which may have
been modeled on that described by Robert Louis Stevenson in the
New Arabian Nights (1882).
If Maupassant was acquainted with few authors through their
books, his obligations to two life-long friends of his mother Laure
and his uncle Alfred le Poittevin are well known. Mme de Mau-
passant declares that one of these friends, Louis Bouilhet, was
prevented only by an early death from making her son a poet. 4 The
other, Gustave Flaubert, instructed him in the art of the novelist.
In his essay on Le Roman, which appeared as a preface to Pierre
et Jean, Maupassant has described the lessons in the art of compo-
sition which he received from his masters. First, Bouilhet taught
1 Honorine, in Le Colonel Chaberl, pp. 119, 128.
2 Bel-Ami, pp. 510, 511.
> In La Main Gauche, pp. 241 ff.
• E. Maynial, op. cit., p. 44 (citation from A. Albalat, on Mme de Maupassant, in
Le Journal des Dtbats, December 12, 1903).
Literary Relationships of de Maupassant 145
him an appreciation of perfect form in verse, impressing upon him the
fact that one short but flawless poem may confer immortality upon
its author. After some two years, Bouilhet's mantle fell upon
Flaubert, who insisted upon faultless, classic prose, correcting
tirelessly Maupassant's compositions.
The influence of Flaubert upon his pupil is a subject treated most
thoroughly in the forthcoming University of Chicago thesis of Miss
Agnes R. Riddell, so that only one or two observations will be
attempted here. The emphasis laid by Flaubert upon details is
evident in the following often-quoted passage from Maupassant's
essay on Le Roman:
Quand vous passez, me disait-il, devant un epicier assis sur sa porte,
devant un concierge qui fume sa pipe, devant une station de fiacres, montrez-
moi cet epicier et ce concierge, leur pose, toute leur apparence physique con-
tenant aussi, indiquee par l'adresse de l'image, toute leur nature morale, de
facon a ce que je ne les confonde avec aucun autre epicier ou avec aucun
autre concierge, et faites-moi voir, par un seul mot, en quoi un cheval de
fiacre ne ressemble pas aux cinquante autres qui le suivent et le precedent. 1
The extent to which such "legons d'6cole" influenced the style
of Maupassant has already been indicated to a certain degree by a
number of critics, notably Bruneti&re. It remained for Miss Riddell
to demonstrate that Maupassant, not satisfied with learning the
literary methods of Flaubert, was inclined to adopt also some of his
characters and episodes. One illustration of this practice is men-
tioned here, in anticipation of Miss Riddell.
The rendezvous of Bel-Ami with Mme Walter in the Church of
the Trinity suggests strongly that of L6on Dupuis with Emma
Bovary in a cathedral. Both Du Roy and Leon arrive ahead of
time — L6on discovering that it was nine o'clock by looking at the
cuckoo clock of the hairdresser; Du Roy, that it was three o'clock by
consulting his watch. To while away the time, Le\>n walks three city
blocks, and decides to return. Du Roy, also, walks slowly along the
dock, until he concludes that it would be better to return. Both
wait impatiently for the arrival of their lady-loves, L6on being
startled by a rustling of silk over the flag-stone; Du Roy, by the
noise of a dress. "C'6tait elle!" announces Flaubert. "C'6tait
elle!" echoes Maupassant. "L6on se leva et courut a sa rencontre."
1 Le Roman, in Pierre et Jean, p. xxlv.
146 Olin H. Moore
As for Du Roy, "II se leva, s'avance vivement." Emma and Mme
Walter seek refuge from temptation in prayer. "Emma prayed,
or rather attempted to pray," we are told, "hoping that some sudden
resolution would descend to her from heaven." As for Mme Walter,
"Then she tried to pray. With a superhuman invocation she
attempted to call upon God, and, her body vibrating, her soul dis-
traught, she cried ' Pity ! ' to the sky." Emma filled her eyes with the
splendors of the tabernacle and breathed its incense, in order to fortify
herself; but her efforts only increased the tumult of her heart. Mme
Walter shut her eyes in order not to see Du Roy, endeavored to drive
his image from her mind, but instead of the celestial apparition for
which she hoped, she perceived always the curly moustache of the
young man. 1
I shall further venture the statement, upon my own responsibility,
that Flaubert's influence manifested itself even upon those feelings
which we are accustomed to regard as absolutely instinctive with
Maupassant, such as his repugnance for death, for old age, for the
gray hair which is the token of the approaching end. Writing more
than a decade before Maupassant's Fini, L'^pave, and Fort comme
la mort, Flaubert in his Education sentimentale makes Frederic
Moreau observe with consternation the gray hair of Mme Arnoux
in the strong light of a lamp. " It was like a blow full in his chest,"
Flaubert comments. 2 Equally instinctive with Maupassant seems
that feeling of fear, of unreasoning fear, "la peur de la peur," which
finally mastered his reason. Nevertheless, we may discover evidences
of even this characteristic in the narrative of the duel in the Education
sentimentale. Fr^denc Moreau is terribly afraid that he will be
afraid. " Une angoisse abominable le saisit a l'id^e d'avoir peur sur
le terrain," says Flaubert. 3 Maupassant, imitating this passage
in Un IAche, makes the Viscount Gontran-Joseph de Signoles find
this fear overwhelming: "Et ce doute l'envahit, cette inquietude,
cette epouvante; si une force plus puissante que sa volont6, domina-
1 Madame Bovary (L. Conard ed.), pp. 326-329; Bel-Ami, pp. 397-405.
2 Education sentimentale, p. 604.
8 Education sentimentale, p. 323. Miss Riddell notes the resemblance between the
duels in Education sentimentale and in Bel-Ami, pp. 237 ft. The similarity between Un
Ldche and the pages cited from Bel-Ami was observed by E. Maynial, " La Composition
dans les romans de Maupassant," in Revue Bleue, LXXII (November 7, 1903), 607.
Litekaby Relationships of de Maupassant 147
trice, irresistible, le domptait, qu'arriverait-il ? Oui, que pouvait-il
Furthermore, emphasis should be laid upon the fact that the
influence of Flaubert upon Maupassant, very noticeable in Maupas-
sant's earlier novels, such as Une Vie and Bel-Ami, afterward
diminished considerably. When Lemaitre, adopting the opinion of
Maupassant's perspicacious publisher, Havard, notes that Mont-
Oriol (1887) is a transitional novel, because of the emotional and
dramatic elements it contains, he is actually noting a decline in the
influence of Flaubert. 2 When he remarks that in Pierre et Jean
(1888) the transformation of the author's manner is complete, for the
whole interest centers in the dramatic struggle between the guilty
mother and the inquisitorial son, he really signalizes the passing
of the influences of Flaubert. 3
On the whole, Maupassant does not appear to have been influ-
enced greatly by authors of the naturalistic school, aside from
Flaubert. For Zola, whose lack of practical sense he ridiculed, 4
whom he called "absolument fou" because of his colossal conceit, 5
and to whose followers he was an object of suspicion for a time
because of his supposed lack of devotion to the naturalistic cause, 6
his feelings were perhaps as friendly as for any of the other realists.
It was at Zola's suggestion that Maupassant contributed to the
Soirees de MHan, conforming readily to the Decameron-like frame-
work which was proposed and preserving the volume from obscurity
by his Boule de Suif. 1
Suspicious for a time of Alphonse Daudet, 8 Maupassant never
appears to have become intimate with him. Nevertheless, early in
1 Un Ldche, in Contes du Jour et de la Nuit, p. 113. Cf. Bel-Ami, p. 238.
2 Revue Bleue, XLIII, June 29, 1889 (3d series, No. 26).
s Ibid. Brunetiere, adopting a different point of view, concludes that Maupassant,
once he has passed the early stage of excessive imitation of his master, surpasses all his
contemporaries of the naturalistic school, being more realistic than Flaubert himself
(Renue des Deux Mondes, LXXXIX [1888, 3d series], 694, 696). Havard's opinion of
Mont-Oriol is quoted by Lumbroso, op. cit., p. 417: " Vous donnez la, avec une puissance
inouie, une nouvelle note que j'avais devinee en vous depuis longtemps. J'avais pres-
senti ces accents de tendresse et demotion suprSme dans Au Printemps, Miss Harriet,
Yvette, et ailleurs."
1 Letter to Flaubert, in Boule de Suif, p. cvii (July 5, 1878).
> Ibid., p. cxx (April 24, 1879).
« Ibid., p. cxix (February 26, 1879).
' E. Maynial, op. cit., pp. 105, 106. « Cf. n. 3.
148 Olin H. Moore
his career, Maupassant aligned himself with Daudet and the other
realists who depicted the lower strata of life. He thus became for a
time one of the most ardent apologists for "bas-fondmanie," which
he claimed was only a natural reaction against excessive idealism. 1
Despite the ardor of the young convert, there were at first two
opposite tendencies in Maupassant. We find him, on the one hand,
insisting that the novelist must "faire le monde tel qu'il le voit, lever
les voiles de grace et d'honn6tete7' 2 and attacking even more violently
"la sentimentality ronflante des romantiques." 3 On the other hand
in Mile Fiji, as well as in Boule de Suif, he really adopts the favorite
Romantic theme of the courtesan, ennobled by love and other lofty
sentiments — the theme of Marion Delorme, revived in La Dame aux
camellias. "Des filles 6pousees deviennent en peu de temps de
remarquables femmes du monde," 4 pleads Maupassant.
It was Daudet who brought him thoroughly to the true realistic
point of view. After reading Daudet's Les Femmes d'artistes, which
he calls "ce petit livre, si cruel et si beau," 5 we find Maupassant
speaking with a certain disgust of the "fr^quentation constante de
cette race de dindes qu'on nomme les modeles." 6 In imitation of
Daudet, he published, in December, 1883, his story entitled Le
Modele, dealing with the frequent marriages between painters and
their models. Henceforth we shall find him, like the other natural-
ists, tending to depict the horrible side of life for its own sake, without
veneer or idealization. 7
Had Jules de Goncourt lived, it is impossible to predict what his
relations with Guy de Maupassant would have been. Certainly
they had much in common, from their aristocratic birth to the
bromides and douches to which both were obliged to submit in their
respective sanitariums. The surviving brother of Jules de Goncourt,
i E. Maynial. op. cit. p. 282.
2 Rtponse a M. Francisque Sarcey, in Mile Fifi, p. 277.
8 Les Soirees de Mtdan — Comment ce livre a Sti fait, in Boule de Suif, p. 82.
* R&ponse a Sarcey, op, cit., p. 279.
6 Le Modele, in Le Rosier de Madame Husson, p. 75.
' Ibid., p. 76: "Elle a risqug le tout pour le tout, fitait-elle sincere? Aimait-elle
Jean? Sait-on jamais cela? Qui done pourra determiner d'une fagon precise ce qu'il
y a d'apretS, et ce qu'il y a de reel dans les actes des femmes ? ... Elles sont emportees,
crimtaelles, deVouees, admirables, et ignobles, pour obfiir a d'insaisissables emotions. . . .' '
Litebary Relationships of de Maupassant 149
Edmond, delighted in making carping criticisms of Maupassant, and
spent much of his time wondering why he was considered a simple
gentleman and amateur writer, while Maupassant was taken
It must be granted that the direct influence of the philosopher
Taine upon Maupassant, as far as it existed, was exerted principally
through his books. In the latter part of his life, Taine became one
of Maupassant's warm admirers and is said to have exclaimed, on
finishing Le Champ d'OUviers, "Cela, c'est de l'Eschyle." 2 However,
sufficient attention has not yet been paid by critics to the fact that
the real intimacy between the two writers began only in 1888, after
an introduction at Aix-les-Bains in Savoy, through the intermediary
of Dr. Cazalis. 3 Previously to that time it seems that Maupassant
had observed Taine only from a distance, as when he described him
attending the afternoon receptions of Flaubert, "le regard cache
derriere ses lunettes, l'allure timide," but with "son ceil percant de
The fact that this acquaintance was slight during the period of
Maupassant's greatest activity points strongly to the conclusion that
Taine's influence may have been slighter than M. Giraud would
estimate. 5 To answer his oft-cited statement, it may suffice to call
attention to a few well-established facts. There is evidence that it
was Flaubert, rather than Taine, who persuaded Maupassant to
abandon verse-writing and become a novelist. It is true that when
Maupassant speaks of " ces petits faits insignifiants . . . qui forment
le fond m&ne, le trame de l'existence," 6 he approaches closely the
language of the Preface to the Intelligence. However, on the whole,
Brunetiere is correct in tracing Maupassant's attention to what has
been called "l'humble veVite" to Flaubert rather than to Taine. 7
' E. Maynial, op. cit., pp. 207 S.
* A. Lumbroso, op. cit., p. 280.
1 Ibid. « V. Giraud, loc. cit.
s V. Giraud, op. cit., p. 189: "A tous ces ecrivains, dout quelques-uns out dSbute
par des vers et qui, peut-6tre, auraient pu coutiuuer dans cette voie, il a persuadfi que la
forme du roman leur fournissait le meilleur et le plus moderue emploi de leur talent; . . .
il leur a appris a regarder autour d'eux et mSme au-dessous d'eux, a ne rien d&daigner de ce
que l'un d'eux a appelg Thumble veriteV . . ."
6 Mile Perle, in La Petite Roque, p. 135.
7 Revue des Deux Mondes, LXX (1885, 3d series), 215. Cf. Mademoiselle Cocolte, in
Clair de Lune, pp. 128-129 : ' ' Les choses les plus simples, les plus humbles, sont parf ois
celles qui nous mordent le plus au coeur."
150 Olin H. Moore
When Maupassant notes that the door of the Folies-Bergeres is " une
porte matelassee a battants garnis de cuir," or that at the theater one
sees of the persons seated in the loges only "leur tete et leur poitrine,"
he is, declares Brunetiere, following the regular procedure of Madame
Bovary, Education sentimentale and Bouvard et Pecuchet. Further-
more, so far as the question of studying the lower strata of humanity
was concerned, we find Maupassant and Taine absolutely at variance.
In his Riponse d M. Francisque Sarcey, Maupassant quotes the fol-
lowing passage from a letter from Taine, "dont je ne partage point
. . . Vous peignez des paysans, des petits bourgeois, des ouvriers, des
6tudiants et des filles. Vous peindrez sans doute un jour la classe cultivee,
la haute bourgeoisie, ing^nieurs, m^decins, professeurs, grands industriels et
A mon sens, la civilisation est une puissance. Un homme n6 dans
l'aisance, heritier de trois ou quatre generations honnetes, laborieuses et
rangees, a plus de chances d'etre probe, delicat et instruit. L'honneur et
1'esprit sont toujours plus ou moins des plantes de serre.
Cette doctrine est bien aristocratique, mais elle est experimentale. . . . l
Moreover, the affinity between the determinism of Taine and the
fatalism 2 of Maupassant may well have been due to indirect influ-
ences, if not to a certain similarity of temperament which manifested
itself toward the close of the lives of each. 3
The relationship between Maupassant and Paul Bourget, who was
his friend and occasionally his travelling companion, seems important.
There is an incontestable connection between the plots of Maupas-
sant's Fort comme la Mort and Bourget's Le Fantome, due to oral
transmission if we are to accept the story published by Lumbroso. 4
Mme Lecomte du Nouy, it appears, when she deserted Bourget to
i Mile Fifi, p. 276.
* "Les gens calmes nes sans instincts violents, vivent honnetes, par necessite. Le
devoir est facile a ceux que ne torturent jamais les desirs enragSs. Je vols des petites
bourgeoises au sang froid, aux moeurs rigides, d'un esprit moyen et d'un coeur moderfi,
pousserdescrisd'indignationquand elles apprennent les lautes des lemmes tombees. . . .
" Mais chez ceux-la que le hasard a fait passionnfis, madame, les sens sont invincibles.
Pouvez-vous arrfiter le vent, pouvez-vous arrtter la mer demontee?" Prom L' Enfant,
in the collection entitled Clair de Lune, p. 233.
' " Peut-6tre aussi pourrait-on noter que vers la fin Guy de Maupassant — tout comme
Hippolyte Taine — s'attendrissait singulierement; mais dans ce dernier fait, on pourrait
voir plutot Taction des mgmes causes extfirieures (le malaise social, l'experience gran-
dissante de la vie) qu'une influence reciproque." A. Lumbroso, op. cit., p. 282.
* A. Lumbroso, op. cit., pp. 332, 333.
Literary Relationships of de Maupassant 151
become intimate with Maupassant, communicated to him the plot
of Le Fant&me, which Bourget had outlined to her, but did not utilize
until 1900-1901. Bourget's Un Cceur de Femme and Maupassant's
Notre Cceur have also related themes, possibly for the reason sug-
gested in Lumbroso's valuable volume, that both authors have
taken for their heroine Mme Lecomte du Nouy. 1 An attempt will
now be made to determine, more clearly than has been done hereto-
fore, the obligations of Maupassant to Bourget. In drawing our
conclusions it should be borne in mind that while Maupassant bor-
rowed heavily from other writers, mainly Flaubert, Bourget, who
possessed the advantage of a wider range of reading, was no less
an offender. Hence, while seeking to discover traces of Bourget's
influence upon Maupassant, we should be mentally prepared to
find the source current flowing from Maupassant to Bourget.
Let us consider first the most important resemblances between
Le Fantdme and Fort comme la Mort. Maupassant's novel relates
the love of the painter Olivier Bertin for the Countess de Guilleroy.
When Annette, the daughter of the Countess, reaches maturity, she
reveals a startling likeness to what her mother had been when Bertin
first met her. The painter falls in love with Annette, guilty though
he feels in so doing.
This theme finds practically a twofold version in Bourget's Le
Fantdme. M. d'Andiguier, who had blamelessly loved Antoinette
Duvernay for nearly fifteen years, 2 nine years after her death became
enamored of the daughter Eveline, who made the deceased lady seem
very present to him, "so great was the resemblance in silhouette, in
gestures, in physiognomy." 3 It develops later that Malclerc, who
marries Eveline, had previously been the paramour of Antoinette. 4
It is the remarkable likeness of daughter to mother which attracts
him irresistibly to Eveline. 6
There is a serious objection to accepting the story published by
Lumbroso of Maupassant's indebtedness to Bourget for this theme.
As early as January, 1883, a full year before Bourget wrote his first
published story in England, U Irreparable, there appeared in Gil-Bias
> Ibid., p. 334. Cf. E. Maynial, op. cit., p. 203, and n. 3.
2 Paul Bourget, Le Fantdme, in CEumea Completes, VI (Plon ed. ), 153.
a See also ibid., p. 177. ' Ibid., p. 210. ' Ibid., p. 229.
152 Olin H. Moore
Maupassant's M. Jocaste, which apparently had no connection with
the Jocaste of Anatole France (1879). It was the story of Pierre
Martel, who had loved a young married woman. Years afterward
he met the daughter, and fell in love with her at once because of her
resemblance to the dead mother. "It was she! the other! the one
who was dead!" 1 Her age was exactly the same as her mother's
had been; hers were the same eyes, hair, figure, and voice as her
mother had had. Pierre Martel's passion became uncontrollable.
The only important dissimilarity in the two stories is that Bour-
get's Eveline is not the daughter of Malclerc, whereas in M. Jocaste
the case is probably different. The title chosen by Maupassant, M.
Jocaste, is guaranty that the more repulsive — and "realistic" —
version of the story goes back to earliest antiquity.
Even more suggestive of the subject of Bourget's Le Fantdme is
Maupassant's Fini, which appeared in Le Gaulois, July, 1885. The
Count de Lormerin had been in love with Lise. Twenty-five years
later he met the daughter, who looked exactly like her mother
at the same age, only younger, fresher, more childlike. 2 Similarly,
Malclerc finds Eveline younger, with rounder cheeks, and animated
by more childlike gaiety than Antoinette. 3 Lormerin is seized with
< M. Jocaste, in the collection entitled Mile Fifi, p. 263.
There are also cases in Maupassant's earlier works where the man is intimate with
the mother, and marries the daughter later, without regard to any resemblance between
the two. In Bel- Ami, Mme Walter is the mistress of Du Roy, who afterward elopes with
her daughter Suzanne. In one of Maupassant's later stories, Hautot Pere et Fils (La
Main Gauche, p. 73), the rSles are reversed. "Mam'zelle" Donet, who has been the
mistress of Hautot pere, is about to have the same relation with Hautot fils, a situation
comparable to that in Zola's La Curee.
Incest is a frequent theme with Maupassant. See L'Ermite, in La Petite Roque,
p. 106: "J'avais fait, sans le vouloir, pis que ces Stres ignobles. J'Stais entrS dans la
couche de ma fllle." In Le Port (La Main Gauche, p. 216) : " II la sentait sur lui, enlacee
a lui, chaude et terrifiee, sa soeur!"
The preoccupation of Maupassant for the fate of outcasts from society is one of his
noteworthy characteristics. Of. also Un Fils (Contes de la Btcasse, pp. 195-213).
s Fini, in (Euvres Posthumes, I, 241.
» Paul Bourget, op. cit., p. 229. Six years or more before the publication of Le
Fantdme, there appeared also an expurgated American version of the story, entitled The
Honorable Peter Stirling, by Paul Leicester Ford (Copyright, Henry Holt & Co., 1894).
When a young man, Peter had asked the hand of Miss Pierce after a very brief acquaint-
ance (p. 29), having been especially attracted by her slate-colored eyes (p. 20). Years
later he met the daughter Leonore, whom he rescued from a runaway accident. Amid
the excitement of the occasion, his most vivid impression was that "the girl had slate-
colored eyes!!" (p. 202). As a matter of fact, she resembled her father Watts D'AUoi
more than she did her mother. " But to Peter," the author observes, " it was merely the
renewal of his dream" (p. 204).
The subject is treated also by Maurice Donnay, in L' Autre Danger (Paris, 1906).
Of. A. Lumbroso, op. cit., p. 333, n. 2. In Act III, scene 11, we learn that PreydiSres, who
Literary Relationships of de Maupassant 153
an irresistible desire to embrace the girl and whisper into her ear,
It is true that in Cruelle finigme (1885) 1 Bourget speaks of the
kind of melancholy inspired by the spectacle of a mother of fifty, to
whom her daughter of twenty-five bears such a striking resemblance
that " l'une se trouve ainsi presenter le spectre anticip^ de la vieillesse
de Pautre." Yet the palm for the fully developed story of the man
who loves the daughter because of her extraordinary resemblance to
the mother, seems clearly to belong more to Maupassant than to
The main subject of Le Fantdme is not the only thing which
Bourget borrows from Maupassant in order to make double use of it.
He apparently does as much with Maupassant's favorite episode, the
unhappy discovery of old letters and souvenirs. M. d'Andiguier,
after the death of Antoinette Duvernay, finds an envelope of white
leather, tied with ribbons, on which Mme Duvernay has written:
"For my dear M. d'Andiguier, who will destroy the envelope just as
it is " 2 After a moral struggle, he complies with the wishes
of the deceased. All is not well, however, for in a short time Eveline
Malclerc discovers her husband, after perusing in distracted fashion a
bundle of old letters, loading his revolver to commit suicide. 3 She
rushes to D'Andiguier for counsel, and matters are patched up for a
time, Malclerc delivering his old correspondence with Antoinette
into the hands of D'Andiguier. One day, unfortunately, Eveline
succeeds in prying into the drawer where D'Andiguier had locked up
the letters. 4 In the catastrophe that follows both Malclerc and
Eveline would prefer to die, were it not for the premature birth of a
son, which gives them something to live for.
Bourget also made use of this episode in an earlier novel, Andre
Cornelis (1887), in which the influence of a variety of writers, notably
the authors of David Copperfield and of Hamlet, is apparent. The
central problem is intended as a modern parallel to Hamlet, 6 with a
later weds Madeleine Jadain, has been the lover of her mother. A strong physical
resemblance of Madeleine to her mother is hinted at in Act II, scene 3, but this feature of
the plot is not emphasized.
i OSuvres Completes, I, 5. 3 Ibid., p. 195.
' Paul Bourget, op. cil., p. 182. » Ibid., pp. 352-54.
5 Andre" Cornells ((Euvres Computes, I, 312).
154 Olin H. Moore
soliloquy of the hero on the question "to be or not to be," his hand on
the trigger of a pistol, 1 with a nineteenth-century substitute for the
players, who performed before the guilty stepfather, 2 with Andre - as
the avenger of his father's foul and most unnatural murder, 3 his
faltering resolution being occasionally awakened by some startling
event. 4 Borrowing an idea from Maupassant, Bourget makes of the
letters of Andrews father, or rather of the room in which Andre" read
them, the ghost which summoned the hero to action. "C'etait
comme si le fant6me de 1'assassine" fut sorti de son tombeau pour
me supplier de tenir la promesse de vengeance jur£e tant de fois a
sa m^moire." 6 Unlike D'Andiguier, he has not obeyed the entreaty
of the dying woman who would have him burn the letters, in order
to spare him the suspicions which they have engendered in her. 6
The evidence which is thus produced results in Andrews own unhappi-
ness, if also in the punishment of his father's assassin.
A variation of the episode is found in Le Disciple, 7 when Charlotte
de Jussat, forcing the lock, goes through the papers of Greslou. She
declares: " J'ai 6te" trop punie, puisque j'ai lu dans ces pages ce que
j'y ai lu."
Bourget is probably under obligations for this theme to Maupas-
sant, for whom the subject of old letters and souvenirs apparently
had a horrible fascination, and who in turn doubtless derived his
suggestion from two episodes in Madame Bovary. "Oh! ne touchez
jamais a ce meuble, a ce cimetiere, des correspondances d'autrefois,
si vous tenez a la vie!" 8 he exclaims in Suicides. In Une Vie, 9 the
baron Simon-Jacques Le Perthuis des Vauds warns his daughter to
burn her own letters, her mother's, his own, all. Nothing is more
1 Andri CorrUlis ((Euvres computes, I, 412).
» Ibid., p. 400.
' Ibid., p. 348.
< Ibid., pp. 341, 350 ft.
« Ibid., p. 365. For further examples of the influence of Shakespeare upon Bourget,
see the Shakespeare library described in Le Disciple (.(Euvres computes, III, 78 ft.). In
Un Crime d' Amour ((Eumes, I, 276), there is a quotation from a speech of Lady Macbeth.
On the following page there is a reference to the " Hamletisme" of Armand.
• Andri Cornilis, pp. 361 ff.
' Le Disciple (1889), p. 205.
8 -Suicides, in Les Saurs Rondoli, p. 235.
» For old love letters discovered by Jeanne, see E. Maynial in Revue Bleue, LXXII
(October 31, 1903), 606.
Literaey Relationships of de Maupassant 155
terrible, he asserts, than to nose into the history of one's youth. 1
Despite this admonition, Jeanne is doomed to discover the love
letters of her dead mother and undergo the bitterest dissillusionment. 2
One other feature of Le Fantdme, the physical aversion which
Malclerc feels for Eveline during her pregnancy, is suggestive of
Maupassant. Paul Bretigny, in Mont-Oriol, is also of the race of
lovers, and not of fathers. 3
In the case of the connection between Un Cceur de Femme and
Notre Cceur, apparently Maupassant was under obligations to
Bourget. The problem involved in the two novels is essentially the
same, and concerns the dual nature of humanity. As Lord Herbert
Bohun sums up the situation at the close of Bourget's Caeur de Femme,
Juliette de Tillidres is a woman who has a sensual love for Casal,
without ceasing to entertain a certain sentimental feeling for Poy-
While conceding the credit for this theme to Bourget, rather than
to Maupassant, let us admit at the outset that Bourget himself was
in turn doubtless influenced by Laclos, not forgetting that also in
Un Crime d' Amour, Bourget refers more than once to the Valmont
of the Liaisons. 5 As Doumic remarks: "L'attrait qui porte Casal
1 Vne Vie, p. 228.
* 2 Ibid., pp. 240-243. This motif is combined with that of utter weariness over the
monotony of life in Suicides (Les Sceurs Rondoli, pp. 237-239), where M. X — commits
suicide after perusing his old correspondence. He had been led to drag his skeleton out
of the closet by reflections on his humdrum existence (p. 232): "Tous les jours, a la
m§me heure depuis trente ans, je me l§ve; et, dans le m8me restaurant, depuis trente ans,
je mange aux memes heures les mSmes plats apportSs par des garcons differents."
Monotony of existence is the theme of several other stories by Maupassant. In
Promenade (Yvette, p. 202) appears the case of M. Leras who passes through the same
daily routine for forty years. After brooding over the hopelessness of his situation, he
hangs himself by the suspenders in the Bois (ibid., p. 211). A similarly sad outlook is
depicted in Gar con, un Bock (Miss Harriet, p. 235): "Je me leve a midi. Je viens ici, je
dgjeune, je bois des bocks, j'attends la nuit, je dine, je bois des bocks. . . . Depuis dix
ans, j'ai bien passe six annees sur cette banquette, dans mon coin; et le reste dans mon
lit, jamais ailleurs." Miss Agnes R. Riddell, in her unpublished thesis on Flaubert and
Maupassant: A Literary Relationship, compares this incident With M. Parent, pp. 49-52,
62, 72-73. She thinks that the hero of Garcon, un Bock is modeled on Regimbart, in
Flaubert's Education sentimentale, pp. 55, 246, 319-320, 564-565. In her opinion, Mau-
passant's references to old love letters and souvenirs hark back to Madame Bovary, where
Rodolphe is described as cynically looking over the relics of his love affair with Emma,
and remarking: "Quel tas de blagues I" (pp. 278-280). After Emma's death, Charles
finds her love letters to Leon and to Rodolphe, with the result that life loses all interest
for him. The people surmise that he "s'enfermait pour boire" (ibid., pp. 478-479).
» Paul Bourget, op. cit., p. 303. Cf. Mont-Oriol, p. 256.
' Un Cceur de Femme (Oluvres Completes, III, 499, 500).
6 Un Crime d' Amour (ffiuures, I, 159, 164).
156 Olin H. Moore
vers Mme de Tillieres, dans Cceur de Femme, est le me'me qui faisait
souhaiter au rou6 des Liaisons l'amour d'une devote." 1 However,
after due allowance is made for the influence of the famous picture
of eighteenth century morals, the fact remains that in Cosur de Femme
Bourget is at least on familiar ground. The main problem of the
woman cherishing sentimental reveries on the one hand, but yielding
to ungovernable appetite for sensations on the other, is also that of
Therese, in Cruelle tniqme (1885) . 2 There are numerous other
references in Bourget's works to the dual conflict which is the heritage
of man, the matter being of paramount importance in the character
of Robert Greslou, Le Disciple.
The conclusion toward which this discussion points is that the
literary obligations existing between Bourget and Maupassant were
more important than Maynial, for example, seems prepared to con-
cede. Despite his reserve, however, Maynial admits readily that the
authors must without doubt have communicated to each other, in
the course of their conversations, the ideas, if not the actual plots,
of certain of their works. 3 From the evidence at hand, the general
direction of this literary influence appears most often to have been
from Maupassant to Bourget.
Before leaving the matter of Maupassant's influence, mention
should be made of at least two of his stories which may have furnished
suggestions to Rudyard Kipling. Misli, 4 a tale which appeared in
Gil-Bias in January, 1884, concerns a pet cat — called "Mouton" —
with almost human attributes, intelligent as a child, and so idolatrous
of his mistress that he made more than a fetish of her. Kipling's
Bimi, the all too affectionate pet orang-outang of Bertran, French
"king of beasts — tamer men," 5 possessed similar human endowment:
"Den I felt at der back of my neck der fingers of Bimi," declares
Hans Breitmann. " Mein Gott ! I tell you dot he talked through dose
fingers. It was der deaf-and-dumb alphabet all gomplete "
Mouton, more subtly, slept on his mistress' pillow, where she could
hear his heart beat.
1 Portraits d'&crimins, II (1909), 14.
2 Cruelle Unigme (CEuvres, I, 82). Cf. p. 113 fl.
3 E. Maynial, op. cit., p. 203.
' Collection entitled Yvette, pp. 273-283.
s Bertran and Bimi, in Life's Handicap (Doubleday, Page & Co., 1913), X, 336-342.
Literary Relationships of de Maupassant 157
One day, when a young man made love to Mouton's mistress,
and embraced her, as one embraces when one loves, suddenly Mouton
uttered a never-to-be-forgetten cry, and tore out the eyes of his rival.
Bimi was slower to act. For a time after the marriage of Bertran he
merely sulked, till one day, in the absence of his master, he killed the
woman of whom he was madly jealous.
The conclusion of Bertran and Bimi has certain features in
common with Maupassant's Un Loup, 1 which appeared in Le
Gaulois in 1882. The mysterious wolf, which seemed to think like a
man, was the cause of the death of Jean d'Arville. Jean's younger
brother, Francois, drove the monster to bay, charging him, cutlass in
hand. Then, seizing the beast by the neck, without even making
use of his weapon, Francois strangled him slowly, listening to his
dying breath and to the weakening pulsations of his heart. Furious
as was Francois for the death of his brother, he was no more so than
Bertran for the loss of his wife. " Now you know der formula of der
strength of der orang-outang — it is more as seven to one in relation to
man," is the calculation of Hans Breitmann. "But Bertran, he haf
killed Bimi mit sooch dings as Gott gif him. Dat was der miracle."
Perhaps the most conspicuous cases of imitation of Maupassant
are to be found in the work of Gabriele D'Annunzio. 2 In the Novelle
della Pescara, for instance, borrowings are made from Maupassant
which Lumbroso does not hesitate to brand as plagiarisms. Maynial
employs a milder term, although he does not contest the fact of the
resemblances in question. And certainly the close imitation of
Flaubert by Maupassant — even in such a passage as the rendezvous
of Bel-Ami at the church of the Trinity, modeled on the cathedral
scene in Madame Bovary — is slight compared with the imitation of
Maupassant by D'Annunzio, in his more reminiscent moods.
However, we should not insist too much upon the influence of
Maupassant, despite the enormous sale of his books. As M. Giraud
justly observes, his influence was far below that of Taine, for example,
1 Clair de Lune, pp. 39 ft. Incidents of the Misti and Bertran and Bimi type are
occasionally found in real life. A friend vouches for the following occurrence, which
happened while he was a student at a German university. A young student, accom-
panied by his pet collie, went for a walk with his mistress. The details of the difficulty
that followed are not perfectly clear, but at any rate the dog — whether through jealousy
or not — attacked the woman, and was with difficulty prevented from killing her.
2 A. Lumbroso, op. cit., pp. 519-545.
158 Olin H. Moore
although Taine apparently had not one-tenth as many readers as
Furthermore, if Maupassant's influence upon his contemporaries
is easily exaggerated, so was his own indebtedness to other writers
not excessive, after all. The limit which he deliberately set upon his
field of production was at once a source of strength, as well as of
weakness. 2 In fact, after due allowance has been made for all
literary influences, including that of Flaubert, it must be owned that
his principal source was his own observations. For him, as for the
other realists, the most important part of the preparation for his
stories was the taking of notes, despite the contention of Paul Bourget
to the contrary. 3 It is this matter which will be discussed in an
article to be published shortly.
Olin H. Moore
University op Illinois
1 Victor Giraud, op. cit., p. 174.
2 (Euvres posthumes, II, 100 (Essai sur Flaubert).
3 A. Lumbroso, op. cit., p. 612 (Souvenirs intimes de M. Ch. Lapierre).
[Correction. — Modern Philology, XIV, 163: for "Villemessant" read:
"A protege 4 of Villemessant."]