Written by Victor Hugo in 1835 and translated by G.W.M. Reynolds: How shall I note thee, line of troubled years, / Which mark existence in our little span? / One constant twilight in the heaven appears— / One constant twilight in the mind of man!
If Walter Scott consecrated the actions of the savage and licentious ruffians of the olden time, who were called “gentle knights,” P. de Kock has not at least been guilty of exaggeration in his delineation of the good and bad qualities of ancient characters, morals, and manners. But as de Kock is one of the most important and most celebrated of French novelists, we shall proceed to examine his principal works in detail.
A poem written by Victor Hugo in 1835: The hall is gay with limpid lustre bright/The feast to pampered palate gives delight/The sated guests pick at the spicy food,/And at that table—where the wise are few/Both sexes and all ages meet the view;/The sturdy warrior with a thoughtful face—/The am’rous youth, the maid replete with grace,/The prattling infant, and the hoary hair.
It was in the early evening of 26 January 1804 (5 Pluviôse in the Year XII of the French Republic) that several eminent people from French high society were gathered at number 160 Rue Neuve de Luxembourg. Among them was Jean Baptise-François Legros, the Auditor of the Public Treasury. The French military commander Eugène Rose de Beauharnais, who was adopted son of First Consul of the French Republic, Napoleon Bonaparte, was there as well. Also in attendance was Beauharnais’s mother and Napoleon’s wife Josephine Bonaparte—later in this same year, 1804, Napoleon would crown himself Emperor of the French and Josephine would be granted the title of empress. These luminaries of French political and military life were gathered to witness the birth of a child: a novelist who went on to achieve astounding heights of fame in the French literary world–Eugene Sue.
Eugene Sue’s “The Mysteries of Paris” marked the emergence of a new genre: the urban gothic.