We live at such high speed nowadays, and the Second French Empire is already so far behind us, that I am inclined to place Son Excellence Eugène Rougon in the category of historical novels. In some degree it certainly belongs to another class of fiction, the political novel, which in Great Britain sprouted, blossomed, and faded away contemporaneously with the career of Benjamin Disraeli. But, unlike Disraeli's work, it does not deal with theories or possibilities. Whatever political matter it may contain is a record of incidents which really occurred, of intrigues which were matured, of opinions which were more or less publicly expressed while the third Napoleon was ruling France. In my opinion, with all due allowance for its somewhat limited range of subject, Son Excellence Eugène Rougon is the one existing French novel which gives the reader a fair general idea of what occurred in political spheres at an important period of the Empire. It is a book for foreigners and particularly Englishmen to read with profit, for there are yet many among them who cherish the delusion that Napoleon III. was not only a good and true friend of England, but also a wise and beneficent ruler of France; and this, although his reign began with bloodshed and trickery, was prolonged by means of innumerable subterfuges, and ended in woe, horror, and disgrace.
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