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Thibault

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THIBAULT, Jacques Anatole France, critic and novelist: b. Paris, 16 April 1844. He is known wherever French is read and the Latin genius appreciated as FRANCE, and was called by Lemaitre, one of the shrewd est of his contemporaries, "the ultimate flower ing of the Latin genius." Son of a Parisian bookseller, another "France" and a veteran of the body-guard of Charles X, Anatole grew up in the bookish atmosphere which he has con veyed marvelously into several of his stories as he has also his father's character. A Parisian of the Parisians, he was named officer of the Legion of Honor in 1895 and received into the Academy in 1896. For the rest the story of his life is in his writing. Besides early verses his well-nigh 50 volumes embrace charming books of autobiographic "truth and fiction* such as livre de mon ami' (1895), 'Pierre Nozaire' (1900) and 'Les desirs de Jean Sevier> (1912) • books of philosophic criticism, themselves, as he openly professes, evidencing his own way of thinking in noting the ways of others, chief among them articles collected from Le Temps in five volumes of 'La vie litteraire> (1888-93) and (Le genie latin' (1913); dramatic experiments, among which 'Thais' is best known; an extended controver sial biography. (La vie de Jeanne d'Arc' (1908) ; expressions of fervid patriotism in stress of war, such as (Sur la vote glorieuse' (1915), and, finally and chiefly, a long series of books which in the guise of fiction express all the manifold phases of his political observa tions, his social aspirations and indignations, his philosophic speculations and the play of his recreative imagination in evoking the thought and life of a long out-lived past. This fiction, taken chronologically, gives the clue to the development of France out from the dilettant scepticism of Renan, through epicureanism, in its higher and also its lower sense, into an earnest, though still ironic, socialism, with oc casional glints of fierce intolerance for ob scurantists, reactionary or clerical. Outstand ing among these books is first (Le crime de Sylvestre Bonnard' (1881), his second novel, whose al sympathy with childhood and large-h d irony have attracted Writers of distinction, among them Lafcadio Hearn, to tempt its translation. 'Balthasar' (1900) and 'Thais' (1900), a medieval and an early Christian study, show a curiously subtle °piety of imagination with impiety of thought.

° Nearer to his own mind were 'La Rotisserie de la Reine Pedauque) (1893) and 'Les opinions de Jerome Coignard' (1893) in which the ascetic, epicurean and courtesan figures of Thais reappear in 18th century dress and an abbe becomes playful mouthpiece for the ironic expression of a scepticism more radical in France than any since Montaigne. Each book, without plot, is a chain of sparkling epigrams in which the laughing philosopher unmasks the pettinesses and inconsistencies of private and public morals and life. Drench politics are the unobtruded theme of four notable volumes of Histoire contemporaine, 'L'orme du mail' (18%) ; 'Le mannequin d'osier> (1897); 'L'anneau d'amethyste) (1899) and 'M. Bergeret a Paris> (1901), all jewels of grace ful perversity. Then France's thought takes a more serious bent as he is drawn into the lists with Zola militarist and religious re action as revealed in the Dreyfus case. Of this good evidence is seen in 'Crainquebille> (1903); contes de Jacques Tou,rnebioche) (1908) and the political satires (L'Ile des pingouinsl (1908) and 'Les dieux ont soil' (1912) as well as in (La vie de Jeanne d'Arc' (1908) and in 'Opinions sociales' (1902). All these books, whatever their form, are in effect criti cism of contemporary life. He has himself said that he counts criticism as possibly the ultimate evolution of literary expression, well suited to a highly civilized society which is rich in old traditions, the last in date of all literary forms and destined to absorb all. All of them illustrate an idea of style which he has put admirably in 'Le jardin d'Epicure) (1894). "A simple style,° he says, "is like white light; it is complex but does not seem so. In writ ing what appears a beautiful and pleasant sim plicity is really the result of careful arrange ment and strict economy in the use of the various parts of speech.° In this art of hiding his art France is almost supreme. See LE CRIME DE SYLVESTRE BONNARD. Consult an English translation of 'Works' edited by Frederic Chapman (London 1908-19) already embracing 27 volumes. Of separate works there are many other versions. For criticism consult Michaut, G., 'Anatole France,' (Paris 1913), also works by Brandes, G. (London 1908), by George, W. L. (New York 1915), and Shanks, L. P. (Chicago 1919).