Commentary by H. Taine on the reasons why you bore me by talking about pastiches

   You open a book and you come to the first page: The Lemoine Affair, by Balzac. Good, you say, there is a writer who understands the strengths and the weaknesses of other writers, who makes a game out of reproducing the same stylistic gestures alongside the general appearance of their thinking. He knows that in illuminating a character or giving information about a period, nothing is negligible; he ignores none of the syntactical peculiarities which give away the movement of the imagination, the current manners, the received ideas, the inherited temperament, the fundamental powers. It is a good caricature. It is going along nicely. But you soon become weary of caricature, and you do not like to be wearied. You turn the page and you move on to something more serious. You read the first line. The Lemoine Affair, by Renan. Good Lord, you think, this is overdoing it. You like one or two caricatures very much in the lobby, before going inside the library. But it is tiresome to stay in the lobby for ever.

Pastiche of Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893), French philosopher, critic and historian, written in a letter to Robert Dreyfus, 7 July 1909.


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