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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Gustave Droz (1832–1895)

GUSTAVE DROZ enjoyed for a time the distinction of being the most popular writer of light literature in France, and his fame extended throughout Europe and to America, several of his books having been translated into English. Essentially a Parisian of the day,—gay, droll, adroit,—he not only caught and reflected the humor of his countrymen, but with a new, fresh touch, reached below the surface of their volatile emotions. Occasionally striking the note of deeper feeling, he avoided as a rule the more serious sides of life, as well as the sensational tendencies of most of his contemporaries. His friends claimed for him a distinctive genre, and on that account presented him as a candidate for the Academy; but he failed of election.

The son of a well-known sculptor, he was born in Paris, and followed the traditions of his family in entering the École des Beaux-Arts, where he developed some aptitude with his brush; but a preference for writing beguiled him from the studio, and an acquaintance with Marcellin the illustrator, founder of La Vie Parisienne, led him to follow literature. At first he was timid, dreading the test of publication, but presently he gave himself up unreservedly to his pen. Within a year he was established as a favorite of the people, and his friend’s journal was on the highway to success. For this he wrote a series of sketches of everyday life that were subsequently collected and published in book form, under the titles ‘Monsieur, Madame, et Bébé,’ ‘Entre Nous,’ and ‘La Cahier Bleu de Mlle. Cibot.’ Within two years these books had reached their twentieth edition, and of the first, nearly one hundred and fifty editions have been demanded since it was issued. He has written several novels, the best known of which are ‘Babolein,’ ‘Les Étangs’ (The Ponds), and ‘Autour d’une Source’ (Around a Spring), but they did not fully sustain the reputation gained by his short sketches; a fact which induced him in 1884 to return to his earlier form in ‘Tristesses et Sourires’ (Sorrows and Smiles), a volume of light dissertations on things grave and gay that at once revived his popularity.

The peculiarity of the work of Gustave Droz is its delicacy both in humor and pathos. He surprised the French by making them all laugh without making any of them wince; the sharp wits of his day were forgotten in the unalloyed enjoyment of his simple quaintness, in which there was neither affectation nor sarcasm. Yet as has been said, he was a Parisian of the Parisians, quick to perceive the ludicrous, ready to weep with the afflicted, and to laugh again with the happy. His studies of children are among his best, on account of their extreme naturalness, and are never uninteresting, despite the simplicity of the incidents and observations on which they are founded. In ‘Le Cahier Bleu de Mlle. Cibot’ he has used striking colors to paint the petty afflictions that beset most lives; but lest these pictures should leave an unpleasant impression, they are set off by others of a happier sort, making a collection that constitutes a most effective lesson in practical philosophy.