(B.)--CONTES DES FÉES, DERIVED DIRECTLY FROM THE FRENCH.
WE DO not suppose that the tales here given are the only ones in our collection which are derived more or less directly from or through the French. Several of those previously given under different heads we believe to have been so. The question, however, still remains: Whence did Madame d'Aulnoy, Perrault, and the other writers of the charming "Contes des Fées," derive their materials? Place their talent as high as we may, we still believe them to have been incapable of inventing them. Combine, transpose, dress up, refine--all this they did in an incomparable manner. Some portions they may have culled, directly or indirectly, from Eastern stories; their own imagination may have filled up many a blank, expanded many a hint, clothed many a half-dressed body in the habit of their own times--as heraldic painters formed grotesque monsters by selecting and putting together parts from many diverse animals; but to create, even in fancy, was beyond their line, if it is not altogether beyond the power of man. Therefore, when we hear these tales related by peasants ignorant of French, we may still ask how far they have learnt them at second or third hand from the printed works, and how far they are reciting the crude materials out of which those works were originally composed? This is a question which can only be fully answered when all the legends in all the languages and patois of France shall have been collected and compared. Meanwhile, we beg our readers to accept these few tales as a small and not very valuable stone contributed towards the erection of so vast an edifice.