“Ces Monts affreux.” Les Écrivains a la Montagne, by Claire Eliane Engel and Charles Vallot. 8 vo., pp. 320, with bibliography, index and 16 illustrations by Samivel. Paris. Librairie Delagrave (15 Rue Soufflot), 1934.
This is the third volume by the same authors dealing with Alpine literature from French and British sources between the middle of the seventeenth and the end of the nineteenth centuries. The preceding books. La Littérature alpestre en France et en Angleterre aux xviiie et xixe siècles, and Tableau litteráire du Mont Blanc, serve M Vallot and Mlle Engel as a background as well as a point of departure for their new anthology, a logical sequence to Coolidge’s Josias Simler et les origines de l'Alpinisme jusqu'en 1600.
The authors, in the first volume, presented a general conspectus of Alpine literature, and, in the second, revealed the personality of certain writers in a special field. In the third volume they have formed an anthology connecting classical and modern romantic periods, when mountains were regarded as affreux or horrible—meaning dismal and gloomy rather than terrifying.
John Evelyn, Thomas Gray, William Windham, Thomas Blaikie, John Moore. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Beckford, Saussure and Goethe are among the celebrities met with, to mention but a few.
Regarded as a triad the work of Vallot and Engel constitutes a most important panorama of Alpine history, continuing Coolidge’s task down to modern times, and complementing in words what Grand-Carteret’s La Montagne à travers les âges accomplished in illustration. It may also, appropriately, be placed on the same shelf with Schirmer’s Die Schweiz im Spiegel Englischer und Amerikanischer Literatur bis 1848.
The air-brush of Samivel caresses mountain landscape, especially its winter aspect—one can almost imagine him declaiming “a rose is a rose is a rose’’ as he works. To even slightly repay him for the pleasure he has given this reviewer is no easy task. But he may be pleased with a bit of information: Coolidge’s book, already cited, weighs five pounds on our bathroom scales— the new volume but one. And that is another reason why we like it.