29. CHARLES ROUGON, alias SACCARD, born in 1857, dies of hemorrhage in 1873. Reverting heredity skipping three generations. Physical and moral resemblance to Adelaide Fouque. The last outcome of an exhausted stock.
30. JACQUES LOUIS LANTIER, born in 1860, a case of hydrocephalus, dies in 1869. Prepotency of his mother, whom he physically resembles.
31. LOUIS COUPEAU, called LOUISET, born in 1867, dies of small-pox in 1870. Prepotency of his mother, whom he physically resembles.
32. THE UNKNOWN CHILD will be born in 1874. What will it be?
La Fortune des Rougon.
In the preface to this novel Zola explains his theories of heredity, and the work itself forms the introductory chapter to that great series which deals with the life history of a family and its descendants during the second empire.
The common ancestress of the Rougons and the Macquarts was Adelaide Fouque, a girl who from youth had been subject to nervous seizures. From her father she inherited a small farm, and at the age of eighteen married one of her own labourers, a man named Rougon, who died fifteen months afterwards, leaving her with one son, named Pierre. Shortly after her husband’s death she fell completely under the influence of Macquart, a drunken smuggler and poacher, by whom in course of time she had a son named Antoine and a daughter named Ursule. She became more and more subject to cataleptic attacks, until eventually her mind was completely unhinged. Pierre Rougon, her legitimate son, was a man of strong will inherited from his father, and he early saw that his mother’s property was being squandered by the Macquarts. By means approximating to fraud he induced his mother, who was then facile, to sell her property and hand over the proceeds to him. Soon after he married Felicite Peuch, a woman of great shrewdness and keen intelligence, by whom he had three sons (Eugene, Aristide, and Pascal) and two daughters (Marthe and Sidonie). Pierre Rougon was not particularly prosperous, but his eldest son, Eugene, went to Paris and became mixed up in the Bonapartist plots which led to the Coup d’Etat of 1851. He was consequently able to give his parents early information as to the probable course of events, and the result of their action was to lay the foundations of the family fortune.
The scene of the book is the Provencal town of Plassans, and the tragic events attending the rising of the populace against the Coup d’Etat are told with accuracy and knowledge. There is a charming love idyll between Silvere Mouret, a son of Ursule Macquart, and a young girl named Miette, both of whom fall as victims in the rising which followed the Coup d’Etat.